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New Testament Survey

Philippians



LOOKING AHEAD TO . . .

Philippians

Key Verse(s):

Key Chapter(s):

Key Word(s) or Concept(s)

Consider:

            Who is Jesus

            What is the mind of Christ?

            Where do you find your joy?

Suggested Reading beyond the Key Chapter(s):

Philippians

This, the second of the Prison Epistles, is another of those where there has never been any contest over Paul’s authorship. Both the internal evidence and the early church fathers support the Apostle’s writing of this wonderful letter, the letter of JOY IN CHRIST.

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Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,
Philippians 1:4

Philippi was a Roman city located in Macedonia. It was occupied by a mixture of Romans, Greeks, and some Jews. Most of this church would have been Gentiles. The citizens are recorded as being proud of their relationship to the Roman Empire and their ability to be Roman (cf. Acts 16:21). The founding of the church in Philippi by Paul and Silas is recorded in (Acts 16:1-40). The conversion of Lydia opened the door for the missionaries (Acts 16:11-15). Paul and Silas were thrust into jail for healing a demon-possessed girl (16:19-24). The conversion of the Philippian jailer is one of the better known stories from Acts (16:25-34).

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Paul visited the church at Philippi on one other recorded occasion (20:1-6) and was able to stay in touch with them through Timothy (Acts 19:21-23; Phil. 2:19,20). He appears to have received frequent gifts from the church (Phil. 4:15,16). This letter is written, then, about ten years after the founding of the church.

Theme and Purpose

For such a short letter, one may produce a fairly long list of reasons for Paul writing to the church. Clearly, false teachers and other opponents of Paul’s play a role (1:15-17; 1:27-28; 3:2; and 3:1-4:1) Further, Paul wanted to thank the church, both for their gifts (4:10-20) and for the lending of Epaphroditus (2:25-30; 4:18). Epaphroditus carried the letter to the church. Paul also uses the letter to keep the church current on both his plans and those of Timothy (1:12-26; 2:19,24).

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The false teachers seem to be our old friends the Judaizers (3:1-4:1).

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Many see the overriding purpose of this letter as an expression of joy. The church suffered from infighting over matters of personal difference (1:27; 2:2-4,16; 4:1-2). Paul uses his own circumstances to express the joy he finds in Christ as the pattern which the church at Philippi should adopt. Jesus humbled Himself so that God could be exalted (2:6ff). If Christ could give up His outward glory by taking on the form of man and dying on the Cross, the church should be able to use this as a basis for rejoicing in all circumstances (2:16-18; 3:1; 4, 20; 4).

This, then, is the real theme of the book. The joy and unity of life come from a unity in Christ, Who is Lord of all creation. He is our pattern and we should strive to be like Him.

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For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Philippians 1:21

Date

Considering the internal factors of the letter, matched to Paul’s own personal situation as it is known to us, this letter was written from Rome about A.D. 61. Paul was in prison when he wrote (Phil. 1:7,13,17), uncertain as to the outcome of his trial (Phil. 1:19-20; 2:17). The existence of the Praetorium guard (1:13) and of those of Caesar’s household place Paul’s location in Rome (4:22).

Special Considerations

When a man is born again, there is not the same robustness in his thinking or reasoning for a time as formerly. We have to make an expression of the new life, to form the mind of Christ. “Acquire your soul with patience.” Many of us prefer to stay at the threshold of the Christian life instead of going on to construct a soul in accordance with the new life God has put within. 9.

These words were written by Oswald Chambers and reflect the full theme of this book. Interestingly enough, the phrase “mind of Christ” comes not from Philippians but rather from 1 Corinthians 2:16:

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For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

In this letter, Paul expresses the same idea using almost the same language.

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Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
Philippians 2:5

Paul’s idea with these statements is really very simple. The arguments of these verses from chapter 2 set forth Christ as the example for all to follow. Jesus Himself directed His disciples to follow Him.

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For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you.
John 13:15
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Later in the letter Paul writes to the Philippians that they have Paul and the other disciples as their example to walk by (3:17). In fact, Paul writes the same advise to the Thessalonians (2 Thess 3:9). How can Paul make such a bold statement? Because he believes with all of his heart that he has followed the example of Christ. Therefore, he is a fit, living example for others. If we accept Paul’s example, will we not become a living example to others demonstrating a life lived in Christ? Is this not the express purpose of walking in the Spirit? The example of this is the salvation of the Philippian jailer and his family found in Acts 16:27-34). In jail, Paul and Silas did not sitting around moping but rather sang songs to the Lord. Then, when the earthquake opened the doors of their imprisonment, the evangelists stayed so as to set a proper example of walking in the Spirit. As a result of this action, the jailer was saved (Acts 16:33, 34). It is actions such as these that show we possess the mind of Christ.

Paul sees the Christian life as an endurance race, one running toward the “mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14). This is a race the Apostle would have us all run. The race can be endured because of the sufficiency of Jesus. The following three verses summarize this position.

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Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
Philippians 4:11

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
Philippians 4:13

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But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:19

The Kenosis

For a letter clearly accepted as being written by the Apostle Paul, one “simple” word in the epistle has raised a great deal of interpretive controversy. In 2:7 Paul uses the word ekenosen, a verb which simply means “to empty,” as in Rebekah’s emptying of her water pitcher (Gen 24:20 in the Septuagint). But, this simple verb has created much debate over “the kenosis.” The King James translates this verb as “made himself of no reputation.” In other words, He “emptied” Himself.

But what was this emptying?

The controversy arises from those on the liberal side of life who desire, in one form or another, to see Christ as having emptied Himself of some or all of His Deity when He took on human form. While this is not an acceptable position, it raises the question as to how the Second Person of the Trinity could take on human form so as to genuinely experience the human life described by the Gospels. This is called the “hypostatic union.” While this passage does not fully explain the hypostasis, it does define for us what the kenosis involved.

Most importantly, you must note that the letter makes no mention of the surrender of any divine attributes. Some have suggested that the emptying involved the surrender of the divine glory, or the surrender of the right to exercise certain “independent” attributes. But, the Gospels demonstrate the exercise of all of the Godly attributes and the Transfiguration clearly shows the glory of Christ.

It is easier to think of the kenosis, not as an actual emptying, but as the addition of one more element to the divine nature. Christ emptied Himself in the sense of agreeing to take on human form. He became not “merely” God, but the God-man. He surrender His rights to remain the pre-incarnate Being which existed from before the formation of the worlds. Christ agreed to take on the “form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men” (2:7). Christ gave up His position in heaven to take on the human form and all of its attendant limitations, including the ability to suffer and die on the Cross. Without the kenosis, there would be no salvation for mankind!

Outline

I.         Christ, our Purpose of life - Chp 1

II.        Christ, our Pattern for life - Chp 2

III.       Christ, our Goal in life - Chp 3

IV.      Christ, our strength for life - Chp 4

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Where do you find your joy?

Where do you find your strength?

Humility has been described as seeing yourself as God sees you.

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Is this a good definition?

         Are you meek and humble?

Are you enduring towards the final prize?

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But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ.
Philippians 3:7
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What does this verse mean to you?

Footnote:
9. Chambers, Oswald, My Utmost for His Highest, (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers) 1989.

 

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