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Philippians chapter 1

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What does Philippians chapter 1 mean?

Chapter 1 includes a brief introduction (Philippians 1:1–2) followed by three key sections. First, Paul gives thanks and prayer on behalf of the Philippian Christians (Philippians 1:3–11). Second, he focuses on the expansion of the gospel (Philippians 1:12–18). Third, he emphasizes that, for the believer, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:19–30). Along the way, Paul explains that how a Christian lives is a reflection of what they set their mind on. He stresses the importance of rejoicing and joy, and connects the faith to concepts such as glory.

Paul is certainly interested in thanking the church at Philippi for their generous support. At the same time, he is concerned about some negative influences, including false teachers and arrogance within the church itself.

The introduction (Philippians 1:1–2) names Paul and Timothy as authors, defines the letter's audience, and adds a brief greeting. The audience was the Philippian Christians, specifically mentioning overseers and deacons as well. First Timothy chapter 3 is the only other New Testament reference specifically speaking of deacons, in Ephesus. The Philippian church had existed for approximately 12 years by the time the letter was written. In those years, the members had matured in learning and leadership.

Philippians 1:3–11 begins with Paul thanking God for the Philippians in his prayers. He mentions their long-term partnership with his calling. He mentions his imprisonment and ministry (Philippians 1:7) and missing the Philippian believers. He also encourages them to grow in love for one another. Just as the apostle John emphasized love in his letters, Paul uses this section to stress the importance of Christian love in the life of a believer.

Philippians 1:12–18 shares how Paul's imprisonment was helping spread the gospel. All of the guards knew about his faith (Philippians 1:13), so Paul was clearly willing to preach to his own captors. As a result, other believers grew in boldness to speak about Christ (Philippians 1:14). Interestingly, Paul notes that some of those who spoke about Jesus did so for false motives. Even so, Paul was thankful to see the gospel spreading.

Philippians 1:19–30 speaks of Paul's hope of being released from house arrest (Philippians 1:19). In either case, life or death, Paul was content, though he expected to continue serving at that time. He clearly planned to visit the believers in Philippi again (Philippians 1:26). He also clearly taught that separation from the body—for the believer—is not something to be feared: "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). In contrast with false views of the afterlife, Paul specifically pointed believers to a future hope in the presence of the Lord.

In the meantime, Paul taught, "Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27). Paul reminded his readers they would both believe and suffer for Christ: "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake" (Philippians 1:29), just as he was suffering in Rome (Philippians 1:28–30).
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