Philippians (Phil)

Book 11 of the NT, with 4 chapters.  Written by Paul, about AD 61, and addressed to the church at Philippi, whose ruins are in Greece. Time to read: 15 mins.

Key people: Paul, Timothy.

Outline: Paul had a deep affection for the Philippian believers, expressing his appreciation for their encouragement and help when he had a need. He did not need to correct any wrong beliefs they had so just shared his heart with them. He challenged them to imitate Christ’s humility – expressed in their attitude to other Christians – and to fill their minds with good things for what goes in will ultimately come out (Phil 2:5-11, 4:7,8). He concluded by saying, “I have learned to be content whatever the situation”, being confident, “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus (Phil 4:12,19).

Main lesson. Even from a damp stinking goal with the likelihood of execution, Paul said “Rejoice in the Lord”, for his joy was not based on external factors but firmly grounded in his relationship with Christ (Phil 3:1, 4:4). Happiness is dependent on surrounding circumstances while genuine joy is a heart matter, knowing and having fellowship with the Holy Spirit within. Don’t let circumstances dictate to your spiritual state. He was a winner whatever the outcome – “To live is Christ, to die is gain” (Phil 1:21). What an attitude!

Key verses and thoughts: * “Being confident that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus…Continue to work out your salvation...for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good pleasure” (Phil 1:6, 2:12,13). There is a direct relationship between us fulfilling our responsibility to walk obediently, and what we allow God to do in our lives.  Although God is all-powerful (omnipotent) and able to do whatever He desires, He chooses not to over-ride our wills, so we largely determine the level of our intimacy with Him. We may wonder how He can bring about this transformation because of the vileness in our hearts and the total mess we have made of our lives before we knew His saving grace (and the unwise choices made since) but God has the power and ability to bring this about. He keeps His word, so the only thing preventing us being conformed into the image of Christ is our stubborn refusal as He won’t violate our rights, but we will suffer the consequences of that decision (Mt 23:37; Rom 8:29).

* “What has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Phil 1:12).  This was not only true for those Paul was able to share with while a prisoner but if he had not been imprisoned he may have visited and spoken to these Christians and so Philippians (along with Colossians, Ephesians and Philemon also written from jail) may not have been recorded for our benefit today. At best we have but a fleeting and often distorted understanding of God’s plans and ways of achieving those goals which are so much greater than ours (Isa 55:8). It is in our best interests to co-operate with Him. 

* “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil 3:7-16).  What is valued by the world is of little worth in God’s economy of knowing Christ, and having His righteousness. Paul confessed he hadn’t reached the goal yet but was continually pressing on towards it.  Am I advancing towards being all that Christ desires for me, utilizing all that He died to gain for me?

* “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil 4:6). The immense value and importance of prayer is seldom realized. Nothing should be too small or incidental not to bring before our loving heavenly Father, and when you pray don’t forget to thank God for past answers.

* “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice” (Phil 4:9). Paul genuinely lived out his faith to such an extent that he could confidently yet humbly say, “Follow my example” (Phil 3:17).  The challenge is, “Let us live up to what we have already attained” (Phil 3:16). Like Paul, we too will be tested repeatedly on the stand or confession we make.

See also: contentment, happiness, joy, praise, prayer.