Philippians 1


I don’t think Paul ever planted a church as more dear to him than this body of believers. Paul never intended to go Philippi, he was trying to go up to Asia but the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let him, he tried to go into the city but the Spirit of Jesus stopped him and then one night he was sleeping and in his dream a man from Macedonia said to him, ‘come over and help us here,’ Acts 16:9.

Paul knew that was the Lord’s prompting and so, he and Silas crossed a body of water and to our knowledge they were the first Christian missionaries in the continent of Europe. They reached the main city in this new region called Philippi, it was a Roman colony and it was so pagan they didn’t even have a synagogue.

Paul would usually go to a city, find a synagogue and preach there first and then preach to the people in the market place. Philippi didn’t even have a synagogue and so on the Sabbath, ‘he just went out to a river and he found some women praying,’ Acts 16:13.

That’s where he started, and he preached to them and there was a woman named Lydia and she and her family were baptised and were the first converts to Christ in Europe.

Paul began to walk through Philippi and a little girl started to follow him everywhere he went, possessed by a demon, she was a little slave girl. And she would shout, ‘these men are servants of the most high God and they are telling you the way of salvation,’ Acts 16:17.

Paul was so upset that he would have any credibility come from such an evil source, he turned around and rebuked the spirit and said in ‘leave this little girl in the name of Jesus Christ’, Acts 16:18, and the spirit obeyed as the spirits always have to obey Jesus.

And she was delivered and then the people who owned the little slave girl got upset because there chance to make money from her was gone. And according to Acts 16:19-24, they went to the magistrates and accused Paul of treachery against Rome and they threw him in prison, but before they did they beat him severely and chained him to a wall.

You remember the story. What are Paul and Silas doing? ‘They are singing and praising God,’ Acts 16:25. There was an earthquake, the bars of the jail came open, and the chains fell off their arms and legs, Acts 16:25-29.

A jailer was about to kill himself but Paul stopped him but the jailer fell to Paul’s knees and said, ‘what must I do to be saved?’ and Paul said, ‘do you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? You and your family can be saved’ and that very night he and his family were baptised, Acts 16:30-31.

This is the start of a great church, you’ve got an upper class elite woman, you’ve possibly got a poor little Greek pagan slave girl and you’ve got a middle class Roman jailer. And that’s the start of your church and this became one of the great churches of the New Testament that Paul was fond of because they were so generous.

And at least three different times we read in the Bible where they took up money to send to Paul and Philippians is the story of one of those times.

Paul was now in a Roman prison, he is in jail in Rome and the Philippian church finds out, so they take up some money and gave it to a man named Epaphroditus, one of their brothers and he goes to Rome to give Paul the money but that’s not all he brought!

He also brought news of a church in need of a joy transfusion. We think that Philippi was a happy church because the word ‘joy’ was found 16 times in the letter more than any other book.

But the fact is, if you read closely Paul says, ‘they ought to have joy or they need joy’. He never said, ‘they had any’, not once in Philippians, did he say, ‘they had any joy’. Paul’s got a prescription for a church needing some joy and that prescription is to discover ‘the joy of Jesus’.


The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the disciples in Philippi who were converted by himself, Luke, Silas and Timothy.


Most scholars believe the letter was written around AD 62, while Paul was imprisoned in Rome.


Joy in all circumstances. Philippians 1
Joy in serving. Philippians 2
Joy in faith. Philippians 3
Joy in giving. Philippians 4

The Text

‘Paul and Timothy servants of Christ Jesus to all the saints in Christ Jesus in Philippi together with overseers and deacons, grace and peace to you from God our father and the Lord Jesus Christ’. Philippians 1:1-2

When I study a book for the first time, I try to underline all the words that keep showing up that I think are important. The word, joy does show up 16 times in Philippians and the word ‘Gospel’ does show up 9 times, but do you know what shows up 51 times?

Do you know what shows up 3 times in the first 2 verses? The name of ‘Christ’, the letter to the Philippians is full of Christ. And Paul says right there in the first chapter what the theme of his life is. What the obsession of his life is, ‘to live is Christ,’ Philippians 1:21.

And when we read Philippians, we see a letter by a man who is absolutely obsessed with Christ and we must understand that to understand Paul. We have got to understand that, to understand why Paul could be in prison and have more joy than the church he is writing to.

Notice how Paul describes himself and Timothy, he said that ‘they are servants’, literally, ‘they are slaves of Christ Jesus’. If we wanted Paul to describe himself, Paul would say, ‘I’ll tell you who I am, I am the absolute possession of Jesus Christ, that’s me’. ‘I’ve totally sold out to Jesus Christ, that’s me’. ‘I’m a slave for Christ Jesus’.

According to Acts 9, he was going to Damascus once many years ago and Jesus Christ appeared to him on that road and from that moment on, you could sum up Paul’s life in one word, ‘Christ.’

He was absolutely sold out and obsessed with Christ, Philippians 3:10. He’s obsessed with Christ because for him, Christ was everything he had been searching for in life and more, and then Paul’s says, they are the saints in Christ Jesus in Philippi. Or if he were writing to us he would say, ‘we are the saints in Christ Jesus in Liverpool.’

Paul is saying that we have two addresses, every one of us, we are the saints in Christ, in Liverpool, that’s who we are. 164 times Paul says, we are in Jesus Christ, that’s where we belong.

Philippians is a letter written by a man in prison on trial for his life to a church telling them not to be anxious, Philippians 4:11-13. Paul knew he was in Christ and that’s his address and if he is in Christ, then he shares in His riches and he knows that Christ is going to give him everything he needs, Philippians 4:19.

Paul is telling the Philippians to, ‘get back to their right address, get back to living in Jesus Christ and everything they need will be provided and the joy will come back’. That’s what happens when Christ is our all in all, we are filled with joy, Philippians 4:4-7.

The church in Philippi was blessed to have elders, 1 Timothy 3:1-7 / Titus 1:6-9, and deacons, 1 Timothy 3:8-10. Paul wants God to bless them with grace, that is, God’s unmerited favour and peace, that is, the peace which comes from God Himself, Philippians 4:7.

‘I thank my God every time I remember you and all my prayers for all of you. I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—-to the glory and praise of God.’ Philippians 1:3-11

Notice how Paul’s affection oozes from this text. In the New Testament, every time a person became a believer in Jesus, he also became a belonger to the local church and that because Christianity is more than a private transaction with Jesus.

Biblical Christianity is corporate and any time in the Bible when someone got a personnel relationship with Jesus Christ they immediately had a relationship to other believers in a local church.

We are never going to find a perfect church because it is full of people like you and me and Paul had to learn how to love some pretty smelly churches, like for example the one in Philippi because this church has got some big problems.

He writes a lot about joy in this letter but he never once says that they have any joy and they didn’t have much joy in Philippi because they were a divided church.

Paul writes to two women called Euodia and Syntyche and he is pleading with them to get along with each other and he has called on other people in the church to help those two women agree with each other, Philippians 4:2-3.

These two women had got into a disagreement, the church had taken up sides and the church was moaning and it was causing division in the church. And these two women were affecting the entire church and so all through this letter Paul is making an appeal for unity, Philippians 1:27 / Philippians 2:2 / Philippians 2:14.

We come to church to be served and to get our needs met but if we don’t like something that’s going on or if we see a problem, we take our problem to the man down the street and tell him all about it but that’s not how Paul did church.

Instead of turning his back on the brethren in Philippi, he turned his heart towards them. Paul constantly praised God for the people that God had brought into his life even though sometimes they brought him grief.

In the Bible Christians didn’t just get up and walk out of church because of a few problems, they were called upon to stay there and love those people, and love doesn’t mean that we are blind to their defects. But it means we’re going to be committed in spite of those defects, we stay there and we love our church.

Paul gives us three reason not to give up on our churches.

1. Remember our partnership in the Gospel.

What he means by the word, ‘now’, Philippians 1:5, is that the Philippians had just sent Paul a gift of money, they had heard that he was in a prison in Rome. They sent a brother named Epaphroditus, gave him some money and said, ‘go to Rome, give this to Paul’.

Now think about what they are doing? Paul is in Rome as a prisoner accused of treason against Rome and they are identifying with him. They are putting their creditability and even their lives on the line by saying, ‘we want to stand with Paul’.

And it filled Paul with warmth and he said, ‘I got to thinking when this money came, you’ve always been like that, I mean from the first day until now, you’ve been my partners in the Gospel.’

Now being a partner in the Gospel doesn’t just mean you believe in the same thing and share the same convictions. It means you are out there with your funds, your prayers and with your witness, working side by side doing things for the sake of Jesus Christ. And that’s what Paul chose to think about when he remembered the church in Philippi.

2. If we are going to love our church, remember to pray for them.

Paul was a prayer warrior and he constantly prayed for this church in Philippi, Philippians 1:4. Notice he told them exactly what he was praying for, he said, ‘that you all grow in love,’ Philippians 1:9, that’s what they needed, so he was praying for it.

The interesting thing is before he told them what they needed, He told God what they needed and he told them he was talking to God about it, Philippians 1:9. Because Paul knew that if they had more love, they would make wiser choices, they would live pure lives and they would bear fruit to the glory of God.

Notice that Paul said it gives him joy when he prayers for them, Philippians 1:4. He didn’t say, ‘it gives him joy to talk about prayer, it gives him joy to write about prayer’. Paul said, ‘no, it gives me joy when I pray, when I pray for you, I pray with joy’.

Remember Paul’s in prison, there is no other way to have an outlet for his affection. He can’t get his arms around them and hug them, he can’t kiss them on the cheek, he can’t shake their hands, but he can pray.

We can even pray for our enemies because what Jesus says works, we won’t get so upset if we just pray for them, Matthew 5:44 / Luke 23:34.

3. Remember that God is not through with them.

Paul thanked God not just for what the Philippians were doing but for what God was doing in the Philippians. Paul believed that the power of God changed lives, he knew that the church had some problems but Paul also knew that they are not on their own to solve their problems. God is working in them and God is going to bring them to completion, Philippians 1:6.

Do we know why we became a Christian? Because God started on you before you ever started for God. God began the work in us, we didn’t start it and God jumped in and helped, God started it, Acts 16:14.

We don’t become a Christian because we do a good work for God, we become a Christian because God started a good work in us. And that salvation that God starts in us, He keeps going in us because not only is salvation by grace but sanctification is by grace, Philippians 1:6.

Paul’s confidence wasn’t in the Philippians ability to hang in there his confidence was in God’s ability to hang in there with the Philippians and to bring what He started in their lives to completion.

‘Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and on top of everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.’ ‘Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defence of the gospel.’ ‘The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.’ ‘Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.’ Philippians 1:12-20

Paul loved the church in Philippi deeply, and they loved Paul and they were concerned for him. They had heard that Paul had been arrested and he was in a Roman prison.

And Paul did not know if his life was going to end there or not. So they picked a man named Epaphroditus, gave him some money and told him to go to Rome and take it to Paul.

And more importantly bring back some news about how Paul is doing. In these verses Paul tells us how he was doing when he was chained for the Gospel of Jesus.

When we read the end of the Book of Acts, we find that Paul was illegally arrested, he was misrepresented in court, he was manipulated as a political pawn, he was shipwrecked on his way to trial. And then he was incarcerated and forgotten for two years by the Roman judicial system.

And that’s where he is when Epaphroditus shows up, brings him some money and says, ‘the church in Philippi is dying to know, how are you doing Paul? How are you doing?’

And so, Paul writes them a letter to tell them how he is doing, but he doesn’t write like a victim, he writes like a victor. They remember how he was the first time he was in Philippi, he was beaten and thrown in jail and Paul’s staying in jail.

Paul’s heart’s desire was one day to preach the Gospel in Rome, it was the ambition of Paul, for some day to take Christianity to the greatest city in the known world.

He probably had it all planned out, he was going to go into Rome one day, he was going to rent the Colosseum, and he was going to have the biggest Gospel crusade the world had ever seen.

But God had a different plan, God had Paul arrested and God gave him a pre-paid ticket to Rome as a political prisoner, and it wasn’t pretty. Thrown away in jail, literally chained to a palace guard that was changed every four hours, and he lived like this for two years.

However, when Paul writes, he doesn’t see himself as a man in prison, he sees himself ultimately as a man in Christ. The way Paul saw it was, even though he was in chains, he said, ‘they cannot chain the Gospel of Jesus’.

Notice that the Philippians are anxious to know how Paul is doing but when Paul writes back, he doesn’t tell them how he is doing. The first thing he does, is tell them how the Gospel is doing and even though Paul was in chains, the Gospel was going fourth, Philippians 1:12.

Paul says, ‘what has happened, my going to prison has actually served to be a platform for getting the gospel all over Rome’. Now how could that be? Paul says, ‘because I’m in prison, the story of Christianity is being talked about all over the city’, Philippians 1:13.

But not only that, Paul says in ‘remember it’s become quite clear to the palace guard,’ Philippians 1:13. Now who were those guys? The Roman army had a special group of soldiers, the finest regiment in the Roman army called the Praetorian guard who were loyal specifically to Caesar.

They got paid twice as much as anybody else when they retired, they got more money than anybody else did and they guarded the people who were on trial before Caesar. So for two years, every three or four hours, one of Rome’s finest soldiers, had to walk in and chain himself to Paul.

Now let me ask you, what do you think Paul did for four hours with those guys? I mean, who was chained to who? I can see that soldier walking in and saying, ‘I have been sent here to guard you for my master’. And I can see Paul looking up and saying, ‘that’s strange, I’ve been sent here to guard you for my Master’.

Maybe that explains how Paul says, ‘all the church sends greetings, especially those that belong to the household of Caesar’. How did the Gospel get into Caesar’s house? Paul was preaching to his guards every single day, Philippians 4:22.

Paul also says, ‘the Christians in Rome have become bolder because I am in prison,’ Philippians 1:14. He says, ‘my imprisonment has actually advanced the Gospel’. And so what other people saw as a setback, Paul saw as progress. He even rejoiced the Gospel was being preached by some people whose attitudes towards Paul were quite negative.

Notice the people Paul describes aren’t anti-Christ, but they’re anti-Paul with vengeance, Philippians 1:15-17.

And so they go out with some pretty lousy attitudes preaching the Gospel, they are preaching the Gospel, if they weren’t preaching the Gospel, they would have been condemned by Paul because back in Galatians with the legalists who were trying to preach Jesus plus the law, Paul condemned them. He doesn’t condemn what they are preaching, he condemns their attitude, Philippians 1:18.

We can throw the messenger in jail, but we can’t jail the message. Paul says, ‘the way he sees it, they cannot chain the help of Jesus’. He not only looked back with joy with what happened in Rome but he looked ahead with joy knowing what was going to happen was going to be good too, Philippians 1:19.

In other words, Paul said, ‘Jesus promised if we go into all the world, he would be with us till the end of the age, and I know that no matter happens tomorrow, Jesus is going to be there to help me’.

How is Jesus going to help him? Well, in two ways.

1. Paul said, through their prayers.

The apostle Paul was never too big to ask for prayers. Paul says, ‘I don’t know what is going to happen tomorrow, but I know through your prayers, Jesus is going to help me’.

2. Paul says, ‘by the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ’.

Paul knew that the presence of the Holy Spirit was the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise to be with him. And Paul knew that the Holy Spirit would especially help him to bear witness to his faith, in his upcoming trial.

Remember Jesus promised us, when we are on trial for our faith, the Holy Spirit will be there to give us something to say, Mark 13:11. Paul knows he can count on the Holy Spirit to strengthen his life. He knows that God doesn’t just rule over our chains sorrowfully from the throne, but God sustains us in our chains from within. That’s one reason God blessed with the gift of Holy Spirit at our baptism, Acts 2:38.

Did you know that a person can experience the power of the Spirit in greater abundance sometimes more than others can? This is called being filled with the Holy Spirit, Acts 4:8 / Acts 4:31 / Ephesians 5:18.

Paul is going through a test right now and he’s going to be on trial and he wants the Philippians to pray, that he’s going to be full of the Holy Spirit. He’s going to be led by the Holy Spirit and Jesus would help him that way.

Paul also says, ‘they cannot chain the glory of Jesus’. Everybody has a passion, everybody has an obsession but the problem with most people is that their lives obsession can be chained. Not Paul, his obsession was Christ and nobody could chain Him, Philippians 1:20.

Paul says, ‘death, life, it doesn’t matter, either way, Jesus is going to get the glory’. How do we chain a guy like that? Jesus Christ is going to receive glory, Jesus Christ is going to be exalted whether we participate or not.

Paul said, ‘He’s going to be exalted in my body whether by life or death’. Paul also says, ‘they cannot chain his joy in Jesus’. We aren’t a people in chains, we’re a people in Christ, and we will not lose our joy, if we don’t lose our focus on Him.

I think the real key to Paul is in these seven words, ‘for to me, to live is Christ.’ Philippians 1:21. Paul says, ‘I’m not a man in prison, I’m a man in Christ’, Philippians 2:9.

‘For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through me being with you again your joy in Christ will overflow on account of me’. Philippians 1:21-26

How would our thoughts turn if we knew that we were about to die? What would be our philosophy of living and dying, that we would pass on to our loved ones if we only had a little time and just had a few words to say?

Remember that Paul is in a Roman prison, he doesn’t know whether he will live or die, he faces the possibility of immanent death. However, Paul sums up everything we need to know about living and dying using very few words. Paul says, ‘to live is Christ and to die is gain’.

As far as Paul is concerned, he is in a no-lose situation, if he lives, he lives for Christ, if he dies, he is with Christ, which is gain. He knows it doesn’t matter what happens to him because he can’t lose because to Paul, Christ is a matter of life and death.

Most people have two great fears.

1. They are afraid they might die tonight.

2. They are afraid they might live tomorrow.

Dying frightens them and living has no passion and then there are people like Paul, they have a passion for living and they have a passion for dying. And if you were to ask them which one, they would choose, they couldn’t answer because they have a passion for both.

Paul says that, ‘Christ provides the purpose for joy and living’. A lot of people they don’t have enough to live on but the real problem, is that they don’t have enough ‘to live for’. Paul had a passion for living, he says, ‘he’s not afraid to live’ because if he lives, it’s going to matter, Philippians 1:22.

Because if he lives, he knows, it’s going to make a difference. Paul loved living, because that meant that he could bring the joy of Jesus to other people, Philippians 1:25. We are still alive because God knows that somebody else needs us, that’s why we’re here. God doesn’t let us live another day for us, but for somebody else.

Life in these bodies will never be joyful as long as we look for our own interests and not for the interests of others, Philippians 1:25, although he wants to die and go home to Jesus. Every day we live, is a gift of grace from God, to be used to invest in people, Philippians 1:26.

Not only does Christ give us a meaning for living, but Paul also says that, ‘Christ gives us the hope and courage for dying.’ When someone is dying, we often here these words, ‘it doesn’t look like they have got long to live.’ The truth is nobody has got long to live, everybody is terminal.

Sometimes we hear the words, ‘well, there probably better off’. ‘Probably!’ Why do we think it’s a shame when a Christian dies? Paul says, not probably, ‘they are far better of,’ Philippians 1:23. Paul says, ‘this isn’t my home, this isn’t where I belong, because I’m ready to go home’.

Life isn’t about cardinal things or success, it’s about eternity rather than time. Our bodies are getting older and breaking down and it wasn’t meant to last a long time, it’s not meant to be permanent, 2 Corinthians 5:1-2.

Why did Paul want to die and go to Jesus? Maybe part of it, was to get some release from the kingdom pressure. Maybe part of it, was the burden of the churches but the main reason Paul wanted to go was simple, Paul wanted the company of Christ. Paul says, ‘when he goes, he’s going to have Christ like he’s never had him before.’

‘Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.’ ‘This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—-and that by God. For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have’. Philippians 1:27-30

Remember, Paul’s just told them, he’s not sure if he’s going to live or die, and so he starts telling the church, how he wants them to behave in case he never sees them again.

Paul knew that he wasn’t the only one suffering for the Gospel of Christ because the Philippian church was going through the same struggle that he was going through.

We must also remember ‘the church is going to be opposed.’ Jesus was very blunt about this, we can read all through the Gospels that He promised people, if we follow Him, we’re going to get opposition. People will try to intimidate us and people will try to embarrass us.

But we also read that the first Christians had a rather amazing response to persecution, they were thankful for it. Jesus had told them it was coming and He had told them how to think about it, Matthew 5:11. And the early Christians remembered what Jesus said and they lived that way.

For example, there is a story in the Book of Acts, when the apostles were brought in front of the Sanhedrin, because they kept preaching Jesus after they had been told not to, Acts 5:40. What was their reaction? They were excited that they could suffer for Jesus Christ, Acts 5:41. We get the same principal taught by Peter, 1 Peter 4:13-14.

When suffering comes, we should count it an honour to endure it for the sake of Christ. Because when we get opposed, we can conclude that the world is seeing Jesus in us, John 15:18-23.

And so the first Christians would get persecuted and opposed and they would rejoice because they knew that meant the world is seeing Jesus living in them.

Look at what Paul says about suffering, ‘it has been granted to you on behalf Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.’ Philippians 1:29.

What’s interesting about this verse is that the ‘granted’, is the Greek word ‘grace’. It’s a gift of God, it’s the grace of God, when you get a chance to be embarrassed or humiliated or insulted because you’re a Christian.

The life that we live can’t be a sheltered experience, we’re going to stand up for Jesus, we’re going to be opposed and what we need is a strategy, so that we can handle the opposition the best possible way.

Paul has a strategy to give the church, on how we can handle opposition. How can we suffer for Jesus in a way that gives Him glory? What is the aim of the strategy?

Paul says, ‘the aim is fidelity, loyalty, faithfulness’, Philippians 1:27-28. The world is full of Christians that don’t stand firm, Christians who played down their faith when things get difficult. But what Paul is saying is, ‘understand that our faithfulness and our loyalty and our fidelity to Christ packs a punch,’ Philippians 1:28.

Paul says, ‘our faithfulness, needs to be corporate’. If the Christians in Philippi were going to stand strong against their foes, they were going to have to stand together.

This is so critical, because if our aim is fidelity, if what we want to do is to stand firm for Jesus Christ, the key Paul says, ‘is unity’. Paul knew the real threat wasn’t from the outside, it was from the inside.

Divide and conquer is a strategy that Satan knows well and so, what Paul does, is that he connects the struggle for the Gospel that we must be about, with the eternal unity of the church.

Go To Philippians 2


"That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

Romans 10:9