1Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:
2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,
4always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all,
5in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.
6For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Paul writes to the Philippian believers, including the overseers (elders) and deacons, on behalf of Timothy, greeting them in the name of God and Christ and wishing them His grace. The Philippians bring Paul great joy because they have remained faithful to the gospel since the first day that they responded to it in faith. Paul gladly prays for them, and his prayer is filled with joy because of their faithfulness. He expresses his confidence that they, like all believers, will have their faith made complete and perfect by the working of Christ within them when the day of Christ comes. Those who have been saved will be fully sanctified and then glorified (Romans 8:30). Christ is the author and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
7For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.
8For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Paul has great brotherly affection for these believers because they have been praying for him and have been supportive of him through his imprisonment and in his preaching and defense of the gospel. Epaphroditus even came to visit Paul on behalf of the Philippians (c.f. 2:30).
9And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment,
10so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;
11having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Paul’s prayer for the Philippians is that they would grow in their love according to true knowledge and discernment for the purpose of being able to identify and affirm what is right and good as compared to what is evil and dangerous. This discerning love will enable them to keep from falling for various deceptions and temptations, so that they might persevere and be blameless at the coming of Christ. Christ ultimately is the One Who must perfect His saints by grace through our faith, but there are responsibilities and choices that we will have along the way. Paul prays that these believers will increasingly make the right ones. Then, they will be filled with the fruit of righteousness thanks to the working of Christ within them. They will become more like Christ, and they will be storing up rewards in heaven as the fruit of their righteous labor.
12Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,
13so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,
14and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.
Paul’s imprisonment was not a pleasant experience, but God used it to accomplish great good by advancing the gospel through the entire praetorian guard and to “all the rest.” Those who guarded Paul and all those who heard him preach and who heard the gospel from the guards were blessed as a result of Paul being in close proximity to them. This is both a testimony to God being in control over all things and working them for good (Romans 8:28) and a testimony of Paul being responsible to take advantage of whatever opportunity was presented to him, even if it appeared meager. Many of the Christian brothers, having witnessed these events, were moved to boldly share the gospel themselves. Clearly, these difficult circumstances were used by God for the greater progress of the gospel such that it was actually spiritually advantageous for Paul to have been imprisoned. Such is the mystery, wonder, and grace of our God.
15Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will;
16the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;
17the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.
Some, Paul believed, were preaching the gospel from envy selfish ambition, trying to “compete” with Paul, taking advantage of his time in prison to advance their own status as ministers of the gospel. This, they hoped, would bring Paul misery while he was in prison, being unable to stop them. Yet there were others who were preaching the gospel from good motives and in love, accepting the fact that Paul was appointed by God to defend the gospel. They didn’t envy his position, his authority, his apostleship, or his notoriety. They simply received it from God’s hand as God’s plan and did their part to help him advance the gospel.
18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,
19for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
20according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
Paul didn’t allow himself to get disgruntled and discouraged by those who preached the truth out of false motives (though surely he didn’t rejoice in their sin and impure motives), for the fact of the matter was that people could get saved by hearing the truth even if the preachers were not motivated by the salvation of souls. It is the truth that has the power to save (Romans 10:17). So Paul was able to rejoice in the fact that it was the truth about Christ which was being proclaimed. Paul also believed that he would be delivered, trusting in the prayers of the saints and the provision of Christ. This was his eager expectation and hope, for there was more work that he wanted to do. His prayer was that his life would always bring praise to Christ, whether by life or by death. While he had life in him, he wanted to labor for Christ, and if Christ were to call him home, he wanted to die well with a pure testimony. He wanted no shame to trace his steps, only the praise of Christ (c.f. Isaiah 49:23).
21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
22But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.
23But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;
24yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith,
26so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.
Paul realized rightly that it is better to be with Christ in glory in heaven. Living in this life was Christ in him, his hope of glory (Colossians 1:27, Galatians 2:20). Dying would be gain for he would inherit heaven and many rewards, the greatest being seeing His Savior face to face in glory. So there was great motive to die and be with Christ should God call him home, but there was also a great desire for him to labor on in the flesh because of the eternal, spiritual fruit that could be harvested. His decision of what he preferred, though he really didn’t have any control over it, was to press on in the flesh for the sake of the believers. To be there with the Christians and to support them and encourage them in their growth was more important to Paul in the present than going to be with Christ in eternity. His perspective was others-centered rather than self-centered, though this others-centered perspective would really benefit him in the long run as well in terms of rewards in heaven. He wanted to witness their continuance in the faith, their joy, and their confidence that they had in learning from Paul who had literally seen Christ on the road to Damascus. They were proud to know this man and to have the chance to learn from him. His testimony was pure, and they loved him. After all, he was responsible for their salvation since he had preached the gospel to them. Only if he remained alive and visited them could they rejoice together in what God had done.
27Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;
28in no way alarmed by your opponents--which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.
Paul’s challenge to them is to continue to live in a way that is honoring to the gospel which they believe and preach. It is Paul’s desire that they live in a way which is consistent with the character and nature of the Christ Whom they preach. If God grants it to Paul to be able to come and visit them again, he hopes to see them standing firm in one spirit, being faithful to Christ, upholding sound doctrine, and being steadfast in preaching the gospel. He wants them to not be frightened by those who seek to attack, insult, and persecute them, which serves to convict them of their error and of the truth which the believers have and hold. That a Christian is able to stand confidently and persevere faithfully despite persecution is a sign of their true salvation and to the persecutor of their own destruction.
29For to you it has been granted for Christ's sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake,
30experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.
In God’s sovereign plan, He ordained that these Christians would believe in Him and also suffer for His sake (c.f. 2 Timothy 3:12). They had witnessed the frequent suffering which Paul had experienced (Acts 16:19-40 accounts Paul and Silas’ imprisonment in Philippi) and had probably heard about it, and now again he was suffering in prison. Yet this same suffering of their teacher was going to be part of the normal life of the students.