Philippians

Philippians 2:1-4 Unity In Humility.

The ‘therefore’ at the start of verse one obviously hearkens back to chapter one, so that all he has written to this point was for the consolation and encouragement of his readers. Not only this, but the motivation and design of Paul with this letter was to provide encouragement for the comfort that true love brings, along with affection and mercy, aided essentially as these are with the fellowship they shared in the Spirit (v. 2). Knowing that his purpose here was being fulfilled is what would bring Paul the greatest joy (Cf. Jn. 3:29), namely that they would be “like-minded” with one another, being of “one accord,” and “having the same love” (v. 2 Cf. 4:2; Col. 3:12ff.; ). If this would be their positive attitude, it would mean the reverse of putting off those things contrary to this, namely “selfish ambition or conceit” (v. 3a Cf. Gal. 5:26). This one mind they were to have wasn’t just the one faith which he wrote about in chapter one, but a singularity of attitude toward each other that would lead each of them to esteem others as better than oneself, which means looking out not only for one’s own interests, “but also the interests of others” (vv. 3b-4 Cf. Rom. 12:10, 16; 15:1-2; I cor. 13:5).

Philippians

Philippians 1:27-30 Worthy Of The Gospel.

Paul was confident and hopeful that he would be delivered from his chains, even though his situation had led to the blessed result of many coming to faith as he defended and confirmed the gospel. In any case, his one desire was that his readers would continue to have their “conduct worthy of the gospel” (v. 27 Cf. Eph. 4:1-3). Here he once again stresses the need for practice that is in harmony with doctrine. The gospel is a message that calls for conduct that is worthy of it. Worthy, that is, of the life, teaching, sacrificial and atoning death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Whether he might visit or not, he was hoping that when he heard about them, what he would hear was first of all, that they were standing fast “in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel. ‘Faith’ here is that set of beliefs which comprise the gospel. It was vital that their minds be engaged in the understanding and defense of the one faith of the one gospel. This is why they needed to have one spirit and one mind, because the faith and the gospel are one, as is the body.

We ought also to not be terrified of our adversaries, mainly because this is the gospel of the kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and He is reigning even now from His heavenly throne until all His enemies are made His footstool (Cf. Ps. 110). For those who think that eschatology isn’t practically significant, they have probably been consumed by one or more versions of pessimism for too long. Such confidence, in the Lord working in and through us, will be for some a proof of their impending perdition and possible repentance and faith. However, this confidence is also part and parcel of our great salvation, “and that from God” (v. 28 Cf. Jude 3). It does not mean that it is without suffering, quite to the contrary. It is those who know they are involved in a war but know the ultimate outcome, who are prepared to enter the heat of the battle as the bearers of the sharp edge of the sword. Paul put forth his own situation as a case in point, and in this respect also he shared the same struggles as the other apostolic defenders (vv. 29-30 Cf. Mt. 5:11-12; Acts 16:19-40; Col. 1:29; 2:1; II Tim. 3:12).

Philippians

Philippians 1:19-26 To Live Is Christ And To Die Is Gain.

Paul depended on the prayers of God’s people. There was no contradiction between giving thanks for this and “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (v. 19). God works through means and predestines these as well as the end. This knowledge of a deliverance was grounded in his “earnest expectation and hope” that in nothing he would be ashamed, including his chains (v. 20). For Paul to live was for Christ, his kingdom work, and the saints, and to die was to forever remain in His presence (vv. 21-23). His whole focus in remaining was for the service which he might render to the saints, for their “progress and joy in the faith (v. 24). These two things figure prominently for Paul.

The Christian life can never be static. Our love for God and neighbour should always be growing in “knowledge and all discernment” (v. 9). There is also a sense in which true joy is only in the possession of the Christian (v. 25). One can think of C. S. Lewis’ ‘Surprised By Joy’. In turn, his readers might also have cause for rejoicing more abundantly, since his anticipated deliverance would mean his coming to them again (v. 26). If only this were truly the feelings and thoughts we had for our fellow saints. I dare say that one can be missing from church for weeks and months on end and no one even enquires. Sadly, much of what passes as Christianity today falls far short of the situation which Paul herein describes.

Philippians

Philippians 1:12-18 Providence And Motives For The Apologetical Task.

Paul wanted his readers to know, that contrary to what they may have thought or feared, his imprisonment actually “turned out for the furtherance of the gospel” (v. 12). We know that there were some of the Palace guard who at the very least knew why he was in chains (v. 13). At the end of this letter he will send greetings from some brethren and saints who were with him, “especially those who are of Caesar’s household” (4:22). Paul in effect is saying that had he not been put in his chains there may not have been this door of opportunity to reach these folk. This is something we need to keep in mind in our own circumstances. There may be those whom we come into contact with who we are meant as that witness in their lives. Paul adds something else, by him witnessing despite his chains, it gave confidence to others to also “speak the word without fear” (v. 14).

This then leads to Paul treating of the subject of what actually motivates one to preach, or indeed to be a Christian at all and thereby to bear witness to Christ. Apparently there were some who preached Christ to make Paul’s life even more difficult for him, perhaps some of these are those he speaks of as being confident. Perhaps out of envy and to cause strife, some were preaching Christ by arguing that Paul was in prison so they should inherit the mantel of his ministry. Nevertheless, two things were also true-there were some preaching with confidence from goodwill, and in either case Christ at least was being preached, and for this he rejoiced (vv. 15-16, 18). The latter were preaching out of love, knowing that Paul was appointed by God for the defence of the gospel (v. 17). Paul did not choose to engage in this apologetical task-God called and appointed him to it.

Philippians

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.

Philippians

Philippians 4:10-23 Blessings.

Paul rejoiced when he learned of the desire of the Philippians to assist him in his work, and now they had an opportunity to make good on it (vv. 10, 14-16 Cf. 1:7; II Cor. 11:8-9). This fruit in their lives would abound to their account (v. 17-18 Cf. Jn. 15:5; II Cor. 9:12; Titus 3:14; Heb. 13:16). With their gift he abounded and was full. However, Paul had learned to be content whatever his circumstances, but he rejoiced to see the genuineness of their faith. Paul had learned to be content. There were times when he had abundance, and there were times when he went hungry and suffered need, but through it all he found contentment (vv. 11-13 Cf. I Cor. 4:11; I Tim. 6:6-8). Just as the Lord had supplied all his needs, even so he knew that He would do this also for the Philippians, “according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” (v. 19 Cf. Ps. 23:1) Paul also wished to send greetings from all those with him, brethren and saints, including those who were of Caesar’s household (vv. 21-22). He also ends his correspondence with a benediction. “Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” (vv. 20, 23 Cf. Rom. 16:27) Here we are reminded again, that our chief end is God’s glory, which is only possible for us through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Philippians

Philippians 4:8-9 True Meditation.

Paul’s ‘whatevers’ are no mere sentiments. First of all, they must be true. If the things we meditate on are not true, then everything is meaningless. God alone defines what is true (Dt. 32:4; Jer. 10:10; Mt. 22:16; Jn. 7:28; Rom. 3:4; I Jn. 5:20; Rev. 3:7). His truth preserves us (Ps. 40:11), it is also what the LORD desires in our core, our hearts (Ps. 51:6). Truth is our shield (Ps. 91:4), and what we are to gird our waist with-it holds everything else up and together (Eph. 6:14). Truth is what we are to speak to each other (Eph. 4:25). His law-word is truth (Ps. 119:142, 160; Rev. 21:5). The truth is also what sets us free (Jn. 8:32). Christ is also the truth (Jn. 14:6), as is the gospel (Col. 1:5). Mediate on the scriptures and one will inevitably meditate on what is true. The truth is what sets Christian meditation apart from all other “meditation.”

We should also meditate on what is noble. Giving gifts to support others is a noble or honourable thing (II Cor. 8:21). Noble things are things worthy of respect. The name ‘Christian’ is a noble thing, worthy of respect (Js. 2:7). The LORD’s works are honourable (Ps. 111:3). The wisdom of not quarrelling is an honourable thing (Pr. 20:3). The Sabbath day is honourable (Is. 58:13). Marriage is honourable (Heb. 13:4). Good works are honourable (I Pet. 1:12). We should also meditate on what is just (Dt. 16:20). Being just is what ought to characterize a bishop or overseer (Titus 1:8). Jesus is the Just One (Acts 3:14), as is the Father (Rom. 3:26). Their ways are just (Rev. 15:3). The saints are also just, made so by faith (Hab. 2:4; Rom. 1:17; Lk. 14:14; Heb. 12:23). Again, the law-word of the LORD is the only standard of what is just.

It is also important to take all these things together. Nothing is noble or just if not true. Also, what is true cannot be separated from what is pure. “The words of the LORD are pure words. Like silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.” (Ps. 12:6) God’s wisdom is pure (Js. 3:17). Pure things are things which have integrity, they are not mixed with what is not true, noble, or just. This is why the word itself declares that it is inerrant. We are called to be pure as He is pure, based on the sure hope that we shall be like Him (I Jn. 3:3). Those who are pure, recognize that God is pure (Ps. 18:26; Titus 1:15). We should also meditate on that which is lovely, and that which is lovely is also that which is true, noble, just, and pure. Paul gave us an excellent list of what love is (I Cor. 13:4-7). The psalmist also described the LORD’s tabernacle, the place He chose to dwell in, as lovely (Ps. 84:1).

Paul actually instructs his readers to remember the things he both taught and lived. People should be careful that those they follow actually walk the talk. Paul was not perfect, for he saw the place and need for forgiveness. In fact, being willing to forgive is one of the things to learn and do. They may have wondered what things Paul had in mind, and so he refers them to the things he knew they had “learned and received and heard and saw” in him (v. 9). All things, received in many different ways, of his words and deeds, were things to meditate upon. When we mediate on these things, then the God of peace will be with us. Peace comes with God’s presence, when we think His thoughts after Him. The call to obedience is not exhausted by what is listed here. Furthermore, biblical meditation is not an end in itself. We must live what we know.

Philippians

Philippians 4:2-7 Working Together With Joy And Peace.

Fellow labourers in the gospel do not always agree. This can be a great obstacle in the work. Paul implores Euodia and Syntyche to resolve their differences, “to be of the same mind.” (v. 2) Paul also urges his companion there to help them, for they were faithful in their support of those who laboured in the word (v. 3) These are those who have their names written in the Book of Life, those who through both word and deed convinced Paul that they were among the elect of God. This is cause for rejoicing (v. 4). It may be that Paul was addressing a pastoral protégé, but he certainly would have all the saints be gentle with each other (v. 5). It is likely that Paul has in view the end of the old covenant administration when he writes that, “the Lord is at hand.”

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known unto God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (vv. 6-7) “Be anxious for nothing.” Do not worry about anything. Only those who have a firm belief in God’s sovereignty can grasp this reality. God is in control, and part of that will, is to predestine the means as well as the end-in this case prayer. It is only those who live in the light of these truths who can have true peace. This is all in Christ Jesus-there is no other way. Human understanding alone cannot come up with this, this comes by God choosing to reveal these truths. Instead of anxiety we have peace. Instead of worry we have trust.

Philippians

Philippians 3:17-4:1 Walking And Standing Firm In The Hope.

Paul wanted the brethren to not only heed his teaching but to do so in such a way that they followed his example as a pattern on how they should live or walk (v. 17 Cf. I Cor. 4:16). We should only imitate those who imitate Christ (I Cor. 11:1). Then we will be authentic. Paul challenged his young protégé Titus, to set in his life a pattern of good works (2:7-8). As in Paul’s day so in ours, their are many who do not walk the talk. This discrepancy between claiming Christ but not living for Him, makes them enemies of the cross (vv. 18-19 Cf. Rom. 8:5; II Cor. 11:15; I Tim. 6:5). We live like those who are ambassadors with passports from another country, with a hope that those who think that this life is all there is do not know (Cf. Eph. 2:19). However, Paul’s hope is not escape from this world but rather the remaking of it. On a personal level his desire was indeed to go and be with Christ, but the eschatological hope was to have Christ return to this earth and for His people to have new resurrected bodies like His (vv. 20-21 Cf. Acts 1:11; I Cor. 15:43-53; I Jn. 3:2). This is where Paul wanted then to stand (4:1 Cf. 1:27).

Philippians

Philippians 3:12-16 Sanctified Together-In Doctrine and Life.

Paul had just drawn the distinction between putting confidence in the flesh or the righteousness that comes by faith (3:1-11). Sanctification is a lifelong process. Paul made clear that he was not perfect, but he was also clear that this was his goal (v. 12 Cf. Heb. 12:23). He would continue to press on, despite the failures and shortcomings (vv. 13-14). If one is going to move forward one has to forget what is behind (Cf. Lk. 9:62). For Paul this meant his former way of life in Judaism, the religion which had made a covenant of works out of the covenant of grace (Cf. II Tim. 4:7). It also meant failures on a personal level. No doubt it also meant failures on an ecclesiastical level. Paul had to acknowledge that they as a group had not arrived either (v. 15). However, Paul wasn’t giving up here either. To the degree that they had already attained, they should strive to live by the same rule, to be of the same mind (v. 16).

It is safe to say that most people can readily see this determination to press on a personal level. If we are honest, and take the word of God and the image of Christ as the standard, we can all admit to falling short. However, how many view giving up on bad doctrine as part of sanctification? This is in fact what is involved, not only as individuals but also as a corporate exercise (Cf. Rom. 12:16; Gal. 5:10; 6:16; Heb. 6:1-3). It has to start, as Paul put it, with the “mature.” (v. 15 Cf. I Cor. 2:6) He also made clear that this unity of mind must come back to God’s revelation (Cf. Hos. 6:3). We need to fight the good fight of faith-that which we also committed ourselves to before many witnesses (I Tim. 6:12). Christ’s letter to the churches of Revelation shows that there is a corporate aspect to sanctification, in doctrine and life (Chps. 2-3). At the very least we need to strengthen those things which remain. However, the goal must be maturity, individually and corporately, in doctrine and life.