v1: In Acts 16.13-15, Lydia was the first convert at Philippi. The Church there was born in the place of prayer.
As in Eph 1.1, Christians are addressed as "saints in Christ Jesus". This is a commendation, that they already lived as saints, and a challenge, that they might become more like saints.
Church leadership was elders/overseers and deacons; this was apparently the normal structure, as explained in 1 Timothy.
v2: Paul's opening prayer request, for grace and peace upon them.
v3-11: Thanksgiving and prayer; there is fellowship in the gospel, to which distance is no barrier.
v3: The Philippian Christians are very dear to Paul; "I have you in my heart" (v7); "how I long for all of you" (v8); "you whom I love and long for" (4.1). No wonder Paul thanks God every time he remembers them.
v4: Paul's constant joyful prayer. "Joy" is a key word, being used throughout the letter.
Paul prayed for them all, including Euodia and Syntyche, who had caused some difficulties (see 4.2).
v5: Christian partnership, or fellowship, is something very precious. It is spiritual, being more than just human friendship.
"Gospel", another key word, used 1.5,7,12,16,27; 2.22; 4.3,15. The gospel brings us into fellowship with God, and with each other.
v6: Our confidence and security is in Christ. The solid, doctrinal basis explained in Eph 1 enables us to rejoice in Christ's utter faithfulness.
Since Christ is faithful, we should be faithful too.
Paul was confident that
- the Christian and the church would be preserved;
- that the gospel would be promoted (v12);
- other Christians would be encouraged (v14);
- that "Christ is preached" (v18); and
- that our future is with Christ (v23).
Note too that God’s glory and our blessing are tied together. His intention for us is that we enjoy security in Christ, and through that security, and the worship and witness it inspires, God is glorified.
v7: Prayer and concern together; not unlike the O.T. priest, who carried the people on his heart, Ex 28.15-30; 39.8-14.
v8: Paul's deep love for the Philippians, affection given by Christ. Paul uses the word "all" (v1,4,7,8,9,13,20,25), indicating his love for each one.
v9: Paul's prayers for the Philippians.
First that they would grow in love, as in 1 Thess 4.9-10. That their love would be with knowledge and discernment, without which love can become sentimental.
v10: That they might discern what is the best, or approve the things that are excellent (1 Thess 5.21). The Christian must grow in discernment, judging between good and bad. However we must do more than just reject the bad, we must approve and embrace the good. In this way we are prepared for the day of Christ, when our lives will be tested.
As a result of our discernment, we may become and remain “pure and blameless.”
v11: Filled with the fruits of righteousness, as the very character of Christ is developed in us. These fruits are only available in Him.
As in Eph 1.6,12, all these things are to the glory and praise of God; our lives are supposed to bring glory to Him.
v12: Paul shares what has happened to him. He was a man of real courage, enduring hardship for the sake of Christ. He feels able to share these things with a supportive and loving church. It may be that the Philippians had indicated that they wanted to know Paul's whereabouts and his trials. Paul is confident that whatever trials he endures will actually promote the gospel.
v13: Many had realised that Paul was in prison because of his faith in Christ.
v14: As a result, the word is preached, and Christians are encouraged. Such is the immediate effect of Paul's imprisonment.
v15-18: Some maintained bad attitudes. Paul is very gracious here, and rejoicing in God's overruling hand. The gospel is on the agenda, and therefore Paul rejoices. There is power in the gospel, however well or badly it is preached. Here is true love for Christ, without self-love.
v19: Paul respects the prayers of others. Had he despised their prayers, he would have discouraged them. He is confident in the effectiveness and value of prayer, his circumstances being sanctified by prayer.
v20: His only desire, that Christ be magnified, whatever happens to Paul himself, and whether he is used by God, or laid aside by God.
v21: His high standard of attitude; that life is Christ, and glory for Christ through His work being promoted; but death is gain, as Paul would be "with Christ".
v22: Paul knew that God would bless his labours.
v23: But for Paul, there is the greater blessing of leaving this earth, and going to be with Christ.
v24-26: Paul's unselfish concern for others. His confidence, "I shall remain". God had more work for him, his God-given task is not yet complete.
His work was to encourage growth, the progress and joy of faith.
v27: Godly conduct is worthy of the gospel of Christ. It is a visible evidence of the life of Christ in us. It is in this way that we commend the gospel to others.
We are to stand together and strive together, wherever we are, one spirit, one mind, in agreement, 2.2; 3.16; 4.2, so that we may proclaim and uphold the gospel.
v28: There are those who oppose, which is itself a proof of salvation. There is a clear expectation that we shall meet such as these. The Lord's command (Matt 5.12; Luke 6.22-23) is that we rejoice and are glad.
v29: Belief in Christ will necessarily bring suffering. To never experience opposition is unusual. The Lord's promise that we shall have tribulation reflects Paul's own calling, Acts 9.16.
v30: The tribulation had started for the Philippians. Paul's letter is therefore very timely, to strengthen and encourage them.