PHILIPPIANS

AN EXTENDED PARAPHRASE

Chapter 1
This letter comes from Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, and is addressed to all those in Philippi who have been made holy by their union with Christ Jesus - people, bishops and deacons. May grace be upon you and peace within you, the grace and peace of God our Father and of our Lord, Jesus Christ.[3] Every time I remember you I give thanks to my God for you, and every prayer that I pray for you is a prayer that I pray with joy. [5] Thinking of you brings me such joy because, from the very first day of my arrival in Philippi right up to the present day, you have been, and still are, full and faithful partners with me in the proclaiming of the gospel. It is this which makes me so confident that the God who formally opened his good work among you, the work of the gospel, when he 'opened Lydia's heart' is the same God who will continue it and complete it until the very last day, the day that Jesus Christ comes again.[7] It is only right that I should think so confidently and joyfully of you in my prayers for you all, since you in turn hold me so dear in your hearts, as you showed by your prayers for me, both during my imprisonment and at the time of my hearing before the governor, when I spoke in my own defence and, even more powerfully, in defence of the gospel. All of you became my partners in prayer, joining with me in laying hold of God's grace. And just as you have a place for me in your hearts, so deep within me - and God himself can bear witness to the truth of what I say - I have a true heart-love for you, and a longing to see you all again; this heart-love is the love of Jesus Christ himself, dwelling in me by his Spirit.[9] When I remember you in prayer, this is what I pray: may the love which you have already shown to be in your hearts by your concern for me grow more and more day by day; and may your love not just be empty-headed benevolence, but grounded in a clear understanding of God's truth, and guided in every situation by spiritual discernment, so that you carefully and prayerfully put to the test all the different choices you have to make, and approve and adopt only those which are the best. I pray that as you grow to maturity in this way you may be able to stand before Christ on the great day of his return to earth transparently sincere and genuine, neither having stumbled into sin or error yourselves nor having caused others to stumble. May you come before him filled with the fruit of righteousness, fruit which grows as Jesus Christ works within you by his Spirit, whose one desire is to bring praise and honour to God. [12] Now here is a paradox I want you to grasp: it is an important truth about the way God works. What has happened to me here, my long imprisonment, at first sight looks like a setback, but in fact, by God's providence, it has turned out rather to be a big step forward for the gospel, in two ways. Firstly, throughout the whole of the governor's palace and everywhere else it has become generally known that I am in prison because of my faith in Christ; and secondly, the great majority of our brothers and sisters, because of my imprisonment, have themselves put their trust fully in the Lord, and have been emboldened all the more to speak the word of God without fear. [15] It is true that some of these proclaim Christ out of jealousy for me and rivalry with me, but the others do so out of good will towards me. They have love for me in their hearts, knowing that I lie in prison waiting for the time when I am brought to trial and can make my defence of the gospel. The others, however, have enmity in their hearts when they proclaim Christ, and their motives are impure, for they think that their success while I can do nothing (as they imagine) will make my imprisonment even more of an affliction for me. [18] But why should this be so? No! For the fact is that, whether from false motives or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. They think that I will be tortured by envy, but in fact I am filled with joy - and will continue to rejoice! I rejoice, too, because I know this: this present suffering of mine will result in my salvation, whether deliverance from prison or deliverance from this life into the full salvation waiting for me in heaven. Whatever the outcome, I have complete assurance and confident expectation that, when the day of my trial eventually comes, both through your faithful ministry of prayer for me and through the powerful ministry of the Spirit of Jesus Christ in me, I will in no way be ashamed of the gospel of Christ, but will make my defence, and the gospel's, with every confidence and boldness, so that then, as always before, so in my present situation, Christ may be magnified and glorified in all that I do, whether my body is freed for life or put to death.[21] For to me, to live is Christ, living in him and living for him; but to die is even better, for it is to live with Christ for ever. If I am set free to continue living in this world, this will mean that I can continue working for the gospel and rejoicing in the fruit that it brings as people respond in obedience and faith. I really do not know which to choose! I am pulled in two opposite directions: my own deep desire is to fold up my tent, the temporary dwelling of life on earth, to be with Christ in the permanent home he has prepared for me in heaven - this is much the better choice, for me. But for your sakes it is much more important that I stay in this life and this world. [25] In fact, I am confident of this, indeed, I am convinced of it, that I will stay in this world, and so stay with all of you, and so help you to grow in your faith and to rejoice in it, as I do. For when I am with you once again, there will be great joy among you that your prayers for me have been answered, and your confidence in Christ will know no limits![27] Remember that you are not just citizens of Philippi; you have an even greater privilege, citizenship of God's heavenly city, the New Jerusalem. This one thing, then, I ask of you: make sure that your corporate life together as citizens of heaven is worthy of the gospel of Christ. Whether I come to visit you myself, or hear news of you on my travels, I want to see or hear that you are standing together in one Spirit, 'United' heart and soul in your teamwork as you strive for the truth of the gospel, straining every sinew to live it out yourselves and to proclaim it to others. [28] Do not be intimidated in any way at all by those who oppose you. Your fearlessness will show them that they are on the losing side - indeed, that they are utterly lost; but for you it will be further assurance that you have been saved, a salvation which is the gift of God. For it is not just faith in Christ that comes to you as a gift of God's grace; suffering for Christ is no less a gift of God, and so brings assurance that your faith is genuine. The struggle you are enduring now is the same as you saw me endure when I first came to Philippi, and the same as what you hear I am enduring now.

Chapter 2
Only a united church is living a life worthy of the gospel of Christ; only a united church can stand unmoved and unafraid against the opposition of the world. Every memory of you all, as I said before, brings me joy, but you will make my joy full to overflowing if you are truly united together as one body. This, therefore, is my plea to you: if your union with Christ has brought you a deep inner assurance, if the love of God has calmed and warmed your hearts, if you are all alike filled with the same Holy Spirit, filling each in his innermost being with mercy and compassion, then live out this common inner experience in your life together as a church. Attitude is everything: let your thinking be shaped by the gospel of Christ, so that you think as one, and love as one, together heart and soul: be unity-minded. [3] Selfishness is the death of unity, so do nothing out of a selfish ambition to win glory for yourselves: to be unity-minded is to be humble-minded, thinking every one else to be more important than you are. So do not be focused solely on your own interests, or obsessed by your own abilities and entitlements, but look to the abilities and interests of others. In fact, your attitude to your brothers and sisters in Christ should be the attitude of Christ himself: to be humble-minded is to have the mind of Christ.[6] Christ was from all eternity God himself, in his inner nature and every outward expression of his being. Yet he did not think it right to claim equality with God his Father; on the contrary, he emptied himself of his divine glory, and took upon himself the essential nature, not of a son, but of a servant, and was born into this world to all outward appearances a man like any other. Now that he was for all to see in human form, he humbled himself still further, submitting in perfect obedience to his Father's will, even to the point of death - the death of one under God's curse, death on a cross. [9] For this reason God raised him to the highest honour, graciously giving him the name which is honoured far above any other name. So, on the day of judgement, at the name 'Jesus' every knee will bow before him, whether in joyful adoration or in grudging submission - all the angels in heaven, all mankind on earth, and all the fallen angels beneath the earth. Every tongue will declare, willingly or unwillingly, that Jesus Christ is Lord, and so bring glory to God the Father.[12] So, my beloved friends, just as you have always been Christ-like in your obedience to my teaching, not only when I was with you in person but now even more in my absence, remember with godly fear the awesome privilege God has given you, and make every effort to live out your salvation in your life together as a church. For it is God himself who is powerfully at work within you and among you, so that you not only want to please him but also have the inner strength to do so. [14] Let all that you do in his service be done cheerfully, without grumbling or complaining, and willingly, without always trying to argue your way out of it; then the work of your hands will be unblemished and the motives of your hearts unmixed, children of God who do not need to fear their Father's reproach. Yes, you are children of God, not children of the society in which you live, a society which has twisted God's truth and turned its back on his absolute standards of good and evil. You must be conspicuously different, shining in the world with the light of Christ, like stars on a dark night, and holding out to them the offer of life, which is found only in the word of God, the gospel. If you are a church like this, then in the presence of Christ on the day of his return you will be my pride and my joy, living testimony that I have not run my race in vain, nor toiled so hard for nothing. [17] But if I am to die before that day, then my life will be poured out like a thank-offering to God, complementing and completing the sacrifice which you, as a royal priesthood, are offering to him, an offering of faith and faithful service. If so, this will be a cause for me, not of sorrow, but of rejoicing - and I rejoice together with all of you, just as you must rejoice, and rejoice together with me: joy should always be shared![19] I confidently expect to send Timothy to you soon - and my confidence comes from my faith in the Lord Jesus. Timothy will bring back news of how you are getting on, and when I know this, I, too, will be in good heart. It is Timothy I am sending because he is a man after my own heart like no one else, and he will have a genuine concern for your welfare. He stands out from all the others, who look to their own interests rather than making the service of Jesus Christ their priority. [22] But Timothy's quality you already know well, for he has proved it time and again when put to the test. He has been like a son to me, working together with me in the service of the gospel. It is Timothy, therefore, that I am sending to you, and I will do so as soon as I see more clearly how things will go with me. And I am confident, with a confidence that comes from the Lord, that I myself too will be with you before long. [25] I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus as well, my brother in Christ and fellow-worker and fellow-soldier in Christ's army, whom you first sent to me to minister to my needs in prison. He was greatly homesick for you all, and deeply distressed that you had been so upset when you heard that he had been ill. [27] Indeed, he was ill, and his illness brought him close to death. But God was merciful to him - and not just to him, but to me also, so that I might not have one grief piled on top of another. [28] So I sent him to you all the more urgently so that when you saw him again you might rejoice - and I would feel les guilty! So welcome him home with joyful celebration, joy that comes from your oneness in Christ; and hold such people in high honour, because in his work for Christ he came close to death, risking his life to bring me the remainder of your generous gift, so making complete your faithful service on my behalf.

Chapter 3
What I am going to say next, my brothers and sisters in Christ, I have said before: rejoice in the Lord! Let him be the cause and the source of all your joy. I myself never grow weary of repeating these words, and for you they are the key to spiritual health and safety.[2] Watch out for the dogs who are trying to get their teeth into you - those whose knives are out to do you harm, to mutilate your flesh: I am referring to those who insist on circumcision. God no longer requires physical circumcision of his covenant people as a sign of their belonging to him. It is we who are now the true 'circumcision people', God's New Covenant people. We offer our service to God in the Spirit, not in the flesh; our joy and our confidence are in Jesus Christ. [4] Indeed, I myself used to have such confidence in the flesh, in my outward physical circumstances. I was circumcised, as the Law prescribes, on the eighth day, having been born into the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew from a long line of Hebrews. As a Pharisee, I zealously kept the Law, a zeal which led me to persecute the church of Christ; in observing all the outward rituals and righteousness of the Law I was blameless. [7] But all these privileges and pieties, which I used to think put me in credit with God, I came to regard as actually belonging in the debit column - a dead loss, in fact, because it is only when Jesus' righteousness is credited to us that we can be good enough for God. [8] What is more, I still regard everything else, too, as loss, since the privilege of knowing Jesus Christ as my Lord and Saviour is worth far, far more. For his sake, I have lost all these other things, and regard them as worthless rubbish, so that I may gain the greatest blessing of all, Christ himself, and so that, on the day when he returns in judgement, I may be found to belong to him. Then I will be able to plead before him not my own righteousness, all my attempts to keep the Law, but the righteousness which is credited to me as a result of my faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes as a gift of God on the basis of that faith. [10] It is worth losing everything else so that I may know him as my friend, and to experience the power that raised him from the dead at work in my own life, and to take my share, too, of the suffering which he suffered, with my life moulded into the shape of the cross on which he died, so that I, too, by whatever path he appoints for me, may experience resurrection from the dead, just as he did. [12] This is not to say that I have already achieved such a life of 'resurrection' holiness - I am far from perfect, still a work-in-progress. Once, I pursued the church to persecute it; now, I am pursuing Christ, to follow in his footsteps, hoping to catch up, perhaps, with him, just as he caught up with me on the Damascus road, and took me into his keeping. My brothers and sisters, as I take stock of my life I do not reckon that I have caught up with Christ in holiness of life. But this is my one goal: forgetting all the failures of the past, I press on with all my strength to what lies ahead, running my race with my eyes fixed on the finishing-line, in pursuit of the great prize which awaits me there, God's call to my home in heaven, when I will finally catch up with Jesus Christ for ever, and be caught up by him. [15] This attitude of mine should be the attitude of all who are spiritually mature. If any of you think differently, this truth, too, God will reveal to you. The important thing is to walk faithfully and obediently in the light of the truth that we have already grasped. [17] My brothers and sisters, just as I strive to walk in the footsteps of Jesus and to be like him, so you should all try to be like me; observe those who walk in this way, for in us you have an example to follow. But there are many who walk a quite different path. I have often told you about them before, and I tell you again now, with tears of sorrow for the state they are in and the judgement that awaits them. The way of the cross is the way of self-denial and self-sacrifice, but they are enemies of the cross and all it stands for. The finishing-line they are heading for will not bring them glory but destruction - indeed, they glory in the sort of behaviour they should be ashamed of. They have enthroned as their god their physical appetites, whose every command they obey, and the pleasures of this world are all they ever think about. [20] But we do not belong to this world; our citizenship is in heaven, and it is to heaven we look as we eagerly await the return of our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform our frail and feeble physical bodies into the likeness of his own glorious resurrection body, working this change in us with the same irresistible power with which he will subject the whole of creation to his supreme authority.

Chapter 4
So, my brothers and sisters, much loved and greatly longed for, the joy of my heart and the crown of my apostleship, stand firm, my beloved ones, stand firm in the Lord.[2] I beg Euodia and I beg Syntyche to be of one mind: you both belong to the Lord Jesus, so be united in him. Yes, and I ask you, too, my loyal fellow-labourer, to help them and bring them together, for they have worked wholeheartedly with me in the cause of the gospel; so, too, has Clemens, and all my other fellow-workers: the names of all of them are written in the Book of Life. [4] Rejoice in the Lord continually! I will say it once again: rejoice! Do not insist on always getting your own way; rather, give way to others, so that all may see how peaceable and reasonable you are. The coming of the Lord is close at hand, [6] so do not be anxious about anything the future holds; rather, in every problem pray to God and plead for his help, not forgetting to thank him for all the blessings he has given you and all the prayers he has already answered. Let God know your needs, and his peace, which we may experience deep within us but can never fully explain or understand, will watch over your hearts and your thoughts and keep them safely guarded in the love of Jesus Christ.[8] This is important, my brothers and sisters, because healthy thoughts lead to holy lives. So let your minds dwell on all that is true and awe-inspiring, all that is righteous and holy, all that is loveable and commendable, all that is good, all that deserves praise. Then put into practice all the teaching that I have passed on to you, and all that you have heard from me and seen me living out in my life. Then, indeed, the God of peace will be with you. [10] I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that now your thoughtful concern for me has blossomed once again - you were always concerned for me, of course, but for a time you lacked the opportunity to express it in practice. Not that I write this because I felt the lack of your support, for I have learned to be inwardly content whatever my outward circumstances; I know how to live with less than I would like and with more than I need. I have been initiated into the mystery of contentment in every situation and in all circumstances, whether I am feasting like a king or feeding off scraps, whether I have more than enough or less. [13] I have the strength to face every situation because Jesus lives in me by his Spirit, and gives me his inner strength. Still, you did a beautiful thing in sharing with me so generously in my sufferings.[15] You Philippians always were wonderfully generous. You must know that, at the very beginning of my gospel mission to Greece, when I moved on from Macedonia, you were the only church that formed a partnership with me in respect of giving and receiving - you gave and I received! I am sure you remember how, even when I was in Thessalonika, you sent me a gift of money to meet my needs, not just once but twice. [17] It is not so much the gift itself I covet, but what it shows: it shows that the gospel I proclaimed to you is bearing fruit in your lives, a generosity to me here on earth that is greatly to the credit of your account in heaven. Now that I have received your gift through Epaphroditus I have all that I could have asked of you - and more besides! My physical needs are met, and my spirit rejoices in your growth in Christ. For your gift is more than money: it is a fragrant offering to God, a sacrifice that is pleasing and acceptable to him. [19] And this same God whom I have proclaimed to you, who has met my needs through you, will fully supply every need of yours through the glorious riches which are to be found in Jesus Christ. To this God, our Father in Heaven, be glory for ever and ever. Amen.[21] Give my greetings to every member of the church as an expression of our oneness in Jesus Christ - and the brothers and sisters here with me also send their greetings. Indeed, all those here who belong to Christ greet you, especially those of Caesar's household. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ rest upon the spirit of each one of you.