Philippians: The Epistle of Joy – Looking at 1:1-18

Here’s the video introduction to this week’s Bible Study

Philippians 1

Philippians is also known as the epistle of joy. Paul wrote this while he was in prison. I believe it was while he was in prison in Rome during his first imprisonment. Two other possibilities are the imprisonment in Caesarea or even the second imprisonment before Paul was executed. There is some discussion as to whether or not this is one letter or three different letters combined. I’ll look at that more in-depth in future weeks. This week, though, we’ll begin looking at the first half of Philippians 1. I’ll be using the King James Version mainly due to copyright issues, but will allude to other translations at times. So, get your Bible, your notebook, your computer, and your thinking cap. Don’t take my word for anything. Check this out with other sources. I reserve the right to be wrong and/or hold a different opinion on that which can’t be proven.

  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:

The letter begins with a simple introduction. We’re used to letters ending with the signature at the end. Ancient Greek letters began with the name of the sender. It would be much like a phone call today when the caller says, “Hi, this is Bob James. I’m trying to find so and so.” Paul notes that he and Timothy are servants of Jesus Christ. The word for servant here (doulos) is the word used for a slave in ancient Rome. He noted that the believers in Philippi were saints – those set apart for God. These were the ordinary Christians, not people who had achieved some great spiritual victories. Still, maintaining faith in the face of Roman persecution could be considered a great victory. Paul then included the bishops and deacons: the leaders of the church. Everyone was part of the church and included in the message.

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

Paul loved the idea of unity between Jews and Gentiles in the Church. This greeting contains the greetings of the Greeks (charis) with the mention of grace and the Jews (shalom) with the call of peace. Both grace and peace are found through God.

  1. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4. Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, 5. For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

This passage is why I call this the epistle of joy. As Paul prayed for the Philippians, he had nothing but thanks for how God had used them in his life. He made requests for the church not out of a grudging sense of obligation, but with joy since they had kept strong in their faith in the gospel since the day they heard the good news of Jesus Christ.

  1. 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:

This is one of my favorite verses. Whenever we have an ordination service, those who are ordained pass by and whisper a prayer or words of encouragement. Before I pray, I always utter these words. What has begun in us, is a good work, God began it, and He will continue working in us until the end of our time, whether that be natural death or the Second Coming. This verse reminds me that I’m not perfect yet, nor is anyone else. Because of that, I need to be patient with myself and with others. I’m confident in the God who does the work in me.

  1. 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.

Every parent says, “I don’t have a favorite child. I love all my children equally.” If Paul were to say that about the churches he founded, he would add, “…but ya gotta admit, that Philippian church has been with me through thick and thin.” We’ll see that Epaphroditas was the one carrying this letter back to the Philippians. The church sent him, along with a financial offering, to support Paul in his imprisonment. They were one of the few churches that continued to support Paul throughout his ministry. But it wasn’t the financial consideration that made Paul love them, it was their defense and confirmation of the gospel in the face of persecution. The lived with the grace of God guiding them in all they did. While we would use the idea of “heart” rather than “bowels” today, Paul made it clear that he thought of the Phihlippian church with great favor.

  1. And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ. 11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

As Paul prayed for them, he prayed for growth in their love, knowledge, and judgment. Would that as we live each day we would continue to grow closer to Christ. Part of that growth comes from love, God’s love (agape). As we grow closer to God and increase in His love, it will cause us to gain more knowledge. We’ll see things through God’s eyes of love. It will allow us to judge as God would judge – recognizing right and wrong and extending grace to those who’ve done wrong. As we experience His righteousness in Christ, it compels us to acts that show our relationship with him. (see Matthew 25) If we aren’t involved in such acts, if we aren’t ministering to others with the love and grace of God, and witnessing to His glory and grace through those actions, we’re revealing that our relationship with God is lacking.

  1. But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; 13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; 14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Paul saw the big picture in regards to his imprisonment. He might have been in jail, but he recognized that because of his time in jail, people were entering into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. The gospel was being advanced. It gives pause to think here, but what would you be willing to undergo if it meant that more people would enter into a relationship with God through Jesus. Paul was no ordinary prisoner because people around the palace talked about him. People knew who he was and why he was in prison. I have no doubt that those living in the palace got into discussions about whether or not Paul should be executed. People in the palace saw a man who wasn’t broken by the prison experience, but one who used his position in chains to advocate that others adopt the relationship with God that put him into chains.

At the same time, many other followers of Christ looked at Paul and realized that although he was a prisoner because of his faith, he didn’t falter. He grew stronger even. When they realized that, they realized that they could preach the good news about Jesus without fear of the consequences. After all, what was the worst anyone could do to them? If Paul could preach with such confidence knowing that death awaited him for his faith, they realized that death itself could not deter them. They preached more boldly when they realized that.

  1. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16. The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17. But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.

Some looked at Paul’s stay in prison as an opportunity to build their own reputation and enrich themselves. Perhaps their envy and strife came from their desire to be seen as the most important man in the early days of the church. They thought as they became more well-known, it would cause Paul agony as he saw them rise to prominence in the church. Others preached sincerely out of love. Perhaps they thought that as the authorities realized that more people were coming to Christ, they’d be afraid to buck the newfound popular opinion and release Paul. They preached hoping it would aid Paul in his defense of the gospel before Nero.

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

Paul didn’t care why people preached the gospel, he rejoiced that people were hearing the gospel and turning to Christ. He recognized that main thing: the people who heard the good news of Jesus and turned to Him would experience the joy of eternal life. Paul didn’t have an ego problem. He didn’t care who got credit when people came to Christ. The main thing for him was that people came into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ and grew in that relationship to become stronger in their faith.

I’m stopping here for this week. I’ve included the readings from January 1 – 11 if you want to read through the Bible this year. (Next article on Sat Jan. 11) It’s important to remember as you read that you are reading to hear from God, not just put a check on the to do list. As you spend that time with Him, your relationship will develop a little bit more each day.


About rockyfort

I am a retired Middle School Teacher. I share each day what God is teaching me from reading His word hoping that people can benefit from reading what God has taught me.
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