The apostle Paul was in prison at the time of the book of Philippians. The Christians at Philippi were being persecuted for their faith. Their beloved brother,
Epaphroditus, was sick and near death. The waves of discouraging news and events were getting the better of them. They had taken their part in the blessings of salvation through the preaching of the apostle Paul and their obedience. They were riding high upon the joy of their salvation. Now; however, they were experiencing firsthand the consequences of faith. The reality of the life of the Christians' sanctification is that of discomfort, mental anguish, and social disapproval. Paul's objective in this epistle is to encourage the Philippians to stay true to their faith and each other. Paul admonishes them to keep pressing forward in life due to the hope that is in them. Lastly, Paul uses his own life and the life of Christ as examples the Philippians could turn to that they may receive their heavenly reward. While the eyes of the world see defeated and downtrodden Christians the true picture of eternal victory is seen by the eyes of the enlightened saints of God. The surface picture does not depict the entire story.
Paul settles the Philippians fears by telling them that his prison experience was actually beneficial to the kingdom of God (Philippians 1:12-14) and that he expected to be released very soon (Philippians 2:24). He also relieves them by telling of Epaphroditus' recovery from a serious sickness. Epaphroditus, a beloved brother from Philippi, was soon to visit them (Philippians 2:25-30). There is much good news; however, Paul cannot avoid addressing their immediate problem of being persecuted for their faith. If the Philippians were going to avoid falling into the hands of wicked men they were going to have to gird up their spiritual loins and prepare for the worst.
Paul explains to these downtrodden brethren that persecution for one's faith comes with being a Christian. The Lord God has actually "granted" that the Philippians believe and be persecuted for that belief (see Philippians 1:29). Caving in to the pressures of persecution will only confuse others regarding who perdition belongs
to. If heaven is accomplished through righteousness and truth then no man could afford to permit another to present other doctrines, such as circumcision, and confuse God's standard. Paul warns the Philippians of "dogs" who are factious and teach erring doctrines that they may gain a following for themselves (see Philippians 3:2). All must be aware that the "enemies of the cross" of Christ were real (Philippians 3:18).
Paul equips the saints at Philippi with instructions that would help them through these most difficult days. First, the Philippian is attitude toward this life must be correct. When I view my immediate life as nothing, in comparison to eternity, then I too will say, "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). Whether one liked to hear it or not, death was a reality for the saints of God in these days (see Philippians 2:30). Paul sets the example of a proper outlook to life and persecution saying, "Yea, and if/ am offered upon the sacrifice and service of yourfaith, Ijoy, and rejoice with you all' (Philippians 2:17).
Secondly, Paul encourages the Philippians to look to the examples of himself and Christ to make it through these discouraging times. Jesus gave up the glories of heaven to come to this lowly earth and suffer on behalf of others (Philippians 2:111). Surely the Philippians can have the mind of Christ and put aside their own interest to help each other in these desperate times. Paul also sets an example for the Philippians to handle their persecution (see Philippians 3:17; 4:9). Paul had, "learned in whatsoever state I am therein to be content" (Philippians 4:11-13). Let the persecutors bring their worst! Paul's faith would not budge and neither should ours.
Thirdly, Paul reminds the Philippians of a future day when their bodies will be fashioned anew and they gain their citizenship in heaven (see Philippians 3:19-21). Until that day they must continue to press through the trials and tribulation that come with Christian sanctification. Paul, again, uses himself as an example. Paul writes, "Brethren, I count not myselfyet to have laid hold: but one thing I do, forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, / press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13-14). What other option do we have? The mature of mind will keep pressing and never ever give up (Philippians 3:15).
While walking through this life the Christian must continue forward. We must "let our manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ" (Philippians 1:27) and "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). Rather than dwelling on so much discouragement let us think on things that are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of a good report, virtue, and praise" (Philippians 4:8). The tables of fortune would soon turn for the Philippians in heaven. Though the enemies of the cross of Christ may have the immediate upper hand God will have the final words in judgment.
John C Robertson