The Reading: Philippians 1:1-11
“… he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion …” (v.6) RSV
Paul’s usual opening gambit in his letters is to say something positive about his readers. In this case the Philippians pose him no problem. They are doing pretty well in their faith journey. Though, as we shall see they had problems like troublers who were “enemies of the cross” (3:18), and the two women who were in conflict (4:2).
So Paul starts with affirming words and encouragement. He thanks them for supporting him while he is in prison. And he is full of praise for their “defence and confirmation of the gospel”. They are plainly “partakers of grace” (v.7) and are destined to stay the course (v.6).
The story as to how the Philippian church came into existence is told in Acts 16:11-40. There we read of Lydia’s conversion down by the riverside. Then the girl with the “spirit of divination” is delivered, which causes an uproar resulting in Paul and Silas being thrown into prison.
This is followed by a midnight earthquake and the conversion of the Jailor and his household. What a rip roaring start to the church in that city. Since then it had manifestly put down roots and grown. Thus Paul is writing to them from prison (again!) in order to guide and strengthen them.
There is one other reason that Paul is so thankful and encouraging at the start of this letter. Despite his imprisonment, he has discovered the secret of joy and contentment (4:10-13). No letter is as joyful as this one. Paul is obviously in a good place spiritually, and his joy is infectious.
His is a lesson for us. It is not our circumstances that will enable us to rejoice nor will they lead us to help others. Paul did some of his best work when in prison! Let us learn to rejoice and out of this abundance seek to bless others.
Thank you, Lord for those who encourage me. May I always speak good to those around me. Amen.
1 Was any other church in ‘Partnership’ (koinonia) (v.4)?
2 Compare Paul’s prayer for the Philippians (v.9) with that for the