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Philippians

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Introduction

Philippians was written from prison (1:7).1 The author is unquestionably Paul with Timothy identified as the co-sender (1:1). Timothy helped plant the church and will feature in the letter (Acts 16:1–40; Phil 2:19–24). Although some interpreters believe Philippians is a composite of two or three letters, recent scholarship confirms it is an integrated whole.

When and Where Was Philippians Written?

Scholars debate whether Philippians was written from Ephesus (AD 53–55), Caesarea Maritima (58–59), or Rome (61–63). As there is no clear evidence Paul was imprisoned in Ephesus and with the unanimous support of the early church, Rome is to be favored. At the time, Nero’s madness was in full sway, and Christianity was being recognized as a threat to the Roman Empire. Having appealed to Caesar (Acts 25:11), Paul was about to face his judiciary. There was a real possibility of his death, although he expresses confidence in his release (Phil 1:19–26). The Roman church is also split over their view of Paul, with some wanting to cause him pain (Phil 1:15–18).

What Do We Know about Philippi?

The letter is written to Philippi, a small but important town of 10,000–15,000 people. As its people supported the Second Triumvirate in the Roman civil war during the Battle of Philippi (42 BC), the town was a Roman colony and a leading polis in the area (Acts 16:12). With between twenty and twenty-five percent of the town populated by retired Roman war veterans, the town was very Roman in its self-perception.

What Do We Know about the Philippian Church?

Luke recounts the planting of the church on Paul’s second Antiochian mission in AD 49–50. The first members of the church were Lydia, the jailor’s family, and perhaps the exorcized slave girl (Acts 16:11–40). Others we know of include gospel workers Epaphroditus (Phil 2:25–30), Clement, Euodia, and Syntyche (4:2–3).2 There is no evidence of a Jewish presence, suggesting that that anti-Semitism sweeping Rome at the time seen by the Claudian expulsion (Acts 18:2; Suetonius, Claud. 25.4, AD 49) may have been applied in Philippi. Hence, the church was completely Gentile, although Lydia was an Asian God-worshiper (Acts 16:14). The Roman flavor of the church is seen in the charges against Paul and Silas (Acts 16:21). Mention of the two women in Philippians 4:2 and Lydia suggests a strong female presence.

Why Did Paul Write the Letter to the Philippian Church?

The primary reason for writing is contention in the church focused on two female leaders, Euodia and Syntyche (Phil 4:2–3). Their problems seem to revolve around seeking status through service (2:3–4). Having had to deal with deep divisions in Corinth (e.g., 1Cor 1:10–12), Paul does not want this issue to develop any further. These contending women were co-workers, and it seems that their division was hampering the work of the gospel. Hence, Paul directly and indirectly summons the Philippians to unity as they continue to live worthy of the gospel and contend for it. He does this with reminders of their fellowship in the gospel (1:5–7), prayer (1:9–11), rhetorical examples positive and negative (1:12–18a; 2:5–11, 19–30; 3:2–21), and through direct appeal (1:27–2:4; 2:12–18; 4:1–9). He also writes to express his joy at their financial support (4:10–19).

What Other Themes Does Philippians Address?

While there are issues, the church is a very healthy community as the warmth of the letter indicates. The church is likely poor (2Cor 8:1–2) but is committed to supporting Paul’s mission, for which Paul is grateful.3

The gospel and its proclamation is one of the main threads of the letter with every example an active co-worker.4 They are also facing two forms of opposition. First, as with Paul in Philippi (Acts 16:16–40) and presently in Rome (Phil 1:12–13), they are being persecuted by Gentiles and Roman authorities. Some Philippian Christians have likely experienced prison (1:28–30). Second, Judaizers and other enemies of the cross are challenging them (3:2, 18–19).

The emphasis on suffering, joy (16 times), and consolation in the letter summons them to rejoice in the Lord always despite their pain (2:1; 3:1; 4:4). The letter also emphasizes eternal hope, giving readers encouragement to stand firm (e.g., 1:27; 4:1, 3). Throughout, Paul challenges mindsets that oppose the will of God calling the Philippians to have a cruciform mindset shaped by the gospel and Christ (esp. 2:5). The letter delightfully summons the God-honoring Philippians to press on to glorify God more and more (1:11; 2:11). They are invited to rejoice in the Lord always, as we are (4:4).

Purpose

Paul summons the Philippians to unity as they continue to live worthy of the gospel and contend for it.

Key Verse

“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”

— Philippians 1:27 ESV

Outline

I. Prescript, Salutation, and Prayer (1:1–11)

A. The Prescript and Salutation (1:1-2)

B. Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession (1:3–11)

II. Paul’s Situation in Rome (1:12–26)

A. The Advance of the Gospel (1:12–18a)

B. Paul’s Dilemma in Rome (1:18b–26)

III. Live as Citizens Worthy of the Gospel (1:27–2:18)

A. Unified Gospel Citizenship (1:27–2:4)

B. Emulate the Greatest Example of All: Jesus Christ (2:5–11)

C. Work Out Your Salvation in Unity and Mission (2:12–18)

IV. Travel Plans and Great Examples (2:19–30)

V. Reject False Teaching and Press on to Glory! (3:1–21)

A. The Ongoing Threat of the Judaizers (3:1–11)

B. Press on Toward the Prize of Eternal Life (3:12–16)

C. Live the Pauline Pattern for Eternal Glory (3:17–21)

VI. Final Appeals for Unity and Gospel-Worthy Living (4:1–9)

VII. Commendation of Generosity (4:10–20)

VIII. Final Greetings and Blessings (4:21–23)

The Prescript and Salutation (1:1-2)

1:1 Here we have the usual Pauline letter-opening including the writers and senders, the recipients, and Paul’s favorite greeting (used eight times in his thirteen letters). Two things stand out in verse 1 for interpretation of the letter. First, the naming of Paul and Timothy and their description as slaves (douloi) of Christ hints at the theme of unity in service, the central theme of the letter. Later, Paul will describe Jesus as a slave (doulos, 2:8). Consequently, here, he subtly calls readers to be conformed to Christ’s example. Second, he addresses not only all the “holy ones” or “saints” of Philippi but the leaders (“with the overseers and deacons”). The letter is for the whole church, but the leaders are to listen most intently. This suggests Euodia and Syntyche are from one or other of those groups. It also implies Philippians has important implications for Christian leaders.

1:2 The greeting blends Greek (“grace,” charis) and Jewish blessings (“peace,” Gk., eirēnē, Hbr., shalom). These two words form the basis of a prayer for the Philippians to experience the fullness of God’s beneficence and wholeness. With the need for the restoration of relationships in the church, “peace” has an extra edge: Paul begins praying for what he is asking of them (cf. 4:7, 9). Notably, Paul begins and ends his letters with grace; hence, grace toward one another should frame the lives of the Philippians and contemporary readers (1:1; 4:23).

Prayer of Thanksgiving and Intercession (1:3–11)

1:3–5 As he does in seven other letters, Paul begins with eucharist, “thanksgiving” (Rom 1:8; 1Cor 1:4; Eph 1:16; Col 1:3; 1Thes 1:2; 2Thes 1:3; Phlm 4). Prayer begins with an attitude of gratitude. He prays remembering them with joy, a posture that should characterize authentic Christian prayer. Philippians 1:3 can be translated “all your remembrance of me,” or “all my remembrance of you.” While most interpreters opt for the latter, this may be intentional ambiguity to emphasize mutual remembrance as a form of partnership in the gospel (see v. 5). “Joy” is introduced in verse 4, one of the key themes of the letter.

The central reason for his appreciation is their “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:5). This introduces the focus of the letter. The phrase is explained throughout the letter as Paul speaks of their fellowship in remembrance (1:3), suffering (1:7), affection (1:8), prayer (1:9, 19), joy (2:17–18), financial support (2:25–30; 4:10–20), and gospel witness (1:27–30; 2:15–16; 4:2–3). Paul seeks the completion of this partnership by the resolution of their conflict.

1:6 This verse can be read in one of two ways. It may speak of God’s good work in the Philippians’ salvation, or it may speak of God’s good work through the Philippians, i.e., mission (v. 5). Both are possible, although context favors the latter. God will complete his mission by the day of Christ.

1:7 The first part of verse 7 is similar to verse 3. It can read “because I hold you in my heart;” or, “because you hold me in your heart.” While most opt for the latter, again we may have intentional ambiguity to stress mutual love. Christians should care deeply for one another, as should the contending women. The last part of the verse is also unclear with two options similar to verse 6. Paul is either talking about the Philippians’ sharing with Paul the grace of God’s salvation, or they were sharing in the grace of Paul’s apostolic mission even while he was in prison. Again, the context favors the latter: the Philippians share in Paul’s suffering and evangelistic mission. Either way, they share in the grace of God; something that is gloriously comforting. We see here the full orb of evangelism: the defense and establishment of the gospel. This is Paul’s meaning for life. This should be ours. This is what he yearns for (1:18a).

1:8 Reflecting the love he will pray for in what follows, Paul leads into his prayer with a statement of the love he has for the Philippians. The Greek used is splagnon, a term related to the verb used of Jesus’ compassion in the Gospels (e.g., Matt 9:36). It speaks of a deep compassion that comes from the “gut.”

1:9–11 The prayer of verses 9–11 asks that the Philippians abound not only in love (cf. 1Thes 3:12), but with a wise and discriminating agapē. Applied love will enable them to discern what is most excellent and work out their sanctification. “The fruit of righteousness” may be the fruit of being righteous before God (Phil 3:9). More likely, it speaks of their being full of the fruit of the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:22–24). If they live out of love, Spirit-fruit mediated through Jesus will fill them. This will bring God praise and glory to Christ’s return. The desire for love and fruit speaks into their contention: put it aside and “do all things in love” (1Cor 16:14).

The Advance of the Gospel (1:12–18a)

No doubt to quell Philippian concerns, 1:12–26 forms a unit in which Paul gives an extended account of his situation. Despite being in prison and danger, he does not dwell on his suffering but on the gospel.

1:12–14 The first half of the passage focuses on the way the gospel is advancing like a military invasion in Rome. Paul is in prison, yet this is just more opportunity to share the word. The gospel’s advance is seen in two main ways. First, Nero’s imperial guard (praitōrion) is aware of the reason for his imprisonment: for Christ. Combined with reference to believers in Nero’s household in 4:22, some have become believers. Second, the majority of the Roman Christians (“brothers”) have become confident in the Lord to be extremely courageous, speaking the word without fear. In Rom 1:11, Paul told the Romans he wished to impart some spiritual gift to them. It is coming to pass with the gift of evangelism (Eph 4:11).

1:15–18a The second half of the section (Phil 1:15–18) paints a more detailed picture of the emboldened Romans. They can be divided into two groups. First, some are insincere, motivated negatively, and preach Christ from envy, rivalry, and selfish ambition. Their purpose is to cause Paul suffering. This is a serious situation, as suffering in a Roman prison might end in death (as it did years later for Paul). Second, some share Christ in the truth of the gospel, with positive intent, motivated by goodwill, love, and from a knowledge that Paul is in prison because he is defending the good news. We would expect Paul here to critique severely those falsely motivated Christians. Yet, he does not; instead, he rejoices that the gospel is being proclaimed. These verses reveal Paul’s desire that his example should stimulate others to emulate his passion for preaching Christ. This result brings him joy.

This passage is not included merely to encourage the Philippians that the gospel is spreading. It also challenges them to consider their own motives for engaging in gospel witness and Christian leadership. They are tacitly urged to emulate the well-motivated Romans, to share out of love (1:9–11) and renounce the politics of enhancing their status through service. They serve out of wanting the best for others, not for selfish gain (cf. 2:2–4). What Paul wants from the Philippians is that they continue to share Christ in Philippi and Macedonia but that they do so putting aside their squabbles, loving one another and the lost holding forth the word (2:16a). We can also note that Paul uses three terms for the message of God here: the word, the gospel, and Christ. Christ is the gospel; he is the word of God made flesh (John 1:1, 14).

Paul’s Dilemma in Rome (1:18b–26)

1:18b The shift in the center of the section comes halfway through Philippians 1:18, indicating that the verse divisions in the Bible are not always helpful. Paul again states his joy, as he does throughout the letter. Whereas in verse 18a, he rejoiced that the gospel was being proclaimed, now he rejoices because of the Philippians’ prayers for him. This balances Paul’s prayers for them (1:3–11) and so should be seen as another dimension of the “partnership in the gospel” (1:5). Paul’s requests for prayer punctuate his letters.5 This anticipates the more general prayer injunction in 4:6–7.

1:19 “The help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” can also be translated “provision of the Spirit.” Either way, we see here Paul’s trust in God’s presence with him. The link to prayer suggests that this experience of the Spirit is enhanced as we pray. Paul’s confidence is that prayer and the Spirit’s work will lead to his sōtēria. Sōtēria can here mean “deliverance” from prison or “salvation,” speaking of eternal deliverance. Both fit the context, and likely we have another example of intentional ambiguity. In verses 24–26, Paul again uses “I know” (oida) of his release. Yet, if he dies, he knows he will be saved. Two parts of this verse recall Job: “For I know that” (Job 19:25) and “and this will turn out for my salvation” (Job 13:16). Clearly, Paul in his suffering is identifying with Job.

1:20–22 Here, Paul speaks of his struggle but with confidence. His prayer and hope are that he will not be put to shame, and that Christ will be honored whether he lives or dies. The word for courage (parrēsia) is a term commonly applied to confidence to speak publicly (e.g., Acts 4:13, 29, 31; 28:31; Eph 6:19). The context then is his forthcoming appearance before Caesar’s judiciary to which he has appealed (Acts 25:11). Philippians 1:21 is a memorable statement used commonly in popular Christianity. The verse should be used judiciously when one considers Paul’s situation of real danger. For Paul, “to live” will result in more ministry and gospel fruit (cf. Rom 1:13).

1:23–26 This passage is intriguing, with Paul apparently facing the real possibility of death, yet, certain of release. This dilemma is resolved in different ways by scholars. Some claim Paul is certain because he will appeal to Caesar (if in Caesarea). Others consider that he is confident because he has been told he will be released in some way. The most common idea is that Paul is speaking of his desire to be released or he is speaking rhetorically. Another possibility I have offered is that he has an escape plan if he needs to use it involving some of the soldiers (cf. 2Cor 11:32–33; Acts 9:23–25).6 Whatever the situation, while death is far better, Paul wants to live on so that he can help the Philippians joyfully progress (cf. Phil 1:13) in their faith. As with all great Christian leaders, Paul’s concern is not his own needs, but those of the gospel and the growth of others (cf. 2:4, 21).

Through 1:12–26, Paul has both informed the Philippians of his situation, encouraged them with the progress of the gospel, and rhetorically invited them to take on his attitude of commitment to the mission of God.

Unified Gospel Citizenship (1:27–2:4)

In 1:27, Paul shifts to address the Philippians directly. The passage forms with 2:12–18 a chiasm.7

A         Unified Missional Gospel Living: Phil 1:27–2:4

B         Christ the Example: Phil 2:5–11

A’        Unified Missional Gospel Living: Phil 2:12–18

1:27–30 The central proposition of the letter comes in 1:27 in which Paul urges the Philippians to live as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ. The use of citizenship language is important in a Roman setting. Paul is not so much concerned with Roman citizenship, but heavenly citizenship (3:20). He is urging the heavenly citizens in Philippi to live worthy of the gospel and its God. He then develops this command with three further sub-points.

First, whether he is there or not (cf. 2:12), he wishes to hear that they are “standing firm in one pneuma.” Pneuma here can be the spirit of togetherness, one mindset, or, as the Holy Spirit. The latter is preferred as this is parallel to “stand firm in the Lord” in 4:1 (cf. 2:1). Yet, their oneness of mind is also implied. The language is a military metaphor—the Philippians are to stand firm as soldiers facing an enemy, unyielding.

The second sub-point is his desire that they contend for the faith of the gospel. “Contending” is athletic language (synathleō, “contend together”) also used in 4:3. In 4:3, evangelistic co-workers contend for the gospel with Paul in proactive evangelistic mission. Here, they contend for the faith of the gospel. Contending speaks both of defending the gospel (cf. Col 4:5–6; 1Pet 3:15–16) and proactively advancing it. This Paul does in Rome (Phil 1:12–13) and in his overall mission—the defense and confirmation of the gospel (1:7). This the Philippians are to do in unity: literally, “with one soul” (mia psychē).

Third, they are not to be intimidated in any way by opponents (1:28). In verse 30, Paul gives a decisive clue concerning who these opponents are. They are akin to those he faced when in Philippi (Acts 16:11–40) and now in Rome; hence, they are local Gentiles and Roman authorities who persecute the church. Standing firm and sharing the faith in the face of opposition is a sign of the converse destinies of the two groups. Their opponents will face destruction (cf. 2Thes 1:5–10). The Philippians, like Paul (Phil 1:19), will be saved. The suffering is seen by Paul as a gift from Christ, as is their faith in Christ. Elsewhere Paul elaborates that suffering is participation in Christ’s suffering (3:10, cf. Col 1:24). Suffering educates believers, generating perseverance, character, and hope (Rom 5:3–4). God uses all things for his purposes and our good (Rom 8:28).

2:1–4 Having emphasized gospel participation and witness, Paul now focuses more keenly on unity. In 2:1, using a four-fold protasis to a conditional (“If . . . if . . . if . . . if . . . then”) sentence he reminds them of what God has done among them:8 encouragement (in Christ), comfort (from love [agapē]), participation (koinōnia in the Spirit), affection, and compassion. This sentence reminds them of the glorious comfort of being God’s people and urges them in the direction of these as virtues.

He resolves the conditional sentence with apodosis (“… then …”) in 2:2: “then, complete my joy.” Paul is joyful, but not fully so. One thing is lacking: their complete unity which is threatened by the dispute. His summons to unity that will complete his joy is then given in a four-fold clause that is a chiasm:

A         “have the same mindset (phroneō)

B         “the same love” (agapē)

B’        “the same heart” (synpsychoi)

A’        “and the one focus” (phroneō)

The verb phroneō is used twice here and 9 more times in the letter (see 1:7; 2:5; 3:15 [2x], 16, 19; 4:2, 10 [2x]). Phronesis or “practical wisdom” was one of the four Greek and Roman cardinal virtues. In the letter, Paul uses the language to summon the Philippians to a cruciform mindset, something he aspires to and urges of the Philippians (esp. 3:15). Essentially, it is the mindset of Christ (2:5). As one, they are to have the same Christocentric mindset. They are to have the same love and heart which is found in God (see 2:1). This will unite them. This is a fundamental Christian virtue.

Verses 3 and 4 tell them how to live, negatively and then positively, forming a basic summary of Christian ethics:

  • They are to renounce the attitudes of selfish ambition (eritheia, the same term used of the falsely motivated Romans in Phil 1:17).
  • They are not to do things to gain empty-glory (kenodoxia). Instead, they are to seek God’s glory (1:11; 2:11; 4:20).
  • They are to do all things in humility, as Jesus did (2:8).
  • They are to seek to elevate others.
  • They are to look not only to their own interests but those of others.

Emulate the Greatest Example of All: Jesus Christ (2:5–11)

We now come to the theological heart of the letter, the so-called “Christ-hymn.” This passage is one of the most important in the Bible for Christology and ethics. On the one hand, it is a glorious proclamation of who Jesus is. On the other, Christ is given as an example to be followed. Both dimensions are important. It may be an early hymn of the very early church. It is at least a great poem, either by Paul or another early Christian writer. Interpreters debate who Jesus is being compared to. Options include Satan, Adam, Caesar, Alexander the Great, the Servant of Isaiah, Jewish Wisdom, and others. In a sense, all are in view, as Jesus stands in marked contrast to all who grasp for or exploit power. In the biblical story, Satan comes to mind (Isa 14) as does Adam. While in the hymn, Christ begins as God in form, he becomes human, and so the passage tells us both what it means to be truly divine and authentically human. The figure in the hymn is also the antithesis of the man of lawlessness (2Thes 2:3, cf. Mark 13:14; Rev 13). At the time of writing, Nero is in view as he was descending into his madness, seizing control of his advisors, killing off opposition, and soon to persecute Christians, blaming them for the burning of Rome. In a world where status and power were the ambition of the elite, the hymn shows us God’s way.

2:5 This verse is a summons to have the same mindset (phroneō) as Jesus. Then the journey of Jesus’ self-giving is traced. He is in the form of God, God’s pre-existent eternal immortal and invisible Son. Through the hymn this remains his state: he is God, and we are told how he chose to reveal himself.

2:6 Although equality with God was Jesus’ by right, he did not exploit it to bring redemption to the world through military overthrow. Rather, he emptied himself. It is debated what he emptied himself of. But this misses the point: he emptied himself. That is, he poured himself out. He did it voluntarily. He considered others above himself and gave himself for them.

2:7 Although God, he came in the form of a servant. This takes us into the theological world of Isaiah 53 and conjures up images of Jesus taking a towel to wash feet (John 13:1–15). He was born a human, resonating here with John’s Divine Logos that became flesh (John 1:1, 14).

2:8 He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death by crucifixion. In the Roman world, the worst humiliation was crucifixion. Rome delighted in hanging enemies of the state on crosses to be mocked and die naked and in agony to reinforce its power and warn opponents not to mess with Rome. Citizens did not have to endure this, so Jesus died the death of a slave or criminal. One should pause at the end of Philippians 2:8. This is the moment of abject horror and doom. The one in the form of God is dead on a cross!

2:9–11 If verse 8 is hideous, then verses 9–11 are glorious. There is no mention of the resurrection and ascension; these are assumed. Perhaps this is an intentionally broken chiasm or hymn to allow the explosion of movement from the dreadfulness of crucifixion to the glories of exaltation. “Therefore God” shifts attention from Jesus to the Father who is now the central actor. For Jesus, “it is finished” (John 19:30). “Highly exalted” is a compound term (hyperypsoō) which means “to raise to the loftiest height.”9 The name above every name can be “Lord” or “God” but in reality, simply emphasizes his absolute greatness above every conceivable power other than God the Father himself (see Eph 1:20–23).

Verse 10 begins with hina which can indicate purpose (“so that at the name … every knee …”) or result (“with the result that at the …”). Many interpreters see both dimensions at play here. The purpose of Jesus’ mission and exaltation is that everyone will come to Christ (i.e., mission; cf. 1Tim 2:4). The outcome will be that every knee does bow, whether willingly (believers for salvation) or unwillingly (unbelievers for destruction). The submission of all knees and confession of every tongue calls to mind Isaiah 45:23, predicting a day when the world will submit to Yahweh. Here, they submit to Jesus, another indication in the NT of Jesus’s deity. This includes spiritual forces and the peoples of the world from all history. Alongside faith, the confession of Jesus’ lordship is the basic acknowledgment of the early church indicating one’s inclusion in the community (Rom 10:9–10; 1Cor 12:2–3). All that Jesus did, his exaltation, and cosmic submission, is “to the glory of God the Father.” To this, we aspire.

The Christ-hymn tells us that Jesus is fully God and fully man. This passage summons us to consider who Jesus is and what he has done. We are told how how to respond—submit to him as Lord and emulate his mindset and example.

Work Out Your Salvation in Unity and Mission (2:12–18)

As noted on 1:27–2:4, this passage stands in parallel to that earlier passage and with it, frames the Christ-hymn. Christ is the glorious object lesson that illuminates what Paul is seeking from his family in Philippi.

2:12 The link to the previous passage is seen in the use of “therefore.” The lead-in to the central command of the passage cleverly encourages the Philippians based on their obedience—they are a great church. They are his “beloved.” They have emulated the Son who “became obedient to death” (v. 8). The reference to Paul’s presence and absence recalls 1:27 (“whether I come and see you or am absent”). The core command which restates “live as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ” is “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This is not to be confused as a theology of works. They are not to work for their own salvation but work out an already gifted status (cf. Eph 2:8; Phil 1:28; 3:20). Some consider “salvation” here speaks of the wellness of the community, but Paul never uses sōtēria in this way. This speaks of their individual gift of salvation in Christ received by grace through faith. Our response to this gift is to serve.

2:13 In this we learn how to serve. We are not to do this work in our own strength, for human effort falls short. Rather, we are to work with God’s power as he is working in us, willing and working for his good pleasure. This is the language of yielding to the Spirit in our attitudes, words, and actions.

2:14–15 Here Paul zeroes-in on the issues in Philippi. All things are to be done without grumbling or disputing. “Grumbling” is gongysmos, a term that calls to mind Israel’s moaning against Moses and God in the desert (Exod 16). The Philippians do not appear to be grumbling against God or Paul, but each other. This is not appropriate for God’s children. They are also to end all arguing. This is so that they will be blameless, innocent, and unblemished children of God in fallen Philippi and Macedonia. This is not the language of moral holiness as much as social ethics: they are to be blameless in their social relationships. Their community life is to be shaped by love.

The description of their context as a “crooked and twisted generation” is universal. Jesus used such descriptions (e.g. Matt 12:39, 45; 16:4; 17:17). Our world today can often feel like this. In such a world the Philippians are to “shine as lights in the world” or “stars in the universe.” Either way, this speaks of our witness. This calls to mind Jesus in Matthew 5:14–16: “You are the light of the world.… Let your light shine before others so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” It also speaks of sharing the gospel to those whose eyes are blinded by the god of this world who causes then not to see “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Believers are to share Christ so that God’s light shines out into the darkness that they might come to the light of Christ (2Cor 4:4–6).

2:16 Philippians 2:16a is disputed. Some consider the phrase logon zoēs epechontes should be rendered “hold fast the word of life.” Others take it as “hold forth the word of life.” Another possibility is that it encompasses both ideas. I prefer the latter. Space precludes a full discussion here. Suffice it to say; it is a beautiful image of the Philippians’ holding the gospel that generates abundant and eternal life as if holding forth a drink, wine, breastmilk, bread, a sword, light, or a message, all in the hope that they come to faith. The dominant issue in the letter is not perseverance, but unity in mission. Evangelism features in all the examples given, and this phrase parallels “stand firm in one Spirit” and “contending as one for the faith of the gospel” (1:27). The contending evangelists, Euodia and Syntyche are to do this, without the complaint and argument that has beset them.

All this unified Christian living and witness will mean that Paul may stand with pride in his soul for the Philippians on the day when Christ comes as Judge. Paul will know his own mission work was not wasted.

2:17–18 Here is a delightful summons to mutual joy—partnership in the joy the gospel generates. Paul is joyful, despite his being poured out as a drink offering. This speaks not of his death, but his self-emptying in emulation of Jesus (2:7). The drink offering or libation was poured out on the main sacrifice. Here, the main sacrifice is the Philippians’ sacrificial service (or sacrifice and service). Paul here is elevating the Philippians (cf. 2:3), nudging them to emulate Christ and give themselves in his service. This includes their financial gifts and their other efforts including those of their gospel workers.

Travel Plans and Great Examples (2:19–30)

Paul now gives his travel plans including the sending of Epaphroditus, Timothy, and his own future coming to Philippi. He does this not only to update them on his plan but also to give two more examples of people who live as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ, work out their salvation with fear and trembling, and emulate the example par excellence, Jesus. He also stresses sacrifice and partnership. His preparedness to give up his two beloved workers for the sake of the Philippians stresses sacrifice. His and their willingness speaks of obedience and partnership. His sending emulates God’s sending of his Son into the world. The passage summons the contending parties to lay aside their disputes and be reconciled in the gospel.

2:19–24 The description of Timothy speaks of one who is a true slave of Christ, as he is described in 1:1. He is unique among Paul’s co-workers in his love for Paul, concern for others (cf. 2:4), and the interests of Christ. He is a proven gospel worker, who like a son with his father has served with him in the gospel. The kinship language speaks of koinōnia in the gospel and calls to mind Jesus’ obedience to his Father (e.g. John 5:19).

2:25–30 The description of Epaphroditus also reinforces partnership in the gospel and emulation of Christ. The passage breathes commendation. Paul uses five-epithets to describe him, all emphasizing his commitment to the mission of God. He is a brother, a co-worker, a fellow-soldier of Paul. He is the Philippian church’s apostolos (“apostle”) and minister to Paul’s need. While most interpreters consider apostolos here has its non-technical sense “messenger,” equally, it could speak of his role as a local church apostle. For Paul, apostolos is a term not limited to himself and the Twelve. In 1Thes 2:6, Silas and Timothy are included in this designation. In 2Cor 8:23, Paul speaks of apostoloi of the churches, some of whom travel with him. In 1Cor 12:28–29 and Eph 4:11, apostles are one of the charismatic functionaries of the local church. Epaphroditus falls into this category. He is likely an evangelist and church-planter and an important Philippian co-worker in the gospel (cf. Phil 4:3). His sacrifice is emphasized in the description of his near-death experience of traveling with financial gifts for Paul. The phrase “nearly died” in 2:30 is mechri thanatou, exactly the words used of Jesus in 2:8 (“until death”). As such, he is a Christ-example. The relationship between Paul and Epaphroditus and his sending also calls to mind God’s sending of Jesus and their partnership in the gospel.

In a culture which honored returning war-heroes and in a city populated with many veterans, it is the likes of Epaphroditus who are to be honored. He has not gone on a campaign to seize land and property for Rome but has given his all for God’s mission of summoning people to live out the pattern of non-violence seen in Jesus. Later, in 3:17, Paul will urge the Philippians to emulate those who live out of the Pauline pattern; foremost in this regard are Timothy and Epaphroditus.

One more thing is of note. If Paul is indeed in Rome, then we know his express purpose is to go from there to Spain (Rom 15:24, 28). Yet, here we see Paul changing his plans, something he was prone to do if God so led him (e.g., 2Cor 1:25–2:4; Acts 16:6–10; 20:3). Here, he appears to have placed the need to visit Philippi above his Spanish mission plans. This suggests that he is deeply concerned for the Philippians. He did not want another Corinth. In a small town in which they were persecuted, a divided church simply would not last. This is reinforced by his preparedness to give up two of his best co-workers for them. This again reinforces sacrifice and partnership in the gospel. It shows that God’s workers must be adaptive, and sometimes pastoral concerns outweigh further mission, at least for a time.

The Ongoing Threat of the Judaizers (3:1–11)

3:1 Interpreters are not sure whether to see Philippians 3:1 as the end of the previous section, or the beginning of the new. The best way to see the verse is as transitional, summing up and pointing ahead. Whatever situation they are in, they are to rejoice in the Lord (cf. 4:4). Chapter 3 continues the theme of the unity in the gospel and its proclamation, stressing that unity has its limits. Sometimes people are to be rejected. For Paul this is so in three instances: (1) When a person violates the ethics of the gospel in a gross and unrepentant manner (1Cor 5:1–13); (2) When a person is unrepentantly divisive (Titus 3:10–11); and, as here, (3) When a person preaches a false gospel (cf. Gal 1:6–9). His overall point in this passage is that they must not divide over small things and issues of status. Yet, when someone fatally violates the gospel, then division is appropriate. Hence, he warns them to watch out for the Judaizers.

3:2 The three descriptors in 3:2 are powerful. The term “dogs” was used by Jews of Gentiles; Paul turns it back on them. They are “evil workers,” calling to mind 2Cor 11:12–15 where false teachers are “false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ,” and Satan’s servants. The third descriptor “mutilators of the flesh” uses katatomē which is related to the term for circumcision, peritomē. Judaizers, in their demand for new converts to be circumcised (Acts 15:1), were mutilators rather than life-givers. Paul has no time for them.

3:3 Here Paul powerfully states that now that Christ has come, the people of God in him are indeed “the circumcision,” grafted into Israel by faith since Abraham (and earlier, e.g., Abel, Enoch, and Noah, cf. Heb 11:4–7; see Rom 11:16–24), and now expanding into the world. The Gentile Philippians and Jews like Paul and Timothy are included in this people as are we if we believe. “The circumcision” includes all who worship by God’s Spirit and boast in Jesus.

3:4–11 These verses form a scathing rhetorical defense against the Judaizers who repudiate Paul’s Jewishness. He hits back, stressing that he alone cannot only claim an impeccable Jewish heritage (a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” cf. 2Cor 11:22–23; Gal 1:13–14), but he was also a Pharisee who persecuted the church. Yet such human claims (according to the flesh) gain nothing before a holy God. This is a warning to all of us: our human claims, even great ministries, do not win us justification before God. Justification comes through faith in Christ alone.

Having laid out his own credentials in verses 8–11, impressive though they are, Paul repudiates them. He then goes on to state what does matter and explains how it is that we can be right with God. He speaks in the first person and writes-off his great achievements and status as loss and excrement (skybalon, v. 8). What matters is a deep, personal relationship with Christ as Lord, being found in him, having the gift of the righteousness of God by faith. Verse 9 is one of Paul’s distinctive “justification by faith” verses. His great CV all gained in the pursuit of pleasing God through the Jewish legal code is essentially seeking “a righteousness of my own” before God. As all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Rom 3:23) and are unable to live up to the law, he recognizes the futility of such a quest. One cannot gain righteousness through observance of the law (Gal 2:16). If they could, this would render the death of Christ obsolete (Gal 2:21). Hence, Paul seeks to be found in Christ having a righteousness from God—a righteousness that comes by faith.

Scholars are split over whether dia pisteōs Christou in verse 9 should be rendered “through the faith/faithfulness of Christ,” or, “through faith in Christ.” The former emphasizes that it is Christ’s faith/faithfulness by which we are justified. The latter stresses that it is our response of faith in God and his Son that makes us right with God. While good arguments can be made for the former, “faith in Christ” better fits the contexts in which Paul uses pisteōs Christou constructions (Rom 3:22, 26; Gal 2:16; 3:22, cf. Eph 3:12). In these settings (Romans; Galatians; Phil 3), Paul is addressing the question what do we have to “do” to be saved (cf. Acts 16:31). The answer is not by becoming a Jew (Judaizing) and doing the works of the law, but by believing. It is still the work of Christ that brings our salvation, but as with Abraham, it is through faith we are made right with God.

What matters is having genuine faith. Yet, Paul wants more. So, in verses 10–11, he speaks of his desire to know God and the power of his resurrection—the Spirit by which God raised Jesus (Rom 1:4; 8:11). Knowing that being in Christ includes participation in his sufferings en route to glory, he wants to be conformed to Christ’s sufferings as he serves his Lord (Rom 8:17). He even wants to become like him in his death: obedient to the end (Phil 2:8). He knows that if he is faithful to the end, he will attain to the resurrection of the dead.

In 3:1–11, Paul has cleverly exalted himself and then taken the form of a servant, exalting Christ as Lord. He thus is not only dealing with the Judaizers, but he is identifying with the Christ who is God in form and status yet emptied himself to the point of death. Paul is using his own story as an example, drawing the Philippians (and us) to do the same.

Press on Toward the Prize of Eternal Life (3:12–16)

3:12–14 Paul continues the thread of resurrection from verse 11. He uses athletic imagery to imagine his ministry as a race, something he has done earlier in 2:16 and does elsewhere (1Cor 9:24–26; Gal 2:2; 5:7; 1Thes 2:19; 2Tim 4:7). Perhaps confronting some in the church who have an over-realized eschatology,10 he reminds the Philippians that he has not yet made it to completion. He must finish his course and ministry received from Jesus (Acts 20:24) and continue to run on with perseverance the race marked out for him (cf. Heb 12:1). He presses on (diōkō) to claim the prize that awaits him. There is irony in the use of diōkō here, as he also used in 3:6 of his pursuit of the church to destroy it. Now, he pursues this Jesus he once reviled. Like a good runner, he forgets what is behind. “What is behind” refers not only to his greatness as a Jewish nationalist, but his glorious achievements as a Christian missionary. He lays it aside, knowing it is past and does not gain him glory. Like an Olympian lunging for the line, he strains forward to what lies ahead. His eyes are fixed on the prize of God’s summons in Christ Jesus. The image here is from the Greek games, God giving him the prize rather than the Roman emperor.

3:15–16 In verses 15–16, Paul turns from his great soliloquy to address the Philippians. Using a hortatory subjunctive (“let us”), he urges himself and his readers who seek to claim maturity to take on this attitude. He has in mind the same determination to run the race to the end. More deeply, this is an injunction to take on the ethics of 2:1–4 and the example of Christ (2:5–8). Our response to God’s salvation is to work out our salvation with God’s power (2:12–13), not resting on our laurels but pursuing eternal life as we serve God relentlessly to the point of death. If others hold a different view (perhaps one of the women named in 4:2–3), Paul is confident that God by his Spirit will reveal that truth of what he has said. They are to seek to hold true to what they have attained: justification by faith and salvation which they must run towards without flagging.

Live the Pauline Pattern for Eternal Glory (Phil 3:17–21)

3:17 The theme of emulation mentioned in verse 15 is restated. Using an inclusive adelphoi (“brothers and sisters”), Paul urges the Philippians to join together in imitating his example. Paul is calling them to unified imitation. Imitation was the primary mode of learning in the ancient world in which most were illiterate, and life skills were passed on from father to son, mother to daughter, rabbi to disciple, and so on. Christians should live this way together, not merely individually. Further, they are to focus their attention on those who walk according to the Pauline pattern of Christian life. This is cruciformity, as seen in 2:5–11. Epaphroditus and Timothy spring to mind (2:19–30). The contending women are to come together in emulation of positive Christlike examples. Christian leaders are summoned to be great role models. Those of us who are not leaders are to emulate them.

3:18–19 The converse to this is those who “walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.” Interpreters disagree on who these are. Is this another reference to Judaizers? Or, is it another group of false teachers with a Greco-Roman libertine mindset? Another possibility is Gentiles or Jews who oppose the church. Perhaps this focusses Paul’s intent too narrowly: perhaps all enemies of the cross are in mind. Whatever, their end is eternal destruction, unlike the Philippians who will be saved when Jesus comes from heaven (cf. 3:20–21). They are focused on material matters rather than the things of God. They glory in their shameful behavior. The Philippians are warned not to go in this direction but to emulate Christ, Paul, and all those who walk in the pattern of the cross.

3:20–21 These verses gloriously assure the Philippians (and us). Unlike the evil workers and enemies destined for destruction, their citizenship is in the heavenly community (politeuma)—the real capital of the Kingdom of God. Each ancient city had such a roll of citizens whose names were written in the book (4:3). The heavenly citizens await the return of their Savior, Lord, and Christ. Rather than destroying them, he will transform their bodies of humiliation (perishable, mortal, and subject to decay and death) to bodies of glory (immortal, imperishable, and eternal). He will do this by his supreme power to subjugate the cosmos to his rule through the Spirit and finally at his coming.

We see a delightful flow of “form” language through Phil 2:6–3:21. Christ is fully God in form. He empties himself and comes to earth, taking on the form of a slave, a human in form. He dies. He is exalted to the form of God again, exalted as the ruler and savior of the cosmos. Those in Christ long to be conformed to Christ’s sufferings (3:10). They take on the cruciformity of their Lord. Then, when Jesus returns, believers are transformed from perishable Adamic people subject to decay and death to have a body like Jesus: imperishable, immortal, eternal, and glorious (1Cor 15:50–54). A wonderful transformation awaits us. In the meantime, we take up crosses and follow Jesus.

Final Appeals for Unity and Gospel-Worthy Living (4:1–9)

4:1 Here Paul begins with “therefore,” drawing consequences from their status heavenly citizens who will experience the fullness of resurrection at Jesus’ coming. The verse recalls 1:27 with its emphasis on “stand firm.” It is replete with love language, Paul twice using agapētos (“beloved”), addressing them as “my longed-for ones,” and describing them as his joy and crown!

4:2–3 This affection leads into the direct appeal that the contending women are reconciled “in the Lord.” It is rare for Paul to name people in this way, yet, in light of verse 1, this is affectionate rather than condemnatory. They are to come to the same mindset (phroneō, cf. 2:2) in the Lord. Paul is not glossing over their disagreement but encouraging them to find unity in the gospel (the central concern of the letter). Paul asks an unknown co-worker to help him and play the peacemaker in this relationship. The peacemaker may be Luke, Epaphroditus who bears the letter, or another unknown local or co-worker.

These two women are gospel workers. This should not surprise us, for, in the ancient world bifurcated along gender lines, women such as Phoebe, Prisca, Junia, Nympha, and Lydia were a critical part of Paul’s missionary strategy. Clement is also mentioned. Tradition has it that this is the third Bishop of Rome who wrote the letter 1 Clement; although this is generally rejected by modern scholars, it cannot be ruled out. Their names are in the book of life. They are assured that, while they are not united as they should be, they are citizens of heaven who will experience salvation. This reality should encourage them to find unity together.

4:4–9 As Paul does toward the end of other letters, this section is a series of instructions as to how to live. Basic Christian values are invoked. These include the memorable double injunction to “rejoice in the Lord always.” The term often translated “gentleness” in 4:5 has the sense “yielding, gentle, kind, courteous, tolerant.”11 “The Lord is at hand” may speak of the imminence of Jesus’ return, or, as is more likely, it is a citation from the Greek OT (Pss 33:19; 144:18 LXX) leading into the prayer appeal. In verse 6, the antidote to anxiety is prayer. Paul is guarded by a soldier in Rome; prayer guards minds and hearts. In 4:8, such guarded minds are to be focused on good things. This speaks of the lovely matters of our Triune God, the gospel, and all that is good in God’s world. Finally, as in 3:15, 17, the Philippians are to put into practice all that Paul has taught them. The double reference to peace (4:7, 9) again points the contending women toward reconciliation through prayer and practicing what they have been taught by Paul.

Commendation of Generosity (4:10–20)

4:10 Paul now expresses his joy at the financial support of the Philippians. They were unique among the churches in this regard. Unlike Corinth where Paul rejected patronage, the Philippians knew that Christian giving is “no strings attached” (1Cor 9:1–22). Epaphroditus has traveled over 745 miles/1,200 kilometers from Philippi to Rome to bring their gifts. Paul was delighted.

4:11–20 We learn much here about Christian attitudes to finances. The first lesson regards financial contentment. Paul knows provision and poverty. Yet, in God, he is content. He has learned the secret of contentment: when we face hardship, God will strengthen us to get through it (Phil 4:13). The second lesson is the call of the church to give toward mission. The Philippians understand this need and have always sought to support Paul. The third lesson is that giving from the heart is a sacrifice that is pleasing to God. This leads to eternal commendation from God (cf. 1Cor 4:5; Matt 25:14–30). The fourth lesson is that God will supply the needs of his people. Notably, this is not their wants, but their needs. This resonates with Jesus teaching his disciples that all that is needed will be supplied to those who seek first the Kingdom and his righteousness (Matt 6:19–33). Quite rightly, this causes Paul to break into a doxology (Phil 4:20).

Final Greetings and Blessings (4:21–23)

4:21–22 As is customary, Paul brings the letter to an end with greetings, his own, and those from the workers and Christians in his context. Interestingly, he sends greetings from “those of Caesar’s household.” This can be read broadly as those under the patronage of Caesar, or, as is more likely considering Paul’s situation in prison awaiting the outcome of his appeal to Caesar, Christians in Caesar’s inner circle. This suggests some of the Praetorium and others are now converts. Even though the apostle to the Gentiles is imprisoned, the gospel has now infiltrated the imperial center. Some three centuries later, Jesus will become Rome’s Lord, a remarkable demonstration of the global nature of the Christian faith.

4:23 Finally, Paul ends the letter how he began—with grace. May that same grace be with your spirit. Amen.

Bibliography

Bible Study Tools. “What’s the Book of Philippians all About.”

Bockmuehl, Marcus. The Epistle to the Philippians. BNTC. London: Continuum, 1997.

Bible Gateway. Commentaries on the Book of Philippians.

Fee, Gordon D. Philippians. IVPNTC 11. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999.

Garland, David E. “Philippians,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Ephesians–Philemon, rev. ed. Ed. Tremper Longman and David E. Garland. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2006.

Gill, John. “Philippians.” John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible.

Guzik, David. “Philippians.” Enduring Word Commentary.

Hansen, G. Walter. The Letter to the Philippians. PNTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2009.

Hawthorne, Gerald F. “Philippians, Theology of.” Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.

Henry, Matthew. “Philippians.” Matthew Henry Commentary on the Bible (Complete).

Keown, Mark J. Congregational Evangelism in Philippians: The Centrality of An Appeal for Gospel Proclamation to the Fabric of Philippians. PBM. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2008.

————. “Did Paul Plan to Escape from Prison? (Philippians 1:19-26),” JSPL 5.1. Summer, 2015, 89–108.

————. Philippians. EEC. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2017. Vol. 1 and vol. 2.

————. “Paul, Philippians, Being a Real Man, Being a Pastor.”

————. “The Pattern of Christ’s [sic] Death, Our Pattern.”

Lightfoot, Joseph Barber. “Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. A revised text with introduction, Notes and Dissertations, 8th edn. Joseph Barber Lightfoot [1828-1889].”.

The Bible Project, “Philippians.”

Marshall, I. Howard. The Epistle to the Philippians. London: Epworth, 1992.

Martin, Michael. “Philippians.” Holman Bible Dictionary.

Mazzalongo, Mike. “Philippians Bible Study.”

The Gospel Coalition. “Introduction to Philippians.”

Still, Todd. “Preaching from Philippians.” Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

Turner, Allan. “A Study of the Book of Philippians.”

Utley, Bob. “Philippians Introduction.”

Wikipedia. “Epistle to the Philippians.

Endnotes & Permissions

1. For detailed analysis of Philippians, see Mark J. Keown, Philippians, EEC, 2 Vols (Bellingham, WA: Lexham, 2017). See also the other books listed in the Bibliography.

2. Gaius of Acts 19:29 may be from the city.

3. Their generosity is also seen in 2Cor 8:1–5 where despite their poverty, they give lavishly to the Jerusalem Collection.

4. See Mark J. Keown, Congregational Evangelism in Philippians: The Centrality of An Appeal for Gospel Proclamation to the Fabric of Philippians (PBM. Milton Keynes: Paternoster, 2008).

5. See Rom 15:30–32; 2Cor 1:11; Eph 6:18–20; Col 4:2–3; 1Thes 5:26; 2Thes 3:1–2; Phlm 22.

6. Mark J. Keown, “Did Paul Plan to Escape from Prison? (Philippians 1:19-26),” JSPL 5.1 (Summer, 2015): 89–108.

7. Chiasm (Lat. Chiasmus)—A literary device in which words, clauses or themes are laid out and then repeated in an inverted order producing an a-b-b-a pattern or a “crossing” effect like the letter “x” (as in the Greek letter chi, χ).

8. A protasis within a conditional sentence, is the clause that presents a condition or hypothesis (i.e., the “if” clause before the “then” clause (apodosis).

9. EDNT, 3.399.

10. An over-realized eschatology is where Christians hold an overly optimistic belief that the blessings of the end times are or should be experienced in the present (e.g., miracles, wealth).

11. BDAG, 371.


This commentary is part of The Gospel Coalition Bible Commentary series (general editor, Phil Thompson). This commentary is freely available under Creative Commons License with Attribution-ShareAlike, allowing users to share it in other mediums/formats and adapt/translate the content as long as an attribution link, indication of changes, and the same Creative Commons License applies to that material. If you are interested in translating our content or are interested in joining our community of translators, please reach out to us.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Copyright © 2000; 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This edition (version 1.0) was published 06/23/2021 and may be cited in print works as follows: Keown, Mark. Philippians. TGCBC. Austin, TX: The Gospel Coalition, 2021.

This work is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Philippians 1

ESV

Greeting

1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants1 of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers2 and deacons:3

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Thanksgiving and Prayer

I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace,4 both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

The Advance of the Gospel

12 I want you to know, brothers,5 that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard6 and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word7 without fear.

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

To Live Is Christ

Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

27 Only let your manner of life be worthy8 of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Footnotes

[1] 1:1 For the contextual rendering of the Greek word doulos, see Preface

[2] 1:1 Or bishops; Greek episkopoi

[3] 1:1 Or servants, or ministers; Greek diakonoi

[4] 1:7 Or you all have fellowship with me in grace

[5] 1:12 Or brothers and sisters. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, the plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) may refer either to brothers or to brothers and sisters; also verse 14

[6] 1:13 Greek in the whole praetorium

[7] 1:14 Some manuscripts add of God

[8] 1:27 Greek Only behave as citizens worthy

(ESV)

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