The Letter of Paul to the Philippians Chapter 1

by Mike Ratliff

Παῦλος καὶ Τιμόθεος δοῦλοι Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ πᾶσιν τοῖς ἁγίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ τοῖς οὖσιν ἐν Φιλίπποις σὺν ἐπισκόποις καὶ διακόνοις,χάρις ὑμῖν καὶ εἰρήνη ἀπὸ θεοῦ πατρὸς ἡμῶν καὶ κυρίου Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ. (Philippians 1:1-2 NA27)

Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus in Philippi with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Lord Jesus Christ. (a personal translation of Philippians 1:1-2 from the NA27 Greek text)

In vv1-2 Paul and Timothy gives the standard Christian greeting that was very common in the early Church. Notice that it is from both Paul and Timothy, who identify themselves as δοῦλοι Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ (slaves of Christ Jesus), but it addressed to all the ἁγίοις ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ (saints in Christ Jesus) at Philippi. The word “saints” translates ἁγίοις, which is actually a form of an adjective that means “holy.” That root word is ἅγιος or hagios, which in the Dative form, as used in this passage, designates “saints.” Paul used this word in Ephesians 2:19 saying, “you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” Who are the “overseers?” This is the Greek word ἐπισκόποις the Dative, Plural of ἐπίσκοπος or episkopos, “overseer, bishop.” In the Greek, it literally refers to someone who “looks over” or “watches over” a group of people. It is translated as “overseers” or “elders” in the church. Paul gives their qualifications in 1 Timothy 3:2 and Titus 1:7. What we must understand my brethren is that in 1 Peter 2:25, Peter refers to our Lord Jesus Christ as “the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls..” Therefore, Jesus is, the chief overseer of our lives. Those men who are appointed as elders and such in our churches function on His behalf and should use His life as a model. 

Εὐχαριστῶ τῷ θεῷ μου ἐπὶ πάσῃ τῇ μνείᾳ ὑμῶν πάντοτε ἐν πάσῃ δεήσει μου ὑπὲρ πάντων ὑμῶν, μετὰ χαρᾶς τὴν δέησιν ποιούμενος, ἐπὶ τῇ κοινωνίᾳ ὑμῶν εἰς τὸ εὐαγγέλιον ἀπὸ τῆς πρώτης ἡμέρας ἄχρι τοῦ νῦν, πεποιθὼς αὐτὸ τοῦτο, ὅτι ὁ ἐναρξάμενος ἐν ὑμῖν ἔργον ἀγαθὸν ἐπιτελέσει ἄχρι ἡμέρας Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ· Καθώς ἐστιν δίκαιον ἐμοὶ τοῦτο φρονεῖν ὑπὲρ πάντων ὑμῶν διὰ τὸ ἔχειν με ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμᾶς, ἔν τε τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου καὶ ἐν τῇ ἀπολογίᾳ καὶ βεβαιώσει τοῦ εὐαγγελίου συγκοινωνούς μου τῆς χάριτος πάντας ὑμᾶς ὄντας. μάρτυς γάρ μου ὁ θεὸς ὡς ἐπιποθῶ πάντας ὑμᾶς ἐν σπλάγχνοις Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ. Καὶ τοῦτο προσεύχομαι, ἵνα ἡ ἀγάπη ὑμῶν ἔτι μᾶλλον καὶ μᾶλλον περισσεύῃ ἐν ἐπιγνώσει καὶ πάσῃ αἰσθήσει εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τὰ διαφέροντα, ἵνα ἦτε εἰλικρινεῖς καὶ ἀπρόσκοποι εἰς ἡμέραν Χριστοῦ, πεπληρωμένοι καρπὸν δικαιοσύνης τὸν διὰ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ εἰς δόξαν καὶ ἔπαινον θεοῦ. (Philippians 1:3-11 NA27)

I thank my God at every remembrance of you, always in every supplication of mine on your behalf with joy, in view of your participation in the Good News from the first day until now. Having become confident of this very thing, that the one having begun a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus. It is certainly right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are partakers with me of grace, both in my bonds and the defense and vindication of the Good News. For God is my witness how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this I pray, that the your love may increase more and more in deeper knowledge and all discernment, for you to approve the things being superior that you may be pure and blameless in the Day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God. (a personal translation of Philippians 1:3-11 from the NA27 Greek text)

Think if you were one of the saints at Philippi and you heard this letter read or read it yourself. Perhaps you were one of those who came to Christ in that short period when Paul, Silas, Timothy and Luke were there when Lydia and the Philippian Jailer were saved. Or perhaps you were the slave girl from whom Paul cast out the evil spirit of divination. Maybe you were one of those who saw those things and came to Christ through that. In any case, Paul has a special place in his heart for these saints and they for him. Thus is the nature of true saving faith and the power of the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. Notice also, that Paul is not content that they are are in Christ, but that they continue to increase more and more in deeper knowledge and all discernment, et cetera. This is sorely missed in our time. So many are content with the shallowness and busyness of religiosity. That is not what Paul taught the Philippians and that was not what their overseers and deacons lead them to do either.

Γινώσκειν δὲ ὑμᾶς βούλομαι, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι τὰ κατ᾽ ἐμὲ μᾶλλον εἰς προκοπὴν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ἐλήλυθεν, ὥστε τοὺς δεσμούς μου φανεροὺς ἐν Χριστῷ γενέσθαι ἐν ὅλῳ τῷ πραιτωρίῳ καὶ τοῖς λοιποῖς πᾶσιν, καὶ τοὺς πλείονας τῶν ἀδελφῶν ἐν κυρίῳ πεποιθότας τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου περισσοτέρως τολμᾶν ἀφόβως τὸν λόγον λαλεῖν. (Philippians 1:12-14 NA27)

I want you to know brothers that the things concerning me have come even more to an advancement of the Good News so it has become manifest in all the Praetorium and to all the rest that my bonds are for Christ. And most of the brothers in the Lord have become confident with respect to my bonds and are more readily to speak the Word fearlessly. (a personal translation of Philippians 1:12-14 from the NA27 Greek text)

The progression of the Gospel, the Good News, is not something man does. It is not done according to plans concocted in some board room or by some marketing team. Who would have ever come up with taking the best church planter and putting him in prison under threat of death for preaching the Gospel as way to advance the Kingdom? However, that is what God did and Paul was rejoicing in that.

τινὲς μὲν καὶ διὰ φθόνον καὶ ἔριν, τινὲς δὲ καὶ δι᾽ εὐδοκίαν τὸν Χριστὸν κηρύσσουσιν· οἱ μὲν ἐξ ἀγάπης, εἰδότες ὅτι εἰς ἀπολογίαν τοῦ εὐαγγελίου κεῖμαι, οἱ δὲ ἐξ ἐριθείας τὸν Χριστὸν καταγγέλλουσιν, οὐχ ἁγνῶς, οἰόμενοι θλῖψιν ἐγείρειν τοῖς δεσμοῖς μου. Τί γάρ; πλὴν ὅτι παντὶ τρόπῳ, εἴτε προφάσει εἴτε ἀληθείᾳ, Χριστὸς καταγγέλλεται, καὶ ἐν τούτῳ χαίρω. Ἀλλὰ καὶ χαρήσομαι, οἶδα γὰρ ὅτι τοῦτό μοι ἀποβήσεται εἰς σωτηρίαν διὰ τῆς ὑμῶν δεήσεως καὶ ἐπιχορηγίας τοῦ πνεύματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ κατὰ τὴν ἀποκαραδοκίαν καὶ ἐλπίδα μου, ὅτι ἐν οὐδενὶ αἰσχυνθήσομαι ἀλλ᾽ ἐν πάσῃ παρρησίᾳ ὡς πάντοτε καὶ νῦν μεγαλυνθήσεται Χριστὸς ἐν τῷ σώματί μου, εἴτε διὰ ζωῆς εἴτε διὰ θανάτου. Ἐμοὶ γὰρ τὸ ζῆν Χριστὸς καὶ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν κέρδος. εἰ δὲ τὸ ζῆν ἐν σαρκί, τοῦτό μοι καρπὸς ἔργου, καὶ τί αἱρήσομαι οὐ γνωρίζω. συνέχομαι δὲ ἐκ τῶν δύο, τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχων εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι καὶ σὺν Χριστῷ εἶναι, πολλῷ [γὰρ] μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον· τὸ δὲ ἐπιμένειν [ἐν] τῇ σαρκὶ ἀναγκαιότερον δι᾽ ὑμᾶς. καὶ τοῦτο πεποιθὼς οἶδα ὅτι μενῶ καὶ παραμενῶ πᾶσιν ὑμῖν εἰς τὴν ὑμῶν προκοπὴν καὶ χαρὰν τῆς πίστεως, ἵνα τὸ καύχημα ὑμῶν περισσεύῃ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἐν ἐμοὶ διὰ τῆς ἐμῆς παρουσίας πάλιν πρὸς ὑμᾶς. Μόνον ἀξίως τοῦ εὐαγγελίου τοῦ Χριστοῦ πολιτεύεσθε, ἵνα εἴτε ἐλθὼν καὶ ἰδὼν ὑμᾶς εἴτε ἀπὼν ἀκούω τὰ περὶ ὑμῶν, ὅτι στήκετε ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι, μιᾷ ψυχῇ συναθλοῦντες τῇ πίστει τοῦ εὐαγγελίου καὶ μὴ πτυρόμενοι ἐν μηδενὶ ὑπὸ τῶν ἀντικειμένων, ἥτις ἐστὶν αὐτοῖς ἔνδειξις ἀπωλείας, ὑμῶν δὲ σωτηρίας, καὶ τοῦτο ἀπὸ θεοῦ· ὅτι ὑμῖν ἐχαρίσθη τὸ ὑπὲρ Χριστοῦ, οὐ μόνον τὸ εἰς αὐτὸν πιστεύειν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ ὑπὲρ αὐτοῦ πάσχειν, τὸν αὐτὸν ἀγῶνα ἔχοντες, οἷον εἴδετε ἐν ἐμοὶ καὶ νῦν ἀκούετε ἐν ἐμοί. (Philippians 1:15-30 NA27)

Some indeed proclaim Christ because of envy and strife, but some indeed because of good intention. The latter do it out of love knowing that I am appointed for a defense of the Good News. But those others preach Christ out of rivalry not purely supposing to stir up trouble as I am in my bonds. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached, and this I rejoice and in addition I will rejoice for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ according to the earnest expectation of my hope that in nothing I will be put to shame, but with all courage as always even now Christ will be magnified in my body whether through life or through death. For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if it means to live in the flesh, this for me is fruit of labor, and what I will choose I do not know. Now I am hard pressed from two sides. The desire to depart and be with Christ is much better, but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake, and having been persuaded, I know that I will remain and will continue with you all for your progress and joy of the faith, that in me you may have ample cause to boast in Christ Jesus through my presence with you again. Only conduct your citizenship worthily of the Good News of Christ so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of the things concerning you, that you are standing in one spirit, with one soul contending for the faith of the Good News and not being frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a proof to them of their destruction, but of your salvation and this from God. Because of your, it was given on behalf of Christ, not only in Him to believe, but also on behalf of Him to suffer, having the same struggle which you saw in me and now hear that I still have. (a personal translation of Philippians 1:15-30 from the NA27 Greek Text)

What stands out in this passage is Paul’s commitment which is expressed for us succinctly in v21, “Ἐμοὶ γὰρ τὸ ζῆν Χριστὸς καὶ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν κέρδος.” Or, ”For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I seriously doubt if most believers nowadays all wrapped up in churchianty or being worked to death on those religiosity treadmills could even conceptualize Paul’s thesis here. What he is saying could also be stated as our Lord said:

Τότε ὁ Ἰησοῦς εἶπεν τοῖς μαθηταῖς αὐτοῦ· εἴ τις θέλει ὀπίσω μου ἐλθεῖν, ἀπαρνησάσθω ἑαυτὸν καὶ ἀράτω τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθείτω μοι. ὃς γὰρ ἐὰν θέλῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ σῶσαι ἀπολέσει αὐτήν· ὃς δ᾽ ἂν ἀπολέσῃ τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εὑρήσει αὐτήν. τί γὰρ ὠφεληθήσεται ἄνθρωπος ἐὰν τὸν κόσμον ὅλον κερδήσῃ τὴν δὲ ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ζημιωθῇ; ἢ τί δώσει ἄνθρωπος ἀντάλλαγμα τῆς ψυχῆς αὐτοῦ; (Matthew 16:24-26 NA27)

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If someone wishes to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever desires to save his soul will lose it, but whoever loses his soul on account of me will find it. For what will a man be benefited if he acquires the whole world, but he forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (a personal translation of Matthew 16:24-26 from the NA27 Greek text)

Paul was lined up with our Lord here. However, I doubt if most professing Christians are. What we have to do is prayerfully examine ourselves seeking to repent and become the disciples of our Lord Jesus Christ who are bearing our own crosses as we follow him.

To live is Christ, to die is gain.

Soli Deo Gloria!

8 thoughts on “The Letter of Paul to the Philippians Chapter 1

  1. Mike, thank you for this!
    I’ll never forget how I came to ‘see’ some years ago…that I was ‘hagios’..set apart unto Him…
    bought at a price (so high, so high!) … and no more my own possession…
    So that..’to live is Christ, and to die is gain’ !
    Thanks for the reminder of the high privilege that is ours..to take up our crosses and follow Him.. and the great grace and provision He makes daily..to enable us to do so!

  2. Celine, yes my sister, and it this very realization that we must have to begin that humble trek (and stay on it) along that straight and narrow way to this journey our God has laid before each of us as we carry our own crosses following our Lord…

  3. This post is MOST humbling and encouraging. The theme being presented here is sound, biblical exegesis and reminds me of the likewise convicting/encouraging message of a book written by Rob Ventura and Jeremy Walker on the life of Paul, based on the first two chapters of his letter to the Colossians: http://www.reformationtheology.com/2010/10/book_review_a_portrait_of_paul.php

    I agree with Paul Washer, who said this is one of his top five books.

    Blessings in Christ, Mike – grow not weary in well doing!

  4. I love seeing the translation as ‘slave’ and not ‘bondservant’ as is so common in the KJV. I think slave suggests more accurately the relationship we have with Jesus. Where we were once ‘slaves’ to sin, the finished work of the cross has made us ‘slaves’ to Christ. When I see how the wrath that was meant for me was poured out on the Son, how can I be anything but a slave to Christ.
    Bless His name!!

  5. And yet, the word slave is so offensive to some. I’ve heard rants and raves against the use of the word slave because in some minds, we are friends, children, but never slaves.

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