Modelling the Gospel: Expositions on Pauls Letter to the Philippians

Introduction to the Book of Philippians
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I think of Romans chapter 16 I think it's verse 7, but was he equal to the Apostles, the eleven and then Matthias who replaced Judas and then Paul who also was an Apostle? Is this an official title? Well it is official, in a sense, but let me help you to understand this. The Twelve Apostles are unique. He does not say of Epaphroditus he is the Apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, he says he is your apostle.

And here's the simple distinction. The Apostles with the upper case letters were those sent by Christ. The apostles with the lower case letters were those sent by the church. He is not an Apostle of Christ, he is an apostle of the church. He is not that uniquely called and dispatched and foundational Apostle chosen by Christ, he is that apostle sent from the church chosen by the church. And that's a very important distinction to make. The first were Apostles of Christ. The second category apostles of the church. And he is such, sent by the church, not by Christ personally Himself.

Now secondly he says, not only is he a messenger, he's your messenger, and what was he a messenger of? He brought him money. That was the issue. He sent whatever they sent, and I'm sure it wasn't just money, there must have been a message with it, a message of love and the promise of prayers and all of that. But secondly he says he is minister to my need. He is your minister to my need. You have sent him.

Now the word for minister here needs our attention for a moment. I don't want to get too technical but I need to give you these foundational ideas. The word is leitourgon from which we get liturgy. And we've been noting that word in other studies and that word has to do with sacred priestly religious service from which we get the word liturgy today which is used in relationship to certain kinds of worship. Now, he comes then as the liturgical priest, if you will.

He comes as the ceremonial servant, to minister to Paul. It's a spiritual term, it's a religious term, it's a sacred term. There were in the early years around the time of Paul in the church Greek city states. And some of you have studied about them in your world history. Greek city states were very proud, they had their own armies, they even went to war with other city states.

People became very enamored with and very patriotic regarding their own city states. And very often there were men who were so passionately committed to their own city state that at their own expense they would use their money and their time and their efforts to accomplish great civic duties and provide great civic benefits. They were seen as the benefactors of the public. And they became known as the leitourgoi, those who at great personal expense did what they did sacrificially to benefit the populous.

And that then is a fitting term for this man who at great personal expense, leaving his home and his family and his friends and his livelihood and whatever else, literally came and put his life on the line to benefit the Apostle Paul. So he is the servant of the Philippian church come to bring a message and he did sacred service on their behalf in the life of Paul as he was instructed to do. The money which he brought in chapter 4 verse 18 is called an acceptable sacrifice. And so Paul picks up with that terminology.

He was a priest doing sacred service and offering a sacrifice of money for the needs of Paul. So he's quite a man, quite a remarkable man He's a servant, he's courageous, he's godly. He built a strong bond with Paul. He worked fairly alongside of him and did his share and he was a great soldier fighting the enemy. But with that in mind, go back to verse 25 and look at this. After all that commendation, verse 25, "I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus. I mean, you just made him out as the most valuable man imaginable, why are you sending him back? He's homesick for good ole Philippian cooking, is that it?

It is necessary to send him. It's necessary. You've got to have an answer for that then, why? Because they're going to say why did you send him back, if he just shows up and delivers the Philippian letter which I am confident he took with him, and the Philippian letter doesn't say anything about him, they're going to say We sent you there to stay and to see Paul through to the end, either his release or his death. Why are you back here? So Paul says it is necessary to send you Epaphroditus.

In spite of all of these qualities and in spite of the fact that he is my brother whom I love, he is my coworker whom I need, he is my fellow soldier who fights the battle with me, I'm sending him back, it's necessary. You say why? Verse 26, "Because he was longing for you all. It can be the product of grief or shame or disappointment or sorrow, any of those things. But it's that confused chaotic restlessness that comes in a time of turmoil.

And so he says he's restless and he's in turmoil and he's distressed. By the way, it's used One translator calls it, "Full of heaviness. Look at this, verse 26, "Because you heard that he was sick. That's hard to believe. You heard he wasn't doing well, he knew you'd be sad and your sadness has greatly distressed him.

You say, "What planet did that kind of guy get off? I never heard of such a thing. And your distress was directly related to the fact not that you were having a difficult situation but that they were having a difficult time with your situation.

What Is the Book of Philippians About?

Now that will show you the depth of love. That will show you the bond. Unfortunately in our society we are more concerned with things than people, more concerned with possessions than relationships. So we get upset about things and very often ignore how people feel because we're into things, not people. But the bond that the Philippians had with this man was so deep and so rich that it is apparent that this man was so totally stressed over sadness because the Philippians were worried about him that Paul says I've got to send him to you because he cannot exist feeling that you don't know he's okay.

Boy, that's some kind of guy. These people he loved so deeply that he does not want them to be distressed. That is so foreign to most of us. You heard that he was sick. Now just mark that little word in your mind, sick, I'm going to explain what it means in a few minutes. But what we're seeing at this point is Paul says go back to Philippi, I have to send him to the Philippians, he says it, I have to send him because he is so distressed that you have heard about his difficulty and he wants to come to eliminate your distress.

What a compassionate man. And what a compassionate man is Paul. Paul could have said, "Look, Epaphroditus, get your act together, for mercy sake, we've got to advance the kingdom, this is big stuff, man. Come on, man, snap out of this deal. You can't be worried about how they feel about how you feel. The problem is Paul feels bad because Epaphroditus feels bad that the Philippians feel bad.

Everybody feels bad. So Paul says you've got to go because they feel bad, you feel bad, you feel bad, I feel bad If you just go they'll feel good, you'll feel good, I'll feel good, we've got to turn it around. It's that simple. Isn't it wonderful to know that some people in the ministry are compelled by relationships rather than programs? There is still a place for that, isn't there, where you set aside something on your agenda to meet somebody's need? Verse 27, now Paul's going to explain a little bit about him so that when he does show up they don't say, "What are you doing here?

What do you mean here? He came near death. What kind of death? It doesn't say He got into a very traumatic situation. You say, "Is Paul sending him home because he wants to get him out of there before he gets himself killed?

Philippians Session 1

But when he had come so very near to death and the word had gotten back to the Philippians, probably through some traveler, they were so concerned that their dear beloved Epaphroditus was near death that they got upset and grieved and then when he heard back that they were grieved, that's how the cycle began. So, listen to this, Epaphroditus isn't upset because of his brush with death, not at all. He's upset because they're upset. Notice what Paul says. Verse 27, "But God had mercy on him. God spared him. In the brush with death, God spared him. Would you please notice that any time God spares anybody from death it is mercy, do you understand that?

The soul that sinneth, it shall The wages of sin is death. In the day that you eat thereof you shall surely die. Folks, the very fact that you take another breath is mercy, the fact that I take another breath is mercy. I have long ago deserved death. That is why in the gospels you have so often mercy connected with healings, mercy connected with deliverance. You remember the blind beggars? Son of David, have mercy on us. Because we don't deserve justice.

You never heard anybody cry out to Jesus, "Heal me, that's fair. It's fair that you deliver me. It's not fair that I die. It's mercy that you live. It's mercy that you're healed. Mercy is always connected to deliverance and to healing and to restoration. So God sovereignly was merciful to him. In other words, he went through some brush with death and God showed him mercy and delivered him from it. And then he says, verse 27, "Not on him only but also on me. Epaphroditus doesn't deserve to live and I don't deserve to have such a friend. But when God spared his life, he received mercy and me too because now I can have him as my friend.

And then he says at the end of verse 27, "Lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. He would have had sorrow upon sorrow. You know what that means in the Greek? It literally means wave after wave of grief As I say, he may have known him a number of years, we don't know. But somehow he was deep into the heart of Paul, very deep because when he gets distressed about the Philippians, Paul can't handle his distress.

And so he's got to send him home so he can get undistressed because Paul is distressed about Epaphroditus' distress. And the only thing worse than that would be Epaphroditus death which would bring wave upon wave of sorrow to Paul. See, here's a man who deeply loved, a church who deeply loved, a servant of that church that deeply loved So God makes a sovereign decision, spares the life of Epaphroditus in the midst of this brush with death. And in so doing gives mercy to Epaphroditus and mercy to Paul who would be literally overwrought with sorrow if that man had lost his life.

And by the way, that sorrow upon sorrow is very strong language, very strong So God delivered Epaphroditus and God delivered Paul. As a servant of Christ, Paul was ready to face death. I think as a servant of Christ I think Paul was ready to accept the death of his friend Epaphroditus. But he wouldn't have liked it personally because he loved the man. So he was happy to forego the pain of losing Epaphroditus to death. Now, he is rejoicing because his life has been spared. Then we come to verse Do you understand something of what was in the heart of Paul when he says in chapter 1 verse 8 of Philippians, "God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus?

This is a man who cared, who loved deeply and profoundly. This is a man who hurt when the object of his love was in danger or distress or grief. All the more eagerly means without reluctance. I'm not grudging. He's not saying, "Look, I'm going to send him but don't you realize that your sort of whimpy attitude is going to cost our ministry?

Even though he needs him, fellow worker, even though he loves to have him alongside, fellow soldier, and even though he knows they sent him as messenger and minister to his need, and he proves himself so valuable that it was mercy that spared his life for Paul would have had sorrow on sorrow losing him, that's how valuable he was. Paul says in spite of all he means to me, I'm sending him to you.

Philippians Commentaries & Sermons | Precept Austin

Because I'm more concerned about your joy than mine. Magnanimous man. So he says when you see him again you may rejoice, and when I get the word that you've seen him and you've rejoiced then I'm going to be less concerned about you. Now the only people that have to do all of this kind of stuff to get a burden off their back of concern are people who feel deeply, right? That's why Paul was so successful in ministry, because the people to whom he ministered knew where his heart was.

Because the bond was deep. So these people loved greatly. And when you read in Paul's letters about loving one another and having affection for one another, this little scenario ought to somehow enrich that and act as a rebuke to our hearts for our indifference to relationships. So really almost unbelievable, almost incredible. The Philippians are concerned about Epaphroditus. So he's deeply distressed about the Philippians because of their concern. So Paul is deeply distressed about his concern for their concern and the action has nothing to do with what is most important for Paul.

And here again you see his humility, and no complaining on the part of Epaphroditus, even though he had a brush with death.

About D. A. Carson

No complaining on the part of Paul, even though he's losing a choice partner. Really the Philippians aren't even asking for Epaphroditus. They're in the midst of their own trials, chapter 1 says in verse 29 that they had been granted for Christ's sake not only to believe in Him but to suffer for His sake. Paul's got his own trial. Epaphroditus has just had a brush with death. But nobody's concerned with themselves. The Philippians are concerned with Epaphroditus, Epaphroditus with the Philippians, and Paul with both. But nobody with himself. There's that humility.

There's that absence of complaint. There's that just working out of true salvation in the purest way. The whole scene is one of affection and love and sympathy and unselfish concern and seeking to comfort somebody else and saying my needs aren't as important as yours. To put it very simply, go back to chapter 2 verse 3, "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself.

Do not merely look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interest of others. Jesus Christ. Verses 29, 30 Epaphroditus and people like him should receive the honour that they deserved. He had almost died as he worked for Christ. He had risked his life like a man who plays a game of chance for money. He had been in danger because he was helping Paul. Epaphroditus had continued his work even when he was already ill. Paul was grateful for the help of Epaphroditus. He knew that the Christians at Philippi themselves could not help him. That was because they were too far away.

To write the same things to you is no trouble to me. And for you it is safe. Look out for the evil workers. Look out for those who cause injury by cutting the body. We do not put our trust in a physical sign in the body. So some writers suggest that to forms a separate letter. Perhaps Paul put it into the main letter. This is, therefore, the start of another section and not the end of the letter. Jesus would always be with them, whatever happened.

That should be the reason for their joy. It was no trouble to Paul to repeat what he had written to them before. It is very easy for people to forget. Paul knew that teachers need to repeat some truths many times. This seems the most likely explanation. He had written to the Christians in Galatia. Verse 2 Paul warns the Christians at Philippi three times. And the three initial letters would help Christians at Philippi to remember them. These were not family pets but wild dirty animals. They obeyed all their laws. And so, they thought that God would approve of them. Paul said that, in fact, they were evil.

And therefore they were turning people away from God. It was as if they were cutting it to pieces.

The purpose of Paul’s letter

They are united with him. They know that he is always with them. He was also referring to any human advantages or ceremonies. Some man may think that he can trust in human advantages. Then, I have even more reason to trust in mine. I belong to Israel by birth. And I attacked them. With regard to the kind of goodness that the Law of Moses gives to people, I was without blame. Verse 4 Paul showed that he had every right to describe human advantages as without value.

He had more advantages than anyone else could claim. He gave this list to show that he considered them to be of no value. So his parents obeyed the command that God gave to Abraham Genesis He was a true child of Abraham. Israel was the name that God gave to Jacob Genesis Benjamin was the child of Rachel whom Jacob loved.

Jerusalem was in the territory of Benjamin. This was the language of the people where they lived. They tried to obey even the smallest detail of the Law of Moses. He had put Christians in prison. He was so eager to attack the church that he was prepared to travel from Jerusalem to Damascus.

He intended to arrest any Christians that he found there. He never forgot how he had tried to destroy the church 1 Corinthians ; Galatians There were no demands of the Law of Moses that Paul had failed to obey. I consider all things to be worth nothing. Because of him, I have thrown everything else away. I consider it all like dirty rubbish. I want to know Christ.

I no longer trust that to obey the Law of Moses will make me right with God. I now have the goodness that God gives. I have it because I trust in Christ. I want to share in his pain and troubles. And I want to become like him by sharing in his death. But after Christ met him, Paul gave up the advantages of his religion as worth no more than bad debts. Verse 8 Paul had not made a sudden decision that he was sorry about afterwards.

He still thought in the same way. To know Christ was far more valuable. They were like dirty rubbish thrown out for the dogs. Paul meant a close personal friendship with Jesus. He was thinking how much Jesus now meant to him. Verse 9 Paul did not possess any goodness of his own. A right relationship with God did not come by obeying the Law of Moses.

Paul looked forward to the day of judgement when he would be in Christ. He would be completely united with Christ in heaven. He shows this in three ways:. God has raised Jesus Christ from death. Paul wanted to live with the power of the risen Christ in his life. Paul suffered from the enemies of Christ and from the way that even Christians did not understand him. His travels also brought difficulties and dangers 2 Corinthians Paul thought that his pain and troubles for Jesus were an honour. This verse does not mean that. Paul did not doubt that he would rise from among the dead people.

Probably, he was not sure when that would be.


These men are confusing some Christians. Paul knew that he had a sure and perfect future in heaven with God. But I move on with determination to grasp that purpose for which Jesus Christ has grasped me. But this one thing I do - I forget the past.

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And I reach out to what is in front. But if some of you have a different attitude, God will make this clear to you. Verse 12 Paul knew that he had not yet become perfect, that is, mature as a Christian. Some of the Christians in Philippi said that they were already perfect. They denied that people need discipline in the Christian life. But Paul himself had not completely succeeded in the work that Christ had given him to do.

And Paul knew that. He had only one aim. He uses the picture of a runner in a race. The runner must not look behind him. So Paul must not look back to his life before he became a Christian. He must not allow them to affect what he thought or did now. He must not lose his courage or become satisfied with himself. A runner makes every effort to look ahead.

And he runs straight towards the line at the end of the race. Paul was making every effort to become perfect, that is, mature as a Christian. Verse 14 A runner who reached the line at the end of the race received a reward from the judge. The judge sat above the area of the race. Verse 15 Paul encourages the Christians at Philippi to follow him as a model. They should make the effort that he has described. He does so in a way that will not offend them. Some of them may not agree with his point of view. But God will show those people that Paul was right.

Verse 16 Meanwhile, they should all guide their lives by the truths that they have understood so far. We were a model for you. Notice those that are living like that. I have often told you about them. And it makes me cry to tell you about them now. They make physical desires their god.

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They are proud of things of which they should be ashamed. They think only about those things that belong to this world. Verse 17 Paul is telling the Christians at Philippi to imitate him. But he is not being proud. But now he imitates Christ 1 Corinthians So did people like Timothy and Epaphroditus.

The Christians at Philippi can copy them too. Some people refused to believe this. Paul warns the Christians at Philippi again about these people. They thought that, because of this, they could now do anything at all. So then, God can continue to be even kinder to us. Certainly we should not do that! The Gnostics said that the body was evil. Therefore it did not matter how they used it. They could eat and drink to excess. And they could have sex whenever and however they wanted to.

He will make them like his own beautiful body in heaven 1 Corinthians He will do this because he has the power to be in command of everything. Verse 20 Paul contrasts Christians with people who think only about this world. Christians belong to heaven. Its citizens obeyed the laws and customs of Rome. Christians are citizens of heaven. Therefore their behaviour must match the standard of their home in heaven. Christians are eager for the time when Jesus will return from heaven. Verse 21 The human body is weak. It can suffer and die.

When Jesus returns, he will change the bodies of Christians. Jesus will change it. Christ has the power to change the bodies of Christians because he has overcome death. He has risen from death. He has complete authority. You are my joy and my crown. So did Clement and all my other companions in the work.

Their names are in the book of life. So, they must be strong. Paul shows his great love for the Christians at Philippi. Verse 2 Euodia and Syntyche were two well-known Christian women in Philippi. For some reason they had quarrelled. It was a serious matter, as it would make the witness of the Christians there weak. Paul shows how much he cares for both of them by appealing to each woman by name. It means someone who works with another person.

But we do not know of any other examples. He must help the two women.

Timothy and Paul to Come Later

This article summarises the other theories, and offers examples of different scholars who adhere to different theories, but presents a different option for consideration. Attracted by the nearby gold mines, Philip conquered the region in the fourth century B. Church Activity. We who died to sin, how could we live in it any longer? Sibbes, D.

Then his actions will prove that his name is suitable for him. Then, we do not know whom Paul meant. But it was someone well-known in Philippi whom people respected. Writers have suggested Epaphroditus, Timothy or Luke. Luke had been a close companion of Paul on his first visit to Philippi Acts But God knew who they were. Paul says that their names are in the book of life. The idea of a book like this comes several times in the Bible. See, for example, Daniel ; Luke and Revelation In this book of life, God keeps a record of those people who are loyal to him.

But tell God about everything. And ask God for what you need. And give him thanks. These words encourage Christians to remember the love with which God deals with them. They hope that God will deal with them with sympathy. So they should be gentle towards other people who make mistakes. And they will meet him when he returns. Christians should pray about everything. They should pray:. His wisdom knows what is best. His power can cause what is best for us to happen.

We should be grateful that God wants to listen. We should believe that he will give us the best answer. The peace that God gives will protect our thoughts and desires. That is because God has united us to Christ Jesus. Human people can never produce this peace, however much they try. It is also far beyond anything that we can understand. God is able to do so much more than we could ever ask. Verses 8, 9 Paul gives a list of what Christians should think about.

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