After his greetings Paul shares with the church the prayer he makes for its members, that they may please Christ.
1:1–2 Paul’s greeting
Timothy became Paul’s companion at Lystra. He was the son of a Jewish Christian mother and a Greek father. He
was already a disciple when Paul met him but because his father was Greek (pagan) Paul had him circumcised before allowing
him to join him. See Acts 16:1–3. He had a special relationship with the Philippian Christians and Paul
intended to send him to them as his own representative. See 2:19–24.
In the Old Testament the prophets were called “servants of the LORD”. By describing himself and Timothy
in this way Paul was indirectly stating that they were truly appointed by God and engaged in God’s work. A note
of authority is therefore to be seen in what he has to say in the letter.
Paul’s usual description of Christians was “saints”. In Christ sinners are accepted by God and are
being “made holy” or “sanctified” by the Spirit. So they are saints (holy ones).
Bishops and deacons were the two basic types of church officers. Bishops were overseers, shepherds, pastors, and are
sometimes called presbyters (elders). Deacons were the servants of the church, looking after her works of mercy in terms
of the poor, sick, orphans and widows.
“Grace” is God’s mercy to undeserving sinners. “Peace”
is wholeness and thus is the salvation of the whole person through the mercy of God in Jesus Christ. Paul desires the
final and total salvation of all the saints.
1:3–11 Paul’s prayer
Paul rejoices before God in all his prayers for the Philippians because he was thankful that they had entered into a partnership
with him right from the start (4:15). By generously supplying his needs they enabled him to carry on the preaching of
the gospel without hindrance – cf. Romans 15:26, 2 Corinthians 9:13.
Verse 6: The church was facing internal divisions and external opponents, and there was a real fear that they would
not endure to the end. Paul reassures them by reminding them that it was God himself who was responsible for the work
of conversion in their lives. He could be trusted to bring his own work to its completion. The “day of Christ”
is a reference to the second coming of Jesus Christ when God’s work of re-creation and redemption will be completed
(cf. Romans 8:19–23; 1 Corinthians 15). In the Old Testament the “day of the LORD”, at first thought
of as a moment of vindication for the Israelites, became a day of judgment in the teaching of the prophets – see Amos
5:18–20 and Zephaniah 1:14–18. In the New Testament the ‘day’ is vindication for the people
of Christ when their salvation will be completed; it is also judgment for those who reject him – 2 Thessalonians 2.
Paul’s confinement in prison will prevent him seeing them immediately and so
he will send his assistants to them (2:19–29) and will exercise his pastoral care through his prayers. He prays
that the love for one another will be expressed in the mutual relationships in the church as the members recognize what needs
to be done in specific situations. “Knowledge and discernment” refers at least to the ability to see a need
and know how it can be met. In living in this way they will approve what is excellent and thereby be pure (and so not
cause offence to others) and blameless (in their relationships with other Christians). The fruits of righteousness are
probably the same as the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22).
1. What are the implications for Christians of being “servants of Jesus Christ” and “saints of
2. Why is praying for others so important? What do we mean by the expression “the ministry of prayer”?
3. In what ways is the doctrine of the “day of Christ” encouraging to Christians?
4. If we all sincerely prayed Paul’s prayer in verses 9–11, what kind of improvements and changes would
we expect to see in our fellowship?