Philippians 1:1-11, The Introduction

Tonight, we are beginning our study of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. If you have time today,  please read the entirety of the letter. It is only four chapters and should take about 15 minutes. Also, please read of Paul’s visits to Phillipi in Acts 16 and 20:6, as well as Paul’s characterization of the congregation in 2 Corinthians 8:1-7.

Acts 16:

Our study of Philippians begins in Acts 16. Paul visited Philippi during his Second Missionary Journey. In this journey, Paul meets and converts Timothy. This is also Paul’s first foray in Europe, with Philippi being his first European stop. When we read through the account, notice the Roman character of the City – Luke tells us that Phillipi was a Roman colony (v.12) and that Paul, as a Roman citizen had certain rights (v.38). Phillipi also was not very friendly to Jews – the city did not have a synagogue and required the Jews and “God-fearers” (Gentiles who worshipped the Jewish God) to meet only outside of the City walls (v.13) and Paul was beaten because he was Jewish (v.20). Also, notice that the founding member and leader of this church was a woman named Lydia. She was Paul’s first convert (v.15) and the nascent church met in her house (v.40). When Paul writes his letter about fifteen years later, Lydia is not mentioned for unknown reasons. However, two other women, Euodia and Syntyche are mentioned by Paul as church leaders. Phil. 4:2.

The Salutation: (1:1-2)

In most of his salutations, Paul calls himself an apostle of Christ Jesus. The word means messenger or ambassador. The idea is that the one speaking carries with him the authority of the one on whose behalf he is speaking. In Philippians, however, Paul identifies himself as a doulas, or slave. One of the themes of this letter, particularly in Chapter 2, is humble, servant leadership. Paul uses this same word to describe Jesus in the Incarnation (Phil. 2:7) where he says that we should imitate this humble servanthood of Jesus (Phil. 2:5). (Jesus also has this same teaching. See, Mark 10:44-45.) Paul’s use of this description of himself not only shows the close relationship Paul had with this congregation but also may represent a maturity of Paul’s understanding of who he is.

Also, notice how Paul addresses his audience as “the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi.” Phil. 1:1. Phillipi is a Roman colony where the descendants of the soldiers of one of Rome’s largest and most consequential battles was fought only about 80 years prior (the length of time between today and D-Day). Paul is telling his audience who they belong to. The word saint means “set apart by or for God.” Paul is reminding them that although they may have been born Roman, nonetheless, they have been set apart so that their true identity is in Christ Jesus. As Paul will later specifically state: their citizenship is in heaven (not in Rome). Phil. 3:20.

Think through what this introduction means for us. What does it mean to be a slave to Christ (King) Jesus? What does it mean for us to be those set apart so that we find our true identity in Jesus and not in being American or however else we would identify ourselves?

The Thanksgiving: (1:3-11)

These verses are only two sentences in Greek: vv. 3-8 and 9-11. The first part of these verses speaks of a spiritual journey that the Philippians are making and that we all are making. This spiritual journey begins with Jesus at our conversion or baptism.

This journey is made in partnership (vv.5, 7) with others. The word Paul uses is koinonia. The word means a business partnership, such as the fishing business that Peter and Zebedee had before Jesus came along. Luke 5:10. Paul is telling the Philippians that they are his partners in the gospel and grace business. Paul reminds them (and us) that we are never alone, but always in partnership with our fellow Christians working towards the same goals. Paul gives thanks for this partnership.

The end, however, is the great theme of Paul’s letter. Paul writes that what Jesus begins, and what continues in partnership with others, will be brought to perfection in the end on the day of Jesus Christ. v.6. This is the our end that we can confidently look forward to regardless of our current circumstances or how well our partnership is going.

The second sentence of these verses (vv.9-11) shows us what this perfect end looks like – love, discernment, excellence, purity, fruitful, glorious, and praiseworthy. Although this vision is similar to Paul’s vision of the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15:35-58 or John’s vision of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21-22, Paul sees and expects this perfect end to be present and to become more of a reality in the lives of the Philippians now.

As you read this introduction, think about how your own life is characterized by this great work of Jesus and how that work is accomplished in partnership with others. Think about what this work looks like presently in your life.

SCHEDULE: This Wednesday, Cindy Craig begins the Beth Moore Study of the Book of James. The study meets from 10 – noon at Messiah.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is meatball paninis. Discussion about 6:45. Compline at 8. Please come and bring a friend. All you need is a bible

And I am sure that he who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Phil 1:6

1 thought on “Philippians 1:1-11, The Introduction”

  1. Pingback: Philippians 1:27-30, Paul’s Thesis Statement – Ancient Anglican

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