Summary of Philippians 1

It is possible to find joy in the midst of suffering? In this summary of Philippians chapter 1, we will see that joy does not have to be determined by our circumstances. The source of true joy is found as we pursue and seek after God’s kingdom; it’s in knowing that we are doing the things that bring pleasure and glory to our heavenly Father.

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What is the Main Point of Philippians 1

As we walk through the verses of this chapter we see Paul’s loving affection for the people in Philippi through the way he prays for them. We also see how his suffering has brought about the furtherance of the gospel.

Summary of Philippians 1

The first chapter of this epistle is divided into a few different sections. So, let’s take a look at Philippians chapter 1 verse by verse.

Summary of Philippians 1:1-2 – Bondservants of Christ

In this first section, we get a glimpse of the historical setting and we see how Paul prays for the believers in Phillipi.

Paul is writing this letter from prison during a time of great persecution in the history of the church.

Philippians 1:1-2 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

The first thing we see here is that Paul referred to himself and Timothy as bondservants of Christ. If we take a look at a passage in Deuteronomy, we can get some deeper insight into what Paul was talking about.

“If your fellow countryman, a Hebrew man or woman, is sold to you, then he shall serve you for six years, but in the seventh year you shall set him free. 13 And when you set him free, you shall not send him away empty-handed. 14 You shall give generously to him from your flock, your threshing floor, and from your wine vat; you shall give to him as the Lord your God has blessed you. 15 And you are to remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I am commanding this of you today. 16 But it shall come about, if he says to you, ‘I will not leave you,’ because he loves you and your household since he is doing well with you, 17 then you shall take an awl and pierce it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your servant permanently. – Deuteronomy 15:12-17

Here is a list of four things this text tells us about these servants.

  • Slaves were to serve for six years
  • If servant chooses to remain with you they are a servant in the household forever
  • Master would then take an awl and pierce it through the servant’s ear as a seal of ownership
  • The slave belonged to the master permanently.

Relating this back to Paul and Timothy, he is saying that he had dedicated himself, willingly, to serve Jesus.

We were bought with the blood of Christ. We have also been sealed or marked with the Holy Spirit. As believers, we belong to Him, permanently. Like Paul, we need to be willing to surrender our lives – that includes our own hopes, our ambitions, and, as we will see as we continue to study this book, our bodies, and flesh – all for the purpose of serving our Lord and master.

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Philippians 1:3-11 – Pauls Prayer

In this next section, we see why and how Paul prays for the church in Phillipi. Let’s first take a look at what Paul thought and felt about them.

Philippians 1:3-11 – I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work among you will complete it by the day of Christ Jesus. 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And this I pray, that your love may overflow still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may discover the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God.

  • He was thankful for them and prayed for them with joy because of their continued partnership in the gospel.
  • He was confident that Christ would complete (bring them to maturity) until the day of Christ.
  • He longed for them with the affection of Christ

I also love the definition of the word “participation” in verse 5. It means “fellowship, association, joint participation, communion”. 

To participate in the gospel doesn’t just mean that I’m sharing Christ with others. It also means that I’m walking and living in the grace that the gospel has produced in me. It means participating in fellowship with Christ and with the body. It means using the gifts and grace the Spirit has given me to serve others. 

Then, we see how Paul’s feelings towards them motivate his prayers for them. Look again at verses 9-11 where we see exactly how Paul prays for the Philippians.

  1. Prays that their love may abound more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that…
  2. they may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ.

We can gain more insight by taking some of these words back to the original language. Here are a few word studies from these verses:

  • Knowledge – epignosis: precise and correct knowledge
  • Discernment – aisthesis: perception, not only by the senses but by the intellect
  • Approve – dokimazo: to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals
  • Sincere – eilikrines: found pure when unfolded and examined by the sun’s light

Paul’s prayer for them was that the Lord would reveal a true knowledge of Himself, and the ability, in their intellect to perceive what is excellent so that they might be revealed as pure and blameless in the light of the revelation of the glory of Christ.

What an awesome prayer! Especially if we understand the historical context of this book. Remember that the scriptures reveal that Paul, along with the churches in the areas surrounding Philippi were experiencing suffering and persecution. 

So, I can imagine that this prayer was an encouragement for the Philippians to press on and endure.

My encouragement for you and myself is to consider if there is there anyone in our lives that we can be praying for in this way?

Philippians 1:12-18 – Suffering for the Gospel

This next section begins with Paul encouraging the Philippians to consider how his circumstances have progressed the gospel. 

This is his cause for rejoicing!

Philippians 1:12-18 – Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the brothers and sisters, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. 15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from goodwill; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking that they are causing me distress in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. 

We saw earlier that Paul considered himself to be a bondservant of Christ and we took a look at what that meant. Here, we see a great illustration of what that actually looks like. 

Paul’s goal, no matter the cost, was to serve Jesus by preaching the gospel. He did now allow persecution, suffering, beatings, or even prison to deter him from his purpose.

We can often feel trapped by our circumstances. Like there is something or someone keeping us from living the life we were made for. 

Paul teaches us that God can use whatever circumstances, whatever chains or prisons for the furtherance of the gospel. 

This should spark great joy in our hearts. One of the greatest longings of every person is to have a sense of purpose. So often it seems like certain circumstances can keep us from fulfilling it. As believers, our greatest purpose is to know God and to make Him known. These are two things that circumstances cannot take away!

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A Different Concept of True Freedom

There’s one more point we should look at in verses 13-15.  Paul said that his circumstances had turned out for the greater progress of the gospel. 

If we read in Acts 28:16-17; 23-24; 30-31 we see an account of Paul’s time as a prisoner in Rome. We learn that he was given his own quarters to live in with his own guard and that many people came to him to hear about the gospel. 

…people came to him at his lodging in large numbers; and he was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening. – Acts 28:23

When I read this it shook me to the core. 

So often, I think of freedom in the physical sense (according to my “rights”). However, Paul had more freedom to proclaim the gospel in prison, during this time when his worldly rights were stripped away than he did as a free citizen.

True freedom is the confidence of eternity with our Savior! This confidence gives us the strength we need to endure the trials of this world for the sake of God’s Kingdom.

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Philippians 1:19-26 – To Live Is Christ and Die is Gain

Philippians 1:19-26 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my eager expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted 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 am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sakes. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your pride in Christ Jesus may be abundant because of me by my coming to you again.

Here we see Paul wrestling with the idea of remaining in the world (not dying), or going home to be with the Lord. He was fully convinced that it would be better for him to leave and be with Christ. However, for the sake of the Philippian’s faith, he knew that he would remain so that he could continue to be a source of encouragement to them.

For Paul, ‘to live is Christ’ meant walking in this world in a similar way that Christ did. Christ suffered and gave his life for the sake of others. Paul knew this was his fate if he continued to live on. 

To ‘die is gain’ because it meant that his work on earth was finished and he would be with the Lord.

Paul’s perspective here is a great reminder of a couple of things.

  • Sufferings and trials in this life are only temporary. We can endure them when we set our hope on what we know the future holds for us.
  • There is nothing in this world that will bring us joy like what we will experience in heaven with Jesus.

Philippians 1:27-30 – Walk Worthy of the Gospel

Philippians 1:27-30 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear about you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; 28 and in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and this too, from God. 29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf, 30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

Again, let’s take a look at a couple of different words in these verses.

  • A manner worthy of: appropriately, worthily
  • Conduct: to be a citizen

These word studies help us to understand that to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel means to live together, with the body of Christ, in a way that is appropriate for a citizen of heaven. It means that we are bearing fruit for His kingdom and increasing our knowledge of Him.

This is something we must be doing intentionally. We will not wake up one day and realize that we have been passively walking in a manner worthy of the gospel. We need to be purposeful in how we live each day.

As we bring this study of Philippians 1 to an end, we have to acknowledge Paul’s encouragement to these saints about suffering.

Philippians 1:29 – For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer on His behalf. 

Paul tells them that it has been granted to them to suffer.

In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, 7 so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which perishes though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ – 1 Peter 1:6-8

Trials prove our faith. Proven faith results in praise, glory, and honor.

summary of Philippians 1

Summary of Philippians Chapter 1: Final Thoughts

This summary of Philippians 1 is a great reminder for us to be living single-mindedly and single-heartedly for God’s purposes. No matter what we may have to endure in this life, we can press on with the hope that we will one day receive the outcome of our faith – salvation and eternal life with our heavenly Father.

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