Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: How to Get Along with and Minister to Church Members

In the opening of this letter, Paul reveals the source of confidence about the Philippian church,

“I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”

This statement is the core truth of the entire letter. He not only begins this truth at the outset of the letter, but he also returns to it in 3:20-21,

“Our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly await for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.”

Examine the parallel of the two passages:

  1. Both speak of “the day of Jesus Christ.”
  2. Both allude not only to what Jesus is doing now but also what He will do
  3. Both discuss completion of Christ’s work with us

The phrase “the day” appears three times in this letter. This phrase takes us back to the prophets and their prophecies of the conclusion of all things and God’s restoration of all things (Ezekiel 39:8; Zechariah 4; 12-14; Micah 4:6; Amos 9:11-15). This day is also known as “the day of the LORD.” It is that day of which Paul speaks.

Paul opens this letter with this great hope in mind. It spurred him as he addressed this church faced with divisions and false teachers who grew from within the ranks of the church.  Paul uses words as grace, peace, joy, fellowship, and confident.  They are words of eternal significance, and Paul wanted to get across the vision of eternity and what it means to live with eternity in mind.

One of the means through which Paul sought to convey Christ and eternity before the Philippians was through the agency of the mind. In opening chapter two, Paul wrote, “Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus…” (2:5). In chapter three, Paul again calls attention to the mind as the place where one contemplates the characteristics of eternity, “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (4:8). These are eternal characteristics.

Such thinking is what Johannes Kepler said, “I was merely thinking God’s thoughts after him.” Such thinking brings us to realize true humility, because as we contemplate the incarnation, we realize the greatest example of humility realized in Jesus. This humility serves to place a check on divisiveness, squabbles, fighting, and quarrels. We realize that such humility does not come easy especially in the face of the temptations of pride and self-recognition. Paul’s divinely inspired advice and portrayals of Christ and eternity teaches us to hold the portrait of Christ’s humility before us, because it is in His image we will find completion in the day of Jesus Christ (3:21).