Philippians 1:1-6 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul was the founding pastor of the church at Philippi. He had set out on his second missionary journey traveling through the southern part of modern day Turkey. The region he was in was the province of Asia. As he was traveling through, strengthening the churches that had been planted in his first journey, he met a young disciple named Timothy. Timothy joined the missionary band and they continued to travel westward. Strangely, the Holy Spirit stopped Paul from preaching in that area. Instead, Paul saw a man from Macedonia in a vision urging him to come over and help them.
We don’t know how much planning had gone into Paul’s trip. It seems that he was led day by day by the Spirit. I believe Paul wanted to visit the people that he had led to Christ on his previous trip. After all, by now they were Christian family to him. We often need direction from the Lord because we will follow our human desires and that’s not always right. Sometimes we can be very stubborn because we are sure we know the will of God in a matter or at least what seems right. What a loss it would have been for Paul to have stayed in Asia against God’s direction. He may have wanted to stay in Asia but…
Philippi was where God wanted them. Turn with me to Acts 16:9-10. Here we find an account of why Paul went to Macedonia rather than continue his plan. Listen while I read. And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
The missionary team had started out with no intention, so far as we know, of going into new territory. We know from the record in the book of Acts that Paul had intended to visit every city they had preached in on the first journey. Paul had also intended that he and Barnabas would travel together. However, Barnabas wanted to give John Mark a second chance and Paul would have none of it. John Mark had failed to follow through on the first trip and Paul was not about to give him a second chance. So Barnabas took Mark and set sail for Cyprus while Paul took Silas and went overland through Syria. Along the way Paul picked up Timothy and added him to the team. He also added Luke, the beloved physician, and Luke gave us the written record of Paul’s journeys as well as the gospel bearing his name. Part of the purpose of the trip was to tell the churches about the decision made at Jerusalem. The church council that met there had determined that the Gentiles could come into the church without first becoming Jews. That was good news! The new churches they had started were being strengthened in the faith and increased in numbers daily.
It must have seemed strange to Paul that he was not allowed to stay in the province of Asia and preach the gospel where he had been so successful before. God doesn’t seem to be impressed with our version of success. The Holy Spirit forbade his preaching in Asia. So Paul made another attempt at a plan by trying to go north to Bithynia and again he was blocked by the Spirit. The time had not yet come for Bithynia to be evangelized. Within two generations there would be a vibrant Christian presence in that area.
The vision of the man from Macedonia asking Paul to come over and help them settled the issue. Having arrived in Troas they set sail into Europe, travelled to Philippi, and immediately…
They went to a place of prayer. Let’s read about it in Acts 16:11-13. So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, 12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. 13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together.
Some have said that if Paul had seen a woman from Macedonia he wouldn’t have gone. I think nothing could be further from the truth. Throughout Paul’s letters there is a great respect for women. I expect that Paul saw a man from Macedonia because men may have worn a distinctive style of clothing. Perhaps he saw a man because God encourages male leadership.
All of that is just speculation! God does not need to explain Himself to us. The missionary team familiarized themselves with the city and came to know that they could expect a prayer meeting on the Sabbath day. Paul’s usual method in coming into a city would be to locate the synagogue, go there on the Sabbath day, and be invited to speak. I believe this means there was no synagogue in Philippi. It was a thoroughly Roman city and there were very few Jews there.
Remember, Paul had just been encouraged by the Jerusalem Council to preach to the Gentiles and now he found himself in a Gentile city with only a few Jews. Apparently there was not a rabbi to lead the prayer meeting by the river. Paul took it upon himself to establish a relationship with the women that were there.
God had stopped them from continuing to work in Asia, took them to Europe to the city of Philippi, and led them to a place of prayer. Now…
God opened the door. Let’s continue to read in Acts 16:14-15. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. 15 And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us,
Paul and his missionary team knew nothing of the city that they had gone to but very quickly God led them to a group of people who were praying. One of the women whom they found there was a wealthy person. Lydia was a seller of purple goods. Purple goods were worn only by the wealthiest and perhaps only by royalty. Lydia had come from Thyatira, in Asia, that city was a center of the purple dye industry. Possibly she had come to Philippi so that she could extend her business. She was either born a Jew or was a convert to Judaism. She could not have known that God was placing her in a strategic location so that the gospel could be preached in the area.
Lydia did not make the choice to believe the gospel. God the Father drew her to the riverside that day. In the same way, the Father calls people today to come to a particular location where they can hear the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord opened her heart and she, and her household, believed on the Lord Jesus Christ and were baptized that day. These new converts became the foundation and that day…
A church was born. Looking back at our text we see that years later Paul was able to write a letter to them and refer to their organization. Listen while I read Philippians 1:1. Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
This letter is written to all the saints at Philippi. To clarify it is written to those who are in Christ Jesus. Among the saints Paul refers to the overseers and deacons. The word used here for overseer is translated “bishops” in the King James Version. It’s okay to think of the word as being another name for “elders”. Now, Elder doesn’t necessarily mean an older person or one who has been in the church for a long time. Very soon after each church was established Paul went back and appointed “elders” in the church. No one in those churches had been saved more than a few weeks. God the Holy Spirit directed them in choosing leadership.
Remember, Paul had very few ways of communicating with these people once he had left their area. In this case he had received word about them from Epaphroditus, one of their own who had brought gifts to him from the church in Philippi. Because of the report of this man Paul could confidently give instruction to the church.
Throughout his ministry Paul traveled extensively in Macedonia and Greece. At least two times in those travels he was at Philippi. He was there in the beginning and he stopped by there on his way to Jerusalem at the end of his missionary journeys. Now…
Paul is writing from prison. When I say that Paul is writing from prison I am working from what Luke recorded at the end of the book of Acts. Listen while I read Acts 28:30-31. He lived there two whole years at his own expense, and welcomed all who came to him, 31 proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.
Luke tells us that Paul was able to rent a place to live in Rome, where he was under guard, but very free to communicate with people. There is a possibility that Paul was released from this house arrest. He had indicated that he wanted to travel to Spain and may very well have had the opportunity. If he did, he was arrested later, imprisoned at Rome, and beheaded there.
During this imprisonment Philippi was one of the churches that sent money to him in order for him to pay his expenses. Paul was not troubled by his living conditions. He said that he knew how to be brought low and he knew how to abound. No matter what condition he found himself in he said that he had learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. He asserted confidently, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:10-13) Then he promised them that, since they had given so sacrificially, God would supply all the needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19) One plus to Paul’s situation is that he had the opportunity to present Christ to Caesar’s household. Probably, he was referring to the guards who were with him all the time.
More than once…
The Philippian church partnered with Paul. In writing to the Corinthian church Paul used the churches in Macedonia as his example of people who were very generous in spite of their poverty. There was a famine in Judea and funds were collected throughout the churches that Paul had established to help meet those needs. Even though the churches of Macedonia were poor they begged Paul to let them take part in the offering. Paul was very proud of the church at Philippi because they first gave themselves to the Lord and then they took the offering in such a way that Paul could use them for an example. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 9:2-4. Listen while I read. For I know your readiness, of which I boast about you to the people of Macedonia, saying that Achaia has been ready since last year. And your zeal has stirred up most of them. 3 But I am sending the brothers so that our boasting about you may not prove empty in this matter, so that you may be ready, as I said you would be. 4 Otherwise, if some Macedonians come with me and find that you are not ready, we would be humiliated—to say nothing of you—for being so confident.
Paul did not want to be embarrassed, nor did he want the Corinthians to be embarrassed, if some of the people from Macedonia came with him when he collected the money at Corinth. We know that more than once the Philippian church sent money to Paul. He had been their first pastor and, very likely, he was their first missionary outreach. They helped to support Paul as he carried the gospel all over Greece and Macedonia.
Their generosity was one of the reasons that…
The Philippians were a source of joy to Paul. Look back with me to Philippians 1:3-5. Listen while I read. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
Unlike most of Paul’s letters, this letter contains no serious rebuke. Oh, there is the matter of two of the women, Euodia and Syntyche seem to have had some disagreement because he urged him to “agree in the Lord”. Other than that the entire letter reflects the good feelings that Paul had when he thought of them. The Philippian church was a source of joy and as a result they were a bright light in his prayer life. We know that Paul prayed for the churches. At one point he said that, along with all the physical suffering he had endured, “there is the daily pressure on me and my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11:28) He did not have to bear the same burden for the Philippians that he did for some of the other churches. At the same time…
Paul wanted to give them assurance. Looking back to reading at the beginning of the sermon, listen while I read Philippians 1:6. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. This passage of Scripture has been a great source of comfort to me over the years. Paul begins by saying, “I am sure ofthis”. The Philippians needed assurance, and I am sure, we do also. Paul wrote to Timothy that he knew that God could guard what he had entrusted to Him. (2 Timothy 1:12) But this passage is a little different. Paul wrote to Timothy about what he had entrusted to God. Paul wrote to the Philippians about what God had begun to do in the Philippian’s lives. You see it is not what we have done for God that counts! It is what He does on our behalf that counts. It is He who began a good work IN us.
In his great statement of assurance, found in Romans 8, Paul says that no one can bring a charge against God’s elect because “it is God who justifies”. It is not by works of righteousness that we have done, it is the work of God. It is God who arranged the members in the body as he chose — every one of them! He could write to the Corinthians and say, “it is God who establishes us with you in Christ”. (2 Corinthians 1:21) And later in the Philippian letter, Paul would write, “it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure”. We often get the idea that it is US who do the work. Pride goes before destruction. We are not saved by our works nor do we maintain our salvation, or our holiness, by our good works. Turn with me to 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24. Listen while read. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
Notice that is not US who sanctify ourselves. It is God, the God of peace himself, who sanctifies us COMPLETELY. It is very important to remember that we are saved by grace, not of works. God gives us the gift of faith and His grace saves us.
As we continue through this book we will see a number of ways that God uses to bring people to salvation. God willing, we will look next week at the affection that Paul held for the Philippians. We will see how he yearned for their spiritual growth in the expansion of their love.
The gospel, the good news about Jesus, was intentionally brought into Europe and through every possible means imaginable a church was founded. People from a wide variety of backgrounds came together under faith in Christ to extend the gospel throughout Greece and opened the doors to the rest of Roman Europe. Are you a seeker like Lydia or do you need convincing like the demon possessed girl or the Philippian jailer? Have you confessed with your mouth that Jesus is Lord? Have you believed in your heart that God raised Him from the dead? Today could be your day to trust Christ! Is He your Lord? Trust Him today!
All scripture quotes are from: The Holy Bible: English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.