Paul wrote this letter in prison, probably in Ephesus. It is a note of commendation and explanation that was sent with Epaphroditus, that addressed some criticisms as well as being an opportunity to thank them for a gift. Paul shares his heart with these believers whom he sees very much as his children. In it he addresses some of the difficulties they were facing from Judaizers and hostile pagans. He encourages them to live for Christ, to be like Christ and to be willing to do so in whatever circumstances they find themselves. He asks for prayer so that he can be a good example to them, and lifts up Christ as the example of selflessness that we should all follow.
Paul’s Confidence (Phil 1:1-11)
Paul and Timothy – bond servants – write to the Philippians and their overseers/elders.
Thankful for good memories, they often pray with joy for them
Paul is confident that God will take them to full maturity. He sees evidence of the continued commitment to the gospel, including their support (gift) for him.
Paul speaks as a loving father does to his children, wanting the best for them. He prays for their growth in knowledge and in deeds (fruit of righteousness) that is consistent with the faith they profess in Christ.
His love for them only comes second to his love for Christ and he rejoices in the fruits of righteousness in their lives that bring honor and praise to the Lord.
Christ must be Exalted (Phil 1:12-26)
Paul talks of his imprisonment as one who knew hardships were part of his call or job description. (Act 9:15,16)
He doesn’t want them to be discouraged or disillusioned by it. He rejoices in the courage and boldness of many brethren who have been inspired by his example.
He is not bothered by the mixed and sometimes questionable motives of some who are preaching Christ. All that concerns him is that Christ is exalted.
He feels confident that he will be delivered, but is more concerned that they pray for him to remain faithful and exalt Christ in his body, whether that means to live or die.
For Paul, living for Christ or dying for Christ are both good options. He would prefer to die and be with Christ, but because he knows God still has work for him to do in the churches, he expects to be released and be able to see them again.
Suffering for Christ’s Sake (Phil 1:27-30)
To live for Christ means we must conduct ourselves in a manner that exalts Christ, even if that leads to opposition and suffering. Don’t be alarmed or surprised by this.
See the opposition as a sign of your salvation and a warning of their destruction.
To believe in Christ is a privilege that exalts Him. To suffer for Christ’s sake is also a privilege that can exalt Him.
What they are experiencing is not new for Paul, and continues to be his experience (prison). He wants them to be encouraged by his example, but more importantly because of Christ example (Phil 2:5-11)
“my circumstances(imprisonment) have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.” 1:12
“Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.”1:20
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” 1:21
“For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,” 1:29
1. What can we say about Paul’s priorities and convictions from this chapter?
2. Have you experienced persecution or rejection for being a follower of Christ? How have you dealt with it, and how do the words of Paul speak to you about it?
3. Is “To live is Christ and to die is gain” saying the same thing as “Deny yourself, take up your cross daily, and follow Me.” Discuss.`
Chapters 2-4 will follow soon.
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