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Study Notes on Philippians 1

Philippians 1

This begins another of Paul's "prison epistles", written while he was in jail in Rome. There is much dispute about the dating of Philippians, though a rough estimate of 59-62 is sufficient for our study.


The church at Philippi was the first European congregation and we read about its founding and first converts in Acts 16, as the Holy Spirit guided Paul to Macedonia rather than Asia.


A major theme of this letter is joy, which is a word found 6 times in Philippians and variations of rejoice are found 12 times in 10 verses. Circumstance shouldn't dictate our joy.


1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

Though not a prisoner, Timothy was with Paul in Rome when Paul wrote to the Philippians. We see Timothy present in Acts 16 when the church there was founded so they would have known him and would have been glad to hear that he was with Paul.


We see here that every believer is a saint. Everyone in Christ Jesus is a saint, and only saints are to be members of a church. The word bishop means overseer, and this a function of the pastor. Bishop or overseer, Elder, and Pastor are all interchangeable terms that refer to the various functions of a church leader.


Deacons are servants (see 1 Timothy 3), and this position is first seen in Acts 6 as the need arose to care for physical needs of the people. Pastor and Deacon are the only two offices in a church.


The word for bishop is ἐπίσκοπος, and it is used in the New Testament in the following places: Acts 20:28, translated “overseers;” and Philippians 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:7; 1 Peter 2:25, where is it translated as bishop.


2 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Always grace and peace in the Paul's greetings.


3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

Whenever the Philippians come into Paul's mind he is grateful to God for them. This was a solid church that needed very little correction, and there is much praise for them in this epistle.


"The meaning is, that as often as he thought on them, from whatever cause, he had occasion of thankfulness." - John Gill


4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

Paul has joy in praying for this church, and "for all" meaning each individual.


5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

There's actually a great deal of differing opinions over what their fellowship in the gospel means, though I think most clearly it simply refers to their active participation in sharing the gospel.


This could also refer to their support of Paul and their generosity towards him (see Philippians 4:10-12, Philippians 4:15-18).


6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ:

"Being confident" here means fully persuaded, that there isn't any doubt. There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit will complete the good work in each of the saints. This is a great verse on the eternal security of the believer because our salvation is a work of God, not something we need to maintain.


"The work of God within the believing saint, the operation and sealing of the Holy Spirit, guarantees the soul-security of every child of God from the dangers of hell to the bliss of heaven." - Garner-Howes


7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.

8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

To say he has them in his heart is a statement of strong love and affection.


His imprisonment is a confirmation of the gospel, and the Philippians were partakers with Paul in grace. There was a close union between Paul and this Philippian church and we see it in these verses.


"Paul and the Philippians partook together of the enabling grace that God provides for those who confirm and defend the gospel." - Dr. Constable


9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

In all judgment. Judgment is something Christians are called to do. Our discernment should grow as our knowledge in scripture grows because we must judge according to His word, not our opinions.


10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.

Let's not just judge to point out when something is false, but let's remember to praise things that are good and right and pleasing to the Lord.


To be without offense is a high charge, and means to not cause others to stumble. Don't be an offense to Christ by poor behavior. This is similar to the qualifications for a pastor that he must be blameless.


Paul himself was an example of this as we see in Acts 24.


Acts 24:16, And herein do I exercise myself, to have always a conscience void to offence toward God, and toward men.


11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

The fruit of the Spirit, which is summed up in right action and proper conduct. We should be filled up in that and do what we are able to allow the Holy Spirit to direct us.


12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;

Paul now discusses himself and his own situation in prison in Rome. His affliction and imprisonment have resulted in an increased spread of the gospel.


13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;

In the palace literally refers to the Praetorian which would be the Roman camp or the Roman palace. This is one of the places in the epistle that tells us where this was being written from.


Paul's service for Christ was well known where he was being held.


Philippians 4:22, All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.


14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

A great result! Because Paul was in bonds, this encouraged many other believers to be bold for the gospel. Persecution doesn't hurt Christianity, it furthers it.


15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:

We can do good things from a bad motive.


16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:

Evidently some hated Paul and were preaching out of hopes that they would make things worse for him in prison.


17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.

Others preach Christ out of love knowing that Paul is in prison for spreading the gospel and that he was chosen by God to do so.


Acts 9:15, But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel


18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

This is rather amazing. Regardless of the motive, Paul is rejoicing that Christ is preached. Obviously to preach Christ from sincere motives would be best, but that the name of the Savior is spreading is great news.


19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

This is a great example and reminder of the fact that context must always be considered, and words like salvation do not always refer to the same kind of salvation. It is without question that Paul was saved from hell and had eternal life, but here we see his hopes of being delivered out of prison (which he was after 2 years, see Acts 28:30-31).


20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

Paul's singular concern was for Christ to be glorified, whether that was by his death or his life. Can we say the same thing?


In nothing will he be ashamed, whether his actions or his teachings. He is bold for Christ as we all should be.


21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

To live meant complete service to the Lord, as Christ was his life. To die is a gain or profit for every believer because we will be in the presence of the Lord in Heaven.


"To die is gain because in the absence of life's limitations union with Christ will be completely realized." - The Wycliffe Bible Commentary


22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.

He would be delivered from prison though that could come by death or freedom. If it were up to him he's not sure which way he would go.


The phrase "this is the fruit of my labour" could be understood as he was willing to live to produce fruit for his labor. To spread the gospel was worth living for, yet he eagerly desired to be with Christ.


23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

The word for depart means to release or to be set free. It is far better to be with Christ.


There is no possibility for any "soul sleep" in this verse. Such heresy is entirely rebuked by Scripture. One is either in the flesh, or with Christ.


"Paul believed that the soul of the Christian would be immediately with the Saviour at death. It was evidently his expectation that he would at once pass to his presence, and not that he would remain in an intermediate state to some far distant period." - Albert Barnes


24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

Being with Christ is best for him but abiding in the flesh is best for the Philippians, and other churches.


25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;

The joy of being with Christ was strong in his mind, yet he was persuaded that he had more work to do for the Lord to help the Philippians.


26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.

There would be great rejoicing when he would come to them again, in praise to Jesus Christ.


27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

Regardless of what happens, whether Paul gets to them soon, later, or never, he encourages that they remain steadfast. Their conversation, their manner of life, should be appropriate for believers.


We should strive for the faith of the gospel, meaning to work hard to promote the gospel. Paul shows an example in this chapter of the single-mindedness that should be exhibited in our lives.


Ephesians 4:1, I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called


28 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.

Don't be afraid them! Be terrified in nothing by those that will oppose you!


An "evident token" means a sign or demonstration. Perdition means destruction. Those attacking the believers at Philippi showed evidence of their coming judgment and condemnation. The believers receiving the persecution with courage showed a sign of their salvation.


29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

Put this one on your wall. It is not only a privilege to believe on Christ but also to suffer for His sake. Suffering has been given to us. With doctrine like this, why would anyone be a Christian unless Christianity is true?! It is true!


1 Thessalonians 3:3, That no man should be moved by these afflictions: for yourselves know that we are appointed thereunto.


Matthew 5:11-12, Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.


30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

The Philippians are enduring the same conflict which they saw happen to Paul in Acts 16. And now they hear he is continuing with the conflict in Rome. The Christian life is not an easy one.


Romans 8:18, For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.



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