The style of writing with its identification of the sender and recipients, the well known greetings as well as his hallmark “I thank God…, pray for you with joy”, etc was clearly Paul’s letter to the believers in Philippi (v.1-2). Paul wrote this letter while in prison (v.14) believed to be in Rome.
Paul expressed the followings to the saints of Philippi:
- Thanks for their partnership in the gospel (v.5)- the Philippians showed their support to Paul by sending him gifts (Acts 16, 2 Cor 8, Phil 4:15) as well as prayers (v.19). This reminds me of the importance of sending out support financially as well as prayerfully to missionaries who serve selflessly for the sake of the gospel.
- His feelings toward them: The Philippians invoked thanksgiving (v.3), joy (v.4) and affection (v.8) in Paul for them. The support out of love and concern among believers strengthen their bond with each other to the glory of God.
- His prayer that their love may abound in knowledge and wisdom (v.9). Living in the environment ruled by the Prince of the Air, one can be easily confused, fooled or brainwashed by the world. Paul prayed that the Philippi would be able to discern what is best, so that they could stay pure and blameless thereby bearing fruit of righteousness for the glory of God. This requires time spent reading the Bible and asking the Holy Spirit to help us understand the Word of God.
- Ensure his imprisonment actually helped to advance the gospel (v.12). He explained that the palace guard and people knew the reason for his imprisonment was due to his stand for Christ. This actually emboldened many believers into speaking out for the Gospel (v.14). When believers live out their faith in God, it helps others to step out in faith as well.
- Distinguished the motives of those who preached Christ (v.15-17)-some out of rivalry and envy. They stirred up trouble for him, but there were some who did it out of love. What is our motive for teaching others about the Gospel? Is it out of our love for God and for people? Christianity with its different denominations and each has its emphasis on certain doctrines, but all recognize Jesus as the Son of God who died to save humankind from sin. Let us put away all our differences and like Paul rejoice when Christ is preached.
- Articulated his continual rejoicing (v.18b) despite the looming trouble ahead-persecution and death for sake of Christ (v.20-21). Paul trusted the Philippians believers would pray for him and focused on the Holy Spirit to sustain him to the end so that Jesus Christ may be exalted in him whether by life or by death (v.19-20). Pray that we may be found faithful just like Paul when tested. We will also have the peace that transcends all understanding as well as the joy in our heart.
- His preference to depart from this earth to be with Christ, but recognized it would benefit them more if he could be with them longer (v.23-26). To him his reward is that their joy in Jesus Christ will overflow on his account. (v.26). Most of us work to earn a reward of some kind mostly for selfish gain, be it material, earthly recognition, money, etc., but Paul craves for none of those. What he yearned for is his spiritual gain when Christ is preached and his contribution to the growth of believers in Christ.
- Called for unity among believers against those who opposed their faith. First, he exhorted them to live above reproach in accordance to the gospel (v.27). When Christians live a pure and blameless life, unbelievers do not have a strong stand against us. Nevertheless, persecutions of all kinds are to be expected.
- Encouraged the believers to stand firm and not to be frightened as this is a sign of their salvation (v.28). Paul reminded me that Christians are not only to receive Jesus as their savior, but also to suffer for Him. How have we suffered as a result of our faith? Suffering from family-see Matt 19.29; suffering from dealing with the world-see John 15:18; suffering for living righteously -see Matt 5:10. Praise God the Bible has many promises for us to hang on to when we suffer for our faith!
Living for Christ as Paul exemplified in this chapter requires prayers among believers and time spent soaking in the Word of God. Our focus on Jesus cannot be taken for granted. Living for Christ and selflessly loving others can only be achieved by depending on the muscle of Jesus Christ. — Lai Yee