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 18, 2011


1) Philippians 1:6-18 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Philippians 1:6-18
by Tom Edwards

In our last lesson from the Philippian letter, we closed with the need to cooperate with God, through compliance to His word, so that He may truly be working in our lives.  And when we do that, we will be encouraged by our spiritual development.  For the more we grow in the Lord, the more we become Christ-like; and, therefore, are enabled to know Him at a more personal level.  In writing to the Corinthians, Paul states, "Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day" (2 Cor. 4:16).  Though the main focus is on the inner man (that eternal soul that we are striving to conform to the image of Christ), we also realize that by maturing in that way,  it can help the outer man as well.  For instance, think about many of the harmful and dangerous things that some folks might have engaged in prior to becoming Christians, but have now given up -- elicit drugs, drunkenness, tobacco, fornication, and other things that can often lead to poor health and even death.  Consider, too, the Gospel's instruction for the child of God to strive to be a peace-maker (rather than a trouble-maker), to love even one's enemy and pray for them (rather than being vengeful or retaliatory that can often make the situation worse).  Following the word of the Lord is a healthier way to live -- physically and emotionally!

In Philippians 1:6, Paul shows that Christians need to continue to strive to be more like the Lord until "the day of Christ Jesus," which is referring to His second coming.  So, in other words, we need to work at developing our inner man as long as we live.  

In Philippians 1:7, Paul speaks of the affection he has for the brethren.  He states, "For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me."  Paul  was truly dedicated to other people.  He had made himself "a slave to all," so that he "may win the more" to Christ (1 Cor. 9:19-23); and this he did joyfully: "But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all" (Phil 2:17).  

Paul continues in expressing his regard for the Philippians.  The beginning of Philippians 1:8 in the KJV reads, "For God is my record, how greatly I long after you...."  In 22 of the 24 different Bible versions I looked this up, "witness," which makes it clearer, is used instead of "record."  The NIV renders it as "God can testify how I long for all of you...."

In that same verse, the KJV also uses the phrase, "...I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ."  That might sound a little unusual to us.  The Greek word for "bowels" is "splagchnon," which Thayer shows literally means the "bowels" or "intestines" (and including the "heart," "lung," "liver, etc."); but he also points out that it has a figurative rendering.  For among the Greek poets "the bowels were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, especially kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence our heart (tender mercies, affections, etc.)"  Thayer also refers to it as "a heart in which mercy resides."  James Strong defines the figurative use of "bowels" to mean the "inward affection" plus "tender mercy."  He shows that this term can also be used to figuratively express "pity" or "sympathy."  According to Vincent Word Studies, Paul's affection toward the brethren is "Describing his longing, not as his individual emotion, but as Christ's longing, as if the very heart of Christ dwelt in him."  This might also remind you of what Paul states in Galatians 2:20, "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me."   In this statement, Paul is figuratively expressing a life that has been given wholly to God.  Paul had truly "crucified" self and lived to serve the Lord above all.  We need to also strive to have the same dedication. 

As Paul continues with his tender regard for the Philippians, he next points out a special prayer he was making for them: "And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment [judgment, KJV]" (v. 9).   Thayer shows the Greek word for "discernment" to mean "1) perception, not only by the senses  but by the intellect 2) cognition, discernment 2a) of moral discernment in ethical matters."  Or as Zerr puts it, "recognition of what is morally proper."

In addition to an increase in their knowledge and discernment, Paul also prayed that their love would "abound more and more."  This is the "agape" love -- the highest form of love -- and the importance of having it is clearly seen in the Scriptures.  For example, even if Paul could "speak with the tongues of men and of angels," but did not have love, he would become "a noisy gong or a clanging symbol."  And even if he had the gift of prophecy, knew all mysteries, had all knowledge, and had all faith so as to remove mountains, but did not have love, he would be nothing.  And even if gave all his possessions to feed the poor, and gave up his body to be burned, but did not have love, it would profit him nothing (1 Cor. 13:1-3).  Love was also something we find Paul specifically praying for the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 3:11-13).   Love has many facets.  So abounding in it will result in abounding in various other virtues as well.  For example, consider the definition of love that Paul gives in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8: "Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails...."

Some commentators take Philippians 1:9 to mean that the Philippians had love, but lacked in knowledge; so while Paul encourages them to abound even more in love, he wants them to also have that  proper balance of knowledge.  The need for that right coupling of  knowledge and love can be inferred from 1 Corinthians 8:1: "...Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies."

Paul then goes on to show the purpose for their abounding in love and knowledge: "so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ" (v. 10).   The Greek word for "approve" ("dokimazo") is defined as "to test (literally or figuratively); by implication to approve..." (James Strong). Thayer shows that the word first means "to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals" and, secondly, "to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy."   Naturally, one of the characteristics of mature Christians is the ability "to discern good and evil," which they have trained their senses to do through practice (Heb. 5:14).  

Having this "knowledge and discernment," so that we "may approve the things that are excellent," is also necessary so that we may be "sincere and blameless" (Phil. 1:10).   And though salvation is not based on mere sincerity alone, still it is part of the means whereby we can approach God: "...let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith..." (Heb. 10:19-22).  It is also needed in our relationship to one another: "Since you have in obedience to the truth purified your souls for a sincere love of the brethren, fervently love one another from the heart" (1 Pet. 1:22).  One of the reasons God has given us commandments is that we will develop "love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith" (1 Tim. 1:5).  Concerning his own conduct, Paul speaks of it as not being that which stems from fleshly wisdom; but, rather, that which is characterized with "holiness and godly sincerity...in the grace of God" (2 Cor. 1:12).  Even in the Old Testament times, God required sincerity from those who would serve Him: "Now, therefore, fear the LORD and serve Him in sincerity and truth; and put away the gods which your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD" (Josh. 24:14).  Note, too, that sincerity alone is not enough.  For this passage shows that it was to be coupled with the truth of God's word -- and that principle is still true today.  

Philippians 1:11 points out what Paul's prayer for the Philippians would also lead to: "having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."  If a man is striving to be righteous, according to the gospel, he will then have the fruit of the Spirit abundant in his life (Gal. 5:22,23).  In understanding how the Christian is to be righteous today, Psalm 119:172 sets forth a helpful principle: "Let my tongue sing of Thy word, For all Thy commandments are righteousness."  Therefore, the commandments of God in the New Testament for the Gospel Age are also righteousness and must be complied with (cf. Rom. 1:16,17).  This can also be inferred from Romans 10:3: When Paul says of some Jews, "For not knowing about God's righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God," it does not mean that these individuals did not know that God was righteous.  Rather, it was His righteous plan of salvation, as set forth in the gospel, that they were not accepting.  Furthermore, righteousness is to be practiced by submitting to the teachings of the gospel.  As John states, "Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother" (1 Jn. 3:7-10).   

Paul next goes on to say in Philippians 1:12 the following: "Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel[.]"  What "circumstances" does Paul have in mind here that helped promote the gospel?  He shows specifically in the next verse, "so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else" (v. 13).  The KJV renders this as, "So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places."  Note the word "palace" -- instead of the "praetorian guard," which the NASB uses.  Concerning this, Jamison, Fausset, and Brown write:  "literally, 'Praetorium,' that is, the barrack of the Praetorian guards attached to the palace of Nero, on the Palatine hill at Rome; not the general Praetorian camp outside of the city; for this was not connected with 'Caesars household,' which Phi. 4:22 shows the Praetorium here meant was. The emperor was 'Praetor,' or Commander-in-Chief; naturally then the barrack of his bodyguard was called the Praetorium."  The Greek word for "palace" (KJV) or "praetorian guard" (NASB) is "praitorion," so "praetorian" appears to be a transliteration.  Thayer defines the general meaning of this word as, "1) 'head-quarters' in a Roman camp, the tent of the commander in chief  2) the palace in which the governor or procurator of a province resided, to which use the Romans were accustomed to appropriate the palaces already existing, and formerly dwelt in by kings or princes; at Jerusalem it was a magnificent palace which Herod the Great had built for himself, and which the Roman procurators seemed to have occupied whenever they came from Caesarea to Jerusalem to transact public business  3) the camp of the Praetorian soldiers established by Tiberius."

Notice, too, the effect Paul's imprisonment had upon the majority of the brethren, according to Philippians 1:14: "and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear."  Paul's imprisonment had emboldened them in their own teaching of the gospel and quelled their fears.  Zerr expresses the good that came out of this with the old phrase that "evils are often blessings in disguise."  This can also be seen in the case of Paul and Silas who were wrongly imprisoned and mistreated in Philippi, but it led to the conversion of the Philippian jailer and his household.  There are various other examples, too.  And now Paul is in Rome -- though an innocent man, yet under house arrest and chained to different guards for 2 years -- but, in spite of that, he will still be able to make good out of that situation by continuing in his service to God.  

It is quite possible that the brethren who knew of Paul's imprisonment might have initially thought that he would now be hindered from preaching the gospel, that his work as a gospel preacher must now cease; but Paul assures them that that is certainly not the case.  First, there were those many non-Christians who made up the praetorian guard whom Paul would be able to teach.  Concerning these, Robertson's Word Pictures states that "There were originally ten thousand of these picked soldiers, concentrated in Rome by Tiberius. They had double pay and special privileges and became so powerful that emperors had to court their favour. Paul had contact with one after another of these soldiers."  According to J. W. Shepherd, Caesar's household was composed of not only guards, but also attendants, courtiers, and officers.  Some of these became obedient to the faith.  We can see this from the way Paul ends this epistle in Philippians 4:22 (the second to the last verse): "All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household."  And, in addition, there were the Christians who were strengthened in the faith because of Paul's imprisonment.  He was such a wonderful example to them that they could now fearlessly face their own difficult challenges with more courage.  From Acts 28:15, we see a switch:  When Paul first came to Rome, along with Luke, he was strengthened by the brethren who had met him there; and he thanked God for them.  Now, however, the table is turned; and the majority of the Christians are being strengthened by the way the apostle Paul is able to endure his imprisonment and continue with teaching the gospel.          

Paul then goes on to say in Philippians 1:15, "Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will."  This might seem a little bewildering to us, but that is probably because the Bible doesn't reveal those who were actually doing this.  Some believe they were those Christians who were still inclined toward Judaism, though they would still preach Jesus as the promised Messiah of the OT; others are of the opinion that it is Christians in Rome who were given to envy and strife and viewed themselves as "leaders" of the church in Rome, but are now over-shadowed by Paul's success in winning many to the Lord -- even as a prisoner.  But all of this is speculation, for the Bible doesn't say who these men specifically were.  We would, therefore, be better off not to guess.  One thing we do know, though, is that those who preached from envy and strife were motivated by selfishness and had sought to do Paul harm.  For notice what Paul goes on to say in Philippians 1:16-17: "the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment."  Our first impression of those who preached out of envy and strife is probably, "These men certainly did not have the Spirit of Christ in their lives."  For their hearts are corrupt and their intents are filled with malice.  Something else we can infer from this, however, is that the power to save, as Romans 1:16 shows, is truly in the word of God and not in man.  For here were men with selfishness, envy, strife, all this corruption in their hearts; yet, when they declared the gospel, that message could still save lost souls and strengthen brethren.

What is really outstanding is the way Paul reacts toward those who sought to do him harm, as seen in Philippians 1:18.  Paul says, "What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice[.]"  Rather than retaliating or voicing a complaint against those who sought to do him wrong, Paul rejoiced that Christ was being proclaimed.  Having the Lord magnified, His word declared, people brought to salvation in Jesus, and Christians built up in the Lord were much more important to Paul than having his own name vindicated.  Paul truly did put Christ first, others second, and himself last. 

We will consider more of Paul's letter to the Philippians in our next installment.

News & Notes


Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following people:

* Shondra Kyle and family.  Shondra lost her baby before the C-section was performed.  She also developed some serious complications, which required hospitalization, but is now doing somewhat better.

* Mike Dubose is now being treated for cancer.

* Geneva Wilson has not been able to be with us at church for several weeks, due to her health.

* Cheryl Crews 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).

Park Forest

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