Warm Up before the Hike Consider sharing highs and lows of the week
Last week we surveyed the overall journey and gathered our gear to depart for a summer hike through Paul’s letter to the Philippians. We gained background information about how his relationship with the believers at Philippi began while realizing he pens his letter from a damp prison cell. Now you and I are setting out on the first “leg” of our hike by making the effort to apply the inductive Bible study method of observation, interpretation, and application through the first eleven verses. If you haven’t carved out the time to do your study of 1:1-11 and share with a friend or group, I strongly encourage you to do so before reading the thoughts below. You won’t regret receiving a firsthand encounter instead of just “hearing about the hike!”
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Observation – What does the passage say?
Paul refers to himself and Timothy as servants and the Philippians as saints and partakers of grace with him (vss. 1, 7)
He blesses them with grace and peace, acknowledging both are from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (vs. 2)
Cause/Effect – When Paul thinks about the believers, he thanks God and responds by praying with joy (vs. 3-4) their ongoing partnership in the Gospel causes Paul to have joy (vs. 5)
Paul expresses his love for the believers when he says he holds them in his heart (vs. 7) and yearns for them with the affection of Christ Jesus (vs. 8)
Paul says he prays for them at the beginning of his letter (vs. 4) and then at the end he explains four requests: 1) your love to abound more and more (vs. 9) 2) you will approve the things that are excellent (vs. 10) 3) you will be pure and blameless for the day of Christ (vs. 10) 4) you will be filled with the fruit of righteousness (vs. 11)
Cause/Effect – when the believers are growing, it causes God to receive praise and glory (vs. 11)
Interpretation – What does the passage mean?
Paul pours out his tender love for his friends in the church at Philippi as his heart is tightly knit to them through serving together for the cause of Christ. He thinks about them and remembers how they defended the truth of the Gospel to those who are resistant. He also recalls the delight of watching lives transformed. Paul expresses gratitude for their friendship and support while he’s been in prison. He wants them to go onto maturity as he declares his confidence in God’s ability to complete the good work He began. Being unsure of what his future holds, Paul casts his concern for their spiritual health upon God as he depends on Him to maintain their growth in the Lord so that others offer praise to Jesus who is alive.
Sonic Light provides many insights on the meaning of the passage. Here are two:
*On Paul’s meaning of the gospel, “It does not take much reading of Paul’s letters to recognize that the gospel is the singular passion of his life; that passion is the glue that in particular holds this letter together. By ‘the gospel,’ Paul refers primarily neither to a body of teaching nor to proclamation. Above all, the gospel has to do with Christ, both his person and his work.”
*On 1:6 about God completing the good work, “This verse does not teach that God will keep all Christians faithfully persevering in the faith and in good works until they die. Believers can and do resist, oppose, and limit God’s sanctifying work in them (Eph. 4:30; 1 Thess. 5:19). Perseverance in faith and good works is not automatic for the Christian. The New Testament writers consistently urged us to persevere, recognizing that some Christians will not do so (Titus 2:11-13; Heb. 2:1; 4:1; 6:1-8; et al.). . . Even though some Christians do not persevere in faith and good works, God will persevere in bringing them to glory (i.e., will glorify them). Thus it is God who perseveres in the work of salvation, not necessarily man.”
Application – How does the meaning of the passage apply to me?
Paul declares God’s promise that He will complete the good work He began and bring believers to glory. Being assured of our glorious destination as believers in Jesus’ death and resurrection, let’s ask God for fresh awe of knowing Him and becoming like Christ. Take time to examine if you are resisting, opposing, or limiting God’s sanctifying work in an area. Do you believe His healing and restoring power is greater than your hurts, habits, and sin patterns? Is there something you’ve given up on believing God can give you freedom and redeem? If so, confess your doubt and ask for a new experience of completion of the good work He began in you.
Paul’s hopes and prayers center around the spiritual health of his friends in Philippi. I am sure there were many physical needs given the persecution of believers and the socio-economic status of most men and women. Who can you pray for this week using Paul’s prayer as a guide? Spend some time praying his prayer for yourself and those who are studying with you.
HOMEWORK: Read Philippians 1:12-18 and then spend 10-15 minutes a day: 2 days on observation, 2 days on interpretation, and 1 day on application.
Scripture Memory: Memorize Philippians 2:1-2. As a reminder, we will be memorizing through verse 13 over the summer.
I am using index cards to help me memorize. However, I’d love to hear ways that you memorize Scripture as this is a struggle for me. Leave a comment below and help out this sister and perhaps others who are on the hike.
I continue to ask God to open your eyes to beautiful views that refresh you and quicken your joy as you take each step.