Philippians 1:1-30 - Outline of Philippians (Book Notes menu page)
The letter to the Philippians is one of the four "prison epistles," which Paul wrote while in prison in Rome. These include: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. The first three epistles present a thorough picture of God's design for the NT church. The fourth is a personal letter to Philemon, which provides a wonderful illustration of reconciliation which rests upon imputed righteousness.

The three church epistles each have a specific emphasis:

All of these letters were apparently sent out at about the same time (c.64 AD). The letter to the Philippians was carried by Epaphroditus (Php 2:25; 4:18). The other three letters were carried by Tychicus, who was accompanied by other brothers, including Onesimus, who is the subject of the letter to Philemon (Eph 6:21; Col 4:7-9; Phm 1:10).

1. Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi,
with the bishops and deacons:
2 Grace [be] unto you, and peace,
from God our Father, and [from] the Lord Jesus Christ.
The brief letter to the Philippians is refreshing, in that it speaks of the joy of Christian experience. This joy is not dependent upon pleasant surroundings, an enjoyable situation or enviable circumstances. Paul was writing from prison in Rome. His joy was in the mutual relationship which Paul and his readers had in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He who is the source of joy and the focus of this epistle. (The word 'joy' occurs nineteen times in this epistle. But the name of the Lord Jesus is mentioned more than forty times.)

The book of Acts records the history of Paul's relationship with the Philippian believers. Paul had begun his second missionary journey, accompanied by Silas, because Paul and Barnabas disagreed about whether John Mark should accompany them. While Paul and Silas went to visit the churches established during the first missionary journey, Barnabas took John Mark and went in a different direction (Acts 15:36-41). After visiting the established churches in the regions of Phrygia and Galatia (in what is today, central Turkey), Paul wanted to journey into unreached territory. He planned to turn to the southwest, toward Ephesus. But the Holy Spirit forbade him (Acts 16:6). So, he turned himself toward the north. But again, the Spirit would not allow him to go there (Acts 16:7). He had come from the east. The way north and south were blocked. So, he continued on to the west, to Troas, which was as far as he could go, on land. We are not told how long he waited for direction in that city (Psa 27:14; 32:8,9; Prov 3:5,6). It was there, in a vision, that he received the call into Macedonia (Acts 16:9-12). Assured of the Lord's leading, Paul and Silas secured passage on a ship, arrived in the region of Macedonia, and then traveled over land to its capital city, Philippi. Only a few days later, the Lord began to build His church at Philippi (Acts 16:13-15).

The prayer meeting, led by Lydia, may well have been the reason for the Macedonian call. The Lord answered the prayer of people who were seeking to know Him aright, as He had done previously, when He answered the prayer of Cornelius the Roman centurion, by sending Peter to present the gospel to him and his gentile companions.
     Soon after Lydia and her family believed, others were added to the church, notably a girl who had been demon possessed, and the Philippian jailor and his family (Acts 16:16-40).
     This church had been very close to, and supportive of, Paul and his work (Php 4:15). But after his departure on his final journey to Jerusalem, they had lost track of him. Apparently, they had been unaware of his imprisonment, his appeal to Caesar, and his shipwreck enroute to Rome. [These events are recorded in Acts ch. 21 - 28.] As soon as they learned that he was in prison in Rome, they sent Epaphroditus with a monetary gift (Php 4:18). Therefore, Paul's purposes, for writing, included his desire to thank them for their continued support, and also to reflect, joyfully, on their longstanding relationship.

"Paul and Timothy, the servants of Jesus Christ..."-
When Paul wrote to the Corinthian church and also to the Ephesian church, he identified himself as 'an apostle' of Jesus Christ. The Corinthian church needed correction regarding a moral matter. The Ephesian church needed instruction concerning correct church order. So, Paul began his letters to those churches, by emphasizing the apostolic authority which the Lord had vested in him.
     With the exception of a minor disagreement between two women, the Philippian church was a model of what the church should be. So, Paul identifies himself humbly as a 'servant,' a bondslave, of Jesus Christ, as all believers ought to be.
Paul addresses "all the saints."
He is not writing to one wing of the church, but to everyone. They are all saints, since they have all been set apart as holy vessels for God's service. The thing that makes them holy is that they are "in Christ Jesus." Every one who trusts in Christ is baptized into Him, by the Holy Spirit. In our study of Ephesians, we saw that everything that God's born-again children possess is "in Christ" (eg., Eph 1:3,6,7,11-14).
"...the saints which are in Christ Jesus {their permanent home is 'in heavenly places in Christ '}...
...which are at Philippi {their temporary location is on earth}, with the bishops and deacons {the officers of the church}..." -
This church was established and self-governing, with the members of the body working in submission to, and in harmony with, one another, under Christ's authority (Eph 4:15,16; 5:21).
     The source of such harmony is "the grace and peace" bestowed by God the Father, through Christ, upon His children.
3. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,
ie., Every time you come to mind, I thank my God for you.
4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
ie., My every prayer, for every one you, is a joy filled petition. The reason for my joy is:
5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;
"Your fellowship in the gospel... from the first day, until now."
ie., From the time of that prayer meeting, where Lydia's heart was opened to receive Christ, we have been inter-related through faith in the Gospel of Christ, by which we have become children of one Father, and servants of one Lord (cp. Eph 4:4-6).
The word 'fellowship' {GK=koinonia, sharing in common, communion} is used, in the NT, of...
  1. the common bond which believers have by being "in Christ" (eg., 1Cor 10:16).
  2. the communication between believers in sharing the burdens of the body of Christ.
    (eg., Rom 15:26 'contribution'; 2Cor 8:4; Phm 1:6)
  3. the cooperation of believers in the work of Christ (eg., Php 4:15).
All of these aspects were true of the communion between Paul and the Philippian believers.
6 Being confident of this very thing,
that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it]
until the day of Jesus Christ:
"Being confident {ie., since I am confident; since I am persuaded}..." that Christ will continue the work that He has begun to do within you, when you trusted in Him, and will not cease until His work is completed in the day of His return to take us to Himself. (cp. 1Cor 1:8)
7. Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all,
because I have you in my heart;
inasmuch as both in my bonds,
and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel,
ye all are partakers of my grace.
ie., It is right for me to have this confidence, because you are 'partakers' {GK=sugkoinonos, lit., 'with-fellowshipers' or 'together-fellowshipers'}. They were not only partners, but joint-partners...
8 For God is my record,
how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
For God is my record {GK=martus, witness}...
Paul claimed that he held the Philippian believers in his heart. But only God would know if that was true. How often do we claim to be upholding someone in prayer, when we really don't think of them very often? God knows the depth of our concern for them.
     Paul had an intense yearning for these people. This earnest desire for their well-being was the stirring, within him, of the deep seated affections of Jesus Christ for them.
     This longing caused him to pray:
9. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more
in knowledge and [in] all judgment;
10 That ye may approve things that are excellent;
that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;
11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness,
which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
And this I pray...
  1. That your love {GK=agape} may abound...- They had shown abundant love toward him (Php 4:10).
    • yet more and more...- Paul desired yet more fruit of love on their account (4:17).
    • in knowledge...- ie., That they would exercise love from a right understanding of God's Word and will (Col 1:9,10).
    • in all judgment... - ie., That they would exercise love with discernment: Lest love be misdirected; for example, in support of false teachers (Eph 5:11-17; Php 3:2; 2Joh 1:10; cp. 2Chr 19:2). While we are to love the unlovely, we must do so with discernment (Mat 7:5).
  2. That you may approve {GK=dokimazo, test, examine, try} things that are excellent {GK=diphero, things that endure the test}, and thus, avoid those that do not (Eph 5:10; 1The 5:21; 1Joh 4:1).
  3. That you may be 'sincere' {GK= heilikrines}...-
    The English word 'sincere' comes from a Latin word, meaning 'without wax.'
    The GK word means 'sun tested, sun judged.' Damaged pottery and artwork was sometimes patched with wax and sold as unblemished. The wise shopper would hold it up to the sun to look for cracks. To be sincere is to be the real thing, a Christian in truth, not a phony.
  4. [that you may be] ...without offense {ie., void of guilt, blameless} till the day of Christ.-
    A faithful Christian will offend others, because the Gospel is offensive (1Pet 2:7,8).
    But the believer is to live in such a way, that he is above blame (1Pet 2:15; 4:14-16).
  5. [that you may be] 'being filled' (ie., continually) with the fruits of righteousness (Eph 5:9), which are:

In the opening verses of the letter to the Philippians, Paul reflects upon, and rejoices in, his relationship with this group of believers. It was a relationship of mutual love, which was centered in their fellowship (communion) in the gospel of Christ. These people were his spiritual sons and daughters. In love for him, they had partnered together with him, in proclaiming the Gospel, by supporting him financially and in other practical ways, and also by carrying on the work of the ministry which he had established when he was among them.
     He yearned for their well-being, with the affections of Christ for His own. To that end, he prayed that their already proven love would abound even more, out of a right understanding of God's Word, and with a discernment which tests all things and pursues that which is excellent... so that, at Christ's return, they would be found without blemish, blameless, and filled with the fruits of righteousness, to the glory of God.

     Now, beginning at v.12, Paul turns to give them a report on what has been going on with him. They had lost track of him for a time. When they learned about his arrest in Jerusalem, his perilous journey by sea, and his imprisonment in Rome, they were concerned for his physical state, and also that his ministry had been curtailed by his difficult state of affairs.
12. But I would ye should understand, brethren,
that the things [which happened] unto me
have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest
in all the palace, and in all other [places];
Rather than ending Paul's ministry, his imprisonment and all of the difficult events leading up to it, had been arranged by God to the furtherance {ie., advancement} of the Gospel message, in several ways!
First, the reason for Paul's bonds {imprisonment}, was manifest {openly known}:
  • What reason? His bonds were "in (or, for) Christ..."-
  • Where was it known?
    • in the palace {GK=praitorion}...-
      The word refers to Caesar's courtyard and residence, and to the soldiers and staff who manned it. Paul's presence there provided unprecedented opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to the seat of political power, just as the Lord had foretold at his conversion (Acts 9:15,16). No doubt, Paul presented the Gospel to each of the soldiers who guarded him (Acts 28:16). The terms of his imprisonment allowed for visitors, who also heard (Rom 28:17-31). Many in Caesar's household had come to faith (Php 4:22, 'household' may include servants, guards, and family members).
    • in all other places...-
      eg., in the houses of palace staff, who took the message home to their families, and the places visited along the way from Jerusalem to Rome, including the island of Melita, where Christ was made known to shipwrecked sailors, soldiers and prisoners, and the barbarous people who came to their aid.
But it was not only through Paul's testimony that the Gospel was being advanced by his imprisonment.
14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds,
are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife;
and some also of good will:
16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely,
supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
17 But the other of love,
knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
18 What then? notwithstanding,
every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached;
and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
Other believers, seeing Paul's circumstances, had become active, though their motives varied...
  • Some, who had been timid, had been emboldened to preach.
    Observing Paul's confidence in Christ, in the face of his imprisonments, they "waxed confident" (or, 'were more fully persuaded'). They dared to preach boldly, standing in Paul's stead, knowing that he was unable to continue, and sharing his desire {'good will'} to make Christ known. They were motivated by love for Christ and for His apostle (v.17; 2Cor 5:14).
  • Others also had been emboldened to preach Christ, but out of animosity toward Paul.
    It was not just to make him feel bad, that they were free and he was not. Rather, they were motivated by "envy" and "strife" ('strife' and 'contention' are closely related words). They were jealous of Paul, and were seeking to gain a following for themselves (eg., Acts 20:29,30). In their preaching, they found ways to paint Paul as an inferior messenger, and were bold to do so, because he was not able to answer their allegations.
In either case, and for whatever motives, Christ was being preached, and therefore, Paul rejoiced.
Do your attempts to witness seem woefully inadequate, even though you have a sincere desire to make Christ known?
     Do you think: 'I've tried and failed. Why should I try again?'
Have you asked the Lord for boldness? (Acts 4:29; Eph 6:18-20)
Have you asked Him to examine your heart motives? (Psa 139:23,24)
     Remember, you and I cannot win anyone to the Lord. That is the work of God Himself: The Holy Spirit must convict the unsaved of sin and of their need for the Savior. The Father must draw them to come to Christ. God does His work, through His Word... even when the Word is spoken out of "envy and strife," from a heart that is not right with Him. How much more freely He can work, through a sincere heart. So, take courage and don't be timid. Trust Him to work through His Word (Isa 55:11).
19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer,
and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
20 According to my earnest expectation and [my] hope,
that in nothing I shall be ashamed,
but [that] with all boldness, as always,
[so] now also Christ shall be magnified in my body,
whether [it be] by life, or by death.
...this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer...-
Paul is referring to his expectation that he would be delivered from prison.
What gave Paul confidence that he would be released?
  1. The fact that Christ was being preached and many in Caesar's household were becoming Christians.
  2. The fact that God is the deliverer, and that He discerns men's hearts. The first portion of v.19 may be a partial quote of Job 13:16 (as rendered in the Septuagint). Because Paul was not a hypocrite, as others, the Lord would look favorably on his case.
  3. The fact that the Philippian believers were praying for him... not only for his release, but especially for his boldness in making Christ known (the second portion of v.19; cp. Eph 6:19,20).
  4. The fact that Paul's sole desire was that Christ be magnified (ie., be seen for who He is, in His greatness, v.20). Paul sought to make Christ known, not to elevate himself.
  5. The fact that the Philippian believers could benefit from Paul's continued ministry (v.24,25).
21. For to me to live [is] Christ, and to die [is] gain.
22 But if I live in the flesh, this [is] the fruit of my labour:
yet what I shall choose I wot not
{ie., I know not}.
23 For I am in a strait betwixt two,
having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ;
which is far better:
24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh [is] more needful for you.
25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide
and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;
26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ
for me by my coming to you again.
Paul's 'earnest expectation' (or, persistent expectation, v.20) and his 'hope' (ie., confident expectation)
was that no matter how circumstances might change, Christ would be exalted through Paul's body, whether he lived or died.
     Paul recognized that this imprisonment might end with his execution. However, according to early church writings, he was released from prison, and may have traveled as far as Spain. But about two years later, Paul was again imprisoned in Rome, from where he wrote his last letter, shortly before he was beheaded under Nero. See 2Tim 4:6-8.
For to me to live [is] Christ, to die [is] gain.-
(Note that, twice, the word 'is' is italicized in the KJV, indicating that it is not present in the original text. The translators added these words to help the English reader. However, try reading the verse without the italicized words. Isn't the message even more emphatic?)
     The believer lives in Christ. Christ lives in the believer. "Christ... our life" (Col 3:4). Paul's purpose, while he lived in the flesh, was to know Christ and to make Him known. Although Paul was a soul winner, he did not live to save sinners, but rather, to show them the Savior: who He is and what He has done. Only the Lord can draw sinners to Himself. He will make Himself known to them, as we live for Him and present His Word to them.
to die is gain...- Gain is 'more of the same.'
Investments gain more value. Bodies gain more weight. If your life is in Christ, death will give you more of Him, for you will enter into His Presence (2Cor 5:8), and will know Him, as you are known of Him (1Cor 13:12).
I am in a strait betwixt two...- If the decision were up to Paul,
he did not know whether he would choose to continue in the flesh (which would allow him to help others grow in their walk with the Lord), or to depart from his body to enter into the Lord's Presence, which would be a much preferred situation for him personally. But this was not for him to decide.
to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. - 'needful' {GK=anagkaios, necessary, indispensable}
Knowing that the Lord could use him to strengthen the Philippian believers, Paul was 'confident' {persuaded} that the Lord would allow him to continue in his earthly ministry, and would deliver him from prison, so that he could minister freely among them again.
27. Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ:
that whether I come and see you, or else be absent,
I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit,
with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
28 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries:
which is to them an evident token of perdition,
but to you of salvation, and that of God.
29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ,
not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;
30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear [to be] in me.
As Paul had but one purpose in life: to live in and for Christ,
So, he lovingly admonishes his 'children in the faith,' to follow in his footsteps, whether he can be present with them or not. They have no right to choose another path.
only let your conversation {manner of life} be as it becometh {GK=axios, worthy, befitting of} the gospel of Christ. (See 'worthy' in Mat 10:37-40.)
This way of life is not optional for the child of God. Consider this literal translation:
"Only worthily of the good news of the Christ conduct ye yourselves..." [YLT]
  • one Spirit... with one mind... (Eph 4:1-6)
  • that ye stand fast... (Eph 6:10-13)
  • striving together... - 'Strive together' is a very different word than 'strife' (in v.15, 'strife' refers to 'contention' between brothers). The word here is GK=sunathleo, ie., together engaging your energies for a common purpose (as athletes on the same team):
    • "for the faith of the gospel" - (ie., the defence and confirmation of the gospel, v.7), and
    • against a common foe...
  • in nothing terrified {GK=pturo, frightened; the root word is GK=ptuo, to spit)...
         (Do not allow anyone or any circumstance to 'scare you spitless.') your adversaries {ie., those who are set against you}
       Your confident stand, in the face of opposition, is an evident token {proof}...
    • to the adversaries of perdition {GK=apoleia, utter destruction}.
    • to you of salvation {GK=soteria, deliverance}. God is able to deliver you from temporal afflictions (v.19). He has provided you with salvation from judgment to come (v.6,7; Rom 1:16-18; 2The 1:4-10).
    ...for unto you it is given... to suffer {GK=pascho, to be stressed emotionally, to feel pain} for Christ's sake (see Acts 5:41).
    At Paul's first visit to Philippi, the new believers had observed Paul's example, as he endured persecution for the sake of the Gospel (Acts 16:19-25). Recently, they had heard of his current imprisonment in Rome (v.12,13). But now, they themselves were experiencing the same 'conflict' {GK=agon, from which comes the English word 'agony'}. Even in suffering persecution, the Philippians were partakers of Paul's grace (v.7). This was another aspect of their mutual "fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now" (v.5).

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