1 Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and ministers: 2 grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you, 4 praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, 5 because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right that I should think this way about all of you, because I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception, 10 to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
12 I want you to know, brothers, that my situation has turned out rather to advance the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment has become well known in Christ throughout the whole praetorium and to all the rest, 14 and so that the majority of the brothers, having taken encouragement in the Lord from my imprisonment, dare more than ever to proclaim the word fearlessly.
15 Of course, some preach Christ from envy and rivalry, others from good will. 16 The latter act out of love, aware that I am here for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not from pure motives, thinking that they will cause me trouble in my imprisonment. 18 What difference does it make, as long as in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed? And in that I rejoice. Indeed I shall continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that this will result in deliverance for me through your prayers and support from the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
20 My eager expectation and hope is that I shall not be put to shame in any way, but that with all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me life is Christ, and death is gain. 22 If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose. 23 I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, (for) that is far better. 24 Yet that I remain (in) the flesh is more necessary for your benefit.
25 And this I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound on account of me when I come to you again. 27 Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear news of you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the gospel, 28 not intimidated in any way by your opponents. This is proof to them of destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God's doing. 29 For to you has been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him. 30 Yours is the same struggle as you saw in me and now hear about me.
- This is Paul's second Prison Epistle, written about 60 AD.
- It may have been written from Rome to Philippi, a Roman colony in Macedonia (roughly northern Greece). Yet a very strong case can be made that Paul wrote it while in prison in Caesarea (Acts 23:33-27:1).
- Paul’s co-author is Timothy. About half of his letters have co-authors, half are written by Paul (alone).
- Paul and Timothy view themselves as "slaves." They know that spiritual leadership serves others; it is does not exist for personal benefit.
- The church was planted and born amidst persecution. Study Acts 16:12-40, if this is not familiar to you.
- Paul and Timothy write to the church, but especially to its leaders (vv.1-2).
- Overseers are supervisors (the elders). Sometimes these are also called shepherds, since they exercise pastoral authority over the flock and the “sheep” follow them.
- Ministers are servants, usually translated "deacons." (Minister is the Latin word for servant.)
- Leadership is good, and necessary. Although "the ground is level at the foot of the cross," this does not erase differences between leaders and followers. Everyone has his or her own gifts; we are all different, not the same.
- He wishes them grace and peace.
- Paul prays for the Philippians (v.3ff).
- He prays for them regularly.
- His prayers are made joyfully.
- Paul respects them greatly, considering them true partners in the gospel, and confident that the Lord will continue to do a great work in them.
- He feels a deep and godly affection towards them.
- These are not vague prayers, but rich in content.
- He prays that the may grow in love.
- He prays for insight, not just knowledge, but for wisdom in relationships and godly living.
- He prays that they may become more discerning, so that at the last day (the day of Christ) they will be blameless, living a righteous life.
- He prays for them regularly.
- Next Paul reflects on his own situation (v.12ff).
- Great good has resulted from his imprisonment.
- The gospel has given the Romans (the Praetorian Guard) an opportunity to know the truth.
- It has also affected the majority of the brothers – who are now sharing their faith more boldly.
- Yet not all the brothers are inspired in a healthy way by Paul’s incarceration.
- Some take advantage of his being out of circulation to advance their own agenda.
- Their motives are not good: envy, ambition, spite.
- Still, Paul does not doubt that even from impure motives these preachers are advancing the cause of Christ. Clearly the apostle is not driven by personal ambition. His passion is that the glory go to God.
- (Note: they do not appear to be the same persons condemned in 3:18-19.)
- Paul is torn.
- If Paul is to continue living, he expects:
- To continue to be bold.
- To continue in fruitful labor.
- To be released from bondage (eventually).
- If he dies, he knows he will be with the Lord (v.21). What an excellent scripture!
- He chooses to prefer remain in this life, serving the Philippians (and others) by his ministry (v.25).
- If Paul is to continue living, he expects:
- Paul is confident that we will eventually be released (vv.19,26). This release is implied in Acts 28:30, since two years was the maximum length of time a Roman citizen could be held for trial.
- Paul urges the Philippians to live a life worthy of Christ (v.27ff):
- Consistent in their faith.
- Unified in their ministry.
- Unfazed by their opponents. In fact opposition is only to be expected, and underscores the reality of the conflict between the friends of God and the enemies of God (v.28).
- The Christian life involves not only an active faith, but also suffering (vv.29-30). This was made quite clear when the gospel was first preached in Philippi (Acts 16).
- The oldest copy of the letter is in the Pauline manuscript collection p46 (Dublin), dating to the very late 2nd century, though this is missing 1:2-4,16,29, 2:13,28, 3:9, 4:1,13 (a total of 10 verses). Other important manuscripts for Philippians are p16 (c.300 AD), Aleph (325), B (350), A (425), and p61 (c.700).
- In the Greek O.T., the word overseers (episkopoi) is used in Numbers 4:16, 31:14; 2 Kings 11:18, 12:11; Nehemiah 11:9; 1 Maccabees 1:51. In Classical Greek the word can refer to tutors, scouts, inspectors, arny officers, watchmen, temple officials, superintendents, treasurers, and even the gods. These are the men who were in charge of the church.
- The praetorium (1:13) are the soldiers assigned to protect the imperial interests, guard prisoners, etc, and are connected with “those of Caesar’s household in 4:22.
- Are the Romans of 4:22 literal members of the family of (Nero) Caesar? This seems unlikely.
- Might they be civil servants within the imperial administration?
- It appears they are the Praetorian Guard themselves. This interpretation fits the context nicely.
- In reference to verse 18, I would like to share a personal thought. Often I am asked what I think of the ministries of those whose aim is to divide, to cause trouble, to advance their own agenda. Here are a few of my typical responses:
- Yes, not everyone is a “Demetrius” (3 John 12). Occasionally we meet with a true “Diotrephes” (3 John 9).
- In the body of Christ, unity is a cardinal virtue, and we are charged with preserving this bond (Ephesians 4:3). Those who destroy it are guilty of grave sin.
- Still, nowhere does scripture say that those who follow a “Diotrephes” forfeit their salvation! These persons we must regard as genuine brothers and sisters, whether or not their leaders’ motives are as righteous.
- The wording of v.19 matches that of Job 13:16 (LXX). In other words, Paul visualizes his eventual deliverance along the pattern of Job's deliverance.
- There is yet another letter to the Philippians, though not written by Paul. Ignatius of Antioch wrote it in the early 2nd century AD. Click here to read it.
- When I pray for others, am I vague ("God, be with so and so..."), or specific?
- Paul was in chains when he wrote this letter. Are we as bold and Christ-centered when we:
- Are in physical pain?
- Feel sad because friends have disappointed or abandoned us?
- Experience minor inconveniences?
- What are my own motives for wanting to spread the Christian faith?
- Do I realize that living worthily entails not only faith, but also suffering?