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Bible: What Does Philippians 1 Teach Us About Paul and Evangelism?

Updated on September 15, 2016

The Apostle Paul


Young Timothy with His Mother


Offices of the Local Church

The Epistle to the Philippians

Considering Timothy, his apostolic representative, and himself as bondservants of Christ—slaves who had no rights, except those their master grants to them—Paul greets three groups of believers—the saints, bishops and deacons—in the church at Philippi, a small, Roman military outpost city in Europe (v. 1).

[“Saints” (hagioi) do not represent a class of believers who especially distinguish themselves, but signify ordinary believers whom Christ has set apart for Himself at salvation.

“Bishops” (episkopoi) oversee or manage the spiritual affairs of the local church; “deacons” (diakonoi) work alongside the bishops and primarily care for the temporal concerns of the church].

As is his custom, the apostle asks God that the members might receive grace and peace from the Father and from Christ (v. 2).

Paul tells the Philippians that he joyfully thanks God every time he thinks about and prays for them, because they have cooperated with him and supported his ministry since he founded them as a church (vv. 3-5).

He knows with certainty that the Lord will continue His sanctifying work among them until the Rapture (“the day of Jesus Christ”) [v. 6].

Paul thinks it is right for him to feel an especially close bond with them, because they have been ministering to him from the time he began his defense of the gospel until the time of this writing (v. 7).

He lets them know that God sees how much the apostle would love to be with them (v. 8). Paul prays a three-fold request on their behalf: he wants God

(1) to continue to mature them in their understanding of how to love;

(2) to enable them “to differentiate between highest matters and side issues” (Ryrie, New Testament Study Bible 352); and

(3) to cause them to progress in love and discernment, so that they would conduct themselves righteously, manifest good character through Christ’s power, and bring glory to God when the Lord returns (vv. 9-11).

Praetorian Guard


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Jail Evangelism

Addressing the Philippians as brethren, Paul informs them that God has used his jail cell testimony to spread the gospel to the Praetorian guard, as well as the bold, fearless preaching of “most of the brethren in the Lord” to evangelize many other Roman citizens (vv. 12-14).

[Why (or how) would Paul’s imprisonment make Christians bolder in their witness?]

Paul acknowledges that some insincere, envious preachers “evangelize” with selfish motives, seeking to cause the apostle more discomfort (vv. 15a, 16).

[What might they say to hurt Paul’s ministry or Paul himself?]

He also commends those who perform the ministry for godly reasons because they believe God chose him to be an apologist for the gospel (v. 17).

Since his sole concern remains the spread of the good news, Paul does not allow the wicked motives of a few pretenders to prevent him from rejoicing in godly progress (v. 18).

Knowing that his situation would resolve itself through the Philippians’ prayer and the support of “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” either by his release from prison or by his “deliverance” from this life, Paul only hopes and expects to make known the greatness of Christ through a bold, unashamed witness (vv. 19-20).

He considers the two “options” before him: life and death.

On the one hand, if God allows him to live, he will serve the Lord and bear fruit through his labor, for Paul finds his meaning in life in Christ’s service (vv. 21a, 22a).

On the other hand, if the Lord permits his death, then Paul is content, regarding his departure to be with Christ as “gain” and “far better” than his earthly life (vv. 21b, 23b).

The apostle seems to believe that God has given him the ability to choose either outcome, for he confesses the difficulty of the decision (“hard-pressed”) [vv. 22b-23a].

He resolves the issue by considering the spiritual needs of the Philippians as more important than his own desire to be with Christ.

Believing that God wanted him to continue his teaching ministry in the Church, Paul states confidently that the Lord will deliver him and send him once more to the Philippians amid abundant rejoicing in Christ (vv. 24-26).

[Did Paul receive revelation that God would save him from death, or did he just know God’s mind so well that he knew what He would cause to occur?]

Regardless whether he can visit them again or not, Paul wants the Philippians to live good Christian lives; he wishes to hear positive news about them, news of their unity as they work together in their evangelistic outreach, and not negative reports of their shrinking back in fear of their enemies (vv. 27-28a).

Their continued unity signals both the future destruction of their adversaries and the Philippians’ salvation (v. 28b).

Paul informs them that God has permitted them not only to believe Christ for their eternal salvation, but to suffer in the same conflict the apostle himself suffers--all for the Lord’s sake (vv. 29-30).

© 2013 glynch1


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