Paul’s Letter to the Philippians – 02 (“Paul’s Praise of the Saints at Philippi”)

[Message: Kobus van der Walt (Three Rivers Baptist Church – 07 April 2019)]


Phil.1:11- (ESV) ~ “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”


The Letter to the Philippians is a beautiful expression of gratitude for the love and gifts of the Philippian saints to Paul. He is a prisoner in Rome with possible death before him, but in everything that he writes to his brothers in Philippi, there is a note of joy. He hopes to be set free and to see them again. He also wishes to address some other issues in his letter, like the likelihood of further persecution the church will face and an exhortation to work together. As much as the Philippian church (probably made up of several house churches)loved Paul, its members were divided among themselves; therefore, the recurrent exhortations to unity (1:27; 2:2, 14)and mutual service (2:3–11). At least part of the division revolves around disagreement between two of Paul’s fellow labourers, possibly leaders of separate house churches (4:2–3).


There are four big ideas in this opening section of the Letter to the Philippians: 

  • Last week we looked at the first part and that is Paul’s greeting which extended grace and peace(1:1-2). 
  • Next, and this will be the first point that we will be looking at today, is Paul’s praise for the Philippian saints’ constant witness(1:3-6). 
  • Then, Paul’s praise for the Philippian’s concern for the Gospel(1:7).  
  • Thirdly we will be looking at Paul’s praise shown by his love for the saints in Philippi (1:8). 
  • Praise for their Constant Witness(1:3-6)Paul starts to thank God for whom He is and then praises the saints in Philippi for their constant witness, but even before praising them, he thanks God for whom He is.
  • His God:He thanks God for His supremacy in the advancing of the Gospel. But note also, that he calls God, “my God”– God is very personal to him. God is his God. By stating his thanks to “my God,”Paul also reveals his personal devotion. This was no stereotyped formula, but the natural outflow from the heart of a deeply spiritual man.

Paul is also thanking God for the fact that his brothers in Philippi are assisting him in the advance of the Gospel – both, while he is in prison and out of prison.

  • Frequently Praying:He prays frequently for the Philippians. It is not a once off action or prayer. They are his brothers – there exist a deep and genuine relationship between him and his brothers in Philippi. They are very close to him, in fact for a long time and since the beginning of the existence of this church, they were involved in his ministry by supporting him with money and other gifts.
  • Filled with Joy:Whenever Paul thinks of his brothers, he is filled withjoyand prays with his heart filled with joy.Why? We find the answer in 1:5 which starts with the word “because” ~ because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”The word that Paul uses for “partnership”(1:5)is the Greek term “koinonia,”often translated “fellowship.”Used six times in Philippians (1:5, 7; 2:1; 3:10; 4:14-15), here in 1:5 and in 4:14-15 it includes the idea of working together for the advance of the gospel (this includes financial support for his ministry).
  • The Day of Jesus Christ:There is however, a much more important thing that Paul praises his brothers for and he mentions this in 1:6 ~ And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”Paul refers them to the fact that God, through Christ Jesus, saved them and now sanctifying them for a very special day when they will be glorified.

Now, what do “sanctification” and “glorification” mean?

  • Sanctification: To sanctify someone or something is to set that person apart and to be used for the purpose God intends. People are therefore, sanctified when they live according to God’s design and purpose. As we’ve already seen last week, the Greek word translated “sanctification”[γιασμός(hagiasmos)]means “holiness.”To sanctify, therefore, means “to make someone holy”in order for that person to live according to God’s will and to be set apart to be used by God for the purpose God intends.

It is very important to take note of the fact that human beings ultimately cannot sanctify themselves. The Triune God sanctifies. The Father sanctifies (1 Cor.1:30)by the Spirit (2 Thess.2:13; 1 Peter 1:2) and in the name of Christ (1 Cor.6:11). Yet Christian faith is not merely passive. Paul calls for active trust and obedience when he says ~ “Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God” (2 Cor.7:1). No one may presume on God’s grace in sanctification. Peter reminds believers to be diligent in making their calling and election sure ~ “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall”(2 Pet.1:10). This is exactly what the saints in Philippi did, they confirmed their calling by being witnesses for the Gospel of Jesus Christ ~ “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age”(Matt.28:19).

  • Glorification:What does “glorification”mean? “The short answer is that “glorification” is God’s final removal of sin from the life of the saints (i.e., everyone who is saved)in the eternal state ~ “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us”(Rom.8:18).At Christ’s return, the glory of God(Rom.5:2)– His honour, praise, majesty, and holiness – will be realised in us; instead of being mortals burdened with a sin nature, we will be changed into holy immortals with direct and unhindered access to God’s presence. We will enjoy holy communion with Him throughout eternity” (Got Questions). 

Apart from the fact that Paul wants to praise them for their constant witness, he also wants them to understand that God always finishes what He begins, this includes the good works in their lives ~ “And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ”(1:6). That which began as a good work is the work of sanctification in the saints in Philippi (and our) lives and then will come to glorification, “at the day of Jesus Christ.”This is another expression that we have to look at… – “…the day of Jesus Christ.”

  •             The day of Jesus Christ:The day of Jesus Christ will without any doubt, be the most crucial and important day in the lives of mankind. We read in John 5:26-27 ~ “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority (and then these words…) to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”Judgment was handed over to Christ – Judgment on who? On the enemies of God – on those who did not believe in Christ – those who had no fellowship with Jesus Christ our Lord. Paul writes in 2 Thes.1:7b-9 ~ “…the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven (i.e. on “the Day of Jesus Christ”)with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destructionaway from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

There is however, wonderful news for those who believe in Jesus Christ and follow Him as disciples. We read in 2 Tim.4:8 the following ~ “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day (i.e. “the Day of Jesus Christ”), and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.”On the “Great Day of the Lord,”believers will be saved – 2 Thes.1:10 ~ “…when He (i.e. Jesus)comes on that day to be glorified in His saints, and to be marvelled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed.”

God calls believers to work out their salvation with fear and trembling ~ “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”(Phil.2:12). This is exactly what the believers in Philippi did and for that, Paul is praising them.

3.2 Praise for their Concern for the Gospel (1:7):Paul writes in 1:7 ~ It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel.”When he speaks of a partnership (“partakers”), he is speaking of the practical hospitality and material help that the Philippians had given to him ever since he first met them. The first Philippian convert, Lydia, had invited Paul and his companions to stay at her house during their visit to the city (Acts 16:15). When Paul left Philippi and went to Thessalonica, the Philippians more than once sent him gifts to help him in his work.We read in Phil.4:15 the following ~ “And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.”

Even after he left the province of Macedonia, they and they alone continued to help him in practical ways (4:15). Although poor, they also contributed generously to the collection for the saints in Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:1-5), and as we’ve seen in the opening verses, they had also sent Paul both money and the companionship of Epaphroditus (2:25; 4:18). It is no wonder that he longed for this beloved congregation (1:8; 4:1). They indeed shared a deep concern for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

He also praises the saints in Philippi for their help and material contributions, and for their partnership with him in the Gospel. He could not teach and preach in Philippi as well as to the saints in the other churches in Asia Minor if it wasn’t for their partnership and provision. He could not travel and share the Gospel in synagogues all over the Roman Empire if it wasn’t for their partnership.

Paul is also praying for them, because they believed the Gospel – they were “partakers of the of grace.”They have put the commands of God in Jer.6:16 into action and did not do what the Israelites did… ~ “Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’”  In order for anyone to walk in the good way, and to find rest for their souls, they need intercessory prayer and that is also why Paul prayed for his friends; his brothers; the Saints in Philippi, so that they will persevere till the end ~ “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt”(Hebr.6:4-6). Paul has also put into practice what he told the Ephesians to do in Eph.6:18 ~ “…praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints.”

To the apostle, the Philippians are very dear. He calls them partakers with me of grace.

Being a partner in grace means that such a person is also a Christian – saved by grace alone and he is absolutely sure about the fact that God… ~ who began a good work in (them) will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil.1:6).

  •   Praise shown by his Love for Them(1:8):Verse 8 is a very interesting verse. Paul says ~ “For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all…”There is a link between Paul’s “yearning” here in 1:8 and his “holding in my heart” in 1:7. In other words, Paul has a yearning love for his brothers in Philippi and he says that only God really knows how much the saints in Philippi mean to him. He is not swearing or taking an oath in the name of God here, it is rather a way of saying, “my brothers, I miss you so much and I love you so much, but I cannot really express it in words, only God really knows how much I’m yearning to you and how much I really love you.”

In an indirect way, Paul expresses his praise for them based on the love he has for  them, because if someone is not dear to you; if someone is not praiseworthy, you will not love them with a deep yearning love – if you love them with a yearning, you love in a different way than when you love your neighbour or your enemies. 

Paul even goes a step further when, in the last part of 1:8, he says ~ “…with the affection of Christ Jesus.”Not only does Paul love them, but he says that Christ also loves them in and through Paul! Christ loves them because they are partakers of His love and partakers in the furthering of the Gospel. 


It might not seem so, but this is a very confrontational message.

  • Constant witness:Are you a constant witness for Jesus Christ in behaviour and conduct? Would Paul be able to praise you for furthering the gospel?

Concern for the Gospel: are you involved in your concern for the Gospel by being hospitable? The Philippians, although poor, contributed generously to Paul. Paul could not continue with his ministry if it wasn’t for their contributions. Do you wait for others to contribute or do you make it a priority to pray about and then contribute?

  • Love:Do you love (really love)your brothers and sisters in Christ? Do you live in such a way that God can love others through you?

To those of you who do not yet follow the Lord Jesus Christ; those who are not sanctified; who are not yet set apart for the glory of Christ; you must know today, that you won’t be glorified by Christ. You don’t have access to His presence and you will not be able to enjoy eternity with Him.

Please hear the gospel today and turnto Jesus. May the Holy Spirit urge you to do so!

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