by Owen Weber
1994 Owen Weber
Published by Christian Data Resources
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright c 1973, 1978, 1984
International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The book of Philippians is one of the most personal and intimate of
Paul's letters to the first century churches. It is a book of joy,
exuberance, well-being, inner happiness, and sharing, yet it was
written by Paul during his first imprisonment, in Rome, in about 61 AD.
Paul relates instructions on how to be happy, and his circumstances
stand as a testimony that he knows what he is talking about. His joy is
unhindered by the fact that he is behind bars unjustly.
Philippians is probably the last of Paul's four prison epistles,
following Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. The Philippian church
was a stable, well-organized, and responsive church.
It often helped to support Paul's mission work.
The city of Philippi was founded by Phillip II of Macedonia, the father
of Alexander the Great. This area was rich in gold and silver mines, so
it served to make Phillip II very wealthy. The city was known as
Krinites (the little fountain) before Phillip re-founded it in 358 BC
and renamed it after himself. It sets about ten miles inland from the
seaport of Neapolis on what is now the Greek coast of the Mediterranean
Sea. This area was on the route between Asia and Europe, and thus
served as a strategic stronghold for Paul in his efforts to carry the gospel
into Macedonia. Also, the world conquest by Alexander the Great
greatly expanded the use of the Greek language which later provided for
the rapid propagation of the New Testament.
As with most of the known world, Philippi was conquered by Rome in 168
BC. Recalling a bit of Roman history, Brutus and Cassius killed Julius
Caesar in 44 BC. Then it was here at the city of Philippi that Julius
Caesar's adopted son, Octavian, united with Mark Antony to
defeat Brutus and Cassius. Octavian became the ruler of the West, and
Mark Antony became leader of the Eastern part of the empire. Then they
fought each other for control of Rome. Mark Antony sought the support
of Cleopatra, the queen of Egypt, and they fell in love.
In 31 BC, Octavian defeated the forces of Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of
Actium off the west coast of Greece, and later Antony and Cleopatra
committed suicide. Octavian exiled Antony's military followers to
Philippi. Many military veterans were given land grants and retired
there, so Philippi became known as a military town. It also became a
Roman Colony, meaning that it now had a special status in the empire.
Its people automatically became Roman citizens, and they did not have
to pay taxes to Rome. Philippi was now actually treated as an extension
of Rome itself. Octavian went on to become Caesar Augustus, the Caesar
at the time Christ was born.
The Philippian Church was the first church
that Paul visited in Europe (Acts 16:11). Here, with Silas, Timothy, and Luke, he met Lydia, who
believed the gospel,
and was converted, along with her whole family. Then Paul cast out a demon from a fortune-telling girl, and was put on
trial. When Paul left Philippi, Luke stayed there to continue to build the Philippian Church.
The occasion of Paul's writing this letter to the Church at Philippi
was the arrival of Epaphroditus to visit Paul in his Roman prison cell.
He had been sent from the Church at Philippi with a financial gift for
Paul. Paul was obviously grateful to the Philippians for their gift,
and to Epaphroditus for his 800-mile journey. Epaphroditus briefed Paul
about the status of the Philippian church,
and Paul responded with this letter of encouragement.
The book of Philippians conveys Paul's appreciation, confidence, and
hope to the Philippians. He reports to them on his well-being, and he
encourages the church
to be unified. He tells them he hopes to send Timothy to them soon, but
first he will send back Epaphroditus. He warns them against legalism and internal fighting.
Most of all, he just greets them with gratitude and joy--a joy that he
hopes they will be able to share through his encouragement.
1) Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together
with the overseers and deacons: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
As was customary, Paul identified himself as the author in the very
first word of this letter. It is a letter from Paul and Timothy to the church
at Philippi. Paul had founded the Philippian Church in about 51
AD. He had a good relationship with this church,
and was eager to write this letter to them. It was now about 61 AD, near the end of his first imprisonment.
Paul was born in Tarsus, the capital of the metropolitan area of
Cilicia, between 1 and 10 AD. Tarsus was a center of commercial and
political power, being known for its contributions in philosophy and
learning, like Athens and Alexandria, though probably less notable than
these famous cities. Paul was a Jew, but a freeborn Roman citizen
because his father was a citizen. Paul learned his father's trade of
tent making. He was a city boy, well-schooled in the Greek, Hebrew, and
Aramaic languages. He was reared in Jerusalem, where he studied under
Gamaliel, and became strong in Judaism. He was very religious, a devout
Jew, and, later, an infamous persecutor of the Church. Then he became a
Christian on the Damascus road, and became God's tool for propagating
into Europe and the Gentile world.
Apparently Timothy was with Paul in Rome at the time he wrote
Philippians. Timothy was Paul's compassionate, spiritual "son"
(Philippians 2:22). He was probably converted on Paul's first visit to
Lystra (probably Timothy's home town), on Paul's first missionary
trip. Timothy's mother was Eunice, a Jewess who was married to a
Gentile. Timothy's grandmother was Lois. These two women became
Christians and thus Timothy was reared in a Christian home, being
influence more by the Christian teachings of his mother and
grandmother, than by his father. Later, when Paul had been deserted by
Mark, Timothy became Paul's reliable assistant.
Paul says that he and Timothy are "servants" of Christ Jesus. The Greek
word is "doulos", meaning slave or bond slave. Paul recognized himself
as being a permanent slave of the sovereign God. When we are truly
God's slaves, we strive to do God's will, not our own, and we must
study His word in order to know His will for us. We rely upon his
determinate counsel as our guide. As slaves, we have been purchased by
God. We don't belong to ourselves any more, and we don't even make our
own decisions! We have no will of our own, and we disregard our own
interests. We simply follow the plan of the master. Christ leads us.
Paul is writing to the saints ("hagios") in Christ Jesus at Philippi.
These are the members of Christ's churches at Philippi. They believe in
Christ as their savior, and they are consecrated,
or set apart, as God's saints. As believers, we are all saints. We
should not view this as a privileged status which makes us better than
others. Rather, we are set apart to do God's will as his servants.
Overseers and Deacons
Paul is also writing to the overseers ("episkopos") in the church.
This word means manager or superintendent. It includes the elders, or
pastors, of all the churches in Philippi. Obviously, a city such as
Philippi had many churches with many pastors, and Paul is
addressing what has grown into a conglomerate of many small churches at
Philippi, together with their associated pastors.
Also each church
had deacons ("diakanos") who were servants in the
churches. They managed the material aspects of church
administration. This word tells us that they were men of
activity, pursuing and running after their various ministries.
As with all of Paul's epistles, the first word of the body of the
letter is "grace" ("charis"). Paul is greeting the Philippians with the
grace that comes from God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Grace is the very
foundation of Christianity, so it seems natural that Paul begins with
grace. This grace refers to the work of God for man, completely apart
from man's efforts, ability, or merit. Grace is the opposite of working
to gain God's favor. Grace implies an attitude of giving instead of receiving.
God saved us by grace! He has given graciously to us, and we are to
give graciously to others--not because they deserve it, but because we
are called to reflect God's love
to them. Grace gives us complete liberty so that we can relax our
mental attitudes. Above all, grace is the product of our sovereign God. When we recognize that God
is in complete control, and that everything we have comes from His
grace (2 Corinthians 9:8,14), our worries vanish, and we can truly achieve joy and peace.
Grace frees us from the enslavement of the sin
nature. When we maintain an attitude of grace, we forfeit our rights instead of demanding them.
When we're offended, we simply forgive others without expecting them to
apologize or even admit that they were wrong. Grace enables us to take
abuse in an imperfect world and still maintain an attitude of joy and peace!
Paul also greets the Philippians with peace ("eirene"), which, as we
have just seen, is the product of grace. It means tranquility,
quietness, and rest. It provides us with a spiritual wholeness and
inner stability that affords us a position of true happiness. This
peace and happiness is God's desire for all of us, and it is brought about through the grace of God.
The Lord Jesus Christ
This grace and peace comes from "God our father and the Lord Jesus
Christ." Lord ("kurios") emphasizes Christ's deity, and Jesus
("iesous") emphasizes his humanity, so Paul is recognizing what we call
the hypostatic union--the deity of Christ plus the humanity of Christ.
The word "Christ" ("christos") refers to Jesus as the Jewish Messiah.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the mediator of God's grace and peace. He
achieved this honor through his death on the cross for the sins of men.
It is only through faith in His sacrifice that we can enter into this grace and peace from God.
3) I thank my God every time I remember you. In all
my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the
now, being confident of this, that he who began a good in you will carry it on to completion, until the day of Christ Jesus.
Paul gives thanks ("eucharisteo") to God every time he thinks of the
Philippians. This is a prayer of thanksgiving to God. As you can tell,
we derive our English word "eucharist" from this Greek word, which
refers to our thanksgiving service of the Lord's supper. In a similar
way, Paul is truly thankful to God for what the Philippians have meant
to his ministry. They are cooperative, and they have been an
encouragement to Paul. Every time Paul remembers ("mneia") them, he
just feels like raising his eyes toward heaven
and thanking God for his fragrant memories of them. These memories produce a happiness for Paul
(Proverbs 10:7), and his thinking of these people causes a joy in his heart.
This joy ("kara") ensues every time Paul prays for all the Philippians.
This gives Paul an inner spiritual happiness. It's the happiness that
is the opposite of depression. It is a happiness that ensues in spite
of the imperfections of people. Paul can be happy even
if someone is cheating him or being immoral. Likewise, we can be happy
despite the pressures from our jobs, or the stress of meeting a
deadline. This joy overrides any anxiety, humiliation, or
persecution from an ungodly world. This happiness is more important
than the material possessions of life. It even comforts us through
illness, fatigue, loneliness, anger, death,
or other forms of loss such as financial loss. This joy is from God, and it is unconquerable.
In this case, Paul's joy comes from his partnership ("koinonea") with
the Philippians in the work of the Gospel.
This is the fellowship, participation, and contribution between Paul and the Philippians in
their efforts to communicate the gospel
("uongelion") message of Christ. Paul is happy in his work, and he is encouraged by others who share his task.
Paul is happy because his confidence ("peitho") in God assures him that
God will complete the work He has begun in the Philippians. Note that
Paul is not confident in the Philippian people, but he is confident in
God. It was God who began this good work in them. He did this by
providing their salvation,
and thus, ushering them into His eternal
plan. He redeemed them out of the slave market of sin,
reconciled them to Himself, and forgave their sins, all through
the sacrifice and propitiation of Christ. God annulled their sin
nature, and freed them from the law! They actually became members of God's family, children of God--a new creation.
The Day of
Paul is confident that God will now carry this good work to completion
until the day of Christ--the moment of the rapture. This is the moment
when Christ will return for all church-age
believers at the end of the Church Age. Christ promised this in John 14:1-3, and Paul describes it
for us in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. Christ will descend to cloud level,
the dead bodies of Christians who have already died will be transformed
and raised to meet their spirits and souls first, then those Christian who are still living will be raised
and their bodies will be transformed. They will all go back to heaven
with Jesus and stand before His judgment Seat to have their Christian
service evaluated. Their human good works will be burnt up, then they
will be rewarded for their divine good works. This is why Paul can be so hopeful, confident, comforted, and joyful.
7) It is
right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am
in chains or defending and confirming the gospel,
all of you share in God's grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Paul has a deep affection for the Philippians. He keeps them in his
heart, meaning he thinks about them often. Even when he is separated
from them, whether he is in prison or preaching the gospel,
he recognizes that the Philippians share ("sugkoimonos") as joint workers
in the grace of God. Indeed, Paul is in chains ("desmos") as he is
writing this letter, and he has already been there for an extended
period of time. Still he is joyful, knowing that the Philippians are
sharing in the work of the gospel.
Note that when Paul preaches the gospel,
he is defending ("apologia") the gospel--not
himself. He is just preaching the truth about Christ,
and it matters not who the preacher is. He just confirms ("bebaiosis")
by demonstrating its authority, yet he has to be careful to
show that it is in no way subversive to the Roman governmental authority.
Paul calls upon God to testify ("martuse") how he misses ("epipotheo")
the Philippians with the love
of Christ. In other words, he is speaking the truth, as though swearing on trial, that he loves and misses the
Philippians intensely. The affection ("splagchnon") that he has for the
Philippians is within him, indicating his inward parts or feelings, and
it is through Christ that this love abounds inside him.
9) And this is my prayer:
that your love
may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that
you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure
and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the
fruit of righteousness
that comes through Jesus Christ--to the glory and praise of God.
Paul now tells the Philippians about his prayer ("proseuchomai") to God
for them. He wants their love
("agape") to increase. This love
refers to their mental attitude love
which allows them to keep their minds free of ill will and bitterness, and to keep them committed to
goodwill. This is in contrast to another kind of love
("philos") which would indicate an emotional response. Paul wants the Philippians to
have the "agape" love
whereby they can love
everyone, even their enemies, by simply trusting in God's grace.
He wants their love
to abound ("perisseuo") more and more, meaning to exceed a fixed amount, and to cause a surplus through continual
expansion. But he wants their love
to abound in knowledge ("epignosis") and depth of insight ("aisthesis"). This knowledge is the full
knowledge learned by taking a positive attitude toward the Word of God and believing Bible truths. This insight will provide them with
spiritual good judgment and discrimination in love.
Paul wants them to experience the continual expansion of "agape" love
governed by Bible doctrine.
The knowledge and insight gained from Bible doctrine will enable the
Philippians to discern ("dokimazo") what is best ("diaphero"). This
means they should be able to properly test and evaluate the values and
goals befitting Christians. They should be able to determine which
specific things are of greater value to Christians. This will lead to
their being pure ("eiliarines") and blameless ("aproskopos") until
Christ returns. They should be sincere and unmixed with non-Christian
values. They should also serve without offense--not causing others to stumble.
The goal of learning discernment through Bible study is that they will
be filled ("pleroo") with the fruit of righteousness
from Christ. This refers to filling a deficiency through their good production or good
works. Through the filling of the Holy Spirit, they are able to perform
divinely good works due to their knowledge of Bible doctrine and their
maturity and grace. Finally, since this is God's will for
Christians, it will result in glory, honor, and adoration for God.
Paul's prayer is that the love,
discernment, and good works of the Philippians will make this possible.
12) Now I
want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really
served to advance the gospel.
As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in
chains for Christ. Because of my chains, most of the brothers
in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.
Paul wants his Christian brothers to know ("ginosko") and understand
that even what has happened ("erchomai") to him will result in
furtherance of the gospel
and more glory to God. He is speaking of his chains ("desmos"), the bondage of his extended imprisonment. Of course
this is a bad situation, but even through this, God will work things
for good. He says that it is plainly understood among the
members of the prison ("Praetorium") guard that he is in prison because of his
stand for Christ. His attitude there is a clear witness to unbelievers
that the power of God has made him a faithful ambassador for Christ,
even in the face of adversity and persecution. Not only that, but this has now encouraged
others to witness for Christ without fear of persecution. What is more,
the persecution for us American Christians today cannot begin to
compare to that for first century Christians. Where we fear loss of
status in a peer group, they were being eaten by lions!
Paul's attitude toward his suffering is what makes the book of
Philippians so powerful. He knows that God will work his suffering for
good. He knows how to deal with it. He takes it in stride and maintains his joy!
15) It is
true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of
goodwill. The latter do so in love,
knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.
The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up
trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether
from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Christ is Preached
Paul acknowledges two groups who were preaching ("kerusso") the gospel
message. Both groups were preaching in a public forum, and both groups
were preaching the truth, but still the groups were quite different.
The first group was preaching out of envy ("phthanos")
and rivalry ("eris"). Their mental attitude was one of jealousy toward
Paul. They wanted some of the attention that Paul was receiving, and
they were willing to promote strife, discord, and contention in order
to show their opposition to and competition with Paul. They were
probably true Christians, and they may have even had the proper
attitude when they began their ministries, but they had fallen into
reversionism (backsliding). Although they preached ("kataggello") the gospel
openly, and publicly proclaimed its truth, they were at the same
time contentious and self-seeking, thus providing a selfish and
ambitious rivalry for Paul. Their motives were no longer sincere
("hagnos") or pure. Instead, their impure motives proved to be a source of trouble ("thlipsis") and pressure for Paul.
There is a valuable lesson here to be learned by church
leaders of our day. It is all too easy for a sincere preacher to begin a ministry with
pure motives, and then be tempted to compromise his position in favor
of political tactics that will grow his church
just so that he can keep up with all the other churches in terms of growth
of attendance and budgets.
However, there was a second group that was not only preaching the true gospel,
but they were doing it with an attitude of goodwill
("eudokia"). They maintained a good frame of mind. Their motive was one
and they hoped to promote the gospel
through a partnership with Paul, rather than as his competition. They respected Paul's authority, and were glad to be a source of help to him.
Yes, and I will continue
to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit
of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for
my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in
no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that
now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether
by life or by death.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will
mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to
depart and be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more
necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced
of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with
all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that
through my being with you again, your joy in Christ Jesus
will overflow on account of me.
Yes, Paul is determined to rejoice ("chario") despite the false motives
of others who are preaching the gospel.
He is not justifying false motives or the teaching of lies, but he is glad that the work is being
done. He is not preoccupied with checking the motives of every
preacher. He is content to leave that between the preacher and God!
Paul's happiness is not dependent upon the motives of others, or
whether they like him. He is interested in truth--not motives. He will
leave the motives with the Lord. Besides, we cannot be sure of the
motives of others anyway, so why waste time judging them? We can't do anything about it anyway!
Paul knows that through the prayers ("deesis") of the Philippians,
things will work out anyway. These prayers are the intercessory prayers
of Christians praying for others in need. Paul knows that these prayers
work, and we all need them! He also knows that he
will receive help ("epichoregia") from the Holy Spirit in response to
those prayers. The power of the Holy Spirit will be an abundant provision for all his needs.
Paul eagerly expects ("apokaradokia") that he will have the courage to
speak out for Christ, and that his honesty and truth will result in his
deliverance. He will soon stand on trial before Nero where he will
defend his position in Christ and hope for his release from prison. He
is confident that through this ordeal, Christ will continue to be
exalted ("mageluno") or magnified through the work of the Holy Spirit
in his own body ("ensoma"), meaning his own humanity in soul and
spirit. He is sure that Christ will be exalted, but he is less worried about whether he himself will live or die.
Paul explains that to live ("zao") is Christ. He means that for him,
life itself means triumph over sin
through the blood of Christ on the cross. Then he says that to die ("apothnesko") is gain ("kerdos"). Paul
knows that when he dies, he will profit from the previous circumstances
of his life. He will take his spiritual
maturity to heaven
with him, which he built up in this life on earth! Heaven will be even that much better then.
If Paul lives through this ordeal, he will go on to more fruitful
("karpos") labor. He will continue in service to God, and he will reap
divinely good works through his efforts. Yet he is unsure what he will
choose ("hireo"). He is in a dilemma as to what he would rather have
happen to himself--life or death.
His desire ("epithumia") or constant longing is to be with Christ. After
all, that is his hope, and ours. That's what we're waiting for, and the
sooner it comes, the better. However, God will determine when our time
here is ended. Paul says that God has decided that he needs to stay
alive a while longer in order to minister to churches such as the church
at Philippi. God still wants to use him to strengthen their spiritual
maturity and increase their joy in Christ Jesus.
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner
worthy of the gospel
of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I
will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending
as one man for the faith of the gospel
without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a
sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you
will be saved--and that by God. For it has been granted
to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him,
but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the
same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
Whether Paul lives or dies, the Philippians are to conduct ("polituo")
themselves properly. They are to continue to carry out their
responsibilities to Christ in the same way as a citizen or politician
would carry out the responsibilities of a public office. The
Philippians are to remain true to Christ's gospel
of grace in all things. They are to know and learn Bible doctrine so that they will
know what they are to do as Christians.
If they keep their conduct pure, this will serve as evidence to Paul
that they are standing firm ("steko") in a constant and stable spirit
of unity. Their faith ("pistus") in the gospel
("euaggelion") will yield the full body of truth in them.
It is important that the Philippians are not scared by their opponents,
which are spiritual adversaries--demons. Paul has encouraged them to be
full of knowledge and training in the Bible so that they won't be
frightened by the spiritual warfare. These demons work through humans
and can be frightening unless one is prepared to deal with them. Paul
reminds us that their destiny is destruction ("apoleia"). This refers
to eternal death--the lake of fire--reserved for these demons as well as unbelievers. In contrast,
of believers will yield eternal life for them, and the
demonic opposition stands as proof of our eternity
Note that much of our suffering may be undeserved suffering, since we
are the objects of Satan's attack in the angelic warfare. Paul says
that this suffering has been granted ("charizomai") to us by God's
grace in the same way as our election by God through His grace. God
chose us to believe ("pisteuo") in Christ by exhaling our faith towards
Him. This verse offers strong confirmation of the doctrines of
election, predestination, and salvation
by grace only! Likewise, God chose us to suffer ("pascho") undeservedly for Christ through demonic
attack. This is why we must wear the full armor of God (Ephesians 6) in
order to be able to deal with Satan's demonic warfare. We have the same
struggle ("agon"), or agony, in this regard as Paul had. Our assignment
is to resist the demonic influences from undeserved suffering, so that
we will not undergo consequential deserved suffering.
1) If you
have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort
from his love,
if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and
compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the
being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish
ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than
yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own
interests, but also to the interests of others.
The word "if" which is used four times in verse 1 is the Greek word
"ei". It should be translated as "since" because it means that each of
these if-clauses is true. Paul knows four things about the
Philippians. The first thing he knows is that they are
encouraged in their unity with Christ to be able to cope with the undeserved
suffering identified in the previous verses. Secondly, he knows that
they have comfort ("paramuthion") from Christ's love
("agape") which provides them with His solace in times of trouble. This enables
them to have a forgive-and-forget attitude when they are wronged.
Thirdly, he knows that they are indwelled by the Holy Spirit,
and that they submit to His control. Fourthly, he knows that they
possess tenderness ("splagchnon") and compassion ("oiktirmos")
for others. This word for tenderness deserves some explanation since it
actually means "intestines, bowels, or stomach". In the ancient world,
this part of the body was considered to be the center of one's
emotions, as we might use the word "heart" today. It is reasonable that
the ancients would think that the emotions were centered in the
abdominal area since that is where we can indeed feel emotions of
stress or anxiety. Have you ever had butterflies in your stomach when
you were nervous? So this term refers to the emotional affection,
kindness, and goodwill we experience toward others. The word for
compassion means pity or mercy for others in agony--an emotional sympathy.
Paul says that since these four things are true about the Philippians,
they can now make his joy complete ("pleroo"), or fulfilled. They can
do this by being like-minded ("autos phroneo"), or unified. Paul
commands them to be unified in their "agape" love.
They are to maintain a new mental attitude from which they will be able to perceive God's
divine viewpoint of things. They will learn this from the Bible by
developing their spiritual
maturity through taking Biblical truths into
their minds. What you think is what you are, and one changes himself by
changing what he thinks. When we learn Biblical truths, this increases
our confidence and makes us joyful! When an entire congregation learns
those truths, all conflict is removed, and unity is possible since all have the same spirit and purpose.
Paul warns against doing things out of selfish ambition ("eritheia").
This is a self-seeking attitude that causes divisions, factions, and
contentions. He also warns against vain conceit ("kenodoxia"). This is
a carnal, immature attitude of seeking glory and drawing attention to
oneself. This is the person whose ego and pride cause him to seek
certain positions for himself no matter how much backbiting he must do and no matter who he hurts.
Paul's next statement is rather shocking. ". . . but in humility,
consider others better than yourselves." The Greek word for humility
here is "tapeinophrosune" which implies a grace-oriented, relaxed mind,
as opposed to self-exalting arrogance. The word for
consider is "hegeomai", meaning to constantly consider or esteem
others. The word for "better than yourselves" is "huperecho" which
means to be superior. He is actually saying that one should consider
that others have excelled more than himself. This runs against our
natural inclination toward competition, but Paul is emphatic to show
that we have no business discrediting others! One should look
("skopeo"), or pay attention and consideration to others, but without
ignoring our own needs. We should maintain an attitude of service to
others, being ready to be helpful at every opportunity.
5) Your attitude should be
the same as that of Christ
Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider
equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself
nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made
in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death
on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the
name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven
and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
This passage deals with what theologians call the Kenosis of Jesus
Christ (the emptying of His deity), examining the Hypostatic Union--a
proof passage of Christ's deity as well as His humanity. It begins with
encouragement again for the correct mental attitude
("phroneo"), since we are controlled by what we think in our minds,
which should be prepared by Bible doctrine. Paul explains that Christ
was in very nature ("morphe") God ("theos"). His form, or
essential being, was God. We can think of this of a template or a
pattern. Christ is God, and he always has been. Though this very
passage is probably the most definitive, and states it most
explicitly, other scriptures verifying this are found in Matthew 28:19,
John 4:25-26, 9:35-38, 5:18, 2 Corinthians 13:14, and 1 Peter 1:2.
Furthermore, Jesus is the particular member of the Godhead
who created the earth (John 1:3, 1 Corinthians 8:6, Colossians 1:16-17,
Hebrews 1:2,10). Christ was pre-carnate God who became incarnate man!
In the Old Testament, as pre-carnate God, Christ is referenced as the
Angel of Jehovah. At that point He had no human body yet. Once he came
as a man with a human body, the Bible no longer refers to him as the
Angel of Jehovah. Christ is God in human form (1 Timothy 3:16).
Christ is deity. He is omniscient (John 1:47-48, 2:24-25), omnipresent
(Matthew 18:20, John 1:48-50), and omnipotent (Matthew 24:30,
Philippians 3:21, Colossians 1:17).
But Christ did not consider equality ("isos") with God something to be
grasped ("harpogmos"). He did not cling to his pre-incarnate state as a
prize to be treasured. Instead, He made Himself nothing ("kenoo") by
emptying Himself. But what did He empty Himself of? Well, though He
maintained His deity, He emptied Himself of the manifestation and
outward expression of His deity. He took the form ("doulos") of a
servant. This is the very word Paul used to describe himself in Philippians 1:1! Christ actually took on a human
likeness ("homoioma"). In doing so, he was willing to voluntarily veil
His Godly glory, within what we call the Hypostatic Union. He is a
God-man. He is all God and all man! Verse 8 tells us that He was
recognized as a man when people saw Him walking on the earth. Yet this
same being had created the world! He was actually born into a world which He had created.
Yet, what did he do? He humbled Himself completely and died on the
cross for our sins. Because of this, God the Father exalted
("huperupsoo") Him to the highest, supreme, maximum majesty. This
particular exaltation is so grand, that this particular Greek word is
not used anyplace else in the whole Bible. Christ's exaltation began
with His resurrection and ascension; it continues now with his session
with God in heaven;
and, it will be manifested on earth again at His
Second Advent. "The name" of Christ here implies authority--ultimate
authority, above all others in power and rank. In due time, all of
God's creation will recognize Christ's
ultimate authority, and they will bow to Him. The angels and humans in heaven
will bow; the believers and unbelievers on the earth will bow;
and, even Satan and his demons in Hell under the earth will bow.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my
presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation
with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to
will and to act according to his good purpose.
Work Out Your Salvation
Paul introduces this next admonition with the acknowledgement that the
Philippians have already obeyed ("hupokouo") God's word. They have
listened to Paul's previous messages, and they have submitted to his
teaching. Their attitude has been positive, and they
have been very receptive toward the Word, rather than judgmental. Paul
now says that in that same spirit of obedience, they should continue to
work out ("katergazomai") their salvation.
Contrary to what some promote, this has nothing to do with salvation
by works. We know from Ephesians 2:8-9 that nobody is saved by their works. Paul is writing to
Christians here, and these Philippians have long since been saved, and
that by God's grace alone. The admonition here means to carry through
with their salvation
to its ultimate conclusion. They are to work out
any problems they might encounter in their process of growing in the
faith. They are to work through their problems, search out the
solutions, and progress to the logical conclusions of salvation.
To illustrate this further, we must understand that this salvation
("soteria") is the salvation
from the guilt of sin,
and it includes a three-step process. The first step is justification, which the
Philippians have already experienced at some point in the past. At the
point when they believed in Christ as savior, they were justified
(declared righteous) in God's sight, and they were positionally
sanctified (set aside) in Christ Jesus. The second step is experiential
sanctification, which is continually occurring in the life of a growing
Christian. Although he will not reach perfection in his earthly body,
he will continue to grow and become more Christ-like in his
experiences. As the Christian grows up in his spiritual
maturity, he will learn how to conquer the flesh in his daily living. Then, the
final and ultimate step is glorification, which will occur in the
future when Christians are taken to be with the Lord in heaven.
Paul's further command is to work out his salvation
with fear and trembling. This means with reverence and awe--a respect for the flesh
and all its temptations. Furthermore, it is only through the power of
God the Holy Spirit that we have the grace and power to
overcome the flesh. God does this, not us. He makes us willing, and He
gives us the capacity to overcome. God alone provides the goals, the
means, and the results, according to His sovereign will.
14) Do everything without
complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure,
children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in
which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of
life--in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run
or labor for nothing. But even if I am being poured out like a
drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am
glad and rejoice with all of you.So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.
What a challenge--everything is to be done without complaining
("goggusuros") or arguing ("dialogisuros"). This complaining is a low
mutter which reflects a mental resentment against God. The arguing
involves doubt and a skeptical attitude of inward criticism and
questioning. Since everything is to be done without these two
attitudes, there is no room in the Christian life for them! If
Christians are able to leave these attitudes behind, they can become
blameless ("amemptos") and pure ("akeraios"). They can be found without
fault, and with genuine and unmixed motives.
The reference to becoming "children of God" suggests the type of
relationship that Christians have with God the Father. They are His
children--his sons and daughters. Furthermore, just as we are
naturally born as a product of our human fathers, we are
spiritually born as a product of God the Father and His grace. In both
cases, the birth establishes a relationship which can never be altered.
One cannot undo a physical birth, so neither can he undo a
spiritual birth. The eternal security of the believer is thus
demonstrated by this analogy of children.
These children of God are to be found without fault. This suggests a
confirmation of their moral values. They believe in absolutes--right
and wrong. A child of God does not compromise by yielding to
situational ethics. Sins (stealing, for example) are wrong, in every
situation, and there is no situation which justifies sin
or makes it right or null. The crooked and depraved world of our day still likes to
justify itself depending upon the situation, but this spirit is not of
God. However, it is only natural that the absolute righteousness
of Christians will indeed shine like stars in the universe when compared
to such depraved surroundings. The purpose of this light is to guide humanity into the moral living that will
preserve its personal and national freedom, not unlike the light of the
Ten Commandments as presented to the Old Testament Jews.
This light finds its brightness by holding out ("epecho") the word
("logos") of life. The meaning here is that the Christian must focus
his attention upon God's Word. The Bible provides the context for
Christian living, and it must serve as the barometer of Christian
conduct. Even in our churches, the focus must be on the Bible, as
opposed to the various programs the church may offer.
The day of Christ ("hemerachristos") referenced here is the rapture of
the Church. It is that moment when Christ will return in the clouds and
cause the catching away of all believers from the earth to himself (1
Thessalonians 4, 1 Corinthians 15:52), which will
be followed by Christ's judgment of all these believers. Paul hopes
that the Philippians will take to heart the things that he is teaching
them, so that on that day, he will be able to say that his efforts were not in vain.
However, even if ("ei") his life is being poured out for some other
purpose, the way that the wine was poured out with the offerings in the
Old Testament, Paul is still able to rejoice with the
Philippians. The "if" here is a first class condition in the
Greek, meaning that this is a true statement rather than a conditional
one. It was true that in Paul's own experience, his life was being
poured away. He was writing these words from prison, and he would later
suffer martyrdom when he would be beheaded at the hands of the Roman
emperor Nero. Perhaps Paul is actually foretelling his own execution,
where the wine symbolizes the blood that will pour from his body when
he is decapitated.
Paul also made other sacrifices which might indicate that certain
aspects of his life had been poured out from him in sacrifice
("thusia"). The mere fact he was unmarried and had no children are
perhaps indicative of some of the things that Paul gave up because of
his devotion to the gospel
message, as well as his own life. Paul lived in a culture where some believed that children were as important as life itself.
The service ("leitourgia") that Paul mentions here refers to a type of
service such as those who serve in public office, or in religious
service to God as a priest. Paul was doing the job of teaching people
the Word of God. He was exercising his spiritual gifts which sprang
from his faith ("pistos") in Bible doctrine. And though he usually
served at his own expense, he was still able to rejoice ("chairo"). He
had an inner happiness deep within his mentality that gave him joy
despite all the pressures. He rightfully exhorts the Philippian
Christians to rejoice with him, since probably none of them (as none of
us) have dealt with greater pressures than what Paul did.
19) I hope in the Lord Jesus
to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I
receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a
genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone
looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you
know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served
with me in the work of the gospel.
I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me.And I am confident in the Lord
that I myself will come soon.
Paul hopes ("elpirzo"), or anticipates, that he will send Timothy to
Philippi soon. At this time, Timothy is with Paul in Rome, and he wants
Timothy to bring him good news about the Church at Philippi. He
commends Timothy highly, saying that he is the only helper
he has who takes a real interest in the welfare of the Philippians,
because everyone else is selfish. Most of them are more concerned about
promoting their own well-being than about promoting
Christ. They do not practice what Paul has written earlier about
"considering others better than yourselves." However, while others look
out ("zeteo"), or strive, for their own interests, and spend their days
just existing for themselves, Timothy is different. Timothy has proven
himself to be a faithful envoy, and furthermore, he is even willing to
serve with devotion in a position of obscurity, often hidden in the shadow of Paul's lime light. Timothy is
a proven teacher who had already served ("douleuo") faithfully with
Paul, and under Paul's authority and training. Paul
feels a tenderness toward Timothy as though he were his own son
("teknon"). The type of service rendered by Timothy had been that of
serving as a bond slave ("doulos") to Paul, in a subservient
way, and in an obscure position. Timothy was comfortable enough with
Christ and with himself, that he was able to serve obscurely without
having to be recognized. He apparently had no lust for praise. What a
powerful lesson the 20th century Church could learn from Timothy today.
However, Paul is not quite ready to send Timothy to Philippi at this
time. He wants to wait and see what the Roman authorities are going to
do with him (Paul), and he may be anticipating the outcome of his
trial. Perhaps he knows that he will soon be released, and then he
could go to Philippi himself, perhaps along with Timothy.
25) But I
think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my
brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger,
whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed
because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was
ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to
spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to
send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may
have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor
men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his
life to make up for the help you could not give me.
Even though Paul planned to send Timothy to Philippi at some point in
the future, or even go there himself, at the time he wrote this letter,
he felt compelled to go ahead and send Epaphroditus back to the
Philippians. Epaphroditus had brought an offering to Paul from Philippi
(Philippians 4:18), and Paul wanted to use him again as a messenger in
the other direction. As with Timothy, Paul obviously thought very
highly of Epaphroditus. He calls him his brother
("adelphos"), which indicates that the two men shared the same family
spiritually, and their common spiritual life had come from God, their
father. Paul also calls Epaphroditus his fellow worker ("sunergos),
meaning his companion in the Lord's work. They were both members of the
same team spiritually, and both were using their leadership and other
spiritual gifts as God directed
them. Finally, Pall calls Epaphroditus his fellow soldier
("sustratiotes"), since the two were companions in their spiritual
warfare. The two men were perfect spiritual companions in the Lord's
work, and they knew how to use their full armor of God (Ephesians 6).
Paul mentions that Epaphroditus is also a messenger ("apostolos") from
the Philippians. This means that he had served as an ambassador from
Philippi to Paul in Rome, carrying both a message and a financial gift
(Philippians 4) as part of his mission to minister to Paul and fill his
needs in prison on behalf of the Philippians. Paul probably eventually
sent this very letter to the Philippians back with Epaphroditus.
Epaphroditus longs ("epipotheo") for the Philippians, meaning that he
had a deep, constant yearning for them, to the extent that he was
distressed ("ademoneo") or emotionally depressed. The reason for the
depression is that he fears that the Philippians are worrying
about him unnecessarily, because they heard that he had taken ill since
leaving Philippi and heading for Rome with their message and gift to
Paul. Paul verifies that, indeed, Epaphroditus had been ill, to the
extent that he almost died. However, God had intervened with His mercy
("eleeo") to heal Epaphroditus and to spare Paul the suffering that he
would have endured if Epaphroditus had died. This mercy implies God's
feeling of sympathy and pity for Epaphroditus's misery, which caused
God to reach down and heal him--a picture of grace in action.
This story seems to verify a very critical doctrinal point about the
spiritual gift of healing. Of course, some churches today still
proclaim the gift of healing, while others believe that since
this gift was a sign gift, it was only active during the time of the
The fact that Epaphroditus was deathly ill, and Paul was
unable to heal him, seems to verify that, although Paul had previously
possessed the gift of healing, he was now no longer able
to exercise that gift. He simply had to stand by and see whether or not
God would heal him in His mercy. Apparently, then, the gift of healing
was already being phased out toward the end of
Paul's ministry. Furthermore, this proves that physical healing was not
included in the atonement of Christ on the cross, or else Godly men
like Epaphroditus would not have been susceptible to illness.
On the contrary, Epaphroditus, and Godly believers today, still get
sick and die, and it is all a part of God's sovereign will.
Because Paul is concerned that the Philippians haven't yet learned that
Epaphroditus has been healed, he is eager to return him to Philippi
quickly. This will prove to the Philippians that Epaphroditus is well,
and this should cause the Philippians to be glad ("chairo"). It will
also free Paul from the anxiety ("alupoteros") and grief he is
suffering simply due to the fact that the Philippians are still
worrying unnecessarily about Epaphroditus. Paul tells the Philippians
to welcome Epaphroditus joyfully when he returns, and he tells them to
honor him and others like him who came close to death,
were willing to risk ("paraboleuomai") their lives ("suche") for the
sake of Christ and others. They deserve special recognition since they
were willing to throw their lives aside and expose themselves to great
danger, in a gamble to serve God faithfully, and to help others, even
if it cost them their lives.
Finally, my brothers,
rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things
again, and it is a safeguard for you.
Although there are two more chapters remaining, Paul begins to prepare
his final thoughts to the Philippians by saying, "Finally, my brothers,
rejoice ("chairo") in the Lord!" He is going to be closing the letter,
and from here to the end of it, he will exhort the
Philippian Christians to rejoice. Christians should have an inner
happiness, and Paul is actually commanding the Philippians to be happy,
and to be preoccupied with Christ. While on this subject
of happiness, Paul is about to write them concerning a message that he
has told them before, but just to be sure that they get the message
loud and clear, he will repeat it again. The reason it is so important
is that it can be a major deterrent to their happiness, and the subject
matter is legalism. If the Philippians are to be truly happy, they must
avoid legalism as a way toward experiential sanctification, and they must instead pursue God's path of
grace. The message is similar to the one Paul wrote in
Colossians. Christians must avoid the temptation to try to
somehow gain points with God through legalism, whether through
circumcision, tithing, or observing Sabbaths or holy days. In our day
this legalism might take the form of a scare tactic proclaiming that if
a Christian doesn't tithe, then God is going to get that money
in another way--perhaps by wrecking his car! Or what about believing that
if a Christian doesn't pray before a meal, he will
probably choke on his food! The Christians at Philippi, as well as we
Christians in the 20th century, are admonished to remember
that we are no longer under the law, but under grace (Romans 6:14).
2) Watch out for those dogs,
those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For
it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship
by the Spirit of God, who glory
in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh--though I
myself have reasons for such confidence.
To begin his warning, Paul tells the Philippians to watch out
("blepo"), meaning to observe and discern. They are to watch out for
dogs ("kuon"). Now this term was especially loathsome to Jews. The Jews
used this term to refer to Gentiles in order to show their
ceremonial uncleanness, since the Gentiles didn't observe the Jewish
rituals. The term "dogs" was used to discredit the Gentiles and to show
their contempt, disgust, and reproach toward them. Dogs
were commonly known as being mangy scavengers which were considered
unclean under the Mosaic law. Dogs were greedy and vicious creatures
that would even eat dead humans. Now Paul is turning the tables on the
very Jews that refer to Gentiles as dogs. Paul is calling these Jews
dogs! These Judaizers are dogs because they feed on legalism and the
dead Law of Moses, while scorning God's marvelous grace. Paul is
telling Christians to beware of the legalists, who are as disgusting as
dogs (or turkeys, or pigs).
He says that these legalists are evil ("kakos") in their character,
their nature, and their actions. One of the easiest ways to identify a
legalist in Paul's day was by the value they placed upon the act of
circumcision. Paul says that when circumcision is performed merely for
religious reasons, as per the Old Testament law, it is only a
mutilation or butchering of the body. These legalists were expecting to
earn some favor from God through obedience to a law that was dead! Paul
is reminding them that circumcision only cuts away the flesh--not the
nature. What is required is a circumcision of the heart.
In our day, circumcision is not such a major legalistic issue, probably
because circumcision in this country is a common health practice
anyway. However, throughout the centuries, the church
has invented new forms of legalism, which are perhaps more subtle. Legalism encompasses
anything we do in order to gain favor from God, and this often takes
the form of religious rituals like crossing oneself, sprinkling with
holy water, tithing, or walking down a church
aisle in order to be saved.
What Christians need to understand is that law and grace are mutually
exclusive. Romans 6:14 tells us that we are not under the law, but
under grace. Law and grace are opposite ways of life, and, according to
Romans 11:6, the two systems cannot be mixed. Adding law
to grace actually nullifies God's grace! The law came from Moses, and
it consisted of works of human good which were required in order to
please God (Titus 3:6). However, grace came from Jesus Christ, and it
consists of faith in God's grace to provide us with the divine good
from God, which is required in order to please Him (Titus 3:7).
However, Paul was also very careful in the book of Romans to explain
that just because we live under a system of grace, this does not give
us a license to sin.
Grace does not mean that it is no longer possible to sin,
or that we don't still have rules to follow and
responsibilities of service to perform. We are commanded to love
others, obey the government, maintain order and peace, etc.
However, it is not only important what we do, but also why we do it,
and the mental attitude we maintain while doing it. Under the law, the
Jews were required to obey God in order to gain his favor. Under grace,
we have already become the beneficiaries of God's
grace and blessings, and because of this, we should want to obey God.
We can even take something good and turn it into a travesty by imposing
legalities upon it, such as water baptism. Some legalists won't lay
anything on top of a Bible, they won't work (or play) on Sundays, they
are careful to observe holy days or holy places, and some
won't even wear jewelry or cosmetics. Martin Luther even abused his own
body in self-denial, in an attempt to gain God's favor. However, we are
supposed to reject the flesh and its
temptations. We already have God's favor and blessing, and we are
admonished to learn and obey God in grace. We may choose to do certain
things, but we must be honest about our motivation in doing
them. We must not do them in order to put on a front and impress men.
Lest we get too discouraged though, even Peter had a problem with legalism (Galatians 2).
Paul says that the truly circumcised are not the Jews, but Christians
who are indwelt by the Holy Spirit, and who glorify Jesus Christ. The
people who are circumcised in the heart do not feel compelled to place
their confidence in their flesh in order to impress God, though, as we
shall see, Paul was a model legalist himself, in his former way of life.
4b) If anyone else thinks he
has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have
more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of
Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for
zeal, persecuting the church;
as for legalistic
Paul now sets out to use himself as an example to the Jews in order to
show them the shortcomings of legalism. Paul was not only a Jew, but
even a respected orthodox Jew. He had always done everything by the
letter of the law. He was born a Jew, and his parents had made certain
that he was circumcised when he was eight days old, according to the
Mosaic law. He belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, which held special
honor because of its close ties to the tribe of Judah throughout the
years. After all, the first king of Israel, King Saul, had been also
belonged to the tribe of Benjamin. Paul says that he was not only a
Jew, but a "Hebrew of Hebrews." As a Pharisee, he had been a student of the law, and a model
of obedience to it. Paul was probably the first in line to bring the
required sacrifices, in order to gain God's favor. To
illustrate his zeal for the law, he points out that he persecuted the church--the
very institution that denied the law. Finally, Paul says that he was
faultless concerning legalistic righteousness.
Paul was a master of legalism, and if legalism was right, then Paul's fellow
Jews would have to agree that Paul was blameless.
7) But whatever was to my
profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is
more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of
knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all
things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not
having a righteousness
of my own that comes
from the law, but that which
is through faith in Christ--the righteousness
that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his
resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming
like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
However, after making all these claims of legalism for himself, he now
tells the Judaizers how it all profited ("kerdos") him. What really
were the advantages of doing all these things? There was no benefit in
them at all! All these things which he was so proud to do
because of the favor they would bring him from God, he now considers
complete loss ("houtos") for the sake of Christ and the grace He
brought. Paul had made no spiritual progress under Judaism and
its legalisms. Although Paul had been a celebrity in his own circles,
this didn't prove anything! Not only that, but there is nothing that he
could have done that would not be considered
complete loss compared to surpassing ("uperecho") greatness of knowing
("gnosis") Christ Jesus. This blessing of seeking to know Christ by
taking in the knowledge of Bible doctrine was infinitely
superior in value to his former legalisms.
Paul now almost becomes gross in his description of these acts of
legalism. He now considers them rubbish ("skubelon"), which was used to
describe things such as table scrap garbage, animal manure, and even
human excrement. He is adamantly proclaiming that his legalisms,
celebrityship, and misuse of the law are now worthless and filthy, now
that he has experienced Christ, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and the grace way of life.
Paul says that right conduct ("dikaiosune") is still important, but it
now comes from Christ rather than from any power in the Mosaic law
("nomos"). Paul formerly had a legal righteousness
from the law, but now he has that which comes from faith ("pistos").
This faith is a true belief and trust in Christ as his sovereign authority, and it
implies an adherence to, or a clinging to Christ as savior.
Paul says that he wants to know ("ginosko") this Christ in his daily
experience. He wants to be intimately familiar with the biblical truths
concerning the power that Christians have because of Christ's
resurrection, and he is eager to fellowship ("koinonia") with
Christ, even sharing in common His sufferings ("pathema"). Paul is not
referring to sharing Christ's afflictions on the cross for our sins,
but rather to His sufferings in the midst of the spiritual warfare
during His earthly ministry. Paul eagerly looks forward to the day of
the rapture when he will receive a glorified body in heaven.
12) Not that I have already
obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on
to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of
me. Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.
But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is
ahead. I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has
called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
So as not to confuse the Philippians about the rapture, Paul now makes
it clear that he has not yet received this glorified body. He is still
in his earthly body, and still susceptible to sin
and temptations. He has not yet been made perfect ("teleioo"), or reached
sinless perfection or complete spiritual
maturity. However, he does look forward to that day when he will complete the process, reach the
goal, achieve Christ's purpose, and bring it all to
a conclusion. As for the present time, however, he simply chooses to
press on ("dioko") toward the purpose that Christ has for him, just
like a runner on a racetrack strategizes to reach the finish line. He
strives to take hold of ("katalambano") or forcefully seize the grace
of God, just as Christ, by grace, took hold of him and elected him to salvation.
This is another confirmation that God in His grace is the
one who elects and saves, and meager men have no hand in the process.
Forget What is Behind
Paul tells his brothers ("adelphos"), meaning fellow Christians, that
he can't claim that he fully understands and walks in God's grace as he
should. Although he will not realize this grace perfectly until the
point of glorification, he is going to explain a valuable principle for
functioning believers, concerning how to handle spiritual failure. Paul
is forgetting ("epilanthanomai") what is behind ("opiso"). Where he has
had sins in his life, he has confessed them, and he has completely
forgotten them. This is what allows him to maintain a relaxed mental
attitude of joy. He would not be able to experience joy if he dwelt
constantly on past failures. Of course, he may maintain the events in
his memory, but he realizes that his confession cleared away all guilt.
Paul's practice is to please God, but when he fails, he confesses,
forgets, and moves on! Since we can't change the past, this is really
our only choice if we want to maintain an attitude of faith rest and
peace. God forgives and forgets, so we should too!
However, we are to learn lessons from our past experiences, so that
will know how to do better in the future. Paul keeps straining
("epekteino") toward what is ahead, like a runner stretching to cross
the finish line sooner. He presses on ("dioko") toward his goal
("skopos") just as a runner concentrates on the mark that signals the
finish line. He keeps his eyes on that mark, and that's all he sees.
His prize ("brabeion") or award at the end of the race will be a
changed life, and Paul joyfully anticipates that upward rapture at the
end of this life when Christ Jesus calls him into heaven.
Also, until that day, this attitude will secure Paul's mental health in joy and anticipation.
15) All of us who are mature
should take such a view of things. And if on some point you think
differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up
to what we have already attained.
Now Paul tells us that his attitude which he has just described should
be shared by all mature ("teleios") Christians. We should forget the
past which we can't change, and anticipate the rapture and eternity
Then he tells us what we should do now, in the
present. When we study God's Word, we may think ("phroneo") differently
("heteros") than other Christians. We may have another point of view,
and perhaps other points of view won't even make sense
to us. We might even disagree with Paul on some points, but he explains
how to handle such conflicts. We don't fight, argue, or complain. We
don't stand against fellow Christians for the sake of
defending our own point of view. Rather, we remain quiet and patient,
because if we keep studying, God will eventually make clear
("apokalupto") what we don't understand. If we become argumentative, we
should just set that particular subject aside, and study it later. God
promises to eventually make the truth known to us. If we are wrong, God
will correct us in time. If the other person
is wrong, that is his problem! Naturally, this doesn't eliminate all
discussion and dialog, but it does eliminate any arguments that will
inhibit unity among believers.
Paul then follows up with a challenge. Rather than worrying about
disagreements, we should live up to ("stoicheo") what we have already
attained ("phthano"). We should walk our daily lives along the line of
the Bible truths that God has already revealed to us--those about which
we have no question, since we have already learned those principles,
arrived at those truths, and comfortably agree that they are real
biblical truths. We need to learn new things
patiently, but once we have learned them, it is our Christian
responsibility to put them into action! We will be held accountable for
what we know, and we will be found lacking if we have not exercised the
Word of God which we have proclaimed and believed.
17) Join with others in
following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according
to the pattern we gave you. For, as I have often told you before and
now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of
Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and
their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.
But our citizenship is in heaven.
And we eagerly
await a savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring
everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that
they will be like his glorious body.
Paul commands his fellow Christian brothers ("adelphos") to follow the
example ("summinetes") of his own life, as well as his comrades such as
Timothy and Epaphroditus. They (and we) are to take note ("skopeo") of
Paul and be imitators of him. We are to observe these men intensely,
notice what they do, and look for their behavior patterns ("tupos"). We
can also learn much from watching our fellow Christians today, but we
must remain discerning, since nobody is perfect.
The reason that we need to be strong in these things is that there are
many enemies of the Cross of Christ, though it pains Paul to say this.
Certainly in our day, there remain many unbelievers, and Paul says that
their destiny ("telos") is destruction ("apolsia"). In
other words, there are many today who are unbelievers and will never
believe the truth in this life. The end of the line for them will be
ruin and eternity
in hell. These devoted unbelievers worship
their own stomachs rather than God. In the ancient days, the stomach was the
organ used to symbolize the core of ones internal feelings and
emotions, as we might say "the heart" today. Paul
is saying that these unbelievers worship
sensuality. They indulge only in what pleasure can be derived from their senses. The Roman empire
indeed touted a very vile, wicked, and sensual society. They were a
people of excesses. For example, they would throw huge banquets, and
gorge on rich food, but they were quite disappointed when they quickly
became full. To solve this problem, they dug pits into which the people would force themselves to
vomit, so that they could return to the banqueting table time after
time, just to re-experience the sensuality of their eating frenzy. This
sounds quite gross to us today, but we have our own ways of over-indulging in sensuality.
Paul really gives these unbelievers a blow when he says that their only
glory ("doxa") is in their shame ("aischune"). The things that are
important to these people, and what they honor and praise and take
pride in, are the very perversions that bring them shame,
disgrace, and humiliation. Their minds ("phroneo") think only of the
things of the earth. They can only see the temporal, material aspects
of life. They possess only a human viewpoint, and they are
continually building bigger barns. How sad it must be to be unable to
with Christ in heaven.
On the contrary, believers can take heart that their citizenship
("politeuma") or their real political commonwealth is in heaven
("ouranos")! That iswhat believers think about and anticipate.
That is how believers make it through the hard times. Instead of
treating the symptoms with sensual pleasure, they can anticipate a
complete cure for all their woes when they experience eternity
with Christ. Christians have more hope than unbelievers, since they
know the end of the story! In Paul's day, these unbelievers could only think in
terms of their earthly bodies and material things and places such as
Rome and Philippi. They, as well as unbelievers today,
had no concept of a Heavenly dwelling place. Christians however, are
natives of heaven
even though they currently have to live out a few
years in this life on the earth. Again, it makes us weep for
unbelievers, to think that they can't share the peace that we have,
knowing that we will one day dwell where God dwells.
Since Christians are assured of their Heavenly destiny, they can't help
but to eagerly await their savior, Jesus Christ. They can hardly wait
for that day when, by the same power that enable Christ to bring
everything under His control, He will supernaturally transform
("metaschematizo") our weak and lowly ("tapeinosis") bodies into
glorious and powerful ones. He will actually change our bodies
internally and externally, and he will repair all our physical defects.
Today our lowly bodies get sick and humiliate us. We are embarrassed
because of the limitations of our bodies which are bound by barriers
such as time, space, disease, immoral desires, and death.
However, in that day when Christ glorifies our bodies, we will be free from such
barriers. We will change internally ("summorphos") as well as
externally. We will conform to Christ's glorious resurrected body, and we will be able to pass through locked
doors just as he did after His resurrection. We will have power and
energy ("energeia") that we have never known, and we'll be free from sin,
disease, and death.
1) Therefore, my
brothers, you whom I love
and long for, my joy
and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!
Nearing the end of his letter, Paul now manifests his innermost and
intimate feelings for his Philippian brothers by telling them that he
loves ("agapetos") and longs for ("epipothetos") them. Paul obviously
has a loving and caring mental attitude toward the Philippians, so much
so that he now expresses his great, compassionate, and even emotional
desire to share their company again. The Philippians are his very joy ("chara")
and crown ("stephanos"). Unlike a king's crown, Paul is here referring
to a victor's crown, one that symbolizes the prize for triumph in a
game or a reward for accomplishment. Paul felt that the responsiveness
of the Philippians to God's Word was his reward for teaching them God's Word. Furthermore,
this reward was both temporal and eternal. He now tells them that the
things that he has just written to them serve as sufficient instruction for their standing firm in the Lord.
2) I plead with
Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the
Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have
contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the
rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Paul pleads with two women back in Philippi, Euodia and Syntyche, to
stop fighting and to agree with each other in the Lord's work. The
Philippians are to help these two women, who have been fighting with
each other, even though they are both devoted to Paul and his ministry.
He generalizes these instructions by addressing them to Clement and all the other Philippian Christians.
4) Rejoice in the
Lord always. I will
say it again: Rejoice! Let your
gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do
anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petitions, with thanksgiving, present
your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all
understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
There can be no mistake about the adamant command that Paul gives the
Philippians here. He wants them to rejoice ("chairo")in the Lord
always. It is so important that he repeats it. Rejoice. Seldom is Paul
so forceful in any of his writings. He wants to make sure that the
Philippians understand that inner happiness and a stable mental
attitude of well-being (no matter what happens) are fundamental
prerequisites for living the Christian life! Furthermore, this
imperative command is in the present tense, which means that Christians
are to maintain this joy always and constantly. Also, it is in the
active voice, which means it is up to each individual Christian to be
joyful by their own personal choice. Christians are accountable for
their own happiness, and they have NO EXCUSE not to be happy.
A Christian's happiness is said here to be "in the Lord" because this
happiness comes directly from God's son, Jesus Christ, as a result of
his provision of salvation
on the cross. There is no happiness for a Christian apart from Christ! Naturally, the implication here is the
avoidance of all depression, anger, and self-pity. If Paul could be
happy in the midst of his miserable living conditions, then there is no
reason why all Christians can't be happy even during difficult times.
Additionally, Christians are to manifest their gentleness ("epieikes").
This implies a reasonable forbearance and an easy-going moderation. A
gentle Christian will not be overly rigorous to apply the "letter of
the law," but he will exercise mercy, leniency, and grace. Neither will
he single-mindedly demand his own rights, but he will honor the rights
of others. Paul also reminds the Philippians that the Lord is near,
again referring to their rapture and judgment in the near future.
Next, Paul tells us not to be anxious ("merinnao") about anything
("medeis")! The Greek language here is emphasizing that there is no
room for worrying or being torn in different directions about even one
thing. There is no temporal thing that can rightly justify our worry or
anxiety! On the contrary though, EVERYTHING demands our prayer
("proseuche") in general. We are to lift up our petitions ("deesis") or desperate needs
to God. As we pray, we are to express our thanksgiving ("eucharistia")
to God, showing Him that we are grateful for all he has brought into
our lives, both the good things and the things that don't currently seem so good.
Remember now, that although he is talking about prayer, Paul is still
talking about happiness too. This prayer and thanksgiving will allow us
to be happy! It allows us to remember God's love,
care, wisdom, and power. It reminds us that He always knows what is best, and He always
has the power to do it! As we present our requests to Him, we know that
he will supply our needs, and that there is no other force in the universe which will.
Now for the promise. This praying will bring the peace ("eirene") of
God. Through our prayers, we will experience harmony and happiness.
This peace of God will be so magnificent that it will go beyond
anything that we can understand ("nous"). This peace will surpass our
learning capacity, and it will endure even in the midst of tragedy. It
will seem incomprehensible, especially to others, when they see that
you are happy even when they think you have no reason to be!
Finally, this peace will guard ("phroureo") and protect the heart
("kardia") and mind ("noema") of the Christian with the force of a
mighty army. The mind here refers to the perceptive side of the
mentality, while the heart refers to the directive side, so this peace
will dominate the entirety of the Christian.
whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is
excellent or praiseworthy--thing about such things. Whatever
you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into
practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Paul describes what should control the thoughts of every Christian. The
Christian mind should dwell upon truth, honor, morality, and right
conduct, and these things should manifest themselves in the pleasing,
agreeable, and winsome attitudes and actions of the Christian. He
should be willing to speak commendably about others, and his lifestyle
should beckon the commendation of others. When Paul says that
Christians should think ("logizomai") about these things, he means that
we should concentrate and focus our thoughts upon these positive
traits, dwelling and meditating upon them constantly. If we do, the
result will be happiness and peace from God. What we think is what we
are, and what we believe is what we will do.
It is a matter of programming our subconscious minds via learned
behavior patterns. With a mind that is steeped in Godly insights, we
will be able to override our fleshly will and emotions when tempted to
do wrong. This same technique can work against us if we meditate upon
evil. For example, if a person repeatedly views pornography, he will
program his subconscious mind to remember certain things that he sees, and these
things will remain stored neatly away in the back of his mind,
available for use in future evil acts.
Consider the unfortunate circumstances of a young girl who grew up with
an alcoholic father. Living in constant contempt for and fear of her
father, she unknowingly programs her subconscious mind by concentrating
on the bad things that are forced upon her. Yet statistics show that
such a girl is likely to marry a man much like her father, often even
an alcoholic. The subconscious mind will dictate one's actions, depending upon what
has been fed into it, whether those actions be good or bad, or desirable or undesirable.
This is often the problem for those of us who can't seem to lose
weight. Our subconscious minds have decided that we're fat, and there's
nothing we can do about it! Paul says we shouldn't dwell on our
failures and shortcomings, and many modern psychologists would agree.
10) I rejoice greatly in the
Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me.
Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show
it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be
content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need,
and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of
being content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or
hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through
him who gives me strength.
Paul tells the Philippians that he is glad that they have finally found
the opportunity to express their concern for him by sending a love
offering with Epaphroditus. However, he makes it clear that he is not
glad because of his need for the gift, because he has learned to be
content ("autarkes") no matter what his circumstances or situations may
be. Indeed, Paul knew what it was like to need help, but he also knew
what it was like to have everything he needed. The secret of
contentment that he had learned had upheld him every time, either way.
He could be content if he was hungry, just as he could be content when
he was full. This is an analogy to which we can easily relate.
After a meal, when our stomachs are full, if someone offers us more
food, we must reply that we are "content." However, Paul was even able
to be content when his stomach was not full. Paul had no worries in any
situation! He found that what God chose to provide was always
sufficient, he didn't complain, and he was still able to maintain
inner happiness. How is such a thing possible? Only by trusting God
completely for everything. "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength."
Paul's inner happiness in the midst of trouble reminds us of H.G.
Spafford, the great author and theologian whose wife and daughters were
tragically killed when their cruise ship sank. When Spafford boarded a
ship and reached the point where the disaster occurred, he penned the
famous hymn, "All is Well, With my Soul." Even in the midst of this
tragedy, he had the inner strength and peace from God to be content.
it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you
Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel,
when I set out from Macedonia, not one church
shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I
was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.
Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to
your account. I have received full payment and even more; I
am amply supplied now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you
sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice,
pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Paul now gets back to thanking the Philippians again for their gift,
and he hasn't forgotten their generosity in years past when he made his
missionary journeys into Macedonia, visiting such churches as Philippi,
Thessalonica, and Berea. He is glad for the Philippians, that their
right attitude for money
brings them happiness. He is excited about their giving ("dosis"), and he receives ("lampis") their offerings
graciously. However, he explains that it is not the gift ("doma") that
excites him as much as looking for ("karpos") what may be credited
("plenago") to their account ("logos"). This is the fruit of their
divine good production through the leading of the Holy Spirit, which
will finance God's work. They are receiving a great accumulation of
abundance in God's eyes, and thus are receiving spiritual rewards to
their credit. In the day of glorification, they will receive these
rewards from Jesus Christ who is now storing their treasures in heaven.
Theirs are fragrant offerings in the nostrils of God, not unlike the Old Testament sacrifices, and God
promises to continue to meet their needs according to the endless riches of Christ.
Paul expands on the doctrine of rewards in 2 Corinthians 5:10-11, when
he gives us a glimpse of the judgment Seat of Christ ("bema"). Since he
is writing to people who are already Christians, we know that the issue
here is not that of salvation,
since that issue has already been settled for Christians. Thus we can conclude, that the issue is one of
different degrees of rewards for Christians in Heaven. It also has nothing to do
with any sins one commits or doesn't commit, since Christ paid for ALL
sins when He died on the cross. Therefore, these rewards are earned by
our divine good works--the exercising of our spiritual gifts through
the power of the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 3:10-15 explains that at
the judgment Seat of Christ, all of our good works will be tested with
fire. The ones that stem from our human good will be found
to be destructible, just as hay, wood, and stubble are when exposed to
fire. However, our good works which stem from the divine good leading
of the Holy Spirit will be found to be indestructible, in the same way
that gold, silver, and precious stones cannot be destroyed by a mere
fire. Thus, both the work and the motivation will be judged, and consequently, some
Christians will find themselves to be richer in heaven
than others, who will be as mere paupers.
God our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 21) Greet
all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings.
All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's
household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
Paul signs off by glorifying God the Father, and by sending greetings
to the Philippians from himself and from all the other Christians with
him at Rome, especially from those in Caesar's household who probably
had to withstand tremendous persecution because of their close
proximity to the royal family. He then ends the letter as he began it, with the hope of grace.
Summary of Philippians
Philippians is a marvelous little book because it combines all the
doctrines of the Christian life into four short chapters. It touches
upon the doctrine of salvation, including grace, faith,
justification, sanctification, and glorification. It teaches Christians
to be humble, patient, and kind, full of grace and love
toward others. It teaches us to persevere through troubles and still reap the benefit
of our own happiness and eternal rewards from God.
Above all, Philippians gives us the secret to happiness. Philippians
shows us that we are to take our problems in stride, and not let
anything get to us. People should not get to us, but we should try to
understand them. Our happiness is not dependent upon people,
circumstances, or things. Our attitude toward others should be one of
forgiveness. We should maintain an attitude of grace orientation and love.
We should exercise grace and freedom in our dealings with others. We should be free of any
bitterness or ill will toward others, and we should be willing to
actively pursue the well-being of others. Our mental attitudes should
be relaxed and free of anxieties, since God is in control. This is how
we can be truly prosperous and spiritually mature.