DIGGING IN THE WORD: Philippians 1
1:1 Usually Paul would address himself as apostle, but here as slave. We are to be servants of Jesus Christ, obeying Him totally as our master; this applies to all Christians, from the simplest of the faithful to the highest of the prelates. It is becoming more and more common for various denominations to declare that each person in the church has an equal role, and that there should not be one person put over the others, but we see clearly here that already in the earliest days of the Church there is a clear regard to different roles. Paul here writes to all the Christians, along with the ‘overseers’ and ‘ministers’, who have specific roles within the community. Both of these words, as the Church develops, become concretized as ‘Bishop’ (overseer) and ‘Deacon’ (minister). Thus we see the natural development of the Christian Church.
1:2 It was very common in the New Testament to refer to the Father as God and to the Son as the Lord. It does not mean that the Father is not Lord, or that the Son is not God. The future Creeds of the Church guide us to a clear understanding that the Son is equal to the Father: God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.
1:3 Saint Paul gives thanks for the Christian congregation, and why? Because they are laboring with him to spread the gospel in a harmonious way. Saint Paul does not give thanks in a generic way, even if the text could be cut up to seem so: “I give thanks to God.” Rather, a further reading shows us that our thanks should be to God THROUGH JESUS CHRIST, and for particular reasons. Romans 1:8 helps: “I give thanks to my God through Jesus Christ;” thus we see that Saint Paul is praying by invoking the holy name of Jesus and that he is praying ‘because’ of something, in this case because of their faith, in Philippians because of their partnership for the gospel, in 1 Corinthians 1:4 for the grace God poured on them, in 1 Thessalonians 1:3 for their faith, hope, and love. Therefore, do not simply pray “thank you God” but rather pray by giving thanks to God, invoking the holy name of Jesus our Lord, and for particular spiritual benefits given.
1:4 Saint Paul prays with joy. Many people only pray when they are in need, therefore without joy but rather with pain or sadness or anxiety or concern. The prayer of thanksgiving is filled with joy and should be normative in the Christian life.
1:6 We are usually unaware of the work of God, but this verse helps us to see that God is always at work on our behalf, since He is good, our Father, desiring us all to inherit eternal life. God will continue to care for us until the day when Jesus Christ comes back again to judge the living and the dead.
1:7 Each Christian should partner with the leader of the community to defend the gospel and to confirm it. Defense of the gospel includes absolute conviction that Jesus Christ is the sole Saviour of mankind, and any other message must therefore be false.
1:8 The leader of the community loves with the same affection as Jesus.
1:9 Growth as a Christian is constant. If you are not growing, you are neglecting your vocation. This growth in knowledge and discernment is necessary for us to become pure and blameless. We are as of yet not perfectly pure, not completely blameless, so we must strive. Romans 12:2 warns us not to be conformed to this age, but that our minds are to be renewed. Ephesians 3:14-19 insists that we can grow in a great way, to know “the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Colossians 1:9-10 shows Saint Paul praying for us to grow in knowledge, wisdom, understanding, worthy living, “so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit and growing in the knowledge of God.” Are you growing?
1:11 God the Father is glorified when we are grow in fruitfulness through Jesus Christ. Jesus Himself testifies to this in John 15:8: “By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples.” And again, He says in Matthew 5:16: “Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father.” This fruitfulness is not done apart from God, but through Jesus Christ, as Jesus declares in John 3:21: “But whoever lives the truth comes to the light, so that his works may be clearly seen as done in God.”
1:12 Paul’s situation is that he is imprisoned. He also refers to himself as “an ambassador in chains” in Ephesians 6:20, and he considers himself not a prisoner of any adversary, but as a prisoner of Christ Jesus (Ephesians 3:1). Paul sees that he is suffering for the Gospel, “even to the point of chains, like a prisoner. But the word of God is not chained” (2 Timothy 2:8-9).
1:14 The fact that Paul is imprisoned urges others to continue the work of proclaiming the gospel. This shows us that God can work out His plans regardless of the situation at hand.
1:18 In any realm of society there are those who are pure and those who are impure, even in regard to the ministry of Christ. Again, God is able to bring about fruitfulness even in spite of the motivations of man. The theme of rejoicing is central to this letter; indeed, this is a central theme of Christianity, even in the midst of persecution.
1:20 It is not only our spirit or soul which gives glory to God, but even in our bodies and in suffering Christ can be magnified or glorified. Paul instructs us in 1 Corinthians 6 that our body is a temple of the holy Spirit, and that we have been purchased at a price. “Therefore, glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6:20), and “offer your bodies as a living sacrifice” (Romans 12:1). Saint Peter speaks likewise: “But whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name” (1 Peter 4:16).
1:21 Paul knows that either of the two ultimate realities will be used by God as God sees fit; if to be alive, to live in Christ and proclaim Him; if to die, to go to be with Christ whom he proclaimed.
1:22 If Paul remains alive, he will continue to preach and win converts to Christianity.
1:23 Paul’s ultimate desire is to go to Heaven. Notice that it is not his ultimate desire in a long, far off way, like so many who say “Of course I want to go to Heaven, but I want to stay here on earth for a long time,” as if they will accept the fact that they can’t live forever, but if they could they might choose earth. Rather, for Paul, he wants to go there now! It is his ultimate desire now, to be united with Jesus in Heaven. In fact, that would be “far better.” He says this again in 2 Corinthians 5:8: “we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord.”
1:24 Paul sees that his role in building up the body of Christ is why he is alive.
1:27 Our conduct should match the dignity of those reborn in Christ, as he writes in Ephesians 4:1 “live in a manner worth of the call you have received,” “in a manner worthy of the Lord” (Colossians 1:10). Unity is also central here: one spirit, one mind, together, the faith, the gospel. See Ephesians 4:3-6 on the 7 unities: body, Spirit, hope, Lord, faith, baptism, God.
1:28 Christians are not to be influenced by the opinions of non-believers and outsiders, but rather built up together.
1:29 to suffer for Christ is seen as a gift. He suffered for me; it is an honor for me to suffer for Him. Jesus speaks to this in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:10-11) when he says: “Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me.” And why? “Your reward will be great in heaven.” In fact, Jesus makes this willingness a condition to be one of His disciples: “Whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:38). He adds in Mark 8:35 that “whoever wishes to save hiss life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it.” The early Apostles rejoiced “that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name” (Acts 5:41). Saint Peter exhorts us: “Rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly.”
1:30 The Christians participate in Paul’s difficulties; they may be put in chains as he has been. Even if not, they will endure hardships for the Gospel. Paul had been imprisoned in Phillipi, the place where he is now writing this letter, as we learn from Acts 16:19-24 as well as from 1 Thessalonians 2:2.
*[NOTE: This Bible exposition has not been edited, so there are misspellings, grammatical errors, and possibly verse citation errors. Maybe one day someone will professionalize it. I simply wanted to get the content to you. God bless!]