Adventures in the New Testament - Philippians
by Pastor Geoffrey C. Kragen, Jr.
The Promise of Joy - Prayer in Prison
"Dad must have had an easy day at the office," little Peggy said to her visiting
girlfriend. "He didn't squeal the tires when he pulled into the driveway,
and he didn't slam the door when he came into the house. And he even gave
Mother a Kiss!" Circumstances steal joy!
"His daughter jumped off the school bus as it stopped in front of the house
and slammed her way through the front door. She marched defiantly up the
stairs into her room and again slammed the door. All the time she was muttering
under her breath,
"People - people - people - PEOPLE!"
Her father went to her door and knocked softly. "May I come in?"
She replied, "No!"
He tried again, but she said it even more belligerently: "NO!"
He asked, "Why can't I come in?"
Her answer: "Because you're a people!" People steal joy!
"A wealthy man was moving into his mansion, and his Quaker neighbor, who
believed in simplicity of life, was watching the activities carefully. The
neighbor counted the number of chairs and tables and the vast amount of
bric-a-brac that was being carried into the house. Finally, he said to the
lord of the mansion: "Neighbor, if thou dost need anything, come to see me
and I will tell thee how to get along without it!" Things steal joy!
"Worry is the worst thief of all! How many people have been robbed of peace
and fulfillment because of worry! In fact, worry even has physical consequences,
and, while medicine can remove the symptoms, it cannot remove the cause.
Worry is an "inside job." You can purchase "sleep" at the drug store, but
you cannot purchase "rest." Worry steals joy!" 1
So what do we need to kill the killers? How can we find joy, a joy that already
is ours? Well, we are going to study the Epistle to the Philippians to discover
the answer to this and other questions. Listen these words of Wiersbe:
"Philippians is a joyful letter! If you master the truths in Philippians,
you should be filled with joy as you live the Christian life! This little
epistle from a Roman prisoner has "grown" on me over the years. I have preached
it and taught it in churches and conferences across the country, and each
time I come to it, the message is more real and exciting. My prayer is that
it will become real and exciting to you." 2
We life in a day of strife, stress and selfishness. In response to real strife
and stress people in general have chosen to live only for self. Now this
isn't a new approach to life. At least in Western Society it seems that happiness
has always been the end goal of life. The search for happiness is one of
the foundation stones of our society, for the Declaration of Independence
gives us the right to "the preservation of life and liberty and the pursuit
Alexander Pope said:
O Happiness! our being's end and aim!
Good, pleasure, ease, content! whate'er thy name:
That something still which prompts th' eternal sigh,
For which we bear to live, or dare to die. 3
Much of advertising is directed and causing the desire for happiness and
then proving how the advertiser's product will provide it. To get the girl
or guy, and therefore be happy, you have to wear the right clothes, drive
the right car, use the right deodorant, or brush with the right toothpaste
and use the right shampoo. In spite of having everything necessary to be
happy there is a general unhappiness in mankind.
Unfortunately, even we have often fallen for the idea that we life depends
on us being happy. We are taught, from many pulpits, God desires our happiness,
for us to have everything we need. And just as with everyone else, we too
find moments of happiness, but happiness seems to be circumstantially driven.
Now while God certainly doesn't begrudge us moments of happiness, there is
nothing in Scripture that identifies happiness as life's goal. When we seek
happiness as life's focus we are settling for second best. Instead, God desires
us to have joy and joy can be present in our lives in spite of circumstances.
It is my hope that we all will have a better understanding of how joy can
be present in our lives as we study Paul's epistle to the Philippians.
"For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and
drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,"
This morning we will examine the context of the letter and look at the first
eleven verses. First we will see that Paul is able to express joy in less
than ideal circumstances. Hopefully, we will desire this same joy in our
own lives and, let us pray, that by the time we have completed the letter
we will be rejoicing in the Lord in all things "Rejoice
in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4).
One of the primary sources I will be using for this study is Warren Wiersbe's
book, Be Joyful. Accordingly, I have adapted the outline I'm
providing from his book.
The Recipients of the Epistle
The Book - The Single Mind Chapter 1
(Key Verse - 1:21)
The Fellowship of the Gospel Chapter 1:1-11
The Furtherance of the Gospel Chapter 1:12-26
The Faith of the Gospel Chapter 1:27-30
The Submissive Mind Chapter 2
(Key Verse - 2:3)
The Example of Christ Chapter 2:1-11
The Example of Paul Chapter 2:12-18
The Example of Timothy Chapter 2:19-24
The Example of Epaphroditus Chapter 2:25-30
The Spiritual Mind Chapter 3
(Key Verse - 3:19-20)
Paul's Past (the accountant - "I count") Chapter 3: 1-11
Paul's Present (the athlete - "I press") Chapter 3:12-16
Paul's Future (the alien - "I look") Chapter 3:17-21
The Secure Mind Chapter 4
(Key Verse - 4:6-7)
God's Peace Chapter 4:1-9
God's Power Chapter 4:10-13
God's Provision Chapter 4:14-23
Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Joyful, Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1988,
adapted from p. 25. II. The Book - The Single Mind Chapter 1
The Writer: Paul is the unquestioned author of this
epistle. As Guthrie notes:
" It is hardly necessary to discuss the question of the Epistle's genuineness
… as the great majority of scholars regard it as indisputable. (The) internal
evidence is strongly supported by external evidence, which contains no hint
of doubt that the Epistle in its entirety was Paul's own
The Date: Paul wrote the epistle to the
Philippians while he was imprisoned. This makes it difficult to identify
when the letter was written. Paul spent a number of times in jail and we
can't identify on which occasion this was written. He had been in jail in
Caesarea, Rome and Ephesus. Generally the view has been the letter was written
from Rome, (59-61AD) though there are some who believe it was written at
Ephesus, (53-55AD). Clearly, it was written sometime between 53 and 61AD
and therefore within only a few years after the resurrection and Paul's
The Recipients of the Epistle: Paul, on
his second missionary journey, had been involved in the establishment of
a church in Philippi in 50AD. This was the first European city in which had
Paul preached. (See Acts 16.) The best known incidents occurring there were:
The saving of Lydia, the dyer of purple; the psychic who had a demon cast
out of her through the Paul and Silas' intervention and the resulting riot;
the Holy Spirit's freeing them from jail and the jail keeper and his family's
salvation. Paul visited the city again on his third journey. During one of
Paul's times in jail the believers at Philippi sent an individual named
Epaphroditus with instructions to minister to Paul's needs and to bring him
a gift. During this visit Epaphroditus became ill and the believers got word
of his illness. Apparently, he felt that in some way he might have failed
When Epaphroditus had recovered from his illness and was preparing to return
Paul wrote this letter to send with him. The purpose was to reassure them
about Epaphroditus's commitment to the Lord, to thank them for the gift,
to let them know he was sending Timothy and some other items that we will
examine as we get to them.
Homer Kent notes this is the most personal of all Paul's letters. It may
be that it is the personal nature of the letter that rings out the truths
of living in the midst of God's joy. Paul didn't write the letter to teach
the Philippians about joy, but the lesson is there because what he says models
it in his own life.
Quoting Unger's Bible Handbook:
" Its theme is the adequacy of Christ for all the experiences of life
privation, persecution, hardship, suffering, as well as prosperity and
popularity. Christ gives joy and triumph whatever may come, If He is allowed
to be the center of life. This is mottoed in Paul's testimony: 'For to me,
to live is Christ' (1:21)" 5
The Book - The Single Mind Chapter 1
Verses 1-2: In chapter one we will see that the
reason Paul was able to have joy in circumstances was because of his
single-mindedness. His focus was on the giving out of the gospel and all
that he experienced was weighted in light of this purpose.
The letter opens with a typical salutation, and while the letter comes from
Paul and Timothy, it is clear the text reflects Paul's words. Here Paul refers
to himself and Timothy as servants, actually slaves of Christ.
The epistle is written to the saints at Philippi and specifically to the
Elders and Deacons. The text opens with both Greek and Hebrew greetings:
grace, the grace of salvation and peace, the peace between men and God that
comes through that salvation.
The word for saint is Haggai, … a term which is found only in the plural
in the New Testament … the word refers to a group. (It) means 'holy', equivalent
in the Old Testament to a Hebrew word meaning 'to
The saints at Philippi were set apart for God. To be a saint is to be holy,
but this isn't to be perfect. It is to be set aside for God. Also note, all
believers are saints. We may be sinning saints, but saints never the less.
So for those of you from Roman backgrounds, that church may be able to fire
its saints, but we will be saints into eternity. But what is the basis of
their sainthood? Kent states:
" All believers are "saints" through their spiritual union with Christ, a
fact Paul often expressed by the phrase "in Christ Jesus"" 7
" For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works,
which God prepared in advance for us to do" … "Therefore, if anyone is in
Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (Ephesians
2:10; 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Verses 3-6: Now keep in mind as we examine the
opening words, Paul was in prison. Just how thankful would we be feeling
in similar circumstances? Paul identifies three ways he maintains his
relationship with the Philippians. He keeps them in his mind, his heart and
his prayers. First he remembers them on an on-going basis. As a result he
was constantly thanking God for them.
Paul keeps them in his heart. He is filled with joy. And why is this?
because he is in partnership with these believers in the dissemination of
the gospel. There is no greater work than giving out the message of salvation
to the lost. Paul can rejoice because it is God who has made them a team
with him in the giving the word. He has total confidence that when God begins
something good, He will finish it. From the birth of the Church until the
return of the Lord nothing, nothing will interfere with the advancement of
Verses 7-11: Paul speaks to the unity of the
body as one entity. Though he is currently in jail, when he is out preaching
all the blessings of God received by him also belong to the Philippians.
They are one family, one body and he longs to be with them.
It was a while back that I heard someone, I don't remember who, talk about
us not being members of one body, but membranes of one body. This is a unity,
this is why one blesses one or hurts one does the same for the other membranes.
No matter how difficult our situation, or for that matter no matter how good
our circumstances, we always have the opportunity to pray; to commune with
God; to have fellowship with One from whom we can never be separated. We
have the opportunity to experience joy through our relationship with a loving
Father. Paul could pray and rejoice even in prison.
It is as we pray for one another, and with one another, which we maintain
unity of purpose and spirit; that we form an external partnership that represents
the reality of the spiritual unity that exists within the body of Christ.
So in his joy Paul keeps his readers in his prayers. He prays for that which
we all need, to grow in our relationship with the Lord, to grow in love of
God and others and to grow in depth of the knowledge and the wisdom of the
Lord. For with this love, knowledge and wisdom comes the growth and maturity
that allows us to live as God desires us to as we wait for His coming for
As we grow in our relationship with the Lord, and live in dependency on Him
the results will be the ever-increasing manifestation of the Fruit of the
Spirit. And as we manifest that fruit we will be less and less controlled
by circumstances and therefore be living in the joy that should be ours.
When we live for self than all that occurs around us effects us. When we
live for God then all that goes on around us is simply the background on
which we weave a picture of the glory of God and the joy that comes from
basking in His light.
It seems from what we have seen this morning that at least one source of
joy is focus of purpose. Paul's life was committed to serving the Lord and
to being His servant. As a result all circumstances and relationships in
his life were perceived in light of his commitment. He found joy in his
relationship to God. He found joy in his relationships with the Philippians.
Why? Because they were one with him in the body of Christ. This gave unity
of spirit and unity of purpose, in the dissemination of the gospel.
Underlying all this, was confidence that God was in control and all He did
was for the benefit of believers for the purpose of strengthening the
relationship between Himself and them and the furthering of the ministry
of the gospel.
As a result of a focus on God we find that true joy comes from serving the
Lord, putting the truth He has given to us into practice in the world around
us. As we live for others we will experience the joy of a commonality of
purpose with the Lord and one another.
True joy then comes from living as God desires us to, looking forward to
the day when we shall meet Him in the air. Nothing in our circumstances can
change these truths.
They'll Know We Are Christians
We are one in the Spirit,
we are one in the Lord,
We are one in the Spirit,
we are one in the Lord,
And we pray that all unity
may one day be restored:
And they'll know we are
Christians by our love, by our love,
Yes, they'll know we are
Christians by our love, by our love.
We will walk with each other,
we will walk hand in hand,
We will walk with each other,
we will walk hand in hand,
And together we'll spread the news
that God is in our land: 8
"Now the God of peace,
who brought up from the dead
the great Shepherd of the sheep
through the blood of the eternal covenant,
even Jesus our Lord,
equip you in every good thing to do His will,
working in us that which is pleasing in His sight,
through Jesus Christ; to whom be the glory forever and ever."
~ Hebrews 13: 20-21
Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Joyful, Victor Books, 1988, pg. 16-17.
Ibid., pg. 11.
The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 3rd Edition, Oxford University Press,
New York, NY, 1980, p. 379.
Guthrie, Donald, New Testament Introduction, Inter-Varsity Press, Downers
Grove, IL, 1968, p. 526.
Larson, Gary N., reviser, The New Unger's Bible Handbook, Moody Press, Chicago,
IL, 1966, p. 533.
Martin, Ralph P., Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, "Philippians," William
B. Eerdman's Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1989, p. 58.
Kent, Homer H., The Expositor's Bible Commentary, "Philippians," Zondervan
Interactive Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1990, Electronic text hypertexted
and prepared by OakTree Software, Inc.
Scholtes, Peter, "They'll Know We Are Christians," The Celebration Hymnal,
Word Music, 1997, #429.