Paul begins this letter with a standard greetings. He found joy in greeting fellow believers. Paul does not mention his apostleship in this epistle. He was known to this church because he was instrumental in founding this church. Paul joins Timothy in the greeting because he was a fellow worker. Paul and Timothy identify themselves as the bond servants of Jesus Christ. Once they were slaves to Satan, now they have been bought with a price and set free to serve Christ
(1 Cor 6:20). They do not seek any celebrity status. They have no will of their own and trust God to provide all their needs. There is no greater calling than being the servants of Christ. Paul addresses the letter to all the saints in Christ at Philippi. They are saints because they are in Christ. They are set apart people for God's use. It does not mean they are perfect but different from the world. Their holiness is manifested when they are filled and controlled by the Holy Spirit. It is measured by their obedience to Christ. This also speaks of their spiritual location. The saints are not an elate group of Christians. Paul also addresses elders and deacons. Each local church must have God ordained spiritual leadership to rule and serve the believers. The church without godly leadership can't grow. Elders take care of the spiritual needs and the deacons the physical needs in the church. Paul greets believers with grace and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace is the foundation and peace is the result. The grace is God’s unmerited favor in Christ. Grace is also a Gentile greeting word. Peace is the Jewish greeting. Peace means serenity. It is the deep sense of satisfaction and completeness one finds in Christ. Grace and peace bring healthy harmony in the church. They come from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:2). Here we see a level of equality between God the Father and the Son. This is an affirmation of Christ’s deity. These believers are from different backgrounds. What united them was they are in Christ (Act 2:42).They are new creation in Christ Jesus (2 Cor 5:17).
Paul was grateful to the believers of Philippi for their gift and for their partnership in the gospel. He and Silas were God’s chosen instruments to take the gospel to Philippi (Acts 16:6-15). It had been 10 years since Paul first visited them yet they were very fresh and dear to him. Paul thanked the Lord for them in all his remembrance of them. Paul remembers their acceptance of the gospel and their faithful partnership in the ministry. These memories brought great joy to Paul. No one can praise and worship God in vacuum. Praising God is a beautiful thing (Psalms 147:1-2). It is the healthiest of all human emotions and the highest form of memory (Psalms 103:1-3). Christians must be thankful people to God for his salvation, protection and providence (Psalms 107:1-2; Luke 17;17). We are told to give thanks in all circumstances because it is the will of God in Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:18). The last days will be marked by lack of loyalty and thankfulness (2 Tim 3:2). Christianity is more than knowing some doctrines about God but it is a personal relationship with God (2 Tim 1:12). Paul was a thankful person (Acts 16:25). Paul's prayer includes adoration, confession, joy, thanksgiving and supplication. Paul was thankful for their fellowship in the gospel enterprise from the first day until now. They were willing to labor and identify with Paul to take the gospel to others (2:1; 3:10; 4:15). Though Paul was separated from Philippians by 800 miles, he enjoyed their fellowship and friendship. Evangelism is a team work. Pray that the Lord would give us a burden and vision for the lost souls.
Partnership in the Gospel: 1:6-8.
Paul is confident in the faithful partnership of Philippians in the gospel. Paul knew that what God has begun in their life he will complete. It is God who justified them, he continues to sanctify them and one day they will be glorified (Rom 8:30). Salvation is all of God. God who called us is faithful and he will do it (1 Thess 5:24). God enable us to persevere in faith until the day we are going to be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. Paul’rejoices that these believers were willing to endure hardship for the defense and confirmation of the gospel with him. Defense means to clear away the obstacles to preach the gospel (1:17; 2 Tim 4:16). The word “apologetic” is derived from this word. Confirmation means to establish the validity of the gospel for its advancement. Defense is the negative side and confirmation is the positive side. It is sad that these days there are many spectators and few participants in the ministry of evangelism. There must be an evangelistic purpose in Christian life. Paul longed to see the believers. Our hearts should be knit together in evangelism and in disciple making.
Prayer for Spiritual Growth:1:9-11.
Paul was a man of prayer. He did not just pray and forget about them. The church is a community of fellowship where believers pray for one another. Paul made it a habit to pray for the believers regularly. Nobody can pray in vacuum. Paul prayed that their love may abound more and more in knowledge and all discernment (1:9). He presupposes that they love one another. It is the mark of true discipleship (John 13:35). It is also importance to believe sound doctrine. Love can’t replace sound doctrines. This is the agape love which is sacrificial that seeks the highest good of others. This is not “You scratch my back and I will scratch your back kind of love”. This is a love that loves the unlovely. It is a binding love that unites believers. It is not an impulsive human feeling. The secret of loving is knowing Christ intimately. Our love for Christ should abound more and more in knowledge and discernment. Discernment is the ability to distinguish between good and excellent. Paul prays that this love should overflow more and more in Christian life. The love grows only when we grow in a personal and intimate knowledge of Christ. Jews had zeal for God, but not according to knowledge of God (Rom 10:2). Also our love should grow in discernment. Immature Christians lack discernment (Heb 5:14). Only those who make it a habit to apply these principles in life will grow spiritually. He who does not love others does not know God, for God is love (1 John 4:8). Paul prayed that they may approve what is excellent so that they may stand blameless at the judgment seat of Christ (1:10-11). They should live a pure and blameless life until Christ returns. The word “sincere or pure" means to be free from falsehood and transparent in character. We should not cause others to stumble in their faith by our duplicity. When Christians live such lives, God is glorified and others are blessed. Paul prayed for the believers that they may be filled with the fruits of righteousness. It does not happen by self effort but only by the Holy Spirit (John 15:4-5). The fruit of righteousness are the characteristics of Christ (Gal 5:22-23). This happens when they live in fellowship with Christ. Fellowship means partnership or to have something in common. They have common life and faith in the Lord. They are the heirs of grace. They are fellow workers and fellow citizens (1 Cor 3:9; Ephesians 2:19). This fellowship fills us with the fruit of righteousness. When we grow in fellowship, the church grows in spiritual maturity and the message of Christ will spread effectively. Pray that God would give us the desire to fellowship with those who proclaim the gospel.
Paul's Imprisonment helped the Spread of the Gospel: 1:12-14
Paul wanted the believers to know that his imprisonment did not hinder the spread of the gospel. His focus was not on himself but on the gospel and the churches. Some of them were discouraged because Paul was imprisoned. Paul wanted them to know that he turned his prison cell into a gospel hall. Paul’s imprisonment did not stop his intercession, evangelism or writing. When Paul was imprisoned in Rome, he was chained to imperial guards for two years. He was allowed to welcome visitors and minister to them unhindered (Acts 28:30-31). Thus the palace guards came to know that Paul’s imprisonment was because of the gospel. So instead of being discouraged, Paul rejoiced that his bond helped the advancement of the gospel. Paul’s fearless example brought increased confidence to many believers to share the gospel with others. History shows that persecution usually makes Christians bolder to witness Christ. There is a parallel between Joseph and Paul. Joseph was forsaken and betrayed by his brothers. They intended to harm Joseph but God intended it for the good (Gen 50:20). Likewise Paul's experience gave believers courage to preach the gospel boldly. The Sufferings should not hinder the work of God’s kingdom. It meant to bring us closer to God and one another. God can use our adverse circumstances to accomplish His glorious purpose.
Paul Rejoiced that Gospel is Preached:1:15-18. When Paul was in prison, some Christians were preaching the gospel from envy and rivalry but others from good will. Unlike Galatians these both groups preached the same gospel but with different motives (Gal 1:6). Some preached supposing to add affliction to Paul in the prison. Jealousy and strife are marks of carnality (1 Cor 3:3). Others preached boldly knowing that Paul was in prison for the defense of the gospel. Only when we proclaim the right message with right motives people will be saved. Paul knew that the motive of one group was wrong yet he rejoiced that Christ was being openly preached. Paul was bound, yet the word of God was not bound (2 Tim 2:9). Christians should rejoice when Christ is preached. Paul rejoices that believers are praying for his release from the prison (1:19). He always depended on the prayers of believers (Ephesians 6:18-19). The intercession of God’s people is vital in any ministry. Paul experienced victory and blessing even in the midst of his sufferings.
For me to live is Christ: 1:19-22.
Paul’s purpose of life was to live for Christ. He did not want to bring disgrace to the gospel of Christ (Titus 2:11-12). Paul knew that Roman government may sentence him to death but he was determined to use every opportunity to glorify Christ by life or by death. He wanted that the unsaved world should see Christ through him. Here the “flesh” refers to our body in which we live. Believers are exhorted to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable unto God (Rom 12:1). Paul was committed to magnify Christ through his life and death. For him to live is Christ and to die is gain. He was saved by the grace of God. Christ was the source and substance of his life. He now lives by faith in the Son of God who loved and gave himself for him (Gal 2:20). Paul’s burning passion was to know Christ and fellowship with Him (3:10). Many people chose to live for pleasure, prestige and power. For them dying is not gain. But for Paul, living was Christ and dying was even better. Death will not interrupt his conscious fellowship with Christ (2 Cor 5:8). It is gain because death will free Paul from temptation, sorrow and sufferings. He will receive rewards for his faithful service. For Christians, death is a promotion to a glorified body and reunion with Christ and departed saints. When we are consumed with the love of Christ, neither life nor death can destroy our joy.
For Paul Christ was everything in life and death. He rejoiced in the gospel in all circumstances. He found joy knowing that God has a purpose for his life. He was ready to be in the presence of the Lord (2 Tim 4:6). Paul knew that absent from the body is at home with the Lord. There is no place of torment in between death and being with Christ (2 Cor 5:8). But Paul faces a personal dilemma (1:23). He was caught up between a wish and a necessity. Paul wonders whether he should remain on earth to labor for Christ or to be with Christ. It would be far better to be with Christ but it was necessary for him to be with believers for their spiritual growth. So for the sake of believers, Paul decided to live and labor for Christ. Someone has said “I am often weary in the work, but never weary of it”. Paul placed others before him because he realized that they were in need of encouragement. He was confident that he would help believers by life. Only those who progress in the faith will experience joy in Christian life. Paul wants believers to know that the true source of joy is Jesus Christ. Philippians were sad because Paul was in the Roman prison. But he wanted them to know that they will rejoice at his reunion with him. They were exhorted to give serious attention to what they have learned. Paul knew that the sacrifices he made to serve Christ worth much in the end.
Live Worthy of the Gospel: 1:27-30.
Paul exhorts believers to give serious attention to their conduct. They should live worthy of the gospel. They are the citizens of heaven and their conduct should reflect the character of Christ. Then only others will be attracted to Jesus Christ (Titus 2:10). The Christians should walk the talk. Gospel brings transformation in life. The believers should strive together for the faith of the gospel in the spirit of unity and harmony. The best argument of Christianity is Christians. Only a united church can resist the devil. Christians who take a strong position for Christ will face opposition (2 Tim 3:12). They should not be frightened by their adversaries (Acts 16:25). This is a clear sign of their enemies destruction but of their salvation (1:28). But to those who are saved, opposition is the evidence of their salvation. For we have been given not only the privilege to believe in Christ but also to suffer for him (1 Pet 2:19-20). Paul considered suffering for the gospel a privilege (2 Tim 2:12). For some suffering is their own making. Not all suffering is due to sin but to reveal the works of God (John 9:1-4). A glorious future awaits for those who suffer for the sake of Christ (2 Cor 4:17). Perhaps Philippians had difficulty to identify with Paul in his suffering. Paul says "We are in the struggle together" (1:30). Since they face opposition themselves, now they have no difficulty to identify with Paul. Christians should comfort those who suffer for the gospel. God uses sufferings to mature and develop spiritual character in life.