This letter that Paul wrote to the Philippian congregation reflects the love which they enjoyed one for another. Though Paul is in prison and about to die, he rejoices before God in the mutual bond of love which prevailed as the gospel of Christ was preached to them and others.
BRIEF OUTLINE OF THE LETTER
1.The introduction (Phil. 1:1, 2). Paul refers to Timothy as being with him in Rome and includes him in sending the greeting. A reason for this is indicated in Philippians 2:19 where Paul expresses his intent to send Timothy to Philippi, perhaps with Epaphroditus on his return. He refers to his relationship with Christ as “servant” in distinction from “apostle” as he commonly did. There were times when great doctrinal issues or matters of Christian life had to be settled by Paul’s letter, hence Paul referred to his office as apostle at such times. In this epistle Paul does not deal with such doctrinal or spiritual differences, rather he writes as a spiritual father and reminds them he is the “slave” of Christ. This is the only time that Paul included the bishops (elders, with emphasis on their office as overseers) and deacons in the address. They had all participated in the works of love which they showed to Paul. He bestows upon them the grace and peace from God through Christ Jesus.
2.Paul expresses prayer and thanksgiving for the Philippians (Phil. 1:3-11). In his prayer he both thanks God for them and makes request for them (Phil. 1:3, 4). The thanks is for the fellowship in the gospel which is so strong that Paul is confident that God will make it perfect in the coming of Jesus Christ. They are partakers of the grace of God given by the gospel as it was preached by Paul. This draws Paul to them, for he has them in his heart and longs for them in the bowels (tender mercies) of Christ (Phil. 1:5-8). The request is that their love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and judgment. Note here that love is not a feeling; it is the power whereby the saint takes hold of the knowledge of the gospel and then makes good judgments, decisions. They will then approve right things and be without offense, being filled with good works to God’s glory (Phil. 1:9-11).
3. Paul places his suffering in spiritual perspective (Phil. 1:12-30). He explains that even his imprisonment in Rome has furthered the spread of the gospel and not hindered it. First, he has had opportunity to preach in the prison. Paul was probably chained to a soldier who had to listen to Paul preach when others visited him. This soldier and other guards showed interest and thus the word spread in the prison itself (Phil. 1:12, 13). Secondly, the gospel was also preached in the city of Rome. The people and pastors became more bold when they saw that Paul was bold, and they spoke of the glorious gospel of Christ (Phil. 1:14). Paul makes a statement about how the gospel was preached by some, even “of envy and strife.” We understand this to mean that some preached the true gospel motivated by the desire to stir up opposition against Paul. They had an evil motive. Paul does not lash out against them; he glories in the fact that, even if they have a wrong motive, Christ is preached, and that is the important thing (Phil. 1:15-18). He declares his readiness to live or die for the sake of Christ. If Paul must die, he knows he is saved and even martyrdom will be better for the glory of God and his own final salvation. He does recognize that he has much work to do on earth and, if God wills, he desires to serve the church on earth so that they may continue to rejoice in God by his presence (Phil. 1:19-26). He encourages them to live worthy of the gospel and understand that it was given to them not only to believe but also to suffer for Christ’s sake (Phil. 1:27-30).
4. The apostle exhorts the church at Philippi to follow the example of Christ (Phil. 2:1-18). This means that they must possess one mind and be united together (Phil. 2:1, 2). This mind is characterized by lowliness, humility which considers others (Phil. 2:3, 4). For an example, they may well turn to Christ Who was equal with God, but Who did not let that be the goal of His earthly ministry. Rather, Christ took on Himself our human nature and obeyed as a servant, even unto the death of the cross. In turn, God exalted Him far above all creatures, and all of them are obligated to worship Him unto the glory of God (Phil. 2:5-11). If they will have that mind, they will obey God by working out their salvation, and thus accomplish the purpose God intended. They will shine as lights in the world of darkness. In this way Paul’s purpose in life will be fulfilled (Phil. 2:12-18).
5. Paul explains his intention to send Timothy and Epaphroditus to them (Phil. 2:19-30). In this way, Timothy will be able to learn of their state and report back to Paul. He was qualified for this task for he was like a son to Paul (Phil. 2:19-23). Paul expressed hope that he would be able to come to them personally (Phil. 2:24). He mentioned that, by his sending Epaphroditus back to them, they may be assured that that brother is recovered from his sickness and may be at peace (Phil. 2:25-30).
6. The apostle glories in the gospel of righteousness by faith, not in the righteousness of the law (Phil. 3:1-21). They are reminded that dogs (false prophets) are present who glory in flesh (circumcision) and in keeping of the law unto righteousness (Phil. 3:1-3). Though Paul would have earthly reasons to boast in his flesh, he has abandoned this and instead has focused his faith on the righteousness of Christ. He lists those reasons whereby he could glory in flesh: 1. Circumcised on the eighth day (reared in a good Jewish home). 2. Of the stock of Israel (full-blooded, not a half-breed). 3. Of the tribe of Benjamin (Benjamin was the son of Jacob and Rachel, his favored wife who died in childbirth with Benjamin. Jacob called him the son of his right hand. The first king, Saul, came from this tribe). 4. Hebrew of the Hebrews (highest rank in the religious life of Israel). 5. Pharisee (conservative in religious zeal to do good by the keeping of the written law not only, but also traditions). 6. Paul led in persecuting the Christians (a demonstration of his zeal as a Jew). 7. Touching righteousness in the law, blameless (not that Paul did no wrong, but when he did wrong, he made proper sacrifice to satisfy the law) (Phil. 3:4-6). Yet, Paul counts all this loss for Christ. The only righteousness before God is that which Christ accomplished on the cross when He paid for our sins and met the demands of the law. This is verified by the resurrection of Christ from the dead (Phil. 3:7-11). This doctrine does not lead to carelessness; rather it motivated Paul and all saints to press on for the high calling which is in Christ Jesus. Those who yield to the sinful lusts of the flesh and continue in sin are enemies of the cross. The saints’ conversation is heavenly; it comes from heaven and returns to heaven, and when Christ comes again it will be made perfect in heaven (Phil. 3:12-21).
7. Final admonitions (Phil. 4:1-9). They are exhorted to stand fast and follow Paul: “those things which ye have both learned and received and heard and seen in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:9). This has special meaning for Euodias and Syntyche that they be of the same mind. They evidently had some differences not essential to the faith, for neither of them is reprimanded for their error (Phil. 4:2). Paul made reference to his true “yokefellow.” He is not identified by name, so we do not know who he had in mind. He also included Clement, another laborer with Paul (Phil. 4:3). They are to rejoice always no matter what the circumstances (Phil. 4:4), be moderate in all things (Phil. 4:5), not worry, but by prayer and supplication bring all their needs to God so the peace of God may keep their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6, 7). Finally they are to think upon virtuous things: things which are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Phil. 4:8).
8. Conclusion of this letter (Phil. 4:10-23). Paul expresses joy in their care shown bPhil. 4:9). This has special meaning for Euodias and Syntyche that they be of the same mind. They evidently had some differences not essential to the faith, for neither of them is reprimanded for their error (Phil. 4:2). Paul made reference to his true “yokefellow.” He is not identified by name, so we do not know who he had in mind. He also included Clement, another laborer with Paul (Phil. 4:3). They are to rejoice always no matter what the circumstances (Phil. 4:4), be moderate in all things (Phil. 4:5), not worry, but by prayer and supplication bring all their needs to God so the peace of God may keep their hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:6, 7). Finally they are to think upon virtuous things: things which are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report (Phil. 4:8).
8. Conclusion of this letter (Phil. 4:10-23). Paul expresses joy in their care shown by sending Epaphroditus to him in Rome (Phil. 4:10). This joy is not based upon things, for Paul learned contentment in any state. With Christ’s strength, he can bear all things (Phil. 4:11-17). Rather, his joy is in the spiritual work of God that produced this gift and such action is fruit to their account (Phil. 4:14-18). He adds as a closing benediction that God will supply all their needs. He and the saints with him salute the church at Philippi. This includes the saints of Caesar’s household. He then pronounces the grace of our Lord upon them (Phil. 4:19-23).
1.The letter is personal and warm-hearted. Paul wrote “I” some fifty-two times, far more than usual.
2.2. Doctrinal teaching is limited, though it includes the great passage on the incarnation of our Lord (Phil. 2:5-8).
3.3. The theme of joy is referred to some nineteen times in this letter.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What do we know about the church at Philippi. How was it organized? Refer to some of the members.
2. Show from this letter that Paul loved this church and that they loved Paul, dearly.
3. The Philippians showed their love for Paul by sending him monetary gifts. Is the same thing true today, i.e., do gifts express love?
4. Paul expressed loving tenderness (see Phil. 2:2; Phil. 4:1). Should we be more expressive of our love for each other in the church today? Should this include telling each other how much we love each other?
5. Paul was in prison and he was ready to die if the Lord will that. He realized life and death were not determined by man but by God. Phil. 1:8; Philippians 1:21expresses, “for me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” How is this different from fatalism?
7. How do we explain the loyalty of Timothy described in Phil. 2:20-22?
8. How do we learn to be content (see Phil. 4:11)?
9. Was Paul boasting in Phil. 4:13 when he said that he could do all things through Christ Who strengthened him?
10. How would we relate Phil. 1:16-18 to our day? This speaks of rejoicing whether Christ is preached in pretence or truth.