Paul's letter to the Philippians was written to the church at Philippi from prison (1:7, 13, 17). It is not mentioned as to where he was imprisoned. As Paul sat in prison, not knowing whether he would live or die, he writes that he is always grateful and is praying for the churches. Even though he is confined and his future seems uncertain, he is confident that God will complete His work.
I thank my God every time I remember you. 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, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:3-6 (NIV)
Philippi was an ancient city, founded approximately 360 BC (Before Christ, sometimes abbreviated as BCE - Before Common Era). The city was taken over by Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great and he renamed it after himself. It was important as a land route across Asia, and a part of the Roman Empire, where citizens of the city were considered citizens of the Empire. The church at Philippi was founded by Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:12-40). It was in Philippi that Paul and Silas encountered the slave girl who, under the influence of a demonic spirit, could foretell the future. When Paul cast the demon out, her master caused Paul and Silas to be put into prison.
|B.||Thanksgiving and Prayer||1:3-11|
|2.||Paul's Circumstances and Encouragement for the Church|
|A.||Paul's Circumstances and Attitude||1:12-26|
|B.||Paul's Encouragement for the Church||1:27-2:30|
|3.||Warnings Against the False Teaching of the Judaizers|
|A.||The Warning: Steer Clear of the Judaizers and Their Legalism||3:1-2|
|B.||The Solution: Follow the Example of Paul||3:3-4:1|
|B.||Concerning Joy and Prayer||4:4-7|
|C.||Concerning How to Think and Live||4:8-9|
|5.||A Word of Thanks|
|B.||The Philippians' Gift||4:14-20|
|6.||Final Greetings and Closing|
Even though Paul was in prison, he wanted the church at Philippi to understand that which was important was Christ.
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21 (NIV)
In this short verse, Paul is actually giving a very deep and intense message to the church. His sole aim in living is to glorify Christ. Instead of the pursuit of position, gold or pleasure, Paul's pursuit was to know as much of Christ as he could, to imitate Christ in all of his life's actions and plans and to make Him known to everyone. Jesus is exalted was Paul's life focus.
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:9-11 (NIV)
Because Paul had founded the church in Philippi, he felt a responsibility for them. He wanted to ensure that they continued in the proper path. He encouraged them to continue in this path even in his absence.
Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.
Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)
Paul was a Pharisee, one of the ruling class. He lists his "pedigree" in detail to prove his point. However, Paul realized that anything he had through "natural" sources was of no value in contrast to the "supernatural" resources available through Christ Jesus.
For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh-- though I myself have reasons for such confidence. If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.
Philippians 3:3-7 (NIV)
Even though we have received so much through the work of Christ, it is not a call to rest. Paul states this clearly, and encourages us to press forward, working in response to the gift that we have been given by pressing toward the prize of our calling.
Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 3:13-14 (NIV)
Then, like now, there are many people who are enemies of the cross of Christ. Paul is very blunt about these people, and how they are destined for destruction. Paul is talking about legalists who were trying to enforce the requirements of the law into the gospel. Another group was saying that Christians were free from all civil, moral and even scriptural laws.
The fact that these groups were attempting to make inroads into the church at Philippi brought Paul to tears. He contrasts these groups that were trying to set their own agenda to that to the destiny of those who believe, those who eagerly await a Savior, Their destiny, and our destiny, is that God will transform our lowly bodies to be like Him.
For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.
Philippians 3:18-21 (NIV)
Here we see a major key to Paul's life. Rejoice! Paul recognizes that our circumstances can be overwhelming, but he also knows that how we respond to those circumstances is very important. He stresses that what we need to do is to Rejoice!
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!
Philippians 4:4 (NIV)
Paul also instructs us how to act in all of our circumstances and encounters. Like Christ, our gentleness is to be evident to all. Our reason to show this gentleness to everyone? It is because the Lord is near, and He is the one that we desire to please most of all. He is exalted, and our gentleness toward others is a contribution to that.
Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.
Philippians 4:5 (NIV)
How do we do achieve that gentleness in the midst of all of the circumstances, trials and other stresses of life? Paul explains this in the next two verses. We are to bring everything to God in prayer. Anxiety is not the answer, instead we need to present our requests to God, recognizing that only He can look after them. When we do this, His peace will guard our hearts and our minds.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV)
Paul mentioned in 3:19 that the enemies of the cross of Christ have their mind on earthly things. So we need to know where to focus our minds. Paul tells us what we should think about in order to keep our minds on the things of God. When we do this, when we put into practice these things, along with everything else that we have received from Paul, we know that the God of peace will be with us.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Philippians 4:8-9 (NIV)
For many people, the amount of property, gold or other possessions that they accumulate is related to how successful they are. Paul says that he knows what it is to have or not have these possessions. In the midst of this, he has learned the secret of being content in any and every situation. The key to this is to realize Who it is who gives us strength.
I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength.
Philippians 4:12-13 (NIV)
Remember, this letter was written by Paul from prison. In the natural, it seemed as if Paul was in trouble and no one would blame him for complaining about his situation. However, Paul confidently states that he can do everything through him who gives him strength - Jesus Christ. He continues (and concludes) his letter by stating that God can meet all of the believer's needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Philippians 4:19-20 (NIV)
It is interesting to note that had Paul not been in prison so many times, we might not have many of his letters. What the enemy tried to use to silence him actually caused his message to be spread more widely, with his message being circulated throughout the churches, and then passed on down to us for our encouragement and edification.