PAUL’S ACCOUNT OF HIS PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCE <1:1-30>
(a) Paul’s Prayer of Thanksgiving <1:1-11>
He addresses his letter “To all the saints ….. together with the overseers and deacons” <1:1 (NIV)>. “Saints” – the status of every N.T. believer, well-known for godliness and integrity; consecrated to God <cf 1 Sam.2:9; 2 Chron.6:41; Ex.28:41; 29:1; Lev.21:6; 1 Pet.2:5>. “Overseers” – a shepherd <Acts 20:28>; a bishop or elder; the term elder originated from ancient times when the older men, because of their experience, were the heads of large families. There is no specific origin of eldership pertaining to the N.T. Church especially to local congregations, but their office was to give direction to the local Church <cf Acts 15:22-29>. The elders of the N.T. Church are referred to as pastors <Eph.4:11>; bishops or overseers <Acts 20:28>; leaders and rulers of the congregation <Heb.13:7; 1 Thess.5:12>. “Deacons” – one that executes the commands of another, a servant [Unger’s Bible Dictionary]; in the N.T. they were originally appointed to the duty of ministering to the poor and to oversee the temporal affairs of the local congregation <cf Acts 6:1-4; 1 Tim.3:8-12>.
He continues to speak of his joyful and prayerful thanksgiving for their partnership in supporting his ministry in the gospel “from the first day until now” <1:5; cf. 4:15; cf 1 Thess.2:8>, they had participated from the first day he met them until the present time.
“being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” <1:6 (NIV); cf Col.2:6-7; 1 Cor.1:8>. He expresses his confidence that God not only begins the work of salvation, He will complete it! The good work that is evident in their lives <1:11> will be completed <cf 1 Cor.1:8> at the time of Christ’s return for His saints; our salvation is initiated, sustained and completed by God.
“all of you share in God’s grace with me.” <1:7 (NIV)>. Their sharing was not deterred by his imprisonment or persecution for they willingly identified themselves with him by their financial gifts sent by Epaphroditus <cf 2:25>, which achieved a Christ like affection in Paul for them and they were constantly present in his thoughts, forming a spiritual unity between them and himself <1:8>.
Paul expresses three petitions that the Philippian Christians should exhibit:
Paul’s prayer for them is: “that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” <1:9 (NIV)>: a real Christ like love must exhibit maturity <cf 1 Thess.2:12; 4:10; 2 Thess.1:3>: growth in knowledge <cf Col.1:9>, demonstrate practical discernment (insight) and understanding.
“so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ” <1:10 (NIV)>: to approve and practice a moral and ethical behaviour; to exhibit no combination of evil due to moral or spiritual failure; so that a “good account” can be given when we stand before Christ’ judgment seat <cf 2 Cor.5:10; Rom.14:10-12>.
“filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ — to the glory and praise of God.” <1:11 (NIV)>: this is expected of all believers <cf Matt.5:20, 48; Heb.12:11; Jas.3:18; Gal.5:22-23>. Such righteousness is produced from union with Christ, through the work of the Holy Spirit <cf Jn.15:5; Eph.2:10> for which the ultimate goal is glory and praise to God <cf Eph.1:6, 12, 14>.
(b) Paul’s Afflictions Promote the Gospel <1:12-18>
To his friends, Paul’s imprisonment seemed like a calamity, but he had a more positive perception on his situation, “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” <1:12 (NIV)> for this was Christ’s revelation to Paul at his conversion, and God was working out His will in Paul’s life <cf Acts 9:15; Rom.8:28>. Paul’s comment on the perceived tragedy is that it has encouraged most of the Christian believers to speak the Word of God “courageously and fearlessly” <1:14> and this was evident to the entire Palace Guard, and everyone else, that Paul had been imprisoned for his stand on preaching the gospel of Christ <cf Acts 28:16, 30-31>. The advancement of the gospel was also influenced by two other factors: “some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill.” <1:15 (NIV)>; the latter group do so in love for Paul acknowledging that he was in prison for his defence of the gospel, while the former group were preaching out of selfish ambition with wrong motives thinking that they would make his imprisonment harder to tolerate. Paul concludes that in consequence of all this, “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice” <1:18 (NIV)>. Paul will continue to rejoice in the fact that regardless of the reason, the gospel will continue to be preached for that was his goal in life.
(c) Paul’s Afflictions Exalt the Lord <1:19-26>
“through your prayers” <1:19 (NIV)>: Paul is depending on the prayers of the saints in Philippi for his continued ability to preach the gospel under the pressure of his imprisonment <cf Matt.18:19; Eph.6:19; Col.4:3>: “and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ” <1:19 (NIV)>; for it is only by the help of the Holy Spirit that Paul, or any other servant of The Lord Jesus, is able to do the work of God, for that is one function of the indwelling Spirit of God <cf Jn.15:26; 16:13-15; Rom.8:9; Gal.4:6>. He is confident that this being the case it will “turn out for my deliverance.” <1:19 (NIV)>, for one way or the other, by life or death, God will set him free <cf Rom.8:28; 1 Pet.1:7-9; 2 Cor.4:17>.
He continues by expressing his expectation that he will not be ashamed <cf Rom.1:16>, but that he will have all the courage he will need to continue his work with the knowledge that at the present time, and for as long as he is alive, “Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” <1:20-21 (NIV)>.
“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.” <1:21 (NIV)>: for the believer in Christ, we live by His power and in our death we gain the fulfillment of all His promises to us <cf Jn.14:1-3; Isa.57:1-2; Rom.8:35-39; 2 Cor.5:6; Col.3:4; 1 Thess.4:13-15; Rev.14:13; cf Isa.38:1-20>. For Paul to remain alive will result in rewarding work for him, but it is difficult for him to decide; “I am torn between the two” <1:23 (NIV)>; his desire is to depart this life and to be with Christ which is the better of the two choices, but it is more beneficial for the Philippian believers that he remain alive <1:23-24>. Being convinced of the latter choice he desires that he will continue to live for their progress and joy in their faith “so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” <1:26 (NIV)>.
(d) Paul’s Exhortation to the Afflicted <1:27-30>
Regardless of what they were experiencing, persecution or otherwise, Paul’s instruction was, “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” <1:27 (NIV)>, for such conduct would be evidence to both fellow believers as well as curious onlookers who are not believers, as to the worth of their faith <cf Eph.4:1-3; Psa.133:1; Matt12:25; 1Cor.1:10; Jn.17:21>. This would also be evidence to Paul and all others that they were united in the Spirit and in harmony for the gospel of Christ <1:27b>. He also encourages them not to be terrified of those that oppose them for confidence in the power of God would be a sign that God would overthrow their intimidators <1:28; cf Num.14:9; 1 Chron.12:17>. Paul then reminds them, and all other believers in Christ, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him” <1:29 (NIV)>, for this was also the word’s of our Lord Jesus to His disciples and their experience <cf Mk.13:9; Lk.21:17; Acts 5:41; Rom.5:3; James 1:2; 1 Peter.4:13; Acts 4:24-31; 14:22; 1 Cor16:13-14; 1 Pet.3:14; 1 Thess.1:6-7; Matt.5:12>, and now the experience of the Philippian believers <1:30>.