Philippians 1

Philippians 1  •  12 min. read  •  grade level: 10
HI 1:1-30{The study of the different epistles shows that each has been written with a special purpose, so that God, in His wisdom and goodness, has made full provision for the establishment of the believer in the truth, as well as for his guidance in all circumstances, and in every age.
In the Epistle to the Romans we have truths that establish the believer in the great foundations of the gospel. The Epistles to the Corinthians instruct us in church order. The Epistles to the Ephesians and the Colossians present the counsels of God, and the doctrines concerning Christ and the church.
In the Epistle to the Philippians we have little or no formal unfolding of doctrine, but a beautiful presentation of true Christian experience. Believers are viewed, not as seated together in heavenly places in Christ, as in Ephesians, but as journeying through the world, forgetting the things that are behind, and pressing on to Christ Jesus in the glory. It gives us the experience of one who takes this journey in the power supplied by the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Phil. 1:1919For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, (Philippians 1:19)). It is not, be it noted, necessarily the experience of Christians that is passed before us, for this, alas! we know may fall far short of true Christian experience. Nonetheless, it is experience that is not confined to an apostle, but is possible for any believer in the power of the Spirit. It may be for this reason that the apostle does not speak of himself as an apostle, but writes as a servant of Jesus Christ.
The epistle was called forth by the fellowship these Philippian saints had with the apostle, manifested at that time by the gift they had sent to help in meeting his necessities. This practical fellowship with the apostle when in bonds was to him evidence of a good spiritual state, for there were those who had forsaken him, and turned from him when in prison.
HI 1:3-6{(1:3-6). This happy spiritual condition drew forth the apostle's praise and prayer on their behalf. We may be able to thank God for one another as we recall the grace of God manifested on particular occasions; but, of these saints, the apostle could say, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.” Moreover, we may pray for one another, though, at times, it may be with sorrow of heart on account of failure and poor walk; but of these saints the apostle could make “request with joy.”
Furthermore, the spiritual condition of these saints gave the apostle great confidence that He which had begun a good work in them would perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. Thus, as they had shown their devotedness by their fellowship with the apostle from the first day until that moment, so he was confident they would be sustained in the same grace in their onward journey until the day of Jesus Christ.
HI 1:7-8{(1:7, 8). Moreover, the apostle felt justified in this confidence inasmuch as it was clear that they had the apostle in their hearts (“Ye have me in your hearts” is the correct translation). This was proved by the fact that they were not ashamed to be associated with the apostle in his bonds, and in his defense of the gospel. Having fellowship with him in his trials, they would also partake of the special grace ministered to him. This love was mutual; for if they had the apostle in their hearts, he, on his side, longed after them all in the bowels of Jesus Christ. It was not simply a human love that responds to kindness, but divine love — the yearning love of Jesus Christ.
HI 1:9-11{(1:9-11). In praying for them, the apostle desires that this love that had been so blessedly manifested to him might abound yet more and more, showing itself in knowledge and all intelligence: for, be it remembered, that, in divine things, spiritual intelligence springs from love. The heart that is attached to Christ is the one that will learn the mind of Christ — not simply a knowledge of the letter of Scripture, but intelligence as to its spiritual meaning. With this divinely given intelligence we shall be able to approve things that are excellent. It is comparatively easy to condemn things that are wrong. In a great measure this is possible for the natural man, but to discern and approve things that are morally excellent requires spiritual discernment. The more we are attached in love to Christ the greater will be the spiritual intelligence that will enable us to do the right thing, in the right way, at the right moment, in all circumstances. Approving things that are excellent, and acting with a pure motive, we shall give no ground for offense, “neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God” (1 Cor. 10:3232Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God: (1 Corinthians 10:32)). We should thus be kept without offense until the day of Jesus Christ.
Furthermore, as with the saints at Philippi, we should not only be kept from falling, and thus giving offense, but we should bring forth fruit by Jesus Christ unto the glory and praise of God. We know that it is only as we abide in Christ that we shall bring forth fruit by manifesting the beautiful qualities seen in Christ as Man; and if we bring forth fruit, it will be for the glory of the Father, and testimony to men that we are the disciples of Christ (John 15:4-84Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. 5I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. 6If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. 8Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples. (John 15:4‑8)).
HI 1:12-14{(1:12-14). The apostle then alludes to the special circumstances that he had to face, which might be thought such a hindrance to the spread of the gospel, and so depressing for him. However, Paul views every circumstance in connection with Christ. He was in the loneliness of a prison, and apparently all opportunity for preaching the gospel was at an end, and his public service over. But he would have the saints to know that these apparently untoward circumstances had turned out for his own blessing and the furtherance of the gospel. As regards himself, so far from being depressed by his bonds, he can rejoice, for it was manifest that his bonds were in Christ. He was not cast down by any thought that he was imprisoned for any wrong that he had done, but rejoiced that he was counted worthy to suffer for Christ's sake.
In reference to the gospel, his bonds had become an occasion for reaching men in the highest quarters, even as the saints knew that when with them at Philippi, he could sing praise when cast into the inner prison, and that then his bonds became the occasion for reaching a sinner in the lowest social scale. The stocks, the dungeon, and the midnight darkness, all turned to the furtherance of the gospel.
Furthermore, the opposition of the world to Christ and the gospel, shown by the imprisonment of the apostle to the Gentiles, had become the occasion for stirring up some, who naturally might have been timid, to come forward and boldly proclaim the word of God without fear.
HI 1:15-18{(1:15-18). Alas! there were some who were preaching with an impure motive. Moved by envy, and with a malicious desire to add tribulation to the apostle, such took occasion of his imprisonment to seek to exalt themselves by preaching the gospel. Having Christ before him, and not thinking of himself, he could rejoice that Christ was preached. The impure motives, the faulty manner, and fleshly methods that might be employed by the preacher, he could leave the Lord to deal with in His own time and way; but in that Christ was preached, he could rejoice.
HI 1:19{(1:19). The apostle could rejoice, for he knew that the preaching of Christ, whether by himself, by true brethren, or by those who preached with an impure motive, together with the prayers of the saints and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, would turn to his complete and final deliverance from all the power of Satan. Let us remember that, however great our need, there is with the Holy Spirit an ample and unfailing “supply” to meet the need. If drawing upon this supply, we shall find that the rage of men, the envy of those who preach with a wrong motive, the opposition of adversaries, and the enmity of Satan, will have no power over us.
HI 1:20{(1:20). The apostle clearly shows the character of the salvation that he had before him. Obviously he is not thinking of the salvation of the soul that entirely depends on the work of Christ. That was forever settled for him, and in no wise depended upon anything that he could do, nor upon the prayers of the saints; nor even, we may add, upon the present supply of the Spirit. Furthermore, Paul is not thinking of being delivered from prison, and in that sense being delivered from trying circumstances. The salvation that he has before him is surely the complete deliverance from everything, in life or death, that would hinder Christ from being magnified in his body. Christ filled the apostle's heart, and his earnest expectation and hope was that he would be preserved from anything that would make him ashamed of confessing Christ, and that with all boldness he might witness to Christ, so that, whether by life or death, he would glorify Christ.
HI 1:21{(1:21). This leads the apostle to state that Christ was the one Object before him, the spring and motive of all that he did, so that he can say, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” In this verse the whole of our passage through this world is summed up by the contrasted words “to live” and “to die.” With Paul it is so blessed to see that both living and dying were connected with Christ. If he lived, it was for Christ: if he died, it would mean that he would be with Christ. Having Christ as the one Object of his life sustained him through all the changing circumstances of time, and not only robbed death of all its terrors, but made death far better than living in a world from which Christ is absent.
This, indeed, is true Christian experience, possible for all believers; but, alas! we have to confess how little known in the measure in which the apostle lived this life. How could those, in the apostle's day, who were preaching Christ of contention (1:15), seeking their own things (2:21), or minding earthly things (3:19), know anything of this true Christian experience? Let us challenge our own hearts as to how far we have been content with merely an occasional taste of such blessedness as living only for Christ. With Paul it was the constant experience of his soul. It was not only that Christ was his life, but he says, “For me to live is Christ.” It is one thing to have Christ as our life — every believer can say this — but it is another thing to live the life that we have. Is Christ the one Object before us, that occupies us from day to day — the motive for all that we think and say and do?
HI 1:22-26{(1:22-26). The apostle is speaking of his own personal experience, and therefore again and again he says “I”. Seeing, then, that he can say “For me to live is Christ”, he can also add, “If to live in flesh is my lot, this is for me worth the while” (JND). It is well worth living if Christ is the one Object of the life. Nevertheless, for his own personal joy, it would be far better to depart and be with Christ. However, thinking of Christ, His interests, and the blessing of His people, he felt it would be needful for him to continue yet longer with the saints on earth. With this confidence he knew that he would be left here for the blessing and joy of the saints, and they would be led to rejoice further in the Lord through his being permitted to visit them again.
HI 1:27-30{(1:27-30). In the meantime he desires that their conduct might be such as becomes the gospel of Christ — a searching word for us all, for we have the flesh in us, and, but for the grace of God, it can lead us into conduct not only beneath that becoming to a Christian, but far below the conduct of a decent man of the world, as indeed was the case with some who were preaching Christ even of envy and strife.
That these saints might walk becomingly, he desires that they might be found standing fast against every adversary. To stand fast, the saints must be of one spirit so that with one soul they may strive together for “the faith” of the gospel. The great effort of Satan is to rob the saints of the truth. To “stand fast” in striving together for the faith may entail suffering. But let us not be terrified into thinking that any suffering we might be called to pass through is the destruction of all our hopes. In reality, if suffering for Christ's sake, it will turn to our salvation from all the wiles of the enemy by which he would seek to turn us away from “the faith of the gospel.” Let us ever view sufferings for Christ's sake as an honor given to those who believe on Him. Of such conflict and suffering the apostle was an example, as they had already seen when he was with them at Philippi, and of which they were again hearing. Samuel Rutherford, in his day, when, like the apostle, he was imprisoned for Christ's sake, esteemed it a privilege, for he could say, “Christ's cause even with the cross is better than the king's crown. Suffering for Christ is my garland.”