This letter written from difficult circumstances of imprisonment in Rome, communicates the joy of the Apostle Paul’s heart as he focuses on themes related to Christian unity and fellowship in spreading the gospel. Rather than dealing with heavy doctrinal or polemic issues, Paul has a softer, more practical tone as he urges Christians to adopt the mind of Christ and relate to one another in humility and love. In this way any potential obstacles of discord can be healed. The pursuit of Christlikeness and spiritual growth with the objective of communicating Christ to others should motivate the church to work together for positive gospel outcomes.
TRUE JOY COMES FROM FELLOWSHIP AND UNITY IN FURTHERING THE GOSPEL (IN DEPENDENCE UPON GOD) AS WE SEEK TO FULLY KNOW CHRIST
Philippians 1:27 “striving together for the faith of the gospel“
I. (1:1-26) TRUE FELLOWSHIP PROMOTES THE FURTHERANCE OF THE GOSPEL (DESPITE PERSECUTION) AS WE FOCUS ON EXALTING CHRIST
A. (1:1-11) AS WE LABOR TOGETHER UNTIL CHRIST RETURNS, FELLOWSHIP IN THE GOSPEL SPARKS THREE RESPONSES:
PURPOSEFUL PRAYER (FOR SPIRITUAL MATURITY)
B. (1:12-18) THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE GOSPEL CAN ACTUALLY BENEFIT FROM DIFFICULT PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
BY SHOWING UNBELIEVERS THE REALITY OF OUR RELATIONSHIP TO CHRIST;
BY SHOWING BELIEVERS OUR EXAMPLE OF JOY AND FAITHFULNESS (WHICH GIVES THEM COURAGE TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL)
C. (1:19-26) FOCUS ON EXALTING CHRIST AND YOU CAN COUNT ON SUPERNATURAL BOLDNESS IN FRUITFUL MINISTRY —
ONE THAT WILL GLORIFY CHRIST
AND EFFECTIVELY IMPACT OTHERS
II. (1:27-2:30) TRUE UNITY PROMOTES THE FURTHERANCE OF THE GOSPEL (DESPITE PERSECUTION) AS WE SUBMIT TO HUMBLING OURSELVES
A. (1:27-2:2) THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST SHOULD INSPIRE LOYAL SOLIDARITY (TRUE UNITY) AND SUPERNATURAL CALM AS WE STRIVE TOGETHER TO FURTHER THE GOSPEL (WHILE ACCEPTING THE INEVITABILITY OF PERSECUTION)
B. (2:3-4) THE SECRET TO HUMBLING OURSELVES LIES IN MAKING OTHERS GREAT — BOTH IN OUR PERSPECTIVE AND IN OUR PURSUITS
C. (2:5-11) THE PATTERN FOR BOTH HUMBLING OURSELVES AND BEING EXALTED BY GOD IS JESUS CHRIST
D. (2:12-18) JOYFULLY PERSEVERE IN HUMBLE SERVICE TO MAINTAIN A BLAMELESS TESTIMONY
E. (2:19-30) TWO EXAMPLES OF PARTNERSHIP IN THE GOSPEL: UNSELFISH, SACRIFICAL SERVICE TO OTHERS IN ORDER TO FURTHER THE GOSPEL
III. (3:1-21) OUR PERSONAL PURSUIT OF CONFORMITY TO CHRIST MUST TAKE PRIORITY OVER EVERYTHING — EVEN OUR EFFORTS AT FURTHERING THE GOSPEL
A. (3:1-7) REJOICING IN CHRIST MEANS TURNING OUR BACK ON EVERYTHING THAT WOULD EXALT OUR FLESH
B. (3:8-11) KNOWING CHRIST IN A TRANSFORMING WAY IS THE ONLY PURSUIT WORTHY OF ETERNITY
C. (3:12-14) PRESSING TOWARD THE GOAL IS THE ONLY WAY TO RUN THE RACE OF CONFORMITY TO JESUS CHRIST
D. (3:15-21) FOLLOWING THE RIGHT EXAMPLES (THE WAY OF THE CROSS RATHER THAN THE WAY OF INDULGENCE) WILL KEEP US ON TRACK IN THE RACE TO GLORY TO JOIN OUR SAVIOR, THE LORD JESUS CHRIST
IV. (4:1-23) FELLOWSHIP AND UNITY IN FURTHERING THE GOSPEL REQUIRES DEPENDENCE ON GOD FOR PEACE OF HEART AND PROVISION OF NEEDS
A. (4:1-9) HARMONY OF FELLOWSHIP AND INNER PEACE REQUIRE TOTAL COMMITMENT – 4 PRESCRIPTIONS FOR PEACE
B. (4:10-23) GOD CAN BE TRUSTED TO PROVIDE ALL MATERIAL NEEDS FOR THOSE WHO PARTNER IN THE MINISTRY OF THE GOSPEL
WHY STUDY THIS BOOK?
• To encourage partnership in the gospel so that we share in tangible ways with those who are on the front lines of missionary work.
• To increase our level of joy in striving together for the faith of the gospel
• To develop greater confidence in how God uses even difficult circumstances to further His kingdom agenda
• To root out and guard against the types of sins that would attack the unity we should experience in the body of Christ – all strife and selfish ambition and discord
• To adopt the mind of Christ with respect to serving God with all humility
• To grow in our true knowledge of Jesus Christ – both sharing in His sufferings and anticipating future glory
• To foster dependence upon God for meeting the material needs of those that are ministering the gospel
David Malick: His Big Idea for the book – As one who is himself suffering for the gospel Paul honors the Philippians for their participation with him in his sufferings, and urges them to humble themselves for the sake of one another against the divisive threats of inner disputes and external false teachers so that they might continue in their gospel ministry and one day be exalted by the Lord.
Brian Racer: HOW TO HAVE JOY IN LIFE’S MOST DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES
Theme: THE PURSUIT OF THE PERSON OF CHRIST AND HIS POWER PRODUCES A HUMILITY AND UNITY THAT BRINGS GREAT JOY
Purpose: To praise and encourage the Philippians for their progress and example and to warn of the dangers that could erode the strength and purpose of their church
Tone: Tender, personal, optimistic, encouraging; You would love to be the church receiving this letter.
Overview Outline (taken from Talk Through the Bible notes)
1:5-11 Rejoicing in Harmony
1:12-26 Rejoicing in Hardship
1:27-2:18 Rejoicing in Humility
2:19-2:30 Rejoicing in Helpers
3:1-4:1 Rejoicing in Heaven
4:2-9 Rejoicing in Holiness
4:10-20 Rejoicing in Help
4:21-23 Greetings and Benediction
John MacArthur: Paul had several purposes in composing this epistle.
– First, he wanted to express in writing his thanks for the Philippians’ gift (4:10-18).
– Second, he wanted the Philippians to know why he decided to return Epaphroditus to them, so they would not think his service to Paul had been unsatisfactory (2:25, 26).
– Third, he wanted to inform them about his circumstances at Rome (1:12-26).
– Fourth, he wrote to exhort them to unity (2:1, 2; 4:2).
– Finally, he wrote to warn them against false teachers (3:1 – 4:1).
J. Sidlow Baxter: This short epistle is simply and naturally a letter, not a formal treatise. Bishop Lightfoot calls it “the least dogmatic of the apostle’s letters.” It is practical rather than theological; corrective rather than formative; a letter of Christian appreciation and exhortation. Of course, the whole of it is interpenetrated with Christian doctrine, but any theological teaching occurs only incidentally, and always to press home practical Christian godliness. The faults which it corrects were, fortunately, only incipient rather than developed – strife, vainglory, wrong self-esteem, disunity, murmurings, disputings – all of which are very human besetments. Paul knows how hard the lessons are; the Philippians need more than precept; they need a high, constraining example – and so there threads its way into the letter that “unique and splendid theological paragraph” beginning: “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (ii. 5-11).
Ray Stedman: The subject or theme of this letter is Jesus Christ and his availability for coping with the problems of life. The church at Philippi to which Paul wrote was not beset with serious doctrinal problems but only the normal, usual problems of everyday, commonplace existence — Christians who did not get along with one another, and incipient divisions within the church created by certain persons who were trying to mislead others with ideas not quite in accord with the Christian faith. To deal with these problems, Paul designed this epistle as a guide for ordinary living. It faces the normal problems a Christian has, and proclaims the victory which a Christian can appropriate in overcoming these problems. The recurring theme, running throughout the letter, is that of joy and rejoicing. Repeatedly the apostle uses phrases like, “Rejoice, and again I say rejoice, rejoice in your sufferings, rejoice in your difficulties.’ This becomes, then, a letter in which we are instructed how to live victoriously and joyously in the midst of the normal difficulties of life.