Summary: Sermon 1 in a study in Philippians
“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. 3 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 in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
It is noteworthy, especially for anyone who either for business or personal purposes composes an above average amount of written correspondence, that the opening words of a letter will set the mood of the whole.
It can color the recipient’s reception of the message even if the rest of the letter is on a different topic and composed of a different nature than the opening lines might suggest.
I can still remember, back in the 1960’s friends and acquaintances of mine being immediately sent into an emotional downward spiral when they received a letter from Washington D.C. that began, “Greetings, from the President…” It meant that they were being drafted into military service, and during those years it meant almost certainly that they were going to Southeast Asia.
While I was in Viet Nam several of the guys I was stationed with received ‘Dear John’ letters. Of course, being from different individuals they all had different things to say. Some were very brief, some started with seemingly idle chat about home and family and then, ‘oh, by the way, I’ve met a guy named Chuck and we’re dating now…’
So although the opening lines might have been an encouragement, as is just the receipt of mail of any kind when a young man is in a war zone, before long the contents of the correspondence would take on a very different and darker light.
When we come to this letter of Paul’s to the church in Philippi we find that he sets a mood that is maintained through the course of the rest, and it is a good mood. It is a great mood. It is a mood of rejoicing that he maintains and even encourages along the way.
That will be our primary focus today, and we’ll be coming back to it often as we study through this small but powerful book of the New Testament.
PRISON AND PRAISES
You have heard it said, I hope not only by me but also by others whose teaching you have sat under, that Bible Study, if it is to be effectual, must begin as much as possible with learning the historical context in which things were written. In order to be helped to any significant degree we need to know what was going on in the life of the writer and the life of the people to whom he wrote, so that we may compare those details to our own life’s circumstances and have a real sense of the significance the words have to our present day world and apply them.
This is one of the so-called, prison epistles. That means it is one of the letters to the churches that Paul wrote while in chains.
The letter to the Philippians was written around 63 A.D. from Rome, where Paul had been taken as a prisoner.
Acts chapters 21 through 28 tell the story of how he came to be there. Following his third missionary journey Paul returned to Jerusalem where it wasn’t long before he was falsely accused by the Jews of teaching things contrary to the Law.
In the course of a ruckus that might have ended up in Paul’s death by a mob, he was rescued by Roman soldiers who kept him in custody for his protection.
No one really knew what to do with Paul. He wasn’t really guilty of any wrongdoing, either against the Jews or the Romans, but the Romans didn’t want to let him go and the Jews didn’t want to let him live.
So he eventually goes before hearings by the Governors Festus and Felix, and finally before King Agrippa, some great reading and meditating for your benefit if you want to go read those chapters later; anyway, in the end Paul ends up in custody in Caesarea for two years until he finally appeals to Caesar and is sent to Rome.
On the way there he is shipwrecked, washed up with the other passengers and crew of the foundered vessel onto the isle of Malta where he is bitten by a deadly poisonous viper, yet he is not affected, which amazes the inhabitants of the island… and do you get the feeling there was a spiritual battle going on here for the life of the one who would in the coming couple of years write these important portions of the New Testament and in the meantime see large numbers come to Christ by his preaching of the gospel?