STUDY 2: PHILIPPIANS 1:1 – 11

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020

 

A. THE LETTER

Read Philippians 1:1,2. Answer/discuss these questions:
By whom was the letter sent?

 

What do the introductory greetings tell us about them?

 

Who were the recipients of the letter?

 

What greeting was given?

 

What is the significance of this greeting to you?

 

How does Paul refer to God and to Jesus?

 

What is the significance of these titles/names to you?

 

 

Although as we read through the letter it is obviously Paul who is writing and expressing his thoughts, he includes Timothy along with himself in the introductory greeting. We can conclude therefore that Paul considers Timothy, his close associate in the work of Christ, to have the same mind and heart as himself. This unity of purpose and of care for the Philippians is stated later in the letter (2:19 – 23).

Paul refers to himself and Timothy as ‘servants of Christ Jesus’. In many of his letters Paul introduces himself as ‘an apostle’ of Jesus Christ, including those where he has to challenge wrong belief or address widespread wrong behaviour. But here to the Philippians he is simply a ‘servant of Christ Jesus’, just like Timothy.

He addresses his letter to

(1) ‘all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi’. Contrary to Roman Catholic use of the word ‘saint’ to refer to a very limited number of believers who have specific spiritual achievements, the New Testament use of the word refers to everyone who has been united to Jesus Christ by faith. The Greek word is ‘hagioi’, which is the plural form of the adjective ‘holy’, that is, ‘set apart’ by God for himself. All who believe in Jesus Christ are set apart, that is ‘sanctified’, that is, ‘saints’. They have not achieved this status by their own efforts. They are ‘saints’ by God’s decision and God’s action.

Read 1Peter 1:2, which refers to ‘the sanctifying work of the Spirit’ that resulted in salvation; 1Corinthians 1:30, which tells us that Jesus Christ is ‘our holiness’; and 1Corinthians 6:11 – ‘you were sanctified ... in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God’. All of these are saying the same thing as Paul when he calls those who believe in Jesus Christ ‘saints’.

(2) ‘together with the overseers and deacons’ These two terms refer to persons with specific roles and responsibilities within the church. ‘Overseers’ translates a word that means exactly that – episkopos - an over-seer. Our English word ‘episcopal’ is derived from it. It is sometimes translated ‘bishop’; and sometimes it is used instead of the word ‘elder’. ‘Deacons’ refers to people who served in a range of ways within the church community.

 

Paul gives his usual greeting – grace and peace. ‘Grace’ refers to God’s attitude and action towards us in and through Christ – to the totally unmerited and unearned salvation we have in Christ; ‘peace’ refers to the status of our relationship with God in Christ and resultant state of heart and mind that comes from knowing and receiving God’s grace.

Also part of his usual greeting, this grace and peace are ‘from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ’. Paul here acknowledges who the source of grace and peace is: it is the God we all now know as ‘our Father’ – one Father for all who believe. And it is the Jesus whom we now know is both ‘Lord’ and ‘Christ’ - that is, both God and the long-expected Messiah.

The letter was written during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, about AD60.

 

B. PAUL AND THE PHILIPPIAN BELIEVERS

B.1 Paul and the Philippians
In Philippians 1:3 – 11 Paul expresses his thoughts and feelings about the Philippian believers. He has an on-going deep and caring connection with them, grounded in the saving grace of God of which both he and they are the recipients.

Read 1:3 – 11. What does Paul reveal about the Philippian Christians and his relationship with them?
1.3

 

1:4

 

1:5

 

1:6

 

1:7

 

1:8

 

1:9 – 11

 

These verses reveal a lot about Paul’s thoughts and feelings. He mentions:

That he remembers them often.
That he is thankful to God for them.
The joy that he feels because of them.
Their ‘partnership’ with him in the gospel.
That they are in his heart.
That they share with him in God’s grace.
That he longs for them with affection.
That he prays for them.

For discussion/refection:
[1] Think back over your life. Can you think of people who have, or have had, a similar care and concern for you and your growth as a believer? How have they and their care impacted you?

 

 

[2] Think of the believers you know. To what extent do you feel a similar kind or level of care, concern and compassion towards them? What could you do to make other believers feel loved and cared for, as Paul did for the Philippians?

 

 

 

[3] Think about the thankfulness and joy that Paul felt when he talked with God about the Philippians. Are there people who make you feel that way?

 

 

B.2 God and salvation
In all of the things Paul said in 1:3 – 11, he was conscious of God, and of God’s involvement with the Philippians:

Verse 3 indicates that Paul thanked God every time he remembered them. He knew that the present reality of their faith and the certainty of their present and future salvation was the result of God’s work for them and in them.

In verse 6 Paul expresses his confidence that God who began this saving work in them will bring it to completion – that God will keep on working in them, until the day of Christ. Their continuance in a state of salvation is in God’s hands, not theirs. It was God who brought them to himself at the beginning, and it is God who will bring them safely through to the end. [The ‘day of Christ Jesus’ is the day of his second coming, when he comes to judge the earth.]

This verse is one of many scattered through the New Testament that affirm that salvation is God’s work, not the result of any human work. And because it is God’s work, from beginning to end, it is assured. The God who began it, raising a person out of spiritual death into spiritual life, is the same God who guarantees that salvation cannot be lost. It cannot be lost because God’s hand is always holding fast to those who believe in him, and God’s will bring those who believe in him safely home, including safely through the judgement that occurs on the ‘day of Christ Jesus’. The God who is keeping them safe in Christ now will also keep them safe in Christ then.

The confidence Paul has in God’s preservation of the Philippian believers is the foundation of the joy he feels when he prays for them.

Paul tells the Philippian believers ‘all of you share in God’s grace with me’ (verse 7). All the Philippian believers together with Paul, share the same salvation that is granted to all who acknowledge Jesus, the Son of God. All of them, even those he will rebuke later in the letter, share together in that same grace. They have a common acceptance with God – his grace.

And, as a further expression of this confidence in God, Paul prays for them (verses 9 – 11). He knows that just as it was God who saved them by his grace, and just as it is God who will keep them safe to the end, so also, he knows that it is only God who can accomplish continuing growth in the lives of the Philippian believers. It is only God who can work in them in such a way that he is praised and glorified.

Check these verses. How do they express the certainty of salvation for those who believe in Jesus Christ?
John 10:28, 29

 

Romans 4:16

 

2Corinthians 1:22

 

2Corinthians 5:5

 

1Peter 1:3 – 5

 

For reflection:
How confident are you that God will keep you safe until the end?

 

C. PAUL’S PRAYER FOR THE PHILIPPIANS

Paul’s prayer (1:9 – 11) contains a series of connected petitions, each one in some way connected to or dependent on the previous request.

Read 1:9 – 11. Answer these questions:
List the five parts in Paul’s prayer:

 

 

 

 

 

 

According to Paul’s prayer, what two things will enhance the love the Philippians already have? (1:9)

 

What will be the two results of enhancing love in this way? (1:10)

 

Suggest why these two outcomes are so important that Paul prays for them.

 

Suggest what ‘filled with the fruit of righteousness’ means. (1:11)

 

What is the ultimate result that Paul is praying for? (1:11)

 

A consistent New Testament teaching is that our purpose as believers is the glory of God.

Look up these verses. How is this one over-riding purpose stated?

By Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount – Matthew 5:13 – 16

 

By Jesus in the Lord’s Prayer – Matthew 6:9

 

By Paul in 1Corinthians 10:31

 

By Paul in Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14

 

By Paul in Colossians 1:27

 

By Peter in 1Peter 2:9, 12

 

Here in Paul’s prayer for the Philippian believers he again states this purpose: ‘to the glory and praise of God’. It is a purpose consistent with our original creation in the image of God. This is a glorious purpose, a glorious identity.

For reflection:
How committed are you personally to live a life that glorifies God?

 

What changes could you make so that people may see his glory by the way you live?

 

 

 

How concerned are you that other believers should also be living such lives?