Where the world comes to study the Bible

Philippians 1



Salutation Greeting Salutation Salutation Address
1:1-2 1:1-2 1:1a 1:1a 1:1-2
    1:1b 1:1b  
    1:2 1:2  
Paul's Prayer for the Philippians Thankfulness and Prayer Thanksgiving Paul's Prayer for His Readers Thanksgiving and Prayer
1:3-11 1:3-11 1:3-8 1:3-8 1:3-11
    1:9-11 1:9-11  
To Me to Live Is Christ Christ is Preached Paul's Present Circumstances To Live Is Christ Paul's Own Circumstances
1:12-14 1:12-18 1:12-14 1:12-14 1:12-26
1:15-26   1:15-18a 1:15-17  
    1:18b-26 1:18-26  
  To live is Christ      
  Striving and Suffering for Christ     Fight for the Faith
1:27-30 1:27-30 1:27-30 1:27-30 1:27-30

* Although they are not inspired, paragraph divisions are the key to understanding and following the original author's intent. Each modern translation has divided and summarized the paragraphs. Every paragraph has one central topic, truth, or thought. Each version encapsulates that topic in its own distinct way. As you read the text, ask yourself which translation fits your understanding of the subject and verse divisions.
In every chapter we must read the Bible first and try to identify its subjects (paragraphs), then compare our understanding with the modern versions. Only when we understand the original author's intent by following his logic and presentation can we truly understand the Bible. Only the original author is inspired—readers have no right to change or modify the message. Bible readers do have the responsibility of applying the inspired truth to their day and their lives.
Note that all technical terms and abbreviations are explained fully in the following documents: Brief Definitions of Greek Grammatical Structure Textual Criticism, and Glossary.

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


A. Verses 1-2 form a general introduction to the whole letter. The introduction is typically Pauline except for the fact that there is no emphasis on his apostleship. This church and Paul had a wonderful relationship. He did not need to invoke his apostolic authority. This church apparently sent Paul financial help from time to time (cf. 1:5,7; 4:15). The only other Pauline church from which we know he accepted help was Thessalonica (cf. II Cor. 11:9).


B. Greek letters of the first century typically opened with a prayer of thanksgiving. Verses 3-8 are Paul's prayer of thanksgiving for the Philippian church. They incorporate the main truths of Christianity and set the agenda for the letter.


C. This book has an unusual number of compounds with syn (Greek "sun") which meant "joint participation with":

1. 1:7; 4:14  syn + fellowship (koinōnia, same root, 1:5; 2:1; 3:10; 4:14,16)

 2. 1:27 syn + strive (athleō in 4:3 a proper name)

 3. 2:2 syn + soul (psuchē, same sense in 1:27)

 4. 2:17-18 syn + rejoice (chairō)

5. 2:25; 4:3 syn + worker (ergon, cf Rom. 16:3,9,21; II Cor. 1:24)

 6. 2:25 syn + soldier (stratiōtē, cf. Philemon 2)

 7. 3:10 syn + form (morphē)

 8. 3:17 syn + initiator (animeomai, same root in I Cor. 4:16)


D. Verses 9-11 are Paul's prayer for the spiritual growth and maturity of the church. These verses focus on the Philippians' Christlike lifestyle, while verses 3-8 focus on their position in Christ thus combining the two aspects of salvation: our position in Christ (forensic justification and positional sanctification) and our possessing of that position in Christlikeness (progressive sanctification).


E. There are several hints that Paul expected to be released from prison in vv. 17-26:

1. the term "deliverance" in v. 19

2. the first class conditional sentence of v. 22

3. Paul's statement in v. 25

4. the ambiguous phrasing of v. 26



 1Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1:1 "Paul" The Greek name "Paul" meant "little." There have been several theories about the origin of his name.

1. a nickname describing his physical height, the second century tradition that Paul was short, fat, bald, bowlegged, bushy eyebrowed and had protruding eyes is a possible physical description of Paul. This came from a second century non-canonical book from Thessalonica called Paul and Thekla.

2. Paul's personal spiritual evaluation, passages like I Cor. 15:9; Eph. 3:8; I Tim. 1:15, where he calls himself "the least of the saints" (probably because he persecuted the Church, Acts 9:1-2). Some have seen this sense of "leastness" as the origin of this self-chosen title. However, in a book like Galatians, where he makes a major emphasis on his independence and equality with the Jerusalem Twelve, this option is unlikely (cf. II Cor. 11:5; 12:11; 15:10).

3. parental, most Jews of the diaspora (Jews living outside Palestine) were given two names at birth. Paul's Hebrew name was Saul and his Greek name was Paul.


▣ "Timothy" His name means "honored by God" or "honorer of God." He was converted on Paul's first missionary journey to Derbe/Lystra (cf. Acts 16:1). Paul invited him to join the missionary team on the second missionary journey, possibly to replace John Mark. He had a Jewish mother (cf. Acts 16:1; II Tim. 1:5) and a Greek father (Acts 16:1). Paul circumcised him in order to help with his work among Jews (cf. Acts 16:3). He became Paul's faithful apostolic representative and troubleshooter (cf. Acts 16:1-17:14; 18:5-19:22; 20:4; Rom. 16:21; I Cor. 4:17; 16:10; II Cor. 1:1,19; Phil. 1:1; 2:19; Gal. 1:1; Philemon v. 4; and two books, I Timothy and II Timothy. Paul sent him specifically to Philippi to help the church (cf. Acts 19:22; Phil. 2:19-24).

"bond servants" This refers to

1. an OT honorific title in relation to YHWH (cf. Moses, Exod. 14:31; Joshua, Judg. 2:8; the prophets, Ezra 9:11; Jer. 7:25; prophets, Dan. 9:6; Amos 3:7; and David, Ps. 78:70)

2. an emphasis on Jesus as Lord (kurios) and believers as His servants (doulos)


▣ "to all the saints" This is literally "holy ones" (hagioi), those set apart exclusively for God's service. This is not a reference to a sinless lifestyle, but the believers' forensic (legal) position in Christ. It is always plural except in 4:21, but even there it is used in a corporate context. To be saved is to be part of a family. This term reflects an OT usage for corporate Israel as a holy people (cf. Exod. 13:5; 19:5-6; Deut. 7:6; I Pet. 2:9; and Rev. 1:6).

Although the term "saints" relates to the believers' standing in Christ, it is not incidental that the root word is "holy" (hagios). Believers are called not only to salvation, but to a progressive sanctification. Believers are predestined to "holiness" (hagiasmos, cf. Eph. 1:4), not just heaven; to service, not privilege. See Special Topic: Saints at Col. 1:2.

"in Christ Jesus" This is a locative (of sphere). This is Paul's favorite description for believers. It speaks of the necessary atmosphere or environment in which Christians live (cf. Acts 17:28). Theologically it is parallel to John's "abide in Him" (cf. John 15).

This construction is often associated with an intimate fellowship with Christ. It refers to the believer's theological position, and the believer's subjective experience (cf. Rom. 3:24; 4:17; 8:39; 15:17; I Cor. 1:2; Gal. 2:17; Eph. 1:4,7; Phil. 1:13; 2:1,5; 4:7,13). In some passages "in Christ" is almost synonymous with "in the church" (cf. Rom. 12:5; I Cor. 4:15; Gal. 1:22; 3:28; Eph. 3:6; Col. 1:2). To illustrate Paul's use of this term notice Eph. 1:3-14: (1) in Christ, vv. 3,10,12; (2) in Him, vv. 4,7,10,13 [twice]; (3) in the Beloved, v. 6.

▣ "at Philippi" This was a Roman colony (see introduction).

NKJV, NRSV"bishops"
TEV"church leaders"
NJB"presiding elders

The titles (1) "pastor," (2) "elder," (3) "bishop," or (4) "overseer" all refer to the same function in the local church (cf. Acts 20:17, 28 and Titus 1:5,7). The term "overseers" (episkopoi) had a Greek city-state background, while "elders" (presbuteroi) had a Jewish background. It is also possible that "overseer" also had a Jewish background from the Dead Sea Scroll's use of mebaqqerim (1QS 6:11,20) . Also notice the plural (cf. Acts 20:17; Eph. 4:21). Philippi had one church with multiple leaders.

The tendency to make an administrative (polity) distinction between these terms caused some Greek manuscript variations in 1:1; MSS B3, Dc and K change "with (syn) bishops (episcopois)" into "fellow bishops" (synepiscopois).

NRSV, NJB"deacons"

This is the Greek term for household servants (diakonoi). Its original etymology was "to raise dust by cleaning." It was a general term for ministry used of Jesus in Mark 10:43-45, for the Apostles in Acts 1:17 and for all spiritual gifts in I Cor. 12:5. This text supports two leadership functions in the local church, although older women (widows' roles) are also mentioned in I Tim. 3:11. These terms were originally functions but became titles and offices very quickly (cf. I Clement 42 and Ignatius' Letter to Tralles, 3:1 and Letter to Smyrna, 8:1). Ignatius of Antioch (early second century) began the Catholic tradition of using the term "Bishop" (overseer) as one who was superior to other local leaders.

The NT reflects all three forms of church polity:

1. the episcopal system (apostles)

2. the presbyterian system (elders)

3. the congregational model

All three can be seen in the Jerusalem Council of Acts 15. The form is not as crucial as the spirituality of the leaders (cf. I Tim. 3:1-13)! The gaining and maintaining of power tends to corrupt all it touches.

1:2 "grace" This Greek word (charis) is similar to the regular Greek opening "greetings" (charein, cf. James 1:1). Paul made the traditional Greek epistolary opening uniquely Christian. The absence of any reference to Paul's apostleship is significant. Most of his letters start by asserting his apostolic authority (cf. Rom.; I and II Cor.; Gal.; Eph.; Col.; I and II Tim. and Titus). Paul had a wonderful relationship with this local church.

▣ "and peace" This may reflect the Hebrew term Shalom. Paul may have combined a Greek and Hebrew greeting as a way to recognize these two groups within the church.

Some assert that there is a theological significance to Paul's use of grace before peace. This is certainly true, but this is not a theological statement but an opening greeting. See Special Topic at Col. 1:20.

▣ "from God our Father" Jesus taught believers to call YHWH by the intimate familial title, Father (cf. Matt. 6:9). This totally changes the way one looks at Deity (cf. Hosea 11). The concept of "God" brings connotations of transcendence while "Father" adds a note of immanence, even family intimacy! See Special Topic at Col. 1:2.

▣ "Lord Jesus Christ" This full designation emphasizes Jesus' deity (Lord, like YHWH), humanity (His human name), and title (Messiah, the anointed one). This full designation is linked grammatically to "God our Father" with only one preposition for both. This was one way that NT authors asserted Jesus' deity and equality. There is only one divine essence, but three personal manifestations. See full note at Col. 1:1 and Eph. 1:1-2.

 3I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

1:3 "I thank my God in all my remembrance of you," This "remembrance"can refer to (1) their monetary gifts to Paul; the Greek preposition "epi" can express cause or thanks (cf. James Moffatt's translation and vv. 5, 7) or (2) Paul's normal opening emphasis on "remember," as in Rom. 1:8-9; Eph. 1:16; I Thess. 3:6; Philemon 4.

1:4 "always offering prayer with joy" Joy is a recurrent emphasis in the book (chara, cf. 1:4, 25; 2:2, 29; 4:1); "rejoice" (chairō, cf. 1:18; 2:17, 18, 28; 3:1; 4:4 [twice],10); "rejoice with" (sunchairō, cf. 2:17, 18). This is even more significant in light of Paul's being imprisoned and facing the prospect of death.

▣ "for you all" The terms "all," "always," and "every" are characteristic of Philippians (cf. 1:3,4,7,8,25; 2:17; 4:4,5,6,8,13,21). They may relate historically and theologically to the divisions caused by Greek false teachers or Jewish exclusivism.


NASB"your participation in the gospel"
NKJV"your fellowship in the gospel"
NRSV"your sharing in the gospel"
TEV"the way in which you have helped me in the work of the gospel"
NJB"your partnership in the gospel"

This key term (koinōnia) means

1. "joint participation in"

2. "fellowship in" (cf. 4:15)

3. an idiom for giving money (cf. Phil. 4:15; Rom. 12:13; 15:26; II Cor. 9:13; Gal. 6:6; I Tim. 6:18), therefore, it may refer to this church's monetary gift to Paul (cf. 1:7; 4:10,14-18)

See Special Topic at 2:1.

▣ "from the first day until now" This relates to Acts 16:12-40. This phrase tends to define the previous phrase as referring to their participation in the gospel ministry rather than to a financial gift.

1:6 "I am confident" This is a perfect active participle from the root "to persuade," meaning "I have been and continue to be certain."

"He who began a good work in you" This is an aorist middle (deponent) participle. God (Theos) is not in the text but He is assumed (cf. Rom. 8:11; Gal. 1:6, 15 and I Thess. 5:24). The middle voice emphasizes the subject's participation in the action of the verb. However, the form is deponent, which means that this term did not have an active form in Paul's day, therefore, the middle may function as an active voice. There must be a theological balance between God's initiating love and mankind's initial and continuing faith response. It could refer to

1. the beginning of the church

2. the beginning of their participation in the gospel

3. the beginning of their personal salvation


NASB"will perfect it"
NKJV"will complete it"
NRSV"will bring it to completion"
TEV"will carry it on until it is finished"
NJB"will go on completing it"

This is a Future active indicative, which can refer to the certainty of the event. Believers live in the tension between the "already" and "the not yet" of the Kingdom of God. Full and complete kingdom benefits are future, while citizenship and status are present. Believers live in the overlapping of the two Jewish ages. The new age has arrived (Bethlehem-Pentecost) but the old age remains (fallen nature both in the physical creation and in fallen mankind).

▣ "the day of Jesus Christ" The reference to the Second Coming is a common element of Paul's opening words in his letters (cf. I Cor. 1:7,8; II Cor. 1:10; Col. 1:5; I Thess. 1:10 and II Thess. 1:4ff). This eschatological event appears in Phil. 1:6,10; 2:16 also.

The eschatological emphasis of a special coming day when humans will meet Jesus (as Savior or Judge) goes by several designations in Paul's writings:

1. "the day of our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. I Cor. 1:8)

2. "the day of the Lord" (cf. I Cor. 5:5; I Thess. 5:2; II Thess. 2:2)

3. "the day of the Lord Jesus" (cf. I Cor. 5:5; II Cor. 1:14)

4. "the day of Jesus Christ" (cf. Phil. 1:6)

5. "the day of Christ" (cf. Phil 1:10; 2:16)

6. "His day (Son of Man)" (cf. Luke 17:24)

7. "the day that the Son of Man is revealed" (cf. Luke 17:30)

8. "the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ" (cf. I Cor. 1:7)

9. "when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven" (cf. II Thess. 1:7)

10. "in the presence of the Lord Jesus at His coming" (cf. I Thess. 2:19)

In the OT the writers saw two ages, an evil age and a coming age of righteousness, the age of the Spirit (see Special Topic at Eph. 1:21). God would intervene in history through His Messiah to set up this new age. This event was known as the day of the Lord. Notice that NT writers attribute this to Christ. His first coming, the Incarnation, was foretold in many OT texts. The Jews did not expect a divine person, just a divine intervention. The two comings of the Messiah, one as Suffering Servant and Savior, one as Judge and Lord, were not obvious to OT people.

▣ "He who began. . .will perfect it" Both the terms "began" and "perfect" were technical terms for the beginning and ending of a sacrifice (cf. Rom. 12:1-2).


NASB, NKJV"I have you in my heart"
NRSV"You hold me in your heart"
TEV"you are always in my heart"
NJB"you have a place in my heart"

The Greek phrase is ambiguous. It can refer to Paul's love for them (NASB, NKJV, TEV, NKJV) or their love for Paul (NRSV). See Special Topic: Heart at Col. 2:2.

NRSV"the defense and confirmation of the gospel"
TEV"defend the gospel and establish it firmly"
NJB"defending and establishing the gospel"

These were technical terms for a "legal defense." The first term is apologia (cf. Acts 22:1; 25:16; II Tim. 4:16), the second term is bebaiōsis, (cf. Heb. 6:16 and James Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament Illustrated from the Papyri and Other Non-literary Sources, p. 108, which says it was used "to guarantee legally"). This could have referred to Paul's appearance before (1) Nero or other governmental leaders or (2) his preaching of the gospel.

▣ "you all are partakers of grace with me" This is a compound term with "syn" and "koinonia." It showed Paul's feelings of unity with these believers. This book has an unusual number of compounds with "syn," which meant "joint participation with":

1. 1:7; 4:14  syn + fellowship (koinonia)

2. 1:27 syn + cooperation

3. 2:2 syn + soul or mind

4. 2:17-18 syn + rejoice

5. 2:25; 4:3 syn + worker

6. 2:25 syn + soldier

7. 3:10 syn + form

8. 3:17 syn + initiator

9. 4:3 syn + laborer (or proper name)

The different forms of the word for "fellowship with" (koinōnia) appear often also (cf. 1:5,7; 2:1; 3:10; 4:14,16). Paul felt one with the church in soul and ministry.

1:8 "For God is my witness" Paul is making an oath. This was a common technique of asserting his veracity (cf. Rom. 1:9; II Cor. 1:23; I Thess. 2:5, 10).

▣ "how I long for you all" Paul uses this term to describe his strong desire to be with these friends (cf. Phil. 4:1; Rom. 1:11; I Thess. 3:6; II Tim. 1:4).

▣ "with the affection of Christ" The KJV translates this phrase as "the bowels of Christ." This is possibly related to the OT sacrifice of the lower internal organs (which the Canaanites ate) on the altar of sacrifice at the Tabernacle (cf. Exod. 29:13; Lev. 3:3-4,10, 15; 4:8-9; 7:3-4; 8:16, 25; 9:10,16). The ancients located the emotions in the lower viscera or abdomen (cf. Isa. 63:15; Jer. 4:19). For Paul it is related to love (cf. 2:1; II Cor. 6:12; 7:15; Phil. 1:8,21; Col. 3:12; Philemon 7,12,20).

1:9-11 Verses 9-11 are Paul's prayer on behalf of the church. These verses focus on the believers' Christlike lifestyle, while verses 3-8 focus on their position in Christ. This combines the two aspects of salvation: our position in Christ (forensic justification and positional sanctification) and our possessing of that position in Christlikeness (progressive sanctification). Verses 9-11 are one sentence in Greek.


1:9 "your love may abound still more and more" This is present active subjunctive which emphasized his prayer that their love would keep growing (cf. I Thess. 3:12). Love is the evidence and sign of a true believer (cf. I Cor. 13; I John 4:7-20). See Special Topic: Abound (Perisseuō) at Eph. 1:8.

NASB"real knowledge and all discernment"
NKJV"knowledge and all discernment"
NRSV"knowledge and full insight"
TEV"true knowledge and perfect judgment"
NJB"the knowledge and complete understanding"

Both of these requests involve full spiritual insight which leads to Christlikeness (cf. Col. 1:9). The first, epignōksō, is usually used in the NT for the knowledge needed for salvation (both a true message to be believed and a person to be welcomed). The second (aisthēsis) was more practically oriented and emphasized lifestyle choices (cf. 2:15). Christian maturity involves all three elements:

1. correct doctrine (cf. I John 4:1-6)

2. personal relationship (cf. John 1:12; 3:16)

3. godly lifestyle (cf. I John 1:7; 2:6)

It also requires perseverance (cf. Matt. 10:22; 24:11-13; Gal. 6:9; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, 21; 21:7).

1:10 "so that you may approve" This was a metallurgical term (dokimazaō). It was used for testing the genuineness of coins or precious metals. It came to have the connotation of "test with a view toward approval" (cf. Rom. 2:18; I Cor. 16:3; I Thess. 2:4). See Special Topic: Greek Terms for Testing and Their Connotations at Phil. 2:22.

NASB, NKJV"the things that are excellent"
NRSV, TEV"what is best"
NJB"true discernment"

Literally this is "things that really count." This same phrase is in Rom. 2:18.

NASB, NKJV"sincere"
TEV"free from impurity"

This is a compound term from "sunshine" (eilē) and "judge" (krinō). It literally meant "tested in the light." It came to have the metaphorical extension of unmixed and, therefore, (1) sincere (cf. I Cor. 5:8; II Cor. 2:17; II Pet. 3:1) or (2) "morally pure" (cf. II Cor. 1:12).

NASB, NRSV"blameless"
NKJV"without offense"
TEV"free from. . .blame"
NJB"free of any trace of guilt"

This is literally, "without offense" or "not causing another to stumble" (similar to II Cor. 8:16). The term means a life without blame (cf. Acts 24:16; I Cor. 10:32).

This concept of blame refers to OT guilt (cf. Gen. 44:10; Josh. 2:17; Jdgs. 15:3). This guiltlessness is referred to several times in Philippians (cf. 2:15; 3:6). Believers are responsible for their brothers in Christ as well as being a positive witness (lifestyle and verbal) to unbelievers (cf. I Tim. 3:2,7).


"until the day of Christ" See Special Topic: NT Terms for Christ's Return at Col. 3:4.

1:11 "having been filled" This is a Perfect passive participle. The concept of "filling" is connected to the power of God, the Spirit (cf. Eph. 5:18). He produces Christlikeness in those who believe and cooperate with Him, which is the goal of salvation (cf. Rom. 8:28-29; II Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:19).

NASB"the fruit of righteousness"
NKJV"the fruits of righteousness"
NRSV"the harvest of righteousness"
TEV"the truly good qualities"
NJB"the fruits of uprightness"

Notice the term "fruit" is singular, as it is in Gal. 5:22, where the fruit of the Spirit is love. Here the fruit is righteousness. The term "righteousness" in Paul's writing usually refers to a believer's legal standing (positional justification and sanctification, see Special Topic: Sanctification at Eph. 1:1) before God (cf. Romans 4-8). Here, however, it implies the practical outworking of inner salvation (progressive sanctification, cf. v. 10; James 3:18). See Special Topic: Righteousness at Eph. 4:24.

▣ "to the glory and praise of God" (cf. Matt. 5:16; Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). Believers' lives need to bring honor to God! Justification must produce sanctification. No fruit, no root! Christ is both saving us and restoring the image of God in fallen mankind. Believers must exhibit the family characteristics of God! See note on "glory" at Eph. 1:6.

 12Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. 15Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

1:12 "now I want you to know" This implies that the church had asked Paul some questions (like Corinth, cf. I Cor. 7:1,25; 8:1; 12:1; 16:1) through Epaphroditus who had brought a monetary gift to him while he was in prison (cf. 2:25).

▣ "that my circumstances" This referred to Paul's arrest, imprisonment, and trial(s). Agabus, the prophet, predicted Paul's arrest and imprisonment in Acts 21:10ff. The fact that Paul would speak before Gentile kings was revealed to Ananias in Acts 9:15. God did accomplish His stated purpose for Paul's ministry, but in a way that Paul apparently did not foresee. This same truth is evident in believers' lives. They are not controlled by luck, chance, or fate. God uses even the things that seem derogatory and negative in a marvelous way for His honor and glory (cf. v. 20; Rom. 8:28-29).

▣ "have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel" The term "progress" is used again in v. 25 and in I Tim. 4:15. It had two primary etymological backgrounds that may relate to Paul's use of the term:

1. it was a military term for the advance of troops through rough terrain by means of the advance scouts removing barriers

2. it was used by Greek philosophers (Stoics) as a catchword for the difficult path to wisdom

Although the gospel is progressing it is sometimes difficult. It is interesting to note that the progress mentioned is specified

1. in v. 13 as the gospel being spread through the elite Imperial Guard and the Roman palace itself

2. in v. 14 that other Christian preachers in Rome were taking courage from Paul's attitude and actions to proclaim the gospel while Paul himself was imprisoned


NASB"praetorian guard"
NKJV"palace guard"
NRSV"imperial guard"
TEV"the whole palace guard"

The KJV, NKJV, and TEV translations have "palace," which is quite possible because the word is used this way in Acts 23:35.

In this context it refers to a body of soldiers, not a place, because of the use of the phrase, "and all the rest," which apparently refers to persons. The exact identity of these people is uncertain, but they were probably imperial servants, legal advisers, or court officials who were involved in Paul's legal trial(s).


1:14 The Greek phrase "in the Lord" can go with "brothers" or with the term "more courage" expressing the basis for the confidence of the other preachers in seeing how Paul faced imprisonment. It is significant to note that one's demeanor, attitude and actions during times of stress and pressure are often a source of great encouragement to other Christians (cf. Job, Jeremiah, Paul).

▣ "to speak the word of God without fear" The phrase "word of God" has some Greek manuscript variations. The ancient Greek uncial manuscripts, א, A, B, and P have the genitive phrase "word of God." However, in P46, Dc, and K, the genitive phrase is omitted. UBS4 gives the omission a "B" rating (almost certain). As is true of most of these manuscript variations, they affect the sense of the passage very little.

1:15 The identity of these jealous Christian preachers (cf. vv. 15,17,18) has caused great debate among commentators. It seems obvious from vv. 11-18 that they were truly preaching Jesus, but from poor motives, not primarily directed toward Jesus and the gospel message but toward Paul in particular. Some have asserted that these are the established Christian leaders (Jewish and Gentile) who were eclipsed by Paul's intellect and spiritual presence at his coming to Rome. Possibly they were the Judaizers like in Galatia but of a less powerful strain. However, because of Paul's sharp words in the book of Galatians (3:2ff), it is improbable that this text refers to the false teachers. Here these are simply preachers with poor motives. This sounds much like our day-jealousy, rivalry, and partisanship often characterize the church of Jesus Christ, instead of love and acceptance which are demanded in I Cor. 13; Rom. 14; Gal. 5:26.


NASB, NKJV"I am appointed"
NRSV"I have been put here for"
TEV"God have given me the work of"
NJB"I remain firm"

The term "appointed" (keimai) was a military term for a soldier on watch. It is used metaphorically of one's being appointed to a task (cf. Luke 2:34). Paul's imprisonment and trial at Rome was not an accident, but was the predetermined plan of God (cf. Acts 9:15). Jesus' life was also "appointed" (cf. Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23; 3:18; 4:28). It is helpful to see our lives in this same theological world-view!

"the defense of the gospel" This is the same Greek term (apologia) used in 1:7. From it we get the English word "apology" which means "a legal defense." This phrase would imply governmental trials (cf. Acts 22:1) but could also refer to his Jewish synagogue preaching.

1:16-17 It is interesting to note that in the Textus Receptus the phrases in vv. 16 and 17 are reversed in an attempt to match the order of verse 15. This Greek manuscript variation (as so many of them) does not affect the sense of the passage.

1:17 "selfish ambition" This term originally meant "to spin wool for hire," but came to be used in the sense of an aristocratical arrogance against those who had to work for a living. It came to be used metaphorically for selfish ambition. The greatness of Paul's heart can be seen (v. 18) in the fact that he rejoiced that Christ was being preached even if the proclaimer had poor motives. The power is in the Word, not in the proclaimer!

1:18 Paul understood that the gospel message superseded personal rivalries. This verse has tremendous implications for the denominational divisions that are found in the Church today and how believers relate to them personally and theologically (cf. Romans 14 and I Corinthians 8-10).

"in truth" See Special Topic: Truth in Paul's Writings at Eph. 1:13.

 19Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

1:19 "my deliverance" Literally the term (sōtēria) meant "salvation." Paul most often uses it to speak of spiritual salvation in Christ. (Some examples: Rom. 1:16; 11:14; I Cor. 1:21; 7:6; I Tim. 4:16; II Tim. 2:10; 3:15; 4:18; Titus 3:5.) However, here it is used in the OT sense of physical deliverance (cf. II Tim. 4:18; James 5:15). It was often used in contexts that relate to trials (cf. Mark 13:11; Luke 12:11-12). It is even possible that it is an allusion to Job 13:16 in the Septuagint (LXX), in which Job is finally vindicated by God (cf. Job 42).

Paul felt he was going to be released (cf. the first class conditional sentence of v. 22). It seems that Colossians and Ephesians were written early during Paul's Roman imprisonment and Philippians toward the end. Paul was released and conducted a fourth missionary journey which was described in the Pastoral Letters (I Timothy, Titus and II Timothy) and then apparently was rearrested and beheaded before Nero's suicide in a.d. 68.

Paul's confidence is based on two elements: (1) the prayers of the Philippian Christians and (2) the power of the Spirit of God. It is interesting to note how often Paul requested prayer from the churches (cf. Rom. 15:30; II Cor. 1:11; Eph. 6:18-19; Col. 4:3; I Thess. 5:25). There is a mystery concerning intercessory prayer; God has limited Himself to the prayers of His children (cf. Matt. 7:7-11; 18:19; 21:22; Luke 11:9-13; John 14:13-14; 15:7,16; 16:23-24; I John 3:22; 5:14-15). Somehow, sincere, persistent intercession releases the power of the Spirit in a most unusual way; "we have not because we ask not" (cf. James 4:2).

NRSV, TEV"help"

This term originally is used of a wealthy patron equipping a choir. It came to be used metaphorically for a complete sufficiency and abundant provision.

"of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" Quite often the Holy Spirit is described in terms of His relationship to Jesus (cf. Rom. 8:9; I Cor. 15:45; II Cor. 3:18; Gal. 4:6; and I Pet. 1:11). G. Campbell Morgan's title for the Spirit was "the Other Jesus"! This is completely in line with the purpose of the Spirit found in John 16:7-15. The primary ministry of the Holy Spirit is to bring humans into a place of conviction, to reveal to them the gospel found in the person and work of Jesus Christ, to baptize them into Christ, and then to form Christ in them.

Paul's linking of Jesus and the Spirit was to show that the New Age had come. It was the "age of the Spirit." The Spirit brought in the New Age of righteousness. Yet the New Age was also Messianic. Jesus was the Father's mechanism for inaugurating the New Age of the Spirit. See Special Topics: Jesus and the Spirit at Col. 1:26 and The Personhood of the Spirit at Eph. 1:14.

1:20 "according to my earnest expectation" This term may have been coined by Paul. It is also used in Rom. 8:19. It is metaphorical of someone with an outstretched neck looking intently for something or someone.

NASB"that I shall not be put to shame in anything"
NKJV"that in nothing I shall be ashamed"
NRSV"that I will not be put to shame in any way"
TEV"that I shall never fail in my duty"
NJB"that I shall never have to admit defeat"

This refers to Paul's sense of responsibility in his assigned task but recognizing the difficulties and temptations (cf. I Cor. 4:1-29; 9:27).

NRSV"with all boldness"
TEV"full of courage"
NJB"complete fearlessness"

This Greek word has the basic meaning of "a boldness to speak" (1) in the presence of a superior (God, a judge, a king, etc.) or (2) in tense situations (cf. Acts 4:13,29,31; Eph. 3:12; I Tim. 3:13; Heb. 10:9; I John 4:17). This was Paul's recurrent prayer (cf. Eph. 6:19; Col. 4:3). See Special Topic: Boldness (Parrhēsia) at Col. 2:15.

NASB"Christ shall even now as always, be exalted in my body"
NKJV"as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body"
NRSV"Christ will be exalted now as always in my body"
TEV"with my whole being I shall bring honor to Christ"
NJB"so that now, as always, Christ will be glorified in my body"

This is a Future passive verb which shows that Paul was not the main actor or ingredient in God's being honored, but that Christ will be honored through Paul by means of the prayers of the brothers and the power of the Holy Spirit (v. 19). It is significant that Paul closes this phrase with the Greek term for "body." Believers will honor God with their bodies (cf. I Cor. 6:20) or they will not honor Him at all! For the Greeks the body was evil. For Paul it was morally neutral but it was and is the battleground of temptation and the place for honoring and glorifying Christ.

"whether by living or dying" Believers are to exalt Christ, some by their deaths and some by their lives of faithfulness (cf. Rom. 14:8; II Cor. 5:1-10; I Thess. 5:20; Rev. 13:14).

1:21 "for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" "To live" is a present active infinitive, while "to die" is an aorist active infinitive. This means that the act of continuing to live is Christ (Rom. 12:1-2). This is a difficult phrase to understand, but when we look at Paul's other writings, we see that it meant that believers are dead to sin, dead to self, and dead to the law, but alive unto God for service (cf. Rom. 6:1-11; Col. 3:4; Gal. 2:20; 5:24; 6:14). However, in this context, it must refer to physical death. Paul was on trial for his life, yet his life had already been taken, taken by Christ!

▣ "to die is gain" For Paul, death meant perfect fellowship with God (cf. v. 23). This does not imply that Paul was totally unconcerned about death. He discussed his fears and reservations in II Cor. 5:1-10. There is an element of fear in death for all of us, but the gospel enables believers to boldly face physical death and a holy God. We must understand, however, that the word "gain" here does not mean personal gain for Paul but gain for the gospel (cf. v. 12).

1:22 "if" This is a first class conditional sentence.

▣ "in the flesh" See Special Topic at Col. 1:22.

▣ "this will mean fruitful labor for me" This has been interpreted in two ways: (1) some see it as the fruition and culmination of his work which was already begun (2) others view it as his desire for new work. There is much evidence in the early Church that Paul was released from prison and had a few months of missionary activity before he was rearrested and beheaded by a.d. 68, which is the year in which Nero killed himself.

The evidence for his release is as follows:

1. use of the term "deliverance" in v. 19

2. the first class conditional sentence in v. 22

3. the Pastoral Epistles do not fit the chronology of Acts

4. Clement of Rome, in his first letter to the Corinthians (a.d. 95), particularly in chapter 5, states that Paul was released from prison and went to the bounds of the west

5. expressed in the introduction to Paul's letters in the Muratorian Fragment

6. expressed in Eusebius' Ecclesiastical Histories, 2:22

7. expressed in the sermons of Chrysostom, which mention his later activities


▣ "I do not know which to choose" This term usually means "declare." Paul did not really have the choice concerning his living or dying, but he asserts that God did. However, he was struggling mentally between the two options: (1) one would be beneficial to himself, i.e., a martyr's death or (2) his release would be beneficial to the church because he would have more time to preach, teach, and encourage.

1:23 "I am hard pressed from both directions" The term sunechō means "to be tightly pressed or held together" (cf. Luke 12:50; 19:43) and it shows the intense personal struggle that Paul felt related to his ministry options.

▣ "I desire to depart" The term "desire" is a very strong Greek term often translated "lust," but here it is used in a positive sense of a strong desire.

The term "depart" is a very interesting Greek word that referred to a ship being loosed from its mooring or for a military camp being taken down and moved (cf. II Tim. 4:6). Because of Paul's use of this term in II Cor. 5:1,11, it probably refers to his physical death.

▣ "and be with Christ" The Pharisees had always expected an end-time resurrection, (cf. Job 14:14-15; 19:25-27; Dan. 12:2). This is evident from many passages in the NT which refer to the Second Coming, the Judgment and the life beyond. However, in this passage, an added insight is brought into the traditional Jewish concept of Hades: when believers die, they do not enter an unconscious sleep or descend to a semi-conscious holding place, but are present with the Lord (cf. Mark 12:26-27; Luke 16:19-31; 23:43; II Cor. 5:8). There is much biblical ambiguity in this area. The Bible seems to teach an intermediate conscious, bodiless state (cf. I Cor. 15:51-52; I Thess. 4:13, 17; Rev. 6:9; 20:4). At death believers will be with the Lord but in a limited fellowship and this fellowship will not be fully consummated until Resurrection Day (cf. I John 3:2).


"for that is very much better" This is a series of three comparatives which shows Paul's exhilaration at the thought of being with Jesus.

1:25 This implies that Paul expected to be released.

▣ "for your progress and joy in the faith" Verses 25-26 form one sentence in Greek. If it is true that the term "progress" (cf. I Tim. 4:15) implies a difficult journey, then it is significant that the term "joy," so characteristic of this book, is linked with the difficulty of the Christian life. From other NT passages it becomes obvious that one unique characteristic of the Christian is joy amidst physical problems and persecution (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; Rom. 5:3; 8:18; I Thess. 5:16; James 1:2-4; I Pet. 4:12-16).


NASB"your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus"
NKJV"your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ"
NRSV"that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus"
TEV"when I am with you again, you will have even more reason to be proud of me in your life in union with Christ Jesus"
NJB"so that my return to be among you may increase to overflowing your pride in Jesus Christ on my account"

This phrase has two possible objects: (1) Christ or (2) Paul. Were they rejoicing in Christ and the gospel or in Paul's return and ministry among them? The context favors the latter. Paul's ministry would glorify Christ. See Special Topic: Abound (Perisseuō) at Eph. 1:8.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. Who are the overseers and deacons? What were their responsibilities?

2. Why was this church so special to Paul?

3. Why is verse 6 so significant? How is it related to verses 5 and 10?

4. List the things Paul prays for this church.

5. How could Paul's imprisonment further the gospel?

6. What is the identity of the Christian preachers who preached out of jealousy, rivalry and partisanship?

7. Why is verse 18 so significant in how we treat denominationalism today?

8. Why is the Holy Spirit called the Spirit of Jesus Christ? What is the significance of this interchange?

9. What does Paul mean by "living is Christ and dying is gain"? How does this apply to your daily, Christian world-view?

10. What happens to the Christian at death?

11. How are problems and joy related to the Christian experience?



 27Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28in no way alarmed by your opponents which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God. 29For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

1:27 "only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel" Verses 27-30 form one extended sentence in the Greek text. This is a present middle (deponent) imperative from the Greek root for city (polis cf. 3:20; Acts 23:1; Eph. 2:19). It could be translated "you must continue to live as citizens" (cf. 3:20). This is reflected in several English translations:

1. The Berkeley Version of the New Testament (Gerrit Verkuyl)

2. The New Testament: An American Translation (Edgar J. Goodspeed)

3. The Emphasized New Testament: A New Translation (J. B. Rotherham)

This would have reflected the historical setting of Philippi as a Roman colony. It also implies theologically that believers are citizens of two worlds and have obligations in both. Paul's usual metaphor for the Christian life is the word "walk." The early Christians were first called "the Way" (cf. Acts 9:2;18:25-26; 19:9,23; 22:4; 24:14,22). Believers are to live worthy lives (cf. Eph. 4:1, 17; 5:2, 15; Col. 1:10; I Thess. 2:12).

▣ "so that whether I come and see you or remain absent" This same truth about the need for consistency in our Christian life can be found in 2:12 and in Eph. 6:6 as Paul admonishes Christian slaves to be diligent whether they are being watched by their masters or not. God is always present!

▣ "that you are standing firm in one spirit" This is a present active indicative. Paul often uses the phrase "standing firm" in one of two senses: (1) our position in Christ (cf. Rom. 5:2; I Cor. 15:1) or (2) our need to maintain Christlikeness (cf. 4:1; I Cor. 15:1; 16:13; Gal. 5:1; Eph. 6:11,13,14; I Thess. 3:8; II Thess. 2:15). This is a call to church unity (cf. Acts 4:32; Eph. 4:1-6).

The concept of "one spirit" has been greatly debated. It can refer to the human redeemed spirit, or to the Holy Spirit. This context, as well as 2:1, combines both aspects. Notice believers are to stand in one spirit, in one mind (psuchē). Unity is crucial (cf. Eph. 4:1-6).

▣ "striving together" This is a present active participle. This syn compound is either (1) an athletic term for a team's participation in the Greek games or (2) a military term. We get the English term "athlete" from this Greek word (cf. 4:3; II Tim. 2:5). The Christian life as a spiritual battle is discussed in Eph. 4:14; 6:10-20.

Notice NJB translation "battling, as a team with a single aim, for the faith."

▣ "For the faith of the gospel" The definite article is present which makes it "the faith." The context demands that this is used in the sense of Christian truths (cf. Eph. 4:5; I Tim. 4:20; II Tim. 1:14 and Jude 3, 20).

Believers ask many questions that the Bible does not address (the exact process of creation, the origin of Satan, the origin of angels, the exact nature of heaven and hell, etc.). Everything that is necessary for salvation and an effective Christian life has been revealed. Holy curiosity must not demand more than what has been given (revelation).

1:28 "in no way alarmed by your opponents" This is a present passive participle which is used to describe a stampede of animals (cf. Acts 18:9,10; I Cor. 2:3). The opponents could be

1. local Jews, although there was no synagogue mentioned in Philippi

2. traveling Jewish opponents, as in Acts 17:13, or like the Judaizers of the Galatian churches (cf. Phil. 3:2-6)

3. local pagans (cf. Acts 16:16-21)

4. local civil authorities (cf. Acts 16:21-40)


▣ "which is a sign of destruction for them" This Greek term, "sign," meant proof based on evidence (cf. Rom. 3:25,26; II Cor. 8:24). "Destruction" was a military metaphor which meant "to loose," "bring to nought," or "destroy." The Christians' fearless testimony and lifestyle were witnesses to the judgment of the opponents and the salvation of the believers.

▣ "but you" The "you" in both verse 28 and 29 is emphatic. What a contrast exists between believers and non-believers.

▣ "of salvation for you" This term is rather ambiguous, as in 1:19. It could be used (1) in its full salvatory sense or (2) in its OT sense of physical deliverance (cf. James 5:15). In the context of false teachers and external persecution it is difficult to choose between the two options.

▣ "and that too, from God" The terms "sign" and "salvation" in v. 28 are both feminine while the term "that" is neuter. Therefore, the term "that" may refer to the courage God gives believers to face these opponents. This is a similar construction to Eph. 2:8,9 where the "that" referred not to "grace" or "faith," which are also feminine, but to the whole process of salvation.

1:29 "for to you it has been granted" This is an aorist passive indicative from the root charis (cf. 2:9; Rom. 8:32). God's gracious gifts are the key both to salvation and the Christian life (cf. v. 28).

▣ "not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for His sake" These are two present infinitives which specify what God has given believers in Christ. One relates to continuing faith and the other to continuing maturity. It is hard for believers in modern western culture to discuss suffering. In the NT it was often the norm of the Christian life (cf. Acts 14:22; Rom. 8:17; I Thess. 3:3; II Tim. 3:12; I Pet. 3:14; 4:12-16). A brief breakdown of some of the purposes of suffering might be

1. it was beneficial for Christ (cf. Heb. 2:10; 5:8), therefore,

2. it will be beneficial for believers (cf. 2:10; Rom. 5:3; James 1:2-4; I Pet. 1:6,7), and

3. it brings joyous assurance of believers' place in Christ (cf. Matt. 5:10-12; Acts 5:41; James 1:2; I Pet. 3:14; and 4:12-16)


1:30 "experiencing the same conflict" The Philippian believers were undergoing persecution. The term "struggle," used so often by Paul, was either an athletic or military metaphor. We get the English word "agony" from this Greek word.

▣ "which you saw in me" We learn something of Paul's persecution at Philippi from Acts 16:22-24 and I Thess. 2:2. Paul modeled Christianity for them and us.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is Paul asking the believers to do in v. 27?

2. Who are the opponents that are mentioned in 1:28?

3. How are suffering and persecution beneficial to believers?


Copyright © 2012 Bible Lessons International