Epistle to the Philippians Chapter 1: Paul’s Admonition to the Brethren

Nov 2nd, 2009 | By | Category: Philippians, Verse by Verse --Studies led by Br. Frank Shallieu (Click on Book name)

Epistle to the Philippians Chapter 1: Paul’s Admonition to the Brethren


Phil. 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

Paul wrote the Epistle to the Philippians while he was under house arrest in Rome. The epistle was from both Paul and Timothy, for Timothy was with him when the letter was written to the elders, the deacons, and the rest of the church at Philippi. A chief city of Macedonia, Philippi was a stopping-off point in the land route to Athens, Corinth, and Rome. This land route was especially used at certain times of the year when the sea route was treacherous. Philippi was an established ecclesia with bishops (elders) and deacons (plural). By including them in the salutation, Paul showed that he knew them personally. There were several reasons for this personal touch, as follows:

1. The brethren in this class were sympathetic to Paul in all his needs. They sent financial help, as well as spiritual assistance, and cooperated with Paul in connection with his ministry.

2. Although a little inland, Philippi was one of the first landing points when Paul left Troas in Asia Minor. Upon arriving, he had a notable experience. On the sabbath day, he went down by the riverside “where prayer was wont to be made” and witnessed to the women assembled there. Among the women was Lydia of Thyatira, who became the first Gentile convert in Europe as a result of Paul’s preaching (Acts 16:11-15). She consecrated quickly.

3. Paul and Silas were imprisoned for casting a demon out of a woman who brought much  money to her masters by soothsaying. The incident with the Philippian jailer followed. Paul and Silas were beaten with many stripes and then thrown in prison without due cause. While in pain, Paul and Silas prayed and sang aloud at midnight. Of course the other prisoners heard them and noticed this unusual rejoicing attitude. (Paul and Silas rejoiced at being persecuted for righteousness’ sake. The normal attitude would have been anger and cursing, so the prisoners noted the unusual behavior.) Suddenly an earthquake opened all cell doors and loosed all prisoner bands. However, none of the prisoners left their cells, for they were too startled that God had answered the prayers. Then Paul took command. The jailer feared for his life if any prisoners escaped, but all were there. In gratitude and humility, the jailer asked Paul, “What must I do to be saved?” and then bathed Paul’s and Silas’s wounds. Meanwhile, the other prisoners were afraid to leave lest perhaps they would be struck dead, and the jailer was able to go and relock the cell doors. Subsequently the jailer and all his household were converted. Paul always had fond memories of this incident, which is recorded in Acts 16:16-40.

The Philippian class prospered and was very zealous with regard to Paul’s missionary activities there. Probably the jailer had had previous feelings toward God, and this whole scenario with Paul’s arrest was enacted for his benefit. What a startling example of one being called!

Phil. 1:2 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 2 was a characteristic greeting of the Apostle Paul: “Grace and peace from the Father and the Lord Jesus.”

Phil. 1:3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

“I thank my God upon every remembrance [mention] of you.” Whenever Paul heard a testimony about the Philippian class, he always thanked God.

Phil. 1:4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

Phil. 1:5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now;

Paul was not saying that he mentioned the Philippian brethren in every prayer he uttered. The  thought was that in every prayer which had them in mind, he included the fellowship aspect. In other words, “Always in every prayer of mine for you all, I joyfully pray for your enlargement and even stronger establishment in the Lord.”

In other epistles, Paul anguished in prayer, even with tears, because of problems in the ecclesia. The contrast here is that his prayers for the Philippians were joyful. There is very little reprimand in this epistle; the letter is gentle.

Phil. 1:6 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:

“Being confident … that he [God] which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ [that is, from 1878 on].” The “day of Jesus Christ” is that part of the Second Advent in which the sleeping saints and those who subsequently make their calling and election sure personally see Christ and get their commendation (see Phil. 1:10; 2:16). They could then all rejoice together at having won the battle of life. Paul looked forward to this joyful reunion and was hopeful that several from the class at Philippi would be there. He prayed that the fellowship begun back there might continue until death so that the joyous reunion would take place at the Second Advent at the appointed time prior to the establishment of the Kingdom on earth.

Phil. 1:7 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.

“Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all.” It was appropriate for Paul to think of the Philippian brethren in the confident, favorable manner just expressed.

The Philippians partook of Paul’s bonds by being so sympathetic. Not only did they spiritually identify with him, but also when any of the brethren went that way, for Philippi was a natural stopping place by the land route, the traveler would bring greetings from the ecclesia to Paul.

Thus on occasion, individuals went to see Paul. An example will come up later on in the epistle.

“I have you in my heart” should be “Ye have me in your heart” (see King James margin and Diaglott). It was right for Paul to think so kindly and confidently of the Philippian brethren because they had him in their heart. Paul was saying, “It is proper for me to remember you, since you are in constant remembrance of me.”

Phil. 1:8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.

The “bowels” are the seat of emotion, compassion, sympathy, etc. This expression is a deeper term than the “heart” because the whole constitution is affected. Fear and strong emotions affect the bowels adversely, but these were “bowels” of mercy from the standpoint of a Christian and his spiritual welfare. If Jesus were “physically” present with the Philippians, he would be solicitous for their welfare. Paul also felt this interest based on their deeds and attitudes. Just as Jesus would have bowels of mercy for them, so Paul had a similar gratitude of remembrance and a desire for them to make their calling and election sure.

“For God is my record [witness]” is an emphatic statement. We should be mighty sure a statement is accurate if this phrase is attached. It is easy to be generous with the lips, and much more difficult to be so with deeds, but both lips and deeds are commendable.

Phil. 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment;

Phil. 1:10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ;

Notice, Paul did not just say “that your love may abound yet more” but “more and more.” He prayed that their love would continue to abound “in knowledge and in all judgment” so that they might “approve things that are excellent.”

The Diaglott uses the word “perception” instead of “judgment”: “that your love may yet abound more and more in knowledge, and in all perception, in order that you may examine the differences of things.” In other words, in order to know and approve the things that are “excellent,” we must be able to recognize the things that are not so excellent. We need discrimination of mind so that we can judge between that which is profitable and that which is unprofitable. We need the ability to discern principles, which guide us in perception, and this ability comes to us through knowledge and understanding. We need much more than just emotional love; we need to have an instructed Godlike love. Verses 9 and 10 are excellent proof texts of the necessity for knowledge and judgment (or perception) with love, for they go hand in hand.

Phil. 1:11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.

Paul was certainly wishing the Philippians well—and doing so in an elaborate manner! There  was not much reproof at all. Paul was happy with the state of development they had shown thus far, even though there was always room for improvement. He was saying, “May this love, knowledge, perception, and the fruits of righteousness grow even deeper and expand more and more until death. Then in the day of Christ, you will hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’” (Matt. 25:23).

The various circumstances, problems, and levels of spiritual development brought out by the  different epistles are interesting. We would all hope to be in an ecclesia arrangement where this kind of “Philippian” commendation could be written. The epistles to the early churches contained general admonitions and encouragement that were applicable to everyone in every class, but certain epistles also had specific admonitions for a specific problem in a particular ecclesia. The value of studying all of the epistles is that they will fit the “man of God” in whatever situation he finds himself; he will be edified by reading them all.

Phil. 1:12 But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;

Paul’s house arrest resulted in “the furtherance of the gospel.” All of the Roman soldiers knew he was there because of his suffering for Christ. Not only could he witness in that circumstance, but his example under Nero’s rule gave strength to other brethren. And while there, Paul had the opportunity (and time) to write many epistles to the brethren. Although he was chained to a soldier with each changing of the guard, he had liberties while under house arrest. He could  still give discourses and write. Moreover, the soldiers thus received an indirect witness as well, and word spread of the gospel message. Some right in “Caesar’s [Nero’s] household” became Christians (Phil 4:22). What zeal Paul had!

Phil. 1:13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;

Paul was conspicuous and well situated in his house arrest, and he capitalized on this providence.

Phil. 1:14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

Paul’s example led other brethren to speak boldly “without fear.” The Diaglott uses the wording “the greater number of the brethren”; that is, the greater number waxed more confident because of Paul’s bonds.

Phil. 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:

Phil. 1:16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:

Phil. 1:17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.

How startling that some brethren preached Christ out of envy and strife! They were actually jealous that Paul was on a crest of popularity, even though he was under house arrest. True brethren, the majority, preached Christ boldly from the heart with sincerity and goodwill, but a minority element caused a lot of trouble, “supposing to add affliction to my [Paul’s] bonds.” Although the majority in most classes genuinely sympathized with and supported Paul, an underlying minority opposition caused trouble as, for example, in Corinth. The problems arose from two elements: (1) Jews who became Christians felt that the Law had to be strictly obeyed.

However, the Christian is under grace, for otherwise, all would be condemned. The principles of the Law must be obeyed but not the letter, for the letter of the Law killeth (2 Cor. 3:6). (2) Jews outside the Church (those who remained Jews and did not convert) also opposed Paul, some even plotting his murder. Some feigned sympathy with Paul and the Christian cause but were actually conniving situations that would cause the death sentence to come upon him.

Verses 16 and 17 are an elaboration or explanation of verse 15. Some preached Christ out of goodwill; others preached out of contention, supposing to add affliction to Paul’s bonds. However, Paul viewed the persecution as increased glory. He had the proper viewpoint.

Q: How could the unconverted Jews who wanted to kill Paul “preach Christ”?

A: They could feign an interest and then, by being in the audience, make harmful suggestions.

It would be a “setup” situation. The Scriptures allow for both an outside and an inside Jewish element to preach out of envy, strife, and/or insincerity.

The influence of Paul’s courageous preaching emboldened others to speak about Christ, including some with envy and malicious intent, but nevertheless, all of the preaching was popularizing the name of Jesus. “Who is Christ?” the public would ask. “What is this religion all about?” Those who preached out of envy were inside the Church. Those outside preached with malice. Christians who were envious were aspiring to positions of leadership and hence manifested a Nicolaitan disposition, trying to minimize Paul and magnify themselves. The principle was the same when the Roman Catholic Church condemned Martin Luther’s writings.

Some of the people were curious to find out what was being condemned. The gospel was a new message in a foreign capital in a heathen part of the world, and word spread about the unusual prisoner Jesus from the little land of Israel, a presumptuous nation, a thorn in the flesh, that dared to oppose the Roman legions. And later Paul was imprisoned by the cruel emperor Nero. For a relatively unknown person to be brought to Rome for trial before the emperor indicated he must be someone of importance or else very notorious. Thus Paul, too, aroused curiosity.

The same principle was seen in Moses’ day. Two who were preaching in the camp were brought to his attention as being unauthorized to preach (Num. 11:26-29). However, Moses, who had no envy, replied, “I would to God that everyone would preach.” Moses had the opposite (and correct) viewpoint.

Phil. 1:18 What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.

Paul rejoiced however Christ was preached—in pretense or in truth.

Phil. 1:19 For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

Phil. 1:20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

“For I know that this shall turn to my salvation … according to my earnest expectation and my hope [confidence], that in nothing I shall be ashamed.” How would the preaching turn to Paul’s salvation? (1) If Paul’s bonds were added to by this envious and malicious element and he faithfully endured, he would be laying up treasure in heaven. (2) If by faithfully declaring the gospel, he gave strength to the sincere brethren, that also would be accredited to his eventual reward.

“Through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” The brethren at Philippi prayed earnestly for Paul, and he was showing his appreciation. He wanted the Holy Spirit as it was exercised in Jesus. Jesus accepted and submitted to his sufferings for truth, and Paul wanted (and had) this same attitude. He desired to be prepared for whatever experiences lay ahead— and to act in the way most pleasing to the Father.

Some misinterpret verses 19 and 20 by saying that Paul felt a sense of weakness and need for  the prayers of the brethren so that he would have sufficient strength and courage. This is not what Paul was asking for, because he had an earnest expectation, a real hope, not an “if” or a “maybe” situation. Hope is faith that is strong; it is not a weakness that asks for strength. Paul was asking that he would preach in the same spirit that Jesus had, and not just speak boldly like a warrior. Paul saw soldiers going by all around him, but he wanted to preach with the sandals of peace. He wanted to be strong and staunch in the truth but in a Christlike manner, not in strife or vainglory or for the wrong motive. He asked for the prayers of the Philippian brethren along this line. Since he was the most conspicuous representative of Christ in all Italy at that time, he wanted to speak and act wisely and lovingly and manifest the spirit that Christ had manifested. Otherwise, all his boldness would amount to nothing. “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing” (1 Cor. 13:3). Giving one’s body to be burned is good if it is done in love, for that would mean one has died for the Lord.

Paul was not at all fearful, and he brought that fact out very emphatically later on in this epistle.

He was not wavering, yet one could be unwavering and not make the Little Flock. Paul was more concerned with being faithful in properly discharging his duty so that Christ would be “magnified” in his body whether he lived or died. He did not care if he lived or died, but he wanted to do either in the right spirit.

Phil. 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

The thought is, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is more Christ.”

Phil. 1:22 But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.

Phil. 1:23 For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:

Phil. 1:24 Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.

Phil. 1:25 And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;

Verses 22-25 give us an insight into Paul’s hope for the immediate future, for his expectation of whether to live or die. He now felt that he would live, that somehow God would deliver him out of his imprisonment. His judgment was just about due at the end of his two-year house arrest. The Roman government would make a decision. Either he would be exonerated and immediately set free, or he would be executed. The decision moment was at hand, and Paul felt he would be set free—in spite of those who were trying to add to his bonds. He would be exonerated for the sake of the brethren, for their “furtherance and joy of faith.”

The word “depart” in verse 23 means “return” in the Greek, as the Pastor showed. Otherwise, this verse would be a contradiction, implying that the minute the Christian dies, he is with Jesus.

In the Diaglott, “depart” is translated “loose again.” A footnote reads as follows:

“To analusai, the loosing again or the returning, being what Paul earnestly desired, could not be death or dissolution, as implied by the word depart in the common version, because it seemed a matter of indifference to him, which of the two—life or death—he should choose; but he longed for the analusai, which was a third thing, and very much to be preferred to either of the other two things alluded to. The word analusai occurs in Luke 12:36, and is there rendered return;—‘Be you like men waiting for their master, when he will return,’ &c. Jesus had taught his disciples that he would come again, or return, John 14:3,18; thus, also, the angels said to them at his ascension, Acts 1:11. Paul believed this doctrine and taught it to others, and was looking for and waiting for the Savior from heaven, Phil. 3:20; 1 Thess. 1:10; 4:16,17, when his mortal body would put on immortality, and so he would ‘ever be with the Lord.’”

If we do not see the “returning” as a third thing, there would seem to be a contradiction. Note, too, that Paul spoke of dying as “gain,” as being superior to living, for when a Christian dies, he seals his testimony and thus the verdict. However, to come back, or return, with the Lord at his Second Advent in glory and honor and in a position to bless others would be the best of all.

Paul tried to bless people with his mouth, his logic, and his thinking, but to return with the Lord would mean he could perform deeds with that work.

Thus there were three conditions, but only two possibilities immediately faced Paul: to live or to die. The three conditions were as follows:

1. To live is profitable (to live is Christ).

2. To die is gain.

3. To come back with Christ at the Second Advent is more gain (“far better”).

Phil. 1:26 That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.

Phil. 1:27 Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

“Only let your conversation [conduct] be as it becometh the gospel of Christ.” The conduct of the Philippians was not to be predicated on whether Paul was actually present with them. He was saying that the Philippians should be faithful regardless of his presence or absence.

Even this thought was gently stated compared to other epistles. Later we will find out there was a little problem with two personalities in the class but not problems like those in the other letters, such as strong admonitions against immorality and being fettered to the Law (Phil. 4:2).

Philippi was Paul’s first church in the new continent. He had a vision to “come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9). When he obeyed and went to Macedonia, Philippi was the first church to be established. Paul spoke endearingly of this church, and in fact, it was probably his “favorite ecclesia,” if we can use such a term.

The gospel was a new message going to a new area. If the gospel had been in Philippi for centuries, Paul’s advice would have been along other lines than “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”

What is the thought of “with one mind”? There can be differences of opinion and personality, but one doctrine should be espoused amidst an alien territory; that is, there should be unity in expressing the doctrine to others. Certainly differences should not be brought to the attention of the public. There should be unity, not a dissembling nature, and “one mind” on the fundamental truths. With regard to “striving together for the faith of the gospel,” a marginal reference is Jude 3, which tells us to “earnestly contend for the faith [the fundamentals] which was once delivered unto the saints.”

While the Philippians had not yet been confronted with the problem of the Judaizing element coming in, Paul indicated later in the epistle that he felt the influence was quite near, that it was approaching (Phil. 3:2). He forewarned the class so that they would properly deal with the problem.

Phil. 1:28 And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God.

Verse 28 shows how confident Paul was. For him to give such advice to the Philippians means he was not the least bit terrified by his adversaries.

If physical persecution and house-to-house hunting for Christians were prevalent today as in past centuries, many would be terror-stricken. A number of Christians were even thrown to the lions. But Paul urged the Philippians to be like him—the more he suffered, the more it resulted in gain for him, for he was laying up treasures in heaven (Matt. 6:20). However, they were to be sure that the suffering was for right-doing, for preaching the gospel properly, etc.

The Christian is to sing and rejoice when persecuted for righteousness’ or Christ’s sake.

Rejoice, and be exceeding glad … for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you” (Matt. 5:12). Persecution should be viewed as an honor, for it is a privilege to suffer for Jesus.

To be “terrified” is an “evident token of perdition.” If we are charged with guilt, and we act and look guilty even though innocent, we encourage the ones judging us to be harsh and feel vindicated. To act shaky when accused of being of the Adversary only gives credence to the decision of guilt. However, if we are bold and courageous, if we manifest a proper spirit and no terror, and if we meet the experience in a relatively calm manner, then at least some thinking people will be rightly exercised by witnessing our experiences. The faith structure of the individual receiving the experience must be sound so that others will witness it and want to investigate the situation.

To the contrary, cowardice and faltering actions do not inspire the public to look into the matter. Instead people would feel we have already condemned ourselves. In the persecution at the end of the age, some of the Great Company class, under pressure in the beginning, will falter. Later on, they will get more sanity regarding the proper attitude and be strengthened to be faithful. Thus some of the brethren will be terrified in the future, at least momentarily.

Both with the Jews and with some heathen religions, the thought was that a person’s God would make him prosper if he obeyed and would make him suffer if he disobeyed. The Christian had to view suffering differently—as necessary, as a privilege, and as a sign God was dealing with him.

The intent of the “adversaries” was to obliterate the Christians, just as Jesus’ ignominious crucifixion was supposed to end the matter. His shame was supposed to not only shut up his mouth but stop his followers as well. The destruction, or “perdition,” was intended to silence them, but in reality, the persecution only enhanced God’s plan. The death of Jesus was a necessary part of the salvation process.

Phil. 1:29 For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake;

Phil. 1:30 Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

The Philippians were not to be surprised if they ended up with the same experience Paul had. What they saw him suffer, they should also expect to endure.

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