Study Notes

Philippians 1:1-2


Philippians is a fantastic book of the Bible - many Christians have told me that it is their favorite. Just four chapters long, it contains incredible truth and doctrine, encouragement and exhortation. We'll just cover the first two introductory verses this morning, and get a history that will lead us into a better understanding of the people that it was written to.

1:1 Paul & Timothy

Paul and Timothy worked together in ministry, traveling together and preaching the gospel together. At the point that this letter is written, Paul was imprisoned by the Roman government. This will become very obvious as we continue our study in chapter one. The letter to the Philippians was dictated by Paul to Timothy, with the purpose of sending it to the church in Philippi.


Paul calls himself and Timothy "bond-servants." Now, "bond-servants" is not just another word for "servants." These were a particular type, who had committed to a certain life and master. You see, although a Jewish person might become a slave due to having committed a crime or gotten into debt that he couldn't pay back, God's law prevented Hebrews from being slaves for more than six years.

It stated specifically,

Exod. 21:2 "If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years; but on the seventh he shall go out as a free man without payment."

But there were occasions on which the slave would consider his upcoming freedom and think, "You know, I've got it good here. Three square meals a day, a roof over my head, a master who loves me and treats me well... Why would I want to be set free into a world where I have no job, no family, no assurance of a life that would be near this good?" And so God made provision for this circumstance as well.

Exod. 21:5-6 "But if the slave plainly says, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children; I will not go out as a free man,' then his master shall bring him to God, then he shall bring him to the door or the doorpost. And his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall serve him permanently.

And so the servant became a bond-servant - one who voluntarily chose to serve for life. All through the New Testament, we see men claiming to be bond-servants of Jesus Christ. Paul, Timothy, Epaphras Ep-af-RAS, Too-khee-KOS, James, Simon Peter, Jude, and John all took this title. They had chosen to be servants of God for life.

Some people have a problem with the idea of slavery to God. They think it's wrong. But number one, God has the right to have us serve Him. He did, after all, create us. But an even greater work than that was that He bought us. We are...

Acts 20:28 ...the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

1Cor. 6:19-20 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

God has bought you, but you are also free to run away. You can bail out and head back to the world. But Paul would have none of it. He and Timothy were bond-servants for all time.


Paul was writing this letter to the saints in Philippi. You know who saints are - they are the ones who got necklaces made of themselves with plates hanging behind their heads... No, not really, but if you grew up as a Catholic, you are probably used to the concept of saints. These are people who have been canonized by the Catholic church after meeting many requirements, such as having heroic virtue, miracles performed through them, and uninterrupted fame for their holiness. These saints have been practically deified. While the Catholic church denies that they are making gods of these people, they also encourage parishioners to pray to these various saints regarding the areas that they have influence over, like travel, health, and commerce.

But of course, the Bible doesn't allude to anything of the sort. On the contrary, the Scripture clearly says,

1Tim. 2:5 For there is one God, {and} one mediator also between God and men, {the} man Christ Jesus

So we're not to pray to saints, or to Mary, or anyone else but the Father in the name of Jesus Christ.

But the Bible clearly does mention saints - as a matter of fact, the word is used 68 times in the New American Standard Bible. So who are they?

There are three words in the Bible that we translate into English as "saints." An Aramaic word, A Hebrew word, and a Greek word. All of them mean "someone or something that is holy."

The word is never used in veneration of a single heroic, famous, and miracle-working person, but always in plurality. And if you listen to how the word is used, you'll quickly understand who the saints are.

Paul, when he was writing to the church in Rome, wrote...

Rom. 1:7 to all who are beloved of God in Rome, called {as} saints...

And to the church of Corinth,

1Cor. 1:2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling...

And to the church of Ephesus,

Eph. 1:1 the saints who are at Ephesus, and {who are} faithful in Christ Jesus

When he spoke of persecuting the church before he became a Christian, he said,

Acts 26:10 "...not only did I lock up many of the saints in prisons, having received authority from the chief priests, but also when they were being put to death I cast my vote against them."

We are told that the Holy Spirit...

Rom. 8:27 ...intercedes for the saints according to {the will of} God.

We could go on and on, but you get the idea - the saints are the people that have been set apart, who have been made holy, who have been saved by Christ, born again. If you are a Christian today, you are a saint. Chris is Saint Chris. Kathy is Saint Kathy. Bernard is... well, you get the idea.

In Christ

So Paul is writing to the Christians in Philippi, the saints. But he notes that they are "in Christ." It is not enough to have Christ in us - we must be in Christ. The two things are not the same.

John 15:5 "I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.

So you can have Christ in you, but not abiding in Christ. How can you tell? You can tell. It is obvious if you are walking that close to Jesus or not. 2Corinthians says,

2Cor. 5:17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, {he is} a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.

Do you have an old life and a new one? Or are they pretty much the same, with no difference ever being made in your attitude towards sin since you asked Jesus to forgive your sin?


Now Philippi probably needs some explanation as well. Philippi was a city in what we know of as modern-day Greece. Paul got the divine call to travel up there in a supernatural vision. We read of this in Acts 16.

Acts 16:9-10 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a certain man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." And when he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

So Paul, Silas, and Luke, traveled to Macedonia.

Acts 16:11-12 Therefore putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Sam-oth-RAK-ay, and on the day following to Neapolis; and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a {Roman} colony; and we were staying in this city for some days.

Because this was a Roman colony, there were hardly any Jews. A synagogue could only be built in a city where there were at least ten Jewish men. Since there was no synagogue, Paul bypassed his normal Sabbath day routine of preaching the gospel of Christ in the local synagogue, and went down to the river, where Jews would typically gather to pray if they had no house of worship.

Acts 16:13-15 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled. And a certain woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshipper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul. And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, "If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay." And she prevailed upon us.

So they saw immediate fruit of their trip with the salvation of Lydia and her household.

It became their regular custom to head out to the river to meet at the place of prayer - preaching the gospel to whoever would listen.

But their path to the river always took them by a certain woman - a slave woman who was a fortune-teller. As it turned out, the ability she had to tell fortunes came from a demon who possessed her.

Every time they would pass by, the woman would follow after them, crying out,

Acts 16:17 Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, "These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation."

Obviously, she was telling the truth, but there is some advertising that you'd just as soon not have.

Acts 16:18-20 And she continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, "I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!" And it came out at that very moment. But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities, and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates...

The slave girl's owners were not happy that Paul had cast the demon out of her. Now she was no good at fortune-telling!

And so they accused them of all sort of mischief, and the crowd in the marketplace also rose up against them. Paul and Silas were arrested, beaten, and thrown in prison.

Acts 16:25-27 But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them; and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's chains were unfastened. And when the jailer had been roused out of sleep and had seen the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.

The jailer was beside himself, for it was Roman Law that if a prisoner escaped from under your guardianship, you had to finish his prison term. If everyone in the prison had escaped, he figured that he was better off just killing himself.

Acts 16:28-30 But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Do yourself no harm, for we are all here!" And he called for lights and rushed in and, trembling with fear, he fell down before Paul and Silas, and after he brought them out, he said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

This man couldn't believe that any prisoner of that jail would do anything but run away if his chains were loosed and the doors were opened. There was something different about these men. And so he begged them to tell him, "What must I do to be saved?"

Acts 16:31-34 And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household." And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house. And he took them that {very} hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his {household.} And he brought them into his house and set food before them, and rejoiced greatly, having believed in God with his whole household.

And so even more people responded to the gospel and became Christians there in Philippi.

After being officially released and then encouraging the Christians that were meeting in Lydia's house, they left Philippi.

As a result, the Philippian church was the very first church established in the mainland of Europe.

Overseers And Deacons

He is writing the letter not only to the church body at large, but also the leadership - the overseers, what we refer to as elders, and the deacons - men who hold offices of service in the church.

1:2 Grace

As we have just finished a three-month study in the book of Galatians, I am hesitant to elaborate much more on grace. But on the other hand, its frequency in the New Testament is indicative of how much emphasis God places on it. It's good to be reminded again of this...

Eph. 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, {it is} the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.

We have been saved by grace, past tense. And yet Paul, writing to Christians, says, "Grace to you," present tense. We need God's grace continually, daily, hourly, every minute.

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