1:1-26 PAUL'S EXPERIENCES DURING IMPRISONMENT
A prayer for the Philippians (1:1-11)
In greeting the church, Paul mentions in particular the church leaders, as these had probably been responsible for arranging the collection of gifts sent to him (1:1-2). He is thankful not only for the present gift, but for the many gifts they have sent him, from his first visit to their city to his current imprisonment. Through their prayers and gifts they have been true partners with him in spreading the gospel (3-5).
Paul prays that the work of God in their lives will continue to grow and develop till it reaches perfection in the day when they stand before Christ. Paul's feelings of joy towards them are but a reflection of Christ's feelings (6-8). As they learn more of God and his ways, they will learn how to act towards one another with genuine love. They will also learn how to act in choosing what is spiritually helpful and rejecting what is not. Their lives will be filled with truly good qualities and will be pleasing to God (9-11).
Results of Paul's imprisonment (1:12-26)
Some of the Philippians were becoming down-hearted because Paul had been imprisoned so long. He tries to encourage them with the news that through his imprisonment he has been able to tell the good news of Jesus Christ to many people whom he could not reach otherwise. Among these were people such as Roman guards and government officials. His fearless example has encouraged the local Christians to evangelize more boldly (12-14).
Unfortunately, the local Christians are bold in different ways. Some are sincere disciples of Jesus Christ, and are more zealous for him because of Paul's example. Others, who are more interested in gaining status for themselves in the church, are jealous of Paul's influence and are glad to see him locked up. This enables them to pursue their selfish ambitions, knowing that Paul can do nothing to stop them (15-17). Paul, however, is not angry. He is glad that at least they are still preaching the true gospel, even if not from the best motives (18).
Paul believes that through the Philippians' prayers he will have added help from God's Spirit and so be set free. This will allow him to continue his work of spreading the gospel. But as he thinks also of the possibility of execution, his confidence is briefly shaken. He feels less certain that he will be released. Nevertheless, whether he will be released or executed, his aim is to bring honour to Christ (19-20). As for his personal desires, he does not know which he prefers. Life itself means to enjoy Christ, and death will only increase this joy; but if he is released he will have further opportunity to serve God in the world. His death will benefit him, but his life will benefit others (21-24).
At this thought Paul's original confidence returns. He expects that their prayers for his release will be answered. Apart from the joy this will bring to both Paul and the Philippians, it will increase their faith and lead to further progress in their lives for Christ (25-26).
1:27-2:30 TEACHING ABOUT HUMILITY
The need for unity and courage (1:27-30)
Signs of disunity were appearing in the Philippian church, and Paul seeks to correct the problem before it spreads. The believers must be careful of their conduct, particularly in their relations with one another. It is important that there be complete unity among the believers if the church is to withstand the attacks of the enemy (27).
Persecutors get an uneasy feeling of fear when they see the courage of those whom they persecute, and this fear is a warning to them of coming judgment. Christians, by contrast, get increased confidence when they withstand persecution, and this confidence is an assurance to them of coming salvation. As the Philippians suffer together for Christ's sake, they will be more firmly united with one another and with Paul (28-30).
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Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Philippians 1". "Brideway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
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