Philippians: Joy in the Midst of Trouble

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Joy in the Midst of Trouble

Afflictions, Humility, Knowledge, Peace.

Background: Paul gives thanks to the Philippian church from a Roman jail around 62 AD
Theme: Joy and encouragement in the midst of difficulty
Outline: Afflictions, Humility, Knowledge, and Peace
Key Verse: "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." (Phil 1:21, NIV)

Philippians Chapter Index


This outline is from the Bible Knowledge Commentary (Vol 2, New Testament).

I. Encouragement for Living the Christian Life (1)

1:6 "he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." In other letters, such as the first chapter of Ephesians, Paul takes great care to show how God chose us and began this good work through the redemption that was provided in Jesus Christ. But here, he explains that the good work continues, it is more than just getting to heaven someday. The good work is a continuing growth in our Lord and being conformed to His image, which will not be complete until the day of Christ Jesus. Even when we are backsliding, the Lord is at work. He will discipline his children when necessary, and encourage them when appropriate, but He will in either case continue the good work He has begun in us.

1:21 "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain." The context is that Paul is under house arrest awaiting trial by Caesar, and did not know if he would lose his life (he was set free, but probably arrested again a few years later and put to death). Instead of being fearful, Paul proclaimed Christ to the guards, taught Christians in Rome, and dictated letters such as this one. He realized that this life is inferior to being 'absent from the body but present with the Lord', and would gladly die if it were the will of God. He does conclude that being alive is beneficial for other believers. The goal of his life is not his own comfort or ambition, but to be of service to other Christians. We should not fear death if we know Jesus as our Lord and Savior, but we should not seek it either. We should follow the example of Paul in living for others and not for ourselves.

II. Examples for Living the Christian Life (2)

2:1 Another way of reading the ‘if’ clause is "If you have any encouragement, and you do, then ..."

2:4 "Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." (KJV) This prefaces the example of Jesus - referring to both his coming to earth and his dying on our behalf. We are not told to ignor our own needs, simply to also consider the needs of others. Looking out for others also includes 'seeing to it' that real needs are met (to the extent that we are able).

2:5 "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (KJV)

2:12 Working out your salvation does not mean earning your way to heaven, the price of that ticket was paid on the cross. Salvation includes sanctification, the lifelong process of becoming like Jesus. Working out salvation means putting our freedom from sin and the ability to do God's will into practice in our life. It is characterized by service to others and by good works.

2:15 We must face the fact that God considers our society to be a "crooked and peverse generation". We may think of the positive aspects of our nation, even considering it as a beacon of democracy in the world. But we must also consider how little honor is paid to God, and our very materialistic and selfish national character. (Come to your own conclusion on this.)

2:21 Paul had to say of Christians that he knew and loved, "Everyone looks out only for his own interests, and not for the interests of Jesus Christ" (My paraphrase). If this was true of some early Christians, we should ask ourselves whose interests we are looking out for. It was not that they looked out for themselves, but that they only looked out for themselves.

III. Exhortations for Living the Christian Life (3)

3:2-9 The immediate problem was the false teaching that men must be circumcised to become true Christians. Paul had to warn against this in many of his letters. But Paul also warns against a more subtle deception, that we might begin to trust in other things we do in place of trusting in Christ for our standing before God. Paul boasts, but only to show that his accomplishments are nothing when compared to faith in Christ. It is a great error to think that this only applies to 'being saved' or first coming to Christ. It also concerns our daily walk with the Lord. We can enjoy serving him, but we can never earn this privilege of walking with Him. It always remains a gift of His grace by faith. Did you notice what harsh words Paul has for the false teachers? He calls them dogs. He does not extend polite words to those who would lead the saints astray. False teachers, different from people making honest mistakes or asking questions, are dangerous.

3:12-14 If Paul, who wrote this letter by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, admits that he is still being perfected, then certainly we still have some perfecting to look forward to. This is one more section reminding us of our growth in Christ. Paul pressed toward 'the goal', are you moving toward the goal?

3:20-21 "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body so that it may be conformed to His glorious body ..." We are reminded that Jesus will return to Earth someday. Our final destiny is not as a spirit in the presence of God, but as perfect people complete with a transformed body. For Paul, this was more than an abstract doctrine for someday, he eagerly waited for it and lived for this goal. The chapter break was not in Paul's original letter, his exortation to 'stand fast' immediately follows the reminder that we will be transformed.

IV. Enablement for Living the Christian Life (4)

4:4 "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice."


New Testament Survey by Merrill Tenney : Highly recommend this book for a good background to the life of Jesus and the New Testament. The first half covers background, what the world was like under Roman rule and what the conditions of the Jews were. The second half gives background, outline, and introductions to each of the New Testament books (including Acts).

Bible Background Commentary (New Testament) by Craig S. Keener : Printed by InterVarsity Press, this is an excellent one-volume resource for understanding the customs and background (history, language, and geography) behind the verses of the New Testament. It is not an interpretation of the New Testament as are most commentaries, its purpose is to give background information. I highly recommend this to the serious student of Scripture, who already has a good grasp of the meaning and application of the New Testament.

Bible Knowledge Commentary (New Testament, Volume II) by the Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary : Admittedly a 'dispensational' interpretation, meaning that the authors take the book of Revelation very literally and teach that Jesus will take the Church out of the world before the 'Tribulation Period'. Although I do not agree totally with their opinions, I have found this to be a fair commentary, also explaining the views of others which the authors do not hold. If you use my notes you will receive some insight as to where the points of disagreement are. Highly recommended as the best short commentary on the market. I am easily in agreement with 98% of what this commentary teaches, and who knows if I am right about the other 2%??

Updated March 2012
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