Philippians: Christ, the Source of Joy and Strength

Philippians: Christ, the Source of Joy and Strength

by John MacArthur
     
 

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The MacArthur Study Guide Series continues to be one of the best selling study guide series on the market today. These brand-new releases will join the ranks of the previously released and repackaged study guides, offering readers a complete selection of New Testament Bible studies by best-selling author and theologian John MacArthur. For small group or

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Overview

The MacArthur Study Guide Series continues to be one of the best selling study guide series on the market today. These brand-new releases will join the ranks of the previously released and repackaged study guides, offering readers a complete selection of New Testament Bible studies by best-selling author and theologian John MacArthur. For small group or individual use, intriguing questions and new material take the participant deeper into God's Word.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781418509606
Publisher:
Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date:
03/06/2007
Series:
MacArthur Bible Studies Series
Pages:
128
Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.40(d)

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Philippians

Christ, the Source of Joy and Strength


By John MacArthur

Thomas Nelson

Copyright © 2007 John MacArthur
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-7180-3530-3



CHAPTER 1

The Epistle of Joy

Philippians 1:1–11

Drawing Near

Who is one of the most joyful Christians you know? What do you like about that person?

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What situations tend to make you joyful? What situations steal your joy?

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The Context

If people were to search for joy, they probably would not think to look in prison. But that is where Paul wrote this marvelous letter about joy. Through Paul, the Holy Spirit taught that circumstances don't dictate the quality of joy believers have in Christ. How did Paul find joy in prison? He didn't. He took his joy in Christ into jail with him; therefore, joy was his continual companion.

The love bond between Paul and the Philippian believers may have been stronger than the one he had with any other church. The depth of their relationship encouraged Paul during his imprisonment and added to his joy. He was concerned about their unity, their faithfulness, and many other important spiritual and practical matters. But his overriding desire was that their sorrow over his afflictions would be tempered by their joy over his faithfulness to the Lord. Paul wanted them not to be sad, but to share in the fullest measure his deep, abiding joy in Jesus Christ. It is a noteworthy testimony to the maturity of the Philippian believers that, although Paul warned and encouraged them, he made no mention of any theological or moral problem in the church at Philippi. That also brought the apostle joy.


Keys to the Text

Joy: Paul uses the word joy (Greek chara) four times in this letter (1:4, 25; 2:2; 4:1). The related verb rejoice (Greek chairo) appears in the text nine times (1:18, 26; 2:17–18; 3:1; 4:4, 10). In the early chapters, these terms are used primarily to describe Paul's own experience with life in Christ. The beginning of chapter 3, however, is a transition point, shifting to a section of spiritual direction. Paul's expression "rejoice in the Lord" (3:1) is the first time he used the phrase "in the Lord." Unrelated to the circumstances of life, the believers' joy flows from an unassailable, unchanging relationship with the sovereign Lord.


Unleashing the Text

Read 1:1–11, noting the key words and definitions next to the passage.


Philippians 1:1–11 (NKJV)

1Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:

2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

3I thank my God upon every remembrance of you,

4always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy,

5for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now,

6being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;

7just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.

8For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.

9And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment,

10that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,

11being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Paul (v. 1) — Paul wrote this letter from a Roman prison.

Timothy (v. 1) — Paul's beloved son in the faith; not the coauthor of the letter, but possibly the one to whom Paul dictated it.

bondservants (v. 1) — This denotes a willing slave who was happily and loyally linked to his master.

in Christ Jesus (v. 1) — This describes the Philippian believers' union with Christ in His death and resurrection.

bishops (v. 1) — literally, "overseers"; a term used to emphasize the leadership responsibilities of those who are elders, who are also called pastors

deacons (v. 1) — literally, "those who serve"

in every prayer ... with joy (v. 4) — The Greek word for "prayer" denotes a petition for, or a request made on behalf of, someone else. It was a delight for him to intercede for fellow believers.

fellowship (v. 5) — can also be translated "participation" or "partnership"

from the first day (v. 5) — These believers eagerly assisted Paul in evangelizing Philippi from the beginning of the church there (Acts 16:12–40).

He ... will complete it (v. 6) — When God begins a work of salvation in a person, He finishes and perfects that work. Thus the verb "will complete" points to the eternal security of the Christian.

day of Jesus Christ (v. 6) — Not to be confused with the "Day of the Lord," which describes final divine judgment and wrath (see Isa. 13:9; Joel 1:15; 2:11; 1 Thess. 5:2; 2 Pet. 3:10). "Day of Jesus Christ" looks to the final salvation, reward, and glorification of believers (see 1 Cor. 3:10–15; 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:9–10).

heart (v. 7) — a common biblical word used to describe the center of thought and feeling (see Prov. 4:23)

partakers with me of grace (v. 7) — During his imprisonment, the Philippians sent money to Paul and offered Epaphroditus's services to support the apostle, thus sharing in God's gracious blessing on his ministry.

affection (v. 8) — The word literally refers to the internal organs, which are the part of the body that reacts to intense emotion. It became the strongest Greek word to express compassionate love — a love that involves one's entire being.

in knowledge (v. 9) — This is from the Greek word that describes genuine, full, or advanced knowledge. Biblical love is not an empty sentimentalism but is anchored and regulated by the truth of Scripture (see Eph. 5:2–3; 1 Peter 1:22).

discernment (v. 9) — Moral perception, insight, and the practical application of knowledge. Love is not blind but perceptive, and it carefully scrutinizes to distinguish between right and wrong.

sincere and without offense (v. 10) — "Sincere" means "genuine," and may have originally meant "tested by sunlight." In the ancient world, dishonest pottery dealers filled cracks in their inferior products with wax before glazing and painting them, making worthless pots difficult to distinguish from expensive ones. The only way to avoid being defrauded was to hold the pot to the sun, making the wax-filled cracks obvious. Dealers marked their fine pottery that could withstand "sun testing" as sine cera, "without wax." "Without offense" can be translated "blameless," referring to relational integrity. Christians are to live lives of true integrity that do not cause others to sin.

to the glory and praise of God (v. 11) — The ultimate end of all Paul's prayers was that God be glorified.


1) How did Paul describe himself and Timothy? The Philippian believers?

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2) Why was Paul joyful when praying for the Christians in Philippi?

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3) What does verse 6 reveal about God's work in our lives?

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4) What phrases or words reveal the kind of deep relationship that existed between Paul and this church he had planted only a short time before?

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5) Summarize in your own words the content of Paul's prayer for the church at Philippi.

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Going Deeper

In all of Paul's recorded prayers, the spiritual issues were of supreme importance. Read Ephesians 1:15–23 for another example of this.

15Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints,

16do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers:

17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him,

18the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

19and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power

20which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places,

21far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

22And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church,

23which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.


Exploring the Meaning

6) Why do you think Paul's prayers focused more on the spiritual welfare of others, rather than their physical welfare?

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7) What did Paul mean when he spoke of the Philippians' "fellowship" and being partners in the gospel (Phil. 1:5)?

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8) How would you distinguish between knowledge, insight, and discernment (vv. 9–10)?

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9) Why is it significant that Paul linked love and knowledge? What are the dangers if a person has only one of those traits?

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Truth for Today

Most people define happiness as an attitude of satisfaction or delight based on positive circumstances largely beyond their control. Happiness, therefore, cannot be planned or programmed, much less guaranteed. It is experienced only if and when circumstances are favorable. It is therefore elusive and uncertain. Spiritual joy, on the other hand, is not an attitude dependent on chance or circumstances. It is the deep and abiding confidence that, regardless of one's circumstances in life, all is well between the believer and the Lord. No matter what difficulty, pain, disappointment, failure, rejection, or other challenge one is facing, genuine joy remains because of that eternal well-being established by God's grace in salvation. Thus, Scripture makes it clear that the fullest, most lasting and satisfying joy is derived from a true relationship with God. It is not based on circumstances or chance, but is the gracious and permanent possession of every child of God. Therefore it is not surprising that joy is an important New Testament theme.


Reflecting on the Text

10) How can you encourage the overseers (or elders) and deacons at your church this week, causing them to be filled with joy and thanksgiving?

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11) As Paul prayed for the Philippians, no doubt, there are people praying for you (a pastor, a small group leader, Sunday school teacher). What can you do to see love abound more and more in your life (v. 9)?

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12) Surely this letter brought a smile to the faces of the Philippian believers.

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To whom can you write a letter, card, or e-mail to encourage or express gratitude?

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Personal Response

Write out additional reflections, questions you may have, or a prayer.

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CHAPTER 2

The Joy of Ministry

Philippians 1:12–26

Drawing Near

Paul found joy in ministry, even when it was diffi cult. Yet he longed for heaven, knowing that to die is gain. Do you consider it gain to die? Why or why not? What kinds of situations cause you to feel ready to depart this life?

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The Context

One of the surest measures of our spiritual maturity is what it takes to rob us of our Spirit-bestowed joy. Paul's maturity is evident as he makes it clear that difficult, painful, even life-threatening circumstances did not rob him of joy but rather caused it to increase. Paul certainly experienced sorrow and tears.

He suffered grief and disappointment, and he was troubled by sinful, weak, and contentious believers. Yet, there never seems to have been a time in his life as a believer when circumstances diminished his joy. In fact, it seems as if the worst affliction merely tightened his grip on salvation's joy.

Although he was writing this epistle from a private residence, Paul was chained night and day to a Roman soldier while under house arrest. In this section of Philippians, he discusses four issues that might have robbed him of joy: trouble (Paul's imprisonment), detractors (those preachers who sought to elevate themselves at Paul's expense), threat of impending death, and the sorrows of living on in the flesh. In the last analysis, it did not really matter to Paul that he was imprisoned, maligned, and facing possible execution, as long as the saving gospel of Christ was being preached. He was fully confident that, despite his negative circumstances, the Lord's cause would triumph. Therefore, he could face death without fear.


Keys to the Text

Supply: This Greek word was used to describe what a choir manager would provide for the members of a Greek choir who performed in Greek drama. In short, he took care of all their living expenses. The word came to mean a full supply of any kind. The Philippians' prayer would generate the Spirit's supply (1:19).Paul was looking forward to getting a full supply of Jesus Christ's Spirit as a result of the Philippians' prayers.

Progress: This word describes not merely moving ahead but doing so against obstacles (1:25). The related verb was used of an explorer or of an army advance team hacking a path through dense trees and underbrush, moving ahead slowly and with considerable effort. Resistance is therefore inherent to that sort of progress, and no one knew better than Paul how inevitable the resistance of Satan and the world is to the progress of the gospel. Far from lamenting, resenting, or complaining about his various hardships, Paul acknowledged them as an unavoidable element of ministry. They were a small cost that he was more than willing to pay as a means for furthering the progress of the gospel.


Unleashing the Text

Read 1:12–26, noting the key words and definitions next to the passage.

Philippians 1:12–26 (NKJV)

12But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel,

13so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;

14and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

15Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:

16The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;

17but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.

18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

19For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,

20according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

21For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

22But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.

23For I am hard-pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

24Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.

25And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith,

26that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

things which happened to me (v. 12) — Paul's difficult circumstances, namely, his journey to Rome and imprisonment there

evident ... chains are in Christ (v. 13) — People around him recognized that Paul was no criminal, but had become a prisoner because of preaching Jesus Christ and the gospel (see Eph. 6:20).

whole palace guard (v. 13) — The Greek word for "palace," often simply used in its transliterated form praetorion,can denote either a special building (e.g., a commander's headquarters, the emperor's palace) or the group of men in the Imperial guard. Because Paul was in a private house in Rome, "palace guard" probably refers to the members of the Imperial guard who guarded Paul day and night (see Acts 28:16).

all the rest (v. 13) — everyone else in the city of Rome who met and heard him (see Acts 28:23–24, 30–31)

much more bold to speak (v. 14) — Paul's example of powerful witness to the gospel as a prisoner demonstrated God's faithfulness and encouraged others to be bold and not fear imprisonment.


(Continues...)

Excerpted from Philippians by John MacArthur. Copyright © 2007 John MacArthur. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

John MacArthur is the pastor-teacher of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, president of the Master’s College and Seminary, and featured teacher with the Grace to You media ministry. In more than four decades of ministry, John has written dozens of bestselling books, including The MacArthur Study Bible, The Gospel According to Jesus, and Slave. He lives in Los Angeles.

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