Overview of Philippians
Tim Temple

Introduction

We are beginning a series on the book of Philippians. The central message of the Christian faith is Jesus Christ. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, in I Corinthians, chapter 2, verse 2, he said:

I Corinthians 2

2For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.

Now, of course, if you are familiar with Paul's letters to the Corinthians, you know that Paul wrote and talked about many things other than the Lord Jesus Christ. He did not just simply give the plan of salvation over and over again for twelve or fifteen chapters; he taught about Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

The point that Paul was making there in I Corinthians, chapter 2, was that all of the things that he dealt with in his ministry and teachings and inspired writings were pointing ultimately to the Lord Jesus Christ. The central theme of the Word of God is Jesus Christ.

As we know, obviously, there are many other things the Scripture talks about, many points of history, many beautiful areas of poetry, many inspiring stories, many wonderful promises, but the overall aim of the Word of God is to exalt and teach about Jesus Christ.

Perhaps we could illustrate that by saying that Jesus Christ–the person and work of Jesus Christ–is like the gem in a beautiful piece of jewelry, perhaps a ring or a pendant. That jewel is positioned in that piece of jewelry in such a way that the jewel can be seen most clearly, but in order for it to be seen clearly, there is usually a very elaborate piece of jewelry that holds it in that place; and from time to time, depending on that piece of jewelry, we may admire the setting of the stone. We could, if we wanted to, talk about the symmetry of the ring and the balance of the prongs that hold the gem in place, but as we know, no matter how beautiful the setting is, no matter how beautiful the piece of jewelry may be, the real focal point is the jewel, that precious gem in the middle.

That is the way it is with the Word of God. It is very important for us, from time to time, to come back to basics and to talk about the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is good to know about the setting; it is good to know about that piece of jewelry that holds the person and work of Jesus Christ in its proper place, but it's most important to understand the Lord Jesus Christ.

A Personal Letter From Paul

Theologically the New Testament book that deals most specifically with Jesus Christ is the book of Colossians. The book of Colossians has as its primary purpose to teach us about the Lord Jesus Christ, where He came from, why He came from there, what His purpose was here on earth, and how He accomplished His purpose. The purpose of that book, as you remember, is “Jesus Christ, the perfect solution, the perfect provision for all of our needs.” From a practical standpoint, the book of Philippians is very significant. Colossians is significant theologically, but the book of Philippians is significant practically, probably because Philippians is such a personal letter. This is a letter that is evidently, more so than any other New Testament epistle, a personal letter from Paul to some of his friends who lived in Philippi.

There is very little teaching in the book of Philippians that is not covered more thoroughly in some other book. There is, as far as I know, no basic doctrine that has its roots in the book of Philippians. Rather, it is a personal, friendly letter to some friends who cared greatly about him and about whom he cared very greatly.

It is interesting to notice that as Paul expresses his true feelings to these people, as he converses with them on a personal level, the thing that comes through over and over again is his feelings about the Lord Jesus Christ. That says a great deal about the Apostle Paul, and it says a great deal about how practical a knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ should be, how personal it should be. In this personal letter, Paul communicates about his true feelings, and his true feelings were centered around Jesus Christ.

As we would do with any book that we are going to read, secular or otherwise, we want to look the book over. I have made it my practice to get an idea about the book before we take a look at it in detail. So in this lesson, we have as our purpose an overview of the book of Philippians.

Practical Purpose of the Book

If you have your Bibles open to Philippians, glance at chapter 2. I would like for us to read as our text verses 5-11. They are well-known verses, some that I think are typical in a real sense of the information that we are going to be looking at the next few weeks in this book. Philippians, chapter 2, beginning with verse 5:

Philippians 2

5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
9Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:
10That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;
11And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Here, I say, is some typical information, a typical passage from the book of Philippians. Notice in verse 5:

Philippians 2

5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

In addressing this passage which we will come to in a few weeks as we look at the book verse by verse, Paul had a very practical purpose in saying these things that he is going to say about the Lord Jesus Christ. What he is saying is that there should be a certain attitude that we as believers should practice and should cultivate, and it is a very practical thing to talk about our mental attitudes.

He goes on in the next few verses to talk about one of the deepest theological truths that there is–the self-emptying of Jesus Christ and His identification with the human race. This is something that Paul is going to do again and again in this chapter, showing us the wonderful love of Jesus Christ, showing us some really deep theological thoughts about the Lord Jesus Christ from a very practical, personal standpoint. And so this is what we want to think about in the book of Philippians, this practical book that has to do with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Philippi, a Roman Colony

The first thing we want to think about together is the name of the book. The name of this book, as is true of most of the epistles in the New Testament, is taken from the name of the recipients, the Christians who lived at Phillipi.

By way of refreshing your memory about geography of the New Testament, Philippi was located in the upper corner of the area that Paul covered on his second missionary journey. It was located in the Roman world of that day, but the city of Philippi was special from several standpoints.

First, it was a Roman colony. Keep a marker here in Philippians, chapter 2, and turn to Acts, chapter 16, and we will think in a few moments about some information about the founding of the church described in Acts, chapter 16. One thing I want to point out concerning the city of Philippi, is in chapter 16, verse 11:

Acts 16

11Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis;
12And from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Macedonia, and a colony: and we were in that city abiding certain days.

Notice two things about verse 12. First, Philippi was the chief city of that part of Macedonia. The Roman Empire was divided into a number of areas very similar to states in the United States of America, and the names of these areas are included on this map: Macedonia, Asia, Galatia, and Achaia. There are some other names on this map, but on this particular map, the names of some of the countries such as Egypt and Italy have the same emphasis as the Roman areas, and that is a little confusing, but the area of Macedonia had as its leading city the city of Philippi.

Also in verse 12, it was not only the chief city of that part of Macedonia, but notice the phrase, “and a colony.” In reading through chapter 16, I doubt that very many of us have been hit between the eyes with the importance of the phrase, “and a colony,” but it is very important because that tells us something very special about the city of Philippi. A Roman colony was a very special city. Many of the cities in the Roman world were not colonies. Remember that Rome was located on the Italian peninsula and the headquarters of the Roman Empire, of course, was in the city of Rome. The Roman Empire was basically an Italian culture. It was larger than just Italy. It was Roman, but the headquarters was the Italian peninsula. As you know from history, the Roman civilization had conquered the Greek civilization and had spread throughout the known world at that time.

Obviously, some of the cities that were controlled by Rome, such as in the Holy Land–Jerusalem, Bethlehem, and some of the cities that we are familiar with from the standpoint of the Holy Land–all of these were covered by the Roman Empire. All of these had become a part of the Roman civilization, but as you know from the life of our Lord and from other references in the New Testament, Jerusalem was not a Roman city by any means. Jerusalem was a Jewish city. Jerusalem was a city that had as its authority the Sanhedrin and had as its religion the Jewish religion of the Old Testament. It was not Roman in any sense other than that Rome had conquered that part of the world.

It was true of all the other areas. In Asia Minor we have Ephesus and Colossi and these cities that had their own culture–the Greek culture basically–which they had been living for hundreds of years before. They were Roman in name only.

When there was a colony, when there was a city that was designated as a colony, that was a city that was Roman to the core. That was a city that had been colonized, in most cases before the Roman Empire had even spread this far, but that had all the laws and had the culture and all the privileges and rights of the Roman Empire. It was a little Rome right in the middle of whatever city it happened to be in. Philippi was a Roman colony. It was like an island in the midst of some other culture.

A very rough comparison that we might have drawn until recently is the city of West Berlin. There was West Berlin with basically the rights and privileges of the allies of the United States right in the middle of a Communist world. It was a little island in the middle of Communist controlled countries. That is the way a colony was. Philippi was not the only colony. There were several others, but Philippi was a colony, and that is going to have a bearing on some of the things that Paul has to say about life in the world of his day. This was one of the things that was special about the city of Philippi. Even though it was located in the area of Macedonia, it was a Roman city.

The First European Church

Another thing that is important about the city of Philippi is that this is the first church that was founded by the Apostle Paul in Europe. Now the world of that day was not divided into Europe and Asia as we label the world today. In fact, as we have already pointed out, Philippi was located in the area that was known as Macedonia; but as you can see by looking at a map, if you superimpose a map of today, you will realize that Philippi was located in that part of the world that today we would classify as Europe, and this was the first European church that was founded.

Many Bible teachers believe that Paul, in going to Rome and going specifically to Philippi, caused Christianity to be spread into Europe. If it had not spread into Europe by means, first, of the Philippian church, then on farther into Rome, very possibly the United States would not have been evangelized. Had the Gospel gone in another direction, as we will see in a minute, (Paul wanted to go to some other places, and since he could not go to those places, he went to Philippi) had Paul gone to those places he wanted to go first, perhaps China would have been sending missionaries to the United States rather than vise versa. Had he gone into the areas that he wanted to go into, other areas of the world would have heard the Gospel long before Europe and the United States. Our Pilgrim forefathers very possibly would not have known the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior. We could go on and on with conjecture of what might have happened and what might not have happened, but it is very significant that this was a European church, and it was the first European church that was established by the Apostle Paul.

Notice again Acts, chapter 16, verse 6-7:

Acts 16

6Now when they had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia, and were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia,
7After they were come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia: but the Spirit suffered them not.

Think carefully about what verses 6 and 7 are saying: “They had gone throughout Phrygia and the region of Galatia.” Paul, on his first missionary journey, had gone through the region of Galatia and had gone through the area of Phrygia. After he had done that, he was forbidden of the Holy Spirit to preach the Word in Asia. Paul's plan, having come up along the bottom of this area, was to go into the Roman region of Asia. A great many interesting sermons have been preached on what is meant about how the Holy Spirit forbade him to go into Asia. I think sometimes too much is made of that. It is interesting to notice that the Holy Spirit forbade him, but probably if the Lord had wanted us to know why and how, He would have told us. It is a little superficial to try and speculate on that, but that was Paul's plan. He was going to Asia, but the Holy Spirit forbade him.

Then in verse 7, they came into Mysia and they assayed their plans to go into Bithynia. Bithynia is sort of between Asia and Galatia. They planned to go into Bithynia, but in verse 7, it says that the Spirit suffered them not. We do not know how the Spirit suffered them not, how the Lord communicated this to Paul and why, but that was Paul's plan and the Lord shut the door. Because he could not go into Asia and he couldn't go on north to Bithynia, we read in verse 9-10:

Acts 16

9And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.
10And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavored to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them.

So this is how Paul went into this area that we now know as Europe, the area known as Macedonia, because the Lord would not let him follow through with his plans.

It is an interesting thing to notice, it is an interesting thing to think about, but what if Paul had done what he wanted to do, regardless of what the Lord wanted him to do? What if he had said, “I know I need to go into Asia, and surely these closed doors are just the work of Satan. I am going to go on anyway.”? What if Paul had been out of step with the Lord? What if he had been out of fellowship at the time the Lord was trying to close those doors and he had gone on into Asia or on into Bithynia? As we said, we can make a general assumption that very possibly, if the Gospel had not gone into Europe and had not reached our forefathers–carrying it just another step further–it is very possible this part of the world would not have been a Christian area. But fortunately Paul was in step with the Lord and he realized that the Lord was leading him into Macedonia, and so he went. This is the background of the founding of the church at Philippi.

Beginning of the Church At Philippi

We read in the remaining verses of Acts, chapter 11, how that church was started. We are not going to take the time to look at those verses in detail, but those verses go on to tell us that as Paul went into the city of Philippi, he met some ladies who were praying down by the riverside, and one of those ladies was a lady by the name of Lydia. He started what we would call today a home Bible study, a church in Lydia's home. Here is another of the ladies who is mentioned in the Word of God– not much detail is given, but certainly she was a lady who had a tremendous impact on the Church of Jesus Christ. The church began in Lydia's home.

Later we are told, in chapter 16, that Paul was thrown into jail for his preaching, and it was on that occasion, you will remember, that there was an earthquake and many of the prisoners were about to escape. Paul and Silas quieted the prisoners, and the Roman guard came in, surprised to find them all still there, because he just assumed they all would have escaped. He knew that he was liable with his life for those prisoners and he said, “What must I do to be saved?” Paul said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” That took place in the city of Philippi, that area to which this letter was addressed some years later.

By the time the letter to the Philippians was written back to them, if you will go back to the book of Philippians, the church had grown and developed beyond the point of just meeting in Lydia's house, because in verse 1, of chapter 1, notice that Paul makes reference to a highly developed church.

Philippians 1

1Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

By the time Paul wrote this letter back to the Philippians after his departure–the church may still have been meeting in Lydia's home, but regardless of where they were meeting–they had some bishops and deacons.

Growth of the Church At Philippi

There is a great deal of discussion today about what the word “bishop” indicates. Does it indicate a leader, one of several leaders in an individual local church, or does it indicate a pastor of a church? Therefore, when we have the word “bishops” in the plural, does it means that there were a number of pastors there? We are not going to get into a discussion of that; but since the word “bishops” is plural, it indicates that there were a number of leaders, a number of Christian leaders in Philippi, either several churches with a pastor over each church or at least the church at Philippi was large enough so that there was a number of gifted men in that church–the pastors and the deacons. It had developed beyond the state in which Paul left it.

That demonstrates, and it is interesting to notice this in the New Testament, that a church is not dependent upon one man. I'm sure that as Paul left Philippi, there were people who said, “Oh my, what will become of us now? Our pastor is gone, our founder is gone, and it will never be the same again. We will never be able to go on.” Not only did they go on, but evidently the church grew and developed, because Paul himself was able to write back to them later and specifically address himself to a number of leaders in the church.

It is a wonderful thing to see that although God does use individuals and even though God has chosen to work through men, and God chooses to have a man as the shepherd of the flock and a leader of the flock, the central theme of a church, the central figure in a church, is not that pastor or that leader, but the Lord Jesus Christ. And when God calls a pastor to move to some other place, if it is a true call from God, then God takes care of that church, and that church does not need to fall apart. There are many other examples besides the church at Philippi where that became true.

Paul's Thank-you Note

We also want to think about the occasion for writing this letter. Why did Paul write to the Philippians after he had left them? In chapter 1, verse 13, we are told that Paul was in prison when he was writing this letter. In fact, we should go back to verse 12:

Philippians 1

12But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
13So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;

Obviously from verse 13, Paul was in prison and probably–he doesn't specifically say–he was in prison in Rome. I say that because of his reference to the palace. You see in verse 13:

Philippians 1

13So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;

We know that at the end of his lifetime, Paul was imprisoned in Rome. He was under house arrest in Rome and evidently in prison again even later than that in Rome, and most Bible scholars believe this letter was written during his house arrest in Rome. He was being guarded by Roman soldiers.

In chapter 4, you will notice that while he was in prison, probably in Rome, in verse 18, we read:

Philippians 4

18But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.

According to chapter 4, verse 18, the Philippians had sent Paul a gift by way of Epaphroditus, and evidently this letter to the Philippians is basically more than anything else a thank-you for that gift. Isn't it wonderful to see how God has included all kinds of literature in His Word? Here is just basically a thank-you note. Just think what it would have been like in the Roman world. Here is a four chapter thank-you note, and probably most of us just write ours on a little note card of some kind. Maybe we who have received thank-you notes should be thankful that the sender didn't write a four chapter thank-you note, but evidently this is what the book of Philippians is. It is a thank-you note for the gift that the Philippians had sent to Paul.

As I mentioned earlier, for that reason, it is the most personal of the New Testament epistles. It gives us a better insight into Paul's character and into what he really thought of the Lord Jesus Christ. As we study this book, we are going to see that the basic characteristic of this book is deep joy and rejoicing in the Lord. It is interesting to me to see that this book, which talks about joy and rejoicing and being satisfied and abounding in the Lord, was written while Paul was in prison. Isn't that interesting? It would be easy to understand if this were written during a break in his activities while he was holding a citywide crusade in Rome. It would be easy to understand how he could talk about joy and rejoicing the afternoon before he had the opportunity to speak on Mars Hill in Athens when things were going well, but this letter which deals so much with loving the Lord and rejoicing in the Lord was written while Paul was under house arrest, while he was in prison.

Epaphroditus Delayed

Epaphroditus is mentioned also as having brought this gift, and evidently Epaphroditus stayed there with Paul. If you go back to chapter 2, notice there is a little passage here in chapter 2 that talks about Epaphroditus. Notice in verse 25-30:

Philippians 2

25Yet I supposed it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, and companion in labour, and fellowsoldier, but your messenger, and he that ministered to my wants.
26For he longed after you all, and was full of heaviness, because that ye had heard that he had been sick.
27For indeed he was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.
28I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful.
29Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation:
30Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me.

Because of the way these verses are worded, and we will talk about them more in detail when we come to that part of the chapter, I believe that another purpose of the writing of this letter was to explain why Epaphroditus had been gone so long. Chances are Epaphroditus was an important part of the assembly there. They had sent him to take that gift to Paul, and they wondered why he didn't come back. “Maybe he is going to stay with Paul, and we need him here.” Paul writes this letter telling them why Epaphroditus stayed with him so long. They had not been able to call long distance and say, “Hey, where is Epaphroditus? He is supposed to preach next Sunday morning, and he is not back yet.” After two or three months, he still wasn't back and because of communication systems in the world of that day, Paul wrote this letter.

Availability of Christ

I am saying all of that to point out to you the personal, individual nature of this letter. That is important for us, because we tend to think, I'm afraid, of the books of the Bible as heavily theological and hard to deal with. But here is just a personal letter with some specific personal things to accomplish. The aim of this book is to reassure the Philippians of his own condition and explain Epaphroditus, but more importantly to show forth the Lord Jesus Christ and Christ's availability to meet the needs of life. That's why it is important for us to see the personal nature of this book, because as Paul reveals his own problems and his own situation in life, he is also going to be bringing out how Christ is available for every need of his life.

As Paul opens himself up to the Philippians and tells them what he really thinks and feels, he's also going to be showing the Philippians and us that Jesus Christ is central to all of his thinking and feeling. Even though he is in jail in Rome, the Lord Jesus Christ is right there and is meeting that need, so that Paul can even rejoice that he is in prison, because it has happened for the furtherance of the Gospel. You see, that is a life that is entwined with Jesus Christ. So this is the purpose of this letter–to reassure the Philippians that the Lord Jesus Christ is available for every need of life.

We are going to see normal, everyday kinds of problems. People could not get along with each other. There were disagreements over leadership, being mad because Epaphroditus hadn't come back yet, all kinds of normal, day-to-day situations. Paul, in the last of the letter, as he closes his letter, says:

Philippians 4

2I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

Paul is saying, “Look, don't let these daily problems get us at each others' throats. Be of the same mind in the Lord.” So that is the nature of this book. The aim of the book, let me say it again, is to show us how Jesus Christ, and knowing Jesus Christ is the solution to day-to-day problems that we have–not only the tragedies and the things that are hard to understand, but the everyday, day-to-day things. This is brought out by this personal letter.

Christ, Our Life

Very quickly let's notice together the frame of this book. First, in chapter 1, we have “Christ, our life.” As we look through this part of the book, you will notice that each chapter has its own basic format. The book can be outlined on the basis of its chapters, one of the few books in the New Testament that can be. Philippians, chapter 1, talks about “Christ, our life.” In verse 21, of chapter 1, a very familiar verse which expresses Paul's feelings exactly:

Philippians 1

21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

Now Paul, in this very famous verse, is not saying that it would be better to die because life is miserable.

Philippians 1

21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

He doesn't mean that he would be better off if he could die because living for the Lord was getting tough. That was getting him thrown into prison, and all that kind of thing, so he would just as soon die. What he is saying is, “You know, because I walk personally with the Lord Jesus Christ, because Christ is a part of my life, my life is all that I could want it to be; but at the same time, I don't dread the specter of death because I know that it will be even better when I die.” So much so that Paul says in another place, “I don't know whether it is better to live or to die. To depart and be with Christ is far better, but there is a real importance to being here.” He is not saying that it would be better to die; but he is saying, “Life is full with Christ, and I even look forward to death.”

That is the wonderful thing about knowing the Lord. What better life could we have? To be full in this life, and at the same time not dread death, not have to dread this full life being over.

In verses 12-14 of chapter 1, you can see an example of this. Notice he says:

Philippians 1

12But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
13So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;
14And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

We mentioned these verses a little earlier, to show that he was in prison. Paul, because he did live with Christ, because Christ was his life, was able to even look at the tragedies of life as an opportunity to grow in the Lord and to serve the Lord and to have the Lord use his life.

Chapter 2 deals with “Christ, our example.” You see that each of these chapters deals with Christ and His relationship to our lives, but the basic purpose of chapter 2 is to talk about “Christ, our example.” In the beginning of our study, we read verses 5-11, which were the basic verses concerning the glory of Jesus Christ. But notice again verse 5, chapter 2:

Philippians 2

5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

Let this mental attitude be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus. Have you ever stopped to think about the significance of a verse like that? Jesus Christ was God. We all readily assent to that. We say it all of the time, and I think we believe it. Have you ever stopped to think that Jesus Christ, being God in the flesh, makes it possible for God to say to us, “You human beings, have the same mental attitude that God had.”? Let this mental attitude be in you, which was in Christ Jesus.

You see, it is possible for us to be Christ-like. God expects us to be Christ-like. God can make us Christ-like. Paul goes on to elaborate what he means by that–having the mental attitude that Christ had. Christ, our example.

Evidently there was a problem in Philippi of disunity among the saints. They were evidently insisting on their rights. Some of them were saying, “I have a right to this. I am going to stand on that right. You can't make me do otherwise.” Running through the book, as we are going to see, is a little ripple of discontent, of unhappiness with each other; and Paul, talking about that disunity, says, “The solution to that is to have the mind, the attitude, of Jesus Christ.”

Think about that for just a moment. We will talk about it more in detail in future studies, but for the moment think about the attitude of our rights. From time to time, you have said to your wife or your husband or to your children, concerning some situation you are in, “I know my rights, and I'll have my rights. No one can take them from me. I have a right to this. It's only right that I have it, and I'll sue if I have to.” Think about it this way: Where would you be if Jesus Christ had insisted on His rights? What if, in that eternal life convention that took place back somewhere back in the annals of history, before the age of man, when God the Father said, “Son, the only way the problem of sin in the human race will ever be solved is for You to go to earth and die on the Cross.”, Jesus Christ had said, “Father, You have no right to ask Me to do that.”? In so many words, “They got themselves into that; let them get themselves out. I can't be expected, You have no right to ask Me to go to earth and die on the Cross.”

Now, I say this reverently, but I say it very seriously, Jesus Christ would have had every right to say that and there would not have been one thing God the Father could have done about it. Where would you and I be if Jesus Christ had insisted on His rights? We would have been either in Hell or on the way there, and that is exactly what Paul is saying. When you start insisting on your rights, stop and think where you would be if Jesus Christ had insisted on His rights. “And let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Jesus Christ, our example.

Christ, Our Confidence

Then in chapter 3, we have “Jesus Christ, our confidence.” Notice in verse 8 of chapter 3:

Philippians 3

8Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ,

This chapter is saying that knowing Christ intimately can provide the motivation and confidence that we need in life. Notice down in verse 10:

Philippians 3

10That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Now notice verses 13 and 14:

Philippians 3

13Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,
14I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

What is it that motivates you in life? Paul says, and this chapter will illustrate for us, that the thing that should motivate us and can give us greater confidence than anything else is the knowledge, the personal relationship of Jesus Christ. This life is not all there is. We're going to spend eternity in the presence of Jesus Christ, and to know Him can be the greatest motivating factor that this life can contain.

Paul lists in verses 5 and 6 some of the things that motivated him in the past: ancestry, orthodoxy, activity, and morality. He said, “I count all these things but loss now that I know the motivating power of the life of Jesus Christ.” The human tendency is to build confidence in the flesh, but this passage is going to teach us that our confidence should be in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Christ, Our Strength

With that in mind, chapter 4 has as its topic, “Christ, our strength.” Notice in verse 13:

Philippians 4

13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Not only is Christ our motivation, but He is our strength. Not only does God want to produce in our lives, but He can give us the strength to do all of the things that the Scripture instructs us should be true of our lives.

Conclusion

As we look at this personal letter over the next few weeks, I trust that God the Holy Spirit will teach us things that will have a bearing on our day-to-day activities, our situations, those things that God wants to work on a practical, day-to-day basis in our lives.

This is the book that exalts Jesus Christ in practical experience. I hope that you will be able to be with us for our detailed studies of this book and that God will bless His Word to us.


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