Philippians 1:1–11comment (0)
March 3, 2011
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: Philippians 1:1–11
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Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
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Focused on Servanthood (1–2)
Although Paul included him as a sender, Timothy had nothing to do with writing this letter. The first person singular pronouns “I,” “me” and “my” occur more than 100 times in the letter. It is Paul’s letter.
In the Old Testament, “servant” meant an authorized messenger (Ex. 14:31; Num. 12:7; Ps. 105:26; Amos 3:7; Jer. 25:4; Dan. 9:6, 10). In this letter, Paul made no explicit claim to apostleship but “servants of Christ Jesus” carried overtones of authority. Timothy shared the dignity of the title because he soon would come to Philippi (Phil. 2:23) in Paul’s name as a special envoy. “Saints,” literally “holy ones,” is the technical New Testament term for believers. Some say a saint is a man or woman whom the Roman Catholic pope has canonized on the basis of sterling character and the performance of two miracles after death. Others say a saint is a person who lives without sin. The New Testament says a saint is anyone whom God claims as His own. “Overseers” are “elders” charged with “pastoring” the church (cf Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet. 5:1–2). The terms are interchangeable in the New Testament. “Deacon” means “servant,” as its use in Acts 6:1–2 indicates (“daily service,” “to serve tables”). The old idea that deacons form a governing board to run the business of the church is unbiblical and wrong. They must be humble servants, not bosses. “Grace” is God’s disposition of favor. “Peace” is everything that makes for well-being. Their order is significant. A stranger to God’s grace is a stranger also to God’s peace. That Paul placed Jesus on a par with God the Father implies His full deity. This text supports the later doctrine of the Trinity.
Fellowship in the Gospel (3–11)
“I thank my God upon all the remembrance of you” may be taken in two widely different ways. Perhaps it means “upon my remembrance of you” as if Paul’s memories of the Philippians led him to thank God for them. More likely, it means “on account of your remembrance of me,” referring to Paul’s joy over their “fellowship in the gospel.” More than coffee and cookies after church, “fellowship” (“koinonia”) includes financial support. The Philippians had contributed to Paul’s ministry “from the first day.” Their latest gift brought by Epaphroditus (Phil. 4:18) sparked this prayer of thanks for all their gifts. Mention of the “first day” led Paul to speak of the last day, “the day of Christ Jesus.” He had confidence that the Lord who began His work in them would finish it. The verb means to complete the job, i.e., to drive the last nail. That the Philippians faithfully supported the gospel confirmed that God had begun the good work of salvation in them. This verse offers absolute assurance of a believer’s eternal security. Not only because the Philippians shared in Paul’s ministry when he was able to move around and now that he was in prison was his deep affection, or “longing,” for them “right” but also because it came from the “heart” (literally “bowels,” which people in his day took as the seat of emotion) of Jesus Himself.
The Right Kind of Love (9–11)
Paul prayed for “abounding love.” “Love” is agape, “selflessness, unconquerable good will.” “Abound” means overflow as an artesian well. The love Paul asked for them was not blind love but marked by “full knowledge“ (the word suggests knowledge heaped up in a pile, one fact upon another) and “discernment,” i.e., keen insight or spiritual sensitivity. They needed this kind of love so they could “test the things differing” (literally) with a view toward selecting the best or most important. In a culture where values differ widely, one who is not informed and sensitive to God’s heart and mind is utterly at a loss. Why did it matter? So that in the day of Christ, the Philippians could pass review by the Judge with approval. “Sincere” means that they really are what they appear. “Blameless” means void of offense, i.e., neither stumbling nor causing others to stumble. The ultimate aim? Their lives would be filled with the truly good qualities only being right with God through Jesus can produce. This goodness wins glory not for the man himself but for God.