I. Greeting and Prayer (Philippians 1:1-11)
I. Greeting and Prayer (1:1-11)
1:1-2 Paul’s letter to the Philippians is often called “the epistle of joy” due to its glad, vigorous, overcoming presentation of the Christian life. It starts off with an immediate ring of gratitude from the imprisoned apostle to the well-beloved church in Philippi. Paul describes himself and Timothy as servants of Christ Jesus (1:1). He will return to this theme of humble service in chapter 2 especially, but it’s found throughout his letter. Paul includes Timothy, his son in the faith, in his greeting since Timothy had ministered with Paul in that region (see Acts 16:1-15).
Paul addresses his letter to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons (1:1). While the letter was written to the whole congregation, Paul makes special mention of “the overseers and deacons” because they were responsible to lead the church in love and obedience. Then Paul offers a greeting that could be called a summary of the gospel: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:2).
1:3-4 Years after Paul’s initial ministry to the Philippians (see Acts 16:11-40), the church was ever-present in his heart and mind: I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you (1:3). He keeps them before God because of their value to him as a church and as brothers and sisters in Christ. He loves them deeply, misses them, and desires their welfare and blessing. His love is evidenced by his always praying with joy for all of them in his every prayer (1:4). All believers in Jesus Christ should follow Paul’s lead. Remembering fellow Christians provides opportunity to praise God for their faith and to seek God for their good.
1:5-6 Paul was devoted to joyfully praying for the Philippian believers because of their shared mission—their partnership in the gospel from the first day (1:5). He was supremely confident that their spiritual and material investment in him would result in God’s continued work of sanctification in their lives. He thus assures them, He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (1:6).
People often start projects with great enthusiasm. However, when their zeal fades, the work fizzles out. But God is not like us. He never undertakes anything that he doesn’t finish. When he begins a good work in a believer’s heart, it’s as good as done.
1:7-8 Paul continues to express his deep affection for them because of their spiritual partnership with him in the gospel: I have you in my heart (1:7). He considers them partners . . . in grace. Just how did the Philippians partner with the apostle in ministry? They supported him in his imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel (1:7). They were not, then, fair-weather Christians. When the gospel was spreading powerfully, they supported him. And when the name of Jesus landed Paul in a jail cell, the Philippian believers still remained true to him. Therefore, Paul missed them with the affection of Christ Jesus (1:8).
1:9-11 Paul wants to make sure their love continues to grow for the Lord and for each other in a context of truth, which he describes as knowledge and every kind of discernment (1:9). Love must be more than sentimental emotion; it must conform with the truth of the Word of God. Our love must be authentic and whole, not merely emotional and full of cracks. Discerning love helps us approve the things that are superior so that we don’t waste our lives on inferior things (1:10). And this kind of life is filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ (1:11).