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Adventures in the New Testament - Philippians
by Pastor Geoffrey C. Kragen, Jr.

Chapter 1:1-1:11
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 of happiness."

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," (Romans 14:17).

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.

Philippians Outline

  1. Introduction
    1. The Writer
    2. The Date
    3. The Recipients of the Epistle
    4. The Theme

  2. The Book - The Single Mind Chapter 1
    (Key Verse - 1:21)
    1. The Fellowship of the Gospel Chapter 1:1-11
    2. The Furtherance of the Gospel Chapter 1:12-26
    3. The Faith of the Gospel Chapter 1:27-30

  3. The Submissive Mind Chapter 2
    (Key Verse - 2:3)
    1. The Example of Christ Chapter 2:1-11
    2. The Example of Paul Chapter 2:12-18
    3. The Example of Timothy Chapter 2:19-24
    4. The Example of Epaphroditus Chapter 2:25-30

  4. The Spiritual Mind Chapter 3
    (Key Verse - 3:19-20)
    1. Paul's Past (the accountant - "I count") Chapter 3: 1-11
    2. Paul's Present (the athlete - "I press") Chapter 3:12-16
    3. Paul's Future (the alien - "I look") Chapter 3:17-21

  5. The Secure Mind Chapter 4
    (Key Verse - 4:6-7)
    1. God's Peace Chapter 4:1-9
    2. God's Power Chapter 4:10-13
    3. God's Provision Chapter 4:14-23

  1. Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Joyful, Victor Books, Wheaton, IL, 1988, adapted from p. 25. II. The Book - The Single Mind Chapter 1

  1. Introduction

    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 work." 4

    2. 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 conversion.

    3. 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 the church.

      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.

    4. The Theme

      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

  2. The Book - The Single Mind Chapter 1

    1. Paul's Past

      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 separate'. 6

      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 His work.

      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 us.

      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

  1. Wiersbe, Warren W., Be Joyful, Victor Books, 1988, pg. 16-17.
  2. Ibid., pg. 11.
  3. The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 3rd Edition, Oxford University Press, New York, NY, 1980, p. 379.
  4. Guthrie, Donald, New Testament Introduction, Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1968, p. 526.
  5. Larson, Gary N., reviser, The New Unger's Bible Handbook, Moody Press, Chicago, IL, 1966, p. 533.
  6. Martin, Ralph P., Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, "Philippians," William B. Eerdman's Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, MI, 1989, p. 58.
  7. 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.
  8. Scholtes, Peter, "They'll Know We Are Christians," The Celebration Hymnal, Word Music, 1997, #429.

[email] gkragen@aol.com