Greeting.* 1Paul and Timothy, slaves* of Christ Jesus, to all the holy ones in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the overseers and ministers:a 2b grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.*
Thanksgiving.* 3I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you,c 4praying always with joy in my every prayer for all of you, 5because of your partnership for the gospel from the first day until now. 6d I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus.* 7It is right that I should think this way about all of you, because I hold you in my heart, you who are all partners with me in grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.e 9And this is my prayer: that your love may increase ever more and more in knowledge and every kind of perception,f 10to discern what is of value, so that you may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,g 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.h
II. Progress of the Gospel*
12i I want you to know, brothers, that my situation has turned out rather to advance the gospel, 13so that my imprisonment has become well known in Christ throughout the whole praetorium* and to all the rest,j 14* and so that the majority of the brothers, having taken encouragement in the Lord from my imprisonment, dare more than ever to proclaim the word fearlessly.
15Of course, some preach Christ from envy and rivalry, others from good will. 16The latter act out of love, aware that I am here for the defense of the gospel; 17the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not from pure motives, thinking that they will cause me trouble in my imprisonment. 18What difference does it make, as long as in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed?k And in that I rejoice.*
Indeed I shall continue to rejoice, 19* for I know that this will result in deliverance for me* through your prayers and support from the Spirit of Jesus Christ.l 20My eager expectation and hope is that I shall not be put to shame in any way, but that with all boldness, now as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.m 21For to me life is Christ, and death is gain.n 22If I go on living in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. And I do not know which I shall choose.o 23I am caught between the two. I long to depart this life and be with Christ, [for] that is far better.p 24Yet that I remain [in] the flesh is more necessary for your benefit. 25And this I know with confidence, that I shall remain and continue in the service of all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that your boasting in Christ Jesus may abound on account of me when I come to you again.
III. Instructions for the Community
Steadfastness in Faith.* 27Only, conduct yourselves in a way worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear news of you, that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind struggling together for the faith of the gospel,q 28not intimidated in any way by your opponents. This is proof to them of destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. 29For to you has been granted, for the sake of Christ, not only to believe in him but also to suffer for him.r 30Yours is the same struggles as you saw in me and now hear about me.*
* [1:1] Slaves: Paul usually refers to himself at the start of a letter as an apostle. Here he substitutes a term suggesting the unconditional obligation of himself and Timothy to the service of Christ, probably because, in view of the good relationship with the Philippians, he wishes to stress his status as a co-servant rather than emphasize his apostolic authority. Reference to Timothy is a courtesy: Paul alone writes the letter, as the singular verb throughout shows (Phil 1:3–26), and the reference (Phil 2:19–24) to Timothy in the third person. Overseers: the Greek term episkopos literally means “one who oversees” or “one who supervises,” but since the second century it has come to designate the “bishop,” the official who heads a local church. In New Testament times this office had not yet developed into the form that it later assumed, though it seems to be well on the way to such development in the Pastorals; see 1 Tm 3:2 and Ti 1:7, where it is translated bishop. At Philippi, however (and at Ephesus, according to Acts 20:28), there was more than one episkopos, and the precise function of these officials is uncertain. In order to distinguish this office from the later stages into which it developed, the term is here translated as overseers. Ministers: the Greek term diakonoi is used frequently in the New Testament to designate “servants,” “attendants,” or “ministers.” Paul refers to himself and to other apostles as “ministers of God” (2 Cor 6:4) or “ministers of Christ” (2 Cor 11:23). In the Pastorals (1 Tm 3:8, 12) the diakonos has become an established official in the local church; hence the term is there translated as deacon. The diakonoi at Philippi seem to represent an earlier stage of development of the office; we are uncertain about their precise functions. Hence the term is here translated as ministers. See Rom 16:1, where Phoebe is described as a diakonos (minister) of the church of Cenchreae.
* [1:3–11] As in Rom 1:8–15 and all the Pauline letters except Galatians, a thanksgiving follows, including a direct prayer for the Philippians (Phil 1:9–11); see note on Rom 1:8. On their partnership for the gospel (Phil 1:5), cf. Phil 1:29–30; 4:10–20. Their devotion to the faith and to Paul made them his pride and joy (Phil 4:1). The characteristics thus manifested are evidence of the community’s continuing preparation for the Lord’s parousia (Phil 1:6, 10). Paul’s especially warm relationship with the Philippians is suggested here (Phil 1:7–8) as elsewhere in the letter. The eschatology serves to underscore a concern for ethical growth (Eph 1:9–11), which appears throughout the letter.
* [1:6] The day of Christ Jesus: the parousia or triumphant return of Christ, when those loyal to him will be with him and share in his eternal glory; cf. Phil 1:10; 2:16; 3:20–21; 1 Thes 4:17; 5:10; 2 Thes 1:10; 1 Cor 1:8.
* [1:12–26] The body of the letter begins with an account of Paul’s present situation, i.e., his imprisonment (Phil 1:12–13; see Introduction), and then goes on with advice for the Philippians (Phil 1:27–2:18). The advance of the gospel (Phil 1:12) and the progress of the Philippians in the faith (Phil 1:25) frame what is said.
* [1:13] Praetorium: either the praetorian guard in the city where Paul was imprisoned or the governor’s official residence in a Roman province (cf. Mk 15:16; Acts 23:35). See Introduction on possible sites.
* [1:14–18] Although Paul is imprisoned, Christians there nonetheless go on preaching Christ. But they do so with varied motives, some with personal hostility toward Paul, others out of personal ambition.
* [1:18] Rejoice: a major theme in the letter; see Introduction.
* [1:19–25] Paul earnestly debates his prospects of martyrdom or continued missionary labor. While he may long to depart this life and thus be with Christ (Phil 1:23), his overall and final expectation is that he will be delivered from this imprisonment and continue in the service of the Philippians and of others (Phil 1:19, 25; Phil 2:24). In either case, Christ is central (Phil 1:20–21); if to live means Christ for Paul, death means to be united with Christ in a deeper sense.
* [1:27–30] Ethical admonition begins at this early point in the letter, emphasizing steadfastness and congregational unity in the face of possible suffering. The opponents (Phil 1:28) are those in Philippi, probably pagans, who oppose the gospel cause. This is proof . .. (Phil 1:28) may refer to the whole outlook and conduct of the Philippians, turning out for their salvation but to the judgment of the opponents (cf. 2 Cor 2:15–16), or possibly the sentence refers to the opinion of the opponents, who hold that the obstinacy of the Christians points to the destruction of such people as defy Roman authority (though in reality, Paul holds, such faithfulness leads to salvation).