Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons.
Paul started the church in Philippi during his second missionary journey, around AD 51. Ten years later, he was under house arrest in Rome, and wrote to thank them for their financial support. He described the believers there as God’s holy people in Christ Jesus. He was not referring to the spiritual leaders only, but to all believers, including those who were struggling.
Consciously or not, Paul was making the point that all God’s people are holy in Christ Jesus. In and of ourselves, we are filled with sin. But in Christ Jesus, we are God’s holy people. Christianity is a gift of radical forgiveness which makes us holy and acceptable to God.
Philippians 1:4-5 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Gospel ministry has always been a cooperative effort. Jesus received financial support from generous donors (Luke 8:3), and Paul received financial support from the Philippians. When Paul was in Thessalonica, the Philippians sent him aid more than once (Philippians 4:16). Now that he was in Rome, they sent him help again. Paul brought the gospel to the Philippians, and the Philippians helped Paul take the gospel to others.
Partnering in the gospel is a privilege, and a mark of spiritual maturity. I was raised in a church that other people built, and I received the gospel because others brought it to me. When I grew up, I understood my duty was to do the same for others.
Partnering in the gospel is also a good investment. When the Philippians sent a gift to Paul, they never imagined his thank you letter would become part of God’s word, read by millions, for thousands of years. If they had not partnered with Paul, our New Testament would be a little bit thinner. It will be a joy to meet the Philippian Christians in heaven, and to thank them for supporting the Apostle Paul.
Philippians 1:6 [H]e who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Paul was amazed by the saving power of Jesus, but also by the keeping power of Jesus. After starting the church in Philippi, Paul moved on rather quickly. How would they survive without him? What about persecution? How would they keep the faith? But ten years later, the church was going strong. God is the one who brought them to faith, and he would carry it on to completion.
Many start projects without finishing, but this can never be said of God. We should be amazed by the saving power of Jesus, but also by the keeping power of Jesus.
Philippians 1:8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Before he was a believer, Paul hated Christians and wanted them dead (Acts 7:54-58). But after he came to Christ, Paul loved believers with the affection of Christ Jesus. From this we learn that Jesus loves us with affection. This is important because we can never love Christ more than we believe that he loves us. And we can never love him affectionately, unless we are convinced that he loves us affectionately.
This is why the story of the Prodigal Son is so emotionally powerful. When the father saw his son coming home, he did not wait for an explanation. [H]e ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him (Luke 15:20). The greatest emotional need we have is to be hugged and kissed by God. This is the God we meet in the Bible.
Philippians 1:15-17 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.
Some preachers were using Paul’s imprisonment as an opportunity to grow their own ministries. With Paul out of the way, they were able to attract a larger audience. We might expect Paul to be upset, but he replied, [W]hat does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached (Philippians 1:18).
Many pastors evaluate themselves based on the size of their congregation. If the church is growing, they are pleased with themselves. If the church is shrinking, they are not pleased with themselves. But Paul was less concerned about himself than he was about Jesus Christ. As long as Christ was being properly preached, Paul was content. This is a good attitude for Christian ministers.
Philippians 1:21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
As Paul waited for his trial, he knew that he might be facing death. His feelings were mixed since he would no longer be able to preach the gospel, but he would be in the presence of Christ. Either outcome was agreeable since to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Another preacher lay dying and said, I am not discouraged. I want to live as long as I am useful, but when my work is done I want to be up and off. The following day he said, Earth recedes, Heaven opens . . . . God is calling me, and I must go (DL Moody).
Death is gain if we live for Christ, but not if we live for anything else. If we live for money or pleasure, death is not gain. If we live for popularity or success, death is not gain. If we live for excitement or leisure, death is not gain. But if we live for Jesus Christ, earth will recede, heaven will open, and death will be our gain.
Reflection and Review
Why should believers give to Christian ministries?
How has God has kept you in the faith?
How old do you want to be when you die?