Our study of Paul's letter will reveal a powerful tool to remind us of what we have in Jesus Christ. This letter was written while Paul was in prison in Rome and it was delivered to the city of Philippi. The city was named after King Philip of Macedonia who was the father of Alexander the Great.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
Paul begins the introduction by letting us know that his spiritual son Timothy was with him and that they were both bondslaves to Jesus. They were free and yet devoted forever to serve Christ. As this humble servant, they first address this letter to all of the saints and that is everyone who is called by God and trusts in Jesus Christ. There are some that want to elevate men to the status of "saints" where the church leadership certifies them to be saints but that is the opposite of what Paul and the early church knew as the truth. Sainthood is not a work of man and is not certified by man but by God Himself. God certifies saints (His people) with the mark of the Holy Spirit and no "church leader" can assume that authority or place. Then, he also addresses it to the leaders of the local church.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
This was the way that Paul normally greeted his brothers and sisters in Christ. "Grace" was the typical greeting used by Greeks in that day and "peace" ("shalom" in Hebrew) was the typical greeting used by Jews. This greeting shows how both Jews and Gentiles were reunited with God through His gift of our Savior Jesus Christ. Paul always put grace before peace to remind us that the way to peace with God is only through the grace (gift) of God in Jesus Christ.
I thank my God every time I remember you.
Paul had a habit of praying for all of the believers in the churches that he started. In the same manner, we need to continually offer up prayers for our brothers and sisters in Christ and give God the praise for what He is doing in His people.
In all of my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,
It brought joy to Paul's heart as he saw them put their faith into action. This body of believers was the most faithful group in supporting his ministry as they had from the beginning. The term "partnership" which is used actually speaks of fellowship of believers. This isn't what we have turned it into these days but is, in fact, sharing the things of Christ. This involves talking of spiritual things in Christ as well as putting the Word into action as you work side by side. The final part is rejoicing together as God causes the work to bear fruit for the kingdom.
being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Paul was confident of the work that Jesus had done in the lives of the Philippians as they demonstrated it in their work. He also knew that once the work was started by Christ, it would continue until the day of judgment. This confidence allowed Paul to "enjoy the ride" as he did not have to continually worry about them but instead could trust Jesus to work in their lives. If we trust Jesus to do His work and remember that it is not our job to transform people, then we, too, do not have to worry and judge other Christians.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Paul continues to show his love for the Christians in Philippi as he says they are in his heart.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God.
Paul's prayer for the Philippians is that they may understand more about the grace of God through Jesus Christ. He tells us that, the more we understand about grace and what it means, the more we will demonstrate God's love through our actions. Our actions will then allow others to see the presence of God and cause them to worship Him.
Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.
Now, Paul gets to the heart of the matter as the believers at Philippi were concerned about him. They had lost contact with him for two years as he was arrested in Jerusalem and traveled to Rome. Paul cheers them up by helping them to see that even his imprisonment is to be used to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ. We, too, can know and understand that, no matter what we are going through, God is using it for His purpose which is to let the world know about Jesus. Like Paul, we can enjoy the ride even when it is bumpy and uncomfortable because we know that God is with us.
As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
Paul shows us the specifics of how God used his imprisonment. First, we see that it was a witness to the Roman authorities. Everyone took notice of his faith as they knew why he was being held. Secondly, the believers around him were strengthened in their faith so that they were bolder in sharing their own faith. The same type of thing is happening around the world today as many Christians are persecuted for their faith but, as we see their faith holding strong, we can be emboldened to share our own faith. They are also being a witness to those who hold, torture, or even kill them. As we see, in Revelation, this activity is only going to increase until Jesus comes back to claim what is His. Remembering that God is using us in a mighty way is how we, like Paul, can rejoice in our suffering!
It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
We see, in this passage, Paul's passion for the sharing of the gospel. He is even rejoicing when people are doing it with selfish motives to hurt him. The same type of thing happens even today as many will preach the gospel for personal gain and even charge the listeners to hear it. Nevertheless, we can rejoice that the gospel is shared and, as Paul said, that is the important thing.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
Paul understood the power of the prayers of the saints and the power of the Holy Spirit. This understanding gave him the confidence that God would take care of him and so he could rejoice.
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
Paul did not know the outcome of his trial in Rome as he wrote this letter to the Philippians. His hope was that he would stand strong for the faith whatever the outcome was to be. His goal was to lift up the name of Christ in all circumstances and that should be ours as well.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
We must remember that Paul said this while he was on trial with the real possibility of being executed. Even while facing this, he was trying to encourage and help the believers in Philippi to understand that no matter what the result of his trial would be, God would be glorified and that was his goal. In this simple verse we see a freedom that we all can have through Jesus Christ. If we are still alive, we have the wonderful opportunity to serve our Lord and the Spirit is with us but, if we die, we go to be with Him. For us, this is a win-win situation!
If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body.
Paul lets us see what is going on in his mind as he knows he must stay here on the earth and complete his task of sharing the gospel. As we see, Paul was living for the benefit of others and that is just as Christ did in walking this earth. We all must ask ourselves the question: Who are you living for? If the purpose of our lives is not serving others by telling them about Jesus, then, we need to ask ourselves if we have truly made Jesus the Lord of our lives.
Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.
Paul was convinced of God's purpose for him and so he was confident that it was not time for him to die. His continued service in teaching the Philippian believers would help them to grow and to experience the joy of a closer walk with the Lord. We, like Paul, have a divine purpose and we can be sure that we will remain on this earth until His will for us is completed. This knowledge can drive away a lot of the fear that the average person walks around with and it can be replaced by the freedom that is in Jesus Christ. This freedom will help us to "relax and enjoy the ride".
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved - and that by God.
Paul urges them to be an example of Christ in all things. Even though he does not know whether he will ever see them again, he urges them to stand strong together with him in Christ.
For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
What is the struggle that Paul is talking about? He is referring to the open opposition to and persecution of those who share the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul reminds them and us that even this struggle is a gift from God in that our faith in Jesus is strengthened and this persecution advances the gospel.