Paul recounts the fellowship that has developed with the church at Philippi as they not only accepted the gospel of Jesus Christ, but also became partners with him in the work of the ministry. Paul encourages them to continue, to stand together, and in Philippians 2:16 to hold “fast to the word of life”. There is a unity of the spirit, a unity of purpose that comes as we grow and mature with the fruit of righteousness and God is working in us.
Paul’s first encounter with Philippi is in Acts 16. It was a Roman colony and leading city as it says in
Acts 16:12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of that district of Macedonia, a Roman colony. And we were staying in this city for some days.
As a reward for their service, Roman soldiers were given a place in these colony cities and they became something like we would call our National Guard or at least a cultural anchor for the area with strong ties to Rome. “It was the custom of Rome to send out parties of veteran soldiers, who had served their time and been granted citizenship, to settle in strategic road centres. Usually, these parties consisted of 300 veterans with their wives and children. These colonies were the focal points of the great Roman road systems, which were so engineered that reinforcements could speedily be sent from one colony to another”1
“The story of Paul’s (first) stay in Philippi is told in Acts 16; and an interesting story it is. It centres round three people—Lydia, the seller of purple; the demented slave girl, used by her masters to tell fortunes; and the Roman jailer. It is an extraordinary cross-section of ancient life”.2
But it is the reaction of the people that is most informative about the culture of the city and the kind of opposition Paul faced there in
Acts 16:20-21 “these men … being Jews, 21 and are proclaiming customs that are not permitted for us to accept or to practice, because we are Romans!”
Get more about Paul’s initial encounter: Come Over to Macedonia and Help Us
The One Who Began a Good Work Will Finish It
This letter is written after Paul had not only planted the gospel in Philippi, but long nurtured a close relationship with the saints of this city. Their relationship began when “Paul, with Silas and Timothy, planted the Gospel there (Ac 16:12, &c.), in his second missionary journey, A.D. 51. Doubtless he visited it again on his journey from Ephesus into Macedonia (Ac 20:1); and Ac 20:3, 6, expressly mentions his third visit on his return from Greece (Corinth) to Syria by way of Macedonia”.3
In his opening remarks, Paul doesn’t just talk about their acceptance of Jesus Christ, but he mentions in Philippians 1:5 “your participation in the gospel from the first day until now”. Others participated in the work of Paul but “The Philippians actively participated in Paul’s mission to spread the gospel by their prayers for him in his affliction (1:19), by their own suffering for their faith in Christ in the face of opposition (1:27–30), by their radiant witness (2:15–16), by the mission of Epaphroditus on their behalf to care for Paul’s needs while in prison (2:25–30), and by their regular financial support of Paul (4:10–18)”.4
Filled With the Fruit of Righteousness
Paul’s prayer for them is that, in Philippians 1:9-10 “your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is superior”. There is a growing and learning process that we go through and as we learn more of Him, Jesus Christ, we “approve what is superior” and are in Philippians 1:11 “filled with the fruit of righteousness”.
The Progress of the Gospel
See 13 August 2018 Monday: The Progress of the Gospel
Lead Lives Worthy of the Gospel of Christ
This admonition in Philippians 1:27 to “lead your lives in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” might be thought of as an individual effort, but here, Paul is encouraging them to stand together, “standing firm in one spirit, with one soul contending side by side for the faith of the gospel”. In Ephesians Paul told them to take on the armor of God and used the Roman soldiers armor as a type. And every Roman soldier would have understood “contending side by side” because as they locked their shields and stood together, they were much stronger and able to fend off the attack of their enemy.
United in Spirit, Having One Purpose
Now, in Philippians 2:2 Paul pushes this concept of standing together even farther saying “having the same love, united in spirit, having one purpose”, with your shields locked together, in Philippians 2:4 “looking out … for the interests of others”. We aren’t in this simply to make sure that we stand, although we must. We are also looking to make sure those around us can also stand. In Philippians 2:7 he says that like Jesus, “emptied himself by taking the form of a slave”, so also should we humble ourselves and serve those around us for their good.
The One at Work in You is God
There is a lot we can do together, and Paul has already emphasized being “united in spirit” in Philippians 2:2 but that must always begin with our individual relationship with God. As Paul says here in Philippians 2:12 “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” because in
Philippians 2:13 For the one at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure, is God.
Then Paul says in
Philippians 2:14-16 “Do all things without grumbling and disputing … shine as stars in the world, holding fast to the word of life”
We are here in this world to be an example, to stand in the power of God as a witness to all around us.
- Philippians 1:1–8 The One Who Began a Good Work Will Finish It
- Philippians 2:1–11 United in Spirit, Having One Purpose
- Philippians 2:12–18 The One at Work in You is God
- Philippians 1:1-30
- Philippians 2:1-18
- 1. Barclay, W. (2003). The Letters to Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (3rd ed. fully rev. and updated, p. 4). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.
- 2. Barclay, W. (2003). The Letters to Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians (3rd ed. fully rev. and updated, p. 5). Louisville, KY; London: Westminster John Knox Press.
- 3. Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1997). Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible (Vol. 2, p. 359). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- 4. Hansen, G. W. (2009). The Letter to the Philippians (p. 49). Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, England: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.