I received so much positive response to my summary of the New Testament book of James that I decided to do the same for Philippians. Paul wrote it most likely from a prison in Rome, though some would argue Caesarea or Ephesus. The beginning of the Philippian church in Acts 16 includes a story about Paul and Silas praying and singing in prison, even though they did not deserve to be imprisoned. When Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians, he was in prison again, still rejoicing and urging them to rejoice with him because of Christ. The summary below will leave out many truths, but again I hope it will entice you to read the entire letter, a short masterpiece about genuine joy which is not based on circumstances.
“I am very thankful to God for you and I pray with joy that He will keep helping you mature. You are very dear to me as my partners in the gospel. I pray that you will grow in love, knowledge, insight, discernment and purity — all to the praise of God. My being in prison has turned out to be a good thing. Even the elite soldiers know I am here for Christ and fellow believers take courage to speak fearlessly. Some have poor motivation, but I rejoice anyway because Christ is being preached. I really don’t know if I will die or be released, but my goal is to honor Christ, no matter what happens. If I live, I keep working for Christ. If I die, I get to be with Him. Either way, I win!”
“What I’m really concerned about is your unity, even in the face of opposition. There are many good reasons for you to be united, besides the great joy it will give me. But unity won’t happen until you stop being selfish, and instead, start being more like Christ. He took humility to a previously unthinkable level. Fully God, he became human and suffered the worst kind of death on a cross — all for others! Ultimately, He will be exalted by everyone. You, too, can shine like stars if you allow God to work in you and help you stop complaining and arguing in your selfishness. Two good examples are Timothy whom I hope to send to you soon, and Epaphroditus, your gift-bearing messenger who almost died completing his task. Thankfully, he is well now and I am sending him back to you.”
“I cannot tell you enough to rejoice in the Lord, but also be on your guard for those who want to take you back to salvation by circumcision, or righteousness measured by performance. I was there myself and even had quite a list of boasts, but now I regard all that as trash by comparison to my goal of knowing Christ. I want to know Him thoroughly, at the pinnacle of his resurrection and in the depths of his suffering. I want His righteousness, not my own, so I put my trust in Him and I keep pressing to trust Him more. I focus on what is ahead, not behind, and God calls me heavenward because of Christ. In contrast to those who are enemies of the cross, focused on this earth, we look forward to Christ’s return.”
“I beg the two women, Euodia and Syntyche, to put away their differences and be united in Christ. I must say it over and over, REJOICE in the Lord! Stop worrying and instead, pray thankfully. Our God of peace will give you peace the world cannot understand, and you must focus your minds on what is right and good. I am so thankful for your recent gifts. I’ve experienced the extremes of poverty and wealth and I’ve learned to be content in both. In fact, my strength is in Christ alone — no one else, nothing else. I can do everything through Him. But, I am thankful for your gifts. You helped me earlier, when no one else helped. God is surely pleased and He will meet all your needs out of His wealth. To Him be glory forever. To you be His grace in Christ.”
Article copyright (c) 2009 by Charles G. Mickey. All rights reserved.