Philippians 1: Joy and Unity in Christ (Friday Study Version)

Note: Ken also taught a version of this lesson during his Wednesday Morning Study. The summary description below was originally published there.

Text: Philippians 1

Paul wrote his epistle to the Philippians while imprisoned in Rome. Unlike some of his other letters, which carried a certain amount of correction and rebuke, Paul writes this one as a thank-you letter, and encourages the Philippians to continue doing well, to strive for unity through their service, and to find their identity in Christ.

Joy in Adverse Circumstances

Paul begins the letter by encouraging the Philippians to have a proper perspective. We can have confidence, knowing that God will complete the work that He’s started through Jesus—a completion that all believers will see on the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). 

How often we lose this perspective! It is rare for us to intentionally consider that in our circumstances, in all the details and intricacies of our lives, God is working. Our failure to recognize God’s hand and providential care can lead us to doubt, complain, and become useless for the kingdom of God. The apostle Paul was going through his own personal adversity. But even while imprisoned, he was able to see the good that God was doing, and was able to give thanks and encourage the Philippians to press on toward unity and service.

Paul even saw God’s providential care and provision at work in the lives of those who preach Christ “out of envy and strife” (Philippians 1:15). Adverse circumstances are still occasions for joy; they are still occasions when Christ can be preached. We know that whatever the circumstances, our life in Christ will not be put to shame, because God will bring to completion what He started. We can have joy in adverse circumstances because true joy is found in Christ.

Unity in Christ

Paul goes on to say that whether we live or die, we are identified with Christ. If we die, it is to our gain, for we will be with Jesus. If we continue on in the body, it is to for Christ’s sake. And so whether in life or in death, we are always unified with Christ. We are in Him. 

Knowing this, as believers, we must demonstrate the same unity for the cause of the gospel. In this way we can conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel to which we’re called. We have no cause for alarm from adverse circumstances or those who would oppose us. We have unity with God, so let us also stand firm and strive together with one mind “for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27)

Our Response

Let us consider how we may, in our own circumstances, whether good or bad, have an eternal perspective. May our love “overflow more and more in real knowledge and all discernment” so that we may be able to “discover the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and blameless for the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:9–10).

Philippians 1: Joy and Unity in Christ (Friday Study Version)

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