The apostle Paul was chained as a prisoner when he wrote a letter to the saints in Philippi in about A.D. 62/63. His message to those Christians must have been a real “shot in the arm” for them. It contains uplifting instruction and information which continue to be a blessing to those who meditate upon them. Let us take a quick glance at some of the lasting lessons we can glean from this epistle.
Paul had a great relationship with the church in Philippi (not all gospel preachers can say that). He counted them as his joy and crown (4:1), calling them his “beloved” (2:12; 4:1). It takes effort to cultivate and maintain relationships, but when Christians love each other, are ready to work together, and are willing to serve and help one another, great things can happen in the Kingdom!
“Joy/rejoice” is a major theme (1:4,18,25,26; 2:2,17,18, 28,29; 3:1; 4:1,4). What is the basis of a Christian’s joy? Not material blessings or our environment. True joy is based on our relationship with the Lord (1:2). How fascinating that Paul, despite his own personal unpleasant circumstances, would strongly urge the “free” saints to rejoice, while he never complained about his challenging conditions.
Bishops, deacons, and saints (1:1) – Note the simplicity of the organization of God’s church, with each local church being self-governing. Other than 1 Timothy 3:1-13, this is the only passage/context in the New Testament in which bishops/overseers and deacons are mentioned together.
Paul was always prepared to defend the gospel (1:7,17). We should be ready to stand up and do the same.
People have different motives when they proclaim the gospel. Some do so out of love from a good heart, but others do so with an impure motive (1:12-18). The truth is the truth regardless of the motive of the presenter, but how we teach the gospel might influence others’ reception of it, and it certainly will affect how the Lord views us.
Paul had a great outlook on life. In our English Bible, in each chapter we see a statement which shows how the apostle glorified the Lord and trusted in Him (1:21; 2:5; 3:8; 4:13). I can learn from that approach!
The conduct of the brothers and sisters in Philippi should be consistent, regardless of whether Paul was with them or was in some place far away 1:27; 2:12,15,16). As Paul wrote elsewhere, we should not be men-pleasers, but doers of God’s will from the heart, regardless of who is (or is not) observing us (Ephesians 6:6).
Being likeminded, humble, and thoughtful of the needs of others are key matters in maintaining unity and harmony in a congregation (2:2-5).
There is no better illustration of humility and obedience than the example of Jesus! (2:5-9).
Both Timothy (2:19-23) and Epaphroditus (2:25-30) were brothers in whom Paul had great confidence. You and I also need to demonstrate that we are reliable and loyal.
Rather than place his confidence in his cultural, biological, and religious background, Paul put his trust in the Christ and rejoiced in what he gained through Him (3:3-8).
Instead of looking back, every Christian needs to focus on goal(s) for the future (3:13,14). With our citizenship in heaven, we need to focus on spiritual matters and being ready for His coming (3:20,21).
Although this epistle does not mention any problems of immorality or false teaching in the church at Philippi, there are admonitions/warnings about spiritual danger. Paul charges them to “beware” of those who could harm them spiritually (3:2), and he warns about “the enemies of the cross” (3:18,19 ).
What kind of mental outlook should Christians have? Should we be sad or happy? Pessimistic or optimistic? Here are some keys to good mental health: Rejoice in all that you have in the Lord (4:4) . . . Do not worry (4:6) . . . Turn things over to God in prayer (4:6) . . . Let God’s peace dwell in your heart (4:7) . . . Think on good things (4:8) . . . Imitate good examples (4:9) . . . Be content (4:10-12) . . . Do not forget the Source of power (4:13).
Let us not be afraid to dig in and learn from the abundant riches of God’s word! We are blessed to have the book of Philippians in our Bibles. Its instruction has the potential to help mold our thinking, speech, and conduct to make us God- glorifying people.
— Roger D. Campbell