Philippians 1 - Prisoner For Christ

INTRODUCTION: The letter to the Philippians was written while Paul was a prisoner in Rome; but he saw the gospel advancing through his circumstance, and he wanted the Philippians to know that their continued partnership was an encouragement for him to press on with the work. Philippi had been the city where an unjust imprisonment of Paul and Silas had been used of God to bring others to Christ to be part of establishing the Philippian church. That past situation in Philippi would have given the believers there a special understanding of why Paul could trust the Lord while in prison at Rome.

NOTE: All scripture passages are from the World English Bible.


A - PAUL INCLUDED TIMOTHY IN HIS SALUTATION

Philippians 1 "1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ; To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and servants: 2 Grace to you, and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God whenever I remember you, 4 always in every request of mine on behalf of you all making my requests with joy, 5 for your partnership in furtherance of the Good News from the first day until now; 6 being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ."

COMMENTS: As recorded in Acts chapter 16, Timothy had been with Paul at the very first visit to Philippi, and he would have been among those who stayed at Lydia's house throughout their time there. Several years later as recorded in Acts 19:22, before Paul left Ephesus, he sent Timothy and Erastus ahead of him into Macedonia to begin the return circuit to churches there and in Greece. Acts 20:3-6 records that Paul and his companions, including Timothy, went back through Philippi from Greece as Paul planned to visit other churches in Asia before going to Jerusalem. Silas is not mentioned in scripture after having been with Paul and Timothy in Corinth. Timothy was with Paul in Rome, and was well known to the Philippians, so Paul included him as he warmly opened this letter.

The salutation of Paul was to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons, which was indicative of church growth with male leadership. The church had started with a group of women having prayer beside a river, and then a jailer and his household accepted Christ just before Paul and his companions left Philippi. Lydia is the only person named in Acts among the fellowship of believers at Philippi, but Paul mentions other names within this letter which was written at least seven years after that church had been established. What a great reminder to us, as it must have been to the Philippian believers, when Paul wrote that grace and peace come to us from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul wanted the readers to know that whenever he prayed for them he was reminded of the joy he had with them because of their continuing partnership in furthering the gospel. He wanted them to understand that his confidence in that partnership was because the Lord had begun a good work in them, and the Lord is faithful to complete that work until the return of Jesus Christ.


B - PAUL ENCOURAGED THE PHILIPPIANS TO CONTINUE IN LOVE

Philippians 1 "7 It is even right for me to think this way on behalf of all of you, because I have you in my heart, because, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Good News, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how I long after all of you in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus. 9 This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense to the day of Christ; 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."

COMMENTS: Paul wrote that he had the Philippians in his heart both while he was a prisoner, and as he made the defense and confirmation of the gospel of Christ, because they all had received the same grace of the Lord that was sustaining him. He had no hesitation before God to tell them how much he longed for all of them in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus. Paul did not pray for them to have material prosperity, or to escape all trials in life. His prayers were that their love would flourish as they gained knowledge and discernment to seek the things that are excellent to make them sincere and without offense until the return of Christ. Paul also prayed for them to be filled with the fruits of righteousness, which come through Jesus Christ, so their lives would be to the glory and praise of God.


C - PAUL BELIEVED HIS INCARCIRATION WAS USED TO SPREAD THE GOSPEL

Philippians 1 "12 Now I desire to have you know, brothers, that the things which happened to me have turned out rather to the progress of the Good News; 13 so that it became evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my bonds are in Christ; 14 and that most of the brothers in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even out of envy and strife, and some also out of good will. 16 The former insincerely preach Christ from selfish ambition, thinking that they add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the Good News. 18 What does it matter? Only that in every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is proclaimed. I rejoice in this, yes, and will rejoice. 19 For I know that this will turn out to my salvation, through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will in no way be disappointed, but with all boldness, as always, now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death."

COMMENTS: Paul wanted the believers at Philippi to know that the things that had happened to him resulted in progress of the gospel becoming evident to the whole palace guard and to all others around him. He could tell anyone there that he had become a prisoner for his outspoken belief in Christ, even though he was a Roman citizen and there was no just charge against him. Paul was pleased that most of the brothers in the Lord in Rome had become more confident to boldly share the word of God without fear as they observed Paul's attitude about why he was a prisoner. Paul said there were some who actually preached Christ out of their envy and contention with him, as they were insincere as they preached about Christ. Their ambition was to promote themselves, and to do this while Paul was a prisoner for his preaching. But there were others who preached Christ out of good will and love because they knew that Paul was appointed of God to preach the gospel, and that he was determined to continue even while a prisoner. This mind set in Paul had been evidenced to others as he traveled.

Several years before being taken to Rome, while on the way to Jerusalem, Paul had told the leaders from Ephesus that the holy Spirit had revealed to him more than once that great difficulty awaited him. Acts 20 "22 Now, behold, I go bound by the Spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there; 23 except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions wait for me. 24 But these things don't count; nor do I hold my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to fully testify to the Good News of the grace of God." When Paul arrived at Caesarea he reaffirmed what he had told other believers. Acts 21 "8 On the next day, we, who were Paul's companions, departed, and came to Caesarea. We entered into the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the seven, and stayed with him. 9 Now this man had four virgin daughters who prophesied. 10 As we stayed there some days, a certain prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. 11 Coming to us, and taking Paul's belt, he bound his own feet and hands, and said, "Thus says the Holy Spirit: 'So will the Jews at Jerusalem bind the man who owns this belt, and will deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'" 12 When we heard these things, both we and they of that place begged him not to go up to Jerusalem. 13 Then Paul answered, "What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus."" At Jerusalem the hostile Jews intended to beat Paul to death, but he was rescued by Roman soldiers, and then taken as a prisoner to the Roman governor at Caesarea. He was held there for two years until he was transferred to Rome because he had appealed to Caesar. . There should be no doubt of the sincerity and commitment by which Paul said as long as the gospel of Christ was proclaimed, the motive was unimportant to him because the message could be used of God. This gave him reason to rejoice knowing there was no circumstance that he could not be saved from through the prayers of intercession by the Philippians, and through the provision of the Spirit of Christ in him. His faith gave him a boldness to confidently believe that Christ would be magnified in his body whether it brought life or death.


D - TO LIVE IS CHRIST, AND TO DIE IS GAIN

Philippians 1 "21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will bring fruit from my work; yet I don't know what I will choose. 23 But I am in a dilemma between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Yet, to remain in the flesh is more needful for your sake. 25 Having this confidence, I know that I will remain, yes, and remain with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 that your rejoicing may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my presence with you again."

COMMENTS: As long As Paul lived he wanted to serve Christ with absolute dedication to be guided by the Spirit to build the Kingdom of God; but if he died he knew he would gain the realization of the promised upward call to eternal life with the Lord. Paul also believed that even his death could be used for the glory of God. Trying to balance the idea of continued life in the world for the purposes of God, versus being called to go to our eternal home to be with God, may pass through our thoughts as it did with Paul. Part of that thought process had been settled with Paul some time before he was held prisoner in Rome, because he wanted to be pleasing to the Lord in all of his ways. 2 Corinthians 5 "8 We are courageous, I say, and are willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be at home with the Lord. 9 Therefore also we make it our aim, whether at home or absent, to be well pleasing to him." We can be comforted when we remember that his timing is perfect, and there may be unfinished purposes for us as part of the body of Christ. As Paul wrote this letter he expressed confidence that he would be able to continue with them in their progress and joy in the faith, and their rejoicing could increase in Christ Jesus. Paul still expected to be in their presence again.


E - STAND FIRM AND STRIVE FOR FAITH IN THE GOSPEL

Philippians 1 "27 Only let your way of life be worthy of the Good News of Christ, that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your state, that you stand firm in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the Good News; 28 and in nothing frightened by the adversaries, which is for them a proof of destruction, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 Because it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer on his behalf, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear is in me."

COMMENTS: Paul wanted the Philippians to give attention to maintain within themselves a consistent way of life that would give evidence of the change brought about through the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. Paul wanted to hear about their firm stand together in one spirit with one purpose in their lives, and that they would press ahead in growth of their faith in Christ even if Paul was not able to rejoin them. They should not let anything from their adversaries frighten them, because adversaries of faith in Christ are proving in themselves that destruction from God is in their future. Even when followers of Christ face suffering in this world, they must realize it has been granted to them to believe in Christ, and to suffer in his behalf, as they had seen in Paul in Philippi, and now heard of him in Rome. It would be difficult to hear of such suffering of one who is very dear, but also to realize similar suffering or more so, may be ahead in ones own future.

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, I thank you for the grace and peace that you have given me through Jesus my Savior, and the good work you have begun in me. I am confident that since you are the one who began that work, you will be faithful to complete it until the return of Jesus Christ. I want my love to grow in knowledge and discernment of your Word so I will approve the things excellent in your eyes to make me sincere and without offense before you until the day of Jesus Christ. I want to be filled with the fruits of righteousness through Christ to the glory and praise of God. If difficulties come into my life which place me among people I may not have otherwise known, may I take any opportunity you present through my circumstances, to share the gospel of Christ. Lord, it is a comfort to me when I remember that your timing is perfect, and you may have unfinished purposes for me as part of the body of Christ though I know it will be great gain to go home to be with you. So, as Paul determined, I want to make it my aim, whether still in the world or going home to be with my Lord and Savior, to be well pleasing in your sight. Help me through your Spirit to have a consistent way of life that gives evidence of the change brought about through the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ. I want to firmly stand together with other Christians to press ahead in the growth of faith in Christ even in the face of opposition from strong adversaries of faith in Christ. I believe, Lord, that such people are proving in themselves that destruction from God is in their future. Lord, if violence or severe suffering comes into my life, strengthen me through the reminder that it has been granted to me to believe in Christ, and to suffer in his behalf, even as was the case for the Apostle Paul. All praise to my Savior for the promised blessed hope! Amen.

Published 14 November 2015