Letter of Joy

An EasyEnglish Bible Version and Commentary (2800 word vocabulary) on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians

www.easyenglish.info

Hilda Bright

This commentary has been through Advanced Checking.

Words in boxes are from the Bible.

A word list at the end explains words with a *star by them.

 

Introduction

The church at Philippi

Luke described the city called Philippi as a *Roman ‘*colony’ (Acts 16:12). The *emperor Augustus allowed retired soldiers to live there after they had supported him in a battle in 31 *BC. As a *Roman *colony, its citizens possessed the same rights and laws as those who lived in Italy. Paul and Silas, with Timothy and Luke, established the church there after they crossed from Asia into Europe (Acts 16:12-40). Paul visited Philippi again on his third journey (Acts 20:1-6). It was a group of Christians of whom Paul was very fond. He called its members his ‘joy and crown’ (4:1). The Christians in Philippi were not rich, but they supported Paul with more than one gift of money. They also gave money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).

The purpose of Paul’s letter

Paul wanted:

1          to thank the Christians at Philippi for the gifts that they had sent him by Epaphroditus.

2          to inform the Christians at Philippi about his own circumstances. He also wanted to tell them that Epaphroditus had recovered from his dangerous illness. He was returning to Philippi.

3          to appeal for unity and for the end of quarrels in the church.

4          to warn them about false *doctrine, especially that of *Jewish Christians who insisted on *circumcision for *Gentiles.

5          to urge them to remain loyal to their *faith and to stand firm against *opponents.

Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter. He was not sure of the result of a *trial. Some writers suggest that the prison was in Ephesus or Caesarea. But it is more likely that he was in Rome. He probably wrote this letter at the end of the two years that we read about in Acts 28:30.

Chapter 1

The greeting 1:1-2

v1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus. To all the believers in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the leaders and helpers. v2 *Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the *Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 1 Paul begins his letter in the usual polite way that people wrote letters at that time. He was the author of the letter. He always used ‘I’. Timothy may have written it for him. We know that people very often used a secretary. (Romans 16:22 mentions Tertius.) Timothy had been with Paul when he established the church at Philippi (Acts 16). Paul mentions Timothy in his greeting to the Christians at Corinth (2 Corinthians 1:1) and Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1). The two other letters from prison also refer to Timothy (Colossians 1:1 and Philemon 1:1). He praises Timothy to the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 16:10-11).

‘servants of Christ Jesus’. The word for ‘servant’ really means ‘slave’. Paul does not refer to himself here as an *apostle, as he does in other letters. The Christians at Philippi knew him well. He did not have to emphasise his authority. Paul and Timothy were different in age. ‘Do not let anyone *scorn you because you are young’ (1 Timothy 4:12). Paul had taught Timothy about the Christian *gospel (2 Timothy 1:1). So they both had the same Master. Both were Christ’s ‘slaves’, with the same honour and responsibility to serve him.

‘all the believers in Christ Jesus’. Paul writes to ‘all’ and he uses this word many times. He prays for them all (1:4). He loves them all (1:7). He would like to be with them all (1:8). And he would like to stay with them all (1:25). His final greetings are to them all (4:21). He therefore reminds the Christians that divisions and quarrels are wrong. None of them was outside Paul’s interest in how well they were all living their Christian lives.

‘the believers in Christ Jesus’. The word that Paul uses for ‘believers’ actually means ‘holy people’. It means people whom God has put apart for himself.

‘in Christ Jesus’ means those who trust in Jesus. So they have his holy life inside them. So they must live a holy life. God is separate from human people because he is perfect. God called Israel to be a ‘holy nation’ (Exodus 19:6). He wanted them to show other nations what he is like. Christians too must be ‘holy’.

‘the leaders and helpers’ are church officers and officials. They are there to encourage the other Christians. They should also protect them. The *Greek word for ‘helpers’ means ‘those who serve other people’. They are like the seven Christians whom the *apostles appointed (Acts 6:1-6). They appointed them to distribute food to poor widows. These leaders and helpers may have organised the gift of money that the Christians at Philippi sent to Paul. Perhaps Paul mentions them in order to show their authority. Then they will be able to deal with problems in the church.

‘Grace and peace’. The *Greek word ‘charis’, grace, means God’s generous free gift. He gives it because of His love for people. They do not deserve it and they cannot earn it. ‘Peace’ is like the *Hebrew word ‘shalom’, that *Jews still use as a greeting. People become at peace with God because of the work and *sacrifice of Jesus, and at peace with each other. All good gifts come from God (James 1:17). Both grace and peace come from him. ‘Our Father’ reminds Christians of the honour that they have as members of God’s family.

‘The *Lord Jesus Christ’ brings his Father’s *grace and peace to men. The name ‘Jesus’ means ‘the person who saves’. Jesus came as a human *being in order to rescue men and women from *sin. The name ‘Christ’ means the *Anointed Man, who is both king and priest. As ‘*Lord’ he is now in the place of honour with God. He is the Master to whom everyone should give loyal service.

Paul gives thanks to God 1:3-8

v3 I thank my God for you every time that I think of you. v4 And I thank God every time that I pray for you all. I pray with joy. v5 This is because you have helped me in the work of the *gospel from the very first day until now. v6 God began this good work in you. And I am sure that he will continue it. He will do so until it is complete. It will be complete on the day of Christ Jesus. v7 It is right for me to think about you all in this way. That is because I think about you always with love. And you have all shared with me in this honour that God has given me. You have shared it now that I am in chains. Before that, I was defending and establishing the *gospel. And you shared with me then too. v8 God is my witness that my great love for you is the love of Christ Jesus himself.

Verse 3 Paul emphasises his personal *faith by saying ‘my’ God. Some translations say that Paul thanks God because the Christians at Philippi think about him. Verses 3 and 5 mean that he thanks God for two things. He thanks God for the gift of money. But he also thanks God for their *spiritual help as they pray for him.

When Paul was in Philippi, several of them helped him. They helped him as he told people the good news about Jesus (4:3).

Verse 4 The word ‘joy’ is typical of this letter and Paul uses it many times. Although Paul is in prison, he still has very much joy.

Verse 6 Paul had brought the *gospel to Philippi. But he still realised that it was God’s work. He knew that God would continue his *grace to the Christians at Philippi. What God has begun, he will complete. The ‘day of Christ Jesus’ is the day when Jesus comes again.

Verse 7 ‘in chains’ means ‘in prison’ and may describe actual chains.

‘defending and establishing the *gospel’ has two possible meanings:

1          Paul’s work as he explained the *gospel before his arrest, and

2          his appearance in front of a judge. He ‘defended’ the *gospel. (He answered those who had doubts about it.) Also, some people accused the gospel of things that were not true. He answered those people too. He ‘established’ it, when he stated its true meaning. This may have been the first part of his *trial.

Verse 7-8 Paul writes about his great love for the Christians at Philippi. They have shared with him by sending him more than one gift of money (4:16). They still share with him by their prayers. They still share God’s *grace with him.

Paul’s prayer 1:9-11

v9 I pray all the time that your love will keep on increasing in knowledge and *spiritual intelligence. v10 This is so that you will be able to approve the best things. I want you to be free from anything that is not pure. I want you to be without blame until the day when Christ returns. v11 I want you to have the true goodness that only Jesus Christ can give. As other people see this goodness in your lives, they will give honour and praise to God.

Verse 9 Their ‘love’ is not yet perfect. An increase in their knowledge of God will increase their love for each other. And ‘*spiritual intelligence’ will also help them to decide which things are really important.

Verse 10 ‘approve’ translates a special word. People used it when they tested coins or metal. They must approve only what has passed the test. The word ‘pure’ means genuine or sincere. The words ‘without blame’ mean that they have not caused other people to do wrong things.

Some translations show that ‘until’ the day does not mean ‘until the time’. Instead, it means ‘in preparation for’.

Verse 11 Paul wants the Christians at Philippi to show the good results of Christ’s life in them. Paul calls these results ‘fruit’ in Galatians 5:22. It can only come by Jesus Christ. Apart from him, Christians can do nothing to produce such fruit (John 15:5). It is only this fruit that brings honour and praise to God.

The results of the fact that Paul is in prison 1:12-14

v12 Now, the things that have happened to me have helped the *gospel to advance. And I want you Christian brothers and sisters to know that. v13 As a result, all of the *emperor’s own special guard and all the other people here know why I am in prison. It is because I am a servant of Christ. v14 And the fact that I am in prison has given most of the other Christians more confidence in the *Lord. Therefore they talk about God’s message much more bravely and they are not afraid.

Verse 12 ‘I want you ... to know’ suggests that Paul is replying to a message from the Christians at Philippi. They are worried about his coming *trial and what the result will be for the *gospel.

‘brothers’. Paul uses this word for Christians, both men and women. He wants to remind them that they all belong to God’s one family.

‘to advance’ means to go forward, because everyone knew why he was in prison.

Verse 13 ‘all of the *emperor’s own special guard’. The *Roman *emperor’s own special guard consisted of nine thousand men. A member of this guard would be with Paul. The guard changed duties every four hours. So, more and more of the soldiers would hear about Paul and why he was in prison.

‘and all the other people here’. The news would spread, so that many other people would hear about Christ.

Verse 14 There was a second result of the fact that Paul was in prison. The Christians at Rome became aware of his courage and the strength of his *faith. So most of them gained courage too and began to talk about the *gospel without fear.

Two different reasons why people are declaring the *gospel 1:15-17

v15 Some of them speak about Christ because they are jealous. Or they speak about him because they want to compete against me. But some speak about Christ for good reasons. v16 These people do so from love. God has given me the work of defending the *gospel. And they know that. v17 The other people do not *preach about Christ for sincere reasons but from selfish ambition. They hope to make things worse for me while I am in prison.

Verses 15, 17 There were Christians in Rome before Paul arrived. People probably knew some of these well and respected them. Then Paul arrived. And people came to know him well, although he was in prison. So the other Christians lost some of their fame. They became jealous and they wanted to attract attention to themselves again. This is the most probable cause of their wrong attitude.

Paul wishes to bring honour to Christ by his life or death 1:18-26

v18 It does not matter. I am happy so long as people talk about Christ, whether for wrong or right reasons. I shall continue to be happy. v19 I know this: By your prayers, and with help from the Spirit of the *Lord Jesus, I will become free. That is why I shall continue to be happy. v20 My great desire and hope is that I shall never be ashamed about anything. I hope that, as always, so now I will be without fear. I hope that I will give honour to Jesus in my body. I want to do that, whether I live or die. v21 For me to live is Christ. And to die will be gain. v22 If I continue to live in this world, then I shall be able to do more useful work. But I do not know which to choose. v23 It is extremely difficult to decide. I want very much to leave this life and to be with Christ. That would be very much better. v24 But for your benefit it is more important that I remain alive. v25 I am sure of this. And so I know that I shall stay. I shall be able to help you all to make progress in the *faith. And I shall be able to help you to have more joy. v26 So you will be able to praise Jesus Christ when I come to visit you again.

Verses 18b-19 Paul continues to be happy, and confident that the *Romans will free him. He gives two reasons for that. One reason is that the Christians at Philippi are praying for him. Paul is praying for them (1:4). And he knows that they are asking God to free him. He knows well the power of prayer (Ephesians 3:20). But our prayers do not remain alone. The Holy Spirit helps us. The Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised would help both Paul and the Christians at Philippi.

Verse 20 Paul does not want to be ashamed. Perhaps he is thinking that he might not complete his work for Christ. Perhaps he is thinking that he might have a lack of courage in front of a judge. His whole desire is to bring honour to Christ, whether he continues to live or not. He may live. Then, he can bring honour to Christ by continuing his work as an *apostle. If he dies, he will be a loyal witness to the strength of his *faith.

Verse 21 ‘to live is Christ’. This can mean:

1          Paul has the power to live in the right way. That is because Christ ‘lives in him’ (Galatians 2:20).

2          The only reason for Paul’s life is to bring honour and praise to Christ. To love and serve Christ is life.

‘to die will be gain’. This can mean:

1          For Paul himself (as for all Christians) death will mean to be ‘at home with the *Lord’ in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8). There he will be completely free from *sin. Pain and trouble will end. There he will know great joy and he will receive his reward after his struggle (2 Timothy 4:7-8).

2          If Paul dies, his death will be a witness to the *faith. So even his death will help the *gospel to spread. A later Christian writer said, ‘The blood of *martyrs is like the seed of the church.’

Verse 22 If Paul goes on living, he will be able to go on encouraging Christians. And he will be able to establish new churches. He knows that his work will be ‘useful’. ‘Your work (for the *Lord) will not be without value. Since you belong to the *Lord, you can be sure about that.’ (See 1 Corinthians 15:58.)

Verse 23 Paul’s great desire is to ‘leave this life’. The *Greek word means ‘to move a tent’. Paul wanted to leave the temporary home of his body for a permanent home in heaven.

Verse 24 What the Christians at Philippi needed was more important to Paul than his own desires. The Christians at Philippi formed a young church with many good qualities but some weaknesses. They were also in danger from false *doctrine. Therefore Paul was willing to postpone his joy in heaven in order to help them.

Verses 25, 26 Paul wants them to make progress in their *faith. They must love each other more (1:9). They must work together more (2:2). And they must become able to approve the best things (1:10). As their *faith grows, so will their joy.

Paul first visited them on his second journey (Acts 16:12-40) and again during his third visit to Macedonia (2 Corinthians 8:1-5; Acts 20:5). At the end of Acts, Paul is in prison in Rome. We do not know if he ever saw the Christians at Philippi again.

Paul urges the Christians at Philippi to fight together for the *faith 1:27-30

v27 More importantly than anything else, behave as citizens who bring honour to the *gospel of Christ. I may come and see you. Or I may not. In either case, I want to hear that you remain firm and united. I hope to know that you are fighting side by side for the *gospel. v28 And I hope to know that you are not afraid of your *opponents. Your courage will be a sign to them of their *destruction. But it will be proof to you of your *salvation that comes from God. v29 This is because you do not only have the honour to believe in Christ. You also have the honour to suffer for him. v30 You have to fight the same battle as you saw me fight. And you hear that I am still fighting it now.

Verse 27 Paul speaks about their way of life as citizens. He means as citizens of Rome. He also means as citizens of the *kingdom of heaven. He speaks directly about their home in heaven in 3:20. To be *Roman citizens meant to obey *Roman laws. It also meant to enjoy the benefits that they gave. And they could be proud of those benefits too. In the same way, the *gospel brings *blessings but also responsibilities. The Christians’ behaviour should be of the highest standard. Paul is not yet sure whether he will be able to visit them. And he reminds them about that. His absence should make no difference. He wants to know that his appeal to them has been successful. He wants to know that they are united. And he wants to know that their *faith remains strong. They need to fight close together as *Roman soldiers did in close lines. They are fighting ‘for’ the *gospel. They are not merely defending it. They are also struggling to spread the good news about Christ.

Verse 28 ‘afraid of’ comes from a special *Greek word. It describes how horses behave. When something surprises them, they jump up. And they rush away from it. Dangerous things, that they do not expect, may happen to the Christians at Philippi. Even then, they must show courage.

Their ‘*opponents’ may have been any or all of these things:

1          *Jews who opposed the Christian *faith. When Paul first visited Philippi, there were very few *Jews in the city. But the situation may have changed and perhaps there were now more *Jews in Philippi. They might be causing bad feelings against Christians.

2          *Gentiles, including *Roman officials, whose attitude to the church was changing. They were just beginning to turn against Christians.

3          False teachers of two kinds:

·     *Jewish Christians who said that *Gentiles must have *Jewish *circumcision first. And only then could they become Christians (3:23).

·     Those who made God’s *grace an excuse for allowing all their physical desires to control them (1:6).

Verse 28 ‘a sign of their *destruction’. Their *opponents will see that they are wrong. Paul himself once thought that he was right to attack Christians. He failed. It was their *faith in Jesus that made Christians strong. And Paul knew that now.

Verses 29, 30 Pain and trouble were gifts of God’s *grace, when they were on behalf of Christ. Such pain and trouble were a sign that their *faith was genuine. They were sharing the same struggle as Paul himself. That struggle was like the great effort of a runner who was trying to win a race. They had seen what had happened to Paul at Philippi. There, the crowd opposed him. People hit him and they put him in prison (Acts chapter 16). They had heard about what Paul had to suffer in prison in Rome.

Chapter 2

Paul’s appeal for unity and *humility 2:1-4

v1 You are united with Christ and that encourages you. You know the comfort of Christ’s love. The Holy Spirit has caused you to have the same interests as each other. And you can feel the sincere care for each other that comes from God’s loving kindness. v2 So I urge you to make my joy complete. Agree with each other. Have the same love. Be united in spirit and purpose. v3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or from proud desire for personal honour. Be humble. Think more about each other than you do about yourselves. v4 You should think about each other’s benefit and not just about your own.

Verses 1, 2 Paul is not doubting their Christian *faith. He is reminding them what the result of their *faith should be. He is emphasising that these *spiritual experiences should have the result of unity and *humility. They must show Christ’s love to other people. They can do this, only if they show love to each other. If they are not united, their witness to the world will be weak. Paul is already very happy about the Christians’ joy (1:4). But his joy can be even greater. He wants to hear that they are living at peace with each other. Then his joy will be even greater.

Verse 3 Paul has already written about those who spoke about Christ from ‘selfish ambition’ (1:17). Christians should desire to bring honour to God and not to themselves. Most people in the world at that time thought that to be humble was to be weak. Paul knew that God is our Maker and *Saviour. So Paul knew that to be humble was the only right attitude for a human *being towards God. Paul called himself ‘the worst *sinner’ (1 Timothy 1:15). Christians must know what they are not good at. Then they will not be too quick to blame other people. They should look for the good qualities in other Christians and they should appreciate their gifts.

Verse 4 Christians must not be selfish.

Christ as our model 2:5-11

Many writers think that these verses were a *hymn. Christians perhaps sang it when they met for the *Lord’s Supper. Perhaps Paul himself wrote it. He used it to support his appeal to the Christians at Philippi. The verses are a poem in three parts: Christ as God, Christ as man, Christ in *glory.

v5 You should have the same attitude as that of Christ Jesus. v6 He always had the nature of God. But he did not think that he should hold on to his rights and honour as God. v7 Instead he made himself have no *reputation. And he became a servant. He came in the form of a man. v8 As a man he was humble. He obeyed God. So he was prepared to die – even to die on a *cross. v9 For this reason God raised him up to the highest place. God has given him the name that is higher than any other name. v10 So in honour of the name of Jesus, every *being in heaven, on earth and beneath the earth shall kneel. v11 And all will declare that Jesus Christ is *Lord. In this way, honour will come to God the Father.

Verse 6 Jesus had always been God, even before the beginning of time. We read this in other places in the Bible:

‘Christ existed before anything existed’ (Colossians 1:17).

‘Before Abraham was born, I am’ (John 8:58).

Jesus did not need to seize the same honour as God. It was always his by right. Nor did he try to hold on to the same honour as God. He laid it aside on behalf of all people.

Verse 7 Jesus gave up his riches in heaven in order to become a servant. ‘He was rich. But he made himself poor to help you’ (2 Corinthians 8:9). He left his home in heaven. And he had no home on earth that he could call his own (Luke 9:58). He gave up the *glory that he had with his Father. He had that *glory with the Father before he created the world (John 17:5). Even *angels gave honour to him. But he became a person to whom people refused to give honour.

He became a real man. He was like men in every way except that he did not *sin (Hebrews 4:15). He became hungry (Mark 11:12), *thirsty (John 4:7) and tired (Luke 8:23). He was very happy (John 15:11), but he could weep (John 11:35). Jesus said, ‘I am among you as a man who serves’ (Luke 22:27). He became a servant. He even performed a very humble task. He washed his *disciples’ feet (John 13:5). His stay on earth was not permanent. ‘The Word became human and he stayed for a time among us’ (John 1:14).

Verse 8 Paul emphasised that Christ obeyed God even as far as death. Death on a *cross was a cruel punishment for slaves and criminals. *Jews believed that anyone who died on a *cross was beyond God’s *grace. (See Deuteronomy 21:23.) Therefore it was hard for *Jews to believe that Christ’s death on the *cross was on behalf of all people (Galatians 3:13).

Nobody can explain how Jesus can be both God and man. The mystery of God’s great love and Jesus’ great *sacrifice can only cause us to *worship. And, as Paul hoped for the Christians at Philippi, it can cause a humble attitude towards other people.

Verse 9 God raised Jesus from death to be with him in the highest place of honour. The name ‘higher than any other name’ that God gave him was ‘*Lord’. The *Greek word ‘kyrios’ means ‘master or owner’. It became an official word for the *Roman *emperors. Jesus is the Master of all life. He is the King greater than any king on earth. The *Greek translation of the *Old Testament used the *Greek word ‘kyrios’ to translate the *Hebrew word for God. Christians can therefore use God’s name for Jesus. In that way, they show that he has God’s power and authority. ‘Jesus Christ is *Lord’ (Philippians 2:11) is the earliest statement of what Christians believe. ‘You killed this Jesus on a *cross. But God has made him both *Lord and Christ’ (Acts 2:36).

Verses 10, 11 In Isaiah’s message, God declared, ‘Everybody will kneel in front of me’ (Isaiah 45:23). God gave this same right to Jesus. When he comes again, all created *beings will *worship the power and *majesty of Jesus. Those ‘in heaven’ are *angels, and wicked *spiritual *beings (Ephesians 6:12). Those ‘on earth’ will be those still alive when Christ returns. Those ‘beneath the earth’ may mean the dead people. Paul is saying ‘every *being that there is’. When people give honour to Jesus, they will be giving honour to God the Father.

Paul urges the Christians at Philippi to work with God to complete their *salvation 2:12-13

v12 So you too, my dear friends, must always obey God. It was important when I was with you. It is even more important now that I am absent from you. Continue to work out your own *salvation with fear and *trembling. v13 Do that because God is always working in you. He makes you willing and able to obey his purpose.

Verse 12 Paul is no longer with them. So the Christians at Philippi must trust and obey God. Paul was away from them in prison and his future was not certain. He gave this command to obey to his ‘dear friends’. They must obey God always. So they must understand and realise their own *sin and weakness. They must have a true sense of the *majesty and character of God. As Jesus obeyed God right to the end, so must they. Jesus is their model.

‘work out your own *salvation’. Paul does not mean that the Christians at Philippi must work to earn their *salvation. He is writing to those who are Christians. So they already know Christ’s *salvation. It was theirs as a free gift from God (Ephesians 2:8). Paul’s word that we have translated ‘work out’ comes in the works of Strabo. He was a *Greek who lived in the days of Jesus. Strabo describes how the *Romans ‘worked out’ the great silver mines of Spain. In other words, they were getting all the silver that they could from the mines. So Christians must work hard to get all the wonderful riches that their *salvation in Christ has for them. ‘with fear and *trembling’. This does not mean the terror of a slave in front of a cruel master. It means the honour that we should give to our holy and powerful God.

Verse 13 God’s loving purpose is that Christians should become mature in their *faith. They should ‘become more and more like Christ’ (Ephesians 4:13). The Christians at Philippi needed to work at their relations with each other. God’s purpose for the Christians there was that they should agree with each other. God gives people the desire to obey him. And he makes that desire strong. He gives people the power to do his will. ‘God began this good work in you. And I am sure that he will continue it’ (Philippians 1:6). God’s *grace begins a person’s *salvation, but each person needs to accept this gift. God’s *grace continues to work by his Holy Spirit. But Christians need to allow the Holy Spirit to work in them. Christians are responsible to work with God.

How to show the Christian *faith to the world 2:14-18

v14 Do everything without protests or arguments v15 so that you can be without blame and innocent. You will be children of God who are not guilty in a world of *sinners and wicked people. Among them you shine like stars in the sky. v16 You shine as you hold out to them the message of life. If you do so, then I shall be proud of you on the day of Christ. I shall know that all my efforts and hard work have not been in vain. v17 People may pour out my life. But, if they do, they will be pouring it on to your own *sacrifice of *faith and service. If that is so, I am glad. And I *rejoice with all of you. v18 So you too should be glad and share my joy.

Verse 14 ‘protests’ describes the way in which the *Israelites spoke to each other about Moses as their leader (Exodus 15:24). When they argued with each other, the Christians at Philippi were showing a lack of unity. They were proud of their own opinions and they were not willing to think about those of other people. Perhaps they were even trying to take their troubles to the law courts (1Corinthians 6:1-11).

‘children of God who are not guilty’ are words that Paul used from the *Greek translation of Deuteronomy 32:4. Unlike the complaining *Israelites, the Christians at Philippi are true children of God. Therefore they must show that they are suitable to serve God. That is, like an animal *sacrifice that must be perfect (Leviticus 1:10). They are in a world where people turn from the right way of God’s law. Christians must be like stars that light up the dark sky at night. They must show what is good and true to those in the darkness of *sin.

Verse 16 They ‘hold out’ the good news that brings life. Their behaviour will show whether their *faith is genuine. They must not spoil their witness to the world by protests and arguments. Paul wanted to be proud of them on the day of judgement. He did not want all his hard work to be in vain. He was like a runner in a race. The runner would be disappointed if his hard training (preparation) had brought no success.

Verse 17-18 When people made a *sacrifice to the gods, they poured wine over it as an extra gift. The *Jews poured their gifts of liquid round the table on which they put their gift to God (Numbers 28:1-7). The *faith and service of the Christians at Philippi was a gift to God. Paul believed that he might die. Then, his blood would be like the wine that people poured over their own *sacrifices. This did not mean that they were sad. It meant that they were *rejoicing. He wanted the Christians at Philippi to share his joy. If he has to die, he will go to be with Christ. He is confident about that. Moreover, people will see that the *gospel is true. And Christ will receive honour.

The plan to send Timothy 2:19-24

v19 If the *Lord wishes, I hope to send Timothy to you soon. News about you will cheer me up. v20 He is the only person who shares my feelings. He really cares about you. v21 All the other people think about their own benefit and not about what Jesus Christ wants. v22 But you yourselves know that Timothy has proved his value. He has served me like a son as he has helped to spread the *gospel. v23 So I hope to send him to you. But I want to know first what is going to happen to me. I hope to send him to you as soon as I know that. v24 And, if the *Lord desires it, I myself shall come to you soon. I am confident about that.

Verse 19 Paul was eager to hear news about the Christians at Philippi. He intended to send Timothy. And if Timothy brought news back, that would cheer him up.

Verse 20 Timothy was the only person who shared Paul’s care about their *spiritual health.

Verse 21 By ‘all the other people’, Paul may mean those who were selfish. Or he may mean those who were *preaching for the wrong reasons (1:15-17). There may have been nobody else with the right qualities to carry out such a task. Paul would need to find out whether the Christians at Philippi were growing in their *faith. If necessary, his *messenger must give them help. He must show genuine sympathy. And he must make sure that he did not hurt their feelings by his questions and advice. Paul may have had doubts about how loyally some Christians would carry out his wishes. We know that Demas left him (2 Timothy 4:10).

Verse 22 The Christians at Philippi knew how Timothy had proved his value. He was with Paul on his first visit to Philippi. And he had worked with him in Thessalonica and in Berea (Acts 16:1-17:14). He had been with him in Corinth (Acts 18:5) and in Ephesus (Acts 19:21-22). Timothy had visited Philippi on more than one occasion (Acts 19:21-22; 20:3-6). He had helped Paul to spread the *gospel as a son helps his father. Timothy was the *spiritual child of Paul (1 Timothy 1:2). That is, Paul had told him the *gospel. Both Paul and Timothy were servants of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:1).

Verse 23 Paul did not know if he would go free. Or if he would have to die. He hoped to send Timothy as soon as he did know.

Verse 24 But, if it was the *Lord’s desire, he would soon be able to visit them himself. He was confident about that.

The return of Epaphroditus 2:25-30

v25 But I thought that it was necessary to send back our brother Epaphroditus to you. He has worked and fought by my side. He has brought me your messages. He has helped me on your behalf. v26 He is eager to see you all. He is very upset because of what you heard about him. You heard that he had been ill. v27 In fact he was so ill that he nearly died. But God had pity on him. God had pity on me as well so that I should not have one sad experience after another. v28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him back to you. You will be glad to see him again. That will make me happy too, and I shall stop worrying. v29 Welcome him with joy as a brother in the *Lord. Give honour to Christians like him. v30 He almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life in order to give me help. He gave me the help that you yourselves could not give me.

Verse 25 The Christians at Philippi had sent Epaphroditus with gifts to Paul. He had also helped Paul on their behalf. He had offered a holy service to God (Philippians 4:18). Epaphroditus was a ‘brother’ in the Christian *faith. He had worked with Paul in the service of the *gospel. He had fought hard like a soldier. Perhaps Paul was thinking about the soldiers who were guarding him in prison. To speak for Jesus Christ could be as dangerous as to fight in a battle. Christians had many enemies: those who *worshipped the *emperor, false teachers and all the evil *beings.

Verse 26 Epaphroditus had been extremely ill. When the Christians at Philippi heard about his illness, they were worried. Epaphroditus heard that they were worried. He was very upset when he heard that. He was far from home and perhaps eager to help in his own church again.

Verse 27 Epaphroditus was so ill that he almost died. But God helped him to recover; whether by medical help or prayer or both we do not know. God pitied Paul as well. So Paul did not have the sad experience of Epaphroditus’s death as well as his illness.

Verse 28 Paul had decided to send Epaphroditus back home. And Epaphroditus was probably taking this letter with him. It was a *sacrifice for Paul to lose his help. But he wanted the Christians at Philippi to have the joy of seeing Epaphroditus again and in good health. Paul had ‘sent’ him. Epaphroditus had not left Paul because he had grown tired of helping him. And Paul did not want the Christians at Philippi to think that he had left him for that reason. Paul would be glad that the Christians at Philippi would no longer worry. They will have the help of Epaphroditus again.

Verse 29 They must welcome Epaphroditus with ‘joy as a brother in the *Lord’. Both he and the Christians at Philippi belong to the *Lord. He is their Christian ‘brother’. ‘In the *Lord’ can also mean this: They should welcome Epaphroditus as Christ himself would receive him. ‘Accept each other … as Christ has accepted you’ (Romans 15:7).

Verses 29, 30 Epaphroditus and people like him should receive the honour that they deserved. He had almost died as he worked for Christ. He had risked his life like a man who plays a game of chance for money. He had been in danger because he was helping Paul. The *emperor was going be Paul’s judge. Epaphroditus had continued his work even when he was already ill. Paul was grateful for the help of Epaphroditus. He knew that the Christians at Philippi themselves could not help him. That was because they were too far away.

Chapter 3

Paul warns them against false teachers 3:1-3

v1 Finally, my friends, *rejoice in the *Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me. And for you it is safe. v2 Look out for the dogs. Look out for the evil workers. Look out for those who cause injury by cutting the body. v3 It is we, not they, who have received the true *circumcision. That is because we *worship God by his Holy Spirit. We *rejoice in our life united with Christ Jesus. We do not put our trust in a physical sign in the body.

Verse 1 ‘Finally’ suggests that Paul is reaching the end of his letter. But he continues writing to 4:8, where he uses the word ‘finally’ again. So some writers suggest that 3:1 to 4:8 forms a separate letter. Perhaps Paul put it into the main letter. But the *Greek words can mean ‘what remains for me to say’. This is, therefore, the start of another section and not the end of the letter.

‘*Rejoice in the *Lord’ means that the Christians at Philippi should have great joy. Jesus would always be with them, whatever happened. That should be the reason for their joy. The words have almost the same meaning as ‘Praise the *Lord’.

It was no trouble to Paul to repeat what he had written to them before. He was thinking about their *spiritual safety. It is very easy for people to forget. Paul knew that teachers need to repeat some truths many times. The ‘same things’ might mean:

1          He had told them to *rejoice in spite of their difficult circumstances.

2          He had warned them about divisions in the church.

3          What he will say next. He is now going to warn them about *Jewish Christians who were a danger to the truth of the *gospel. This seems the most likely explanation. Those *Jews denied that *salvation came only from God’s *grace. They said that *Gentiles would not receive *salvation unless they first became *Jews by *circumcision. *Gentiles must also obey all the *Jewish laws. Paul had spoken against these ideas when the *Judaisers had first come to Antioch (Acts 15:1). He had written to the Christians in Galatia. In that letter, he emphasised how wrong this *doctrine was. Philippi had few *Jews. But it was on a major *Roman road, the Egnatian Way. So these *Jews could easily travel from church to church. They were enemies of the true *faith.

Verse 2 Paul warns the Christians at Philippi three times. He describes the *Judaisers in three ways. He uses three *Greek words that begin with the letter ‘k’. These words show the depth of Paul’s feelings. And the three initial letters would help Christians at Philippi to remember them.

1          ‘dogs’. These were not family pets but wild dirty animals. The name ‘dogs’ described everyone who was miserable and without value. It was the name by which *Jews spoke about *Gentiles. Paul gave the name back to the *Jews in order to describe them and their *doctrine as dirty and dangerous.

2          ‘evil workers’. The *Jews thought that they were good workers. They obeyed all their laws. And so, they thought that God would approve of them. Paul said that, in fact, they were evil. They were denying that *salvation is God’s gift. And therefore they were turning people away from God.

3          ‘those who cause injury’. The *Jews were proud of the physical sign of *circumcision. It was a sign of their *covenant with God that went back to the time of Abraham (Genesis 17:10). Paul used two *Greek words very like each other. Instead of ‘cutting round’ (*circumcision), they were ‘cutting to pieces’ (concision). The law forbade *Jews to make cuts on the body (Leviticus 21:5). What God required was a ‘*circumcision’ of the heart. God does not require people to trust in laws and ceremonies, as the *Jews did. He requires a humble trust in his *mercy. Paul said that the *Jews were causing injury to the true *faith. It was as if they were cutting it to pieces.

Verse 3 Paul gave three signs that ‘we’ Christians, not the *Judaisers, have received the true *circumcision:

1          We *worship by the Holy Spirit. True *worship means ‘a humble heart’ (Psalm 51:17). The Holy Spirit gives the power to offer sincere *worship to God (John 4:24).

2          We *rejoice in Christ Jesus. True Christians *rejoice because of what Christ has done for them. They are united with him. They know that he is always with them.

3          ‘We do not put our trust in a physical sign in the body.’ To trust in the *circumcision of the physical body does not save a man. ‘But I am never proud about anything except the death of our *Lord Jesus Christ... It does not matter if someone has *circumcised you or not. All that matters is that you are a new person’ (Galatians 6:14-15). He was also referring to any human advantages or ceremonies.

Paul’s advantages 3:4-6

v4 I could, of course, put my trust in such things. Some man may think that he can trust in human advantages. Then, I have even more reason to trust in mine. v5 My *circumcision was on the eighth day after my birth. I belong to Israel by birth. I come from the *tribe of Benjamin. I am a pure *Hebrew. I obeyed the *Jewish law of Moses as a *Pharisee. v6 I was so eager and serious that I opposed Christians. And I attacked them. With regard to the kind of goodness that the Law of Moses gives to people, I was without blame.

Verse 4 Paul showed that he had every right to describe human advantages as without value. He had more advantages than anyone else could claim. He gave this list to show that he considered them to be of no value.

Verse 5 The advantages from his family:

1          He received *circumcision when he was eight days old. So his parents obeyed the command that God gave to Abraham (Genesis 17:12). He was a true child of Abraham. He had not, like some *Gentiles, come into the *Jewish *faith when he was an adult.

2          He belonged ‘to Israel by birth’. Israel was the name that God gave to Jacob (Genesis 32:28). Paul was a *Jew and so he had a special relationship with God.

3          He came ‘from the *tribe of Benjamin’. Benjamin was the child of Rachel whom Jacob loved. He was the only son of Jacob that was born in the *promised country (Genesis 35:16-18). The first king of Israel, Saul, came from this *tribe (1 Samuel 9:1-2). Jerusalem was in the territory of Benjamin. The *tribe remained loyal to David’s family when the country became two countries.

4          He was ‘a pure *Hebrew’. Many *Jews who lived in other countries spoke only *Greek. This was the language of the people where they lived. Paul came from the city called Tarsus and he could speak *Greek (Acts 21:37). But he had gone to Jerusalem in order to learn from Gamaliel, a famous *Jewish teacher (Acts 22:3). So Paul could also speak *Hebrew, the *Jewish language. He was able to speak in *Hebrew to the *Jewish crowd that had attacked him (Acts 21:40).

He was ‘a *Pharisee’. He had chosen to be a *Pharisee like his parents (Acts 23:6). *Pharisees were the most strict *Jews. They tried to obey even the smallest detail of the Law of Moses. Paul said that he had carried out the most strict demands of the *Jewish *faith.

Verse 6 Paul’s efforts to serve God

1          He had been so eager to defend the *Jewish *faith that he tried to destroy the Christian *faith. He had put Christians in prison. He was so eager to attack the church that he was prepared to travel from Jerusalem to Damascus. He intended to arrest any Christians that he found there. He never forgot how he had tried to destroy the church (1 Corinthians 15:9; Galatians 1:13).

2          He was without blame as far as the Law of Moses could produce goodness. The *Greek word for ‘without blame’ is a word that really means ‘not to leave out a duty’. There were no demands of the Law of Moses that Paul had failed to obey.

The value of knowing Christ 3:7-11

v7 But all these things that I considered an advantage, I now consider to be worth nothing, because of Christ. v8 Not only those things. I consider all things to be worth nothing. What is far more valuable is to know Christ Jesus my *Lord. Because of him, I have thrown everything else away. I consider it all like dirty rubbish. I want to know Christ. v9 I want to make my life one with his. I no longer trust that to obey the Law of Moses will make me right with God. I now have the goodness that God gives. I have it because I trust in Christ. v10 All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised him from death. I want to share in his pain and troubles. And I want to become like him by sharing in his death. v11 In that way, I hope somehow to achieve the *resurrection from among the dead people.

Verse 7 Paul had known the *Jewish religion completely. But after Christ met him, Paul gave up the advantages of his religion as worth no more than bad debts.

Verse 8 Paul had not made a sudden decision that he was sorry about afterwards. He still thought in the same way. He emphasised that he now considered ‘everything else’ as without value. To know Christ was far more valuable. Benefits (such as home comforts, friendships, the honour that he might expect as a famous *Pharisee) he now considered no more. They were like dirty rubbish thrown out for the dogs. To ‘know’ Christ Jesus meant more than knowledge of the facts about him. Paul meant a close personal friendship with Jesus. Paul usually wrote ‘our’ *Lord. Here he said ‘my’ *Lord. He was thinking how much Jesus now meant to him. ‘He loved me. And he died for my benefit’ (Galatians 2:20).

Verse 9 Paul did not possess any goodness of his own. A right relationship with God did not come by obeying the Law of Moses. It came as a gift from God that Paul accepted by *faith in Jesus Christ. Paul looked forward to the day of judgement when he would be in Christ. He would be completely united with Christ in heaven.

Verse 10 His one aim was to ‘know’ Christ in this close way. He shows this in three ways:

1          ‘the power that raised him from death’. God has raised Jesus Christ from death. Also God raises the believer together with Christ, from *spiritual death to new life (Ephesians 2:5). Paul wanted to live with the power of the risen Christ in his life.

2          To share in Christ’s pain and troubles. Pain and troubles can be *spiritual, when we struggle against *sin. They can also be the result of those who oppose the *gospel. Paul suffered from the enemies of Christ and from the way that even Christians did not understand him. His travels also brought difficulties and dangers (2 Corinthians 11:23-29). Paul thought that his pain and troubles for Jesus were an honour. They were an honour because he was sharing in Christ’s work.

3          ‘by sharing in his death’. Of course, Christians will not all die in the same way as Christ did, on a *cross. This verse does not mean that. It means that they must think of themselves as dead to *sin (Romans 6:11). They must ‘die’ to their own desires. ‘The people who belong to Christ Jesus have destroyed the power of their old character’ (Galatians 5:24).

Verse 11 Paul’s hope that he would rise again after his death. Paul did not doubt that he would rise from among the dead people. He knew that nothing could ever separate him from God’s love (Romans 8:38-39). As a believer, he already possessed *eternal life. But there is a future *resurrection in *glory to which he looked forward. Probably, he was not sure when that would be. The word ‘somehow’ suggests that. The result of his *trial was not certain. Nobody knew the day of Jesus’ return. Paul may have emphasised the final *resurrection because of some false *doctrine at Philippi. Some Christians said that the *resurrection hope had already happened in the new birth. ‘They say that God has already caused all the dead people to become alive again. These men are confusing some Christians. So those Christians do not know what to believe’ (2 Timothy 2:18). Paul knew that he had a sure and perfect future in heaven with God.

Paul is running towards the end of the race 3:12-16

v12 I do not say that I have already become perfect. But I move on with determination to grasp that purpose for which Jesus Christ has grasped me. v13 My brothers and sisters, I do not think that I have already grasped it completely. But this one thing I do - I forget the past. And I reach out to what is in front. v14 I am running straight for the end of the race in order to gain the prize. The reward is God’s call in Jesus to the life above.

v15 All of us who are mature in spirit should think in this way. But if some of you have a different attitude, God will make this clear to you. v16 Meanwhile we must continue to keep the standard of behaviour that we have already reached.

Verse 12 Paul knew that he had not yet become perfect, that is, mature as a Christian. He would be like that at the final *resurrection. When Christ ‘grasped’ Paul on the road to Damascus, he had a great purpose for Paul’s life (Acts 9:15-16). Paul was doing his best to ‘grasp’ and to carry out that purpose.

Verse 13 ‘My brothers and sisters’ emphasises what Paul is going to repeat. He does not want the Christians at Philippi to believe false *doctrine. Some of the Christians in Philippi said that they were already perfect. They denied that people need discipline in the Christian life. But Paul himself had not completely succeeded in the work that Christ had given him to do. And Paul knew that. He had only one aim. He uses the picture of a runner in a race. The runner must not look behind him. So Paul must not look back to his life before he became a Christian. He must forget all his past failures and successes as an *apostle. He must not allow them to affect what he thought or did now. He must not lose his courage or become satisfied with himself. A runner makes every effort to look ahead. And he runs straight towards the line at the end of the race. Paul was making every effort to become perfect, that is, mature as a Christian.

Verse 14 A runner who reached the line at the end of the race received a reward from the judge. The judge sat above the area of the race. After the race, the judge ‘called up’ the runner to receive his prize. Paul compares his call to come up to the life above to the judge’s call. Paul’s prize when he has finished his ‘race’ of *faith will be perfect friendship with Christ. God will call him to enjoy the *glory of heaven for ever.

Verse 15 Paul encourages the Christians at Philippi to follow him as a model. They should make the effort that he has described. He does so in a way that will not offend them. He speaks about ‘all of us’, and so he includes himself in the advice. Some of them may not agree with his point of view. But God will show those people that Paul was right.

Verse 16 Meanwhile, they should all guide their lives by the truths that they have understood so far.

Enemies of the *cross of Christ 3:17-19

v17 Brothers and sisters, be imitators of me, all of you. We were a model for you. Notice those that are living like that. v18 Many people live like enemies of the *cross of Christ. I have often told you about them. And it makes me cry to tell you about them now. v19 These men are heading for complete *destruction. They make physical desires their god. They are proud of things of which they should be ashamed. They think only about those things that belong to this world.

Verse 17 Paul is telling the Christians at Philippi to imitate him. But he is not being proud. He called himself ‘the worst *sinner’ (1 Timothy 1:16). But now he imitates Christ (1 Corinthians 4:16). So did people like Timothy and Epaphroditus. The Christians at Philippi can copy them too.

Verses 18, 19 Christ’s death on the *cross gives men and women complete *salvation. Some people refused to believe this. Paul warns the Christians at Philippi again about these people. He is full of strong emotion as he thinks of the *spiritual danger to his dear friends at Philippi. These ‘enemies’ were some or all of these people:

1          *Jewish Christians that Paul had already described as ‘dogs’ (3:2). By their ‘physical desires’ he means ‘wrong sex’. They also said that *Gentiles must receive *circumcision (3:2).

2          Christians who said that they no longer needed to obey the Law of Moses. They thought that, because of this, they could now do anything at all. Because God’s *grace would deal with any *sin, they could *sin without shame. They would be giving God more opportunity to show his *grace. ‘Perhaps we should continue to do wrong things. So then, God can continue to be even kinder to us. No! Certainly we should not do that!’ (See Romans 6:1-2.)

3          Christians who believed the *doctrine of the Gnostics. The Gnostics said that the body was evil. Therefore it did not matter how they used it. They could eat and drink to excess. And they could have sex whenever and however they wanted to. They said that these activities made no difference to their *spiritual nature. This false *doctrine had already affected the church at Corinth (1 Corinthians 6:13). Paul is afraid that it will upset the *faith of the Christians in Philippi.

The citizens of heaven 3:20-21

v20 We, however, are citizens of heaven. We are expecting our *Saviour, the *Lord Jesus Christ, to come back from heaven. v21 When he does so, he will change our present bodies. He will make them like his own beautiful body in heaven (1 Corinthians 15:42-49). He will do this because he has the power to be in command of everything.

Verse 20 Paul contrasts Christians with people who think only about this world. Christians belong to heaven. The Christians at Philippi lived in a *Roman city. Its citizens obeyed the laws and customs of Rome. Christians are citizens of heaven. Therefore their behaviour must match the standard of their home in heaven. Christians are eager for the time when Jesus will return from heaven. Paul describes Jesus with the words ‘*Saviour’ and ‘*Lord’. From 48 *BC the *Roman *emperors had the name ‘*Saviour’ as one of their titles. Jesus is the true ‘*Saviour’ and ruler.

Verse 21 The human body is weak. It can suffer and die. When Jesus returns, he will change the bodies of Christians. He will make them like his own splendid *resurrection body. ‘A dead body is ugly and weak. Jesus will change it. He will make it beautiful and strong’ (1 Corinthians 15:43). Christ has the power to change the bodies of Christians because he has overcome death. He has risen from death. He has complete authority. He rules ‘over all rulers, powers and *lords in heaven. He has a title superior to all titles of authority in this world and in the next one’ (Ephesians 1:21).

Chapter 4

Paul appeals for a steady *faith and for unity 4:1-3

v1 So then, my dear brothers and sisters, whom I love and I want very much to see. You are my joy and my crown. Continue to follow the *Lord. v2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to agree with each other in the *Lord. v3 And you too, my true companion, I ask you to help these women. They worked hard with me to spread the *gospel. So did Clement and all my other companions in the work. Their names are in the book of life.

Verse 1 There are many enemies of the *cross. But Christians can look forward to Christ’s return. So, they must be strong. Paul shows his great love for the Christians at Philippi. He calls them his ‘dear brothers and sisters’ and his ‘joy and crown’. He had the ‘joy’ of knowing that they were Christians. The ‘crown’ was not the royal crown of kings. The *Greek word means a ring of leaves. They put it on the head of an *athlete who succeeded in a race. Paul’s reward for all his efforts will be his Christian friends at Philippi. The ‘crown’ was also a sign of honour for guests at a feast (a special meal). The Christians at Philippi will be Paul’s sign of honour at God’s ‘feast’ in heaven.

Verse 2 Euodia and Syntyche were two well-known Christian women in Philippi. Either on his first visit or later they had both worked hard with Paul to spread the *gospel. For some reason they had quarrelled. It was a serious matter, as it would make the witness of the Christians there weak. Paul shows how much he cares for both of them by appealing to each woman by name. He wants them to agree ‘in the *Lord’, as Christians should.

Verse 3 We have translated the *Greek word ‘syzygos’ by ‘companion’. It means someone who works with another person. It is similar to the word for a *yoke. When animals worked together, people joined them with a *yoke. ‘Syzygos’ might be a man’s name. But we do not know of any other examples. He must help the two women. Then his actions will prove that his name is suitable for him. But perhaps ‘Syzygos’ is not a man’s name. Then, we do not know whom Paul meant. But it was someone well-known in Philippi whom people respected. Writers have suggested Epaphroditus, Timothy or Luke. Luke had been a close companion of Paul on his first visit to Philippi (Acts 16:12-17). He may have stayed there until Paul’s return some years later (Acts 20:2-5). ‘Clement’ was a very common name and we know nothing about this person. The ‘other companions’ may have been too many to mention. But God knew who they were. Paul says that their names are in the book of life. The idea of a book like this comes several times in the Bible. (See, for example, Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20 and Revelation 13:8.) In this book of life, God keeps a record of those people who are loyal to him.

Paul encourages the Christians and he gives them instructions 4:4-9

v4 *Rejoice in your friendship with the *Lord. I say it again, ‘*Rejoice!’ v5 Show a gentle attitude towards everyone. The *Lord is near. v6 Do not worry about anything. But tell God about everything. And ask God for what you need. And give him thanks. v7 And God’s peace will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. That peace is far beyond anything that human *beings can understand. v8 And now, Christian friends, fill your minds with true, noble, right, pure and lovely things and with things that we should praise. v9 Practise what you have learned from me, in my words and actions. And the *Lord who gives peace will be with you.

Verse 4 To *rejoice is the attitude of Paul (Philippians 1:1-4; 2:7; 2:18; 3:1). He tells the Christians at Philippi to *rejoice. Whatever their circumstances, Paul and his friends can have joy, because the *Lord Jesus is always near them.

Verse 5 Christians should behave towards other people with *mercy, patience and understanding love.

‘The *Lord is near’ might mean:

1          The *Lord is always close to them.

2          The *Lord knows everything that a Christian does.

3          The *Lord is coming again soon.

These words encourage Christians to remember the love with which God deals with them. They hope that God will deal with them with sympathy. So they should be gentle towards other people who make mistakes.

Verse 6 ‘The *Lord is near’ might also introduce the words ‘Do not worry about anything’. These words will remind Christians that the *Lord is always with them. And they will meet him when he returns. Christians should pray about everything. They should pray:

1          that God will forgive them for the past

2          about what they need now, both for the body and for the spirit

3          for God to guide them in the future.

‘God’s love desires what is best for us. His wisdom knows what is best. His power can cause what is best for us to happen.’ Every prayer should include thanks. We should be grateful that God wants to listen. We should believe that he will give us the best answer.

Verse 7 The result of prayer is that we will have God’s peace in our hearts. God’s peace will be like a soldier who is on guard duty in our hearts. The peace that God gives will protect our thoughts and desires. That is because God has united us to Christ Jesus. This peace is ‘far beyond anything that human *beings can understand’. Human people can never produce this peace, however much they try. Good ideas will never free a Christian from worry in the way that God’s peace does. It is also far beyond anything that we can understand. God is able to do so much more than we could ever ask. He is able to do so very much more than we could even think’ (Ephesians 3:20). Christ ‘loves us more than anyone can ever really know’ (Ephesians 3:19).

Verses 8, 9 Paul gives a list of what Christians should think about. Thoughts like these will help them to live in a way that pleases God:

1          ‘true’ things. The *Greek word can mean genuine, or free from error. Christians should avoid anything that is false and disappointing.

2          ‘Noble’. Christians will concentrate on serious matters. Some things seem attractive, but they are of little value. They are not worth thinking about. And they are not worth spending time on.

3          ‘Right’. Christians should do what God wants. They will always deal with other people fairly.

4          ‘Pure’. In the world, many people think, speak and act in a nasty way. Christians have to live in that society. But a Christian’s thoughts and actions should be so clean that they are suitable for God to know about.

5          ‘Lovely’. Those who are kind to other people will receive love in return. This word can mean things that are beautiful.

6          ‘things that we should praise’. This ‘praise’ does not mean ‘to speak well of’. The *Greek word means words that are suitable for God to hear.

7          Paul had taught the Christians at Philippi about Jesus. He had also given them a good model, by the way that he lived. So they must put his words and actions into practice. Then they will have God’s peace.

Paul thanks the Christians at Philippi for their gift 4:10-20

v10 I *rejoice that now at last you have been able to show your care for me again. I do not mean that you had forgotten me. You have had no opportunity to help until now. v11 I am telling you this. But it is not because I need anything. In fact, I have learned to be content whatever happens to me. v12 I know how to live when I need things. And I know how to live when I have plenty. In all circumstances, I have learned the secret of how to be content. I am content whether I have plenty to eat or not. v13 I am ready for anything by Christ who gives me strength. v14 But it was very kind of you to share my troubles. v15 You Christians at Philippi remember what happened in the early days. Those were the days when you first heard the *gospel. When I left Macedonia, you were the only church to share with me. You shared in the matter of giving and receiving gifts. v16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent me help. You sent me help when I needed it. You did it again and again. v17 It is not that I am hoping for a gift. I am hoping for the reward that will come to you because of your gift. v18 I have received enough, and more than enough. Epaphroditus has brought me all your gifts. And so, now I have all that I need. They are a sweet smelling gift to God, which pleases him. v19 And my God will supply all that you need from his great riches in Christ Jesus. v20 I pray that honour will be to our God and Father for ever! *Amen.

Verse 10 Paul used a word for a plant that had flowered again. It was not dead, like the way a tree or plant seems in winter. At the right time, we see flowers. The right time for Paul’s friends has now arrived. Before this there may have been no suitable *messenger. Or there was some other reason for their lack of opportunity.

Verses 11-13 The people called Stoics believed that they could be ‘content’ in any situation by an effort of will. They aimed to be free from every emotion. Paul, however, knew that to be ‘content’ was a gift from God. Christ had given him the strength to accept pleasant or difficult circumstances. ‘I have ..... known lack of sleep. I have been hungry and *thirsty. I have often been without food, shelter or clothing’ (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Verses 14-16 The Christians at Philippi had helped Paul when he went to them during his second journey. His troubles included a night in prison with Silas (Acts 16:11-40). (Now Paul is in prison again, as he writes this letter!) Their practical help had continued when he went on to Thessalonica. He said that they had shared ‘in the matter of giving and receiving’. They had given him what he needed for his physical life. Paul taught them and he encouraged their *spiritual life. He showed them, by his life, how to live as a Christian (1 John 1:6).

Verse 17 But Paul was not hoping for a gift. ‘It is you that I want, not your money’ (2 Corinthians 12:14). He wanted their ‘account’ with God to have extra ‘credit’. Then they would receive the reward for their kindness when Jesus returns.

Verse 18 Paul continued to use language from business. He said that he had ‘received’ enough. He used a word that means, ‘Here is my receipt.’ Paul had received more than enough for himself, now that Epaphroditus had brought their gifts. These may have been money, food or clothing. The gifts were like a lovely *sacrifice to God himself. In the *Old Testament, the ‘sweet smell’ of a *sacrifice was pleasant to God (Genesis 8:21). Their Christian service to Paul was an act of *worship that pleased God. And that made Paul very glad.

Verse 19 A gift to God does not make anyone who gives it poor (Luke 6:38). God will supply all that they themselves need, for both body and spirit. God, who lives in *glory, created everything. Therefore his wealth is more than enough for everything that we could need. ‘How great are his riches!’ (See Romans 11:33.) Paul knew from his own experience that this was true. The words ‘my God’ show that. God will supply all that they need ‘in Christ Jesus’. Jesus is the way by which God’s love comes to people. Their *faith in Jesus will bring them true wealth because they will know God’s immense love.

Verse 20 As he thinks about God’s great love, Paul can only end in *worship. He is ‘our’ God, the God both of Paul and of the Christians at Philippi. He is the ‘Father’ of all who trust in Jesus his Son. He is the *eternal God whom men and women should praise for ever. ‘*Amen’ adds Paul’s wish that this will be so.

Final greetings 4:21-23

v21 Greetings to each one of God’s people who belongs to Christ Jesus. The Christian brothers and sisters here with me send their greetings. v22 All God’s people here send greetings, especially those who live in Caesar’s home. v23 I pray that the *grace of the *Lord Jesus Christ will be with you all.

Verse 21 Paul sends his greetings to ‘each’ Christian in Philippi. He does not mention any by name but he includes them all.

The ‘Christian brothers and sisters’ with Paul are the ones who are working with him. He means Timothy, among other Christians (1:14).

Verse 22 Paul sends greetings from the wider number of *believers. ‘Those who live in Caesar’s home’ were probably officials in the *Roman government. They may have known government officials in other places, including Philippi, especially as it was a *Roman city. Some may have come from Macedonia and they wanted to greet their friends and relatives.

Paul sends greetings to and from Christians in different occupations. In this way, he showed his desire for Christian unity. Reference to *believers among the officials means that the Christian *faith had reached the absolute centre of *Roman government.

Verse 23 Paul began his letter by praying that his friends at Philippi will have ‘*grace and peace’ from God (1:2). He ends by sending them his *blessing. ‘*Grace’ comes from the ‘*Lord Jesus Christ’, whose love is the source of all *spiritual *blessings. The whole letter gives honour to Christ who is ‘*Lord’ of all *believers.

Word List

Amen ~ we agree; it is true; that is right; let it be so.

angel ~ a servant from God to bring his messages; a bad angel; or an angel that was good but is now working for God’s enemy, the devil.

anoint ~ to put oil put on someone’s head. This shows that God has chosen the person for a special task.

apostle ~ a person that Jesus sent out.

athlete ~ a person who takes a part in games and races.

BC ~ 600 BC means the year that was 600 years before Jesus came to earth, and so on.

being ~ a person or animal that is alive.

believer ~ a person who knows and accepts Christ.

blessing ~ a good thing that God does for us; a blessing can be a prayer that God will be good to someone.

circumcise, circumcision ~ to cut the skin from the end of the sex part of a boy or man; for *Israelites it was a mark to show that the person agreed to obey God.

colony ~ a place abroad that the *Romans set up and controlled.

covenant ~ special agreement, especially between God and the *Israelites.

cross ~ a piece of wood that someone has fastened across another piece. People put Jesus on a cross in order to kill him.

destruction ~ damage beyond any hope of repair.

disciple ~ someone who follows another person and learns from him; a person who does what Jesus taught.

doctrine ~ ideas that people teach.

emperor ~ a very important king.

eternal ~ without beginning or end.

faith ~ (1) belief or trust in; (2) the facts of Christian belief.

Gentile ~ a person who is not a *Jew.

glory ~ great love and honour like the beautiful light round God. It can mean heaven.

gospel ~ good news about Jesus.

grace ~ God’s generous free gift; God’s love that people do not deserve and cannot earn.

Greek ~ the language in which the authors wrote the New Testament (the second part of our Bible). It can mean a person who spoke Greek.

Hebrew ~ the language that the *Jews spoke. It can mean a person who spoke Hebrew.

humility ~ we say that humble people show humility.

hymn ~ song that we praise God with.

Israelite ~ one of the people of Israel; someone who speaks *Hebrew; a *Jew who lives in Israel.

Jew ~ a person who was born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.

Jewish ~ a word that describes a *Jew or anything that belongs to a *Jew.

Judaisers ~ *Jews who wanted *Gentiles to obey their laws.

kingdom ~ a kingdom is where a king rules. God is the King of all Christians and all Christians are in his Kingdom.

Lord ~ Master, Ruler, God.

majesty ~ splendid royal power.

martyrs ~ persons who die for their beliefs.

mercy ~ God’s love and goodness.

messenger ~ a person who carries messages.

Old Testament ~ the first part of the Bible, which the writers wrote before the life of Jesus.

opponents ~ people who oppose other people or their ideas; enemies.

Pharisees ~ a group of *Jews who thought that they obeyed all God’s commands. They did not like the things that Jesus taught. They thought that they did not do any wrong things. So they became very proud.

preach ~ to tell and explain the good news about Jesus Christ to someone or to a group of people.

promised country ~ the country that God promised to give to Abraham and his family.

rejoice ~ to be very happy.

reputation ~ all the good things that people might say about you are your reputation.

resurrection ~ to come back to life after death; to rise from death to life; to come alive again.

Roman ~ Rome was the capital city of the rulers at that time. That which belonged to Rome was Roman.

sacrifice ~ a gift to God.

salvation ~ rescue from evil things and their results.

Saviour ~ Jesus, the person who rescues us; the person who brings us back to God from the bad things that we have done.

scorn ~ to show that you think that a person or his message has no value.

sin ~ when we do not do what God wants us to do.

spiritual ~ about the part of us that never dies rather than physical things.

synagogue ~ a meeting place for *Jews.

trembling ~ when you cannot keep your body completely still, because you are so afraid.

thirsty ~ when someone needs a drink.

trial ~ a legal examination by which a judge decides if a person is guilty of a crime.

tribe ~ the whole family of one of Jacob’s 12 sons. Jacob’s sons’ families formed the 12 tribes of Israel.

worship ~ to give thanks to God and Jesus; to praise God and to show him honour.

yoke ~ 1) a bar of wood that joins two animals together; 2) something that unites people in a common task.

Book List

W. Barclay ~ Letters to the Philippians, Galatians and Thessalonians ~ St. Andrews Press

W. Barclay ~ New Testament Words ~ Collins

F. F. Bruce ~ Philippians ~ New International Bible Commentary ~ Hendrickson

D. Coggan ~ Meet Paul ~ SPCK

G. D. Free ~ Philippians ~ New Testament Commentary ~ IVP

W. Hendriksen ~ Philippians ~ Geneva Series Commentary ~ Banner of Truth Trust

R. P. Martin ~ Philippians ~ Tyndale New Testament Commentaries ~ IVP

J. J. Miller ~ The Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and Philemon ~ The New International Commentary on the New Testament ~ W. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co

Dictionaries: Concise Oxford, Chambers 21st Century

Bibles: TEV, NIV, J. B. Phillips New Testament, NEB, Jerusalem Bible, New Light Bible (New International Reader’s Version)

 

© 2006, Wycliffe Associates (UK)

This publication is written in EasyEnglish Level B (2800 words).

September 2006

Visit our website: www.easyenglish.info