Philippians, Chapter 1

The Wednesday Bible Study Club met November 20. Mrs. Carolyn Evans hosted the meeting in the parlor of First United Methodist Church. Pastor Eric Douglas welcomed the members and opened the meeting with prayer.

Mrs. Lynn Waddy presented chapter 1 of Philippians. Again, Paul is writing from prison to the Christians at Philippi. Paul had founded the church at Philippi during his second missionary trip around 50 AD. Philippi is the most important city of the first district of Macedonia at that time. It is thought that Silas, Timothy and possibly Luke accompanied him on this second missionary trip. Philippi is located in a fertile area fed by springs. There were also gold and silver mines in the area. The inhabitants were mostly Romans and Macedonian Greeks with some Jews, as well. There were many religions in the city including the worship of Roman, Greek and Thracean gods and goddesses, deities from Phrygia and Egypt, and Yahweh of the Jews.

The first convert at Philippi was a gentile woman known as Lydia. Lydia was known to be a “god-fearer” which is a person, male or female, that is attracted to the monotheism of the Jewish faith, but does not want to accept the full yoke of the Jewish law. Lydia was very important to this missionary effort as she opened her home to the missionaries as a place of residence and a gathering place for the fledgling church.

The purposes of this letter to the Philippians were:

• To inform the Philippians of Paul’s present situation and his prospects for the future.

• To thank the Philippians for their gift.

• To ensure a good reception for Epaphroditus, who was returning with the letter.

• To prepare the way for the coming of Timothy.

• To assist the Philippians in solving certain problems in the church: persecution by opponents, dissension among members and helps them move on toward Christian maturity.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is his most joyful letter – it possesses an unearthly radiance. He opens with a greeting to the Philippians in verses 1 and 2: “1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The opening of the letter is warmly personal and gracious. From almost the first line the Philippians would feel both the graciousness of Paul and the grace and peace of God. “2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

In the first words Paul’s humble sharing of authority in God’s service with Timothy and his inclusion of the whole church, with its bishops and deacons, as God’s servant people along with Timothy and himself, strikes a democratic and familial note. “1 To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.”

In verses 3-11 Paul offers his thanks and a prayer: “3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4 constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5 because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart, for all of you share in God’s grace with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, for how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with the knowledge and full insight 10 to help you determine what is best, so that in the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11 having produced the harvest of righteousness through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.”

Paul’s thankful remembrance of them, in particular for their generous support of his mission, his confidence in them and their future as the special people of God, his tender yearning for them, and his desire to enrich their lives with knowledge and spiritual fruits, all say eloquently “I have you in my heart and I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. (1:7-8) Paul was a master psychologist. Whenever he could, he accentuated the positive and minimized the negative. He knew that praise and encouragement accomplished more with new Christians than stinging criticism. Sharing was not just a work with him, but a total attitude and way of life. Paul shared and wished his converts to share with him because God shared the gift of the son.

In verses 12-26 there are three parts: 1) Paul’s Imprisonment (verses 12-14), 2) Paul’s Christian Opponents (verses 15-18), and 3) the Coming Verdict (verses 19-26).

Paul’s imprisonment was a disaster. He experienced personal humiliation and suffering, delay of his plans for evangelizing the West and embarrassment for the church before the Jewish and Roman worlds, and much more. “12 I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14 and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear.”

By meditation, prayer, and the Holy Spirit’s illumination, Paul saw not discouraging negatives of his situation but the heartening positives – all rooted in his conviction that God has a way of bringing good out of evil. “15 Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16 These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; 17 the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. 18 What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice,”

Paul also exhibits a magnanimous attitude toward the ungrateful and hostile Christian preachers who increased the bitterness of his prison experience. Slight and insult are not commonly known to be inspirers of joy and rejoicing. Where did Paul learn this response if not from Jesus?

Finally, Paul’s calm in the face of death and his loving concern at this time for his much more fortunate readers reveal a source of power not of this world. The text here discloses the agony of his soul in his awful predicament and that he is fully human. He wants the prayers of the Philippians and the Holy Spirit’s help. But he is in no doubt about the outcome: Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. 20 It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23 I am hard pressed etween the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

In the last verses of this first chapter, Paul’s appeal to the Philippians for humble service to others, rather than self-aggrandizement, is powerfully reinforced by this magnificent hymn about the attitude and actions of the church’s Lord. “12 I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14 and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear. 15 Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16 These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; 17 the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. 18 What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. 20 It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. 23 I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, 26 so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

President Nikki Murphy conducted the business meeting. Members expressed prayer concerns and Mrs. Carla Narcomey led the intercessory prayer. The meeting was dismissed with the Closing Prayer.

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