Sun, Nov 18, 2018
Philippians 1
Philippians 1 by Steve Krause
Series: Sunday Service

Philippians 1

 Today we will be beginning our study in the book of Philippians. This book is known as one of the prison epistles, as it was written by Paul while he was a captive in Rome. Paul had been sent to Rome as a prisoner because he had appealed to Cesare. He was forced to do this, because of the persecution of the Jews in Jerusalem. They were seeking to kill Paul because of his preaching about Jesus, and the proper place of law and grace in the believer’s life. But the Jews contended that Paul preached to all men everywhere against our people and the law and Jerusalem. He was also accused of bringing an uncircumcised Greek into the temple thus defiling it.

 These charges by the Jews were false.

 Paul’s imprisonment is described in Acts chapter 28. He stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered.

 Paul is writing this letter to the church in Philippi, which he had established 11 years prior while on his second missionary journey. The date for the letter is about 61 A.D. The church at Philippi had sent Paul a gift, which was brought to Paul by Epaphroditus their messenger. Epaphroditus had become sick during his stay in Rome, and the Philippian Christians were concerned about him. This outpouring of concern for him made Epaphroditus more eager to return home. Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian church to convey his gratitude for their love and help.

 Let’s look at chapter 1 of Philippians verses 1-2. Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Here Paul is sending his and timothy’s greetings. He starts by identifying himself and Timothy as bond slaves of Jesus Christ. Everyone in the Roman world was well acquainted with slavery. Some slaves were held under force and served their master under threats and fear. But a bond slave was different than a normal Roman slave in that a bond slave willingly chose to serve their master. That is our position to Jesus Christ. We believers should consider ourselves as bond slaves, only seeking to do the will of our master, putting Him first in all things. Our personal desires should be secondary, and subject to the masters will. None of us is perfect in this regard, and we never will be in this life. But God is doing a work in each of us, and He is faithful to complete what He has begun.

 The letter is addressed to three different groups of people. All the saints who are in Philippi, the overseer or pastor, which also included those in leadership positions, and the deacons, who are those with recognized areas of responsibility and service within the church. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a typical greeting of Paul. Notice that he mentions grace first, and then peace. That is because for anyone to have the peace of God, they must first experience the grace of God. And that comes through hearing the word of God, and by placing one’s total faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Only those who have been born again by coming to God through faith in Jesus and His completed work of on the cross of Calvary, can receive God’s grace and consequently God’s peace. No one can add any good work to achieve their salvation, which is the forgiveness of all sin and the rebirth of their spirit that was once dead because of sin, but is now alive because of our faith in God and his Christ.

 Paul next thanks the Philippians in verses 3-6. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

 When Paul thought of the Philippians he was filled with thankfulness, both towards them and to God. He was filled with a joy that had nothing to do with his current circumstances. Even though he was in jail awaiting possible execution, joy welled up in him. Just as Paul did, we too can have this supernatural joy even in adverse circumstances. Our fellowship with Christ allows us to endure persecution and trials. We don’t need to accept the trials that are sure to be a part of our life stoically, but we should have joy in knowing that Christ in these things is perfecting us to His glory. As Paul said in Romans chapter 8, In all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. Paul’s praying for the Philippians was his way of thanking them for how kind and generous they had been to him.

 His belief was that the church in Philippi participated in the gospel from the first day until now. The Philippian church had participated in the gospel by being an early supporter of Paul and blessing him with their friendship and finances. He let them know that regardless of outward circumstances, he was confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. As Spurgeon put it, because this good work was begun, Paul was confident of its completion. God is a worker who completes His works. “Where is there an instance of God’s beginning any work and leaving it incomplete? Show me for once a world abandoned and thrown aside half formed; show me a universe cast off from the Great Potter’s wheel, with the design in outline, the clay half hardened, and the form unshapely from incompleteness.” This work in the believer will not be completed until the day of Jesus Christ, which in context has the idea of the second coming of Jesus at the rapture and our resurrection with Him. “Holy Scripture does not regard a man as perfect when the soul is perfected, it regards his body as being a part of himself; and as the body will not rise again from the grave till the coming of the Lord Jesus, when we shall be revealed in the perfection, even as he will be revealed. That day of the second coming is set as the day of the finished work which God has begun.” So, we are all works in progress. God is the master sculpture who orchestrates the events of our lives, to mold us and shape us for use as He sees fit.

 In verses 7-8 Paul declares his love for the Philippians. For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

 Paul was a man of deep emotions and loved the Philippians and longed to be with them. He identified himself with them calling them partakers of grace with him. The Philippians had supported Paul all along both in his defense of the gospel and in their financial support. And they did not forsake him when he was imprisoned by Rome. They were an integral part of Paul’s ministry. Paul’s love for this group of believers is so deep that he evens dares to invoke the name of God as his witness, stating that he loves them with the same kind of tender concern with which Christ loved the world when he gave himself for it.

 Next Paul prays for the Philippians in verses 9-11. And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Paul prays that the Philippians would not only be filled with love, but that their love would be directed by knowledge and discernment. The scriptures do not teach us to have a blind love accepting of all things, but rather a love that is based on approving and choosing those things that are excellent.

 Blind love and acceptance of things that are not of God is the cause of many problems in the church; both in Paul’s day and ours. There is much debate in the church today regarding the acceptance of those who practice homosexuality. The advocates of this behavior say that homosexuals do not choose their sexual orientation but that they were created by God that way. And if God created them that way, then what can be wrong with it? So, we ought to be accepting and affirming to those who choose homosexuality, even to the point of homosexual marriage. After all, they love each other and the bible teaches that God is love. Who are we to be judgmental? “Judge not lest you be judged” they say. But this type of love and acceptance is not in accordance with knowledge or discernment, and it directly conflicts with the word of God.

 Paul in 1 Corinthians chapter 5 rebukes that church for their lack of knowledge and discernment by allowing immorality in their midst. He said that It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife. You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst. For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present. In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus, I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. It is not being mean or judgmental or self-righteous to remove an unrepentant sinner from a congregation. It is necessary for the health of the body, and to bring the unrepentant sinner to obedience.

 Many years ago, while I was in the military, I attended Calvary Chapel of Leeward Oahu in the state of Hawaii. One of our elders was having an affair with a young woman married to another brother in our fellowship. The pair were confronted privately by the Pastor and other Elders. They were counselled to break it off immediately, but refused. The Elder, who also headed the worship team, was removed from his positions of leadership. At the next Sunday services, the names of the pair and their sin were revealed publicly and the fellowship was instructed not to fellowship with them. Just as in Paul’s day, this was done for the spiritual health of the fellowship, and to shake them up to bring them to repentance. As far as I know, they never did repent.

 Another example of love without discernment would be to allow false teaching and heresy to continue in the fellowship for the sake of harmony and unity. As most of you know, we were recently forced to remove from fellowship a person who held to the pernicious cultic doctrine of the Hebrew Roots movement. This doctrine of the works of the law, is the same heresy that had infected the first century church. Paul strenuously fought against it, but especially in the book of Galatians where he says. “You foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you, this is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Had Pastor Joe and I allowed this to continue in our fellowship for the sake of blind love and unity, we would not have been exercising true love, which comes by knowledge and discernment. This person’s promotion of the false doctrine of works has confused more than a few within our fellowship, and caused much strife and division. We continue to deal with its effects. This person was confronted and counselled privately many times, but refused to stop the promotion of this doctrine. Though we continue to love this person, they have refused to turn from their heretical beliefs and it came to the point that we were forced to separate fellowship with them. As in Paul’s day, this was done to bring that person to repentance. In this we have shown true love in accordance with both knowledge and discernment, though sometimes it grieves us.

 Love with knowledge and discernment is necessary so that we may choose the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of the Lord. And how do we know which things are excellent? It is by the word of God. The author of the book of Hebrews tells us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever”. Neither God or His word ever change. There is no possible debate. God declares what is righteous and His word does not need to be updated for the times.

 By choosing the things that are excellent, we will be filled with the fruit of righteousness, which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. And the fruit of righteousness is all goodness and truth, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. Let’s set our hearts and minds on these things, so that we may be found to be in God’s will when He returns for us.

 Paul next explains his current situation to the Philippians in verses 12-14. Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

 Paul wants the Philippians to know that just because he was in prison, it did not mean that God was through with him or that he was outside the will of God. When he was with the Philippians, there were amazing examples of the sovereign power of God. Acts chapter 16 records these events, which culminated in a divine jail-break and Paul’s vindication before the civil magistrates. We are not surprised that the Philippians wondered where the power of God was in Paul’s present imprisonment. But God was not wasting Paul’s time by allowing him to be imprisoned, as during this time, Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians as well as the epistles to the Ephesians and Colossians. It is important to notice that the thing that most concerned Paul was not himself and his circumstances, but rather the furtherance of the gospel.

 Imagine yourself as a first century Roman soldier assigned to guard Paul during his imprisonment. Day by day you observed his character and his actions. He befriended you, and prayed with and for you. It soon became apparent that Paul was not just another prisoner, but that he was an Ambassador for Jesus Christ. The excellence of his witness brought conversion to many, even some of the palace guard.

 Paul was a man content in his circumstances. He did need things to be soft and cushy for him to effective for God. Paul’s imprisonment by the Romans and his effective ministry even while in chains, gave great confidence to the other believers in Rome. They saw how he had great joy even in adverse circumstances, and that God was taking care of him. The effectiveness of Paul’s ministry was not diminished, and God was still using him.

 But Paul was concerned about the motives of others who were preaching Christ while he was stuck under house arrest. In verses 15-18 he says, Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.

 Paul knew that during his imprisonment, others were out in public taking his place as ministers of the gospel of Christ. Some were doing it because they wanted to surpass Paul, and have their name and reputation regarded above his. These people were glad Paul was imprisoned because they felt this gave them a competitive edge over him in what they considered to be the contest of preaching the gospel. They were motivated – at least in part – by a competitive spirit, which too often is common among preachers. Ask Pastor Joe about this. I am sure that he has been asked about the size of his congregation or the extent of his ministry many times over the years. Paul also knew that there were some who preached from pure motives, not seeking for self-promotion but wanting to further the progress of the Kingdom of God.

 As Guzik puts it, the former preach Christ from selfish ambition: Those preaching the gospel out of wrong motives are infected with selfish ambition, which makes them serve, but not sincerely. Ambition isn’t necessarily bad; there is nothing wrong in wanting to be the best we can be for God. But selfish ambition is most concerned about a successful image, instead of striving for true success before God.

Those trying to promote themselves above Paul were seeking to add distress to him while he was in chains. They not only wanted themselves to gain in popularity, they wanted Paul to be seen as a looser. But he did not have a competitive spirit within him, and was content that Christ was preached. As he said, What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice.

 So, people preached the gospel more energetically, motivated by Paul’s imprisonment. Some were motivated in a good way and some were motivated in a bad way; yet nonetheless, they were motivated – and Paul could rejoice in that. Notice that Paul’s concern here was the motives of those who were preaching the gospel, not the content of the gospel itself. When false teaching was involved, Paul was a firebrand. As in the previously mentioned letter to the Galatians, where he emphatically said, but even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! To sum it up, Paul’s attitude went like this: “If you preach the true gospel, I don’t care what your motives are. If your motives are bad, God will deal with you – but at least the gospel is preached. But if you preach a false gospel, I don’t care how good your motives are. You are dangerous and must stop preaching your false gospel, and good motives don’t excuse your false message.”

 In verses 19-20 Paul tells us that he will be delivered out of his present circumstances one way or the other. For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. Paul knew that God was in charge concerning the events of his life. Even though he was imprisoned by Cesare Nero this was no problem for God. Paul knew the power of prayer, and understood that the Philippian’s prayers to God would be responsible for his deliverance. Prayer is the Christian’s heavy artillery. We must always remember that the conditions that the world finds itself in are a result of spiritual warfare. The battle rages all around us, though our physical senses cannot see it. God’s mighty angels are in constant warfare with Satan and his demonic hosts, both on earth and in heaven. Even though the situation seems out of control, God is still totally in charge of these happenings, and He alone controls the outcome. Paul knew that the Philippian’s prayers to God would be the catalyst for his deliverance. As a commentator put it, “Paul knew that the Lord was in control of all events, even though his imprisonment and impending trial before Caesar Nero made the situation look pretty dark. But he was so confident, because he knew that the Philippians prayed for him. His deliverance in the present situation was connected to the prayer of the Philippians. We can hypothetically say that if the Philippians didn’t pray for Paul, then God’s deliverance for him would be hindered. It certainly seems that Paul thought this way, and it shows what a serious matter prayer is. However, it was not the prayer of the Philippians in and of itself that would meet Paul’s need. It was the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ that came to Paul through the prayer of the Philippians. Paul’s needs were met by the Spirit of God, but this provision to Paul was brought about by the prayers of the Philippians.

 Paul had faith in God when he said that according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything. He knew that even though he was in prison, God had not abandoned him and he was still in God’s will for his life, stating that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. Paul now breaks the news and states the obvious to the Philippians, that he might not be released from this present imprisonment, but it might instead result in his martyrdom. Guzik said that “Paul lived his life not to preserve and promote himself, but to glorify Jesus Christ. If Jesus should one day decide that Paul could best glorify Him through laying down his life, then Paul would be well pleased by the opportunity. Even so, this must have hit hard on the Philippians who saw God do so many remarkable miracles of deliverance in Paul’s life among them in Philippi. It would have been easy for the Philippians to associate God’s glory only with being delivered from one’s problems, not in being delivered during one’s problems.

It is easy for us to dictate to God how He can and cannot glorify Himself in our lives. Paul wisely left all that up to God”.

 Paul accepted, what God had in store for him when he said in verses 21-26, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again”.

 Paul was not concerned with his death, because he had faith that for the Christian death is not the end, but the beginning of a new glorious existence in the very presence of the Lord. As he said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”. Death for the Christian is a gain. Paul knew that if he was martyred for his faith in Christ, then he would be bringing glory to God which is again for the kingdom. He would also personally gain from his death, because he would be in heaven with God. As Spurgeon said, “This obviously showed that Paul did not fear death. Though some men may fear dying, no Christian should fear death”.

 Paul had a very strong desire to be with Christ. He knew that for him personally, death would be the best thing that could happen. He had a death wish, and would have rather been with Christ than continue in this present existence. Yes, Paul was torn. He desired to be with the Lord, and yet he also knew that if he lived on, he could minister to the Philippians and others who needed him.     

Paul subordinated his desires to the will and plan of God. He knew that God had not put him on the shelf. His current circumstances were a part of the plan that God had for him. Paul knew that if he lived on in the flesh, that he would be fruitful because he was in the will of God.  

 Paul sensed that he would continue his ministry in this life because the Philippians and so many others still needed him. As a commentator summed it up, “Paul understood that others still needed him; that his work was not yet done. So, while allowing for the possibility of his martyrdom, he told the Philippians that he expects to be spared at this time”. Saying, “convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith”. Paul was confident and full of faith, yet seems short of absolute certainty. His lack of absolute certainty is a comfort to us. Even the great apostle did not have a prophet’s certainty about the future.  Paul’s close personal relationship with the Philippians causes him to proclaim that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again”.

 As it turns out, Paul’s instincts were right. He was eventually acquitted and released from this Roman captivity.

 Continuing in verse 27. Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

 Paul wanted the Philippians to live a godly well-mannered life, fitting for their belief in the Gospel of Christ. He wants them to know that they were accountable to him, and that he will be checking up on them from time to time, whether in person or from a report by others. Paul wants them to be of one mind and one purpose with no divisions or splits among themselves. The purpose for their unity should be the promotion and furtherance of the gospel, among themselves, and by reaching out to others.

 In verse 28 Paul tells the Philippians to be in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. The church in Philippi was not to be afraid or cower before their enemies in the world, but they were to be bold and courageous like Paul. This is because it would demonstrate their faith in God and because showing fear before an enemy, will always strengthen and embolden them. When we as Christians stand strong against intimidation against the world, the flesh and the devil, it shows those spiritual enemies that their ultimate destruction is certain.

When our spiritual enemies fail to make us afraid, they have failed completely, because they really have no other weapon other than fear and intimidation”. It as Paul says in Romans chapter 8, What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? All things that are against us are really against God and He will deal with them. Their ultimate destruction is certain! When Christians are not in any way terrified by their adversaries, it is also evidence of their own salvation. In the Lord, we can even surprise ourselves with our boldness.

 We close this chapter with verses 29-30, For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

 Belief was granted to the Philippian believers by God. This belief was not forced on them, but they chose of their own free will to believe the gospel when they heard it. And having believed, they received the gift of eternal life, and were sealed by the Holy Spirit, being adopted as sons and daughters into the family of God.

 Along with this belief in Him, God ordained that they would also suffer for His sake. In second Timothy chapter 3 Paul tells us that “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted”.  The Philippians did not need to wonder or be afraid that they were outside of God’s will when they endured physical suffering, or persecution. God in His wisdom, uses suffering and persecution to mold and shape us to bring glory to Himself. In James chapter 1 we are told to “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 In closing, Paul ends this section of scripture with the realization that those in Philippi had the same conflict which they saw and heard were in him. Along with this belief in Him, God ordained that they would also suffer for His sake. As a 1967 song by Lynn Anderson puts it. “I beg your pardon, I never promised you a rose garden. Along with the sunshine, there’s gotta be a little rain sometimes. And we too brothers and sisters need to realize that we will suffer trials and persecution, as we walk as strangers and pilgrims in this fallen world. We need to keep our focus, and continue looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus. Let’s pray.