Paul unpacked this idea in Philippians 2: Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus … he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name Philippians 2: Jesus willingly endured suffering and mistreatment in order to benefit the church, and his reward for this sacrifice was immeasurably great. In the same way, believers should humbly endure suffering and mistreatment in order to benefit the church.
And when we do, our reward will also be great. This was why Paul could write these words in Philippians 2: Even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me Philippians 2: Paul did not just want the Philippians to endure their appointed suffering, but to rejoice in the midst of it because of the blessings it produces.
Moreover, he wanted them to rejoice in the blessings that would result from his own sufferings, just as he rejoiced in the blessings that flowed from their sufferings. Paul encouraged believers to focus on the rewards of suffering in order that they would have the strength and courage to persevere in faith and holy living, even under great duress.
After all, if they did not endure, they would not gain the blessings suffering could provide. After stressing the importance of perseverance and inspiring them with its blessings, Paul offered the Philippians practical help for perseverance through the hardships they were enduring by sending ministers to care for them. Paul knew that his letter would teach the Philippians how to handle suffering. But he also understood that it is much easier to endure suffering when we have real people helping us on a daily basis and suffering right alongside us.
So, Paul determined that along with his letter, he would also send his friends to minister to the Philippians in their time of need. First, Paul planned to send Epaphroditus, the Philippians' own messenger who had originally come to minister to Paul. It is likely that Epaphroditus was the one who actually delivered Paul's letter to the Philippians.
As we learn in Philippians 2: So, Paul sent Epaphroditus back to them in order to ease their minds as well as to minister to them. Next, Paul planned to send Timothy to Philippi. For the time being, he remained with Paul in prison, ministering to the apostle during his distress.
But as we read in Philippians 2: Finally, Paul hoped that eventually he himself would be released from prison and would come to minister to the Philippians.
He expressed this expectation in Philippians 2: I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon Philippians 2: The Greek word pepoitha , here translated "confident," is probably better rendered "persuaded. In all events, Paul knew that sympathetic human beings would be extremely valuable to the church in Philippi as it struggled under the weight of hardships. So, he set out a schedule that would provide them with skilled and loving ministers on a regular basis. In the next section of exhortations, found in Philippians 3: Specifically, Paul explained that when he had come to faith in Christ he had ceased to rely on earthly standards to gain God's favor and blessing and had begun to rely solely on Christ.
But this was not because he failed to measure up to earthly standards. On the contrary, by earthly standards Paul should have been among God's most highly favored. Listen to the description of his credentials in Philippians 3: If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: But the truth of the matter is that no fallen human being can be good enough to merit God's blessings of salvation and eternal life.
And so, Paul refused to rely on his earthly merits and depended only on Christ's merit, which God credited to him by means of faith. At the same time, he also made it clear that merely professing faith is not sufficient to guarantee our salvation. On the contrary, we must also persevere in faith in order to obtain eternal life. We must maintain our faith, and we must live holy lives, or else we prove our faith to be false. This is why he placed so much emphasis on perseverance in Philippians 3: Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me… I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus… Only let us live up to what we have already attained Philippians 3: Professing faith is not enough; we must prove our faith by persevering.
And if we do not persevere to the end, maintaining our faith in Christ for our salvation, and remaining faithful to him in godly living, we prove that our faith was false. Paul's final exhortations pertained to the challenges to perseverance, which he addressed in Philippians 3: These exhortations are primarily applications of his exhortation that the Philippians follow his example of perseverance.
In addressing the challenges to perseverance, Paul encouraged the Philippians not to allow false teachers, or conflict within the church, or personal hardship to cause them to falter in their faithfulness to God. And he began by focusing on the ways that false teaching could invade the church and threaten its perseverance.
Listen to Philippians 3: Clearly these enemies of the cross of Christ were not believers. Nevertheless, they were in a position to threaten the church, perhaps because they spoke persuasively, or because they were influential in the church. In any case, Paul insisted that believers reject the false teachings of Christ's enemies, persevering in pure Christian faith and practice. The desire to avoid trouble and suffering was not a sufficient reason to lose faith in the gospel, and persuasive arguments were no substitute for the power of the Lord.
But Paul also warned that true believers within the church could present challenges to the perseverance to other believers. As one example of this, he mentioned a problem that existed between Euodia and Syntyche. Listen to his words in Philippians 4: Therefore … stand firm in the Lord, dear friends! I plead with Euodia and … Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord… [L]oyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel Philippians 4: By this conflict, Euodia and Syntyche were failing to stand firm in holy living, and by their influence they also threatened the perseverance of other believers in Philippi.
And lastly, Paul exhorted the Philippians not to allow individual hardship to hinder their perseverance. He encouraged them to adopt a joyful perspective, and not to allow anxiety to discourage them. His thoughts are represented well by these words from Philippians 4: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: And the peace of God … will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus Philippians 4: Paul's practical instruction was that believers should ask God to relieve their anxieties.
In some cases, God might do this by eliminating the troubling circumstances. But it would appear that in most cases, Paul expected the change to be one of heart and mind, of attitude and perspective. In this section, Paul thanked the Philippians for the money they had sent to relieve his suffering in prison. Paul's thank-you note assured them that he had received the money and that it had helped to improve his conditions. But the greatest value the money had for Paul seems to have been emotional.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want… Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles Philippians 4: The money probably alleviated some of Paul's suffering, but his contentment came from God. The real value these funds had was in touching Paul's heart. Through their sacrifice on his behalf, these impoverished Christians had let Paul know how much they truly loved him.
The Philippians could not have demonstrated their love for Paul at a better time. At this point, Paul's imprisonment was weighing heavily on him. He was suffering and despairing. Imagine how comforting it must have been for him to be reminded that so many people loved him and wanted to share in his sufferings! One even has to wonder if it was the Philippians that helped Paul conquer his despair. Was it their concern that restored his hope? Was it their love that inspired his decision to rejoice in the midst of his terrible circumstances?
Was it their friendship that reminded Paul he was neither forgotten nor alone? One thing is sure: Paul loved the Philippians with all his heart. So, their gift could not have done anything but encourage him. Lastly, the letter closes with Paul's final greetings in Philippians 4: This section is fairly standard, although one aspect of these final greetings deserves special comment. Specifically, in Philippians 4: In the ancient world, Caesar's household included his family members and servants, whether or not they lived in the palace with him.
While in Philippi, Paul is annoyed with a girl who has a “spirit of divination” .. This epistle is addressed to “all the saints in Christ Jesus that are at Philippi, . Due to such a mind of true faith Paul states that God truly knows how deeply . 18], and a love for my own soul [Eph. ]) is the motivation for this class of preachers. The city was already ancient by the time Paul arrived there around 49 CE when living in Thyatira and brought her faith with her to Philippi. but it is clear, nonetheless, that he had developed a deep love for There has never been any serious doubt as to the authorship of the letter to the Philippians.
And his servants were not limited to laborers; they also included his personal bodyguards, as well as many civil servants. Now, the mention of Caesar's household has caused many Bible interpreters to conclude that Paul wrote from Rome, where Caesar lived and governed an actual household. But we should not draw this conclusion too hastily. The fact is, all of Caesar's civil servants and guards around the empire were reckoned as part of his household, including those stationed in Caesarea Maritima. Whatever the case, the mention of believers within Caesar's household demonstrates that Paul's imprisonment had not hindered his gospel ministry.
On the contrary, Paul had continued to gain disciples, even among his jailors.
Having explored the background to Paul's epistle to the Philippians as well as its structure and content, we are now in a position to consider the modern application of Paul's teachings in this letter. Needless to say, the epistle to the Philippians can be applied to our modern lives in many different ways.
But in this lesson we have focused on Paul's attempt to encourage others as he faced what might have been his last days on earth. From this perspective, one theme comes to the foreground: Paul's encouragement to the Philippians to persevere — to continue walking faithfully before God. As we consider what Philippians means for us today, we will give our attention to this aspect of his letter.
As we think about the implications of Paul's epistle to the Philippians for modern Christian life, we will explore three aspects of Christian perseverance: First, we will address the nature of perseverance. Second, we will deal with the mindset of perseverance. And third, we will discuss the church's ministry of perseverance. Let's turn first to the nature of perseverance. In Philippians, Paul's teachings on perseverance are most easily understood in terms of three main factors: So, let's begin by looking at Paul's definition of perseverance.
Paul conceived of perseverance in terms of the twin ideas of true faith and righteous living. On the one hand, perseverance is maintaining our faith in the gospel of Christ, relying on his merit alone for our righteous standing before God. Paul wrote of this in Philippians 1: Stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel Philippians 1: As believers, we must remain steadfast in our commitment to the gospel, never giving up our beliefs. This is what we mean when we speak of persevering in faith.
True faith in the gospel of Christ can be described in many ways, but listen to one central focus of Christian faith as Paul described it in Philippians 3: I consider [everything] rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ — the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith Philippians 3: In this passage, Paul indicated that all his human status and good works were useless for obtaining true righteousness and salvation.
The only thing that could gain salvation for him was the righteousness of Christ, applied to Paul by means of faith. So long as we continue to rely solely on Christ's merit for our righteousness, we are persevering — standing firm in our faith. Now, this is not to say that perseverance never admits to doubts.
Rather, the point is that persevering faith never utterly and finally denies the truth of the gospel. Moreover, having true Christian faith does not mean that we have perfect theology. We may have many, many errors in our theology and still be faithful to the fundamental tenets of the gospel. But once we no longer believe the central truth that we are saved by Christ and Christ alone, then we truly fail to persevere. In addition to defining perseverance in terms of true faith, Paul also spoke of perseverance as righteous living, as persistence in doing good and praiseworthy works.
For instance, in Philippians 2: Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose Philippians 2: Here Paul talked about continuing in good works, acting in ways that accord with salvation. Now, perseverance in good works does not mean that we live perfectly. We will never reach perfection in this life, and sometimes we stumble in serious ways.
Rather, we persevere in good works when we strive to obey Christ faithfully. Now, Paul did not want believers to understand just the definition of perseverance; he also wanted us to understand the necessity of perseverance both in faith and life, in order to obtain salvation, so that we would actually be motivated to persevere. Listen to Paul's words in Philippians 3: I consider [everything] rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ … and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead Philippians 3: Simply put, Paul taught that if we fail to maintain true faith, we will not be found in Christ, so that we will not be resurrected to a life of eternal glory.
In other words, perseverance in faith is necessary for our final salvation. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation … in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing Philippians 2: By avoiding complaining and arguing — that is, by living righteously — the Philippians could become blameless and pure, so that Paul would have reason to boast in his ministry. But if they failed to persevere, they would demonstrate that they were not children of God, that they did not truly trust in Christ and they would not be saved on the last day.
And the same is true for us: To many of us, Paul's teachings on the definition and necessity of perseverance might sound daunting or even harsh. But Paul's doctrine also had a third aspect that is quite encouraging, namely, assurance of perseverance. And in light of assurance, Paul's teachings on perseverance are not a threat to believers, but a comfort. Paul assured the Philippians that every true believer will certainly persevere in both faith and righteous living, so that our salvation is guaranteed.
It is still true that many falsely profess faith and actually do fail to persevere. But these are people who never truly had saving faith in the first place. Those whose faith is true, on the other hand, possess the Holy Spirit, who works in them to guarantee their perseverance. Listen to Paul's words in Philippians 1: Paul was certain that if God had begun to save the Philippians, he would also finish saving the Philippians. He would not allow any of them to perish, but would cause all true believers to persevere until the day of Christ Jesus.
And Paul's confidence should be our confidence too. If we truly believe, there is no way that we can fall from faith or from grace. Paul confirmed this idea in Philippians 2: Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose Philippians 2: The fear we are to have is not the terror that we might finally fall from grace, but overwhelming awe at the realization that God Almighty is working within each of us to ensure that we think and do what he wants.
He controls our hearts and minds for his good purpose, which includes our perseverance so that there is no way we can fail to stand firm until the end. Now that we have investigated the nature of perseverance, we are in a position to discuss the mindset of perseverance that believers should adopt. In our discussion, we will focus on three aspects of our mindset that Paul emphasized in his epistle to the Philippians: Let's look first at Paul's idea that our mindset should be based in humility.
As an authoritative apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, Paul had every opportunity to be arrogant. God had supernaturally trained Paul for leadership; he had chosen Paul above all others to carry the gospel to the Gentiles, and he had performed many miracles through him as well. In churches all over the world Paul was revered as a hero.
So, when he was suffering in prison, he could have been tempted to think, "Why has God let this happen to me, of all people? I have been utterly faithful to him, and yet he refuses to bless me! But Paul knew that, in truth, he had every reason to be humble before God. And by accepting this fact, he prepared himself to be built up by God and to persevere through the hardships he faced. In this regard, Paul patterned his own mindset after the mindset of Jesus, who willingly humbled himself in order to obtain God's blessing for himself and for us.
In fact, it was in support of his exhortations to be humble that Paul included his famous "Christ hymn," found in Philippians 2: Some scholars have suggested that these verses constitute a hymn that was known in the church even before Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians. Others suspect that Paul wrote these verses specifically for this occasion. But whatever their source, the meaning of these verses is clear: Jesus is humble, and we are to pattern ourselves after him.
This passage describes Christ during three stages of history: First, Paul spoke of Christ's condition before he took on flesh.
Paul's encouragement to the Philippians to persevere — to continue walking faithfully before God. In response to this vision, Paul sailed for Macedonia, landing in Neapolis, but moving quickly inland to the city of Philippi about 10 miles northwest of Neapolis. In it Paul saw a man of Macedonia standing and asking that he come over to help them. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. In the modern world, it is not uncommon to hear people speak of optimism as a foolish endeavor, one that doesn't grapple with the real world, but simply pretends that things are better than they are. This joy in the Lord which we must aim for is not a superficial happiness based on circumstances or on the absence of trials, but rather is a solid, abiding contentment and hope that is as steady and certain as our faithful God who has given us His promises in His Word. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ" 2:
At that time, Christ existed as God the Son, living in perfect union with the Father and the Holy Spirit, being equal to them in power and glory. Paul described Christ's pre-incarnate state in Philippians 2: This verse tells us at least two things about Christ: First, before he became a human being, Christ was glorious.
Or as Paul put it, Christ had the "nature" or "form" of God. Now, of course, Paul did not just mean that Christ looked like God. Rather, his outward appearance testified to the underlying reality that Christ actually was God. Second, Paul indicated that Christ was humble. Even before he demonstrated this humility, the preexistent son made it known by his willingness to take on an additional form or nature — that of our humanity.
Specifically, Paul wrote that Christ "did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. His meaning was that Christ's "form" or "outward glory" was the same as the glory exhibited by God the Father, but that Christ was willing to let go of the glory of his rightful heavenly standing in order to please the Father and purchase our salvation.
Next, Paul described Christ's humiliation, which is the period of his earthly life, beginning with his conception in Mary's womb and extending to his death on the cross. Listen to Paul's words about Christ's humiliation in Philippians 2: And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! Corresponding to Paul's words about Christ's pre-incarnation, these verses tell us at least two things about Christ during his state of humiliation. First, Christ's humiliation was inglorious. That is, the Son of God put aside his divine glory in order to take the nature or form of a human being.
Now, just as Christ's divine form indicated that he was truly and fully divine, his human form indicated that he was truly and fully human. But it is important to realize that in becoming human, Christ did not give up any of his divine attributes. Rather, he simply added a complete human nature to his complete divine nature, so that he is rightly said to be both fully human and fully divine. Just as he had been willing to put off his glorious form during the pre-incarnate period, he actually did put off this form during the time of his humiliation. In fact, his humility was so extreme that he permitted himself to be murdered by the very creatures whose form he had taken as his own.
Lastly, Paul described Christ during the stage of his exaltation, which began with his resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven, and continues now in his rule over creation. Paul wrote of Christ's exaltation in Philippians 2: God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father Philippians 2: Again, Paul indicated at least two very important things about Christ during this stage: First, Christ regained his glorious form, being exalted as the ruler of the universe, to whom every creature bowed in submission and worship.
Second, Christ continued to be humble, even in this exalted, glorious state of universal sovereignty. After all, even his rule over creation was not intended to glorify himself, but to bring glory to the Father. Now, Paul presented these ideas in Philippians because he wanted believers to follow Christ's example. After all, if the Son of God willingly submitted to such debasing humiliation, certainly his servants should be humble as well. It included monuments reflecting emperor worship, plus Greek gods and their Roman counterparts, especially Jupiter known in the Greek world as Zeus.
The local Thracians worshipped the goddess Artemis, while there were also sanctuaries to Egyptian gods, especially Isis and Serapis, and to the Phrygian Cybele, known as the great Mother-goddess. There was a small Jewish community, but probably not a regular synagogue congregation which would have required ten men.
Instead, several women met outside the city on the Sabbath for prayer Acts The Gospel came to Philippi sometime around 49 to 52 AD. They tried to go into Bithynia, "but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them" Acts They finally reached the coast at Troas, where Paul had a vision of a Macedonian begging him, "Come over to Macedonia and help us" Acts Paul took this as God's call.
In Philippi, Paul and Silas met some women praying on the Sabbath at the river, led by Lydia, "a dealer in purple cloth from the city of Thyatira, who was a worshipper of God" Acts She welcomed Paul's message, was baptized with her household, and invited the missionaries and a cluster of believers into her home, where the tiny church began to grow. One day they were met by a slave girl who prophesied from an evil spirit.
Finally Paul turned to her and said to the spirit, "In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her. At midnight an earthquake opened the prison doors and the jailer was converted and baptized with his household in the middle of the night. At daylight, Paul and Silas were thrown out of town, but not before a church had been established. After Paul and Silas left, Luke may have stayed on in Philippi. The church at Philippi provided financial and material support several times during Paul's journeys.
He bragged to the Corinthians about their generosity:. Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability They gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will" 2 Corinthians 8: They shared with Paul a "partnership in the gospel from the first day" Philippians 1: Paul recalls, "In the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need" 4: The warm Letter to the Philippians is strong evidence to this deep love between the apostle and some of his dearest converts.
Paul's authorship of Philippians was unanimously supported among the Church Fathers and has rarely been challenged in our day. Nearly all scholars accept this as a genuine letter of Paul. Then Paul lists the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit: To walk by the Spirit means to live in moment-by-moment submission to the indwelling Holy Spirit, saying no to self and yes to the Lord. It means to trust in the sufficiency and power of the Spirit because you distrust your own ability see Prov.
As we learn to walk by the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit, including joy, will grow in our lives. If you have spent your life walking in the flesh, it may take some time before you experience steady joy in the Lord. Also, walking in the Spirit is a deliberate process that involves putting self to death and submitting to the sovereign God. Paul was going through some pretty intense trials and could easily have become depressed.
He was living for the gospel, to proclaim Christ in every way Phil. Someone you were counting on let you down. A situation you were hoping and praying for did not come about. The verses before and after verse 4 deal with proper relationships. If we have wronged others and have not done all we can to make it right, we will not have joy in the Lord.
Put on some praise music, or get out a hymnal and get alone and begin to sing to the Lord. Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn Ps. Paul and Silas sang in the Philippian jail Acts Quite often people who lack joy are not involved in serving Christ. Get your focus off yourself and your problems and on to what God wants you to do for the furtherance of the gospel.
There is great joy in seeing others trust Christ as Savior Luke A Christian woman once told me that she had been depressed every day of her life. She had been going to psychologists for years, to no avail. God has gifted you to serve Him. How are you doing that? If you want joy, get your eyes off yourself and on to how God wants you to serve Him. This joy is in the Lord and we are in Christ! Daily meditate on the cross of Christ and all the riches that are ours through His death.
Think on the fact that you are risen with Him, seated in the heavenlies, with every spiritual blessing in Christ Eph. Revel in His abundant grace that is greater than all our sins. Marvel at His sovereign grace that chose you before the foundation of the world in Him, that predestined you to adoption as His son or daughter Eph. The Philippian jailer went from being suicidal to rejoicing greatly because of his salvation Acts How can you be depressed if you are focusing daily on the marvelous grace shown to you in Christ? I wish I had time to develop this last point, to tell you of the joy that men and women of God have known in the midst of sorrow as they trusted in the Lord.
Hudson Taylor, the great pioneer missionary to China, lost his beloved wife, Maria, after 12 years of marriage. Shortly after her death, he wrote to his mother in England,.
From my inmost soul I delight in the knowledge that God does or deliberately permits all things, and causes all things to work together for good to those who love Him. He and He only knew what my dear wife was to me. He knew how the light of my eyes and the joy of my heart were in her But He saw that it was good to take her; good indeed for her, and in His love He took her painlessly; and not less good for me who must henceforth toil and suffer alone--yet not alone, for God is nearer to me than ever.
My eyes flow with tears of mingled joy and sorrow. When I think of my loss, my heart--nigh to breaking--rises in thankfulness to Him Who has spared her such sorrow and made her so unspeakably happy. My tears are more tears of joy than of grief.