Philippians Philippians        

A Bible Study

Introduction  11,2
Thanksgiving and Prayer  13-11
Prison - Another Way to Proclaim Christ!  112-30
Humility or Selfish Ambition ?  21-11
Work Out Your Salvation  212-18
Confidence in Christ, not in Circumcision  31-11
Pressing on Towards the Goal  312 - 41
Harmony or War?  42,3
Good Advice for Righteous Living  44-9
Giving and Receiving  410-20
Finally  421-23

Introduction  11,2       [Contents]

Written when Paul was under house arrest, probably in Rome in 61 AD
Primarily a letter of thanks for the gift they had sent him.
It is a joyful letter - uses the word 'joy' 16 times.
      He sang in the Philippian jail and now he was still singing in Rome.
Philippi was a Roman colony with insufficient Jews for a synagogue. Act 1612
      Paul makes no direct quotes from the OT.
Written to all the saints in Christ Jesus ... 11
      Emphasis of title 'saints' is derived from fact they were 'in Christ Jesus',
            not from individual moral purity (though this should be the resulting life.)
His desire for them was grace and peace from God our Father ...  12

Thanksgiving and Prayer  13-11       [Contents]

Paul had good cause to be grateful for what God had done in Philippi.
      Lydia and her household had responded to the gospel and were baptised.
      Also a fortune-telling slave girl was delivered of her demons;
            the loss of income caused a riot.
      Paul and Silas were imprisoned, but at midnight God shook the jail.
            The Jailer believed the truth of Jesus and was saved.  Act 1613-40
            It was out of such experiences that he could truthfully write,
                  all things work together for good to them that love God.  Ro 828 (KJV)
      He was also in Philippi during Passover on his 3rd missionary journey.  Act 206
      He prayed for the church there often, and with heartfelt thanks.
            Though he had suffered in that city, their salvation brought him much joy.
He was glad for their partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.  15
      And assured them that they could be confident of this,
            that he who began a good work in you
            will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
      Note that it was God who began the work, and God would also complete it.
            Jn 639-44  Ro 829-39  Eph 113  Heb 725

Paul shows that his own situation in no way detracted from his concern for them.
      I have you in my heart ...
            I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
      His love for them genuine and true; not just because they had sent him gifts.

What was Paul's desire for this young church? What were their greatest needs?
He prayed that:

your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight  19
      Love is more than just emotion, it's firm foundation is the revelation of Jesus.
            His life and love within that changes my heart to be like his.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  1Co 134-8
            This is the love Paul sought for the church. (So do we today.)
      True love in the immediate 'now' of life also needs faithfulness,
            never losing sight of the big picture, the long term view.

you may be able to discern what is best  110a
      Who but Christ can reveal this?
      The pursuit of excellence in all fields is a rare and beautiful treasure.
      Behold God's creation !! His creation of the world, and also his nature in us.
      In the many complex personal situations 'what is best' is our prayer too -
            for ourselves and for others. It is the counsellors' consistent prayer.

you may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ  110b
      Today the earnest quest for holiness is at a low ebb.
      Sex before marriage is normal even for Christian youth. Very few wait.
            Many never even bother with marriage.
                  And even within marriage some are unfaithful.
      Purity also includes general honesty and truthfulness, business ethics ...
            How much can you trust a man's word?
            Do we like to pretend or deceive others to think we are what we aren't?
            Am I blameless and transparent, reliable and honest even when it costs?
            How willing am I to confess my sins to God and others?
            Only through repentance and faith in Christ can we become pure.
            He knows absolutely everything we do and what we think.
                  May my every sin be covered by the blood of Jesus,
                      and may I thus be able to stand forgiven and blameless before him.

be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.  111a
      Almighty God looks for righteousness and justice on earth. Is 57
            But it is rare.
            In the Lord alone are righteousness and strength.  Is2544
            The day has come, and will come when the Lord will raise up to David
                  a righteous Branch.
Jer 235
            In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety.
            This is the name by which it will be called:
            The Lord Our Righteousness.
  Jer 3316
            The natural nature of fallen man is anything but righteous;
                  only the Lord can, and does, change our nature into his.
                  Then the earth can see the fruit of God's work in us.
            May we treasure this precious gift of our gracious God.

to the glory and praise of God.  111b
      The goal of his prayer was to transform the Philippians to be like Jesus;
            but the ultimate goal was always to further the glory of God.
It was to swell the great multitude in heaven that continually praise God.
            They cried out in a loud voice:
                  "Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb."
            All the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders
                  and the four living creatures. They fell down on their faces
                  before the throne and worshipped God, saying:
                  "Amen! Praise and glory and wisdom and thanks and honour and power
                  and strength be to our God for ever and ever. Amen!"
  Rev 710-12
            What a day that will be.

Prison - Another Way to Proclaim Christ!  112-30       [Contents]

Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.  112

Those who confined Paul did not want the Gospel of salvation through Christ
      to be broadcast to anyone, but God had other plans:
1.  As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard. 113
      They would never have heard unless he had been put in prison.
      God's best plans are often costly - remember what it cost his Son.
            Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.'
            If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also.
  Jn 1520

2.  Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.  114
      His example greatly encouraged the church to evangelise.
            It emphasised the need for all men to hear, believe and be saved.

Some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, ... out of selfish ambition ...  115-17
      Did they want power and the ability to control others?
      Were they jealous of Paul.
His reaction is surprising:
      But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way,
            whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.
      Trouble comes when not only the motive is false, but Christ is not preached,
            or his gospel is distorted (as it was by some in Ephesus.  Act 2028-31)

Paul was willing to die for the Gospel to be preached.
      What has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.  119
      His deliverance would be both escape from the wickedness of this earth,
            and his personal release from sin and its punishment by Christ.
Both his motive and his message was true - and he did surrender his life.
      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.
Let us never be ashamed of Christ, but likewise proclaim him whenever possible.
        If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed
            of him when he comes in his glory.
  Lu 926
These verses are summed up by his enduring statement of principle:
      For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.  121
      He then explains this.
            If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me.
            Yet ... I desire to depart and be with Christ.
            Whatever happens,
                  conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
            This may well include following Paul's example of being persecuted.
            For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ
                  not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.
            The first part that only concerns believing is a glorious privilege,
                  but are we willing for the second part that includes suffering?
            Paul and Peter did not complain about their many sufferings.
                  See 2Co 1122-28 where Paul 'boasts' of his multiple trials for Christ.
                  Also Peter's instruction:
Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.  1Pe 412,13

Humility or Selfish Ambition ?  21-11       [Contents]

The Christian life is about:
      Being united with Christ
      Fellowship with the Spirit
      Tenderness and compassion.
There is thus no room for selfish ambition or vain conceit.  23
      Our objective must be to look after the interests of others, not just ourselves.
      As always we should strive to be like Christ, our Saviour:
      He did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
            but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant
.  26,7
      Though he was God, he was willing to become a man.
      And suffer not only the human restrictions, he humbled himself
            and became obedient to death - even death on a cross!
      He did this not just a selfless example, but to be our Redeemer.
            Justice requires capital punishment for our sin.
            Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.  Heb 922
            Only the perfect Christ could do this - and he did so, willingly.
      Such action was a million miles from selfish ambition or vain conceit.

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.  29-11

The compassionate humility of Jesus is not without reward;
      in every respect it is far higher than the brief accolade of men.
He is now King of kings and Lord of lords and on his are many crowns.  Rev 1916,12
Never forget that for a time on earth he willingly became 'a suffering servant'.
      It was all part of the creation plan - the fall of man was no surprise to God;
            he knew it would happen before he created time!
            He knew what the cost of our salvation would be, and thought it worthwhile.
You crowned him with glory and honour and put everything under his feet ... Yet at present we do not see everything subject to him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honour because he suffered death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.  Heb 27-9
      How we long for the day when all men will be subject to him,
            and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord - Creator and Saviour.
      Almighty God is so patient.

Work Out Your Salvation  212-18       [Contents]

Therefore ... 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.  212,13

A Falmouth Salvation Army Captain summed this up in 1970 when he said,
      "Work out what God has worked in."
Being a Christian is not easy in a wicked world, it remains a battle to the end.
      It requires grit, determination, courage and complete dependancy upon God.
      Do not allow assured faith to become presumption.
      Do not follow Christian over the style into By-Path-Meadow,
            it led to Doubting Castle. (The Pilgrim's Progress)
It is vital to know the good purpose of God for our lives.
      Be ready to change, even in older years;
            God's plan can take surprising, unexpected turns.

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.  214-16

Do not complain or argue.
Be pure and blameless.
Paul also lived in a day that was crooked and depraved.
      It is no new phenomena.
Be prepared to be different, ridiculed, isolated - shine like stars in the night sky.
Hold and apply the Word of God, always.

Sometimes this may be costly.
Paul was in prison in Rome because he was determined to present the Gospel.
      He rejoiced. He did not complain.
      It meant that the Roman captors also heard the truth about Jesus;
It probably reminded them of how the Philippian Jailer was saved
      when Paul and Silas rejoiced and sang in jail. Act 1625-34
Do not allow adversity, or even injustice, to depress us.
      Almighty God will bring good out of it.
      Sing to the Lord, you saints of his; praise his holy name. ...
      Weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.
  Ps 305

Pray for those who are passing through hard times for the name of Jesus.
They need the promised courage and strength of the Lord Almighty within them.

Paul wanted to send Timothy, his best fellow-worker, to Philippi.
      I have no-one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.  220
      He had proved himself ... in the work of the gospel.  222
He also intended to send back Epaphroditus,
      who had almost died for the work of Christ.  230
Such was Paul's love and determination for the growth of the church in Philippi.

Confidence in Christ, not in Circumcision  31-11       [Contents]

Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord!  31
There is another finally in 48
This one relates to the last major purpose of the letter - a warning.
Rejoice in the Lord, what he has done, not what we have done.
      Zealous Jews considered it wrong to associate with uncircumcised Gentiles.
      When Gentile Christians joined the church of believing Jews, they presumed
            it important that they should be circumcised as well as baptised.
Paul lists his Jews credentials:
      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 righteousness, faultless.  35,6
      But, and it is a vital 'but', until Christ appeared to him on the Damascus road,
            he was not saved, indeed he persecuted the church.
      All his old credentials were worthless regarding his salvation.
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.  37-9
Thus he warns the Philippians to Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh.
32  (who insist upon circumcision of believers)

Paul's desire for himself and the church was simply this:
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection
      and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings.

The Galatians also had a problem with what Jewish laws should be observed.
Today we have similar problems with church tradition, clothes, behaviour etc.
      Some is good and helpful, but only Christ is essential for salvation.
Sorting the wheat from the chaff was not easy then, or now.

Pressing on Towards the Goal  312 - 41       [Contents]

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.  312

Where are we heading? What is our goal in this life?
Has Jesus taken hold of me? Who controls who I am and what I do?
We need to know God's purpose for our life now;
      we may have both chart and compass and GPS,
      but the next way-point needs to be known.
Paul knew why God had so dramatically taken hold of him,
      and he was determined to fulfill his part in taking the gospel to the Gentiles,
      to lay good foundations for the church,
      and for himself to press on to be conformed to the likeness of Jesus.  Ro 829
  The goal of Christlikeness begins with honesty and a sense of dissatisfaction.

            My goal is God himself, not joy, nor peace,
            Nor even blessing, but himself, my God:
            'Tis his to lead me there, not mine, but his,
            At any cost, dear Lord, by any road!

Forgetting what is behind and straining towards what lies ahead, I press on  313

There are times and things to forget ...
      Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  Is 4318
      Old sins that God has forgiven.
      Wrong decisions, what might have been, if only ... , opportunities lost ...
      To constantly remember achievements can easily lead to pride.

And there are also things to remember ...
      Remember this and never forget how you provoked the Lord your God to anger in the desert.  Deut 97
            (40 years wandering for refusing to repent of rebellion.)
      But they deliberately forget that long ago by God's word the heavens existed
and the earth was formed out of water and by water.
  2Pe 35
      Always remember God's word, his covenants, his commands, his grace.

Older folk often spend too much time reminiscing on the past;
      the future can seem daunting, uncertain, complicated, maybe painful.
      But remember God is faithful, his love and care will never fail.
      Press on - The future with Christ is certain, eternal and complete joy.

Paul tells us why he is so eager to fulfil his evangelistic mission:
      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.
      How much do we care about the destiny of unbelievers?
      In the UK only a few are enemies of the cross, most are indifferent;
            they have no appreciation of what Jesus has done for us, or why.
            Many leaders by supporting abortion, gay marriage, evolution, Islam etc
                  do not realise that their wickedness makes them enemies of Christ.
            It is not their stomach that drives them but desire for popularity.
            This is probably the greatest weakness of democracy as a political system.
      Carelessness about our eternal destiny will prove disastrous.

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Saviour 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.  320,21

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.  Heb 927,28

This is our longing and sure expectation.
Christ will fulfil all that he has promised.

Therefore, my brothers ... that is how you should stand firm in the Lord.  41

Confidence in Christ is never misplaced, even if it becomes costly in an evil world.
      Let us thus stand firm in what he has written and revealed and done.
      Do not allow any doubt to destroy our faith in Christ when times are hard.

Harmony or War?  42,3       [Contents]

Euodia and Syntyche were two prominent women in Philippi.
      Their quarrelling was destroying the Christian witness.
      Paul pleads with them to work in harmony.
            He does not take sides or even tell us what was causing the problem.
This was not the first time personal differences have divided a Church;
      nor sadly has it been the last. These two verses need attention.

Good Advice for Righteous Living  44-9       [Contents]

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  44
      We rejoice because Jesus has borne the death penalty we deserve,
            he has saved, he is changing our fallen nature,
            he is revealing his truths written in scripture,
            we know his daily presence,
            Almighty God who created all things loves us!
                  and he has promised us eternal life ...
      The list is endless - all the great and small things he has done
            and goes on doing for us in his grace.
            Stories old and new of God's hand upon man.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 45
      As God has been so kind and gentle with us, so we must be to others.
      Gentleness includes mercy, patience, humility.
      It challenges both the competitive spirit and the thirst for power.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with
      thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
      Natural anxiety and fear are hard to overcome especially in difficult days.
      Anxiety not just ourselves, but for others in difficulty and sickness.
      Disquiet as we see the church discard the distinct commands of God.
      Forebodings as our government encourages wickedness and greed.
      This instruction by Paul probably does not include fear of God's judgement.
      Let us strive to overcome anxiety by knowing God's concern for all our life.
            Whatever happens he remains faithful, his Word true and his arm strong.
      How we think is vital.  (see 48 below)

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
      will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
      The peace of God is not dependent on human logic or even experience,
            but on the faithful love and power of the Lord Almighty.
      He can, and will, guard our emotions and our thinking in all circumstances.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.  48
How and what we think has a huge effect upon our lives.
      True, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, praiseworthy ...
How many newspaper editors, TV producers, book authors, politicians
      heed these wise words of scripture? Not many - and not very often.

We must also set a time to consider our failings, our sin, and repent.
We must also think and be aware of the world's deceptions and evil intent,
      and do all we can to oppose and expose it.
We cannot ignore the needs of others. Such thoughts are not comfortable.
But there is much time when our thoughts are not so directed, they are 'free'.
      At such moments let us move our thoughts and attitude as Paul instructs.
Let us try earnestly to fill our minds with the good and wise Word of God.
      And the God of peace will be with you.  49

Giving and Receiving  410-20       [Contents]

Paul was in a delicate situation.
He was grateful for their gifts, now and previously, but his needs were small.
      How could he tell them without seeming either rude or ungrateful?
He is grateful they took the opportunity to show their renewed concern.
He is grateful that they were willing to share in my troubles.
He is grateful that in the early days they were the only church that helped him.
He is glad that God was also pleased with their fragrant offering.
He assures them that God
      will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.  419
He also tells them:
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.  411-13
I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent.  418
His suitable conclusion:
      To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.  420

Finally  421-23       [Contents]

Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. ... All the saints send you greetings.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen
.  421-23