Having read the chapter we can begin to add muscle to the skeleton of the outline. A tip for reading your Bible is to read a chapter with an outline of it close at hand. Many good study Bibles have an outline for the book and its chapters at the beginning of it. Having an outline for the chapter serves as a road map for you reading; it keeps you between the ditches. Once you have read through the chapter with an outline in mind, you can then go back and read the chapter again and allow the text to emerge. This is where you begin to gather meaning from the text. So, let’s do it.
Paul’s fellow believers: 1-11
A key to Bible study is letting the text show you what is there, not you inserting your meaning or thoughts into the text. Knowing the context of what is being said — an outline helps this — keeps you from getting off the road and into the weeds with odd interpretations or applications.
So, remember that the context for these verses is Paul writing to fellow believers. Let’s see what he had to say to them.
In verse one he makes a distinction in the officers of the church. He addressed two different types of church offices: overseers/bishops and deacons. Overseers are also referred to as elders and bishops in some translations. The idea is that they are the leaders in the church set apart for leading and teaching. The second group was “deacons.” In the original language of the New Testament the word deacon means “servant” or “table-waiter.” (See Acts 6:1-7 for background on how deacons came to exist in the church.) This differentiation is one of office and role. Overseers lead and teach; deacons serve and assist. For you dyed-in-wool Baptists this might come as a shock, but, deacons are not the leaders or overseers of the church. They are to be servants.
Verse two is a greeting used often by Paul. You see it in most of his letters. Notice that “grace” and “peace” are linked. Apart from grace in Christ we cannot know the peace of God.
Verse six contains a great promise to us. Once a person has been born again in Christ, God initiates and continues the work of making him/her more like Christ. This is an ongoing process, not a series of singular events. This process is called sanctification. This process is God at work in our lives through His Word and Spirit to develop Christ-likeness and Christ-like character in us. It is not dependent upon us, it is dependent upon Him, but we must cooperate with Him for it to bear the proper fruit.
In verse six the security of our salvation in Christ is heartily implied here.
Paul prays for the believers of Philippi in verses 9-11. He specifically prayed for
- Their love to grow and abound. How would it? Through knowledge and discernment. Biblical love is not sentimentalism or emotion, it is affection anchored in truth.
- Their discernment to grow. He wanted them to discern and approve and hold to what is excellent (no room for a negative or fussy attitude here). He wanted them to grow in testing and determining what is right, and then following it.
- The genuineness of their faith to grow. We wanted them to become more sincere and genuine. The word for sincere here comes from two words in the original language. In Paul’s day shady pottery merchants would fill in cracks in the pottery with wax. Wise customers would hold the clay pots up to the sunlight to check for wax filling. The pots that were solid and honestly made were called “sine cera” — without wax. Do you have wax-filled cracks in your life and faith. Or, are you sine cera?
- Their lives to be bearing fruit for Christ. See also Galatians 5:22-23 and John 15:1-5
Paul’s circumstances: 12-18
We must keep in mind that every detail of life is ordained and directed by God. He is overseeing all things. Whatever situation you find yourself in does not surprise God. He allowed or directed it. We cannot let the short-sightedness of our perspective — often selfish or self-sustaining — to shape us, we must look at our situation from God’s wide-angle, eternal viewpoint. A lesson here is that hard times can produce great things — greater faith, growth, etc.
Paul hadn’t experienced the best of times in Philippi, and he didn’t complain. See Acts 16 for more details.
Paul’s future: 19-26
From verses 19-20 we see that Paul believed that he would be delivered from the Roman prison.
Verse 21 is a great statement of faith, and of Paul’s life focus. Knowing and serving Christ was his reason for living. His love for and service for Christ was his singular purpose. What are you living for? Are you singular in your life or spread out across many lanes?
Paul’s advice: 27-30
Paul issues a set of exhortations in these verses. He longs for the Philippians to
- Have conduct worthy of the gospel. Likewise we are to have integrity with what we belief, teach, and live. This. Is. Hard. All of us trip and fall. The idea is not a life of perfection, but a life of increasing growth in grace in Christ.
- Stand in unity for the truth of the gospel. They were to be united together and in their defense of the gospel against false teachers (more on this in later chapters).
- Be courageous.
- Believing in Christ will lead to challenges, some hardship, and perhaps, persecution.
I hope that this fuels your reading and studying of chapter one. It’s a great chapter. Soak in it, splash around and see what all is there.
On Thursday, I will post some points for application and prayer from chapter one. Happy Reading!