Philippians 1 Bible study

Chapter 1

 

1. Greetings, Thanksgiving and Prayer v 1-11.

 

a) Greetings v 1 & 2.

 

v1. Paul begins the letter in his usual way by extending greetings to the church from both himself and his fellow worker Timothy, who are "servants", or "bond slaves" of Jesus Christ. The letter is addressed to all the saints at Philippi- that is, those who have been made holy (set apart to God) by the Lord Jesus Christ, through his death & resurrection. A special greeting is sent to the spiritual and practical oversight of the church (bishops or elders and deacons), reminding both the overseers of their responsibility for the flock, and the church of its responsibility to their leaders.

 

v2. Paul wishes that God's grace - His undeserved favour -would be granted to them by God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

b) Thanksgiving v 3-8

 

v3-5. Paul thanked God for the believers at Philippi every time he thought of them. Whenever he prayed for them he prayed with joy, because from the first day they heard the gospel message and received the Lord Jesus Christ as their Saviour, they had become partners in the gospel with him. This was a proof of their genuine conversion - they loved Christ's messenger and sought to join with him in the work of spreading the gospel. They had helped Paul in every way possible that the gospel might go forward. Even when it was difficult to afford, they regularly sent him financial help. PHIL 4.16. Are we like the Philippian church: loving and praying for our leaders, giving financially and praying for the work of God at home and abroad? Do we see ourselves as partners with God's servants who are bringing the gospel to the nations? The Philippians did. No wonder Paul prayed with joy. Christian leaders have no greater joy than seeing believers growing in God's grace. 3 John 1.4

 

v6. Since Paul could see the work God had already begun in their lives, he was confident that He would carry it on and finish it in the day that Christ comes again. HEB 12.2.

 

v7. The Philippian church held a special place in Paul's heart, since they had stood by him faithfully through all the difficulties he had experienced whilst preaching the gospel, even when he was in prison (as he had been at Philippi) or on trial for his faith. This faithfulness was further evidence of  God's grace in their lives.

 

v8. Paul's love for the Philippians meant that, even whilst in prison, he yearned and longed for them with tender love "in the bowels of Jesus Christ"; that is, a love deep within the spirit where Christ Himself dwells. ROM 5.5.

 

c) Paul's prayer v 9 - 11.

 

v9. Paul prayed that the Philippians' love would continually increase and abound toward God, each other and all men. He prays that they would increasingly know God, His will and purpose - being able to discern what was right, that is, having a right understanding of the things of God.

 

v10. As this prayer was answered, so they would approve things that are excellent, that is, heavenly things JAMES 1. 17.  God wants us to fill their lives with these things, rather than what are merely passing pleasures of the world. Col 3.1 God also wants us to be sincere - single hearted in our love for Him. We must love God first; and as Spurgeon says "Nothing else must come even a bad second". Those who live like this have nothing in them to cause them or others to go away from Christ.

 

v11. Paul then goes on to pray that the believers would be filled with the fruits of righteousness, that is, that God would produce the nature of Christ in them, called in the Bible the FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT GAL 5. 22,23. This fruit is produced in the life of the believer but not BY the believer. The Holy Spirit does this through His Word. The work He does in our lives by God's grace brings glory and praise to God.

 

2. The Gospel Furthered by Paul's Imprisonment v 12 - 20.

 

v12-14. Paul believed in a God who is on the throne, and in charge of all the events of our lives. Rom 8.28. He wanted the Philippians to know that his imprisonment was serving the purpose of the gospel. Everyone in Caesar's court and all Rome knew that Paul was in prison for the sake of the gospel. This fact alone meant that the word had spread. Also, when the believers in Rome heard that Paul was in prison for his faith, they became bold and were not afraid to share their faith with others.

 

v15-17. It was true that some men, motivated by their envy of Paul, wanted to stir up trouble for him while he was in prison, and so they spoke of the gospel simply to start arguments about the faith. In this way they could label Paul "a trouble maker". Others, however, preached Christ sincerely and in love, considering that their brother Paul was in prison for the gospel message and would soon give a defence of it before Caesar (the supreme power at that time).

 

v18. What was Paul's reaction to all this? He wasn't put off by insincere preachers and be wasn't puffed up by men envying him. Instead he was pleased that Christ was preached. He continually rejoiced that God's word was talked about - whatever the motive of those who preached it.

 

v19. Paul saw that the gospel being heard would be the means of his own deliverance. As the church prayed for him and as God answered by supplying His Spirit, Paul would be able to maintain a bold and clear testimony to the Lord Jesus Christ. This was the deliverance he spoke of, not that he might be rescued from prison, or even escape death, but that he might remain a faithful witness to His Lord in the face of opposition.

 

v20. Paul had confidence in God that he would never be ashamed of the Lord Jesus. God would give him strength. His aim was, by life or death, for Christ to be magnified.

 

3 . Christ Our Life v 21 - 26.

 

v21-24. Paul did not fear death at all. The Christian hope is of resurrection and Paul was confident of this. His life was entirely Christ centred and departure from this life for him merely meant being present with the Lord. Since Christ was all to Him, he considered being with Him to be an advantage, something far better than what he has now.

 

The only thing pulling at Paul's heart for him to remain in this world was that he might serve Christ. He did not know which to choose. On the one hand he wanted to be with the Lord but on the other, the young church needed his ministry that it might flourish and grow.

 

v25. For this reason- not for his own sake, but the Church's - Paul knew that he would remain in the body for a while longer to serve them. They needed his example, teaching and prayers so that they might go on with Christ, growing into a fuller experience of Him, their joy increasing as their faith was strengthened.

 

v26 Paul realised that his coming to the Philippians again would cause them to rejoice. He does not say that he thinks he will be released soon - he hoped to be, so that he might see them.

 

4. Suffering for Christ v 27 - 30.

 

v27. Whether Paul was able to come to them or not, the Philippian church should continue to live in a way that was fitting for the gospel. They must stand firm in unity and in the faith against the onslaughts of Satan: persecution, division, opposition and the danger of false teachers. They should stand firm in one spirit and one mind. This means standing as one, being in full agreement in every sense.

 

Most importantly they were to hold the true teachings of the gospel, for that is what he means by "striving together for the faith of the gospel". JUDE 3.

 

v28 -30. They were not to be afraid of their enemies, or of what they could do to them. Christ suffered and we must expect the same. ACTS 14.22. Our standing firm is a clear sign to our enemies that judgement awaits them, whilst our sufferings are an evident token of God's choice.  As God has given us the gift of eternal life through His Son, so He has also granted that we may share with Him in His sufferings. It is for Him we suffer, as the Philippians did, and as Paul did, for at the time of writing this letter, he was still in prison for his faith.

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