What does Philippians 1 mean?
Chapter Commentary:
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).
Verse Context:
Philippians 1:1–2 introduces this letter from Timothy and Paul. The message is meant for the Christians in the city of Philippi, including both the leaders and the laymen. This church had made significant contributions to Paul's ministry, as will be mentioned early in the letter. Here, as in the rest of the New Testament, the term ''saints'' refers to any saved believer.
Philippians 1:3–11 is Paul's expression of thanks and gratitude for the believers of Philippi. Not only have they been generous in their support of Paul, they have been faithful even when he was imprisoned. Paul claims to thank God for these Christians in all of his prayers. At the same time, Paul has high hopes that the church of Philippi will continue to mature and strengthen their relationship with Christ.
Philippians 1:12–18 explains Paul's perspective on his imprisonment. Specifically, Paul sees the many hardships of his life as a good thing, for one reason: they have led to the spread of the gospel. Paul has been held captive; this has allowed him to preach to his jailers. Paul has seen others repeat his own message in an effort to harm him; this has caused even more people to hear the gospel. This passage sets up Paul's upcoming argument that, whether by life or death, he intends to bring glory to God.
Philippians 1:19–30 shows Paul reflecting on two competing desires. On one hand, a believer wants to serve God and bring others to Christ through their life. On the other hand, a Christian yearns to leave suffering behind—to be with God in eternity. Paul concludes that it's better to live until God calls him home, so he can serve his fellow men. Paul also encourages the Philippians with his conviction that he will be released to see them again. His experiences, good or bad, are all adding to the glory of Jesus Christ.
Chapter Summary:
In chapter 1, Paul thanks the Philippian believers for supporting his ministry. Even when Paul was jailed, or persecuted, they had been generous and loyal. Paul encourages these Christians by explaining that all of his suffering has been for a good cause. Even better, these attempts to persecute Paul have actually caused the gospel to spread. For this, Paul is grateful. He fully expects to be released, and to see the believers of Philippi again.
Chapter Context:
Chapter 1 introduces the major themes of Paul's letter. A large proportion of the passage is given to thanking the Philippian church for their loyal support of Paul. Paul also encourages them with a reminder that, good or bad, anything a Christian experiences can be used for the glory of God. This sets the tone for the rest of the letter, where Paul will continue to stress the importance of living out the Christian life. This, he says, starts with having a proper attitude and approach.
Book Summary:
Philippians is Paul's discussion of living the Christian life. In this letter to the church of Philippi, Paul highlights themes such as joy and glory. He also puts great emphasis on how a Christian's thinking—their attitude—affects the way they live out their faith. Paul is very thankful for the support of the Philippian church, but is also concerned about the influence of various false teachers. This letter is less theological than most of his other writings, and more practical.
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