The epistle to the Philippians is the last of the four “prison epistles” of Paul. This letter was not written for one single purpose. Paul had a number of reasons for writing. Paul wanted to:
1. to thank the Christians at Philippi for the gifts that they had sent him by Epaphroditus.
2. to inform the Christians at Philippi about his own circumstances. He also wanted to tell them that Epaphroditus had recovered from his dangerous illness. He was returning to Philippi.
3. to appeal for unity and for the end of quarrels in the church.
4. to warn them about false *doctrine, especially that of *Jewish Christians who insisted on *circumcision for *Gentiles.
5. to urge them to remain loyal to their *faith and to stand firm against *opponents.
He wanted to update the church about his situation. He wanted to thank them for a gift they had sent. He wanted to give them information about Epaphroditus. He wanted to warn them about false teachers and encourage them to remain steadfast in the truth. He wanted to encourage unity in the church, and he wanted to exhort them to rejoice. Most of all, however, he wrote to them because he had a deep care and affection for them.
Luke described the city called Philippi as a Roman colony (Acts 16:12(HCSB)12 and from there to Philippi, a Roman colony, which is a leading city of that district of Macedonia. We stayed in that city for a number of days. The *emperor Augustus allowed retired soldiers to live there after they had supported him in a battle in 31BC. As a Roman colony, its citizens possessed the same rights and laws as those who lived in Italy. Paul and Silas, with Timothy and Luke, established the church there after they crossed from Asia into Europe (Acts 16:12-40). Paul visited Philippi again on his third journey (Acts 20:1-6). It was a group of Christians of whom Paul was very fond. He called its members his ‘joy and crown’ (Philippians 4:1(HCSB)So then, my brothers, you are dearly loved and longed for—my joy and crown. In this manner stand firm in the Lord, dear friends.) The Christians in Philippi were not rich, but they supported Paul with more than one gift of money. They also gave money for the poor Christians in Jerusalem.
2 Corinthians 8:1-5(HCSB)We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God granted to the churches of Macedonia: 2 During a severe testing by affliction, their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed into the wealth of their generosity. 3 I testify that, on their own, according to their ability and beyond their ability, 4 they begged us insistently for the privilege of sharing in the ministry to the saints, 5 and not just as we had hoped. Instead, they gave themselves especially to the Lord, then to us by God’s will.
Paul was in prison when he wrote this letter. He was not sure of the result of a *trial. Some writers suggest that the prison was in Ephesus or Caesarea. But it is more likely that he was in Rome. He probably wrote this letter at the end of the two years that we read about in Acts 28:30-31(HCSB)30 Then he stayed two whole years in his own rented house. And he welcomed all who visited him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the things concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with full boldness and without hindrance..
1 Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus:
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons.
2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, 4 always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because I have you in my heart, and you are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and establishment of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how deeply I miss all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And I pray this: that your love will keep on growing in knowledge and every kind of discernment, 10 so that you can approve the things that are superior and can be pure and blameless in the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.
Advance of the Gospel
12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has actually resulted in the advance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is in the cause of Christ. 14 Most of the brothers in the Lord have gained confidence from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the message fearlessly. 15 To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and strife, but others out of good will. 16 These do so out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the others proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me anxiety in my imprisonment. 18 What does it matter? Just that in every way, whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice 19 because I know this will lead to my deliverance through your prayers and help from the Spirit of Jesus Christ. 20 My eager expectation and hope is that I will not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness, Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death.
Living Is Christ
21 For me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22 Now if I live on in the flesh, this means fruitful work for me; and I don’t know which one I should choose. 23 I am pressured by both. I have the desire to depart and be with Christ—which is far better— 24 but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. 25 Since I am persuaded of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that, because of me, your confidence may grow in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
27 Just one thing: Live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or am absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind,[j] working side by side for the faith that comes from the gospel, 28 not being frightened in any way by your opponents. This is a sign of destruction for them, but of your deliverance—and this is from God. 29 For it has been given to you on Christ’s behalf not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for Him, 30 having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I have.
We need to let God shape our hearts and our lives and our attitudes through this expositional sermon series on the book of Philippians. Four short chapters. The theme of these chapters is joy; Paul mentions it at least 16 times in these four chapters. He also mentions Christ 50 times. And that is because his joy is found in Christ, and so is our joy.
We live in a somewhat sad world, a world that knows despair, depression, unfulfillment, dissatisfaction; longing for things that never come to pass. It’s kind of a sad reality, with an even sadder future, because we have a world of sadness with no hope that anything should necessarily change. The long years of life inevitably become long years of sorrow punctuated by moments of happiness, which moments become less and less frequent as aging takes place. And that’s probably why the highest percentage rate of suicide is among those who are over 65, as the length of years and the decreasing moments of happiness bring about a morbid sadness and lack of satisfaction with life.
People talk about happiness, and perhaps we ought to define happiness. Happiness is an attitude of satisfaction or delight based upon some present circumstance. Happiness is related to happenings. Happiness is related to happenstance. Happiness is related to hap, which is a word that basically conveys the idea of chance. Happiness is that which you really can’t plan and program; it may happen, it may not happen, and it seems so elusive. But it is related to the delight or the satisfaction that is tied to an occasional happening, a chance circumstance. And that’s the best that men can do. On the other hand, when we talk about joy, we’re not talking about something that’s related to chance at all. We’re not talking about something that’s related to circumstances at all. We’re talking about a deep down confidence that all is well, no matter what the circumstance, no matter what the difficulty, no matter what the problem. And that’s very different from happiness.
Joy, to be understood in a biblical sense, must be understood to be related to God. It must be understood to be that which becomes yours in Christ. It must be understood to be a permanent possession of every believer, not some whimsical delight that comes and goes as chance may offer it opportunity. We’re talking about joy; much, much different than happiness. John Macarthur’s definition of joy is this: joy is the flag that flies on the castle of the heart when the King is in residence there. Joy is the flag that flies on the castle of the heart when the King is in residence there. I believe that only Christians know true and lasting joy. The verb “to rejoice” appears 74 times in the New Testament. The noun “joy” appears 59 times in the New Testament. It’s part and parcel of Christian experience.
First of all, joy comes from God. It is a gift of God. Psalms 4:7-8(HCSB)You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and new wine abound.8 I will both lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, Lord, make me live in safety.
Psalms 16:11(HCSB)You reveal the path of life to me; in Your presence is abundant joy; in Your right hand are eternal pleasures.
Joy is a gift from God to those who believe the gospel. On that great and marvelous day in the Galilean countryside, when the angel appeared to announce the arrival of the birth of a Savior.
Luke 2:9-12(HCSB)9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: 11 Today a Savior, who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. 12 This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”
It is the gospel that brings that joy, or that conveys that joy to the human heart.
Joy is a gift from God to those who believe the gospel, who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
True joy is a gift from God that comes to those who believe the gospel, being produced in them by the Holy Spirit as the believer receives and obeys the Word – as the believer receives and obeys the Word. Jeremiah 15:16(HCSB)Your words were found, and I ate them.Your words became a delight to me and the joy of my heart, for I am called by Your name, Yahweh God of Hosts.