Ch. 1: “Living only for Christ” Every part of the Bible has its own value and special characteristics. As we read this epistle we get the feeling of great warmth, love and fellowship between Paul and the saints in Philippi. When in v 7 he says “I have you in my heart” one just has to believe that. It was not just a christian cliché like of which are bandied about amongst Christians today. He certainly loved them and he certainly received love from them , which had in the past shown itself in material gifts, which we will detect as we progress thru the epistle. First of all please ask yourself the question, Where is Paul when he wrote this epistle? The answer from v 12-13 tells us that he is in Prison, in Rome. Note how his adverse circumstances never deviated his service for God one iota. He never thought for a moment that he should be somewhere else. As much as he would love to have been able to travel to Philippi and see these dear friends and saints, yet he recognised the bigger picture of the purposes of God, and he was glad to be part of it. In the short term his imprisonment had been the means of spreading the gospel in the higher realms of the Roman empire, even into the palace, where his reason for imprisonment had raised questions for debate and discussion. What a strange way for God to spread his eternal gospel! Some people say, that there is no such thing as bad publicity. However though undoubtedly many have suffered and lost through bad publicity we can understand the general idea, that publicity is publicity and an essential for spreading your own particular message or service. Some times one would think that God is his own worst public relations officer. But that is because God’s ways are not our ways and God’s wisdom is higher than man’s wisdom as the heavens are above the earth. For God in fact puts his own worst enemy to good use when seeking to accomplish his own eternal purposes. No wonder the Devil gets annoyed. Check out the end of Romans ch 8, if you need to, though you may already know it, and check out Paul’s praise of God’s amazing wisdom in how he works out the gospel, in ch 11 v 33. In this case Paul recognises God’s wisdom in his imprisonment. Not only in the short term is God glorified but also in the long term of course. Had Paul not been in prison, then we would not be reading, discussing and being blessed and built up by reading this epistle today. Most of the epistles sprang from the seed of inability. The circumstances of God’s servants, of whatever degree are under God’s control; this should be a great comfort to any child of God and an exhortation to maintain one’s faith. Certainly Paul expected salvation from his bonds and says so in v 19, v 24-26, and ch 2 v 24. But if it didn’t happen, then there were better things still. Paul’s testimony regarding his life on earth should be a marker for most of us living today in this very busy, stressful, materially oriented society. He had no attachment to the things of the body apart from the fact that he could serve God in a body, and be eternally fruitful (v.22) Not to have a body, in other words, “be dead,” was to Paul a better alternative. He was a winner either way, living or dying. A significant verse about victorious saints in Revelation describes such victorious saints as having won the victory over the devil by 1, The word of their testimony, 2, The blood of the lamb and 3, (being the significant quality here) “they loved not their lives unto death”. The worst thing from the natural point of view, that can happen to a child of God is in fact the best thing that could happen. That should be some insurance of peace, should we really believe it with all our heart, rather than just nodding our heads to it. It is Paul’s desire that his circumstances and his reaction to them might be an encouragement and an example to the saints in Philippi. His exhortation is that they should expect adversity and persecution, if they were to be genuine followers of Jesus. It serves as a wonderful sign of our identity if the world hates us. It is a sign of their ultimate loss and our ultimate salvation.
There are three verses in this chapter which one would do well to memorise and hide in one’s heart. Phil 1:6 Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: V 21. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. V 29. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake
Ch 2: “Looking unto Christ”
There is something about adversity that brings people together. In our materialistic affluent society it is obvious that people are not as close or friendly as in days gone by when things were harder financially. Walls and fences and security devices are rife today while in the past most folk didn’t even lock their front door. People keep to themselves, in fear or mistrust, that they might have to part with what they have got or indeed be robbed of what they possess. In contrast we know that when people have little or nothing to hold on to materially then friendships and relationships come to the fore. With this in mind he exhorts the Philippians to seek such close fellowship with one another, supporting, sharing and giving to each other. Just as in Ch 1 Paul shows how God’s ways are not our ways in regard to our lifestyle in the world, so in chapter 2 he says the same regarding life in the church. THE WAY UP is the way down. Offering our prime example Jesus Christ, he calls the saints of God to follow. His definition of true fellowship in Christ is to be like Christ in all things; not only in the things we must suffer passively but in the choices we make actively as we seek to serve Him in the church. Selfish motives are to be avoided at all costs. Self exaltation is a no-go area. Being concerned for others, and giving to others is what we should expect to be doing rather than receiving or being concerned about how we are treated. We should look to be serving rather than being served. Sadly Paul had already detected in his own experiences with fellow Christians that most of them did not measure up to the example of Jesus Christ. It was for OUR sakes he became poor, and suffered,- not for his own glory. Any future exaltation was totally in God’s hands. However, he is happy to recommend young Timothy as a servant of God with a heart to match. One who wasn’t primarily concerned about himself, but rather for his fellow members of the body of Christ. In John ch 13 we have the Lord’s example of how we should treat one another. He took a towel and a bowl of water and knelt at the feet of his disciples and washed their feet. It was a task usually given to the lowest member of a group, after a hard day's work or walk in the hot sun. Just as today a family will take a long walk and on arrival at home each flop down into their comfortable chairs, but usually it is mother or someone of equally unselfish character who will make the much needed refreshing cup of tea for everyone else. Paul’s definition of Christian fellowship falls under the headings of Mind, Heart and Will. These are the most prolific of all the threes in scripture for of such the Soul comprises. Phil 2:2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love (Heart), being of one accord (Will) of one mind. (Mind) The prime example of such being the Lord Jesus. We need to keep checking the blueprint, as we seek to build up a fellowship of believers. WOULDN’T IT BE GREAT if we were all like Christ in our love and service for one another. If we all had the same unselfish mind generous heart and submissive will. Memory verses: Phil 2:4-5 4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Chapter 3: Longing to be like Christ The Apostle Paul was not a stranger to adversity. Indeed he regarded much of it a proof of the authenticity of his ministry. Check out the second letter to the Corinthians. However, throughout his epistles, one particular vein of opposition is constantly referred to, and that is the preaching and teaching of the Judaisers. These were Jews who had embraced the Christian gospel as an extension of their own religion. In other words, they counted the Old and the New testaments as of equal validity and relevance . One particular message which Paul constantly refuted was that, while it may be a good thing to embrace “Christianity”, it was still necessary to keep the Laws of Moses and the rituals basic to Judaism, especially the ritual of circumcision. Now while circumcision was a probably an accepted tradition within the Jewish community there was no mandate within the gospel of Christ to expect or enforce it among gentiles. It was not unusual for gentiles to embrace the Jewish religion and be circumcised in the process.. These were known as proselytes. Jesus referred to the practice of “evangelising” the Jewish religion to win converts. It is important to note how strong and sure was Paul’s belief in the revelation of the gospel which God had given to Him personally. At his initial CONVERSION, He was commissioned to take the gospel to the gentiles. Previously the Jews had been commanded to have no dealings with the gentiles. They were regarded as dogs. However, during the three years studying and meditating on the implications of the gospel as revealed in the Old Testament, he came to the emphatic conclusion that the OLD Testament was indeed Old and the New was indeed New. (N.B. We are not referring to the written testaments which we have in our Bible today, as obviously the new was not written by then, but to the old and new agreements which God has made with man.) The Holy Spirit shone light upon verses and scriptures, without which light the natural mind could never interpret as such. Paul came to the great personal realisation that all the things he had regarded all his life as important to Him in his relationship with God, were just total rubbish and fit for discarding totally. Such things were being involved in the law, being a Jew, and counting oneself as one of God chosen people, the mark of which was circumcision. But The Holy Spirit showed to Paul that all such rituals and ordinances were totally earthly, natural, physical and of the flesh. He realised that the true plan that God has always had in mind was a kingdom of His chosen people who were Holy and sanctified at birth and never sinned. The earthly, physical, Jewish religion was merely a charade or parable of the heavenly spiritual kingdom brought into being by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The epistles of Romans, Galatians, and Hebrews and many more, are dominated by the truths of the gospel emphasising that the true children of Abraham are those who have the faith that Abraham had. A faith that God saw in Abraham and counted as righteousness. So Paul says some very strong things regarding natural Jews, in fact he states that they are not true Jews in Gods eyes.. (Rom ch 2 :20) There are great sections of the Christian community today who seem to major on the Jews as “God’s chosen people”, and regard all the conflict in the middle east as totally the fault of every other religion, trying to stop the Jewish nation accomplishing in earthly territorial and commercial terms all that they could have had in the Old Testament years, had they believed and obeyed God. But their whole history is one of a disobedient and stiffnecked people. Jesus made no bones about it, when he was confronting the leaders of the nation by calling them “children of the devil”, rather than the children of God that they claimed to be. So we should regard all those who stand by the wailing wall, bowing and repeating prayers as totally deluded if they think they are the real Jews and the chosen people of God. As are those who agree and endorse such beliefs Suffice it to say therefore that the beginning of chapter 3 is referring to this constant theme that Paul, somewhat tediously has to always address. He had no intention of compromising. He was fastidiously intolerant of such beliefs. The Old was out and the New was in. He calls the preachers of “Christainity plus Judaism” as dogs, (cynics) (what they once called Gentiles) evil workers, and the concision.- He calls them evil workers because they preach and practice “evil works” Such people who believe that works are necessary to bring one to righteousness before God- such works Paul regarded as evil. For no works of righteousness which we do can achieve anything in terms of righteousness. Jesus Christ fulfilled the law by his life and fulfilled it by his death having paid the full penalty of breaking the law, on our behalf. Nothing need be added to such a perfect life and sacrifice. To seek to add to it or say that any work is necessary to add to it, is to count the work imperfect and therefore is evil. Those who say that faith without works is dead, are correct but the WORK which accompanies faith for salvation is REST. Read and digest Hebrews ch 4: This chapter therefore is encouraging the Philippians to follow his example, as one who has thrown off all his Jewish religion to embrace the higher heavenly calling as a child of God in a spiritual kingdom rather than an earthly fleshly one. “Our conversation is in heaven “ he writes, meaning our religion, (if you want to use that term) is lived out in the spiritual realms. I may be a sinner, I may sin, on this earth in this sinful body, but I am alive before God without sin, justified and sanctified by faith in the work of Jesus my Saviour who sits at God's right hand ever living and interceding as the lamb of God that has been slain for God’s family, which includes ME . I was born into God’s family, pure and holy and have remained in such a state ever since, purely by faith in the abundant grace of God. Every sin ever committed has been charged to Christ’s account, who cried at his death “It is finished” which can be interpreted as “Paid in Full”. I owe God nothing in terms of the Law. All that he demanded of ME has been paid by HIS SON. God counts me to be found in His Son. If there are any rules then Paul says abide in the rules you started with. You started in the spirit so continue in the spirit and don’t go back to any semblance of works in the flesh as a means of justification before God. Paul reminds them that many start believing but fail to continue. One can backslide into trusting in so-called good works, just as one can backslide into a lifestyle which is obviously sinful. We are called to do good works but once we regard them as building blocks of merit in our house of salvation, they become evil works in the sight of God. Sadly millions are deluded into such beliefs. Much has been written on this subject elsewhere and also the parables in Matthew which to some seem to indicate that righteousness depends upon good charitable works. Sufficient to say here that no-where does it say in Matthew that the righteous, who did the good works were righteous because they did them but rather that they were righteous before they did them, as opposed to the righteousness that the Jews professed to have by their works of the law. This was the issue Jesus was addressing in the parable of the sheep and the goats in anticipation of the righteousness of those who would later believe the Gospel of the kingdom of Heaven, etc. 20 For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ: 21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. I think the last chapter deals with varied subjects and therefore more specific comments are appropriate, rather than the “generalisation” style of comments on the previous chapters
CHAPTER 4: Labouring for Christ 1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. 2 I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life. It is one thing to persuade someone to begin the Christian life, but it is a vastly different thing to cause them to continue. Paul calls them again to be steadfast and is well aware that friction within a fellowship can cause some to leave the path. We often hear cries of “unity” among the denominations, but it is often the unity of the cemetery that is achieved. Wherever there is life and people are working together for the Lord then there will be clashes and upsets. If we don’t seek to do anything then we can achieve unity as of the dead. The human body is a perfect example of unity and illustrates how the body of Christ should “work” together. Every member of the body is connected to the head by the central nervous system. In the Body of Christ this is the Holy Spirit. Each of us needs to be sensitive, responsive and obedient to the Holy Spirit. When one hand gets tired of carrying a parcel, it does not blatantly shout at the other hand and accuse it of laziness, but rather being in touch with the head through the nervous system, the head responds and then prompts the other hand to take over carrying the burden. It should be like that in the Lord, and this is what Paul means when he refers to being of the same mind in the Lord. As in this chapter, so the book of Revelation also refers to the names in the book of life, and ominously makes mention of “not blotting out” the names of certain people, which fearfully infers that some names can be blotted out. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. 15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. The Philippians were probably the only church which contributed to Paul’s financial support. Quite often he was reduced to tent making to earn a living. What a waste of time for someone so gifted and called of God to the ministry. Here Paul makes mention of the PRIVILEDGE of the MINISTRY We are all privileged to share in the ministry even though we may not have any gifts in terms of evangelism, pastoral or teaching, but we can by giving financial support enable those who have such gifts, not to be encumbered with having to earn a living doing other things. And the important thing to see here is that those who make it possible for some to work their God appointed ministry, will share in the rewards of those who minister. So in one sense we are all called to be, and indeed can be in the ministry. 17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, Verse 19 is often quoted in our hours of need, but this promise is given to those who have already given towards God’s work. The promise from the Lord is “give and it shall be given unto you”. There is no promise of God to supply our needs if we are selfish as a church or as individuals if we can't see beyond our own selfish means. If you need, try finding someone who needs something you have and give it to them. Then you can confidently expect God to honour his promise. This principle works.
The Ministry in General: One final overall summary of this book can come under the title of “The Ministry” You will find that 11 Corinthians deals with the Ministry in Particular, i.e. the ministry of the Apostle Paul, but here in Philippians we can see the principle factors in the Ministry in General. Ch 1. The Passion (or Principle) of the Ministry: “I have you in my heart” This is a Pastor’s heart. God entrusts to an Evangelist a message, to
a teacher he entrusts Truths and to a Pastor he entrusts people. Ch 2. The Pattern of the Ministry: In this epistle we have the Ministry of Jesus who came down to bring us up. While in Corinthians we read of the Ministry of Moses who went up to bring something down. So the pattern is that of a link between heaven and earth. Ch 3. The Perspective of the Ministry: There can only be one vision in the ministry, and that is Christ- to know Him, and to be found in Him and to grow up into Him Ch 4. The Privilege of the ministry. We are all called to minister, which really means to serve. As we support those in fulltime service we have the privilege of sharing in their work and rewards.