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 Tim. 3:8-12).           

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 their days.

(In our next installment for December 18, we will consider Philippians 1:6-18.)

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 ailments.

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. 2:20-22).

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