Fairview Baptist Church
Sunday School Archives
To send an email regarding the Lesson Study Guide follow the link below:
Email Link: email@example.com
This Sunday School Study Guide is provided
free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.
It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for
sale, without permission from the copyright holders.
Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Winter
Study Theme: Thrive:
Living in Real Joy
What This Lesson Is About:
week is the beginning of a new study focused how our relationship with God
can and will Thrive because of
our joyful love for God’s
Word. The titles of this six
session study titled
Thrive is taken from Paul’s Letter
to the Philippians.
Praying with Joy
Sharing with Joy
Following with Joy
Growing with Joy
Giving with Joy
is an opportunity to experience joy.
Joyfully Pray For What God Has Done
Pray For What God Is Doing (Phil.
Pray For What God Will Continually Do
is one of Paul’s prison letters. Without
question, Paul was imprisoned for preaching the gospel.
However, scholars have debated the exact location where he was
imprisoned. Some believe Paul
wrote Philippians from Caesarea, where he stayed as a prisoner for two
years (AD 58-59). Luke
recounted this imprisonment in Acts 24:23,27.
However, some believe that he wrote from Rome.
This is the traditional view. Paul’s
first imprisonment in Rome was during AD 60-62.
we can be certain about is that Paul was enduring a difficult time in
prison. He did not know
whether this imprisonment would end in life or death (Phil. 1:21).
He no longer could travel and preach the gospel, which is what he
sensed God was calling him to do. He
could not work as a tent-maker to support his ministry, thus making him
dependent on the churches he had established to support him.
Philippi was one of those churches that generously provided for
him. These churches and their
support for Paul in prison gave him great joy and confidence to continue
sharing Christ—even in prison!
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Too often prayer is limited to asking God to
do something, intervene in a crisis, or fix a problem. To be sure, the
Bible is full of invitations for us to call on Him to work, but our
prayers should also reflect the fact that God has already been at work and
continues to work in our lives. When we reflect on His work in our lives
and the lives of others, it should cause us to rejoice and motivate us to
continue praying joyfully for God’s work.
SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide;
LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville,
Pray For What God Has Done (Phil.
3 I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, 4
always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, 5
because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6
I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on
to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Pray For What God Is Doing (Phil.
7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have
you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my
imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel. 8
For God is my witness, how deeply I miss all of you with the affection of
do you think was right about the way Paul was thinking about the Philippian
would you summarize verse seven?
words or phrases in verses 7-8 communicated Paul’s love for the Philippian
do you think Paul meant that the Philippians were partners with him in grace?
on verse 7, how would you describe the relationship between Paul and the
What are some obstacles that may hinder us from
building deep relationships with other believers in other churches?
How can your church help you build the kind of
relationships Paul described in these verses?
According to what God is doing in your life, is this
the basis for you to pray joyfully? Why,
or why not?
would you summarize verse 8?
do you think Paul called on God as his witness to how much he missed the
believers in Philippi?
do you think Paul meant when he said he missed the Philippian believers with the
affection of Christ Jesus?
would it look like if all Christians loved each other like Christ loved them?
your love for your fellow believers caused
you to pray for the very best for them in their walk with Christ?
What would that kind of love do for your spiritual
According to this passage, how is God actively
working in a believer’s life?
Lessons in Philippians 1:7-8:
believer should work to defend and to establish the gospel message.
should have deep affection for one another.
Pray For What God Will Continually Do
9 And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and
every kind of discernment, 10 so that you can approve the
things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of
Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes
through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
do you think it means to pray joyfully for what God will continue to do?
steps do you think we could take to experience true joy through our prayer life?
do you think it means for your love to grow in knowledge and every kind of
on verse 10, what was the purpose of a believer’s love to grow in knowledge
and every kind of discernment?
What steps can we take to
grow in knowledge and discernment?
superior things do you think Paul had in mind?
do you think Paul meant that a believer could be pure and blameless in the day
is the “day of Christ?”
has the righteousness of believers has to do with the glory of God?
Why does love lead us to live out what is both right
and best in our lives?
Do you believe our goal for growing in knowledge and
every kind of discernment is to be biblically informed and deeply affectionate?
Why, or why not?
What do you think it means to be filled with the
fruit of righteousness?
Do you think Galatians 5:22 would qualify as the
“fruit of righteousness”? Why,
or why not?
According to verse 11, where does that filling come
What are some things we can do to become focused on
Do you think being focused on that filling would lead
one to a more joyful prayer life? Why,
or why not?
Lessons in Philippians 1:9-11:
love needs to grow.
love needs to grow in knowledge and discernment—and this growth in love
can be measured and even in specific actions.
always should be looking for the superior things in Christ.
believers should desire to appear pure and blameless before Christ on the
day of judgment.
of our life and the righteousness we demonstrate should be for the glory
Most of us have a friend or family member with whom
we enjoy talking. The subject
is not as important as the deep, personal feelings that bind us together.
We can talk about the past, present, or future with delight
unmatched by conversations with most others.
Transfer those feelings to time spent in prayer, and intimate
conversation with God. How
joy-filled are those moments for you? We
should express gratitude with joy for what the Lord has done, joyfully
seek to join Him in what He is doing presently, and rejoice even now as we
anticipate what He will continue to do in our future here and in eternity.
For whom do you thank the Lord for bringing into your life?
How, and in what way, is the Lord working in your life that brings
you joy? Prayfully express
with joy your confidence that the Lord will continue to work on your
behalf. And thank Him for the
joy He brings to you!
New Beginning for Your Life!
If you do not know the Lord, Jesus Christ, as your
personal Savior, you can! Just
follow what is known as the “Roman Road to Heaven" (Rom. 3:23; 5:8;
6:23; 10:9; 10:13) Becoming a
Christian is as simple as believing the Scripture of the “Roman Road”
and receiving the wonderful gift of forgiveness and unending life Jesus
Christ wants to give you. If
you need help to overcome your unbelief, simply ask Jesus.
He can and will help! Be
sure to seek out a Bible-believing church that will nurture your newfound
faith. It’s vital to your
spiritual health (See John 15:1-5). And
God bless you!
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.
Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist
Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Focal Passage from three different translations of
God’s Word: Philippians 1:3-11
King James Version: Philippians 1:3-11
Philippians 1:3-11 (KJV)
thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 Always in every prayer
of mine for you all making request with joy, 5 For your fellowship in
the gospel from the first day until now; 6 Being confident of this
very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it
until the day of Jesus Christ: 7 Even as it is meet for me to think
this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds,
and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my
grace. 8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in
the bowels of Jesus Christ. 9 And this I pray, that your love may
abound yet more and more in knowledge and in
all judgment; 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that
ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; 11 Being filled with the
fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of
New King James Version:
Philippians 1:3-11 (NKJV)
3 I thank my God upon every
remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine making request
for you all with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the
first day until now, 6 being confident of this very thing, that He
who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; 7 just as it is
right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch
as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all
are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly
I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ. 9 And this I
pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all
discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent,
that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being
filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
New Living Translation:
Philippians 1:3-11 (NLT)
time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. 4 Whenever I pray, I
make my requests for all of you with joy, 5 for you have been my
partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard
it until now. 6 And I am certain that God, who began the good work
within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when
Christ Jesus returns. 7 So it is right that I should feel as I do
about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me
the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and
confirming the truth of the Good News. 8 God knows how much I love
you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus. 9 I
pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on
growing in knowledge and understanding. 10 For I want you to
understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives
until the day of Christ’s return. 11 May you always be filled with
the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by
Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
Commentary for the focal passage comes from four sources: “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament,” “Believer's Bible Commentary,” “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and “The Moody Bible Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
Lesson Outline — “Praying with
Joy” — Philippians 1: 3-11
Joyfully Pray For
What God Has Done (Phil.
Joyfully Pray For What God Is Doing
Joyfully Pray For What God Will Continually Do
Expositor’s Bible Commentary Old Testament: Philippians
1:3. Paul begins his letter by
thanking God for his readers. He follows this pattern in all his Epistles except
Galatians, where the absence of such sentiment forebodes the serious discussion
to follow. With the Philippians Paul had a warm relationship, and this tone is
established at the outset of the letter. By stating his thanks to “my God,”
the author reveals his personal devotion. This was no stereotyped formula, but
the natural outflow from the heart of a deeply spiritual man. The thanksgiving
was prompted by the joyous memory Paul had of his Philippian friends. It was not
that every single memory caused him to thank God, but that his whole remembrance
of them was good.
1:4. These happy memories were
reflected in Paul’s prayers (root: deesis) for the Philippians.
Joy permeated his prayers even while he prayed for their needs.
1:5. What caused Paul the
deepest satisfaction was the Philippians’ “partnership in the gospel.” The
rich term koinonia denotes participation or fellowship, and
expresses a two-sided relation (Friedrich Hauck, Koinonos, et al.,
TDNT, 3:798). In its NT uses it includes the believer’s participation in the
life of God (1Cor 1:9; 1 John 1:3) and also the sharing of a common faith.
Thus it assumes the existence of a brotherly relationship among believers (2Cor
8:4; Gal 2:9; 1 John 1:7). Although some have seen here a specific
reference to the Philippians’ recent gift, it is likely that the apostle’s
intent was broader. The gift was one expression of their partnership, but Paul
was grateful and filled with joy over the frequent evidences of the
Philippians’ sharing in the work of the gospel. These had been shown to him
“from the first day” he had preached the gospel in Philippi about ten years
before. At that time he had experienced the hospitality of Lydia (Acts 16:15)
and the jailer and his family (Acts 16:33, 34). Later he had received gifts
sent him at Thessalonica (Philippians 4:16) and at Corinth (2Cor 11:9), as well
as the more recent one brought by Epaphroditus.
1:6. Of course, it was God who
had produced their transformed lives by the work of regeneration. So Paul was
confident that God would continue this work until Christ’s return. Even though
he rejoiced in the Philippians’ generous gift and their evidences of spiritual
growth, his confidence did not rest ultimately on the Philippians themselves,
but on God, who would preserve them and enable them to reach the goal. The
“good work” refers to the salvation begun at their conversion. To see it as
a direct and limited reference to their monetary gift is unwarranted. Paul would
not have hinted that their gift was only a beginning, and that more should
God not only initiates
salvation, but continues it and guarantees its consummation. The apostle’s
thought relates not to the end of life but to the glorious coming of Jesus
Christ that will vindicate both the Lord and his people. So Paul is asserting
that God will bring his work to completion. Nothing in this life or after death
will prevent the successful accomplishment of God’s good work in every
“The day of Christ
Jesus” is a phrase occurring with only slight variations six times in the NT,
three of them in Philippians (1Cor 1:8; 5:5; 2Cor 1:14; Philippians 1:6, 10;
2:16). The expression is similar to the “day of the Lord” (1 Thess 5:2) and
the OT “day of Jehovah” (Amos 5:18-20). However, in contrast to the OT
emphasis on judgment, the “day of Christ Jesus” is mentioned in all cases
with reference to the NT church. It will be the time when Christ returns for his
church, salvation is finally completed, and believers’ works are examined and
the believer rewarded.
1:7. Paul was right in
regarding the Philippians so highly, because in a sense they had become partners
in his imprisonment and his current legal obligations. To say they were in his
“heart” was to use a figure denoting not mere emotions or sentiment, but the
essence of consciousness and personality. “Heart” among the Greeks and
Hebrews included both mind and will, referring to a person’s innermost being
(Friedrich Baumgartel and Johannes Behm, Kardia, TDNT, 3:605-614).
The reference to Paul’s
imprisonment (“I am in chains”) belongs with the following rather than the
preceding words, as giving evidence of the Philippians’ partnership in God’s
grace. Even when it might have been dangerous to identify themselves openly with
Paul, they had treated his misfortunes as their own and had come to his
assistance with their gifts. “Defending and confirming the gospel” could be
understood as negative and positive aspects of Paul’s preaching
ministry—i.e., defending the gospel from attacks and proclaiming its message
with proofs. There are reasons, however, for regarding these words as legal
terminology. The use of te .. . kai (“both ... and”) ties the
concept of imprisonment (desmois) with that of “defending and
confirming.” Furthermore, “defending” (apologia) is used elsewhere
in the NT of a legal defense (Acts 22:1; 25:16; 2Tim 4:16), and
“confirming” (bebaiosis) was a legal technical term (Heb 6:16) for
guaranteeing or furnishing security (BAG, p. 138). So Paul may be thinking
primarily of his approaching hearing in which he must give a defense of the
gospel he preached and in which he hoped also to have occasion to offer clear
proofs of the truth of the gospel. In Paul’s view, all Christians were on
trial with him, for the outcome could ultimately affect them all. The
Philippians’ assistance by their warm fellowship was a clear reminder that
they felt the same way, and thus were sharers of the same grace of God
(salvation) as was Paul.
1:8. Only God could truly vouch
for Paul’s feelings about his Philippian friends, because they ran so deep.
This was not an oath but a statement of fact. Paul’s yearnings for this church
were not merely the human longing to be with friends but were prompted by the
very “affection of Christ Jesus,” with whom Paul was in vital union. It was
the indwelling Christ who was producing the fruit of love in Paul by the Holy
Spirit and who thus enabled him to yearn for their welfare with the compassion
of his Lord.
1:9. Paul’s genuine thanks
for the fellowship of the Philippian saints caused him to pray for their
continued spiritual progress. Concern for others should express itself first in
prayer, as one recognizes the importance of the divine factor in any lasting
spiritual growth. The basic petition of Paul’s prayer is that his readers’
love might abound more and more. Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) that
enables all other spiritual virtues to be exercised properly (1Cor 13:1-3).
Without it no Christian is spiritually complete (Col 3:14). No reason appears in
the passage to limit this to love for God, for each other, or for Paul. Most
likely, it is unrestricted and refers to the continuing demonstration of this
spiritual fruit in any and all ways. The Philippians had already displayed their
love in generously giving to Paul, but love never reaches the saturation point.
Love must be intelligent
and morally discerning, however, if it would be truly agape. What is
encouraged here is not a heedless sentiment, but love based on knowledge, the
intellectual perception that has recognized principles from the Word of God as
illuminated by the Holy Spirit. Spiritual knowledge, gained from an
understanding of divine revelation, enables the believer to love what God
commands and in the way he reveals. The joining of the expression “depth of
insight” to “knowledge” stresses moral perception and the practical
application of knowledge to the myriad circumstances of life. Spiritual
knowledge is thus no abstraction but is intended to be applied to life. In this
instance it will serve to direct the believers’ love into avenues both
biblically proper and pure.
1:10. The discerning atmosphere
in which their love should operate will require them continually “to discern
what is best.” Some things are clearly good or bad. In others the demarcation
is not so readily visible. In Christian conduct and the exercise of love, such
factors as one’s influence on others, as well as the effect on oneself, must
be considered (1Cor 10:32). The question should not only be “Is it harmful?”
but “Is it helpful?” (1Cor 10:23).
The goal in view is the day
of Christ, in which every believer must stand before his Lord and give an
account of his deeds (2Cor 5:10). This sobering and joyous prospect for the
believer should have a purifying effect on his life (1 John 3:3).
1:11. The conduct that will
receive Christ’s commendation must be characterized by “the fruit of
righteousness.” Transformed lives are the demonstration that God works in
believers. Paul desires that when his readers stand before Christ, their lives
will have been filled with the right kind of fruit. He is not talking about mere
human uprightness measured by outward conformity to law (3:9). He is rather
speaking of the spiritual fruit that comes from Jesus Christ, produced in them
by the Holy Spirit sent by Christ (Gal 5:22). Consequently, all the glory and
praise belongs not to believers but to God, for he has redeemed them by the work
of his Son and has implanted within them his Spirit to produce the fruit of
righteousness. The thought is similar to that in Ephesians 1:6, 12, 14,
where Paul says that the entire plan of redemption should result in praise of
SOURCE: The Expositor’s
Bible Commentary New Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General
Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
Bible Commentary: Philippians 1:3-11
Paul bursts into a song of thanksgiving. But that is nothing new for the
apostle. The walls of the Philippian jail had echoed the songs of Paul and Silas
on their first visit there. As he writes these words, he is probably a prisoner
in Rome—but he is still singing "songs in the night." The
indomitable Paul! Every remembrance of the Philippians awakened
thanksgiving in his heart. Not only were they his children in the faith, but in
many ways they had proved to be a model church.
every prayer, he made supplication for the Philippians with joy. To him
it was a sheer delight to pray for them—not dull drudgery. From this and many
similar passages in Paul's writing, we learn that he was a man of prayer. It is
not necessary to search further for the reason he was so wonderfully used of
God. When we remember the extent of his travels and the host of Christians he
knew, we marvel that he maintained such a personal, intimate interest in them
specific reason for his thanksgiving was their fellowship in furthering the
gospel from the first day until now. Fellowship might include financial
assistance, but it extends also to prayer support and a wholehearted devotion to
the spread of the good news. When Paul mentions the first day, one cannot
help wondering if the jailor was still alive when this Letter was publicly read
to the assembly at Philippi. If so, this mention of Paul's introduction to the
Philippian believers would certainly have struck a responsive chord in his
1:6. As the
apostle thinks of the good start the believers have made in the Christian life,
he is confident that God will finish the good work He has
The work which His goodness
arm of His strength will complete;
promise is Yea and Amen,
never was forfeited yet.
—Augustus M. Toplady
Good work may
refer to their salvation, or it may mean their active financial participation in
the furtherance of the gospel. The day of Jesus Christ refers to the time
of His coming again to take His people home to heaven and probably also includes
the Judgment Seat of Christ, when service for Him will be reviewed and rewarded.
feels justified in being thankful for the Philippians. In his heart he
treasures a lasting memory of how loyally they stood with him, whether he was on
trial, in prison, or traveling about in the defense and confirmation of the
gospel. The defense of the gospel refers to the ministry of answering
the critics, while the confirmation of the gospel relates rather to
establishing the message more firmly in the hearts of those who are already
believers. W. E. Vine says: "The gospel both overthrows its foes and
strengthens its friends." Grace here means the undeserved strength
from God to carry on the work of the Lord in the face of severe opposition.
memory of their faithful cooperation makes the apostle long to be with
them again. He calls God to witness how greatly he yearns for
them with the affection of Jesus Christ. Paul's expression of love is all
the more remarkable when we remember that he had been born a Jew and was writing
to people of Gentile descent. The grace of God had broken down the ancient
hatred, and now they were all one in Christ.
now gives way to prayer. Will Paul ask wealth, comfort, or freedom from trouble
for them? No, he asks that their love might constantly increase in
knowledge and all discernment. The primary aim of the Christian life is to love
God and to love one's fellow man. But love is not just a matter of the
emotions. In effective service for the Lord, we must use our intelligence and
exercise discernment. Otherwise, our efforts are apt to be futile. So
Paul is here praying not only that the Philippians will continue in the display
of Christian love, but also that their love will be exercised in full knowledge
and all discernment.
that is thus enlightened will enable them to discern the things that are more excellent.
In all realms of life, some things are good and others are better. The good is
often the enemy of the best. For effective service, these distinctions must be
Love that is enlightened
will also enable them to avoid what is questionable or downright wrong. Paul
would have them sincere, that is, utterly transparent, and blameless in
view of the day of Christ. To be without offense does not mean to
be sinless. We all commit sins, but the blameless person is the one who
confesses and forsakes the sin, asking forgiveness from those who were wronged
and making restitution whenever possible.
The day of Christ, as in verse 6, refers to the Rapture and the
subsequent judgment of the believer's works.
final petition of the apostle's prayer is that the Christians might be filled
with the fruits of righteousness, that is, with the fruits which righteousness
produces, or with all the Christian virtues that make up a righteous life. The
source of these virtues is Jesus Christ, and their object is the glory
and praise of God. This petition of Paul is exactly parallel to the words in
Isaiah 61:3, "that they may be called trees of righteousness (being
filled with the fruits of righteousness), the planting of the Lord (which
are by Jesus Christ), that He may be glorified (to the glory and praise
'fruit,'" Lehman Strauss writes, "... is associated closely with our
relation to Christ and His expectation of us. The branches on a vine are
intended to bear fruit."
Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990,
1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.
The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Philippians
was common for Paul to pray for the people to whom he wrote, and his prayers of
thanksgiving and supplication usually go together. The basis of his thanksgiving
was his overall remembrance of the believers in Philippi.
1:4. As he
contemplated all that God had done for them and through them, Paul was filled
with joy. Joy is the keynote of the entire epistle. Because joy is the
by-product of something else, the apostle was not referring to some superficial
happiness when he made this statement.
joy resulted from their fellowship (koinonia) with him in the gospel.
People who refer to fellowship as "two people in a ship" certainly
cheapen the idea expressed in the original term. It meant far more than just
enjoying someone else's company. In the original sense it expressed a joint
participation in a common ministry or interest. Partnership is a very
appropriate contemporary term to express the idea. (See the word study on koinonia
in the Greek-English Dictionary.) The Philippians had participated in
Paul's ministry with their prayers and finances for approximately 10 years, from
the beginning of the assembly until the writing of this epistle. In fact, there
is a definite article before the adverb "now" (literally, "the
now"), so Paul probably was pointing to the gift they just had extended to
him through Epaphroditus.
The Philippians seem to
have found a very special place in the heart of the apostle. His mind raced back
to "the first day," when he became acquainted with them. The warm
relationship between a true pastor and his people continues even after he has
Conversely, even though he had much cause for thanksgiving as he remembered the
Philippian saints, Paul was not entirely satisfied with their spiritual state.
His desire for them was that God would continue the work He had begun in them.
Deists teach that God
merely wound up the universe and withdrew from it, allowing it to operate by
itself. Just as the Bible counters this kind of theory relative to creation, it
also stresses that God is interested not only in the spiritual birth of His
people, but also in their continued growth and maturity. A person certainly does
not receive all of God's benefits at the conversion experience. That is only the
starting point, the gateway to many benefits from God. Paul was
"confident" that God would keep believers in this process until the
day Jesus returns to receive His people unto himself.
apostle's confidence in the Philippians was based upon the fact that they had
shared God's grace with him for approximately 10 years. Even though he was in
prison, God's grace was not imprisoned. Some of the greatest fruits of his
ministry came while Paul was in prison. At least five of the Epistles the Holy
Spirit inspired him to write were written while he was in prison. There the
apostle's influence reached many, even in Nero's palace.
"defense" comes from the Greek word from which we derive apologetics
(apologia). However, Paul used the word in connection with the
"confirmation of the gospel." Too often we think of the term
"defense" in a negative sense, as if we had to keep unbelievers from
taking something from the gospel. Paul realized the process of defending would
result in the confirmation of the gospel.
compared his longing for the Philippians to the straining of an athlete reaching
forward to the goal set for him. This longing was motivated by the love Jesus
has for His own people, an affection so great that He died for His people. In
King James' day "bowels" referred to the seat of the emotions.
Paul's actual prayer for the Philippians begins in this verse and includes two
specific requests. His supplication for them was prefaced with one of the Greek
terms expressing purpose (hina, "in order that"). He prayed
that their love would abound more and more in knowledge and in perception. Thus
it is possible for a believer's love (agapē) to increase. In like
manner, "knowledge" (epignōsis) here denotes full or
"perception" or "depth of insight," on the other hand, is
concerned with practical application of love. Scriptural love is not
indiscriminate love that is manifested in any manner a person chooses. The
Christian experiences increasing love in his life and the ability to discern the
proper application of it.
1:10. According to this verse, this combination will
enable Christians to discern what is best for them. A gullible love accepts
anything, but a love manifested in full knowledge and in practical application
distinguishes the genuine from the spurious.
The root word translated
"approve" here was used of the assaying of metals, as well as of the
approval of candidates for the degree of medicine. Therefore, it refers to the
act of testing something for the purpose of approving it. God does not want
Christians to accept everything, but He wants them to approve only what is
"best" or "excellent." Some things may be "good"
in the normal sense of the word but may not be "best." Paul wanted the
Philippians to accept the approved things that would help them "be sincere
and without offense."
The second request in
Paul's prayers for the Philippians relates to the level of personal character
and demeanor. This sincere and unoffending attitude will be manifested
ultimately at the judgment of believers by Christ himself.
an attitude also will yield a harvest of righteousness through Jesus Christ. In
a real sense God is working in believers to make them more and more like the
Lord Jesus Christ. When a person becomes a Christian and chooses to follow
Jesus, that person accepts the righteousness of Christ as the only righteousness
sufficient to satisfy the requirements of God. At the same time, a process
begins in that life so that the righteousness of Christ becomes gradually
imparted to that individual. Initially the righteousness of Christ is imputed at
the time the person becomes a Christian, but the righteousness of Christ is
imparted by the Holy Spirit throughout the believer's entire lifetime.
The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Chronicles.
Copyright © 1998 by World Library Press Inc. Database © 2010 WORDsearch
Moody Bible Commentary: Philippians 1:3-11
Paul's Personal Relationship with the Philippians
Paul's Thankfulness for the
The first aspect of Paul's
relationship with the church at Philippi was his gratitude for them. The bases
for his thanks begin at v. 3. Although many translations render v. 3 temporally
("every time I remember you," NIV), the Greek preposition epi
with the dative case is better rendered causally: "I thank my God for your
every remembrance of me." Thus Paul's introductory thanks were related to
the Philippians' recent financial support, which Paul later called
"concern" (4:10). The second reason for Paul's joyful thanks was the
Philippians' participation in the gospel (v. 5). This phrase is unique in
Paul's letters. They not only believed the gospel but also were working with
Paul to advance it.
Since this partnership of a
congregation with Paul in the advance of the gospel was uncommon, Paul had
unique affection for the Philippians. Having just received their support of him,
he expressed his affection for them.
Paul's Prayer for the
A second aspect of Paul's
relationship with the Philippians was his praying for them. Paul's prayers have
common themes: love (1Th 3:12), growth (Col 1:10), wisdom and knowledge (Eph
1:17), and good works (Col 1:10). Here Paul prayed that the believers would have
a wise love. The goal was that they be able to approve (or better
discern) the things that are excellent. That is, a wise love yields
discernment. Such discernment, since it enables one to make excellent
choices, will produce a sincere and blameless life (vv. 10-11). The goal,
as always, was God's glory. This theme reappears in 1:20 and 2:11.
SOURCE: The Moody Bible
Commentary; by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible
Institute of Chicago. Database © 2015 WORDsearch.
in the gospel (v. 5)—Partnership indicates joint participation or
cooperation in a specified activity. Elsewhere it is translated fellowship (2:1;
3:10), contribution (Rom. 15:26), and sharing (1 Cor. 10:16).
day of Christ Jesus (v. 6)—Unknown yet imminent time when Christ returns to the
earth; reference to “the day of the Lord” is common in the Old Testament.
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
JOY: The happy state that results
from knowing and serving God. A number of Greek and Hebrew words are used in the
Bible to convey the ideas of joy and rejoicing. We have the same situation in
English with such nearly synonymous words as joy, happiness, pleasure, delight,
gladness, merriment, felicity, and enjoyment. The words joy and rejoice
are the words used most often to translate the Hebrew and Greek words into
English. Joy is found over 150 times in the Bible. If such words as
“joyous” and “joyful” are included, the number comes to over 200. The
verb rejoice appears well over 200 times.
Joy is the fruit of a
right relation with God. It is not something people can create by their own
efforts. The Bible distinguishes joy from pleasure. The Greek word for pleasure
is the word from which we get our word hedonism, the philosophy of
self-centered pleasure-seeking. Paul referred to false teachers as “lovers of
pleasures more than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:4).
The Bible warns that
self-indulgent pleasure-seeking does not lead to happiness and fulfillment.
Ecclesiastes 2:1-11 records the sad testimony of one who sought to build his
life on pleasure-seeking. The search left him empty and disillusioned. Proverbs
14:13 offers insight into this way of life, “Even in laughter the heart is
sorrowful.” Cares, riches, and pleasures rob people of the possibility of
fruitful living (Luke 8:14). Pleasure seeking often enslaves people in a vicious
cycle of addiction (Tit. 3:3). The self-indulgent person, according to 1 Timothy
5:6, is dead while seeming still to be live.
Many people think that
God is the great Kill-Joy. Nothing could be a bigger lie. God Himself knows joy,
and He wants His people to know joy. Psalm 104:31 speaks of God Himself
rejoicing in His creative works. Isaiah 65:18 speaks of God rejoicing over His
redeemed people who will be to Him “a joy.”
Luke 15 is the most
famous biblical reference to God’s joy. The Pharisees and scribes had
criticized Jesus for receiving sinners and eating with them. Then Jesus told
three parables—the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the loving father. The
explicit theme of each parable is joy over one sinner who repents.
The joy of God came to
focus in human history in Jesus Christ. The note of joy and exultation runs
through the entire biblical account of the coming of Christ (Luke 1:14,44; Matt.
2:10). The most familiar passage is the angel’s announcement of “good
tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people” (Luke 2:10). Jesus spoke
of His own joy and of the full joy He had come to bring to others (John 15:11;
17:13). He illustrated the kingdom of heaven by telling of the joy of a man who
found treasure (Matt. 13:44). Zacchaeus was in a tree when Jesus called him, but
he quickly climbed down and received Jesus joyfully (Luke 19:6). He had found
life’s ultimate treasure in Christ.
As Jesus’ death
approached, He told His followers that soon they would be like a woman in labor,
whose sorrow would be turned into joy (John 16:20-22). Later they understood,
when the dark sorrow of the cross gave way to the joy of the resurrection (Luke
24:41). Viewed from this perspective, eventually they came to see that the cross
itself was necessary for the joy to become real (Heb. 12:2). Because of His
victory and the promise of His abiding presence, the disciples could rejoice
even after the Lord’s ascension (Luke 24:52).
The Book of Acts tells
how joy continued to characterize those who followed Jesus. After Philip
preached in Samaria, the people believed and “there was great joy in that
city” (Acts 8:8). After the work of Paul and Barnabas in Antioch of Pisidia,
“the diciples were filled with joy, and with the Holy Ghost” (Acts 13:52).
Paul and Barnabas reported such conversions to other believers, “and they
caused great joy unto all the brethren” (Acts 15:3). After the conversion of
the Philippian jailer, he “rejoiced, believing in God with all his house”
Joy in the Christian
life is in direct proportion as believers walk with the Lord. They can rejoice
because they are in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). Joy is a fruit of a Spirit-led life
(Gal. 5:22). Sin in a believer’s life robs the person of joy (Ps. 51:8,12).
When a person walks with
the Lord, the person can continue to rejoice even when troubles come. Jesus
spoke of those who could rejoice even when persecuted and killed (Matt. 5:12).
Paul wrote of rejoicing in suffering because of the final fruit that would
result (Rom. 5:3-5). Both Peter and James
also echoed the Lord’s teachings about rejoicing in troubles (1 Pet. 1:6-8;
Joy in the Lord enables
people to enjoy all that God has given. They rejoice in family (Prov. 5:18),
food (1 Tim. 4:4-5), celebrations (Deut. 16:13-15), fellowship (Phil. 4:1). They
share with other believers the joys and sorrows of life: “Rejoice with them
that do rejoice, weep with them that weep” (Rom. 12:15).
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General
Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
Prisons Of The First Century
By Bennie R.
Crockett, Jr. is professor of religion and philosophy, William Carey College,
THE APOSTLE PAUL mentioned his being imprisoned or in
chains (Rom. 16:7; 2 Cor. 11:23; Eph. 6:20; Phil. 1:7,13-14,17; Col. 4:3,10,18;
2 Tim. 1:8; 2:9; Philem. 1,9-10,13,23). Although
Paul’s Letters do not indicate the locations of his imprisonments, we know
that from prison Paul wrote to believers tat Ephesus, Philippi, and Colossae and
Book of Acts, however, does record Paul’s imprisonment or custody in four
locations: Philippi, Jerusalem, Caesarea, and Rome.
First, Paul and Silas were put into stocks in Philippi, a Roman colony in
Macedonia. When an earthquake hit,
the prisoners’ chains came loose and the prison doors opened (Acts 16:26).
Second, on the north side of Jerusalem’s temple mount, the Romans held
Paul in the Fortress Antonia referred to as “the barracks” (22:24; 23:10).1
Third, in Caesarea on the Mediterranean coastline, the Roman procurator
Felix had an official residence where Paul, under guard, spent two years (vv.
24,35; 24:27). And fourth, at the
end of Acts, Paul was under custody in Rome (28:17,20).
According to later church tradition, Paul additionally suffered
imprisonment in Ephesus.2
Roman prisons and custody in the first
century served at least six purposes: protection, remand, awaiting sentencing,
execution, coercion, and punishment.3
The Roman emperor Vitellius used prisons to protect soldiers who had been
threatened by fellow soldiers.4 The
Romans also held many people on remand until trials could occur;5
both John the Baptist (Mark 6:14-29) and Peter (Acts 12:3-11) were such cases.
While in prison, people, including Christian martyrs, awaited sentencing.
for whom the Romans pronounced a death sentence often died in prison.
The bodies of prisoners who died in Rome could be thrown onto the steps
of Capitoline Hill, then be dragged with hooks to the Forum, and finally cast
into the Tiber River.6
Romans also used prisons to coerce people to reveal guilty colleagues or to
extract confessions. Lastly, Roman
officers could leave a person in prison for a variety of reasons as a form of
Tiberius was inhumane toward prisoners, since he extended the life of several
people for the purpose of psychological torture, which included a perpetual
experience of fear and oppression.8
least four different levels of imprisonment existed: prison, military custody,
entrustment to sureties, and release with conditions.
Depending on the severity of the charge and the social status of the
individual, a prisoner could have chains or not.
Military custody was less severe than imprisonment and could include
being held in a barracks or camp anywhere in the empire or in someone’s home.
Custody also covered those going to a provincial capital or Rome for
trial or those under watch prior to being sentenced to exile.
who had committed less serious crimes were entrusted to sureties, rather than
given military custody. Sometimes,
the Romans entrusted prisoners who were Roman citizens to family members for
safe keeping. On rare occasions, a
person under military custody could be released on his own pledge to the Roman
magistrate. Though technically not
in prison, one in military custody (especially a non-Roman) could encounter
harsh treatment, but the magistrates sometimes accorded favor to Roman citizens
or those with high social standing.
punishable by imprisonment concerned both capital crimes and lesser offenses.
Capital crimes included enemies of war, murder, rape, or treason against
the state; these offenses often resulted in execution.
Treason had many facets, including initiating civil disturbances and
rioting. High treason—which
involved betrayal of Rome, the emperor, or any Roman citizen—was cause for
automatic imprisonment and execution. Related
to treasonous crimes, the authorities judged philosophers and those practicing
occult rituals as betraying the state’s interests.
Other crimes included theft, piracy, mismanagement of money, debt, and
desecration of the state’s temples. For
these crimes, punishments varied from place to place.9
Conditions in the
Custodial situations and the conditions in
Roman prisons changed depending on the severity of the crime, the prisoner’s
social standing, the magistrate’s kindness or cruelty, and the location of the
imprisonment. Many prisons were
underground and dark, accompanied by a shortage of both food and sanitary
surroundings. One prisoner of
Tiberius remarked that prison food gave no satisfaction but also would not
permit one to die.10 Some
magistrates allowed prisoners the benefit of care by family or friends (Acts
imprisonment at the time of writing 2 Timothy conveys several conditions.
He asked Timothy to bring his coat left at Troas, his scrolls, and his
parchments (2 Tim. 4:13). Though
lacking warmth, Paul had the freedom to read and write.
In the same period as Paul, Tacitus reported a man who wrote poetry while
in prison and later was executed for doing so.12
chains, however, were more serious (Eph. 6:20; Phil. 1;7,13-14,17; Col. 4:3,18),
for Roman chains caused wounds, infections, and shame for many prisoners.13
Despite such potentially horrid conditions, Paul emphasized that he
signed the Colossian letter (4:18) and that his imprisonment was for Christ
(Phil. 1:7-17), a worthy cause for enduring the shame (v. 20; 2 Tim. 1:8).
numerous occasions, Roman soldiers raped and abused female prisoners.
Suicide rates of men and women in prison were high.
Yet, irresponsible jailers could be executed for failing in their duty
greatly feared the prison in Rome, a facility used for serious offenders and
those who had no social standing. Later
named Mamertine prison, it had a chamber 12 feet underground called the
Tullianum. Sallust, the ancient
Roman historian and politician, said the Tullianum was an enclosure with walls
all around and a chamber above with a stone roof.
Its conditions were hideous and fearful because of the neglect of
prisoners, the darkness inside, and the putrid smell.14
Romans used the prison in Alba Fucens, a city near Rome, to house enemies of the
state. One ancient historian
described the prison as an underground dungeon, full of darkness, and noisy
because of the large numbers of people condemned on capital charges.
The prisoners’ food became mixed with the unsanitary conditions of
their personal uncleanness. The
resulting smell was so offensive that people tried to avoid even going near the
prisons were in stone quarries. A
person in chains or bonds could be condemned to work in a quarry where walls,
functioning as chains, kept one imprisoned.
Rome had several such quarry prisons; they were typically reserved for
prisoners with higher social status. Despite
the grueling work, prisoners preferred the quarry prison over the Tullianum or a
of the locations of Paul’s imprisonments, his life was in danger as he likely
suffered in poor conditions. His old
age (Philem. 9) made these conditions more of a liability.
Ironically, from the darkness and inhumane conditions of his
imprisonments, Paul penned words that have offered hope and encouragement to
persons through the centuries.
1. Herod the
Great had named Fortress Antonia in honor of Mark Antony who had recommended to
the Roman senate that Herod become king of Judea.
See Josephus, The Jewish Wars (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1989), 14.4.
2. Wansink, Chained
in Christ: The Experience and Rhetoric of Paul’s Imprisonment (Sheffield:
Sheffield Academic Press, 1996), 14-17.
3. Rapske, The
Book of Acts and Paul in Roman Custody in The
Book of Acts in Its First Century Setting, vol. 3 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans
Publ. Co., 1994), 10-20.
4. Tacitus, The
Histories (Cambridge: Harvard
Univ. Press, 1925), 1.58.
Jewish Antiquities, Books XVIII-XIX (Cambridge:
Harvard Univ. Press, n.d.), 18.6.5.
Cassius, Roman History, Books LXI-LXX,
trans. Cary (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1925), 58.1.3; 59.18.3; 60.16.1;
Dio Cassius, 58.3.6.
Tacitus, The Annals, trans. Jackson (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1937),
Sallust, The Jugurthine War, The Conspiracy of Catiline, trans. Handford
(Baltimore: Penguine Books, 1964), 55.6.
of Sicily, trans. Walton
(Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1957), 31.9.1-2.
A Historical Overview
Weaver is chairperson of the division of Religion and Philosophical Studies at
Brewton-Parker College, Mount Vernon, Georgia.
NE OF THE
MOST HELPFUL WAYS of understanding early Christianity is to
see the growth of the early church as a process of breaking down barriers until
the gospel was preached unhinderedly. According
to Frank Stagg, Luke described how barriers of race and nationality crumbled as
the gospel was preached to the Samaritans (Acts 8:4-8), the Ethiopian eunuch
(Acts 8:26-40), and Cornelius the
Roman centurion (Acts 10). The
gospel witness expanded from narrow Jewish nationalism to inclusion of Gentile
God-fearers (non-Jews attracted to Judaism).
The last barrier to be broken was the inclusion of the pagan Gentile who
had no previous religious experience. The
unhindered gospel was achieved, according to Luke, when Paul responded to the
Macedonian call and entered Europe for the first time.
Traveling to Macedonia (northern Greece), Paul passed through Neapolis on
to Philippi. Philippi was “the
leading city of the district of Macedonia, and a Roman colony” (Acts
16:12,RSV). Here the Philippian
jailer, a pagan Gentile, was converted; and the last barrier to an unhindered
gospel came tumbling down.1
The church at Philippi was special to Paul; it was the only
church he allowed to give him financial support.
His Letter to the Philippians describes a tender partnership, the type of
relationship vital to Paul’s evangelistic method of establishing churches in
significant cities and then having missionary “spokes” radiating out from
the “hub” church. How did
Philippi achieve its significance?
known as Krenides (Springs) Philippi was located on the Gangites River, about
nine miles from the port of Neapolis (modern Turkish harbor of Kavalla) on the
Aegean Sea. The growth of the church
there was so strategic because the city was located on the Egnatian Way, the
main overland route from Asia to the West. On
their travels visitors would constantly bring business, cultural, and religious
activity through Philippi.2 the
city is no longer inhabited, but archeological excavations by the French have
revealed much about the ancient city.
traces its history back to 360 BC when settlers from the nearby island of Thasos
arrived. These Thracians (all of
Europe north of Greece was a part of the region of Thrace) thrived on working
the gold mines of the area, which produced an annual revenue of 1,000 talents.
In 358 BC Philip, king of Macedonia (359-336 BC) and the father of
Alexander the Great, initiated a series of conquests that would make Macedonia
the dominant power in Greek affairs. Philip
changed the name of the small settlement of Krenides to Philippi, naming it
after himself, and he added Greek settlers to the city’s population.
Philip improved the conditions of the area, drying up the marshes and
constructing new roads. More
importantly, he rebuilt the city, building a wall around it in order to protect
his eastern frontier.3
took over and divided Macedonia into four districts in 168 BC, but Philippi was
bypassed as capital of the first district in favor of Amphipolis (see Acts
17:1). By the first century BC the
days of the gold mines had passed, and Philippi had lost some of its glory.
When the Romans dissolved the district arrangement, Thessalonica became
the capital for all of Macedonia.
fortunes rose in 42 BC when the imperial armies of Mark Antony and Octavian
(later Emperor Augustus) defeated the republican armies of Brutus and Cassius,
the assassins of Julius Caesar, at the Battle of Philippi.
As part of his celebration, Antony made Philippi a Roman colony and
settled some of his soldiers there. The
city’s official name became Colonia Julia Philippensis.
In 30 BC, after Octavian defeated Antony and Cleopatra, Octavian sent
some Italians who had supported Antony to Philippi to live, having decided to
settle his own veterans in Italy for security.
In 27 BC, when the Roman Senate gave Octavian the name Augustus, Philippi
was renamed and given the official name Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis.
The city’s Roman pride was evident as inhabitants regarded both Philip
and Augustus as founders of the city.
pride was its status as a Roman colony. As
a colony the city achieved the highly prized legal status of ius
Italicum. This standing meant
that the city’s legal rights were on par with Rome; these rights included
self-government and exemption from the supervision of the provincial governor.
Philippi’s magistracy was a duplicate of the Roman model, and Roman law
was used in local affairs. Roman
officials were present in the city; Luke records how they participated in the
arrest of Paul and Silas. Coinage
had Roman inscriptions; even in appearance the city tried to imitate Rome.4
In essence, Philippi was “a miniature Rome, its official language was
Latin, and its inhabitants thought of themselves as Romans (Acts 16:21) even if
they were in fact descended from Greek, Macedonian, or even Asiatic stock.”5
Throughout his Letter to the Philippians, Paul presupposed the pride of
the Roman people of Philippi (Phil. 1:27; 2:15; 3:20; see also Acts 16:37).
Roman influence on Philippi was pervasive and can be seen especially in the
city’s pagan religious culture. Thracian
and Greek gods were still worshiped, but with the names of their Latin
counterparts. Philippian culture
recognized the goddess Diana (Latin) who earlier was known as Artemis (Greek)
and Bendis (Thracian). Some gods did
not have their names transformed into a Latin parallel (the Egyptian Isis and
Serapis and the Asian Cybele, for example).
Some religious practices were Latin in origin.
The Roman Mars and Jupiter were worshiped, and the prominence of the
imperial cult (worshiping the emperors) has testimony in still existing
monuments in the excavated city. Philippi’s
religious culture was essentially syncretistic, a mixture of Thracian, Greek,
Roman, and other types of religious ideas. Inhabitants
had easy access to these ideas because of the traffic on the Egnatian Way.
When Paul entered Philippi, he was not the first to arrive with new
believe the Jewish community in Philippi during Paul’s time was small.
There was no synagogue within the walls of the city.
Evidently it took Paul and Silas several days to find and meet for
worship with Lydia and a group of women at a place of prayer along the riverside
A strong Roman patriotism, wary of the religious practices
of Judaism, is apparent in Luke’s account of Paul’s entry into Philippi.
When Paul exorcised the demon from the Philippian slave girl, her owners
were perturbed because of the loss of income derived from her soothsaying
ability. The men accused Paul and
Silas of disturbing the peace with their Jewish religious practices.
According to some biblical scholars, Paul probably was exorcising the
spirit of the supreme god of a native Thracian pagan cult (the god Sabazius
called the Most High God, Acts 16:17). Ralph
Martin suggests that the anti-Semitism was possibly the result of the Emperor
Claudius’ expulsion of Jews from Rome in AD 49.
This pro-Roman, anti-Jewish attitude probably resulted in the persecution
of the earliest Christian community in Philippi because of its connection to the
Jewish women’s group (Phil. 1:28-30; 2:15).8
the Philippian church began with a group of Jewish women proselytes is not
surprising. Biblical scholarship has
demonstrated that the Jewish faith appealed to women.
W.W. Tarn and G.T. Griffith noted that the status of women in Macedonia
exceeded that of all the other Greek provinces:
If Macedonia produced perhaps the most
competent group of men the world had yet seen, the women were in all respects
the men’s counterparts; they played a large part in affairs, received envoys
and obtained concessions for them from their husbands, built temples, founded
cities, engaged mercenaries, commanded armies, held fortresses, and acted on
occasion as regents or even co-rulers.9
importance of women in the early history of the Philippian church is obvious. The
church first met in the home of Lydia, Paul’s first convert in the city (Acts
16:14-15,40). Paul’s letter to the
Philippian church, moreover, mentions a disagreement between two of Paul’s
female co-laborers, Euodia and Syntyche.
scholars disagree about one element of Luke’s description of Philippi.
In Acts 16:12 Philippi is described as “the leading city of the
district of Macedonia” (RSV). The
Greek manuscripts upon which our English translations are based have different
readings (textual variants) of the verse. Technically,
Macedonia was not a district but a province divided into four districts (or
regions) each with its own regional council.
Amphipolis was the capital of the first regions that included Philippi.
Consequently, scholars speculate that the original textual reading
described Philippi as “a city of the first region of Macedonia.”10
Whatever the original reading, as a Roman colony Philippi was a
When Paul wrote the Letter to the Philippians, he reflected
that his establishment of the church in Philippi was “the beginning of the
gospel” (4:15, RSV). Ralph Martin
concluded that Paul “had come to see the significance of his gospel’s
penetration of the Roman world as it turned in the direction of the imperial
city.”11 Paul first
suffered at the hands of Roman officials at Philippi.
He had been involved earlier in religious riots at Pisidian Antioch and
Iconium, but in Philippi Paul met Roman power face-to-face.
However, that power also was overcome.
Nevertheless, barriers were broken. Jews,
God-fearing Gentiles, and pagan Gentiles were converted.
history remembers Philippi beyond Paul. Ignatius,
the famous bishop of Antioch, visited the Philippian Christians as he traveled
to Rome to be martyred for the faith in AD 107.
Polycarp, another of the “apostolic fathers” of the second-century
church, wrote a letter to the Philippians. Subsequent
witnesses to Christianity in Philippi include Christian epitaphs, one perhaps of
the third century, and two large basilicas, dated from the fifth and sixth
1. Stagg, The
Book of Acts: The Early Struggle For An Unhindered Gospel (Nashville:
Broadman Press, 1995).
Philippians, Interpretation (Atlanta: Knox Press, 1985), 12.
3. Vincent, A
Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and to
Philemon (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1976), xv.
4. Houlden, Paul’s
Letters From Prison: Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and Ephesians
(Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1977), 32; Moule. Xvi-xvii.
5. Caird, Paul’s
Letters from Prison (London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1976), 96.
See also Houlden, 33.
“Philippians” in The Broadman Bible
Commentary, vol. 11 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1971), 179.
8. Martin, Philippians
(London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1976), 5-6.
& Griffith, quoted in Martin, 8.
Houlden, 32-33. See also Vincent, xix.
“Philippi” in The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, vol. 3, ed. Buttrick,
(Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1962), 787.
Lessons From Philippians
is professor of New Testament at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary,
WAS A CONSTANT TOPIC of discussion among the Greeks and Romans.
Such notables as Aristotle,1 Plato,2
and Cicero,3 wrote significant treatments of the subject.
These covered such matters as the nature of true friendship.
They generally agreed that true friendship was among those who considered
each other to be equals and accepted each other for who they were.
These ancient writers also agreed that friendship based on need or mere
pleasure was inferior.4 True
friends were loyal, trusting enough to share confidences with each other,
sharing resources, or were even ready to die for the other.5
the Bible does not share in such discussions, at times it portrays some of the ideas of the Greco-Roman treatments.
For instance, the Old Testament presents a picture of true friendship in
the relationship between David and Jonathan.
They loved each other with a love that surpassed their love for their own
lives (1 Sam. 18:1-3; 19:1; 20:17). They
held each other in strict trust and confidence and made a pact with each other
that even carried over to their descendants (20:14-17).6
the New Testament, the clearest reflection of the Greco-Roman discussions
occurred when Jesus called His disciples His “friends” (John 15:15) and
spoke of His readiness to lay down His life for them (v. 13), urging them to
love each other with the same sacrificial love (v. 12).
On the other hand, Paul rarely used the language of friendship, but he
often reflected its ideals in his epistles.
This is particularly true of Philippians.
Marks of Paul’s
Loving—Central to Paul’s relationship with the
Philippians was love. In no other of
his epistles did he express his love for a congregation more than in this one
(Phil. 1:7-8; 4:1). He showed his
love by fully accepting the Philippians. He
did not “pull rank” on them by appealing to his being their apostle.
He did not use his authority when reproving them.7
Instead, he spoke of their mutual sharing (koinonia)
in the gospel (1:5). He spoke with
them of his situation in prison and how he faced possible death (vv. 20-25).
He requested their prayers for himself (v. 19).
All of this reflected a deep affection, a mutual acceptance, and a
genuine friendship between them.
in the letter Paul presented two models of friendship.
The first was Timothy. Like
any good friend, Timothy shared with Paul a genuine concern for the Philippians,
a concern that surpassed that for his own affairs.
Ultimately, Timothy’s concern was for the things of Christ (2:19-23).
The second model was Epaphroditus. Probably
a Philippian himself, he had brought Paul a gift from the Philippi church.
In so doing, Epaphroditus had become sick.
Paul knew they had heard of his illness, so he was eager for them to
learn of his recovery (vv. 25-30). Paul
probably sent the Philippian letter to them through Epaphroditus.
The entire incident illustrated the strong bonds between the Philippian
congregation, Epaphroditus, and Paul.
Greco-Roman writers often maintained the true friends were those willing even to
die for one another.8 Writing
to the Philippians, Paul referred to the possibility of his dying (1:20-26;
2:17). Philippians 1:23-25 is
particularly instructive. In
pondering the possibility of his death, Paul indicated that ultimately he
preferred death, for that meant being with Christ (v. 23).
On the other hand, his remaining alive would better serve the Philippians
(v. 24). In this instance Paul’s
friendship would be enhanced not by
dying for them but by living in continued service to them.
In Philippians, however, the perfect example of someone dying for His
friends is Jesus’ death on the cross (2:8).
particular attention in the Philippian letter to the need for greater unity
within the congregation. Early in
the letter he urged his recipients to “stand in one spirit” and to be “of
one mind” as they struggled for the faith of the gospel (1:27).
He returned to the same issue toward the end of the letter when he
singled out two prominent women in the congregation, asking them to “have the
same mind,” to come to an agreement in the Lord (4:2-3).
His fullest treatment of the issue was in chapter 2, where he urged the
Philippians to think alike, love alike, have a single mind-set, abandon all
self-centered ambition, and consider others as being more important than
themselves (2:2-3). Writers on
friendship in Paul’s day would have agreed with Paul that true friends think
alike and consider each other as equals. But
Paul went a step further in urging the Philippians to look after the needs of
their fellow Christians before even considering their own (v. 4).
Paul turned to Christ as the supreme example of this sort of
self-denial—by means of His death on the cross (vv. 5-11).
That was the single-minded, self-sacrificial love that they were to
“commanded” the Philippians in his effort to correct them.
He was gentle in his rebuke. As
here, he did not condemn them for their lack of unity.
Instead, he corrected them by appealing to the example of Christ.
In this manner he exemplified the sort of reproof held in high esteem by
the Greco-Roman writers. Good
friends, they would say, do not shrink from correcting each other, and a good
friend does not resent or refuse such correction.9
Comforting—The importance of offering comfort was
evident even when Paul mentioned in chapter 3 the problem of his opponents.
Good friends take seriously one another’s troubles and oppositions.
The Philippians themselves were facing opposition, and as their friend,
Paul attempted to comfort them by reminding them of the ultimate assurance that
God had given them through their faith in Jesus (1:28).
Likewise, Paul had encountered opposition in his ministry.
Even during his time in prison, some opposed him by preaching Christ with
selfish motives (vv. 15-18). Others
preached a gospel different from Paul’s, a message based on law rather than on
God’s grace (3:2-11), or a gospel rooted in fleshly desire rather than the
cross of Christ (vv. 17-21). Evidently
these perversions of the true gospel had not yet reached Philippi, but Paul had
experienced their bad influence in other congregations.
As a true Christian friend Paul did not wish these false messages to
reach an unprepared Philippian congregation.
Thankful—Paul wrote to the Philippians in large part
to thank them for their recent gift. It
occupies much of the letter. Paul
described it as a “sharing” (koinonia)
in the gospel (1:5). In two places,
he mentioned Epaphroditus, who had brought him their gift (2:25-30; 4:18).
Paul concluded the letter with a major treatment of the gift (4:10-20).
It filled him with joy (v. 10). They
did well by their sharing with him in his time of trouble (v. 14).
He reminded the Philippian believers how they had often supported him in
his missionary work even as other churches had failed to do so (vv. 15-16).
In the Greco-Roman friendship discussion, sharing one another’s goods
was a hallmark of true friendship. It
was surely a key to the strong bond Paul felt with the Philippians.
It expressed more than their friendship with Paul, however.
As he expressed it himself, it was not so much a gift to him.
Much more, it “abounded to their account” (v. 17, writer’s
translation), because it was a sharing in the gospel.
ultimate bond in Christian friendship is not only one we have with one another,
but our bond with our Friend, Christ, and our sharing in His gospel.
The key to true Christian friends is our mutual friendship both with and
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 8, in vol. 19 of Aristotle in 23 Volumes, trans. Rackham, Loeb Classical Library
(Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1934), 451-515.
Plato, Symposium, in vol. 3 of Plato,
trans. Lamb, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1925),
Cicero, De Amicitia, in vol. 20 of Cicero,
trans. Falconer, Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1923),
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 8.3.1-7 in Leob, 457-63.
Keener, “Friendship” in Dictionary
of New Testament Background, ed. Evans and Porter (Downers Grove:
InterVarsity Press, 2000), 382-84.
Stahlin, (philos, friend) in Theological
Dictionary of the New Testament, ed. Friedrich, trans. and ed. Bromiley,
vol. 11 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1974), 156.
Fee, Paul Letter to the Philippians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995), 6.
Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics 9.8.9 in Loeb, 555.
Cicero, De Amicitia 24 (88-89) in Loeb, 197.
SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay
Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234;
What is the Answer To & Where in The
Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found: What priest had a son named
Ichabod, a name meaning “the glory has departed”? Answer
Last Week’s Question: What two gluttonous
priests were notorious for keeping the sacrificial meat for themselves? Answer:
Hophni and Phinehas; 1 Samuel 1:3; 2:12-17.