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My Commentary On  Paulís Letter To The Philippians

 

Introduction

 

This commentary is based on the New International Bible, 1984 edition.  Chapter titles in the commentary correspond to the chapter titles in the NIV for easy comparison.

 

The theme of this letter might well be joy.  The words "joy or "rejoice" is mentioned 17 times in this short letter by Paul who wrote the letter from prison.  Part of the reason for this joy was based on the fact that he was now in the midst of his appeal to Caesar, or at least many Bible teachers believe, something that has taken a few years off his life. 

 

Acts 16 tells us the story of Lydia coming to Jesus through Paulís ministry.  She was the first person from Philippi to become a Christian. 

 

Paul first visited Philippi in and around 52 A D with Luke and Timothy.  Timothy stayed for a while but it appears that Luke stayed to about 58 A D at least. 

 

It also appears that Paul visited Philippi three times that we know of during his ministry.  The second letter of Corinthians was probably written in his second stay in that city.

 

This letter is more like a real letter from a friend to other friends.  Paul was not dealing with problems like he did in his Corinthian, Galatian and Colossian letters.

 

I believe, as many do, Paul wrote this letter while in house arrest in Rome, awaiting his trial before Nero.  See Acts 28.  In verse 7, and especially verse 13, Paul spoke of being in chains.  Note also in verse 13 that Paul spoke of the palace.  I believe, and again, as many others believe, this to be Nero's palace, especially in light of Philippians 4:22 where he spoke of those believers who are members of Caesar's household. If Paul wrote this letter while in house arrest in Rome , he would have written it around 58 or 59 to 61 or 62 A D.   

 

It is interesting to note that as far as we know, the church at Philippi was the only church that Paul allowed to help him financially, other than the possible exception of the church at Thessalonica.  See Philippians 4:14 to 16.    

 

Philippi was in the province of Macedonia , which was the most liberal area of the Roman Empire in respect to women's rights.  It was probably for that reason why Lydia , in Acts 8 is seen as a business woman.  It is also interesting that Paul had no problem preaching the gospel to this woman and having he and his team go home to her house.  This might tell us something about Paul and his view on women, especially in light of what he says in places like 1 Corinthians 11, 14, and 2 Timothy 2. 

 

This region of the Roman Empire, which is in present day Greece , was the dividing line between what is commonly called eastern culture and the western culture.         

 

 

Chapter 1:1-2

Verse 1 says this.  "Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus."  In first century Greek the name Paul means "little."  Some people believe that Paul was short in stature.  A second century, non-canonical letter, claimed to be a letter from Paul to a lady named Thelca states that Paul was short.

 

Paul was Paul's Roman name.  Saul was his Hebrew name.  In Hebrew Saul means "asked for."  Paul was born a Roman citizen probably because his father or grandfather purchased a Roman citizenship for some reason.  My guess, and I would say it is a good guess, that Paul was named after Israel 's first king; King Saul.  I say this because both King Saul and Saul, or Paul, were born in the tribe of Benjamin.  See Philippians 3:5.  

   

When Paul began to preach the gospel to the Roman Gentile world he referred to himself as Paul, not Saul.  That would only make sense because he would be preaching to Gentile Romans and Greeks.

 

There is one misconception that needs to be cleared up.  Some people believe that Saul changed his name to Paul because of a request from the Lord.  The Bible says no such thing.      

 

We see Paul mentioning Timothy here.  Itís not that Timothy was helping Paul write the letter, but that he was saying ďamenĒ to the letter for at this period of time Timothy was with Paul.  Paul considered Timothy his son in the Lord as seen in 1 Timothy 1:2.  Timothy was half Greek and half Jewish.  Paul had Timothy circumcised in order to be a better witness when they entered the Jewish world to preach. 

 

Timothy, at least to me is an interesting person.  I wish we knew more of his life and ministry.  He was raised by a Christian mother and grand-mother as seen in 1 Timothy, chapter 1.  He would have been like many of us today who were raised in Christian homes from a baby or at least from the age of a young child.  To see how he came to faith in that situation I would find interesting.  All those who came to faith in the book of Acts were not raised in Christian homes.  That was not the case with Timothy.  

 

Also note that Paul calls both of him and Timothy "servants of Christ Jesus."  This is how Paul viewed himself.  He did not view himself as important in a worldly sense.  He viewed himself as a servant, and not just any servant, but a servant of Jesus. 

 

The Greek word "doulos" is translated here as servants.  It could easily be translated as slave, but for us in the western world, that is not really an acceptable word any more, but really, in Paul's day it was.  The Greek word "doulos" was the lowest of the lowest when it came to slaves.  It came to mean a slave by choice.  If a person was so down and out he might become a slave by choice because a slave might well have a better life than a beggar on the street.    

 

Like Paul, we should be a servant of Jesus, a servant also by choice.  Although, one might think that Paul had no real choice, but he.  Even after meeting Jesus in a dramatic way, he still could have refused to hand his life over to Jesus.  A passage that may have something to do with this is 2 Corinthians 5:14 where he said that the love of God compels or controls him.  The Greek word translated as "compel" in the NIV means to "hold together" as glue holds things together.  In context, this verse tells me that even in the tough times Paul went through, it is God's love that keeps him glued together, keeps him from giving up.  I think that part of the experience Paul felt when meeting Jesus in Acts 9 was sensing the love of God.  Could he have said no to Jesus?  I think so, but the love of God made that very difficult.      

 

A servant is humble, not arrogant.  He knows his position in life and accepts it.  Most of all, he serves his Lord and those his Lord asks him to serve.  I believe the true mark of a Christian is his ability to serve, even if he does not get any recognition for his service.  That was the life of Jesus and it should be our life as well.     

 

Also in verse 1 we see that Paul is writing "to all the saints in Philippi ."  He is writing to people, not an organization.  Paul saw the church as a living body, as a group of human beings who have given their lives to Jesus.  He did not see the church as an organized structure.  Organized religion is what Paul came out of when He met Jesus.  Paul wasnít interested in exchanging one organizational structure for a new one.  He was interested in seeing a transformation of lives.  That being said, we see organizational structure in this verse with the mentioning of overseers and deacons.    

 

Note the word saints.  The Greek word "hagios" is translated as saints in the New Testament.  It means "holy ones."  All Christians, not some as Catholics believe, are saints.    

 

Paul also makes mention that he is writing not only to the saints but also to the "overseers and deacons."  The overseers were elders.  They were a group of men who cared for the people of God.  Once again, these people cared for Godís people as if they were fathers in a family.  They did not view themselves as a board who managed the affairs of a church organization. To see their qualifications and duties you can read 1 Timothy 3 and my commentary on that chapter. 

 

It's my thinking based on New Testament teaching that a body of elders, overseers, shepherds, or pastors, or bishops are all titles referring to the same ministry.  The New Testament teaches that there are a body of men who care for the people in the local community of believers.  Our one man pastor was not the norm in Paul's day, and, I don't believe the New Testament teaches one man leadership.    

 

Deacons were men with similar qualities as elders who helped and assisted the elders. They did more of the physical labour.  We first see deacons in Acts 6, although Acts 6 does not call them deacons.  These men in Acts 6 were chosen to distribute food to the poor so the apostles could give their full attention to prayer and teaching of Godís Word.  These men had to be filled with the Holy Spirit, meaning, their lives exhibited the Spiritís work.  

 

The Greek word "diakonos" is translated as deacons here and elsewhere in the New Testament.  It is the other Greek word that is translated as servant in the New Testament because that is what the word means.  So, here in one verse we see both Greek words that can be translated as servants in the New Testament, but in this case it is translated as deacon.  Our English word deacon is actually translated from this Greek word.    

 

Verse 2 says this.  "Grace and peace be to you from God our father and from our Lord Jesus Christ."  Both grace and peace come from God and from Jesus.  As Paul often does, he puts God the Father and Jesus together in one sentence.  This is very important for the Christian since the God that we serve is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We do not serve any other God.

 

In today's world of religious tolerance we must know for sure that Christians do not serve the same god as Muslim, or any other religious group.  The present movement to unite religions, that some Evangelical Christians support, is just not Biblical.    

 

When it comes to grace, there are two aspects of grace found in the New Testament.  One aspect is Godís unmerited favour towards us.  This means that God loves us and has mercy on us even though we donít deserve it.  The other aspect of grace as seen in the New Testament is that grace is actually the God given ability to do His will.  God, through His Spirit, can help us accomplish God's will in our lives. 

 

This second aspect of grace is not well known, but there are certain passages where the more common understanding of grace does not fit.  In 1 Corinthians 3:10 Paul said that "by the grace of God" he laid a foundation among the Corinthians.  That is to say, God gave him the divine ability to lay this foundation.  In 1 Corinthians 16:10 Paul said that "by the grace of God, I am what I am."  It's possible that the more common understanding of grace might be seen in the verse but I see the lesser known understanding as well.  It was God's divine ability that made Paul who he had become.  In 2 Corinthians 1:12 Paul said that it was by God's grace, His divine ability, that he was able to conduct himself with integrity among the Corinthian believers.  2 Corinthians 8:7 speaks of the "grace of giving," that is, God's divine ability to give beyond measure.    

 

There are also two aspects to peace in the New Testament.  We have peace with God, meaning, we are no longer His enemy.  We also have peace in God, meaning, the peace that comes from God exists in us.    

 

 

 

    

 

Thanksgiving And Prayer (ch. 1:3-12)

 

 

In verse 3 Paul says that he thanked God every time he remembered the Christians at Philippi .  We can be sure that Paul had a great love for these people to whom he acted as an apostle.  Note that I said an apostle to, not an apostle over.  Many view the ministry of an apostle as one over other Christians.  I think Paul viewed himself as under others.  He was their servant.  We see this throughout his writings.  The word apostle means "sent one."  One is sent to someone, not sent over someone.  I can picture Paul praying and remembering people such as these when he laid his head down to sleep at night.  When he saw people growing as Christians, that made him very grateful.  When there were problems, that does not seem to be the case with these believers, he felt disturbed, as you see, for example, in his second letter to the Corinthian believers.    

 

In verse 3 Paul used the words "my God" in his remarks.  This does not mean that he has a different God than those to whom he was writing.  It simply means that God to Paul was very personal.  God was his God.  The same could be said of the Philippians.  God was their God too if they had given their lives to Jesus.  As Christians, we do not only believe in God, believe in Jesus, we belong to God and we belong to Jesus.  It is a very personal relationship.  

 

In verse 4 Paul said that in "all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy."  Once again, the remembrance of these people brought joy to Paul.  This was not always the case with other Christians in other cities as I mentioned above.  This tells us right off the bat that this would not be a letter of correction.

 

The Greek word translated into English as "joy" can also be translated as gladness.  Paul was very glad these people were maturing in the Lord, as should be the case with all believers.     

 

I would like to point out the pronoun "you" in verses 3 and 4.  In the Greek text it is a plural "you," not a singular "you."  Paul is writing to a community of believers.  This is obvious by the context but is also seen in the Greek text.  I say this now because when we come to verse 6, this plural pronoun "you" sheds light on what Paul is saying that is often missed by commentators.    

 

Verse 5 tells us why Paul felt this joy and it was "because of the partnership of the gospel" that he experienced with those to whom he was writing.  The preaching of the gospel was the driving force of Paulís life and to share this ministry with others was a great joy for him.  He considered those at Philippi partners with him.  He could have easily given into the human tendency to look down on these people because of his apostolic ministry but he didnít.  He viewed himself as an equal partner in the ministry of preaching the gospel.  Such a mentality should be seen in all Christian leadership.  We should view our brothers and sisters in Christ as co-sharers or co-workers of the responsibility to bring the gospel and the Kingdom of God to the world.     

 

In the 1970's the Greek word, at least in parts of the Charismatic Movement, "koinonia" was a well known word.  It is translated here as "partner."  This Greek word means "to hold in common."  Christians hold many things in common with other Christians, but in this case, that which Paul held in common with these people was the ministry of the gospel.  Again, we see Paul viewing himself as a co-worker in the spreading of the gospel.  He did not see himself as a dictatorial manager of people in the spreading of the gospel.   

 

Note that Paul said that this partnership began when he first met up with these people, which, would have been in Acts 16 when he led Lydia and some other women to the Lord.  It all began then.       

 

Verse 6 starts with the words "being confident."  The verb tense here suggests an ongoing confidence.  Paul was confident in the past, still is, and will be in the future. In actuality, this is a participle, meaning that Paul is "the confident one."       

 

Paulís confidence was in the fact that the One who began a good work in these people would finish the work unto the day of Christ Jesus.  Then, the work the Lord was doing in these people would be complete.  Obviously it was God through Jesus who had begun to do many good things in the Philippian believers, and, if God began this work, He could certainly finish it. 

 

Paul ended the verse with the words "until the day of Christ Jesus."  These words are in reference to when this good work would be finished.  It would not be finished until the day of Christ Jesus, which means the day of Jesusí return to earth.  At the end of this age Jesus will complete the good work of sanctification of His people, and it is clear to me that the finished work will not happen before that day, even though there always seem to be some throughout history claiming perfection of both the church and the individual believer before the return of Jesus.

 

This is the traditional understanding of verse 6.  If God has begun a work in a believer, He is quite capable of finishing, and actually will finish, the good work.  That being said, this is not exactly what Paul is saying here and it has to do with the Greek plural pronoun "you" in this verse.  "You" is a plural pronoun in the Greek text, not a singular pronoun.  Also, the context in the last few verses and the verses that follow, clearly state that Paul is talking to a community of believers.  That means that God, who has begun a good work in this community of believers, the church, will continue to do the good work until the day of Christ. 

 

The fact that Paul was speaking to the church and not individuals in the church means that he did not have in mind that God will continue the good work in the lives of individuals, which many says proves their doctrine of Eternal Security.  I do believe that God continues to do a good work in believers, if they allow it, but, that is not what Paul is talking about here.       

 

In verse 7 Paul told his readers that "it is right for me to feel this way because I have you in my heart."  The Greek word "kardia" is translated into English as "heart" in this verse.  I am sure you notice its English equivalent.  It is clear that his readers arenít literally in Paulís heart.  What he is saying is that his heartís emotions have been given to these people.  They are very dear to him as are all his fellow believers.  Note the personal aspect that Paul feels with these people.  As members in the Body of Christ, we are united with those to whom the Lord has joined us.  It is all about personal relationships with others.  It's not about attending meetings or being a member in a highly structured organization.  It's about building loving, caring, relationships with others.     

 

I do not know how you view Paul, but to me, especially after studying his second letter to the Corinthians, I believe Paul was a very emotional and passionate person, especially as it applies to the gospel and those he cared for in the churches.  When he gave himself to someone or something, he gave with all his heart; thus, Paulís heartís emotions were filled with the Philippian Christians, as is clearly seen here.  This should be the heart of all pastors.  A pastor's responsibility is to care for people, not buildings or organizational structure.  I understand in today's church there are buildings and organizations that need to be looked after, but, first and foremost, the roll of the pastor is to care for people.  If a pastor does not have a caring heart for people, he should not be a pastor.  Paul had such a caring heart.     

 

We can see this clearly demonstrated in Acts 6 when the apostles were asked to distribute food to the poor saints in Jerusalem .  This was obviously an important duty to perform but they felt that it was not as important as ministering to the spiritual needs of people.  It was for this reason that the church appointed certain men who were filled with the Holy Spirit to feed the poor.  In this way, both the spiritual and physical needs of people were met.      

 

Paul then said this.  "Whether I am in chains or defending the gospel."  It did not matter what situation Paul found himself in.  He could be in the darkness of a filthy, rat-infested, dungeon or free preaching the gospel.  He did not allow circumstances to effect his trust in Jesus and his love towards those in the church. 

 

It is most people's belief, from what is written in this verse and other verses in this letter, that Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote this letter.  He was in prison waiting for his court date to defend himself before Nero. 

 

In those days a Roman soldier would be chained to a prisoner for his work shift.  This was to make sure the prisoner did not escape.  Could you imagine what it might have been like to be chained to Paul for your work shift?  It is probably for that reason why many guards came to Jesus, and, why people in Nero's household came to Jesus, as we will see later on.   

 

The last phrase of verse 7 says that "all of you share in Godís grace with me."  Godís grace was not exclusive to Paul.  He did his best to share the message of Godís grace and when those he preached to received this grace, he was full of joy.  Again, the idea of sharing of grace shows us that Paul viewed other Christians as fellow workers with him in the gospel.  Paul did not view himself as a big shot.  He saw himself as one of many people involved in the work of the Lord.

 

Our English word "share" is translated from the Greek word "synkononia," a word I mentioned above.  The prefix "syn" means with.  Sharing God's grace is something Paul held in common with these believers and they shared it with each other.  The idea of sharing grace with each other is very important for the sake of church unity.  Christians don't always share or exhibit grace to one another as Paul was saying he had with these believers.  

 

Beyond what I've just said above, some translation say that these believers were sharing in Paul's grace, as in the words "my grace" in some versions, or, "God's grace with me" as the NIV puts it.  The Greek text does suggest that Paul is saying "my grace" here.  If that is the case, then Paul seems to be suggesting that God's unmerited favour and His divine ability to do His will that Paul received from God has also been given to his readers.  That is why Paul viewed these people as fellow workers with him in the gospel.   

 

 

In verse 8 Paul told his readers that "God can confirm what" he is saying to be true, and that he actually has the "affection of Christ Jesus."  This means that as Jesus loved us so much that He gave His life for us, so Paul loved others so much that he gave himself for them. Here again you see what drove Paul to be who he was after he met Jesus.  The love of God drove him to preach and care for Godís people.  He did not do it for money and he did not do it for fame.  He simply did it because of the love of Jesus.  We see this clearly stated in 2 Corinthians 5:14 where he said that the love of God compels him.

 

The Greek word translated as "affections" here literally means "bowels" because in first century Greek culture, the display of "passionate affection" came from deep within the bowels of a person. 

 

In verse 9 Paul prayed for these people.  He prayed that "their love may abound."  The word "love" here is translated from the Greek word "agape," meaning, "sacrificial love."  That is to say, the same love that drives him, he prays will drive them, or, the same love the motivated Jesus should motivate his readers.  This love is not formless or some kind of abstract love.  Agape love never is that kind of love.  Real love is always demonstrated in truth and in action as it says in 1 John 3:18.

 

Paul said that his love is based on "knowledge and depth of insight."  What Paul is saying here is that the more his readers, which includes us, understand about Jesus and what He has done for us, that knowledge will produce a loving and servantís heart within us.  Christian love is not based on mere sympathy for people.  It is based on knowledge and understanding.  The knowledge and understanding is about Jesus and what the Bible teaches us.  To love properly is to love the way God loves, and the way God loves is not the way the world loves.

 

Our postmodern culture, which sad to say, has infected the church, does not put a lot of importance on knowledge, but you can't read Paul's writings without seeing that both knowledge and insight that stems from knowledge is important.  Love, therefore, is more than an expression of the heart.  It is also fenced in by Biblical knowledge and understanding.  If we step beyond the boundaries of Biblical knowledge in our attempt to love, then we fail to love.  For example, if we cover someone's sin because we think we love them, we fail to love.  There is a time for us to expose the sin, and when we do, out of pure motives, we love.  It's often called tough love because it's tough on the one expressing the love and it's tough on the one receiving the love.                 

 

Verse 10 gives us the reason why we need love based on knowledge and insight.  Paul said this.  "So that you may be able to discern what is best."    Real love doesnít just give whatever a person wants.  Real love discerns.  Real love is based on truth, and sometimes real love is tough, as I've said above.  It's understanding what is best for the person at any given time.   

 

Real love is also "pure and blameless" as Paul said.  It is pure in the sense that it does not show favouritism. It does not have ulterior motives.  One does not love to get something back from the one he is loving.  Love is also blameless.  When one loves as God loves, he canít be blamed for anything when expressing that love, and if he is, there is no real foundation for the blame.  The Greek word translated as "blameless" has in its meaning the idea of "not causing one to stumble."  The fact of the matter is that some do stumble over the truth when it is presented to them.  That being said, if the truthful love is accepted then it certainly will not cause one to stumble.  Another way this might mean is that we speak the truth, we love, in such a way that we do our best that it won't cause a person to stumble.      

 

The love Paul spoke of will carry on to the day of the Lord.  Again, the day of the Lord is the day Jesus returns to earth.  Real works of love will endure and will survive the fire of judgment.  Works that are done out of a false love, will be burned by the judgment of God at that last day, as seen in 1 Corinthians 3. We should all stop from time to time and evaluate why and how we love.  We need to be sure that it is Godís love that we are expressing and not a humanistic love for the wrong reasons.

 

In verse 11 we note the phrase "being filled with the fruit of righteousness.Ē  The verb tense here is a perfect verb.  That means the filling is a completed action.  We have been filled, completely filled with the fruit of God's righteousness.  When we hand our lives over to Jesus in repentance, and, when we are filled with the Holy Spirit, God views us as being perfectly righteous, not just in what we do but who we are.  That is a Biblical truth that we all need burned into our heads and into our hearts.  That being said, when we receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of righteousness, God's righteousness begins to be worked out in our lives.  The fruit of righteousness is then the works of love that we do because God's righteousness is being worked out in real time in our lives.       

 

These fruits are from Jesus Paul says, who is "the glory and praise of God."  Jesus, both now and while He was on earth, is the exact image of God.  This is what Paul means when he says that Jesus is the glory and praise of God.  When you see Jesus, you see God because they are one and because whatever God does, Jesus does.  Such likeness should begin to be seen in us as well.

 

One mistake I believe Christians make these days is when they think of Jesus, they think of the earthly Jesus who walked the dusty roads of Galilee , but that should not be our mental image of Him.  If you want to see who Jesus is right now in real time, you can read the first chapter of the book of Revelation.  There, Jesus is seen as a mighty warrior, the supreme ruler over all things spiritual and all things material.  This is the Jesus we claim to love and serve.  This is the Jesus, who, by His Spirit lives within the believer.  If we fail to understand this, you fail to be the Christian you claim to be.    

 

 

 

 

Paulís Claims Advance The Gospel  (ch. 1:12-30)

 

In verse 12 Paul said this.  "Now I want you to know brothers."  By saying this he is stressing the point that he wants to make in the next few sentences.  He wants these people to be sure to understand what he is about to say to them.

 

The verb "I want" is a present middle indicative verb.  This means that right now, right as Paul was writing these words, he wanted his readers to certainly both know and have what they know influence their lives.  The middle Greek verb is when the subject of a sentence is both doing the action and also doing the action to itself.   

 

The point he is making is that "the things that have happened to him have served to advance the gospel."  The verb "have happened" is a perfect active indicative verb.  A perfect verb in a sentence is a completed action.  So, whatever has happened to Paul, which most believe was his imprisonment, is a completed action.  Therefore, because of Paul's imprisonment, the gospel was being effectively carried out.  He was leading people to Jesus while in prison.  What a testimony that is.    

 

That being said, Paul could well have had in mind all the things that led up to his imprisonment.   All of these completed things, as bad as they were, had happened to him led him to Rome and to Nero, where he would preach the gospel as was told him in Acts 9.  Many, but I am sure not all, of these things are seen in the book of Acts.

 

Note that some newer translations of the Bible, the CSV being one example inserts the words "and sisters."  That is to say, "I want you to know, brothers and sisters."  It should be known that the word "sisters" is not in the original Greek text.  It has been added.  This is a product of our modern gender neutral and all inclusive cultural correctness.  I am sure that Paul was writing to both men and women, but, I do not think it is necessary to add words to make that clear.  I would suggest that common sense would tell us that Paul is writing to both genders, we do not need translators to tell us that, or so I think.  

 

Despite all of the above that I have just said in the last paragraph I do understand that the Bible needs to be translated from the original languages into the common language of any given culture.  In today's secular culture when gender neutral thinking is becoming the norm, I do understand the need for the insertion of the word "sister,"  However, for my generation that is not necessary.  It is only for the next generation where there would be a lack of understanding if the word "sister" was not inserted into the English text. 

 

Being put in prison for the sake of Jesus was no problem to Paul.  He viewed it as an opportunity to share Jesus.  He also understood that it was Godís will.  In Acts 9:15 God told Paul that he would suffer greatly for the name of Jesus.  That verse also tells us that Paul would preach the gospel to Gentile kings, which most likely, he was about to do.     

 

One cannot say that suffering hardship is always from the devil.  It could well be the will of God. It also does not mean that the one suffering is being punished or disciplined by God.  It also does not mean the one suffering has a lack of faith, as many Hyper Faith preachers suggest is the case with those who suffer today.  It does not mean that the sufferer is outside the will of God either.  That certainly was not the case with Paul.

 

Note the word "palace" in verse 13.  I believe, as many, if not most, believe this was Caesar Nero's palace, especially in light of the believers Paul wrote about in chapter 4:22.  Everyone in and around Caesar's palace knew that Paul was in prison for no other reason than his trust in Jesus.  You may recall that when he was first arrested a few years earlier, no crime as understood by Roman law was committed.  Paul's faith in Jesus was the reason why  the Jews brought him to the Roman court of law.  The court told Paul that he could be free but he would have to appear before the Jews again for a Jewish trial.  He refused on the basis that as a Roman citizen he was arrested and being held as a prisoner illegally.         

 

Note the word "chains" in verse 13.  Some translations use the word "imprisonment," but chains is a better word.  The Greek word "desmos" means chains, or, something that ties a person up.  

 

In verse 14 Paul said that since he was in chains for Jesus, this encouraged his brothers in the Lord to "speak the Word of God more courageously and fearlessly." They saw Paulís strength.  They saw Paul speak the Word of God no matter what situation he was in.  They felt that if Paul could be so devoted to Jesus, they could be too.  Often persecution does just that.  It often strengthens the church instead of destroying the church as it is intended to do.

 

It is such persecution that I believe the western world church is heading for in the future.  Each day that passes, the cultural conflict between a godless culture and the culture of Christ intensifies.  Little by little Christians are suffering in the western world more than ever before.  It will only get worse.  We should prepare for that now and have the same confidence and strength we see in Paul and those to whom he was writing.  This persecution will separate the true believer from the non-believer.  Not all will be strengthened in times of suffering.  Many will fall away from the Lord, if they were really with Him in the first place.      

 

The book of Acts ends with Paul being able to stay in his own rented home while awaiting his trial.  During this time he could not leave the house but many came to him to hear the Word of the Lord.  It is estimated by scholars that up to half of the Jewish leadership came to Paul during this time, and there were seven synagogues in Rome .  This means there were many Jewish leaders and many Jews in the city.

 

In verse 15 Paul said this.  "It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry."  Paul most likely used the words "it is true" because this was being rumored around the country-side, even unto Philippi .

 

Preaching for the wrong reasons that Paul wrote about were based on "envy."  Some preachers must have been envious of Paul, although being in prison, was getting a lot of attention.  For those so-minded, they hate to see others get more attention than themselves. 

 

Others were preaching out of rivalry.  They were in competition with Paul.  Yes, they wanted the attention, but, it appears they wanted more converts to notch on their Biblical belt, so to speak. 

 

Preaching out of rivalry and envy still exists today in the western world church.  Competition between various ministries and churches is alive and well, at least in the western world.  Those Christians in persecuted nations can not afford such sinfulness.    

 

Paul does not end this thought on the negative.  He said that there are some who preach the good news out of "good will."  There are always some, maybe even the majority that preach Jesus out of good motives.  If you read 1 Corinthians 3:10 to 15 you will see that all Christians will experience a form of judgment, an accounting before Jesus at some future point.  This is not the Great White Throne Judgment that we see in Revelation 20:11 and following.  This is a time when we will give account of all we have done in the service of the Lord.  Things we have done out of wrong motives will be burned in the fire of judgment.  Things we have done out of good and pure motives will be rewarded.  Those who preach out of impure motives as we see here in Philippians 1:15 will not be rewarded for their work.      

 

In verse 16 Paul said that those who preach the good news out of good and right motives know that he is in chains for the defense of the gospel and they preach because of the love Jesus and love for those to whom they preach.

 

The Greek word "apologia" is translated here as "defense."  This is where we derive our English word "apologetics." 

 

The Greek word, "agape," meaning "selfless love" is translated as love here.  Paul is saying that some people preach the gospel out of selfless style love, as he himself has done.  If he had not preached out of selfless love, he would probably not been in prison.  A true servant of God expresses selfless love.  This is really the mark of a mature Christian. 

 

Verse 17 tells us that those preaching for the wrong reasons are being selfish.  It is all about self promotion for them.  In the process of promoting themselves and their so-called ministry, they hope to make Paul's life harder for him.  There is no place in the community of believers to cause another Christian or Christian leader to be hurt as these men were doing.  There is no place for selfish ambition, but we see it all of the time.  The modern western world church is full of ministries who are out to promote themselves.  As I have said above, all that these ministries and people do, even if it does some good, will not be rewarded for by Jesus.  All the work done by these self-seeking preachers will be burned in the fires of judgment.     

 

Paul said that those who preach out of wrong motives do so to stir up more trouble for him.  I am not exactly sure what this might look like, but maybe, the more these selfish people preach, the more Nero would be irritated and thus cause Paul, who is already in prison to be harmed more.  

 

Surprisingly enough in verse 18 this whole thing does not really matter to Paul.  He was not worried about it.  He said that as long as Christ is preached, that is the main and important thing.  It is thus clear that those preaching for the wrong reasons are still preaching the true gospel.  There may still be some benefit to others and the sake of the gospel.

 

If these preachers were preaching a wrong gospel, Paul would rebuke them openly as he did to those in his letter to the Galatians.  It appears that these men were preaching the right gospel, but for the wrong reasons. I am sure that Paul would prefer that they preach for the right reason, but at least the right gospel was being preached and maybe not everyone recognized the motives behind their preaching, as is often the case today.

 

The reason why I think those preachers with false motives didn't concern Paul much was because of his present circumstance.  He was under house arrest.  He had an armed guard chained to him at all times.  He was about to appear before Nero's court.  He might well be beheaded in a few weeks or days. I personally think that Paul had more pressing issues to worry about than a few preachers with false motives.

 

Notice that in the NIV the last phrase in verse 18 is included as the first phrase in the sentences that is found in verse 19.  Paul said that "he will continue to rejoice."  He continued to rejoice because he knew that what he has gone through will lead to his deliverance or salvation, meaning salvation through death.  Some translations use the word salvation while others use the word deliverance.  The word deliverance, at least how we understand the word today in relation to the word "salvation" is probably a good word.  Death for Paul would relieve him of all his suffering and bring him into the presence of Jesus.    

 

Paul is not saying that all the time he has spent in jail gets him saved.  He knew that only trusting in Jesus can save him and anyone else.  What he meant here is that all the hardships that have gotten him to this place will be over.   They means something.  They are not for nothing.  Paul believed quite strongly that he will be saved or delivered from the hands of the Romans, one way or the other.  That is to say, he will be released as a free man or die as even a more freer man. 

 

Many scholars believe that Paul was eventually set free and he actually got to go to Spain , as was his desire. Then on the return to Rome from Spain , he was re-arrested and subsequently beheaded.  To see about Paul's desire to go to Spain you can read Romans 15:24 and 28. 

 

We should take note of Paul's attitude here.  Even though some were preaching out of wrong motives that could actually hurt him, he still rejoiced.  Most of us would have gotten very angry and upset.      

 

Notice in verse 19 the reason why Paul felt so confident.  One reason is because of the prayers of these Philippians.  The other reason is because of the Spirit of Jesus who gives him strength, and, maybe in this particular instance, told him that he would in fact be released and go to Spain as he hoped.  Concerning going to Spain you can read Romans 15:24 and 28.     

 

Also notice the phrase "Spirit of Jesus Christ."  Who is the Spirit of Jesus Christ?  The Spirit of Christ is the Holy Spirit.  Here we learn something about the Holy Spirit.  We know Him mostly from all the verses that call Him the Spirit of God, but here and elsewhere. He is called the Spirit of Jesus.  So, the Holy Spirit is the Spirit that comes from Jesus as well as from God.  This speaks to the plural nature of God. 

 

The matter of the doctrine of the Trinity has been a debatable issue for centuries.  It took a couple of hundred years to work this issue through, with some even being killed for their stance on the issue.  Even during the Reformation people were executed for not believing in the Trinity.  There are some Evangelical denominations today that do not believe in the traditional view of the Trinity.   

 

Paul goes on to say in verse 20 that he ďeagerly expects and hopes that he will not be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by deathĒ. 

 

Paulís life was all about exalting Jesus by telling everyone about Him and His salvation.  Much like Jesus, Paul had physical marks in his body because of his association with Jesus.  He had been beaten like Jesus.  He had suffered much hardship.  His body was a living testimony to the fact that He trusted his life with Jesus.   Paul fully expected that this would not change as he stood before the emperor of Rome .  He had lived for Jesus up to this point and he certainly was not going to stop now as he would soon give his testimony of Jesus as he defended himself to Caesar.

 

Many, because of this verse, think Paul expected to be free, and maybe he did.  It might well be that the Spirit of Jesus told him that he would be free to preach in Spain as I have said above.  That being the case, I believe this verse gives us, at least a hint in the back of Paul's mind, that he thought there might be a chance that he would not be set free. 

 

At this point I would like to insert an article I wrote about verse 20. 

 

I have always suggested that the Apostle Paul's ultimate and maybe his most effective witness for Jesus was his execution.  I am sure that he must have felt some emotional and psychological pain from the stress of his soon to be excruciating demise.  He would have obviously experienced some momentary physical pain as the soldier's sword sliced his head from his body, but there had to have been more.  I am also sure that Paul felt the powerful presence of Jesus through it all.  Like Stephen (Acts 7:56) he might have seen Jesus standing at the gate of heaven, with arms wide open, waiting for his arrival into paradise.          

 

I believe Philippians 1:20 is relevant to what I am saying.  "I eagerly expect and hope that in no way will I 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." 

 

Paul's heartfelt hope was to never be ashamed of Jesus.  Whether in life or in death, he would have the courage to exalt the universal supremacy of his Lord and Saviour.  Even more specifically, he believed his body, as the text states, would magnify Jesus in death.  This was no superficial expectation.  Paul wrote these words from a Roman prison cell, most likely waiting for his trial before Nero who would eventually have him beheaded.  He realized that his execution could be immanent.  He understood the seriousness of his situation.    

 

The Greek future passive indicative verb "megalyno" is translated as "exalted" in the phrase "Christ will be exalted in my body, either in life or in death."  This suggests that in no uncertain terms Paul expected his dead body would some day magnify Jesus for all to see.  I, therefore, suggest that the very moment Paul's head fell from his body and onto the ground was his ultimate witness for Jesus.  Paul put his life on the line for His Saviour.  His lifeless exterior form would have exalted Jesus just as much, if not more, than any Holy Spirit inspired message he would have preached. 

 

I have no clue what Paul would have said to the soldier moments before he died.  I imagine he spoke of the love that Jesus had for the man.  I also cannot imagine how the soldier and those who witnessed Paul's execution might have felt.  Maybe those in attendance were so cold-hearted from the routine of such executions that they had no real emotions.  On the other hand, I cannot dispel the notion that Paul's ultimate witness in exalting Jesus had no Holy Spirit inspired influence on those who saw his lifeless body.  I have often wondered how many of these witnesses might have handed their lives over to Jesus after seeing the last chapter of Paul's life's story unfolds before their very eyes.    

 

Paul's life, including his death, is a source of inspiration for us.  Like you and I, he was human.  If he could be so courageous in death, I hope we can be that courageous in life. 

 

I now return to verse 21 where Paul said this.  "For me to live" means that every moment of Paulís life was devoted to Jesus.  You might say that Paul ate, slept, and breathed Jesus.  His whole existence was all about Jesus.  He should be an inspiration to us all.   

 

Paul goes on to say that "to die is gain."  This means that for Paul, death was no big deal.  He, in fact, thought that death was better than living, only, because in death he would meet and live with Jesus throughout eternity.  Paul understood that death could not separate him from the love of God as he said in Romans 8:31 to 39. 

 

So many of us, even as Christians, are afraid to die.  We do not have Paul's mentality.  I suggest the reason for this is our lack of devotion for Jesus, a lack of Biblical understanding, and an unhealthy love of this world.  By saying this, I am not saying we should be walking through our lives id depression, waiting for our escape from this planet.  We should have the mentality that Paul expresses in the following verses.     

 

In verse 22 Paul says that "if he goes on living in the body that will mean fruitful labour for him."  The word "if" here might suggest that even though I think Paul believed he would be set free from prison, he understood the reality that he might not be set free.   

 

Do you see Paulís mentality here?  For Paul,
living meant one thing.  It meant working for Jesus, and doing all he could do to promote the gospel, something he was happy to do.  Paulís view of this life was work, no matter how hard that work was or where it would lead him.  His view of the next life was to receive his eternal rewards for all the hard work he did in this life.  Paul did not have the mentality that says he will have it all now on earth in this lifetime.  His thinking was always doing all he could now and receive his reward later in the next life.

 

In the last half of verse 22 Paul presents himself with a question.  He asks, "What shall I choose?  I do not knowĒ".   He goes on to say that he "is torn between two."  There are two things he really wants and if given the choice he would have a real hard time choosing.  He was admitting that if given the choice, which he really did not have, it would be a difficult choice to make. 

 

One thing that Paul admits to in verse 22 is that if he stayed here on earth, then his work for those to whom Jesus had asked him to care for would be beneficial for them.  He would certainly not hang around id despair, waiting for the day he would leave this planet to be with Jesus.  He would give his life in the service of the Lord.     

 

Verses 23 and 24 tell us what the two things Paul is torn between.  The word "torn" in the NIV is translated from the Greek word "synecho" which means being ripped apart or having a hard time being kept together."  Paul's emotions and thought processes, and I would especially think while in prison, were being torn or ripped in two directions.  The verb "torn" here is a passive voice verb, meaning, an outside influence was ripping him apart.  The outside influence was his work among the believers compared to the glory in heaven.  Once again, we see, or at least I believe we can see, that Paul was a very emotional man.  That being said, I think I can safely say that he did not let his emotions get the better of him.  His intellectual abilities kept him in balance.      

 

Paul said, "I desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is far better."  Paul simply meant that his desire is to die and be with Jesus.  He could not think of anything better than that.  He said that by far that was the better of the two choices.  Again, I wonder if we would come to the same conclusion as Paul.  Maybe we would if we were in a rat infested prison too.

 

Paul is always practical and is always driven by the love of Jesus and so he saw the lost souls that need salvation. He saw his brothers and sisters in Jesus who can use his help.  So, he continued by saying in verse 24, "but it is more necessary for you for me to remain in the body".  The only reason why Paul did not want to die and be with Jesus was those men and women he was helping in the Lord.  These were his brothers and sisters and he wanted to do as much as possible to help them be the Christians they should be.  As usual, we see the servant heart of Paul.  We see that he always thought of the other people first.  This is true agape, selfless, love.  

 

Verse 25 begins with the words "I am convinced of this."  If you saw indecision in Paulís thinking in the last couple of verses, he wants to leave you with the thought that he is not an indecisive person.  He tells his readers that he is convinced that he will remain and continue on his work for "their progress and joy."   This tells me that Paul believed, even though he understood the reality of things, has was convinced that he would win his trial before Nero and be set free.   

 

In verses 25 and 26 we see that Paul had hopes of seeing these Philippians again.  He said "so that through my being with you."  If he said these words, he surely believed he would be with these people again.  Then once he is with these people "their joy in Christ will overflow because of him."  Notice the joy spoken of here is joy as a result Paul's ministry.  This joy was not a superficial happiness as many might think today.  Paul said that this joy was in Christ.  This must mean that Jesus provides a special joy, a joy that is not attainable apart from Him.  Jesus' joy will overflow according to Paul.  This tells me that Jesus' joy is infectious.  It is contagious.  When you exhibit Jesus' joy, it will surely rub off on others around you. 

 

In verse 27 Paul said this.  "Whatever happens conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel."   The words "whatever happens" suggest to me that Paul might think there is a slight chance that he will not be released from prison.  If for some reason he doesnít get to Philippi , this should not change his reader's resolve to live a holy life as the gospel demands of them to live.

 

In Greek, the verb "conduct yourselves" is a middle voice verb.  This suggests that as these people give themselves to the gospel the gospel will have an effective influence on their lives.   

 

Paul then said whether he gets to see them or not he will be happy because they will be doing as they should, whether he is there or not.  Paulís presence in Philippi should not change anything.  They should be living for Jesus whether Paul is with them or not.  Nothing should change their resolve to live and serve Jesus.  

 

We should note here that Paul did not feel that the good health of these Christians solely depends on him.  He knew that in the long run they were responsible to the Lord themselves on an individual basis for their good health as Christians.

 

Notice what things Paul expected these people to be doing.  They should be standing firm together "in one spirit" and as in "one man" as they "contend for the faith of the gospel."  The word "contend" is translated from a Greek word that means "to strive together."  The words "one spirit, one man, and strive together" tell me that the work these people must do in the service of the Lord is a corporate work.  They serve Jesus together as one unified body of people, something that is sadly lacking in today's church.

 

We are all individual people, with individual likes and dislikes; with individual callings and functions in the body of Christ, and with different thought process and ways of thinking.  With this in mind I do not believe Paul is talking about thinking alike on every little doctrinal issue.  He must be thinking in terms of vision, in terms of how they live out the gospel in the service of the Lord.  It sure would be nice for us all to agree on every little point, but reality tells me that will never happen in this life.          

 

In verse 28 Paul said, "without being frightened by those who oppose you."  Christians in those days had many enemies who were back by an ungodly state.  They had good reason to fear, at least in the human sense of the word, but Paul said that there is no real reason to fear.  He surely was not fearing, even at the point of death, because his ultimate goal was to be with Jesus in person.  Death would get him to that goal.

 

Our western world culture is beginning to head in the same direction as the culture in which Paul and these people lived.  Some of us may live to see Christian persecution in the western world, something we have not seen to any real extent.  

 

Paul said that the fight these believers were having with their opposition was actually a sign to everyone that the unbeliever would be destroyed and the Christian would be saved.  First of all we clearly see that the unbeliever in Paulís thinking would be destroyed.  This is eternal punishment or eternal destruction.  Many in this day in age do not believe in eternal punishment.  They believe in a limited time of punishment, but in the end, they will be saved.  Others believe in what they call eternal death.  This means that the unbeliever will simply  not exist in any way, shape, or form.  I do not believe either of these views to be Scriptural.  The Bible clearly tells us that the Lake of Fire is eternal punishment.  I view eternal destruction as always in the process of being destroyed without ever being destroyed. 

 

Paul said that not being frightened by anything an unbeliever can do to you is actually a sign to the unbeliever.  I would suggest that if someone was afraid of anything an unbeliever could do to you, that would tell the unbeliever that you actually had doubts about your faith.  If you were not afraid, that might well cause them to think twice about their actions.  It might well make them think that what you stand for is right.  

 

As I've said, Paul said that this struggle is a "sign" of destruction for the unbeliever yet a "sign" of salvation for the believer.  The word sign here means "an indication, a showing, and a pointing to."  This struggle indicates that there are eternal matters at war here, something that both Paul and the Philippians saw, but their enemy cannot see.  This struggle then should be viewed in a positive light because it indicates they are on the right track and salvation will eventually come. 

 

Verse 29 tells the whole story about the first century Christian.  It says, "for it has been granted unto you on the behalf of Christ not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for Him."  These may not seem like happy words.  They may not seem like the good news of salvation that Paul preached, but it was a part of the first century gospel and Christian experience.  The gospel these men preached was not a gospel of get saved, live happily ever after on earth and then go to Heaven.  The gospel included serving Jesus, which in those days meant a good measure of suffering. 

 

Paul tells the Philippians that they werenít just called by Jesus in order to believe in Him. The use of the word ďbehalfĒ tells us that Jesus has called us to do certain things on His behalf.  We represent Him on earth because He is not here to represent Himself.  As we represent Him, we may suffer hardship because the world does not want to hear or do what we have to say. 

 

In our western world, as we move away from the Christian influenced heritage we once had, we will find ourselves in the same position as the first century Christian.  We should not let that surprise us when it happens.

 

The last phrase in chapter 1 tells us that
the Philippian believers are now experiencing what Paul has and is experiencing in their fight for the gospel.  So, they are not simply brothers in the faith, but brothers in the fight. 

 

 

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