The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
December 11, 2011
1) Philippians 1:1-6 (and introduction) (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
Philippians 1:1-6 (and introduction)
by Tom Edwards
The church at Philippi was the first church that Paul
established in Europe, during his second missionary journey, as
recorded in Acts 16. His going there was due to a vision he
had received in the night of a man from Macedonia who was earnestly
entreating him to "Come over to Macedonia and help us." So
Paul brought the gospel to Philippi, which Luke points out was "a
leading city of the district of Macedonia" (vv. 9-12). The
city had derived its name from Philip, king of Macedonia, who was
the father of Alexander the Great, and had seized this city for his
own in 358 B.C. It had originally belonged to Thrace.
It was here, on a Sabbath Day and by a riverside, that the apostle
Paul met Lydia, who had been a seller of purple fabric. She,
along with some other women, had used that area as a place for
prayer. After hearing the preaching of Paul, Lydia and her
household were baptized into Christ (v. 15) -- and, apparently,
became the first converts in Philippi.
It was also in Philippi where Paul cast out a spirit of divination
from a slave girl who had been making her masters very rich by her
fortune-telling (vv. 16-18). Prior, the woman had been crying
out of Paul and Silas that, "These men are servants of the Most High
God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation" (v. 17), which
was definitely true. The Bible says that she continued doing
this for many days. But it "greatly annoyed" the apostle
Paul. Apparently, he was concerned about people thinking he
and Silas might be in league with this sorceress by what she was
saying, and in no way did he want that impression to be given.
Paul, therefore, cast out the spirit of divination from this
woman. But that also resulted in Paul and Silas' arrest, due
to the charges of the masters of the slave-girl. For when they
saw that their profit was gone, they dragged Paul and Silas before
the authorities and charged them with "throwing our city into
confusion, being Jews, and are proclaiming customs which is not
lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans" (vv.
20,21). Paul and Silas were then severely beaten with rods,
thrown into the inner prison, and had their feet fastened in stocks
(vv. 22-24). We often cite this to show that though Paul and
Silas had been treated so unfairly and wrongfully by this severe,
unjust punishment, which must have led to great physical suffering,
yet they spent the midnight hour not complaining; but, rather, in a
positive manner, they "were praying and singing hymns of praise to
God" (v. 25).
During that time, an earthquake occurred that had unloosed all the
chains of the prisoners; and after the jailer was aroused from
sleep, he was about ready to kill himself. For he feared that
the inmates under his charge had escaped. But when Paul cried
out to the jailer to "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here" (v.
28), the jailer, trembling with fear, rushed in and fell
before Paul and Silas and asked, "Sirs, what must I do to be
saved?" This was the most important question this man could
ask; and for it, he received an answer that led to his salvation and
to the salvation of his household when they each submitted to the
gospel plan of redemption, which included their need to be baptized
(vv. 31- 33). Afterwards, Paul and Silas returned to the
prison; and when the morning had come, the chief magistrates had
ordered that they be released.
Before leaving Philippi, Paul and Silas went to the house of Lydia
to encourage the brethren who were meeting there.
We note Luke's usage of the pronoun "we" in Acts 16:10,11, when
talking about Paul's work at Philippi. So Luke had also been
there, and it is presumed that when Paul left the city, Luke
remained to help build up the brethren there. According to
Acts 18:5, Silas had returned to Macedonia; and from 2 Corinthians
2:13 and Acts 20:6, Paul had been back to Macedonia at least twice.
The church at Philippi was established about A.D. 52; and this
epistle was written about ten years later, while Paul was under
house arrest in Rome for two years (Acts 28:30). So the book
of Philippians was one of Paul's "prison epistles." Others
that he wrote during that same two-year period are the books of
Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. Then a few years after
his release and just shortly before his death, Paul wrote 2 Timothy
during his second imprisonment in Rome, about A.D. 66-68.
According to Philippians 4:14-18, the church in Philippi had
fellowship with the apostle Paul by assisting him financially in his
work. Concerning Epaphroditus, who was used as a messenger to
send financial support to Paul, J. W. Shepherd writes, "Epaphroditus
made a journey of seven hundred miles over land and sea, exposing
himself to great dangers, to bring the gift of the
Philippians. In his...prison he was deeply moved, and ere long
he poured all his feelings of gratitude into the most affectionate
letter he ever wrote." The Philippians had also been helping Paul
when he was preaching in Corinth (2 Cor. 11:7-9).
The word "joy" is found 7 times in the book of Philippians;
"rejoice," 8 times; and "rejoiced," once. "Of all the letters
written by the apostle Paul, Philippians is perhaps the most
personal and heartwarming in nature" (Mark Copeland).
Paul begins this epistle by saying, "Paul and Timothy, bond-servants
of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in
Philippi, including the overseers and deacons" (Phil. 1:1).
From his salutation, we find that Timothy had also made the journey
all the way to Rome in order to be with the apostle Paul. (The
KJV refers to Timothy as "Timotheus" in this verse.) It must
have been a close relationship these two men had, as they shared
their common faith and their genuine concern for each other.
In writing to Timothy, Paul refers to him as his "true child in the
faith" (1 Tim. 1:2). Mention of Timothy is first made in Acts
16, where he began accompanying Paul in his second missionary
journey (vv. 1-3). Again, as we think about the close
association of Paul and Timothy, consider 2 Timothy 1:1-4. As
mentioned, 2 Timothy was written sometime between A.D. 66 and 68,
just shortly before Paul's death. It is the last of Paul's
epistles. And this time, rather than being under house-arrest,
it is thought that he was incarcerated in the Mamertine Prison in
Rome that had been originally built as a cistern around 640 to 616
B.C. It consisted of two levels. In the lower
level, in which there had been a spring, the prisoners were placed
by being lowered through an opening in the upper level. During
the time of Paul's second Roman imprisonment, we find him thinking
of Timothy as a "beloved son" whom he longs to see. Paul urges
Timothy to "Make every effort to come" to him "before winter..." (2
Tim. 4:21) and to also bring Mark (v. 11), "the cloak" Paul left at
Troas with Carpus, "and the books, especially the parchments" (v.
13). So Paul's mention of Timothy in the salutation
would be meaningful to the Philippians. They would remember
the times he had been with them. Timothy is also mentioned in
the salutation of some of Paul's other letters (2 Cor. 1:1, Col.
1:1, 1 Thess. 1:1, 2 Thess. 1:1, and Philemon 1:1).
Philippians is addressed to "all the saints in Christ Jesus who are
in Philippi." Saints is from the Greek word "hagios," of which
Vine's Expository Dictionary states, "In the plural, as used of
believers, it designates all such and is not applied merely to
persons of exceptional holiness, or to those who, having died, were
characterized by exceptional acts of 'saintliness.'" The
idea of being consecrated or set apart for a holy life is conveyed
by the word "saint" -- and that does pertain to every Christian,
rather than just a certain few. So, in the Bible, the word
"saint" is never used as a special title to exalt certain Christians
over other Christians -- for they all were saints.
Paul also gives specific greetings to the "overseers" and "deacons"
in his salutation. Some other versions render "overseers" as
"bishops." They were also referred to as "elders" (Titus 1:5),
"pastors" (Eph. 4:11), and "shepherds" (from the verb "poimaino,"
Acts 20:28, meaning, "to tend as a shepherd"). Never do we see
in the Scriptures of a church having only one overseer. For
there was to always be a plurality of them in every church, as seen
in Titus 1:5. Paul then goes on to show the qualifications for
an elder in that chapter, as he also does in 1 Timothy 3:1-7.
In the Scriptures, the word "bishop" is never used as a special
title to exalt one elder above the other elders -- for, as we have
already noted, every elder was also a "bishop." Deacons also
had to meet certain qualifications in order to serve as deacons (1
Paul also includes a familiar greeting in his salutation in
Philippians 1:2, "Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the
Lord Jesus Christ." The wishing of grace and peace can also be
seen in all of Paul's other epistles, as well; and this peace
involves more than the mere absence of war. It also pertains
to the person's entire well-being. Later in this same epistle, Paul
speaks of it by saying, "And the peace of God, which surpasses
all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ
Jesus" (Phil. 4:7). This truth is preceded with the
exhortation (in v. 6) to "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything
by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be
made known to God." So what a great peace the Lord has for us
-- when we turn to Him.
Paul then writes in Philippians 1:3-5: "I thank my God in all my
remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every
prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from
the first day until now." In what manner did Paul pray these
prayers? With thankfulness and joy. This should also be true
of every Christian. As we previously saw in Philippians 4:6,
our prayers should be coupled with thanksgiving. And if we are
truly thankful, will we not also be joyful? Paul also shows
this coupling of prayer and thankfulness in Colossians 4:2: "Devote
yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of
thanksgiving." From these verses, we see of the need to have
the right attitude for prayer. It must be with
thankfulness. Elsewhere, we also see of the need to be "...of
sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer" (1 Pet.
4:7). Will not all of this help us to avoid that
meaningless repetition, which Jesus speaks against in Matthew
6:7? For when we are of sound judgment, sober spirit, have the
true joy of the Lord, and are with thankful hearts, will not our
prayers then be more of what they should be? This does not
mean that we must be always bubbling over with joy in order for our
prayers to be prayed the right way. For Jesus understands
grief and sorrow. There are times when our hearts might be
very sorrowful over the loss of a loved one or other emotionally
difficult experiences. Paul's heart was sometimes filled with
much grief over the lost (Rom. 9:1-8; 10:1-3; Phil. 2:25-27).
One of the specific things in which Paul was thankful for was the
"participation in the gospel" that he was having with the
Philippians. Many other translations render this as
"fellowship." As we pointed out earlier, looking at
Philippians 4:14-18, this pertains to the financial support the
church had been sending Paul. We saw they were doing this when
he was preaching in Corinth and also during his 2-year imprisonment
in Rome. What a great help they must have been to him!
As Paul thankfully remembered the Philippians, perhaps another
thought that came to mind was the stark contrast between the love
that was shown to him by them and the brutal beating and
imprisonment Paul underwent, along with Silas, when in Philippi.
In Philippians 1:6, Paul then tells the brethren something that must
have truly encouraged them. He states, "For I am confident of
this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect
it until the day of Christ Jesus." The Greek word for
"perfect" ("epiteleo") means, "to bring to an end, accomplish,
perfect, execute, complete" (Thayer). It reminds us of the
fact that during this life, we always have a perfection to be
striving for. Paul realized that, too (Phil. 3:12-14).
Unfortunately, it seems that not all people do. For instance,
did you hear about the fellow who viewed himself as being so perfect
that he thought he had never made even one mistake about anything in
all his life? He was actually so blind to his own
imperfections that he once said, "I thought I had made a mistake
once, but I was wrong." Even after saying this, he still
couldn't see the mistake he had just made. With regard to
this, consider what James states in James 3:2, "For we all stumble
in many ways. If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he
is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well."
Paul's encouraging words to the Philippians, however, is that the
good work that the Lord started in them, He will bring to
completion. This, of course, is conditional. We must
cooperate with God by complying with His word. And this, too,
is what Paul brings out to the Philippians in Philippians 2:12,13,
where he exhorts the brethren to "...work out your salvation with
fear and trembling"; and then goes on to say, "for it is God who is
at work in you, both to will and to work for His good
pleasure." The Lord works in us through His word: "For this
reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word
of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of
men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs
its work in you who believe" (1 Thess. 2:13).
What does it mean to receive the word of God? To merely hear
it? To merely learn it? Or to also apply it? We
are reminded of what James writes in James 1:22, "But prove
yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude
themselves." James then goes on to illustrate the importance of this
in James 2, where he shows that we must be doers of God's word so
that our faith won't be useless and dead (vv. 17,20-26).
Paul, though, is putting the emphasis on the good work that God can
do in the believer, which is also taught elsewhere. For
example, Paul states in 1 Corinthians 3:6,7, "I planted, Apollos
watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the
one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who
causes the growth." This is so because there is power in the
word of God (Rom. 1:16). See also Isaiah 55:10,11.
Paul was truly thankful for the Philippians. Not only had they
assisted him in his support, but they were also fellow partakers in
the grace of God; and Paul knew that the Lord was working good
things in their lives -- and would continue to do so throughout
(In our next installment for December 18, we will consider
News & Notes
Let those of us who are Christians be remembering Geneva Wilson in our
prayers. Due to her health, she has not been able to be with
us at church for several weeks.
Let us also be keeping Cheryl
Crews in our prayers who has been having some chronic
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in
Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
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