This is a pretty diverse epistle in terms of content, containing discussion of Paul’s imprisonment and varied advice on the conduct of a Christian.
Notes on the Book of Philippians
- “I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 English Standard Version).
- Paul’s prayer for the Philippians: “And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:9-11 ESV). I think so much of our continuing walk with Christ involves learning how to choose the good over the evil, and sometimes it can be very difficult to tell the difference, because wolves come in sheep’s clothing, so I believe this prayer is helpful so that we may grow in discernment and so “approve what is excellent.”
- Paul goes on to describe how his imprisonment furthers the gospel for now all the Roman imperial guard knows of the gospel due to his imprisonment (Philippians 1:13). Further, other Christians are actually emboldened to preach because Paul is imprisoned, when common sense tells us we would expect the opposite to happen (Philippians 1:14). I think there is something about the Gospel that reacts to persecution in such a way as to actually strengthen and hearten those who are being persecuted, so that the one who seeks to destroy it only strengthens it.
- “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me.” (Philippians 1:21-22 ESV). For those of the faith Christianity is a win-win, we live and continue to build on our house of faith or we die and are with Christ. Either way we can’t lose. But I believe we must have the same mindset, that our life is Christ, if we are in such a state of being then here (earth) or there (heaven) we are in a similar state, a life dedicated entirely to Christ.
- Strive to have the same state of mind, be humble, look after others (Philippians 2:2-4).
- As Christ humbled himself by taking the form of man and dying on the cross so we too should humble ourselves before men (Philippians 2:7-8).
- “[W]ork out your own salvation with fear and trembling…for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:12 ESV). This is a message that I believe is underplayed these days. We are each ultimately responsible for our own walks with God and, if our church is not going places that we feel led by the Spirit to go, then we should work to develop ourselves spiritually on our own. Paul himself basically went off of a revelation from Christ and “figured it out” as it were, but he also knew, as should we, that God is actively working through us so our work is not our own but is pushed on by God himself.
- Do not complain or quarrel to maintain your reputation (Philippians 2:14).
- Honor the true men of god and receive them with joy (Philippians 2:29).
- Rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 3:1).
- Be careful of the wicked, the worthless people and those who mutilate themselves (I think this was a pagan practice at the time) (Philippians 3:2). We should always be careful when out and about for the world is evil and we cannot afford to be naïve. We do not need to unnecessarily put ourselves in dangerous situations.
- Paul on the things of this world: “whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ..” (Philippians 3:7-8 ESV). One wonders what exactly these things were that Paul had lost, I think I read somewhere that someone speculated that Paul was also ostracized from his family (which would make sense considering his background). He did literally leave everything behind (at least from what I can gather from his epistles) and yet we see how God has rewarded him, with great stature in the Church and who knows how many treasures lie in heaven waiting for him. I believe it is a principle that we must suffer loss in order to gain. We don’t know what it will be but it will be something. I pray the Lord prepare our hearts to suffer the loss of all things if necessary to gain Christ.
- Paul on a spiritually mature mindset: “one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:14). Paul had been through a lot in his ministry and it seems that a key to surviving such tribulations mentally, emotionally and spiritually is not to dwell on them but continue looking forward. This does not mean we pretend they didn’t happen but we shouldn’t let the tribulations of the past creep into the present through ruminating thoughts so as to make us stumble.
- God will reveal to us those ways in which we are spiritually immature (Philippians 3:15).
- “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5-7 ESV). I try and make a practice (when I remember to do it) of “praying my worries” as a way to address any anxious thoughts so that I have prayed them out but also as a way of reassuring myself that action has been taken on them and now it is in the hands of God. Prayer allows us to effectively act on many things that we would otherwise have no control over, and so provides comfort and reassurance.
- “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me-practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 ESV). I think in Christianity we don’t talk enough about the power of positive thinking. It is so often a battle of the mind so we must train up our minds so as to defend ourselves against the evil one.
- Paul on flexibility: “for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:12-13 ESV). This is true freedom, to be immoveable no matter what life throws at you.
- Finally, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” (Philippians 4:23 ESV).