Philippi, named after Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, was a Roman colony in Greece. Paul visited Philippi with Silas and Timothy on his 2nd missionary journey around AD 59-51. Paul was at Troas when he had a vision of a Macedonian man begging him to come to Philippi, Acts 16: 6-10. On arrival, they met a group of Jewish ladies worshipping by a riverside on a Sabbath. When Paul preached to them, Lydia was converted and saved. Persecution broke out when Paul delivered a demonized slave girl and they were thrown into prison, Acts 16:16-24. At midnight, God sent an earthquake and the prisoners’ chains fell off. The Philippian jailer wanted to commit suicide but Paul prevented him, saying no one had escaped. He and his family were converted and saved. The next day, when the magistrate realized that Paul was a Roman citizen, he apologized to Paul and Silas and released them, Acts 26: 25-40.
A few years after leaving Philippi, Paul was arrested by the Jews in Jerusalem, who sent him as a prisoner to Caesarea Philippi. 2 years later, at Paul’s request, the Roman authorities sent Paul to Rome, Acts 21-26. In AD 60 Paul finally arrived at Rome as a prisoner under house arrest, chained to a Roman guard, Acts 28. Around AD 60-62, the Philippian church sent Epaphras to Paul with financial support. Paul wrote Philippians and sent it back to the Philippian Church via Epaphras. Philippians was a thank you letter and the theme is joy.
Philippians 1: 1-30
VV 1-3, 1 Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Philippians church was the first church to be established in Europe and Lydia was the first Christian convert of Europe. In his opening greetings, Paul and Timothy, calling themselves bondservants of Christ, addressed the Philippian Christians as saints, bishops, and deacons. Bishops, in Greek, is episcopal, which means overseer. Deacons in Greek is diakonos, which means minister or servant. Paul pronounced a blessing of grace and peace from God.
VV 3-7, 3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.
Paul was thankful whenever he remembered the time he spent with them in Philippi. Paul thanked and prayed for them every day with joy. If you pray for people by name every day, you will experience joy. The day of Jesus is the day of Christ’s second coming. Philippians 1:6 is a beautiful memory verse. When the Lord starts working in someone’s life, He will complete it before the day of His second coming. This is a promise to believe and claim. Despite imprisonment, Paul could still be joyful because the gospel was preached in partnership with the Philippians church.
VV 8-11, 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
The word “affection” in Greek is “splanchnizomai”, which means the bowel. To the Jews of first-century Israel, the bowel is the seat of emotion. Gaining knowledge and discernment of the gospel will translate into love. 1 Peter 4:8, “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for love will cover a multitude of sins.” The day of Christ is the day of Christ’s second coming. The fruits of righteousness are the fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5: 22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law”.
VV 12-14, 12 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Paul was a marketplace soul winner and the prison was his pulpit. He preached the gospel to the Roman guards who took the gospel back to Ceasar’s palace. There was a revival among the Roman guards and in Caeser’s household. He preached the gospel to anyone who visited him in prison. Imitating Paul, other Christians in Rome stepped up with boldness to preach the gospel. Paul considered himself a prisoner of Christ, not Caesar. Today, we are chained by the Covid 19 pandemic. We are where we are because of God’s will. We must not allow the Covid pandemic to prevent us from sharing and preaching the gospel.
VV 15-18, 15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: 16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.
Paul commented that some people preach the gospel with envy and jealously out of selfish ambition. But some people preached the gospel with sincerity and goodwill, out of love. Paul would rejoice as long as Christ is preached and glorified. Whether preaching was with sincerity or otherwise did not matter to Paul.
VV 19-21, 19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Paul had confidence in the prayers of the Philippians Christians. He had the Holy Spirit’s presence. Whether he lives or dies, Christ is glorified. Philippians 1:21 is another beautiful memory verse. For to me to live is………….fill in the blank. If your answer is anything apart from Christ, you will be disappointed. For to me to live is Christ. To die is to gain and be with Christ in heaven forever.
VV 22-26, 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, 26 that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.
If Paul was alive, he could labor in the ministry but if Paul was dead, he would be with Christ. 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord”. We should focus on heaven and not despair because Christ’s second coming is imminent.
VV 27-30, 27 Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.
Paul urged his audience to remain united in spirit, mind, and faith, and to conduct themselves worthy of the gospel. He urged them not to be afraid of opposition or persecution. To be persecuted for the kingdom’s sake is a blessing. Matthew 5:10, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. To be persecuted for Christ’s sake is a blessing. Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake”. Persecution or tribulation is unavoidable in this life. John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”