Journey Through Philippians: Chapter 1


  • a diverse and wealthy city.
  • Opinions differ, but traditionally and most likely written during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment circaAD 60-62.
  • The church at Philippi was founded by the apostle Paul on his second missionary journey from Antioch, Syria. The precise time of Paul’s arrival is unknown, but most likely it was around a.d. 51. See Acts 16.

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:

  • “servants” – “being completely controlled by someone or something” – God’s agenda was above their own. “A slave had no rights or privileges, and all personal interests and ambitions had to be repressed. Everything related to the master.”
  • “saints” – not someone who has died…but one “set apart for the purposes of God.” Every person who possesses Christ—or more accurately is possessed by Christ—is a saint. This is not a term reserved for elite, super-Christians, but is applied to all who trust Christ for salvation. 
  • APP: It is often difficult to maintain a proper biblical self-image. We either think to highly of ourselves, or too poorly. A proper biblical understanding of self falls somewhere in the middle.
  • “overseers” – Overseers is another term for elders; some translations say “pastor” or “bishop.” These men were the shepherds of the flock who exercised spiritual oversight over the local church (Acts 20:28).
  • “deacons” – Deacons were church leaders that ministered primarily to the physical needs of the people similar to the activities in Acts 6:1–6. Often times these roles are wrongly combined. Both positions are spiritual leadership roles within the church, but they are not the same.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Note that these are sourced in God. they are “from” Him. At the risk of pushing exegesis too far, you could argue that Grace comes from the Father and that peace comes from Jesus’ substitutionary death on the cross for sins (Rom. 5.1).

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,

  • At the risk of sounding trite, there is a difference in thinking and thanking.
  • Paul had developed a particular fondness for the Philippians as he first preached among them about ten years earlier. (See Acts 16) Every time he thinks of them, he becomes thankful to God for their encouragement, support, ministry, etc.

always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,

  • APP: May our thinking lead us to thanking. May our thanking lead us to praying.

because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

  • The reason for Paul’s joy is their partnership in the gospel. From Paul’s second missionary journey when he preached at Philippi, the church had continued to support Paul’s ministry in a variety of ways and champion the gospel in their city.
  • “partnership” – literally, “fellowship”. A major theme of the book. They are contributing to the spread of the gospel in tangible ways.

And 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.

  • When God starts a saving work in a person’s life, He WILL complete it. 2 Theological points: 1) First, this impacts spiritual growth. Theologically this is known as sanctification. As believers, God is conforming us to the image of his son. 2) Second, eternal security. More specifically this is known as Perseverance of the saints – the theological concept that true believers will persevere in their faith throughout their lives. Baptist have coined the phrase, once saved, always saved, to reflect this doctrine.
  • “I am sure of this” – Paul’s certainty of these theological concepts brings extra comfort and confidence in God’s grace. Grace is never insufficient. The righteousness found in Christ’s death is never lacking.
  • “completion at the day of Jesus Christ” – technically our salvation is not complete after our physical bodies die and our souls go to heaven. Salvation is complete when we receive our resurrection bodies at Christ’s return.

It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

  • There is indeed a special relationship shared among believers, which comes from understanding the love of Christ.

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment,

  • After an expression of thanksgiving and genuine love for his Philippian friends, Paul’s prayer switches towards their spiritual growth. (Notice how these virtues seem to flow from and build upon one another.)
  • “love may abound more and more” – here, agape. Which emphasizes a sacrificial, unconditional love. The phrase translated “abound more and more” essentially means to be overwhelmingly present and displayed, that it would be excessive.
  • Agape love is not as many interpret love to be today. It does not allow for love to be expressed without godly parameters. It is tethered together with knowledge and discernment. The Gk word for discernment can refer to intellectual or spiritual discernment. Or both. It carries the idea of fully understanding something and the implications that are involved.
  • It is probably best to understand knowledge as “spiritual wisdom found in Scripture”…and discernment “is application of this spiritual wisdom to practical living. Christian love must be rooted in wisdom from God’s Word if we are to love both God and man in greater ways.”

10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,

  • What is the purpose of love, spiritual knowledge, and applying that knowledge to our everyday lives? Paul gives us the answer in this verse. In short, our lives should be sharpened by God’s Word so that our decision making, time,  and approval goes towards those things that God applauds. This results in holy living.
  • “approve” – to judge something as good or worthy based on testing.

11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

  • “fruit of righteousness” – Christian character and moral qualities that glorify God.
  • Gal. 5.22,23 – “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”
  • Our ability to produce the fruit of righteousness comes directly through our relationship with Christ. It is never mustered up under our own ability.
  • Our living and the ability to live in a righteous way ends ultimately with God receiving glory. He demands and produces righteousness – positionally and practically.

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,

  • “what has happened to me” – At the time of writing, Paul finds himself  in a Roman prison for preaching the gospel.
  • Even though humanity and Satan have tried with much effort to forbid and kill the gospel. History and the words of Jesus tell us that it cannot be done. The gates of hell will not prevail over the Kingdom of God.
  • Hard times can either further the gospel and increase our faith or hinder the gospel and undermine faith. This depends largely on where we focus our attention during difficulty. Paul chose the first option.

13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

  • While imprisoned, Paul used his circumstance to share the gospel.

14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

  • Paul’s imprisonment also provided bravery to others to share the gospel.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.

  • His imprisonment also encouraged some, with apparently not the purest of motives, to preach the gospel as well.

16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.

17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.

18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,

  • The motives of others was secondary to the advance of the gospel. Paul’s self-designation as a servant of God (1.1) was not a false humility, but a genuine description of his perspective.

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 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

  • Paul feels optimistic about a release, but also knows that execution may be in his near future.
  • “not be at all ashamed” – As Paul faced a legitimate chance of death, that is not his main concern. His main fear was that he would dishonor Christ in a time of difficulty.
  • A similar thought: 1 Cor. 9.24-ff – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

  • Many suggest this to be the most important verse of the book.
  • It makes for a great back tattoo, but can we honestly say this is true of our lives?
  • For Paul to continue living meant more gospel influence and more glory for the kingdom, and death would be great personal gain as he would be rid of sin and in the presence of Christ. It was a win-win for him. This perspective only becomes possible when God’s agenda trumps our own, no matter how noble it may be.

22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.

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 on your account.

25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,

  • It may have been because Paul was reading the room regarding his present situation or, as he said in verse 24, it was more necessary for him to remain for the church’s spiritual progress, either way he feels confident that he would be released.

26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

  • “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” – In transparency, this seems such a high bar, that I could never obtain it, Yet Paul also reminds us that “there is no condemnation for those that are in Christ Jesus.”
  • As described earlier in v. 9-11, It is pursuit…not perfection.

28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.

29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

  • “granted” – to give or grant graciously and generously, with the implication of good will on the part of the giver—‘to give, to grant, to bestow generously.’ The root of this word is the same word we translate grace.
  • God’s grace resulted in their belief. It was also grace that allowed them to suffer.
  • APP: We tend to avoid suffering at all costs. We can be very guilty of idolizing comfort in America. God calls us to live counter cultural lives. Not just in our morality, but also in our comforts.

30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

  • Adversity is a part of the Christian life and should come as no surprise. Those that follow Christ should expect opposition.


• God is bigger than my circumstances.

• From on high God understands why!

• Proper perspective produces praise.

• In Christ, life or death is a win-win situation.

• When we are ready to die, we are best prepared to live.*



 *Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999).

 Johannes P. Louw and Eugene Albert Nida, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains (New York: United Bible Societies, 1996).

Richard R. Melick, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, vol. 32, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991).