Philippians 1-2 Secret of Joy

Psalm 149:1-9 Praise with Song and Sword
Ps 149:1 “Praise Yahweh! Sing to Yahweh a new song, his praise in the assembly of the saints. 2 Let Israel rejoice in him who made them. Let the children of Zion be joyful in their King. 3 Let them praise his name in the dance! Let them sing praises to him with tambourine and harp! 4 For Yahweh takes pleasure in his people. He crowns the humble with salvation. 5 Let the saints rejoice in honor. Let them sing for joy on their beds.
6 May the high praises of God be in their mouths, and a two-edged sword in their hand; 7 To execute vengeance on the nations, and punishments on the peoples; 8 To bind their kings with chains, and their nobles with fetters of iron; 9 To execute on them the written judgment. All his saints have this honor. Praise Yah!"

Observations: 149:1-5 We sing “new” songs of praise, because God does new things in our life as we walk with Him. Those sanctified by God gather to praise Him for what He's done. Those submitted to Him find joy in His rulership in their lives. Your relationship with God should make you so joyful you want to dance with a tambourine. God takes pleasure in His people and blesses the humble with deliverance and honor. The theme of being pleasing in God's sight (fearing the Lord) is a major motif in the OT.
149:6-9 Those who raise an eyebrow over dancing for joy will have a lot more “problems” with the end of this fourth Praise Psalm. The blessed saints of God have exalted praise on their lips and a sword in their hands to execute just vengeance/payback and punishments upon the nations that have afflicted God's people. What the “problem people” fail to realize is that when the God who is infinitely just expresses that attribute in justice, the bad guys get hurt, and the good guys get delivered. It is an honor to execute justice, because it carries out the written will of God, and removes evil from the land.
Application: We exalt God and give Him pleasure, not just by songs of praise, but by accomplishing His purposes on earth, which include judging and punishing sin, so holiness can result.
Prayer: God, thanks for the ways You delight me with Your answers to my prayers; may I delight You with my praise and accomplishment of the purposes for which You have me on earth. Amen.

TMS Ephesians 2:8-9 Salvation is not by Works
Ephesians 2:8 “For by grace
you have been saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves; 
it is the gift/gracething of God,
9 not of works
lest anyone should boast.

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.“

Observations: Ephesians 2:8-9 This is another “must know” passage for believers who want to be fruitful. It's the first of the 7PASSAGES disciples should master (see the sidebar), and is useful for sharing the gospel, the assurance of salvation, and refuting error. God graciously saves those who put their faith in what He's revealed (that Jesus is His provision for our sins). This salvation by faith is the gift (gracething) of God. Faith is not the gift since faith is in the feminine gender (as is grace) and “that” is in the neuter gender (used of concepts like being saved by faith). We all have faith, but must decide what we are going to place it in. See the fuller observations under the Ephesians 2 post. Works don't save/justify us, only God's provision pays the death penalty for our sins, resulting in our forgiveness and justification. So if works don't save us, a lack of works or bad works can't unsave us. However, God saved us and created us in Christ to do good works as a lifestyle (as the basis of giving us eternal glory). So we need to find out what God said He wants us to do, and then do it. See these Surveys for help: Survey on Grace, Survey of Faith, and Survey of Good Works.

Application: Master this passage so you can use it to minister to others.

Prayer: God, thanks for graciously saving me to do good works; may I draw on Your grace to do them, and please You. Amen.

Philippians 1-2 This epistle is really a thank-you note for the support which the Philippian church gave Paul to further the gospel. It has a didactic purpose as well, helping them live in the other-centered unity and love God expects of them, if they want to expect His reward/glory. In Philippians, Paul mentions joy more than in any other epistle, and tells his readers how to get it: by choosing what is best. He also puts two vignettes back to back in the center of the book, surrounded by the model of Christ in the first half, and his own example in the second half. This gives a clue to the structure and purpose of the book when we look for the common threads among all four examples. This post also contains a key verse on how God's grace and Spirit work in the lives of believers (2:14).

Philippians 1 Secret of Joy
1:1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Jesus Christ; To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers/bishops and servants/deacons: 2 Grace to you, and peace from God, our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3 I thank my God whenever I remember you, 4 always in every request of mine on behalf of you all making my requests with joy, 5 for your partnership/fellowship in furtherance of the Good News from the first day until now; 6 being confident of this very thing, that he who began a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
7 It is even right for me to think this way on behalf of all of you, because I have you in my heart, because, both in my bonds and in the defense and confirmation of the Good News, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how I long after all of you in the tender mercies of Christ Jesus.
9 This I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and all discernment; 10 so that you may approve/demonstrate the things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense to the day of Christ; 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
12 Now I desire to have you know, brothers, that the things which happened to me have turned out rather to the progress of the Good News; 13 so that it became evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my bonds are in Christ; 14 and that most of the brothers in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even out of envy and strife, and some also out of good will. 16 The former insincerely preach Christ from selfish ambition, thinking that they add affliction to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the Good News. 18 What does it matter? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed. I rejoice in this, yes, and will rejoice. 19 For I know that this will turn out to my salvation, through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will in no way be disappointed, but with all boldness, as always, now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life, or by death.
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I live on in the flesh, this will bring fruit from my work; yet I don’t know what I will choose. 23 But I am in a dilemma between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better. 24 Yet, to remain in the flesh is more needful for your sake. 25 Having this confidence, I know that I will remain, yes, and remain with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 that your rejoicing may abound in Christ Jesus in me through my presence with you again.
27 Only let your way of life be worthy of the Good News of Christ, that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your state, that you stand firm in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the Good News; 28 and in nothing frightened by the adversaries, which is for them a proof of destruction, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 Because it has been given/graced to you on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in him, but also to suffer on his behalf, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear is in me.

Observations: 1:1-3 Paul and Timothy write to the saints who are in union with Jesus the Messiah, along with the overseers and deacons. Remember that the tasks of shepherding and overseeing are entrusted to elders (see comments on Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4). The word for deacons means servant, and deacons are most likely those serving the church in some recognized capacity (see comments on Acts 6).
1:3-8 Paul thanks God for the Philippians every time he thinks of them, because they are the ones who are making his ministry possible from a human perspective. He thanks God for their partnership/fellowship (financial support) in furthering the gospel, from the first day he met them, to the present. On that day Lydia (Acts 16:14, 40) opened her heart to the Lord and her house to the church. The church had continued to support Paul, and he is confident that they will continue to do so. Take a peek at the ending:
4:14 “Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.”
In 1:6 the confidence is in the context of their support, prompted by God (2:14). So the good work that Paul refers to is their giving, which he is confident God will perform or complete until the day when Christ returns (and rewards them).
Paul says it's OK for him to feel this way about them because he doesn't view them as a bank account, but as cherished partners in the gospel. He has them in his heart. It isn't about getting the money, but about their getting blessed in the process. Since they support the work, they also share in the benefits/blessings (grace) of it (cf. 4:17). They share in the sufferings, and thus they will share in the glory (Romans 8:17). He calls God as his witness that He really cares for them, not just their money. He wouldn't be making these disclaimers if the “good work” was God maturing them in the faith or something like that. This probably isn't the interpretation you've heard, but it's the only one that fits all the facts and contexts.
1:9-11 He prays that their sacrificial love may abound/grow more by means of knowledge and discernment, so that they might approve/manifest in their lives, the things that are excellent. Approve is the word for a “proof” coin, in which the design in the die was proven or demonstrated in the reality of the test coin. This demonstration of God's design/plan in their lives is necessary to be sincere (from a word that means “shown pure when unfolded in the sun's rays”) and blameless on the day when they are standing in the light of Christ's judgment. The other characteristics Christ will be looking for are fruits of righteousness. That means one needs to be righteous (know and do what is pleasing in God's sight) and be doing it consistently so that the fruits of that righteousness can grow and mature (think Galatians 5 fruit of the Spirit and ministry). This state of holy fruitfulness is produced by abiding in Christ, and results in the glory of God and the praise of God. It doesn't happen without the knowledge and discernment Paul prays for, since the flesh is the enemy of fruit, and good is the enemy of excellent.
1:12-20 Paul wants them to know that the plans of the devil's agents to thwart the gospel of glory have actually advanced it. The whole palace guard knows the message of the prisoner they guard 24/7 as does the surrounding household, and their sphere of influence. Believers are made bold by the good treatment Paul is receiving, and are sharing the message freely. Some however, “preach” to stir up trouble for Paul, so that when the Jews react negatively a case can be made for Paul causing riot. But others preach out of love knowing that Paul's mission is to preach and defend the gospel. They share the burden, doing the part he can't do while in prison. Paul doesn't care if evil people are trying to make things worse for him, what he cares about is that the gospel is proclaimed. In this he rejoices, and gives us a major lesson in life, which will be seen throughout the book: Joy comes from choosing what is best! It doesn't matter if doing what God wants gets him it trouble, God will make it up to him. It doesn't matter if it hurts, God will sustain him, and make it up to him (the mindset of the mature -3:15). Joy is mentioned more in this letter than any other epistle. Paul has chosen to do what is excellent and suffer for it, knowing that it will turn out for his salvation, by the prayers of the saints, and the supply of the Spirit, regardless of whether he lives or dies. This salvation is the future/glorification aspect, since Paul is clearly justified. The prayers aren't for his physical deliverance since the following verses indicate that's not in view, so they are probably for his strengthening and being unwavering in his sanctification. Paul's earnest expectation and hope is that whether he lives or dies, Christ will be magnified by him.
1:21-26 In accord with his desire to live for the glory of Christ, to live is to preach so that Christ might be magnified, and if that causes him to be martyred, that would be gain/reward. But if he lives on in the flesh, he will have more fruit from his work (ministry and reward). So Paul faces a mini-dilemma. Being in prison isn't all that fun so to die (depart) and be with Christ is one desire. However, if he stays alive he is able to minister to help the Philippians progress in the faith (belief that the Messiah will return and reward those who diligently seek Him, with resultant joy). Paul recognizes that being other-centered and benefiting the Philippians is the Christlike way, so he looks forward to being reunited with them, to the praise of God.
1:27-30 He admonishes them to live in a manner worthy of those who will be rewarded by the Messiah (the good news of the NT is that the promised OT kingdom is coming in which the Messiah/Christ will bless those loyal to Him - Isaiah 41:10, see introduction to Matthew). The worthy way to live is in unity (like he told the Ephesians) standing firm in one spirit (against Satan's attacks) and striving with one soul (mind, values, will, emotions) for the faith for the gospel, not being intimidated by their adversaries. It's less likely that this is about sharing their faith, although that happens as they live in accord with the faith, as it is about living with the expectation/faith that the Messiah will reward them for their service to Him. See Philippians 3 before you reject this. This steadfast unity and purpose is Spirit enabled (2:13) and evidence of the judgment and destruction that awaits those opposed to the saints, and evidence to the saints of the salvation (glorification) that awaits them, when God glorifies them. The reason Paul can say this, is because not only did God grace them (the word is the verbal form of “grace”) with the privilege of believing in Christ, but also with the privilege of suffering for Him. Suffering is a privilege because it is meritorious (Acts 5:41, 1 Peter 2:20, Romans 8:17). They are experiencing the same conflict they saw in Paul, which should be a cause for joy, knowing what it yields.

Application: Joy comes from choosing what is best, which will often be the narrow and difficult way that leads to life and glory.

Prayer: God, thanks that You are concerned about my joy, and tell me how to get it; may I believe and do what You've said. Amen.

Philippians 2 Christ-like Mindset

2:1 If there is therefore any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any tender mercies and compassion, 2 make my joy full, by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind; 3 doing nothing through rivalry or through conceit, but in humility, each counting others better than himself; 4 each of you not just looking to his own things, but each of you also to the things of others.
5 Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, existing in the form of God, didn’t consider equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, yes, the death of the cross. 9 Therefore God also highly exalted him, and gave to him the name which is above every name; 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, those on earth, and those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 So then, my beloved, even as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. 13 For it is God who works/produces in you both to will/desire and to work/do, for his good pleasure.
14 Do all things without murmurings and disputes, 15 that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you are seen as lights in the world, 16 fleshing out the word of life; that I may have something to boast in the day of Christ, that I didn’t run in vain nor labor in vain. 17 Yes, and if I am poured out on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice, and rejoice with you all. 18 In the same way, you also rejoice, and rejoice with me.
19 But I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered up when I know how you are doing. 20 For I have no one else like-minded, who will truly care about you. 21 For they all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know the proof of him, that, as a child serves a father, so he served with me in furtherance of the Good News. 23 Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it will go with me.
24 But I trust in the Lord that I myself also will come shortly. 25 But I counted it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, and your apostle and servant of my need; 26 since he longed for you all, and was very troubled, because you had heard that he was sick. 27 For indeed he was sick, nearly to death, but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, that I might not have sorrow on sorrow. 28 I have sent him therefore the more diligently, that, when you see him again, you may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. 29 Receive him therefore in the Lord with all joy, and hold such in honor, 30 because for the work of Christ he came near to death, risking his life to supply that which was lacking in your service toward me.

Observations: 2:1-4 In light of the fact that their Spirit-developed and maintained unity is necessary to work in a manner worthy of the reward proclaimed in the good news about the kingdom of the Messiah (1:27), Paul exhorts them to manifest the unity that should flow out of their relationship with Christ. If in union with Christ there is encouragement, love, sharing of the Spirit, mercy and compassion, they should draw on those resources to live in unified love, being like-minded, of one accord/soul, and intent on the same purpose (cf 1 Corinthians 1:10 and see the Study Guide on Church Unity on Not only do believers need to make the choices to develop that unity, they need to refrain from destroying it though self-centeredness. Worthy believers should do nothing from selfish ambition or empty conceit/vain glory, but consider others as more important than themselves (which is the reality, when it comes to gaining eternal glory, just look at Paul choosing to stay and serve in the last chapter). One needs humility (Ephesians 4:2) to have the proper estimation of others. Each should not only be concerned about one's own needs and interests but also of looking out for the welfare of others. Those who seek praise and glory from others, at the expense of others, will miss out on the glory that comes from God (John 5:44; 12:43).
2:5-11 This other-centered mindset was evident in Christ's life, and resulted in His reception of glory. It is the mindset we need to have. Jesus existed in the form of God, but didn't consider (mindset/value) being equal with God something to be held on to (grasped; in some versions translated robbery, because that's what a thief does when they take your stuff). Jesus didn't hold onto the comforts and glory of heaven, but emptied Himself of His glory to come to earth to take on the outward form of a human, became a humble servant, and died to obey the Father's will, even experiencing crucifixion, to meet our need for a sin-bearer. Therefore, as a result of His humble, obedient, other-centered service God exalted Him to the highest glory, giving Him a name/power/reputation above all others, so that angels (good and bad) and people would bow in homage before Him and confess (agree) that Jesus the Messiah is Lord, which glorifies the Father, as His glory is bestowed upon Christ. Christ did all His miracles and ministry in dependence upon the Father's power, mediated by the Spirit. But that's not the point of the passage. The context has been believers being glorified and the way to get it is by imitating Christ (Ephesians 5:1-2).
2:12-16 So in light of the example that obedient service is the route to glory (cf Mark 10:45 comments), believers need to obey, and work out the glorification aspect of their salvation with fear of displeasing God, and trembling. This is not about working at being justified by faith, that's the gift; it's about being glorified by works. The works aren't just random acts of kindness, but Holy Spirit directed doing of God's will/desire. Verse 14 is crucial to understand God's enabling grace. God's Spirit works in us to produce both the willing or desiring, as well as the doing or accomplishing of His good pleasure. He prompts us through His word and sometimes subjectively to do what He wants us to do, and then gives us the power, endurance and perseverance to accomplish His will, as long as we faithfully depend upon Him. This is how Paul can say in 4:13 that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.
The good pleasure of God that Paul wants the Philippians to excel in is doing all things without fussing or fighting, so that they will be blameless (1 Thessalonians 3:13) and unblemished (cf 1:10) children (heirs) of God. They are already born again, so this isn't the means of justification, but of sanctification that results in glorification. The non-grumbling and non- complaining believer will shine like a light in the midst of the dark and crooked/perverse generation around them as they flesh out (uphold, take heed to) the word of life. It's not that they hold out the word for people to see a book, but that they incarnate the Word in their lives like Jesus did (Jn 1:14). Paul wants them to do this for what looks like pretty selfish reasons. He doesn't want to have wasted his time on them and have them not perform, so when Christ returns, he'd have nothing to show for his efforts. Paul wants to be able to boast/glory in them in the presence of Christ. This would please Christ, and result in blessing for both Paul and the Philippians. So it isn't purely self-centered, it's good stewardship; everyone needs to be asking if their efforts in ministry are according to the will of God and producing what God desires. If not, it's time to do something differently. God judges based upon faithfulness, not results (see the letters to the seven churches in Revelation 2-3), but one needs to ask if one is being faithful to seek and do the Lord's will. We'll discuss this more in the upcoming Catacomb Church blog.
2:12-18 Even if Paul is poured out like a drink offering he has cause for rejoicing. A drink offering in the OT was a cup of wine that was poured out on the ground to accompany another sacrifice and “complete” it as a total meal offered to God exclusively for Him (Genesis 35:14; Exodus 29:40). If Paul is a drink offering it means that the Philippians were rendering sacrifice and service to God that pleased Him, and thus this was occasion for Paul to rejoice (because he had not run in vain, and would be rewarded for his labor among the Philippians). Another example of joy resulting in choosing what's best. Sacrificial service that delights God, delights us, and is best. If we decrease so others can increase (like John the Baptist and Jesus) so much the better. God knows, and we will get our recognition from Him (as John did -Matthew 11:11).
2:19-23 Now Paul provides the vignettes of Timothy and Epaphroditus as mentioned in the introduction. Timothy is a like-minded son in the faith, who truly cares about the Philippians. Everyone else just cares about their own things (cx 2:4) not the thing Jesus cares about. It must have pained Paul to write these words. Of all those he ministered to and were still around, only Timothy actually got it, and developed the Christlike mindset (2:5).
2:24-30 Epaphroditus also had the Christlike mindset and had already been sent to the church (see postscript of the letter). He exhibits many of the same other-centered traits of Timothy (and Paul) being a fellow-worker and fellow-soldier. He was sick to the point of death because of his service and risking his life for the work of Christ. Yet he was distressed that the the Philippians would be worried about him. The church is told to receive him with joy and honor him, and others like him, for their service. Then Paul puts in a zinger, Epaphroditus risked His life to supply what was lacking in the Philippians' service to Paul. Apparently they had failed to send the money Paul needed (prisoners had to supply their own needs). This is why Paul expressed the confidence in 1:6, that God would bring their desire to support him to fulfillment. The thought to remember is that Christ-like believers are more concerned about others and the cause of Christ than they are about themselves.

Application: The grace of the Spirit of God is at work in us to cause us to desire and do God's pleasure; all we have to do is respond in obedience, and glory will follow. Simple.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thanks for all the resources You have made available to me in Christ, may I be faithful to follow the obedient, other-centered example of those who pleased You, and fulfill Your desire. Amen.

Digging Deeper

God in a nutshell: God works in the lives of believers to accomplish His purposes. He then rewards those who do what He wants.

Build-a-Jesus: Jesus is God, and He laid aside His glory to obediently do the Father's will. There can be equality and subordination. Jesus humbled Himself to serve our need for a Savior and die for our sins. As a result, He experiences the joy of being exalted by the Father. He is our model.

Us in a nutshell: We need to follow our Lord's example of humbling ourselves to live in unity and love with our fellow-believers, considering their needs as more important than ours. Even if our service entails suffering (it usually does. Is self-denial high on your pleasure scale or pain scale?), joy will result, because we've chosen what is best, knowing that the Father will reward us.

Where to Go for More:

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