Phil. 1:21-26 To Live is Christ.

Paul’s only reason for remaining in this world was that he might have continued fruit from his labour – in other words, it was profitable for the kingdom, for the church, and good for himself to be productive (vv. 21). The only thing more personally desirable was to be with Christ sooner (vv. 22-23). He would remain as long as there was a need for his services (v. 24), for the “progress and joy” of the saints, and they for his return (vv. 25-26).

Phil. 1:19-20 Not Ashamed.*

Phil. 1:19-20 Not Ashamed.*

“For I know.” (v. 19a) Paul’s understanding of ‘faith’ was not an existential leap – he knew – he had a whole-person certainty, based on what he knew. He believed in a providential deliverance based on both his audience’s prayers “and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” (v. 19bc) He had an “earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” (v. 20 cf. Pss. 22:22-26; 40:6-10; 119:13; Acts 20:20, 27; Rom. 1:16; Heb. 10:5-7). Paul sought prayer to speak boldly as he ‘ought’ concerning the gospel – it was part of his ethics (Eph. 6:19-20). “By life or by death.” (cf. Rom. 14:8) Body and spirit.

Phil. 1:8-11. Knowledge, Love, and Fruit.

Paul is not afraid to call God as his witness, of his longing for all his recipients “with the affection of Jesus Christ.” (v. 8 cf. Mt. 9:36, 14:14) Of vv. 9-10, the NGSB comments: “Paul tells the Philippians not only that he prays for them (v. 4), but also the content of that prayer. Christian belief (knowledge and all discernment”) comes to expression in Christian love and in behavior that is “sincere and without offense” (cf. Col. 1:9-11). The absence of love shows that supposed knowledge is worthless (1 Cor. 13:1-3), and love is itself knowledge of the deepest kind (1 Cor. 8:1-3). (1875) Even as through Christ’s righteousness we are justified, or declared righteous, in Him we are also sanctified, seen in the fruit of our words and deeds, “to the glory and praise of God.” (v. 11)

Phil. 1:3-7. Fellowship, Defence, and Confirmation of the Gospel.

It is harmonious that thanksgiving should follow ‘Grace and Peace’, as they remember their audience (vv. 2-3). Paul tells them that every time he makes requests on their behalf, he does so with joy (v. 4). Paul then starts with his first of several phrases involving the gospel, in the first case here with their “fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” (v. 5 cf. 4:15; Acts 16:12-20) There fellowship was consistent, and it included financial support (4:10-20). This no doubt gave them confidence to continue to proclaim that the good work begun in them would also continue until completed on “the day of Jesus Christ.” (v. 6 cf. v. 10, 2:16; Rom. 8:30 ) They are in Paul’s heart and thoughts, and rightly so, both as he was in chains, and with another gospel phrase, he acted “in the defence and confirmation of the gospel.” (v. 7ab) Based on the above, Paul was also confident that they all were “partakers” with him “of grace.” (v. 7b)To the doubters they gave a defence, and the initiated they confirmed, for they were all partakers of the same grace (v. 7c).

Phil. 1:1-2 Bondservants, Grace, and Peace.

Phil. 1:1-2 Bondservants, Grace, and Peace.

Paul has Timothy to bear witness with him as he wrote to the saints, that is all members of the church, but especially her leadership – the bishops or overseers and deacons (v. 1 cf. I Tim. 3:1-13), although Paul was also an apostle, in addition to being a brother (II Cor. 1:1a; Col. 1:1). Both were present at the founding of the Philippian church (Acts 16), both being known to them (2:2). Rather than think that Paul left out elders or presbyters, the evidence in the rest of scripture equates bishops with elders, the latter denoting a different type of service, but the two of each man (cf. Acts 20:17, 28; Titus 1:5-9). Peter also regarded the two titles as signifying the same persons, and he adds that they are fellow witnesses, and fellow under-shepherds of ‘the Great Shepherd’ of His flock, all partaking of the glory yet to be revealed (I Pet. 5:1-4). The same holds for being ‘bondservants’. Please note, grace comes first then peace, and both come from both “God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (v. 2 cf. Rom. 1:7; I Cor. 1:3; II Cor. 1:1b).

Eph. 6:21-25 Comfort – Peace, Love, and Faith.

This was more than just a ‘general’ letter for Paul. He wanted the church to know what and how he was doing, as well as Tychicus “a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord,” who would “make all things known” to them (v. 21). Paul seems to always have at least one helper with him. Tychicus was also sent to provide the church some comfort to their hearts (v. 22 cf. II Cor. 1:3-7). Comfort is seen in peace, love, and faith, “from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (v. 23 cf. I Cor. 13:13) We sometimes see the word ‘sincerely’ at the end of a letter, and perhaps consider it a mere formality. However, for Paul it is intentional. Some may profess Christ or Christianity, but without grace or love, but eventually one’s true colours will be seen. Paul hoped for the good.

Eph. 6:10-20 The Full Armour Of God.

This is one of the most commented on passages of all of holy scripture. The word ‘finality’ means more than just the end of Paul’s letter. Rather, from giving specific directions to folks in various stations in life, he here wants to say what we all need to do as individually, and as the body of Christ together. “Brethren means we are family, adopted children of God who before all else need to “be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” (v. 10) The NGSB puts it well on this verse: “Paul uses similar terms in 1:19 to describe the power that raised Jesus from the dead. We are encouraged to face the evil hosts of darkness in our strength, but in the strength that raised Jesus and believers with Him.” (1871)

We are in a war. This is why we need the full armour on, because we are stronger than anything, including the devil, if we are strong in the Lord (v. 11). So we are to put on the full armour of God, that we “may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (v. 11) The ESV rightly renders the NKJV’s ‘wiles’ as ‘schemes’, for he is great at devising war strategy, or so he thinks. However, in God’s word, and by His power, we have smarter and more powerful weapons and strategies, this being the word, prayer, and the community of faith together. It is not against flesh and blood per se, but the spiritual forces behind everything, rulers and the “forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (v. 12)

The word ‘wrestle’, pallo, refers to a conflict that will only end when one is laid prostrate by the other. This is a battle that will not end until Christ returns, and the church militant joins with the rest of the church triumphant. First of all, we are all Jacobs who need to become Israels (Gen. 32:22-32). Again, with a ‘therefore, we ask what is the ‘therefore’ there for? Here we are to understand what we need for the battle, that we be the ones left standing, under God (v. 13). Only if we have done all shall we stand (v. 13). With another ‘therefore we are called to stand, “having girded” our waists “with the truth.” (14a) This is exactly what is wrong with our post-mod culture, there is no longer a belief in absolute certain truth.

With God’s help, the enemy will have to pry God’s word out of my cold dead hand if it comes to that. Then it will still be the hammer to dash them to pieces. In the whole of human history, from Adam to today, all men have known the truth, but many have suppressed it in unrighteousness, along with their eternal punishment (Rom. 1:28-32). Standing with the truth requires Christ’s righteousness and not our own – it protects all our vital organs (v. 14b Cf. Is. 59:16-17), “and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” (v. 15) We are all called to be ready to communicate the gospel in word and deed. Only by faith in God will we be able “to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one.” (v. 16)

What does Paul mean when he says that we need our feet shod “with the preparation of the gospel of peace?” (v. 15) It is expanded on by Paul echoing the prophet Isaiah again (40:9, 52:7 cf. Is. 53:1), being Christ’s missionary call 61:1f.), and Nahum 1:15, and Paul in his letter to the Romans (10:14-15). We all need to be ready to bring glad tidings, good news about the gospel of peace. Both “the breastplate of righteousness,” and “the helmet of salvation” also are mentioned by Paul in his first letter to the Thessalonians at 5:8, adding to faith, love and hope. 

“But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and “as a helmet the hope of salvation.” This salvation is summarized in I Th. 5:9.Just so there is no confusion about what “the sword of the Spirit” (v. 17) is, Paul adds that it “is the word of God.” It is not a so-called “the Spirit led me,” or “God spoke to me,” or “I felt the Spirit lead me.” ‘The sword’ is the word.” Period! Full STOP! “Praying always with all prayer and

supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” (v. 18) As important as Paul’s work was, he asks for prayer “for all the saints.” Furthermore, no matter how important his work as an apostle was, he asked for prayer for himself that he would be able “to make known the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (vv. 19-20)

Eph. 6:5-9 Gotta Serve Somebody.

This song by Dylan is truth. Everybody has a boss. As Christians we know who our ultimate boss is, because he is everyone’s ultimate boss, whether they acknowledge this or not. However, we are still called to be obedient to those who are our human bosses, provided they don’t ask or try to force us to do what is contrary to God’s infallible and inerrant word. We are not to do so grudgingly, but as that which sets us apart, we serve “with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.” It can’t just be surface service, but must come from the core of who we are. Again, whether in human terms one is a ‘slave’ or ‘free’, we all are called to serve, and by doing good from the heart, and to the Lord, we are promised that we “will receive the same from the Lord,” (v. 8) for there is no partiality of rank or station with God (v. 9).

Eph. 6:1-4 Promise and Command.

Paul, like Jesus, nowhere abrogated the law (Mt. 5:17-20). Here Paul continues to address family issues, and with respect to children and parents he quotes Dt. 5:16. What is especially significant is his comment that the 5thcommandment is the first with a promise (Cf. Dt. 6:2). What is perhaps equally significant is the nature of the promise, not heaven, as some may assume, but rather “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” Too many fundamentalists and evangelicals, and even some Reformed have a pagan view of life, that we were only born for the next life. There will certainly be a resurrection, but it will be to a new heavens and a new earth, and now there is this promise of wellness, and long life to those who obey and honour their parents, as the commandment requires. 

I also disagree with those who see this commandment as the first toward our fellow human beings. Rather, I think it belongs to those concerning our direct relationship to God, for parents are uniquely his vice-regents over a godly seed, given children as gifts that they are to offer back to the Lord. It is worth noting that the command includes mother and father, and in fact Lev. 19:2 has this order, and the first mark of holiness (Lev. 19:1)! There is in fact a promise of wellness and long life given to all the covenant people who keep his law. Beyond the decalogue that Paul refers to, Moses said the same earlier to all at Dt. 4:40. Moses is careful to add that it comes after redemption (Cf. Dt. 5:1-5). Here Paul says that Fathers as the normal heads of household are directly accountable to God for the covenant seed he gives them (v. 4).

Eph. 5:22-33 Submitting To One Another.

It is a shame that a break is made here between v.22 and v. 21, because Paul began the following admonishments after what he wrote in v. 21, namely, “submitting to one another in the fear of the Lord.” In other words, it is not just directed to wives. Although it is true that the Husbands are the covenantal head of the family in most cases, nevertheless it is a headship of love, and in this way husbands do submit to their wives, most importantly through teaching the word. For Paul it went beyond this however, as he was first laying down how the members of the church must submit to one another as well. The husband’s love is to follow Jesus’ pattern (vv. 23-7) There is a simple principle for Paul – husbands show their love for their wives, in the same way they love themselves. However, for Paul what he had just written was secondary to how he viewed the life of the church as a whole.

Paul turns to the Christian marriage as an example of submitting one to another. Wives are called to submit to their husbands as their head, and husbands in their love for their wives – both are centred on Christ. However, for those cases where either side is out of step with these directives, other scripture must come into play. No woman should be forced to live with an abusive man, nor a believing man with a rebellious wife. Forgiveness should be sought and given, otherwise the innocent party needs to take the case to two witnesses, and if there is still no change, then to the church. During this time it would be best if the couple were separated, and if true believers, give themselves to prayer, not letting the devil gain a foothold. Marriage is a great mystery, as is the union of Christ with his people therefore. “let each one of you love…his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” (v. 33)