It’s an honor to suffer for Jesus
“Hi. Paul & Timothy here.”1From: Paul and Timothy, slaves of Jesus the Messiah.
To: All the people in Philippi who are devoted to Jesus the Messiah, including the pastors and associate ministers.
2May you experience the kindness and peace that come from God our Father and from our leader Jesus, the Messiah.
You make me feel thankful3Whenever I think of you, I thank God for you. 4Every time I pray for all of you folks, I’m feeling the joy. 5From the first day I met you, you’ve been wonderful partners in helping me tell others the Good News about Jesus. 6God started doing something good in you. He’s going to keep doing it until he’s finished, and Jesus the Messiah comes back. I have no doubt about it.
7I have every right to feel this way about all of you. I’ll tell you why. It’s because I’ve reserved a special place for you in my heart. I think of you as my partners, even here in prison while I work on defending and proving the truth of the Good News about Jesus. 8With God as my witness, I want you to know I love you from the bottom of my heart. I wish I could be with you to express the love of Jesus the Messiah.
Paul’s prayer for the Philippian folks9Here’s my prayer for you: May your love grow and grow—along with your knowledge and your ability to put that knowledge to good use. 10I’m praying that you’ll figure out what matters most, and live accordingly as you wait for Jesus to come back. Keep your life pure. Don’t give anyone reason to blame you. 11May all the good things that come from spiritual integrity fill your life because of Jesus the Messiah. And may God get all the praise and credit for it.
Paul’s problems become solutions to God12Listen, I want you to know something, folks. What has happened to me here is helping me spread the Good News about Jesus more than ever. 13The entire palace guard knows that I’m imprisoned because of the Messiah. In fact, everyone here knows it. 14Christians here have seen what happened to me. As a result, they’ve gotten even more confident in the Lord. They’re openly talking about God more boldly than ever.
15It’s true that some people are talking about the Messiah for the wrong reasons. Some envy the attention we’re getting. Others just want to start an argument. But other folks talk about the Messiah with good intensions. 16They do it out of love, to show their support for me while I’m here defending the Good News. 17But those other people talk about the Messiah for selfish reasons. They aren’t sincere. They’re trying to make it harder for me here in prison.
18So what? Whether folks are talking about the Messiah with good reason or not, they’re talking about the Messiah. The news is getting out. I’m excited about that. Yessiree, and I’m going to keep celebrating it. 19I know that I’ll get out of this just fine, thanks to your prayers and the help I’m getting from the Spirit of Jesus, the Messiah.
When it’s life or death, Paul picks Jesus20I don’t plan on embarrassing the Messiah here. I hope and fully expect that people here will see in my courage and boldness just how great the Messiah is—whether I live or die. 21As far as I’m concerned, if I live, I live for Christ. If I die, I win the jackpot.
22Here’s my dilemma. If I live, I get to keep on working and helping grow the church. But honestly, I don’t know which I want more. 23I’m pulled both ways. I want to leave and be with Christ. That’s the better option, no doubt about it. 24But it’s better for you if I stick around a little longer. 25Since I’m convinced of that, I’m sure I’ll get through this alive. I’ll be with you long enough to help you continue happily growing in your faith. 26I believe that when I get there, you’ll have even more reason to brag about Jesus the Messiah because of what I’ve been through.
Practice what you preach27I’m asking one thing of you. Practice what you preach. Live up to the message of the Messiah. That way, whether I’m able to come and see you or not, I’ll at least be able to hear that you’re staying strong. I’ll want to know that you’re united as one spirit, working side-by-side to spread the Good News about the Messiah. 28I’ll also want to know that you’re not afraid of the people who treat you like you’re some kind of an enemy. Let their hostility toward you serve as a warning of God’s hostility toward them. God will destroy them and save you.
29Consider it an honor to believe in the Messiah. Do the same for the suffering that comes with it. Both are honors entrusted to you. 30I know that you’re dealing with the same struggles you saw me grappling with when I was with you. And these are the same kind of troubles that you’ve heard that I’m facing here.
“Pastors and associate ministers” are often translated as overseers and deacons. Overseer may have been like a top church leader today, perhaps a bishop, priest, or a senior pastor. Deacons may have been like today’s associate ministers, as part of the staff helping manage the church ministry.
The Greek word, charis, is often translated “grace.” It also means “loving-kindness,” “good will.” And it often refers to the merciful kindness of God.
The original Greek word for “leader” is kyrios, often translated “lord” or “master.”
Paul started the church in Philippi, the first church of Europe. Read his opening barrage of gratitude to these people, in Philippians 1:3-8. What do you think it takes for a congregation, then or now, to make a pastor feel this way?
Paul says he’s going to be praying that the people “figure out what matters most, and live accordingly” (1:10). So what matters most?
Paul apparently thought he would be found not guilty: “I know that I’ll get out of this just fine, thanks to your prayers and the help I’m getting from the Spirit of Jesus, the Messiah” (1:19). Many Bible experts say he did not get out alive, but that he was decapitated in the style of execution reserved for Roman citizens such as Paul. If that is what happened, how do you think it would have affected the faith of the church in Philippi?
Imprisoned, Paul struggles over whether he prefers to live or die. “I’m pulled both ways. I want to leave and be with Christ. That’s the better option, no doubt about it” (1:23). How do you react to Paul’s thoughts about that? Is he being reasonable, drama-queen dramatic, or is he simply trying to get a handle on his own mortality and deal with the possibility that he could be dying soon?
Paul tells the Philippian Christians, “Practice what you preach. Live up to the message of the Messiah” (1:27). How is that possible?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul’s prayer for the church in Philippi is this: “May your love grow and grow—along with your knowledge and your ability to put that knowledge to good use” (1:9). What are some of the ways we grow in our knowledge about spiritual things, which includes love? And what do you think is the most effective tool for helping us do that?
LIFE APPLICATION. Looking on the bright side, Paul says that his imprisonment is good news for Christianity because it is giving him the opportunity to talk about Jesus in a palace full of people, perhaps in Rome (1:12). In your life or in the life of someone you know when has something like this happened, when a rotten situation produced something good for the kingdom of God?
LIFE APPLICATION. Paul had a special connection with this congregation. As far as the record reveals, it’s the only church from which he accepted money to help fund his ministry. They care enough about him that when they find out he’s in prison, they send a messenger with supplies. So he writes them a thank you letter that says “Every time I pray for all of you folks, I’m feeling the joy” (1:4). Who do you know like that?