Thursday, January 09, 2014

An outline of Philippians

The first thing I notice is that obviously the ‘book’ of Philippians is not a ‘book’ but a letter.  Paul opens this letter with a salutation to the saints at Philippi, with specific mention of the overseers and deacons.  Paul also includes Timothy with his own name at the start of the letter, which begs the question “is Timothy the co-author of this letter?”

Immediately following the salutation, Paul thanks God for the Philippian believers’ partnership in the gospel and he prays that their love would abound to the glory of God.

Following this Paul explains how his imprisonment was for the cause of Christ and that it has not caused fear to grip the local believers, but in fact it has emboldened them.

What Paul says next is quite puzzling and certainly should be examined more thoroughly.  He explains that some are preaching the gospel out of selfish ambition hoping to cause Paul affliction, but incredibly Paul still rejoices that Christ is proclaimed.

The next passage is filled with incredible hope.  It is here that Paul declares “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”  He tells the Philippians that he would prefer to die and be united with Christ, but that for the sake of the Philippians it is more necessary that he continues to live, so he believes that he will be reunited with the Philippian church.

Next Paul encourages them to “let their manner of life be worthy of the gospel”, but shortly afterwards he says something interesting.  He says in verse 28 that their salvation is from God that it had been granted to them that they should believe and suffer for the sake of Christ.  Here is the first instance in Philippians where we see the contrast of God’s sovereignty with Man’s responsibility.

Continuing into chapter 2 we have what is perhaps the most beautiful description of the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, with the conclusion being that every tongue will confess Christ as Lord.

We now come to the second section where Paul contrasts God’s sovereignty with Man’s responsibility.  He says “work out you own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.”  Fascinating, stuff, but not easy to understand.

Paul paints a beautiful metaphor next where he calls the believers “lights in the world” and that we are to shine without blemish being blameless and innocent.

Next Paul explains that he hopes to send Timothy to the Philippian church soon but in the mean time he has sent Epaphroditus, which seems to imply that perhaps this individual actually delivered the letter to the church in Philippi, I will need to check this out.

The next passage contains a warning from Paul to be on the look out for teachers that would try and bind them with the Jewish custom of circumcision.  Paul explains that those who are truly of the circumcision are the followers of Christ who worship by the Spirit of God and that we should have no confidence in the flesh, specifically the outward act of circumcision.  Paul then presents a case for why our righteousness only comes from faith in Christ and how only that righteousness will lead to the resurrection from the dead.

Paul uses another great metaphor of running a race to describe the Christian life.  Using words like straining forward, pressing on, forgetting what lies behind, he presents the Christian life as one that is seeking to reach the goal. What is puzzling is that immediately after this Paul says that we should “hold true to what we have attained.”  So it seems like he is saying that we have already attained the goal.

In version 17 of chapter 3 Paul now exhorts the Philippians to imitate him, and to follow the example of others who walk by Paul’s example.  He further encourages them by emphasising that the believer’s citizenship is in heaven that that one day Jesus will glorify our bodies to be like his.

Next we see that Paul begins to wind down the letter.  He exhorts the church to rejoice, be reasonable and to not be anxious, also to think rightly.  He provides promises of God’s peace and promises that his strength will enable the believer to endure all things.

Finally Paul thanks the church for their provision and support and encourages them by letting them know that God would supply their every need.

The letter closes with a final signoff and the following blessing, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”

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