Philippians 1:1-11 Apologetics To The Glory Of God.
Paul had a partner in Timothy. Together they were “bondservants of Jesus Christ” (v. 1). This is the nature of Christian leadership-being called to serve. No one is left out of their concern. The fact that Paul mentions bishops and deacons and not presbyters suggests, as we find from other portions of scripture, that these two were in fact two names for the same office, the other office being that of deacons (Cf. I Tim. 3:1-13). In his typical greeting of grace and peace, we are reminded again that peace only comes because of grace, and grace is indeed accompanied by peace (v. 2). This is all a part of the first thing that Paul has on his mind, namely the giving of thanks to his God as he remembers the recipients of his letter, doing so whenever he prays on their behalf, and also doing so with joy (vv. 3-4). The reason being is because he remembers their “fellowship in the gospel from the first day” to the very time of his writing this letter (v. 5). Paul remained confident of all these things because he understood that He who had begun a good work in them would “complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (v. 6).
Paul thought it was right to think of his recipients in this way, since he held them in his heart, and since it was also for the “defense and confirmation of the gospel” that he was in chains, and they were all partakers of grace with him (v. 7). Paul is in fact so bold as to say that he greatly longed for them “with the affection of Jesus Christ,” which ought to be true of every minister of the word (v. 8). The Greek word for defense is apologia, from which we get the word apologetics, and it certainly says a lot about the circumstances one can often find themselves in when engaged in apologetics! The word for confirmation only occurs twice in the NT, here and Hebrews 6:16, although a variant rendered ‘confirm’ occurs in Romans 15:8 and I Corinthians 1:8. This word also occurs twice in the past tense as ‘confirmed’ (I Cor. 1:6; Heb. 2:3), and the present tense of ‘confirming’ once (Mk. 16:20). All these references point toward a common idea and activity that was in view. In the present tense it referred to “confirming the word through the accompanying signs” (Mk. 16:20).
In the past tense, the writer to the Hebrews speaks of those same “accompanying signs” as having “confirmed” the word “first spoken by the Lord,” with the confirmation coming from the apostolic witness. Incidentally, this helps to confirm that Paul could not have written Hebrews, for the author does not number himself among those apostles, which Paul clearly did of himself. Furthermore, the same variation on this word as occurs in our present passage, also occurs in the letter to the Hebrews where the author writes that it is what results when one makes an oath (6:16). “Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath” (v. 17). This also speaks to a second sense in which variations on this word occur, and that is to not only confirm the word, but to also confirm the heirs in the promise of the covenant (Cf. Rom. 15:8-9). “Even as the testimony of Christ was confirmed in you, so that you come short in no gift, eagerly waiting for the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also confirm you to the end” (I Cor. 1:6-8a).
This confirmation of the believers was such that it would result in them being “blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 8b). As in our passage at hand, in Corinthians Paul also hearkens back to the fellowship of the gospel and of God’s faithfulness. “God is faithful, by whom you are called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” (v. 9). These two senses or uses of the variations of this word ‘confirmation’ speaks to a very significant point, mainly that it is both the doctrine and life of the believer, which God confirms with an oath as it were, that must accompany and be an integral part of our apologetical task. It is not enough simply to defend the faith, as vital as this is, we must first of all see that it is God Himself who has confirmed His own word, but that He also confirms His people in the faith with the lives they live before a watching world. Obviously we can only do any of this if we are indeed “partakers…of grace” (v. 7). This is why Paul prays that their love would “abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment” (v. 9).
Biblical love, seen in the Christian’s life, is never static, and it is never divorced from “knowledge and discernment.” The meaning of knowledge is clear enough, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that not only is it not antithetical to love, but in fact it must grow therein. Discernment is rendered in the KJV as “judgment,” and this is just one of many reasons why the present writer prefers the NKJV, which preserves the same manuscripts, but translates with much more modern clarity and exactness, for discernment is what is in view here. Aistheysis carries the idea of perception, in effect it is applying knowledge with the awareness of the situation at hand, or the exercise of wisdom for spiritual direction and understanding. This is what our love must acquire. This speaks a great deal not only to the whole area of counselling, but also to apologetics, and how the two are often closely related. We need these things so that we “may approve the things that are excellent” (v. 10a). The only other places where “approve” occurs is I Corinthians 16:3 and Romans 2:18, along with the past tense (Cf. Rom. 14:18; 16:10; I Cor. 11:19; II Cor. 10:18; 13:7; II Tim. 2:15).
Dokimazo also carries the idea of examination or discernment in order to prove a matter. So the discernment noted earlier is in order to prove or approve “the things that are excellent.” Diaphero or ‘excellent’ carries the idea here of those things which carry through, or are of more value, better, or surpass. The end in view is that we may “be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (v. 10b). This speaks to that which has integrity and is thereby faultless. This gets back to the point that both belief and practice are in view, Paul concluding by saying that he also prays that they may be “filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (v. 11). So again we are reminded that this is all of grace, with gifts that are by Christ, which also fulfill our chief purpose as those being renewed in His image-that we glorify God and enjoy Him forever (WSC Q & A 1). Paul places great emphasis on various aspects of the gospel in this letter. This is what holds the people and Paul together, and this with another important idea in this letter, that of joy.