Thoughts about Philippians 1:1-2.
Paul’s salutation in his letter to the Philippians is written in the standard format of a letter at the time. He states who is writing, to whom the letter is addressed, and adds his opening greeting. He writes:
“1 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1-2 NAS).
The letter begins by identifying Paul and Timothy as the writers. Paul was the content author of the letter, but he may have dictated it to Timothy who, in turn, actually did the writing. Why Timothy was included is often discussed. The text does not say why, but there are several very reasonable thoughts.
One reason is that Timothy helped found the church at Philippi (Acts 16:12); Paul intended to send him to them sometime after writing this letter (Philippians 2:19). No doubt the Philippians would appreciate the inclusion of Timothy.
Also, Timothy was a trusted and younger member of Paul’s leadership team. No doubt Paul included him every time he could. By including Timothy, Paul would put his blessing on Timothy, encourage him in his leadership, and pave the way for his handover of ministry to him.
The relationship between Paul and Timothy is full of meaning for all ministers today, young, older, and elderly. Even early in their ministries, ministers should be concerned about training and those who might follow them. The older that ministers become, the more concerned they may become.
In my next “thoughts” I will continue to discuss Paul’s salutation. The salutation says a lot to us. As we walk through Philippians, your comments and applications are always welcome.
More Thoughts about Philippians 1:1-2.
Paul, in this salutation, identifies Himself and Timothy as the writers of this letter. It was Paul who provided the content. He then tells the Philippians that he and Timothy are “bond-servants of Christ Jesus.”
The Greek word that Paul uses means “slaves.” However, translators often prefer the word “servants,” as in the NIV. The English word “slaves’ has negative connotations for us. We normally think of people who have been forcefully subjugated, controlled, forced to work, and unrewarded.
Our servanthood to Jesus is different. It is by our choice that we become His servants. In some respects, as servants of the Lord, we are more completely under His control than slaves to their masters. However, we suffer no mistreatment at the hands of our Master and we are eternally rewarded for our labors.
This letter is addressed to “all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.” There were overseers and deacons in the church. This shows that there was some structure within the body of Christ at Philippi. The saints at Philippi functioned together as a body of believers.
Now, Paul writes his salutation proper. To all of his audience, Paul says, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” We are saved by grace and peace, and reconciliation with God is the result. Grace and peace permeate all that we are and do.
As Paul writes this letter, he models a proper relationship with Jesus. He, along with Timothy, stresses his servanthood. He was in his last decade of ministry. His devotion to Christ had only deepened with the passing of the years. Paul’s example speaks loudly to us.
More about Philippians: 1:3-11, Thanksgiving and Prayer.
Paul begins the body of this letter with thanksgiving and prayer.
In verses, 3-6 Paul writes about his thanksgiving and joy. About ten years have passed since Paul founded the church at Philippi. He thanks God for all his memories of them. His thanksgiving leads to joy in every prayer that he prays for them. His memories include their participation in the gospel from the first day until now. He is happy that the Philippians were living according to the gospel and were proclaiming its truths.
Paul has great memories, but he is also joyful and full of thanks because of the future. He strikes a theme that runs throughout Philippians. Although life with Christ begins with the new birth, as a definite experience, every believer must continue to grow in the image of Christ over time. This spiritual growth is a life-long process. We all have the goal of spiritual maturity before us.
In verses, 7-8 Paul says it is right for him “to feel this way” and explains why. By “this way,” he means thankful and joyful. The Philippians have been with him in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. Paul was awaiting his trial. He had already appeared before the Roman authorities. We can be sure that He had presented the gospel in its true form, confirming what it is. Paul’s bond with the Philippians is strong. He longs to see them with Christ-like affection.
Next, in verses 9-11, Paul tells us what he prays. He prays that love may abound in their lives. Also, he prays that they will grow in knowledge and discernment. The goal is for them to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ, having been filled with the fruit of righteousness through Jesus Christ. Their spiritual maturity would be to the praise and glory of God.
At the time when Paul wrote this epistle, he must have been about 57 years old. He was about 63 when he was executed. During these closing years of his ministry, he rejoiced over what God had done. Paul’s is full of thanksgiving and joy because of the spiritual involvement and growth of the Philippians. Like him, when we think of what God has done through our ministries, we can thank and be full of joy. All praise and glory belong to God.
More Thoughts about Philippians: 1:12-26.
Progress of the Gospel. Paul has expressed his thanks to God for the Philippians. His relationship with them has given rise to his joyous prayer for them and their spiritual maturity. In 1:12-26 Paul writes optimistically about the progress of the gospel. Then he expresses his attitude toward his own life and role.
In 1:12-14 Paul writes: “12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 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.”
When Paul arrived in Rome, he was put under house arrest (Acts 28:30-31). He stayed in his own rented house for two years and proclaimed the gospel. He was under constant watch by the soldiers in the Praetorian Guard, the Emperor’s bodyguards. At some point his trial took place and he was awaiting the verdict.
The gospel became known to “everyone else” as well. The people of Rome heard the gospel from Paul. His imprisonment for the cause of Christ became well-known. Many people were won to Christ. Also, many of the brethren gained greater courage in speaking the Word of God without fear.
This passage reminds us of what Joseph said to his brothers who had sold him into slavery: “And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20 NAS).
Sometimes it seems like the opponents of the gospel are winning, but God will bring about His purposes.
About our ministries, this truth is one of the most important for us to know. Throughout their years of service, ministers of the gospel will need to rely on this understanding. Older ministers will testify to how God wrought victory out of seeming defeat in their lives. Along with Paul, we can express our thanksgiving and joy over the always enduring progress of the gospel.
More Thoughts about Philippians: 1:12-26.
Christ Is Proclaimed. Paul is under house arrest, staying in a rented house, and freely proclaiming the gospel. While awaiting the outcome of his imprisonment, he writes to the Philippians. Today, in this post, I will comment on verses 15-18. Paul states:
15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from goodwill; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this, I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice.
Even though Paul was imprisoned, others were preaching the gospel. One group was preaching about envy and strife. They proclaimed Christ out of selfish ambition rather than loving motives. They opposed Paul and wanted to cause him some distress. The other group preached out of goodwill and love. They knew Paul was appointed for the defense of the gospel and supported him. In both cases, Paul rejoiced that Christ was proclaimed.
Notably, the issue brought forward by Paul was not the message. The message preached by both groups was correct. If anyone had been preaching a false message, Paul would have challenged that right away. Instead, the issue was motivation. Some preachers were proclaiming the gospel out of selfish ambition.
Although Paul does not mention mixed motivation, it is possible to proclaim the gospel out of love and also out of personal ambition. We all have the responsibility, however, to, subjugate our ambition and do what love demands.
Unfortunately, we all know ministers of the gospel who seem to be preaching out of their ambition. However, we are not the judges of motivation. Only God can know for sure what motivates any minister of the gospel. Paul’s attitude toward all who proclaim the gospel provides the right model for us. We should rejoice, with Paul, that Christ is proclaimed. At any age, this is true for all of us.
More Thoughts about Philippians: 1:12-26, Paul’s Deliverance.
Paul is writing from prison. He does not know whether he will live or die, but either way, he knows that Christ will be exalted. Moreover, because we are in Christ, we are ultimately victorious. In verses 19-20 he states:
“19 For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”
When Paul says “this,” (verse 19) he is referring to his imprisonment and trial. His imprisonment will turn out for his “deliverance.” According to one view, Paul means that he will be set free. However, some authors hold that he means he will be delivered from showing any weakness under trial. Another view is that Paul’s deliverance refers to the ultimate consummation of his salvation. Those who support this view note that “salvation” rather than “deliverance” is the normal translation of the Greek word.
Paul says that his deliverance or salvation shall come “through our prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” Grammatically, the phrase “provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” can refer to what the Spirit provides, in other words, the “Spirit’s provision.” However, it can also mean that it is the Spirit that is provided and that the Spirit, in turn, brings deliverance to Paul.
Also, the supply of the Spirit will enable Paul to avoid being put to shame. He does not explicitly say how he might be put to shame, but he does express his hope that Christ will be exalted in his body, whether by life or by death. The Spirit will enable Paul to boldly proclaim Christ even while on trial.
When we face difficulties in proclaiming Christ, this is a very encouraging passage. God will supply His Spirit to embolden us, and the Spirit will enable us to speak courageously about Christ. This truth applies to us at any age, including in our older years.
More Thoughts about Philippians: 1:21-26. Living and Dying.
Although Paul’s letter to the Philippians applies to people of all ages, it has special relevance to older people. When people are in the later years of their life, the thought of being with Christ becomes even more relevant. Paul expresses his attitude about living and dying in Philippians 1:21-26. He states:
“21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 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. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25 And convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.”
First, Paul said, “For to me to live is Christ.” He had appealed to Caesar concerning the charges against him. He was under house arrest in Rome and did not know whether he would live or die. This would be determined by the Imperial Court. He did not know, if it were up to him, which he should choose. However, in the Philippians, Paul is convinced that staying alive “is more necessary for your sake.”
When Paul says “to live is Christ,” he means that Christ is at the center of his life. He had many goals that simply had to do with life and living. He had to eat and make a living just as all people do. To be like Christ and to do His will was Paul’s highest motivation. Even other good goals were subordinate to Christ and His purposes.
Second, Paul then said, “and to die is gain.” This simply means that through death, he would be with Christ. He would know Christ in a greater way by being in His presence in a new way. For Paul, because death meant being with Christ, it was true “gain.” Paul would have even greater knowledge, joy, and worship than he already had.
Even when we are younger, we may talk about the greatness of being with Christ, but we are not eager to leave this life quite yet. However, the time comes for all who live a long time that they know the time for them to be with Christ is rapidly coming. It is important to keep in focus that being with Christ is a great “gain.” The gain will be far greater than we can imagine.
More Thoughts about Philippians.
During this political season, we hear many people say that we need unity. Then in the same speech, they make strong statements against their opponents. Not caring that these statements contradict the call for unity.
Unfortunately, this can happen even in the church. The lack of unity surfaced in the church at Philippi. We know this because of Paul’s urging them to be united. Paul states:
“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 may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 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. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (Philippians 1:27-30 NAS).
Whether or not Paul comes to see them, he desires that the Philippians walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. This worthiness can be broadly applied, but Paul specifically is concerned about their unity. They should unite and stand firm in one spirit. This spirit appears to be the human spirit, but in Paul’s writings, the spirit often refers to the human spirit enabled by the Holy Spirit. Whether this specific usage has any reference to the Spirit, we know that the unity of the believers is achieved through the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3).
According to verse 28, the strength of the believers came from God. The church’s steadfastness was a sign. This could be interpreted as a sign of destruction to the unbelievers and of salvation to believers. Or, it could be a sign to unbelievers of both their destruction and the salvation of believers.
The victory of the believers, however, did not come without a price. God has ‘granted” the Philippians the privilege of suffering for Christ’s sake. Paul is not encouraging the Philippians to seek suffering. Neither is he saying that all suffering is beneficial. His point is that sometimes the people of God suffer on behalf of the progress of the gospel (Acts 5:41). Today, let us pray for all who experience suffering for this purpose.
George M. Flattery, Ed.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.