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Bible Commentaries

Bell's Commentary on the Bible

Philippians 1

Verses 1-18

  1. INTRO:
    1. Poem: One ship drives east & another drives west, With the selfsame winds that blow. Tis the set of the sails, And not the gales, Which tells us the way to go. [Ella Wheeler Wilcox]
      1. Paul understood that joy doesn't depend upon circumstances, people, possessions, or worries. (ch.1,2,3,4)
      2. It is an attitude that’s determined by confidence in God.
        1. It’s this confidence in God that guided him like an inner compass, which always kept him on joy’s course...regardless of the storms that blew.
      3. Q: Do you have that same inner confidence guiding you?
        1. Let Paul teach us how to put our confidence in God & set our sails for joy!
    2. Book Overview: With Christ as our model of humility & service, you can enjoy a oneness of purpose, attitude, goal, & labor as a church.
      1. Philippi is 1st church Paul founded in Macedonia. He’s writing almost 10 years after 1st trip to Philippi. The church is now established(elders & deacons).
      2. It’s a tender letter to a group of friends close to Paul(not a theological treatise).
      3. Purpose of letter: To acknowledge a $ gift from this church (sent Epaphroditus)
        1. A very generous church! Celebrates generosity. [1 of our Core Values: Stewardship]
      4. Key verse: “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain!”
      5. Key word: Joy! (16x’s joy/rejoice)
        1. He writes to express joy & encourage joy in his dear friends.
        2. Kaufmann Kohler states in the Jewish Encyclopedia that no language has as many words for joy and rejoicing as does Hebrew. In the OT 13 Hebrew roots, found in 27 different words, are used primarily for some aspect of joy or joyful participation in religious worship.
          1. The psalmist says, Thou dost show me the path of life; in thy presence there is fullness of joy, in thy right hand are pleasures forevermore (16:11)
        3. A letter of Joy must have been written by someone sunbathing on the Mediterranean right? No, from a Roman Prison.
        4. Joy is to be found in something more than good feelings & comfortable settings.
          1. That something is someone! (21) [Oh, Jesus Christ is found 18x’s in ch1 alone]
  2. I HAVE YOU IN MY HEART!
    1. THANKING! (1-8)
    2. (1) So when the Philippians broke open the seal, the 1st word they read was their beloved apostle’s name...“Paul!”
      1. He was to those 1st century Philippians,…
        What Luther was to the German Christians in the 16th century. What Lincoln was to the African Americans in the 19th century. What Churchill was to the British in the 20th century…A respected leader, teacher, & friend.
    3. (3) Thanksgiving - Idea! A practical suggestion to help you cultivate the art of thanksgiving in your family.
      1. Have each member of the family contribute once a month by writing down things they feel especially thankful for. Then on Thanksgiving, make it a tradition to have everyone read what they’ve written & give thanks together as a family. (Chuck Swindoll)
    4. (6) Good example of Jesus being our Alpha & Omega!
      1. How sad when Christians depend wholly on themselves!
    5. PRAYING! (9-11)
    6. This is one of Paul’s prison prayers.
      1. Prison may cut off a man from men, but not from God! :)
      2. Paul’s prison privations did not damp his faith, nor dull his hope, nor dim his love. (Awake My Heart; Baxter)
    7. (9) That your love - No one has simplified it better than Anna B. Warner...Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so!
    8. (9b) Many have knowledge, but lack discernment.
      1. To guide their love, Paul prays for 2 things: Full & complete knowledge on 1 side & a keen awareness of right & wrong on the other.
    9. (10) It’s possible to be wrong but sincere; It’s also possible to be right but insincere!
      1. The 1st is deceived; the 2nd is playing games!
      2. Being wrong but sincere seems only to be acceptable in Religion???
        1. What would you think of the sincere pharmacist who gave you a deadly drug instead of your prescription?
      3. To be right but insincere is the life of the hypocrite.
      4. Sincere = tested by sunlight. (folk etymology, w/o wax used to cover statue flaws)
    10. (11) Righteousness(right) - The world asks, “Is it popular?”“Will it make me feel better?” Or, Is it politically correct?”
      1. The Christian must ask, “Is it right?” “Is it biblically correct?”
    11. ​​​​​​​(11b) Which are by Jesus Christ - People can live normally good lives on a human level.
      1. They can: “pay their bills, give to charity, help their neighbors, honor their commitments, abide by the law, even go to church!”
      2. The difference lies in both Means & Motives!
        1. Christian goodness is not a matter of Degree, but of Kind!
      3. A Christians righteousness will exceed that of the Scribes & Phar’s. (Mt. 5:20).
        1. Not necessarily in quantity but in quality!
        2. The difference is the Means. It is…by Jesus Christ!
          1. The means of our goodness is not our own effort to copy His life, but His living in us! (swindoll)
          2. It is supernatural, it is the result of a spirit filled life!
        3. It’s difference is the Motive. Our Motivation is The Glory & Praise of God!
    12. Poem[2nd Stanza]: Like the winds of the sea are the ways of fate(?), As we voyage along through life: Tis the set of a soul That decides its goal,And not the calm or the strife. [Ella Wheeler Wilcox]
    13. As you prepare to launch into the calm & strife of your day, set the course of your soul according to these 3 guiding principles from Paul: [Swindoll]
      1. 1st, Confidence brings joy when you focus on the things for which you’re thankful! (3)
      2. 2nd, Confidence brings joy when you let God be God! (6)
      3. 3rd, Confidence brings joy when you keep love within its proper limits! (9)
    14. Declaration of Independence: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
      1. If it’s our unalienable(can’t take away) right to pursue Happiness...why have so few found it? - Maybe because of the word pursuit? It suggests it’s outside of us, somewhere “out there” needing to be discovered or caught.
        1. But it doesn’t come from without but from within!
        2. It comes not from outward circumstances but from an inner mind-set.
        3. Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms - to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
    15. Memorize Phil.4:8 Think of the mind like a bank that regularly receives deposits.
      1. By depositing the kinds of thoughts mentioned in Phil.4:8, we build up & draw on a rich account that will constantly yield a high dividend called joy!
    16. PREACHING! (12-18)
    17. (16) Not sincerely - a precious metal mined with a basic alloy!
      1. These miners were mining the pure gold of the gospel, w/the alloy of their jealousy.
    18. (18) Sometimes you can’t applaud their motive, but you only their motion...the gospel was moving forward!
      1. Q: Are you big enough to see God can use a preacher who’s decked in gold? Prancing the stage like a Peacock? Sweating his jacket crazy wet? Those preachers who have to put an “a” at the end of every worda!
      2. Maybe you see them building an empire for themselves. Some seem to not have a real conviction, opening their arms too wide embracing all.
      3. I once heard Robert Schuller give a near perfect gospel invitation at the end of his message. (besides 1 comment that God wants all to prosper) Dealt plainly with sin!
        1. Though I don’t like his robes, his voice, his smile, his views on prosperity & positive thinking, is it possible God uses his gospel for some to come to salvation?
    19. Read what Paul wrote in Galatians 1:6-9.
      1. To the Galatians he says, “let em be accursed” to Philippians he says, “so what?” - One condemnation, the other indifference! {Contradictory???}
      2. Nope! To the Galatians he was denouncing those who garble the gospel of grace into a message of works...Anathema!!!
        1. To the philippians, he’s rejoicing that despite the impure motives of some, the good news of Jesus Christ is still being proclaimed accurately.
        2. The message matters most, not the messenger!
    20. Q: Would you have used Balaam to convey a divine message for you? God did!
      Q: Would you have used Caiaphas (the puppet priest) as as prophet? God did!
      Q: Would you have used Jonah who had a miserable unforgiving spirit, bitter, narrow minded, & prejudice? God did!
      Q: Would you have blessed any of David’s Psalms after his adultery/murder? God did!
    21. Paul had a single passion…The Gospel!
      1. He focused on Preaching not on the Preacher!
    22. I rejoice, & will continue to rejoice - Q: What makes you Joyful?
      1. (Spurgeon) Joy on the face is the result of the shining reflection of God in our hearts! There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar, and there will be more souls led to heaven by a man who wears heaven in his face than by one who bears death in his looks.
    23. End: Joy always under construction!
      1. Most of us have experienced what happens to motorists when one of those huge graders goes to work on a highway repair job. When the machine is operating on a busy road, traffic is halted and the cars lined up in opposite directions are allowed to proceed alternately. A veteran operator of one of those big machines decided one day to try to relieve the tension that inevitably results from such a traffic backup. Consequently on both the front and rear of his grader a sign now appears, declaring, "The Road to Happiness is Almost Always Under Construction."
        1. ​​​​​​​Jn.16:22 Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you!
      2. "The Road to Happiness is Almost Always Under Construction."

Verses 19-30

  1. INTRO:
    1. Story: “Flower Mix-up”. A bank in Binghamton, NY had some flowers sent to a competitor who had recently moved into a new building. There was a mixup at the flower shop, and the card sent with the arrangement read, “With our deepest sympathy.” The florist, who was greatly embarrassed, apologized. But he was even more embarrassed when he realized that the card intended for the bank was attached to a floral arrangement sent to a funeral home in honor of a deceased person. That card read,“Congratulations on your new location!”
    2. What’s your attitude to life? What’s your attitude regarding dying? Why is it that you want to stay here? Why do you want to depart?
      1. So often our answer is so skewed:
        1. I’m not ready to die, I don’t want to miss out on_____ (marriage/kids/see how u’d turn out)
        2. I don’t want to continue to live, I want to get away from _____ (bills, debt, relationship)
    3. Paul is in prison & is facing possible death. So, he’s not just saying these words, it is what he is really facing.
  2. TO LIVE IS CHRIST!
    1. DILEMMA! (19-23)
    2. (20) My earnest expectation - The word is composed of the preposition away, the noun head, & the verb to watch. And indicates watching something with the head turned away from other objects (Vincent)
      1. It indicates the concentrated intense hope which ignores other interests & strains forward as with outstretched head. (LKGNT)
      2. So much so that...Christ will be magnified in my body...dead or alive!
    3. (21) Other Translations:
      1. (NLT) For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better.
      2. (Message) Alive, I’m Christ’s messenger; dead, I’m his bounty. Life versus even more life! I can’t lose.
      3. Phillips For living to me means simply ‘Christ,’ & if I die I should merely gain more of Him.
    4. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking beautiful pearls, who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had and bought it. (Mt.13:45,46)
      1. Jesus is our Pearl of great price, for whom we are willing to part with all that we have.
    5. Let us be like the oxen which stands between the plough & the altar, to work or to be sacrificed; & let our motto be, “Ready For Either!
    6. When Christ is your life, death is not your enemy.
    7. For Paul, life was Christ! (or Christ Himself) [Centrality of Christ!]
      1. Before his conversion he was the center of his own world. A world in which God was a part.
        1. A world in which, to climb to its top, each rung was based upon his own righteousness, or how well he as performed. His God hung on a great carrot stick in the sky.
        2. But when his conversion came on the road to Damascus, his conversion was a revolution.
          1. Paul was no longer the center of his universe. Christ was.
          2. Paul knew he was held in such esteem by Christ...I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. Gal.2:20
            1. What Paul knew, “Jesus loved Paul, Jesus died for Paul”.
          3. For Paul, death was simply much more of Christ...It was gain!
    8. For Paul, death was gain!
      1. It is a release from earthly troubles for sure; it means a re-union with other Christians loved ones; it means reward for present service rendered to our Master; & it means realization of all our highest, truest, & dearest longings.
    9. Some might read it this way instead:
      1. For to me, to live is money, & to die is to leave it all behind!
      2. For to me, to live is popularity, & to die is to be forgotten!
      3. For to me, to live is power, & to die is to lose it all!
      4. For to me, to live is possessions, & to die is to take none of them with me!
    10. (22,23) To live on - To remain in this life would result in additional fruit.
    11. To depart - To depart this life would mean being with Christ.
    12. (23) Hard-pressed - I’m pressed in a corner between 2 strong desires.
      1. Caught between a rock & a hard place!
    13. Be with Christ, which is far better - That is the central fact which makes death gain to the believer.
      1. To depart form this life hear, is to be with Christ!
        1. All other aspects of the gain are subsidiary/secondary to that, & are included in it.
        2. We always quote Rev.21:4 & miss what’s most important in vs.3!!! (read)
    14. DECISION! (24-26)
    15. His decision...he will remain. And he was the apostle which once enjoyed the unique experience being caught up to the 3rd heaven. (got a taste of glory)
      1. 3rd heaven = (1) where birds fly, the firmament; (2) the starry heavens; (3) the heaven of heavens, God’s throne.
    16. He will remain - Paul recognized he must not selfishly seek to desert the duties which God had given him.
    17. REQUEST! (27,28)
    18. Change of tone & change of direction (1:27-2:12)
      1. Paul moves from information to exhortation.
      2. Whatever happens to him, the Philippians were to continue conducting themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.
    19. (27) Your conduct - He calls the church to appropriate conduct.
    20. (27b) A unified stand & unified minds would be the best witness to the world for the gospel. Especially if they stood strong through the sufferings they were to endure(29).
    21. (28) Terrified - to frighten, to startle, to terrify.
      1. The metaphor is from a timid horse (Lightfoot; LKGNT).
      2. Perhaps an allusion to Cassius who at the battle of Philippi committed suicide at the fear of defeat. [In Dante's Inferno, Cassius is one of 3 people deemed sinful enough to be chewed in 1 of the 3 mouths of Satan, in the very center of Hell, for all eternity, as a punishment for killing Julius Caesar(instigated the plot) The other 2, Brutus & Judas Iscariot]
      3. So Paul is saying even if you’re faced with death, “don’t be like a timid horse or a wimp like Cassius.”
        1. Have unflinchable steadfastness, even in the face of persecution!
    22. REMINDER! (29,30)
    23. 2 wonderful privileges: To believe/trust in Christ & To suffer for Christ.
      1. God is honored by both.
    24. God runs a costly school, for many of his lessons are learned through tears! (Streams In The Desert; Sept.2; pg.335)
      1. Soon school will close for us, the end of our school term is closer everyday.
      2. Don’t run from difficult lessons; Don’t flinch from the rod of discipline.
      3. Cheerfully endure to the end, then we will graduate in glory.
      4. Paul’s life was a model of suffering.
        1. Suffering: confirms the believers faith; brings him/her in closer contact w/the Lord; & provides a vehicle for making commitment real & tangible.
    25. The worlds finest china is fired in ovens at least 3 times & some many more.
      1. The famous Dresden china is always fired 3 times.
        1. Why so many times with such intense heat? This makes the colors brighter, more beautiful, & permanently attached.
      2. Metal bends best when softened w/fire. Marble take shape only under the splintering blows of a chisel. Wood, with the abrasive scrape of sandpaper. (Swindoll)
      3. We are fashioned after the same principle!
        1. The human trials of life are burned into us numerous times, & through God’s grace, beautiful colors are formed in us & made to shine forever!
    26. The 18th-century Bible commentator Matthew Henry expressed this confidence in words he hoped would be read after his death by anyone who might unduly mourn his passing. He wrote: Would you like to know where I am? I am at home in my Father’s house, in the mansions prepared for me here. I am where I want to be - no longer on the stormy sea, but in God’s safe, quiet harbor. My sowing time is done and I am reaping; my joy is as the joy of harvest. Would you like to know what I am doing? I see God, not as through a glass darkly, but face to face. I am engaged in the sweet enjoyment of my precious Redeemer. I am singing hallelujahs to Him who sits upon the throne, and I am constantly praising Him. Would you know what blessed company I keep? It is better than the best on earth. Here are the holy angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. I am with many of my old acquaintances with whom I worked and prayed, and who have come here before me. Lastly, would you know how long this will continue? It is a dawn that never fades! After millions and millions of ages, it will be as fresh as it is now. Therefore, weep not for me! (Our Daily Bread, Sunday, May 27)
Copyright Statement
These files are the property of Brian Bell.
Text Courtesy of Calvary Chapel of Murrieta. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Bell, Brian. "Commentary on Philippians 1". "Bell's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cbb/philippians-1.html. 2017.