Category Archives: Philippians

The Cure for Anxiety – Philippians 4:6-7

On December 23, 1776, Thomas Paine wrote these words: “These are the times that try men’s souls.” He was writing as a patriot to those who were fighting against the tyranny of the British government. After the United States declared independence from Britain, they had to fight to defend not only their freedom but also their own lives and families. These were indeed times that tried their souls.

While most of us are not facing giant problems like starvation, poverty, or bodily harm, we do face problems every day. These problems get to us after a while. We think about them. We wonder how to solve them. We start to fret about them. And soon that problem becomes what we are thinking about all week long! Today, we will read two verses in the Bible that can help us overcome this constant anxiety.

As we look at the thoughts found in Philippians 4:6-7, we will consider three statements that God wants us to think about: (1) We don’t need to be anxious, (2) we need to talk to God about our problems, and (3) we can have peace.

  1. We don’t need to be anxious (Phil. 4:6a).

    Paul tells us plainly that we should “be anxious for nothing.” Nothing should induce us to start fretting as if there is no hope. If you are like most people, we are thinking “easier said than done.”

    What does it mean to be anxious?

    Bill Mounce gives a good definition of anxiety. It is, “to worry… be concerned; to expend careful thought… to have the thoughts occupied with.”1 “To care and be genuinely concerned is one thing. To worry is another. Paul and Timothy cared for the people they ministered to (2 Cor. 11:28; Phil. 2:20), yet they retained trust in God.”4 The anxiety Paul refers to is the mindset where we are constantly thinking about something without it being solved. This lack of a solution causes us to keep thinking, fretting, and worrying about how to handle the situation. “Such worry may be about food or drink or clothes or one’s life-span or the future or words to be spoken in self-defense or even about ‘many things.'”8 Whatever it may be, should we be fretting about it?

    What should cause us to be anxious?

    The answer is nothing. “Nothing is the most exclusive word in the English language. It leaves out everything.”6 Basically, we are being told as Christians that there is no reason to be anxious. “Does this mean we are … not to face reality? Are we to believe that sin is not real, that sickness is not real, that problems are not real? Are we to ignore these things? No. Paul says that we are to worry about nothing because we are to pray about everything.”6 That is what our next point is all about.

  2. We need to tell God our problems (Phil. 4:6b).

    How often do we share our problems with those who cannot help us? I have found myself talking about problems with people who could not help. I suppose it helps to vent sometimes, but does it? There is someone who can help, if we would just talk to Him.

    Who should we talk to?

    The answer is God. Peter knew this. He said so in the following verse:

    1 Peter 5:7 – “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.”

    Our prayers should be directed to God as He is the One who can handle every need that we have. We are told to inform God of our needs. We are to act as if we were standing before a king and making known to him what he did not formerly know. This may seem a bit strange because God already knows everything. But this is what God wants from us. Perhaps it is the conversation and relationship that God desires. Or maybe He just wants to hear from us and see our dependence on Him. In any event, we are told to talk to God about our needs instead of fretting about them.

    How should we talk to Him?

    Before we look at the four parts of prayer, consider what precedes them. He says “but in everything.” This is a reminder that God wants to hear from us about everything that is on our mind. I don’t think this is an invitation to rant or be disrespectful but is more like freedom to respectfully speak about the issues bothering us.

    “Some years ago, I am told, a [widow] in Philadelphia came to Dr. G. Campbell Morgan with this question, ‘Dr. Morgan, do you think we should pray about the little things in our lives?’ Dr. Morgan in his characteristically British manner said, ‘Madam, can you mention anything in your life that is big to God?'”6 He makes a good point. Is there anything too big or too small for God?

    We understand that our Heavenly Father is interested in whatever we are anxious about. But how do we express our thoughts to the One who already knows what we are about to say. In verse 6, we are told that there are four ways: prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, and requests. While there may be some overlap, here are some thoughts about each one.

    Prayer – “Prayer is any form of reverent address directed to God.”8 An example of this was covered in the Adult Sunday School class this morning. When God announced his possible judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah, Abraham respectfully addressed the situation with God (Gen. 18). He repeatedly approached the Lord with great humility but also with great passion.

    Genesis 18:27-28 – “Then Abraham answered and said, ‘Indeed now, I who am but dust and ashes have taken it upon myself to speak to the Lord: Suppose there were five less than the fifty righteous; would You destroy all of the city for lack of five?’”

    Supplication – “By this is meant the humble cry for the fulfillment of needs that are keenly felt.”8 A supplication is a request from someone who is in need and who acknowledges that. As we come to God, we must place ourselves in the proper attitude as a needy person entreating the One who can meet those needs.

    Thanksgiving – Rienecker describes this as “the grateful acknowledgement of past mercies.”2 Hendriksen goes even further: “There must be grateful acknowledgement for: … past favors, … present blessings, and … firmly-grounded assurances for the future.”9 I think that both ideas are correct. We need to acknowledge God’s provision and thank Him for it. If we remembered what God has already done, we would believe that God can handle the current situation, and that would limit the amount of anxiety we face on a daily basis.

    Requests – These are “not vague generalities. … There must be definite, specific requests.” If we would like God to work in specifics, we should ask in specifics. In Genesis 24:10-14, Abraham sent his servant to find a wife for Isaac. When he got to the location, he asked God specifically to reveal the right woman by a specific sign. In Judges 6:36-40, Gideon asked God to specifically give him a sign … twice. In both cases, God answered their specific requests.

    Before Sharon and I were married, I was a bit bashful about asking her to the Valentine’s Day Banquet. As I walked her to her dorm, I finally said, “I was wondering if you would like to go to the banquet with me.” Sharon’s reply was rather coy: “Oh you were, were you?” It was then that I had to be a bit more specific. Thankfully, she said yes to my specific request.

    I have been wondering if the lack of results from my prayers stem from that same issue. Perhaps I am asking in generalities instead of asking God to do specific things for us and our church family. In another letter to believers, Paul wrote, “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think…” (Eph. 3:20). He knew that God could do more than we think He can. let me ask you a question. How have your prayers been? Have you been humbly bringing your prayers, supplications, and requests to the Lord with the specific items you need? Or have you been asking in generalities? Perhaps we need to rethink how we bring our requests to the Lord.

  3. We can have peace (Phil. 4:7).

    When we have specific needs, we may be tempted to worry. And that worry may become fretting if we are not careful to bring those worries to the Lord. But when we do take them to the Lord (and we know this to be true but often fail to take advantage of it), God promises to give us His peace.

    What kind of peace is offered?

    First, it is the peace of God. This ought to encourage us. It is not a peace that comes from our strength or abilities. It is the peace of God. And His peace is “fairly” substantial. Wouldn’t you agree? Second, it is a peace that surpasses our understanding. We often think about good, better, best for quality. But God’s peace surpasses all of those ratings. It is beyond anything we can experience elsewhere.

    Perhaps an illustration will help us to understand God’s peace. Do you remember when Jesus and the disciples were on the Sea of Galillee during a storm. The disciples were “losing it” as the wind blew and the waves crashed over their boat. But where was Jesus? He was sleeping. When the disciples chided him for not caring about their welfare, Jesus commanded the storm to abate: “Peace, be still.” Immediately, the sea was calm! This peace of God which Paul writes about is like that. It allows us to have a feeling of tranquility and the ability to sleep peacefully amidst the storms of life.

    How will God’s peace affect us?

    We are told that it will guard our hearts and minds. When we experience God’s peace, it keeps us from becoming anxious. It guards us like “soldiers standing on guard duty.”3 Just as soldiers guard a city against the enemy, so God’s peace guards our hearts and minds. Our hearts (feelings) and minds (thoughts leading to actions3) will be kept from feeling anxious and acting out those feelings. The prophet Isaiah knew about this peace.

    Isaiah 26:3 – “You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.”

    Note that the peace that surpasses our ability to understand it, it rooted in Christ Jesus. In other words, this peace can only be found by those who are in Jesus, who have been saved, forgiven by, and changed by God. If you are a Christian today, you are someone who knows the value of Jesus. You have repented of your sinful ways and have placed your faith in Christ alone to be made right with God and have been saved from eternal judgment in Hell. And if you are in Christ today, you have something available that the world doesn’t have—God’s peace. Take advantage of it by taking your anxieties to the Lord.


J. Vernon McGee concludes with these comments: “Notice that we entered this passage in anxiety, with worry, and we come out of the passage with peace. Between the two was prayer. Have things changed? Not really. … Although the storm has not abated, something has happened in the individual.”7 This is true. God doesn’t promise to take away the problems. But He does promise to give us His peace.

I wonder this morning if you have come to church with a burden on your mind. You have been fretting about something that you think is too big for you or even for God to solve. Although it may seem like an impossible problem to solve, it is something you should give over to God. We have learned that all of our anxieties should be turned over to the Lord in prayer. And when we do that, God will replace those fears with His peace. Will you turn over your troubles to the Lord today?


1 Mounce
2 Rienecker 560.
3 Rienecker 561.
4 Lightner 663.
5 Lightner 664.
6 McGee 322.
7 McGee 322.
8 Hendriksen 195.
9 Hendriksen 196.

Greek Definitions

μεριμνᾶτε – “to worry, have anxiety, be concerned; to expend careful thought; to concern one’s self; to have the thoughts occupied with”1 “to be fretful”2
δεήσει – “prayer, request, petition … entreaty; prayer, supplication”1 “generally a request arising from a specific need”2
εὐχαριστίας – “expression of thanks, thanksgiving, gratitude”1 “the grateful acknowledgement of past mercies, as distinguished from the earnest seeking of fut.”2
αἰτήματα – “a thing asked, or sought for; petition, request”1
γνωριζέσθω (Pres/Pass/Imper/3rd/Sing) – “to make known, reveal, declare”1
εἰρήνη – “peace, harmony, tranquility; safety, welfare, health”1
ὑπερέχουσα – “to hold above; intrans. to stand out above, to overtop; met. to surpass, excel… excellence, preeminence… to be higher, superior”1 “to rise above, to be superior, to surpass”2
φρουρήσει (Fut/Act/Indic) – “The word is a military term picturing soldiers standing on guard duty and refers to the guarding of the city gate from within, as a control on all who went out”3
νοήματα – “the mind, the understanding, intellect… the heart, soul, affections, feelings, disposition”1 “act of the will which issues from the heart”3


Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp. 194-97.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 663-64.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 322-25.

Mounce, Bill, Greek definitions found at as viewed on 5/20/2023.

Rienecker, Fritz and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Be joyful and gracious – Philippians 4:4-5

After giving the Philippian Christians a pep talk about pressing on for the Lord, standing firm in the Lord, and having good relationships with other Christians, Paul now lightens up a bit. In verses 4-9, he gives several small but important instructions for us to follow. They are: rejoice in the Lord (4), be gracious (5), pray to God (6-7), meditate on good things (8), and follow good examples (9). We will look at two of these this morning.

  1. Rejoice in the Lord (4).

    People are looking for reasons to be happy. Buying a car, getting a promotion at work, going on a vacation, and many other things often make us happy for a time. But these periods of happiness don’t seem to last. When the happy event is over, we wonder how to get it back. When Paul tells us to always rejoice in the Lord, it is not the same as telling us to be happy all the time. It is something more substantial.

    What does it mean to rejoice?

    Paul uses the Greek word Χαίρετε to make this statement. It means to “rejoice, be glad.”1 It is something that should become “a continual and habitual action.”2 But even this definition is not quite good enough. I think that biblical joy is a deep-seated emotion of gladness which comes from knowing God and from considering what He has done for us.

    One commentator states that “joy is something we cannot produce ourselves; it is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.”4 While joy is part of the fruit of the Spirit, we are still commanded to do it. If we have no way of gaining this joy, why then are we commanded to be joyful? Perhaps it is best to understand that we work in tandem with the Holy Spirit. He does produce joy in our hearts as we submit to Him, but we must consciously make the choice to remain joyful.

    What should we rejoice about?

    I recently heard about the unexpected death of a young woman in a nearby town. When things like this happen, how can we find anything to rejoice about? It would seem disingenuous to be joyful or happy after such an occurrence. We are not called to sing and smile nonstop. Doing so after a tragedy would be very odd. But during those times, we are given the opportunity to find joy in something outside of our circumstances.

    During our Wednesday evening prayer meetings, we have been studying the life of Job. Think for a moment about what happened to him. Because of Satan’s false claims against Him, Job lost all of his wealth and his ten children on the same day. He later lost his health. Even so, he was still able to bless the name of the Lord after these tragedies occurred. Consider two passages from the Book of Job.

    Job 1:21 – “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.”

    Job 2:9-10 – “Then his wife said to him, ‘Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!’ But he said to her, ‘You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?’ In all this Job did not sin with his lips.”

    So where did Job’s joy come from? Did he enjoy the pain and loss? Of course not. And yet he was still able to have a calm, abiding joy during his troubles. Where does joy come from during tragedies? I believe Paul tells us the answer. He tells us to rejoice in the Lord. He is the only one who can give us joy all the time. I would like to share two ideas about finding joy in the Lord.

    First, there is joy in knowing who God is. This seems to be the key to everything. God is often understood as some implacable deity who is sending people to Hell as quickly as possible. However, those who know Him best know that He is good, loving, compassionate, caring, merciful, gracious, and much more. When you read through the Bible, do you notice how people interacted with God? Enoch walked with God. He knew Him well and enjoyed the relationship. Abraham was the friend of God and willingly left his home in Ur to move to the Promised Land. Why did he do this? He did it because he knew the character of God and loved Him. David was a man after God’s own heart and wrote many psalms praising God. He even said that he would like to remain in God’s house all the time because He loved God so much. The point is that when you know God, you will marvel at His character. And those who know Him find joy in knowing who He is.

    Second, there is joy in experiencing a relationship with God. It is one thing to know about God from reading the Bible. It is altogether something different to actually experience a relationship with Him. When I was younger, I knew about the Lord. I knew Bible verses by heart and could quote them, but I didn’t know Him. When God opened my eyes, it all changed. I began to read the Bible and see God on every page. I saw how He loved me, answered my prayers, comforted me, directed me, and much more. It has now been over thirty years and I have learned to trust the Lord completely.

    Do you know the Lord like this? When you know who God is and have experienced a relationship with Him through faith in Jesus, you will always have something to be joyful about. You know God! He is good! He has saved you from Hell! He has changed your life! He has a home in heaven prepared for you! No matter what happens today, you can find joy in knowing the Lord and trusting Him each moment of your life.

    Why do we have to be reminded to rejoice?

    Did you notice that Paul repeats the statement in verses four. He tells us twice that we should rejoice in the Lord. “Sometimes the trials and pressures of life make it almost impossible to be happy. But Paul did not tell his readers to be happy. He encouraged them to rejoice in the Lord. In fact, he said it twice in verse 4. … Surely there are many circumstances in which Christians cannot be happy. But they can always rejoice in the Lord and delight in Him.”3 Always and in all circumstances, find your joy in God Himself.

  2. Be gracious (5).

    The second statement we will cover today is about being gracious. When my chickens and ducks are together, they are mostly peaceful. But occasionally, a chicken will decide to peck a duck’s tail feathers out. Or an older duck will attach the younger ducks. If you were to follow me out each day, you would hear me saying, “Be nice!” The same thing can be said to Christians today. We need to be nice to other people whenever possible.

    What does moderation/gentleness mean?

    Paul used the Greek words τὸ ἐπιεικὲς ὑμῶν to make this statement. It means “reasonableness in judging. The word signifies a humble, patient [steadfastness], which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace, and maltreatment without hatred and malice, trusting in God in spite of all of it.”2 We might also use the word gracious. When dealing with other people, we should be kind, selfless, and willing to yield our personal feelings when we are dealing with others. If you are gracious toward others, they will notice that despite any differences of opinion.

    We should note that this isn’t a command to give in to everything anyone ever says. That would lead to a lot of trouble. The company I work for provides transportation for railroad crews. When someone complains to one of our drivers about a perceived problem, I instruct them to talk slowly and kindly to the passenger. “Sir, I understand your concern and it will be addressed as soon as possible. In the meantime, I would appreciate your patience. I’ll do my best to get this taken care of as quickly as possible.”

    I recall an issue one passenger had with one of our vans. He was loading his luggage into the back of a van when he noticed a full-size wheel in the back of the van. He was concerned that during an accident the wheel could hit him in the head. A manager was nearby and addressed the situation. “Alright, I’ll take care of this. Sir, please take your seat in the vehicle. And, driver, don’t get into any accidents.” His quick and gracious response took the heat out of the situation and allowed the trip to be completed. I have admired him for that ever since.

    When Christians are gracious toward others, it is not a sign of weakness but of consideration toward the other person. With the right mindset it is possible to be “firm as a rock in respect of moral principle”6 but still gracious toward the other person.

    Why should we be known for this?

    Read the verse again. One reason for being gracious is that “all men” are watching. “Joy, an inner quality in relation to circumstances, may not always be seen; but the way one reacts to others—will be noticed.”3 People are influenced by the way that we interact with others. Are we joyful people who show the characteristics of the Lord in our daily conversations? Are we gracious or contentious? I think about this often as I am driving. Is my reaction to other drivers a good example of the character God is seeking to produce in my life? Am I gracious or overbearing? The same thing can be true about our differences with other Christians. The way we handle those differences will be seen by both Christians and those who have not yet believed. So we must be especially gracious because of the way our actions affect others.

    What does the Lord being near have to do with our graciousness?

    The last part of the verse almost seems out of place. Paul tells us that “the Lord is at hand.” There are two ways to understand this phrase. “The word could imply ‘near in space’ or ‘near in time.'”2

    In the first idea, Paul could be telling us to be gracious because the Lord is nearby watching how we respond. This is a good point. If the Lord is nearby, would you be ashamed to react that way? My “Jesus Saves” ballcap often makes me consider my actions in the same way. How I respond will affect the way that message is received. The same is true if I am consciously remembering that Jesus is with me every moment of the day. He is there to observe but also to help in those tricky relationships with others.

    In the second idea, Paul could be telling us to be patient because Jesus will return soon. “The idea seems to be: since Christ’s coming is near, when all the promises made to God’s people will become realities, believers, in spite of being persecuted, can certainly afford to be mild and charitable in their relation to others.”5 In other words, be patient and gracious because this circumstance is temporary. The Lord will return soon and our troubles will be over. That can be both comforting and convicting. It is comforting to know that it won’t last forever. But it is convicting because every Christian will stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ to answer for his work for the Lord. Have I been gracious in my dealings with people? Gracious like the Lord has been with me? It makes you think, doesn’t it?


What God inspired Paul to write is important. It is more of an attitude than an action. So let’s ask ourselves two questions. First, have I been having a good attitude during the ups and downs of life? God wants us to develop a joy in knowing Him and trusting Him. His goodness to us should fill us with joy that no circumstances can take away. Second, have I been a gracious person to others? God wants each of us to be kind and considerate toward others. As we develop this characteristic, we will become more like the Lord and will be a good example to those who are influenced by our attitudes.


1 Bauer 873-74.
2 Rienecker 560.
3 Lightner 663.
4 McGee 320.
5 Hendriksen 194.
6 Moule 111.


Bauer, Walter, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, trans by William F. Arndt, F. Wilbur Gingrich, Frederick W. Danker, etc., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp.192-94.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 663.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 320-22.

Moule, H. C. G., The Epistle to the Philippians, Cambridge: The University Press, 1889, pp.111-12.

Rienecker, Fritz, and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

Philippians 4:1-3

During the week, I often find myself on the road with nothing but the radio to keep me occupied. During this last week, I traveled to Lorain OH, Albany NY, and Altoona PA. Along the way, I listened to a variety of political speeches, radio talk shows, and Bible lessons. If you are familiar with radio talk shows, you know that they seem to be very good at getting you mad about the state of the country without providing a workable solution for fixing anything. Although I enjoy hearing the opinions proposed on the shows, I have come to the conclusion that they are like drinking too much Mountain Dew. They produce a lot of energy but don’t always help the situation as much as you would think. In our message today, I would like us to consider some very important things. But let us be sure to temper our excitement with the right attitudes.

Read Philippians 4:1-3.

“Therefore” reminds us of what Paul has taught us at the end of chapter three. He had told the believers to think, live, and wait like a mature believer. Because we are not living for earthly pleasures but are awaiting our heavenly home, we should have right thinking that affects the way we live and what we focus on.

In the first three verses of chapter four, Paul gives three directives to the people in Philippi. We see these in the verbs he uses: stand fast (1), be of the same mind (2), and help (3). These were things that the church at Philippi needed when Paul wrote to them. However, we don’t look at these directives just to think about what other people needed years ago. We look at them to see how they apply to us today. As we look at each one, consider how the directive may apply to each of us.

  1. Stand fast in the Lord (Phil. 4:1).

    This first directive reminds me of something that happened this week. My wife sent me a picture of one of our Pekin ducks. Poor Paddy seemed to be stuck fast in the muck. Thankfully, he was able to extricate himself, but warmer weather would have dried the mud and had him stuck in place. While this verse is not talking about getting stuck in the mud, it is talking about being firmly entrenched in the teaching about the Lord Jesus.

    To better understand the situation, let us consider two questions about this Bible verse.

    To whom was he talking?

    Paul was talking to the believers in the church at Philippi. But they were more than just Christians he had met at some point in the past. He loved them very much. “The apostle’s affection for this congregation is revealed by his love and longing for them and his calling them his brothers…, his joy and crown (stephanos, the runner’s wreath or victor’s crown…), and his dear friends… . These saints were to their spiritual father what victory wreaths were to runners in the Greek races” (Lightner 663). These were people that Paul knew well and had developed a close relationship with. “It is evident from these words that this was, indeed, a fine congregation” (Hendriksen 190).

    What did he want them to do?

    They were to stand fast in the Lord. Stand fast is another way of saying that they needed a firm foundation so that they would not be easily moved. This reminds me of the short block walls on either side of the basement entrance to our house. When originally built, the block were filled with concrete and iron bars so as to keep the dirt from moving them onto the sidewalk. With such a firm foundation, they have held up against pressure for many years.

    But what do retaining walls have to do with standing firm in the Lord? As you may recall, there were some troublesome people who were actively trying to mislead the believers in Philippi. Some were preaching about Christ with bad motives (1:15). Some were trying to convince the church that Jewish practices were still required for Christians (3:2). Some were focused on earthly things instead of heavenly (3:18-19).

    With all of these bad influences vying for their attention, Paul wanted his dear friends to stand fast in the Lord. But what did this mean? It meant that they needed to keep their motives right, their understanding of Christ right, and their focus right. They needed to stand firm in the true teaching about Christ so that they would not be moved from that solid foundation.

    This is a needed reminder for us today. In the past, there were fewer people influencing us. In Paul’s time, any traveling preacher who claimed to be a Christian would have been received with gladness. The early church was being persecuted by Jewish zealots, the government, and idol worshipers. They were the minority and needed as much encouragement and teaching as could be offered.

    But for us today, we can hear Bible teaching all day long. You hear it on the radio, on television, in books and magazines, and on the internet. And how much of it is good? The only way to know what is good doctrine is to compare what is being said to what God has revealed in the Bible. There are many smiling preachers on television, but not all of them will help you to stand firm in the truth of the Bible. So make the time to study the Bible and consider what is true. Then stand firm in that. This is what God wants for every believer.

  2. Be of the same mind in the Lord (Phil. 4:2).

    Being like-minded is something that doesn’t come naturally for us. During a recent trip to Detroit, I stopped at a White Castle restaurant for some sliders. My Ohio State sweatshirt was probably not very welcomed that deep into Michigan. But I still struck up a conversation with a man with a University of Michigan sweatshirt. I found out that his son played in the marching band at U of M and that he was displeased with the current football coach. That led to an interesting conversation which we both enjoyed. I guess love does cover a multitude of sins! While we didn’t root for the same football team, we were able to set aside our differences and enjoy a short conversation.

    As we look at Paul’s second directive, you will quickly see that two people were not very like-minded.

    To whom was he talking?

    Paul was not shy about mentioning people by name in his epistles. These apostolic letters were meant for the betterment of individual people in local congregations. Because of that, the people would not be surprised that he knew them by name or that he knew about sticky situations they were currently facing. And “after such an endearing introduction addressed to each and to all, the needed admonition intended for two individuals cannot seem harsh” (Hendriksen 190).

    In verse two, Paul addressed two women whose names are not mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. Their names were Euodia and Syntyche. While we don’t know much about them, “it seems that they were causing dissension in the assembly” (Lightner 663). It is assumed that these women were not getting along with each other. We don’t know what the issue was, but can imagine the reality of such a situation because we have experienced it before.

    Over the years, we have all seen individuals not get along. Sad to say, it is a common thing with us. One person has a certain view about something but another person differs strongly. The disagreement ferments for a while and then the emotions get involved. There have been times (or so I have heard) where church business meetings have turned into fist fights. This is certainly not good. Jesus Himself told us that his disciples would be known by their “love for one another” (John 13:35). He also told the Jewish believers to get things right with a brother before offering an offering on the altar (Matt. 5:23-24).

    Apparently, there were two women in the church at Philippi who had a strong disagreement about something and everyone in the church knew about it. These two women were the subject of Paul’s second directive.

    What did he want them to do?

    He wanted them to have the same mind in the Lord. What exactly does this mean? “He did not mean they must be carbon copies of each other. They may have differences of opinion about many different things, but that will not separate two people who have the mind of Christ. It is one of the glorious truths about the body of Christ that each member can be different and yet all are one in Christ” (McGee 320).

    So what does it mean to have the same mind in the Lord? It means that they were both to have the same attitudes that Jesus had. We often look at the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). But do you remember the attitudes of Christ mentioned earlier in this epistle? They were love and humility (Phil. 2:1-8). If these women were to love one another and show Christ-like humility, they would find it much easier to get along with each other despite their differences.

    Applying this principle to other people is easy, but much harder to apply to ourselves. We tend to get caught up in our own thinking about issues and then forget to be loving and humble toward the other person. Maybe this is something that we need to hear today. It may be that there is something bothering you about someone else in the church. Maybe your ideas are different than theirs. Or maybe it is someone outside of the church. Whatever the case may be, allow the love and humility of the Lord to temper the differences and discussion. Only then can we hope to “be of the same mind in the Lord.”

  3. Help those who have labored for the Lord (Phil. 4:3).

    Over the last several years, our church has had a number of people visit and minister to us. Some have been pastors of churches. Some have been missionaries. As we recall their time with us, there is one thing that they all had in common. They were people who were laboring for the Lord. As Paul addresses the need of these two women, he enlists the help of another Christian but also notes the ministry experience he had with these two women.

    To whom was he talking?

    As I studied this verse, I learned something new. When Paul addressed his yoke fellow in verse 3, he may have been using “yokefellow” as a proper name (see Lightner 663). The Greek word σύζυγε means “an associate, comrade, fellow laborer” (Mounce) or “a person who pulls well in a harness for two” (Hendriksen 191). If Paul was calling this person by name, he certainly “was true to his name. A similar pun occurs in Philem. 11 ‘Onesimus (Useful) who once was useless to you but now it useful to you and to me.’ It is safe to infer that Syzygus, about whom we have no further information, was one of Paul’s comrades or associates in the work of the gospel” (Hendriksen 191).

    We may not have enough evidence in this verse to make a definitive declaration about the individual addressed by Paul. But we do know that the one being addressed was someone Paul trusted to take care of the situation.

    What did he want him to do?

    Paul’s love for these two Christian women is evidenced by his concern for them. Because of this, he wanted this man to help them. “Paul knew he could count on him to work with the women and bring them back to fellowship with each other and with the Lord” (Lightner 663). They needed help and Paul directed his friend to do what was needed to reconcile the two.

    As if it wasn’t enough to just ask for help, Paul explained why he was so concerned. These women had labored with him in the gospel. Somehow, they were part of his ministry either there in Philippi or somewhere else. “Well does the apostle remember the time when they contended at his side … against a common foe and in the gospel-cause” (Hendriksen 191).

    This is quite interesting as we often think that men are the Scriptural ministers of the church. But here Paul mentions these women as a vital part of his ministry team. Ladies, do you feel that you are a useful part of your church’s ministry. I can think of many things that would not get done if it weren’t for the ladies in our church. While our roles may be different, please know that your ministry is noted and applauded.

    How could these women be helped?

    The practical application of this verse is both simple and difficult. Helping two people to overcome their differences is not as easy as you would think—especially if you have gone through such an experience. There is often more heat than light and personal feelings can get in the way of reconciliation. But this shouldn’t keep us from trying to help others. As noted earlier, the key to overcoming differences is having the love and humility of our Lord. When we love others, differences don’t seem as important. When we are humble, we don’t view ourselves as the only one with the right perspective.

    Something that goes along with this is found at the end of verse three. When Paul refers to all of his fellow workers, he purposely states that their names “are in the Book of Life.” This is a good reminder that even though we may have personal differences with other Christians, we must remember that God has placed them in the Book of Life just as we were. We are all sinful people whom God has graciously chosen to save. Try to keep this in mind when conflict arises with a fellow believer.


As we think back on what we have learned today, we should remember the three main points. First, we need to stand fast in the Lord. Each of us needs to have a biblical foundation for what we believe and how we act. Without it, we can easily be moved by the next popular religious speaker on television. Read your Bible, meditate on the Scriptures, and base your thoughts and actions on it. Second, we need to be of the same mind in the Lord. Each of us needs to base our thinking on the love and humility of the Lord. When we do this, our interactions with others will be much different. Third, we need to help other Christians. No matter how much experience one may have, each of us needs the help of others in the Body of Christ.

One of the things that I have learned is that standing firm and being humble are not the same. It is easy to march with others for a great cause. And if you think about it, we have a great cause to stand for. We are serving the Lord and should not let anything pull us away from what He desires. But along with a firm stand, we need to be humble in how we do it. There may come a time when some of us have differences of opinion about somethings. Let’s remember to be humble when that day comes.


Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp.189-92.

Lightfoot, J. B., St Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975, pp. 157-59.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 663.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 320.

σύζυγος as viewed at on 5/6/2023.

Philippians 3:15-21

When the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Miami Heat in the first round of the 2023 NBA playoffs, it was a big surprise. After the game, a reporter asked Giannis Antetokounmpo if he felt like a failure. Giannis was not happy with the question and told the reporter that his success wasn’t tied to one game. Sure, everyone wants to win the championship, but every day provides an opportunity to work hard and do better.

Sometimes the Christian life is much the same. There are ups and downs, victories and defeats, and emotions of all kinds. But through it all, we seek to grow in our relationship with the Lord and hope to do better each day. However, it is easy to talk about things like this but not have a plan to accomplish them. So, what can a Christian do to be successful for the Lord? As we read through Philippians 3:15-21, we will see three things that can help us to stay on the right track.

  1. Think like a mature believer (Philippians 3:15-16).

    Nancy Gallion’s mother was known for clever sayings. One of them was, “One junior high boy, half a brain. Two junior high boys, no brains.” We all understand what it was like at that age. Boys tend to be impulsive daredevils who act first and then think. The problem is that this often ends in trouble.

    Christians who wish to be mature must also learn to think before acting. One of the ways to find God’s wisdom is to read the Bible. The Book of Proverbs is full of wise sayings that will help any person to gain discernment and wisdom. As you read the Bible and understand God’s way of thinking, it will change your mind. This is what Paul wanted for the Philippian believers.

    What mind should we have? (15a)

    Paul called on the mature believers to have a certain mindset or way of thinking. But what is this mind? Look back to what Paul said in verses 12-14. He talked about pressing on and wanting to hear the “well done” of God upon his entrance into heaven. This is the mindset he was referring to. We should let these same goals be what controls our thinking.

    How will God correct our thinking? (15b)

    Notice what Paul says at the end of verse 15. If anyone thought differently, he stated that God would eventually reveal the truth of what he was saying to that believer. I have heard people say things like this before in an arrogant way. But I don’t think that is what Paul was saying. He knew that there could be some immature believers who were not yet convinced of the wisdom of this mindset. But he also knew that God was able to teach them and mature them in His good time.

    Can you think back to when you were a young Christian? There were times when I was young that my mouth talked before I thought. Sometimes I thought that I was smarter than my teachers. There are times when we are not very teachable but there are also times when we finally understand what God wants us to learn.

    What have each of us attained? (16)

    Paul begins verse 16 with a big “nevertheless.” This was his way of giving room to those who were not yet convinced. As we grow as Christians, we are all at different levels of maturity. Some have learned to trust the Lord for their needs while others have not. Some have learned to pray while others have not. Some are good at speaking for the Lord while others are not. Some have learned to control their temper while others have not. We are all striving to become better for the Lord, but we are all at different levels in various areas.

    So, wherever you find yourself today, thank God for what has been attained. Thank Him for what He has taught you, where He has brought you, and what He is currently doing in your life. Wherever you are as a Christian today, keep working at it. “The principle — namely ‘We are still far from perfect, but in Christ we should strive to become perfect’ — has been enunciated and exemplified. Let our lives be regulated by the consistent application of this principle. It must never be surrendered” (Hendriksen 177).

    In verses 15-16, Paul tells us to develop a proper way of thinking. We need to be motivated in our minds to press on and seek God’s “well done.” And as we seek to do that, we need to allow God to change our minds and develop our thinking so that we think as we should.

  2. Live like a mature believer (Philippians 3:17-19).

    Now that Paul has talked about having the right mindset, he moves on to the right way of walking. He uses the idea of walking to describe the way that we should live our lives. Our lifestyle will always be affected by the way that we think. If our thinking is right, we have a much greater likelihood of making good choices. But there is another factor involved in right living. It is the examples set before us. We must follow the examples of mature believers.

    Who is a good example to follow? (17)

    Paul was an apostle. He was a mature believer whom God had saved years ago. Over the years, he had taken the time to study the Bible, to get involved in the leadership of his church, and was eventually sent out by God to spread the gospel of Jesus across the Roman empire. So, Paul was not an immature believer telling people to follow his example. He was a mature believer who had earned the respect of those he was writing to.

    But as you read earlier in the chapter, Paul didn’t consider himself to be perfect or that he had finally retired from maturing as a Christian. “The apostle was not placing himself on a pedestal, as if he were perfect, but, quite the contrary, was urging his friends to strive after perfection, in the full realization that they were still far removed from the ideal, as was he himself” (Hendriksen 179). He continued pushing forward showing himself to be a good example to follow.

    But notice something else. “When Paul urged the Philippians to imitate him, he was not thinking of himself alone but of himself in company with others…. Note the pronoun we instead of I in the continuation” (Hendriksen 180). Paul usually traveled with other Christians on his missionary journeys. The lives of his travel companions were also an example to those to whom they ministered. This is a good time to think about your own example. It is not just the one in the pulpit who should be an example. Let’s all be an example for others to follow.

    Who is a bad example to follow? (18-19)

    We all know that there are two types of examples: good and bad. In verses 18-19, Paul noted that there were some who had become such bad examples that he considered them “enemies of the cross of Christ.” We are not told whether these were former church members but remembering them caused Paul to weep. Perhaps they were.

    These spiritual enemies had given in to earthly pleasures and were not seeking to please the Lord. Their description shows that they did not have the same mindset that Paul wanted for the Philippian believers.

    • They were enemies of the cross of Christ.
    • They were headed for destruction.
    • They were living for their appetites.
    • They were seeking glory in shameful things.
    • They were thinking about earthly things instead of heavenly.

    It seems that “the basic cause of it is that they have their hearts and minds on earthly things” (McGee 317). Their focus was on what would bring them pleasure now instead of what would gain them the Lord’s commendation in heaven in the future. Sadly, this is not something that only affected the early church. It is still something affecting people today. History is filled with accounts of religious leaders who stopped adding virtue to their faith, who became satisfied with the status quo, and who became enamored with worldly pleasures. The end result of such living is never good.

    Let us seek to follow the good examples of those who have been faithful to the Lord. As we read the biographies of great missionaries of the past, we must realize that they were not perfect. Many biographies only record the victories these people had and we sometimes get the idea that they were perfect. Let us also seek to be a good example ourselves. All of us have people within our sphere of influence whom we can help to become mature in the Lord. Just remember that we aren’t perfect and shouldn’t make ourselves look better than we actually are. Let’s also be wary of those who are bad examples. We need to mark these people and warn others of their bad influence so that the people we love are not tempted to veer away from what pleases the Lord.

  3. Wait like a mature believer (Philippians 3:20-21).

    Paul was a good example of someone who was living for the Lord. The enemies of Christ were bad examples because they were living for their own lusts. But what was it that made the difference between Paul (a mature believer) and the enemies of Christ? It was not only the mindset and lifestyle but the ability to patiently wait for the future. In verses 20-21, Paul shows that mature believers should not be infatuated with what they can get now, but that they should wait for what God has prepared for them in the future.

    Why should we wait? (20a)

    Paul uses the idea of citizenship to describe how a Christian should view this life as compared to the future. “The city of Philippi was a Roman colony. In Philippi the laws of Rome were enforced. The people wore the same kind of styles that were worn in Rome. They spoke Latin. Everything in Philippi was like Rome because it was a colonial city. Today, believers… should be a colony of heaven, and they ought to act like they act in heaven and speak the language of heaven. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, but it should be our goal” (McGee 318).

    Do you remember this old song?

    This world is not my home I’m just-a-passing through
    My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
    The angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door
    And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore

    This is a good explanation of how mature believers think about our time on earth. It is a temporary assignment which shouldn’t have our full attention. We shouldn’t get to the place where we are living for here and now. We should instead be thinking about where we will spend eternity. I must admit that this is difficult at times. We enjoy our lives. We enjoy the relationships, experiences, and the things we own. But when compared with eternity, are these things really that important? Shouldn’t we be thinking about the future?

    What should we be waiting for? (20b-21)

    Paul lists two things that we should be waiting for. First, he says that we are to wait for our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. After all our years on earth, there will come a time when Jesus will return in the sky and call each of us to be with Him forever. That should make you smile. We will finally meet the One who loved us and gave His life for us. What a meeting that will be!

    Second, he says that we are to wait for the transformation of our earthly bodies. Some of you are especially ready for this because of aches and pains. The Bible tells us that our bodies will be changed for the good.

    1 Corinthians 15:51-52 – “Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.

    But think also of what it will be like to be in a body that has no temptation to sin. There will be no more lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. That, too, is something that should motivate us to be patient. We should patiently wait realizing that the sinful desires we have now don’t please the Lord and will be an embarrassment when He appears.

    There are many who tell us to enjoy our lives now. You only live once, so live well. Paul tells us to be patient. Our time of joy will come in the place where our actual citizenship is. Be patient and listen for the trumpet of God when all believers will be taken up to heaven to be with the Lord forever.


During our study of Philippians 3:15-21, we have seen a number of things. We need to think like a mature believer. Our mindset should be to press on toward pleasing the Lord. We need to live like a mature believer. Our lifestyle should be an example for other Christians to follow. We need to wait like a mature believer. Our focus should be on what God had in store for us in the future.

As we have considered these Bible verses, how has God spoken to your heart? Perhaps you have not been thinking like a mature believer. Will you repent of this and ask God to change your mind and to help you think the way He desires? Perhaps you have not been living like a mature believer. Will you repent of this and ask God for the help you need to live rightly? Perhaps you have not been waiting for Jesus. Will you repent of this and renew your focus on the future. If you will, the Lord will graciously forgive you and bring back that joy that you have been missing.


Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1994, pp. 175-85.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, pp. 662-63.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, pp. 316-19.

What would you have done?

During our Sunday School lesson, we studied Genesis 12 which tells how Abram followed God’s direction and moved to the land of Canaan. However, after some time, there was a severe famine which affected Abram’s situation. He eventually moved to Egypt where some negative things happened. Our lesson book made the assumption that Abram was wrong to move away from where God had told him to move. But that is not actually spelled out in the Scriptures. It left me wanting to ask the lesson’s author, “What would you have done?”

In tonight’s message, we will contemplate that question. First we will examine what Abram did and the results. Second, we will look at biblical principles that will help us to make our own decisions during difficult situations.

  1. What did Abram do? (Gen. 12:10-20)

    Genesis 12 is the inspired record of how Abram responded to a difficult situation. God gave us these stories for us to learn from so let’s take a look at what Abram did and what we can learn from his decisions. First, he made a decision based on the circumstances (10). A severe famine was affecting his ability to provide for his family, his servants, and his flocks and herds. Something had to be done and he decided to move to Egypt. Second, he preplanned how to handle a possible conflict (11-13). Abram knew what it was like in Egypt. Perhaps he had heard stories of how a man had been killed to acquire his wife. So he preplanned with Sarai how they would respond if there was a conflict. Third, he got himself into a bad situation (14-16). Despite his plan, the ruler of Egypt took Abram’s wife from him and made her part of his harem. Fourth, he escaped with God’s help (17-20). If it were not for God’s response, Abram and Sarai’s relationship would have been permanently ended. But God sent plagues that convinced the pharaoh to give her back to Abram.

    If you were to ask Abram about the decision he made, do you think he would have done things differently? Perhaps he would. But he faced a famine and the possibility of murder. He could look back and see how God protected him, but at the time, he had to make a decision and he did.

  2. What would you have done?

    Someone once disagreed with Dwight L. Moody about the way he gave the gospel. Moody responded by asking his critic how he gave the gospel. The man said that he did not, but that he still didn’t agree with Moody’s way of doing things. Moody then replied, “It is clear you don’t like my way of doing evangelism. You raise some good points. Frankly, I sometimes do not like my way of doing evangelism. But I like my way of doing it better than your way of not doing it.”

    As we consider what Abram did and the results that followed, it is easy for us to be critical of his decision making. But it would be much more difficult to make those decisions in the moment. So let’s be careful that we are not overly harsh in our criticism. Also let’s think through how we would have/could have responded in the same situation. What would you have done?

    a. The natural response

    I think it is unfair for us to judge Abram harshly for how he responded. It is far too easy to point out his lack of faith and not consider the difficulty his circumstances put him in.

    You would make a decision based on the circumstances.

    Famines are mentioned many times in the Bible: Abram (Gen. 12), Isaac (Gen. 26), Joseph (Gen. 41-45), Naomi (Ruth 1), David twice (2 Sam. 21; 1 Chron. 21), Samaria twice (1 Kings 18; 2 Kings 6), Elisha (2 Kings 8), Jerusalem under siege (2 Kings 25); and Agabus (Acts 11). During each of those times, the people were short on food and had to make a decision to provide for their families.

    If you were in the same situation, you would have to make a decision as well. As discussed this morning, several people in our church moved from another state to this area for work. When you need to provide for your family, you sometimes have to make a decision that is different than what you had originally planned. You do it in the best interest of your family.

    You would preplan how to handle a possible conflict.

    Abram and Sarai were going to be living in a land where people did not respect God or His ways. And it was a place run by a dictator named pharaoh. In that time, the pharaoh could do whatever he wanted. Knowing this fact caused Abram to preplan how they would handle the possible conflict.

    If you were in the same situation, you would have had to think about these possibilities. Since we live in a land where people often steal things, we lock our doors. Since we hear about criminal activity, we prepare ourselves in case something happens. This is not unusual. When our children were little, we taught them how to open the window and crawl onto the roof if there was a fire. These are wisdom issues and not necessarily a conflict with trusting in the Lord. We should know how to respond ahead of time.

    b. The biblical response

    While there are some natural responses that all of us would have had, there are also some responses that should result from what God teaches us in the Bible.

    You should consider what is best for everyone (Phil. 2:3-4).

    When Abram planned the half-truth about his relationship to Sarai, he only mentioned what would be best for him. As Christians, we are not called to be selfish but to care about both our needs and those of others.

    Philippians 2:3-4 – “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”

    When we were considering the move to Willard, we were sure it was God’s will. However, one of the children had a hard time accepting that fact. Leaving our home of 16 years, friends at church and school, and the neighborhood we grew up in was very difficult. In the end, we made a decision based on what we felt God wanted even though it was difficult.

    Making decisions based only on what will affect one person can be described as selfish. God wants us to follow His example and to do what is best for the interests of all.

    You should ask God for wisdom (James 1:2-6).

    James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”

    James begins his teaching by telling us to be joyful during trials as it is a test of our faith. As we go through the trial, we will learn patience. And once we have learned patience, we will become a mature Christian. So how should we respond the next time we face a trial? First, we should look at the trial as a challenge. God has chosen to give us the trial to test our faith. So, we should joyfully accept the challenge. Second, we should patiently trust in the Lord during that time. As we realize that it is from God, we will more easily wait for Him to work in us.

    You should rely on God (Prov. 3:5-6).

    There are sometimes where it seems that there is no right decision. While we consider what is best for all involved and ask God for wisdom, we won’t always know what the right decision is. This is where we prayerfully make a decision and then trust God to lead and provide.

    Proverbs 3:5-6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.”

    When I was the summer assistant at Peniel Bible Camp, I met a man who drove a van with part of this verse posted on the spare tire cover on the back of the van. He told me that he was surprised one day to see the driver of the car behind him getting out of his car and running up to his van. When he rolled down the window, the young man thanked him for the message on his van as he was learning to trust the Lord at that moment.

    Abram may not have learned this lesson yet. But after going through the situation in Egypt, he learned that God was trustworthy. God not only kept him safe from murder but also kept his wife from harm. When we make decisions, we should not scheme our way out of them by devious means. We shouldn’t lie about things to get out of trouble. What we should do is trust the Lord to completely, not trust in our own wisdom, acknowledge God’s part in our life, and then follow His leading.


Tonight, we have taken some time to critique the way Abram handled his situation. He did what he thought was best but made some decisions that don’t seem to reflect a strong trust in the Lord. Now that we’ve finished looking at him, how about we do something else. What if we were to look back on your life and judge some of the decisions you made in the past? It might be decisions regarding your children, your marriage, or your trust in the Lord. Hmm… suddenly we all want to sing the closing hymn and go home.

It is easy to look back at the past decisions of others and even of ourselves and notice how we didn’t trust the Lord. Sadly, this is true of all of us at various points in our lives. But as we learned this morning, we should follow Paul’s advice about the past.

Philippians 3:13-14 – “Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

We can learn from mistakes we have made in the past. But we should not stay there. Instead, let us look toward the future goal of the Lord’s commendation. None of us is perfect and we all fail at some point. But with what we have learned tonight, let’s trust in the Lord and make the best decisions we can this week.


“Famines in the Bible,” as viewed at on 4/23/2023.

Philippians 3:12-14

Basketball was a big part of my life when I was a teenager. I played the game at every opportunity with whomever showed up on the court. As the years passed, I watched a lot of college and professional basketball and heard stories of those who had excelled at the game. I have read about players like Michael Jordan who worked hard at practice and during the season to become the best to play the game. Men like this motivated me to work hard, to keep in shape, and to try my hardest during every game.

Not all of us have an interest in sports. But we all know what it means to work hard at something. Whether it is working with a garden, working long hours at your job, or taking care of an elderly loved one, we know that certain things take a lot of effort. Sometimes it seems that all the work is not worth it, but we keep pressing on because we know the end result will be worth all the effort we put into it.

In Philippians 3:12-14, we read about the effort Paul put into his service for the Lord. In today’s message, we will be looking at two principles found in these verses. As we look at what Paul wrote, let’s ask the Lord to show us how we should respond.

  1. Keep moving forward (12).

    The idea of “keep moving forward” is a good one. Even Walt Disney has been quoted as using that idea. “Around here … we don’t look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things… and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths” (Beck). That idea is something that Thomas Edison also espoused. While trying to invent a lightbulb that would last longer, he experimented with many different materials until he finally had success.

    In the Christian life, we also need to keep moving forward. That is one of the messages Paul gives in verse 12.

    a. We have not reached perfection.

    If you recall what Paul had said earlier in the chapter, he was downplaying the importance of his previous religious accomplishments. He considered them garbage when compared to having Christ. But even with his high regard for what Jesus had done, he didn’t consider his salvation or even his service to have accomplished what he was striving for. He had not attained it yet.

    The idea behind the word “attained” is “to take, take up, take in the hand” (Mounce). It is one thing to talk about something and quite another to actually have it in your hand. Paul didn’t think he had attained what he was striving for. He also didn’t think he had reached a state of perfection. After all the great stories about Paul in the Book of Acts, we consider him to be a Christian hero. But Paul didn’t have that mindset.

    This is true of all of us, great and small. None of us has accomplished everything that God wants for us. No matter how many years you have known and served the Lord, there will always be room for improvement.

    b. We need to press on.

    Since none of us has reached perfection for the Lord, we need to press on. The idea is “to pursue, persecute, to systematically oppress and harass a person or group; to press on” (Mounce) I think we get the idea of pursuing or pressing on, but oppressing or harassing? Let me give you an example.

    During the third game of the 2023 NBA playoffs between the Cleveland Cavaliers and the New York Knicks, the latter team did their best to “systematically oppress and harass” the former team. At half time, the Cavaliers had a total of 32 points. This was the lowest amount of points they had scored during a game all season. Why was that? It was because the other team kept steady defensive pressure on them all through the game.

    While God is not calling us to oppress or harass anyone, Paul reminds us that there is some effort required in the Christian life. We don’t work to be saved, but we should work faithfully for the Lord after we are saved because we want to please Him. So we must press on and work hard at what God has called us to be and do.

    c. We need to work toward our purpose.

    Paul’s goal sounds a bit confusing. He wanted to “lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.” It sounds like Jesus had grabbed hold of Paul for a purpose and now Paul wanted to take hold of that purpose and fulfill it. But what was that purpose?

    Do you remember when Saul (Paul’s former name) met Jesus on the road to Damascus? After being struck blind, the Lord sent Ananias to heal his blindness. Ananias was afraid of Saul, so God assured Him. “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” God’s purpose for Paul was for him to speak about Jesus before all types of people including kings and also to suffer for the name of Jesus.

    You might be a bit afraid at this moment, thinking that God wants you to speak and suffer. First, we have to remember that this was God’s specific purpose for Paul and not necessarily for us. Second, we must remember that God has called all of us to be his ambassadors wherever we go. This might include some suffering but it is still our responsibility to speak for him wherever he sends us.

    Since none of us has reached perfection or completed the task given to us, let’s keep pressing on for the Lord. Don’t let anything get in the way of you moving forward for the Lord and the purposes He has given us.

  2. Keep your eyes on the goal (13-14).

    During junior high, our gym teacher taught us how to play softball. Unfortunately, I was not very good at it. Every time I was at plate, I would swing the bat and miss the ball. The gym teacher had one of the other students pitch easy pitches to me, but I kept striking out. It wasn’t until I was in my early 30’s that someone showed me what the problem was. I wasn’t keeping my eye on the ball. As this young man talked me through it, I kept my eye on the ball and finally hit the ball over the surprised heads of the outfielders.

    In verses 13-14, Paul reminds us to keep our eyes on the goal given to us by God. As we do, we should consider several things.

    a. We haven’t accomplished it yet.

    Paul had been given a goal to accomplish, but he didn’t consider himself to have accomplished it yet. The text uses the word “count” to describe Paul’s feelings. He wasn’t counting or adding up all of his service to God and considering himself to be finished. He knew there was more to do.

    I heard about a couple in Australia who counted on something before it was in their hands. The man was diagnosed with life-ending cancer. In the time remaining together, they decided to borrow money against the million-dollar life insurance policy and then live it up with the time they had left. They spent a lot of money on trips together and then found that the diagnosis was wrong. The man was going to live but they were now straddled with great debt. They had counted on something that didn’t come true.

    We mustn’t get to the point where we think we have arrived. If Paul didn’t count himself to have accomplished the goal given to him, how can we? While God gives each of us the ability to live, we need to live like we still have something to accomplish for Him.

    b. We need to reach forward not back.

    One of the things that limits our ability to press on for the Lord is what happened in the past. Paul had already listed his religious resume. It included what some would consider to be a long list of religious accomplishments for God. But Paul didn’t look back at those things and stop working. No, he looked forward to what he could do for the Lord now and in the future.

    Have you ever seen a runner stretching forward to cross the finish line ahead of the other runners? It is exciting to see them running as hard as they can and then reaching their head forward to cross the line first. This is the kind of effort that Paul was putting into his service for the Lord. No amount of effort was too much for him to give for the Lord. But what was the goal he was striving for?

    c. We must have the right goal.

    When LeBron James won the NBA championship for the city of Cleveland, it was a dream come true. He had tried many times before but never could get that elusive trophy. It wasn’t until 2016 that his goal was accomplished. Many of us cheered as the final shot and final block was made to secure the championship.

    Paul also had a prize he was straining toward. The goal was the prize given to faithful Christians. He described it as “the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” What exactly was this? As mentioned in an earlier message, I believe this refers to the “Well done, good and faithful servant” and the special “entrance” into the kingdom mentioned in 2 Peter 1:11. This goes along with what happened at the ancient Olympic games. “The winner in those games was called to the place where the judge sat in order to receive his prize” (Lightner 661). Paul wanted to hear the Lord’s happy call for him to stand before him and to be recognized as faithful.

    This is the goal we should keep striving toward. No matter what age you may be, no matter what has been accomplished in the past, no matter what troubles may be in your past, the Lord wants each of us to keep moving forward and to keep our eyes on the proper goal. In other words, don’t stop now! Keep going. Our time to rest will happen at some time in the future and so will our time of reward. So keep plugging away. Be faithful and look forward to meeting the Lord someday.


Do you ever stop and think about what it will be like when we arrive in heaven? We have read about the pearly gates and streets of gold and wonder just how incredible it must be. Last week, someone we all know of finally got to see what heaven is like. Ron Hamilton, also known as Patch the Pirate, was an influential song writer and music publisher for almost 50 years. His Patch the Pirate adventure stories were filled with songs, smiles, and spiritual lessons that touched the lives of many people around the world. After writing almost 1,000 songs, Ron Hamilton was diagnosed with dementia. This last week, the Lord finally released him from his tired body and took him home to heaven.

I wonder what it must have been like to finally meet the Lord in the splendors of heaven. Someday, you and I will get that opportunity. If you are not a believer at the time of your death, you will eventually stand before Him to be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment. All unbelievers will eventually be cast into the Lake of Fire. Please turn from your sin and put your faith in Jesus, so you will miss that great judgment.

But if you are a believer, you have the opportunity to enter into heaven with great joy or with embarrassment. If you are a believer who has been squandering time, imagine the embarrassment of entering heaven’s splendor and seeing the Lord’s face. After wasting your talents on earth, you will be deeply disappointed in what you have to present to the Lord on that day. But if you have been pressing on toward the goal and have been faithful to the Lord, it can be much different. While none of us is perfect, it will be much better to step into heaven and hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”

Christian, be faithful, keep moving forward, and keep your eyes on the goal because someday, you will stand before the Lord and give account of yourself. Will you do it with embarrassment or with great joy? With God’s help, let us each strive toward pleasing the Lord and hearing his commendation on that great meeting day.


Beck, Jerry, “Keep Moving Forward” as viewed at on 4/22/2023.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publication, 1983, pp. 661-62.

Mounce, Bill, various entries at as viewed on 4/22/2023.


Verse 12
ἔλαβον (aor act ind) from λαμβάνω – “to take, take up, take in the hand, Mt. 10:38; 13:31, 33” (Mounce).
τετελείωμαι (perf pass ind) from τελειόω – “to perfect, complete, finish; (pass.) to reach a goal, be fulfilled, completed, made perfect” (Mounce)
διώκω (pres act ind) – “to pursue, persecute, to systematically oppress and harass a person or group; to press on” (Mounce)
καταλάβω (aor act subj) from καταλαμβάνω – “to obtain, attain, take hold of; seize, overtake; (mid.) to grasp, understand, realize, find out” (Mounce)
κατελήμφθην (aor pass indic) from καταλαμβάνω – “to obtain, attain, take hold of; seize, overtake; (mid.) to grasp, understand, realize, find out” (Mounce)

Verse 13
λογίζομαι (pres mid dep ind) – “to credit, count, reckon; regard, think, consider” (Mounce)
κατειληφέναι (perf act infin) – “to obtain, attain, take hold of; seize, overtake; (mid.) to grasp, understand, realize, find out” (Mounce)
ἐπεκτεινόμενος (pres mid dep ptc) – “to stretch out farther; in NT mid. to reach out towards, strain for” (Mounce)

Verse 14
σκοπός – “a watcher; also, a distant object on which the eye is kept fixed; a mark, goal” (Mounce)
βραβεῖον – “a prize, bestowed on victors in the public games, such as a crown, wreath, chaplet, garland, etc.” (Mounce)
ἄνω – “above, upward, heavenward, top” (Mounce)
κλῆσις – “a call, calling, invitation;, in NT the call or invitation to the privileges of the Gospel, Rom. 11:29; Eph. 1:18; the favor and privilege of the invitation, 2 Thess. 1:11; 2 Pet. 1:10; the temporal condition in which the call found a person, 1 Cor. 1:26; 7:20” (Mounce)

Confident in What? Part 2 – Philippians 3:9-11

March Madness has begun. The best men’s college basketball teams have faced off in the NCAA tournament and some have been brutally surprised by their opponents. Purdue was the #1 seed in the East, but they lost to #16 seed, Fairleigh Dickinson. Another surprise was #2 Arizona being beat by #15 Princeton. Most of the higher ranked teams probably had confidence that they would easily beat the lower ranked teams. But where is their confidence now?

In the last message, we started a conversation about our confidence toward God. Paul had listed many good things that he could be confident about in verses 4-6. But he had considered all of those good deeds as loss and rubbish because he had found all that he needed in Christ. He was confident in what Jesus had done for him instead of being confident in himself.

Paul’s words should cause all of us to ask ourselves a few questions. Are we confident in the good things we have done? If so, we would say, I am confident in myself and my achievements. I am a good person who should be allowed to stand before God on my own merits. The other question is this. Are we confident in what Christ has done? If so, we would say, I am confident in Christ. I am not a good person, but I am trusting in what Jesus did for me instead of my own good works. Today we will consider the second type of confidence.

2. I am confident in Christ (Philippians 3:9-11).

This statement summarizes what our confidence should be in. God did not ask us to become righteous enough to earn His favor. We find all that we need in Him by trusting Him, knowing Him, and being ready for Him.

a. Are you trusting Him? (9)

Someday each of us will stand before God and we will be found in one condition or the other. Paul says that he wanted to be found in Jesus as opposed to his own righteousness. This means that he was trusting in what Jesus did for him on the cross. Jesus paid for his sins and now Paul was trusting in Jesus alone as his confidence.

Paul was not confident in his own righteousness.

What is righteousness? “Its leading idea evidently is that of acceptance, satisfactoriness, however secured, to law” (Moule 92). In other words, righteousness is what we cling to when trying to be accepted by God.

Paul looked at all of his character and achievements. While they might have impressed some people, he realized that his own righteousness was not impressive to God. Perhaps Paul was thinking of what the prophet Isaiah said years before.

Isaiah 64:6 – “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; we all fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

All of the good things we have done do not cover up our sinfulness. God knows it all and is not impressed by the few good things we do. Paul knew that it was futile to dress himself up in his own good works hoping to impress God. It would be like a dirty beggar trying to impress a wealthy king with his rags.

If Paul, an impressive, religious man, was not confident in his own righteousness, what was he confident in?

Paul was confident in the righteousness of Christ.

We all have that natural desire to do something to make God think better of us. We do it when we go to court wearing a suit and tie—hoping to impress the judge with our good character. But God is perfect and holy and is not at all impressed. The only righteousness he will accept is that of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus, who never sinned, became a man and willingly gave His life on the cross to pay for our sins. He gave his perfect life for our sinful lives so that we could become righteousness in Him.

You may have noticed that there is no action needed on our part. Paul says it is the righteousness which is from God by faith. “‘By faith’ is the important word. That is the only way in the world you can get it. You can’t work for it; you can’t buy it; you can’t steal it. You just trust Him” (McGee 314). Do you see that? God doesn’t want you to work to become righteous. He simply requires faith.

What does faith mean? “The leading and characteristic idea of the word is personal trust… It is certainly not mere assent. … The word ‘faith’ consistently conveys in Scripture the thought of personal reliance, trustful acceptance of Divine truth, Divine work, of the Divine Worker and Lord. …a bringing of nothing in order to receive everything” (Moule 93-4).

Paul was confident in Christ. He didn’t come to God with his merit badges on display. He came to God knowing that he was undeserving of being right with God. But he knew God’s promise to save those who put their faith in Jesus. With that in mind, he put his confidence (full reliance) in Jesus’ righteousness being given to him simply… by faith.

Are you confident in Jesus? Because if you are, this faith is just the beginning of a relationship with God. As we continue, you will see that Paul wasn’t satisfied to just be made righteous by faith. He wanted to develop his relationship with Jesus even more.

b. Do you want to know Him better? (10)

When I am hiring a new driver for the company, I often use stories to convey ideas. If the person is interested in sports I tell them about someone I know who plays in the NBA. But when I do that, I often pause because the “friend” is more of an acquaintance. He is someone who played basketball in middle school with one of my sons. If you were to ask me anything personal about the athlete, I would know very little. So I have to admit that I really don’t know that person very well.

If I were to ask you if you know the Lord Jesus, what would you say? You might say, yes, but what would that mean? What do you know about Him? Do you know Him well? Do you have a good relationship with Him? Can you tell me a little bit about Him? Paul, who wrote a large part of the New Testament, knew the Lord. But he states here that he wanted to know Jesus even more. This ought to be the attitude of every Christian.

A well-known radio preacher writes that “Today some saints give me the impression that they have complete knowledge and they only need to polish their halo every morning and are ready to take off at any moment. Yet Paul, the greatest missionary the world has ever seen, said at the end of his life, ‘My admission is still to know Christ…'” (McGee 315).

Paul wanted to know the power of Jesus’ resurrection.

When we attend a funeral service, we are painfully aware that we have no power to help the deceased loved one. But God raised up Jesus from the dead after three days. That same power is available to us to serve Him and endure what may happen daily.

“The power that raised Jesus from the dead—is the power that is at work in us to make us holy, to make us a fit place for Jesus to dwell, to enable us to grasp the limitless dimensions of God’s love for us (Eph. 3:14-19), to strengthen us so that we have great endurance and faith and lives constantly characterized by thanksgiving (Col. 1:11-12). It takes extraordinary power to change us to become like that. in fact, it takes nothing less than the power of God that raised Jesus from the dead” (Carson 87).

As you get to know the Lord better, there will be opportunities to see God’s mighty power at work. While we enjoy hearing powerful testimonies of people who were miraculously saved by God, delivered from bad circumstances, or healed from diseases, the most personal knowledge of Jesus is found when He is working in our own lives. Have you seen His power at work in your life? And do you want to see Him continuously working in your life?

Paul wanted to know the fellowship of Jesus’ sufferings.

This part of the Bible may be a bit difficult to understand at first. How can we have fellowship with the sufferings of Christ? When we think of fellowship, we think of friendship, church dinners, and fun times. What do these have to do with the sufferings of Jesus?

Paul wasn’t talking about suffering on the cross with Jesus. That would be impossible. What he was wanting was to be so close to Jesus that he would go through some of the same troubles Jesus went through. He wanted to live out what Jesus told the disciples they would face. If they hated Jesus, they would hate his disciples. Paul wanted to know the Lord so well and to be so close to Him that he was willing to suffer for the Lord.

Did Paul ever suffer for the Lord? Yes, he did. And this was part of God’s plan for him. When the Lord sent Ananias to newly converted Paul, God told him that he would “show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” As you read through the Book of Acts, you see that Paul did suffer for the Lord. It wasn’t that he wanted to be hurt. His desire was to have such a close relationship to the Lord that he would willingly suffer with Christ.

Do you love the Lord so much that you would be willing to suffer with Him? This was not only to be part of Paul’s life but also part of our own lives.

Philipians 1:29 – “For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”

As we faithfully live godly lives for the Lord, we are promised that we will face persecution. The world hates Christ and those who follow Him. But we love the Lord and when we suffer persecution, we grow closer to Him and understand some of what He went through when on this earth. This is probably what Paul meant by us “being conformed to His death.” As we suffer for Christ, we are becoming like Jesus by facing the same things He did.

c. Are you working for Him? (11)

This part of the passage may be difficult to understand. Paul has already told us that he was trusting in the righteousness of Christ. He has also told us how much he wants to know Jesus better including suffering for Him. We know that he was not seeking to gain God’s favor by doing things. But what he says in verse 11 is a bit confusing.

Philippians 3:11 – “if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”

Paul wanted to attain something.

Keep in mind that Paul is no longer talking about attaining righteousness by his own works. Here is he is talking about attaining something during his Christian life. While we do not work to become righteous, we should work for the Lord after we have been saved. Consider several other Bible verses:

Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

Philippians 2:12 – “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”

2 Peter 1:5-8 – “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In each of the above passages, we see that God wants Christians to do good works, to work to show their Christian lives, and to add character to their faith. This is what Christians do. They don’t think they have “attained” a top degree at some point and then quit living for the Lord. Real Christians keep working for the Lord. They keep striving.

So what was Paul still trying to attain?

Paul wanted to attain the resurrection from the dead.

The meaning of this phrase is not explained by Paul. If you look through Bible commentaries on this verse, you will find many ideas regarding what this passage means. Some say that this is talking about the Rapture. “Perhaps he was using this word to refer to the Rapture, thus expressing the hope that the Lord would return during his lifetime” (Lightner 661). But Paul has already told the Thessalonian church that all believers (dead or living) will be resurrected when Jesus comes back (1 Thess. 4:13-18). It was not something they had to attain to. Others think this refers to someone attaining a spiritual resurrection out from the spiritually dead around them. But this doesn’t make sense either because we are raised to new life by faith in Christ not by doing something else.

While I don’t really know exactly what Paul was talking about, I have an idea (see Barnes and Clarke). We know that he is not trying to attain acceptance by God or to attain the Rapture that all Christians will experience. However, there is a possibility that there will be a difference in resurrection depending on how each Christian has lived. Consider what the apostle Peter says:

2 Peter 1:10-11 – “Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”

Peter was not telling Christians to earn their way to heaven. He was telling them to add character to their faith by living for the Lord so that their entrance into the kingdom would be abundant. If they were to follow Peter’s advice, their welcome into heaven would be extra special. Think of the “Well done faithful servant” that Jesus talked about.

With that in mind, Paul may have been saying the same thing that Peter was. He wanted to live faithfully for the Lord so that when Jesus returns, he would have that extra special welcome when he is raised from the dead. That is something that we all can work toward—receiving God’s approving smile when we finally go home.


During this message, we have looked at the right idea of being confident in Christ. We considered this idea with three questions.

First, are you trusting Him? This is a question that only you can answer. Are you putting your confidence in what Jesus accomplished on the cross for you? This is not just knowledge of what Jesus did. Instead, it is full reliance on what He did for you.

Second, if you are trusting Him, do you want to know Him better? Every Christians should have the desire to get to know the Lord better every day. We should never think we have arrived with nothing more to learn. And as you get to know Jesus better, you should be willing to share in His life including suffering and even death if needed. He did so much for us, how can we hold back for Him?

Third, are you working for Him? It ought to be our desire to faithfully do God’s will every day. And while you may not care about trophies or lapel pins, you will be happy to hear God say to you, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” That commendation from the Lord ought to motivate each of us to work faithfully for Him this week.


Barnes’ Notes on the Bible as viewed at on 3/18/2023.

Carson, D. A., Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996, pp. 86-88.

Clarke’s Commentary as viewed at on 3/18/2023.

Lightfoot, J. B., St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975, pp. 149-51.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, pp. 660-61.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, pp. 314-15.

Moule, H. C. G., The Epistle to the Philippians, Cambridge: The University Press, 1889, pp. 91-97.

“What does Philippians 3:10 mean? as viewed at on 3/18/2023.

Confident in What? Part 1 – Philippians 3:4-8

When I was young, a friend and I drove my car to the short north of Columbus. I was looking for a used tuxedo to purchase for the junior senior banquet at our high school. As we passed the store, we quickly turned into an alley between the buildings to get to the parking area behind the store. All went well. I found an affordable tuxedo, went back to the car, and drove down the alley behind the store. It was then that I noticed two things simultaneously: (1) the police car, and (2) the one-way sign. That situation was eventually resolved when I went to court and spoke to the judge.

When you are given a traffic ticket that you feel was undeserved, you are given the opportunity to stand before a judge and to contest the ticket. If this has ever happened to you, you know that everyone has an opinion of how you ought to go about it. Some tell you that you should be respectful but firm. Others say that you should show confidence because any show of doubt will influence the way the judge rules. However, no amount of advice will really prepare you to stand before the judge. You just have to do it and hope for the best.

Standing before a human judge can be intimidating. But think what it would be like to stand before God. Someday, we will all stand before the judgment seat and we will have to answer for our lives. As you are probably aware, God’s standard for righteousness (goodness) is holiness (no sin). None of us can meet that standard. But despite this fact, there are still some who cling to their own righteousness expecting God to be impressed with how they have lived their lives.

This seems to be the case with some of the people who were influencing the Philippian church. They made the Jewish rite of circumcision so important that they believed it was required for someone to be made right with God. Paul addressed this several times in the previous verses and in other parts of the Bible. But in the verses that follow, he showed the foolishness of trusting in your own achievements to be considered righteous by God.

  1. I am confident in myself and my achievements (Philippians 3:4-8).

    This statement summarizes the idea that Paul was fighting against. The Judaizers’ idea of having to go through the rite of circumcision was a confidence in their own achievements. To make his readers think, Paul listed off some of his own achievements to show the foolishness of trusting in their own righteousness. He was saying, in other words, if you are going to brag about your accomplishments, then see if you can match mine.

    a. Paul’s record (4-6)

    What was Paul’s record? It was very good from the perspective of someone who is trying to make himself look good to others. It seems that he came from the perfect Jewish family and had lived according to all the standards imposed by the Pharisees. In these verses, Paul lists seven things that made him an ideal candidate to boast in his own accomplishments.

    “If anyone could have been saved by religion, Saul of Tarsus would have been the man” (McGee 312).

    “Two kinds of advantages are enumerated. First are those things which the apostle had by birth, apart from his choice. Four of these are listed—circumcision, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, and a Hebrew son of Hebrew parents” (Lightner 660).

    He had been circumcised the 8th day.

    Remember how the false teachers were making circumcision to be the evidence that someone was right with God? Well, Paul told them that he had been circumcised when he was only 8 days old. This indicated that he “was neither a proselyte, circumcised as an adult, nor an Ishmaelite, circumcised (as Josephus tells us… ) at thirteen, but a member of the covenant from infancy” (Moule 87).

    He was an Israelite.

    The false teachers were making a big deal about Jewish customs because of what parts of the Old Testament says. Because the Israelites were the special people of God, selected out of all people to be God’s own people, Paul mentioned that he was not a proselyte who converted to Judaism. He was actually from a Jewish family. He was one of the people of God.

    He was from the tribe of Benjamin.

    Many of you know that I love animals. A few years ago, I found out that there are certain specialty cats that have a high pedigree. Some are bred with wild cats from Africa and are almost like having a dog. The only thing is that these cats go for about $15,000 each. Now if you were going to buy a cat for that amount of money, I would imagine that you would want proof that it was actually one of these special cats.

    When people start making a big deal about spiritual pedigree, it can get to be ridiculous. They think that their genealogical roots prove that they are of better stock than others. Paul mentioned that he was from the tribe of Benjamin. Being from that tribe may not seem special to us today, but to Jewish people, the tribe had provided several national heroes: Ehud the judge, Saul the king, and Mordecai during the captivity. Paul was related to these great heroes.

    He was a proper Hebrew.

    What is a Hebrew of the Hebrews? At the time that Paul was writing this book, a number of Jewish people had moved away from Israel and had been assimilated into other cultures. Jews who lived outside of Israel often spoke Greek as their primary language and were much like any other person in their country. Although Paul was from Tarsus, he had parents who taught him the Hebrew language so that he would be a proper Hebrew. There was no compromise of his Hebrew-ness despite being born outside of Israel.

    Summary: None of these characteristics were things that Paul had accomplished by himself. So, it seems silly to boast about them. But that is what happens when someone starts bragging about himself. They start taking credit for things that they didn’t even do. And I think that is the subtle point that Paul is making. All of these things were important to the false teachers, but none of them were impressive to God.

    While the first four statements were things that Paul received by birth or the choices of his parents, the next “brags” were things that he did accomplish himself “—being a Pharisee, being a persecutor of the church, and having a flawless external record of legalistic righteousness” (Lightner 660).

    He was a Pharisee.

    Someone who is impressed with associations would have been impressed by Paul’s association with the Pharisees. This group was “the strictest sect among his people. In addition to the Law of Moses the Pharisees added their own regulations which in time were interpreted as equal to the Law” (Lightner 660). You may recall that the Pharisees often clashed with Jesus because He did not follow the extra laws they had come up with.

    So why would the false teachers by impressed with the Pharisees? Remember that the false teachers were big on doing things to become righteous. So were the Pharisees. This was the common link. Both wanted to impress God with the amount of laws they kept and the things that they did. Paul’s former membership in the Pharisee group should have impressed these people.

    He was very zealous.

    We are often impressed by people who are zealous. These are the people who put their whole life into what they believe. They spend enormous amounts of energy doing things to show how much things mean to them. Before Paul met Jesus, he was very zealous as a Pharisee. “Paul thought he was doing God’s will when he persecuted the church. The other Pharisees were willing to relax when they had run the Christians out of Jerusalem, but Paul was determined to ferret them out all over the world” (McGee 313).

    Paul was an example of zealous service to God. Although he was not doing what was right at the time, could anyone doubt that he believed he was doing what was right? As they saw him fight against Christians, there were few who matched his intensity. He was like the zealous Muslims who are willing to go to great lengths to show their dedication to their false god. Could any of the false teachers match his intensity?

    He was a blameless person.

    The false teachers were very insistent on personal righteousness. Because they were trying to showcase their accomplishments to God and people, they should have been impressed with Paul’s former religious life. He was blameless “from the point of view of the Pharisaic legalist” (Moule 89). This doesn’t mean that he believed himself to be perfect or without sin. Instead, he was saying that any Pharisee would have looked at his life and marveled at how well he obeyed religious law. From the outside, he was blameless.

    There are times when people today come up with a list of things they have achieved to make themselves feel righteous. These things don’t make them right with God but they do build some type of confidence. What do people have on their list? They were born into a Christian family, baptized as a baby, confirmed by their church, attended Sunday School, attended a Christian high school, attended a Christian college, went on a missions trip, sang in the choir, taught a Sunday School class, served as a deacon or trustee, gave money to the church or a missionary, helped the poor, etc.

    The list could go on and on but is it worth anything to God? Look at the next two verses to see what Paul thought about his list of previous achievements.

    b. Paul’s response (7-8)

    Paul had taken a moment to brag about his past accomplishments. He wasn’t really confident in his previous accomplishments but he wanted to contrast those things with what he found in Christ.

    He viewed his achievements as loss (7-8a).

    Paul was a big deal with Pharisees. They looked up to him as a zealous defender of the truth. He was the type of Pharisee who would have won the MVP trophy every year. But all of this didn’t matter to Paul. He considered all of these accolades as a loss. But what exactly did that mean? The term is “used for a loss at sea (Acts 27:10) and used in the papyri of a commercial or business loss” (Rienecker 557). It is as if Paul had invested time and effort into doing things that never brought any spiritual profit for him.

    At one point, I invested a small amount of money into General Motors stocks. My goal had been to invest in something I believed in and being a car guy, this seemed like the thing to do. But around 2008, I quickly realized that this investment was not going to profit me anything. I sold my stocks at a loss. Most of the money I had invested was lost.

    As you consider the background and accomplishments of Paul, you might think that he was the most likely to succeed in the game of life. However, Paul had a different view. He viewed all of those things as a loss. They were not worth investing in when compared to Christ. Why is that? Putting your confidence in yourself will never work when it comes to pleasing God. He knows us better than we do ourselves. Our actions or pedigree don’t impress God. What we really need is not more action but simple faith in Christ.

    If you have come to know Jesus, you know this to be true. When you understood that God is not looking for your goodness but that He has provided everything for us in Jesus, you probably let out a sigh of relief. “It’s not my righteousness but Christ’s righteousness!” Knowing that makes all the difference.

    He viewed his achievements as rubbish (8).

    In polite society, there are certain words that are not to be used. When I was growing up, we knew that using these words would get us in trouble. Paul didn’t seem to know this. If you are reading from a KJV Bible, you will see the word “dung.” If you are reading from the NKJV, you will see the word “rubbish.” Which is it?

    The word used by Paul “refers either to human excrement … or it refers to the refuse or leavings of a feast, the food thrown away from the table” (Rienecker 557). I suppose that it doesn’t matter which word is used. Whether it is the contents of an outhouse or the worthless trash left over after a meal, neither is something that you would bag up and take home with you. Instead, you would be very eager to get rid of them. Why? Because they are worthless.

    This was Paul’s point. When he looked at all he had accomplished as a Jewish zealot, he didn’t think any of it was worth presenting to God. All of it was like something smelly you might bag up and toss in the garbage. All of his accomplishments were rubbish to Paul when he found all that he needed in Christ.


    So many people are trying to impress God with their actions or so-called pedigree. They think that they are special in God’s eyes because of their family or their hard work for the church. But what they fail to recognize is that none of that is something asked for by God. He doesn’t care about your actions. He doesn’t care about your family background. What He wants is for you to realize that there is nothing you can do to make yourself righteousness enough to overcome your own sin and guilt.

    This is why God sent Jesus to earth. Jesus was God in human form. He came to earth, lived a perfect life, and then died in our place. Why did He do that? Well, one thing is certain. Jesus didn’t die on the cross for your sins so that you could live a good life and impress God. If God wanted each of us to try really hard to become good enough, why would He have sent Jesus to die in our place? It wouldn’t make any sense. Jesus died to pay the price for our sins. And now all who put their trust in Him are forgiven and viewed according to Jesus’ righteousness and not our own.

    Do you understand that? If you understand that, then God wants you to stop trusting in your own good deeds. Instead, He wants you to turn from your sin and place your faith in what He accomplished for you through Jesus. Will you do that today?
    become righteous enough to earn His favor. Instead, He provided the righteousness of Christ to cover our sinfulness.


Lightfoot, J. B., St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975, pp. 145-49.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, pp. 659-60.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, pp. 312-14.

Moule, H. C. G., The Epistle to the Philippians, Cambridge: The University Press, 1889, pp. 87-91.

Rienecker, Fritz and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980, pp. 556-57.

Philippians 3:1-3

How do you tell if someone is a Christian? That question may take a while to answer. For some people, a Christian is defined by what they experienced in a church. If the experience was bad, a Christian is a hypocrite, a judgmental person, or a goodie two shoes. For others, a Christian is defined by what they see on television. When they see an evangelist shouting from behind a pulpit and asking for money, they think that a Christian is a greedy loudmouth. In both cases, the definition is made by what the person experienced. Sadly, this is true for many people.

Click the link below to listen to the message:

In today’s message, we will be looking at the difference between a true Christian and a religious person who is not a real believer. The descriptions are given in the Bible in Philippians 3:1-3. There Paul warns about those who claim to be Christians but who reveal their true character as completely opposite. Then he shows what character qualities should be evident in those who are true Christians. As we look through this section of Scripture, think about which describes you better.

  1. Necessary Warnings (1-2)

    a. These can come across as tedious.

    On every flight, an airline stewardess has to explain how to buckle your seatbelt, how to exit the plane, and how to prepare for a crash landing. The first time I flew on an airplane, all of this was new to me. At the beginning, I listened eagerly to the announcements. But as I grew accustomed to the same message given each time, I stopped paying attention.

    Someone has said that “Repetition is a vital part of learning” (Lightner 659). As Paul wrote these words to the Christians in Philippi, he wanted them to know that he would not be lazy about repeatedly teaching them. He didn’t consider it a burden to do this. He actually wanted to prepare them for what they would be facing.

    b. These are meant for your safety.

    Paul wanted the Christians in Philippi to have a strong foundation for what they believed. He taught them God’s truth and wrote it in epistles so they would have a paper copy to look back on when he was not there. As they heard, read, and thought about God’s truth, they would be kept safe from competing ideas that were different from what God wanted them to know and do.

    c. These are necessary.

    One of the things that can turn some people away from good, Bible-believing churches is their unwavering stand for the truth. People want churches to be more accepting, loving, and welcoming. While these things can be good, there are times when God does not want us to be accepting, loving, and welcoming. Paul listed three examples of people who they were to “continually be on the lookout for” (Rienecker).

    Look out for dogs.

    What is a dog? Nowadays, many families have a dog and think of it as part of the family. However, “the Jews considered dogs to be the most despised and miserable of all creatures… Perhaps it was because of the herds of dogs which prowled about eastern cities, without a home and without an owner, feeding on the [refuse] and filth of the streets, quarreling among themselves and attacking the passerby… Paul uses the term here of those who prowl around the Christian congregations, seeking to win converts” (Rienecker 556).

    The term “dog” is used at least twice in the Bible to refer to bad people.

    The first I will mention is found in Isaiah 56:10-11. There it is used to describe religious leaders who would not help the people. They were dumb dogs that would not bark a warning. They were also greedy dogs who always wanted more for themselves. In this case, these people were like useless dogs that didn’t warn the people of trouble and were only interested in their own desires.

    The second I will mention is found in Revelation 22:15. There it is used to describe those who do not “do His commands” and who will not be inside “the gates of the city” of God. “But outside are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie.” While the passage doesn’t tell us what these dogs are, it is clear that they are not believers and that they keep company with those who rebel against God. Because of this, these dogs are kept out of the city of God.

    To sum things up, we need to look out for dogs—people who claim to be religious leaders but who by their actions show that they are actually the enemies of God. Don’t be fooled!

    Look out for evil workers.

    What is an evil worker? These are people whose actions show that they are evil. They may talk a good game, but when you watch how they act, you soon realize that they are actually evil. Remember what Jesus said? “By their works, you shall know them.”

    Jesus told us that the harvest is great and the answer is to pray that God would send more laborers/workers into the harvest. However, He also warns us that there will be people who are evil workers. They work but not for the same purposes. They are actually accomplishing the opposite of what God desires. They may look good for a moment, but their actions eventually show their true character.

    Paul mentions them another time in an epistle to the church at Corinth:

    2 Cor. 11:13-15 – “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.”

    If Satan has been a liar from the beginning, should it be any surprise that he is influencing others to believe his lie and to rebel against God? These evil workers can be tricky just like Satan. But as we ask God for discernment (James 1:5), He will give us the wisdom to see through their trickery. How will we know the difference between a good worker and an evil one? We simply compare what they are saying and doing with what God has revealed in the Bible. If they are turning people away from what God has said, then they are an evil worker. Watch out for them and avoid them.

    Look out for the mutilation.

    What is the mutilation? There were people in Paul’s day that were very dogmatic about being circumcised. As you may recall, God introduced this practice to Abraham as a sign of God’s covenant with Abraham’s family. The Jewish people continued this practice as sign of their dedication to God. However, at some point, the ritual became more important to them than their inner dedication to God. They considered themselves blessed by God for having been circumcised despite the fact that their hearts were far from God.

    “One particular group in Paul’s day was especially guilty of putting confidence in the flesh. These were the Judaizers. They plagued Paul and his converts constantly. Confused about the gospel, they added works of the law to faith in Christ, both for salvation and for Christian living. The Old Testament rite of circumcision was of special concern to them. They insisted that it was necessary for salvation” (Lightner 659).

    How does a person become a Christian or obtain God’s salvation?

    First, let’s talk about why we need to be saved by God. The New Testament makes it clear that we are sinners who have broken God’s laws. “There is none righteous, no not one. … All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” The sad fact is that each of us is a sinner from God’s perspective. And since “the wages of sin is death,” each of us is headed for judgment from God for our sins. The ultimate judgment for sinners who rebel against God is eternity in the Lake of Fire.

    Second, let’s talk about how we can be saved by God. The New Testament makes it clear that we can’t save ourselves because we are already guilty. The Bible says that we are not saved by “works of righteousness which we have done” and that it is “not of works, lest anyone should boast.” So the work of being circumcised isn’t the answer not is doing any number of good things. Instead, God sent His only Son Jesus to die in our place. God judged His Son for our sins on the cross so that we would not be judged. Having accomplished that for us, God sets down the terms. What are they? Do you need to be circumcised? Do you need to memorize large portions of the Bible? Do you have to feed the poor and help the sick? No, God says that “whoever believes in Him will not perish but have everlasting life.” When you recognize your sinfulness and place your faith in what Jesus did on the cross for you, God promises that you will escape the coming judgment and will be given eternal life. That’s it.

    Now let’s get back to Philippians 3. Paul warned the believers in Philippi about dogs (self-serving religious leaders), evil workers (those who by actions opposed God), and the mutilation (people who trust in what they do to be made right with God). Each of these people were a danger to those who have believed in Jesus and who want to do what God says.

    This leads us to the next point.

  2. True Christian Character (3)

    In this section, Paul contrasts the false teachers with what a true Christian should be. After talking about those who have a wrong view of the Jewish rite of circumcision, Paul describes himself as the true circumcision. He is not meaning that this rite is necessary for Christians (see Gal. 6:15) but is merely showing that what was considered so important to the false teachers was not accomplishing what God desires. It is not the action itself but the heart behind the action that God desires. Even Old Testament believers would have known this.

    Deut. 30:6 – “And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your descendants, to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.”

    This is what God wants. He wants people who will “cut away” sinful thoughts and actions from their lives and who will lovingly obey His commands. This would be a truly “circumcised” person to God.

    With that in mind, what distinguishes true Christian character from what these false teachers were pushing? Notice that Paul mentions three things that are inner attitudes and not outward actions.

    a. Christian character is distinguished by true worship.

    True Christians are characterized by true worship. It is not the outward show that others can see, but the inner worship of God from the heart. A good example of this is found in Luke 18:9-14. There, two men went to the temple to pray to God. The first man was a religious Pharisee who talked about himself and compared himself with others to make himself look good to God. What he did or did not do make him feel right with God. The other person was a despised tax collector. As he prayed to God, he knew his sinfulness and simply asked God from his heart to be forgiven. Jesus made it clear that God forgave the tax collector instead of the religious man.

    What was the difference? The difference was each person’s heart. One was trying to impress God with his actions, while the other was coming to God with a right heart. This is what God desires in worship. He is more interested in the inside than the outside. Remember what God told Samuel? “The Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” The point is that true Christians worship God from the heart without trying to impress Him with their actions.

    b. Christian character is distinguished by true boasting.

    Paul says that true Christians rejoice in Jesus. The word rejoice can be defined as “to boast, brag about; to rejoice in, glory in” (Mounce). To put it another way, what is it that a true Christian brags about? Paul says that we should be bragging about Jesus instead of ourselves.

    If you think about it, what did we do to save ourselves? We did nothing. And we could do nothing. Because of our sinfulness, there was nothing that could have said or done that would have moved God to overlook our reputation. In fact, the Bible describes even the good things we do as filthy rags. God is not impressed with our good deeds.

    There are times when I look back on my own record. God knows the many times I have sinned against Him. I am ashamed to think about the sins I have committed against God. But when I think about what Jesus did for me, my whole attitude changes. Jesus gave His life for me. Jesus died for my sins. Jesus loved me. Jesus has changed me. So, if there is anything to brag about, it isn’t me; it is Him.

    c. Christian character is distinguished by true humility.

    Apparently, the Judaizers and false teachers were not very humble. They had become so concerned about their outward reputation that they soon put their confidence in themselves instead of Jesus. One might have said, “I have been circumcised, so I am right with God!” That doesn’t sound like someone who is trusting in Jesus to be saved. Someone today, might mention that they have been baptized, have memorized many portions of the Bible, have attended many church services, or any number of other things. But is this what God wants? Is He looking for pompous loud mouths to announce how great they are? I think not.

    Paul pointed out here that true Christians are different. They don’t put confidence “in the flesh.” Instead, they humbly acknowledge that everything they are is because of Jesus. Humility is the opposite of pride, right? Instead of thinking about ourselves, we don’t think of ourselves. This is not something we come by naturally. But when someone is born again, changed by God, he knows that the changes were made by God and are not something produced by himself. This is humility.


In our study today, we have only looked at three verses. But there was a lot there. First, we saw a necessary warning. Paul had to warn the believers about dogs, evil workers, and the mutilation. Each of these were false teachers who showed their dangerous influence by their wicked character and actions. Next, we saw what true Christian character is like. It involves true worship, true boasting, and true humility. A true Christian is much different than the evil workers mentioned earlier because he has a right attitude toward God.

As you think about the two types of people, you can see a real difference. The evil workers were all about themselves. The true Christian is all about Jesus. Which one describes you better? Have you been living your life with the desire to make yourself look good in order to impress God. If this is your motivation for doing things, you are in the wrong category because God is never impressed by our good works. Have you been living your life in humility, thanking Jesus for all that He has done in your life? Then you are in the second category. You are someone who through faith has found what God truly desires.

One other thought: If you are in the first category, you are in the wrong place. You are still under God’s judgment and in need of being rescued by Jesus. Will you turn from your sins today and put your faith in Jesus. He will forgive you and change you from the inside out. And if you are in the second category, but you have drifted a bit, there is hope for you as well. If you have not been worshiping God from the heart, or if you have become proud, stop and repent. Change your mind and get back to where you belong. God wants each of us to love Him and to serve Him but He first wants our hearts. Does He have yours?


Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, pp. 658-59.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, pp. 310-12.

“ἀσφαλές” as viewed at on 3/24/2023.

“ἐργάτης” as viewed at on 3/4/2023.

“καυχάομαι” – as viewed at on 3/24/2023.

“κατατομή” as viewed at on 3/4/2023.

“κύων” as viewed at on 3/24/2023.

“ὀκνηρός” as viewed at on 3/4/2023.

“πείθω” as viewed at on 3/4/2023.

Philippians 2:17-30

During our time here, we have read several biographies of Christians during our Wednesday prayer meetings. The example of earlier Christians has been a blessing to us. Whether it was a missionary, evangelist, pastor, or king, we saw how the Lord used them as they dedicated their lives to be a living sacrifice for the Lord.

In this section of Philippians 2, Paul speaks about three specific people who were an example to the church at Philippi. Although the church already knew them well, he wanted them to be reminded of how the Lord was using these men in ministry and also to follow their example of service to the Lord.

  1. Paul (Phil. 2:17-18)

    a. Who was he?

    Paul was one of the founders of the church at Philippi. His time there had led to the conversions of several people who were now part of the local church. So, the people already looked up to him as a spiritual leader.

    It may seem strange for Paul to hold himself up as an example to the Philippians. But this was his job. In another place, he said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ.” So this was a good thing because Paul was following Christ and was a good example to follow.

    b. What do we learn about him here?

    He was being poured out like a drink offering (17).

    “The apostle knew that death as a martyr was a real possibility for him. Paul viewed himself as being poured out like a drink offering on behalf of the Philippians” (Lightner 656).

    “There was a drink offering which was to be added to the burnt offering and the meal offering. It was never added to the sin offering or the trespass offering. … They would bring in a skin of wine and just pour it on the sacrifice which was being consumed by fire. What happened? It would go up in steam and disappear. … [Paul] wanted his life to be a drink offering—just poured out to go up in steam. He wanted to be so consumed and obscured that all that is seen is just Jesus Christ. He wanted Christ to receive all the honor and glory” (McGee 307).

    Paul was not so concerned with his release that he asked them to constantly pray for him to be freed and not harmed. Instead, he was willing to give his life for the Lord.

    He wanted them to rejoice (18).

    It is hard to rejoice when going through difficult times. The death of a loved one is hard to take. In Paul’s situation, he thought that he was drawing near to the end. His life could be taken by the Roman government at any time. But if so, he wanted the Philippian church to rejoice, not that he was killed, but that his life had been used by God for the furtherance of the gospel and the spiritual edification of the churches.

  2. Timothy (Phil. 2:19-24)

    a. Who was he?

    Read Acts 16:1-5. In these verses, we see that Timothy was someone in whose life God had already been working before he met Paul. But after they met, he became an important part of the missionary team and later pastored several different churches. If you want to learn more about Timothy, read through Paul’s letters to him in 1-2 Timothy. They give an insight into his life, ministry, and specific needs.

    b. What do we learn about him here?

    Timothy was going to be sent to check on their spiritual welfare (19).

    There have been times when I have had to ask the police to do a “welfare check” on an employee when I couldn’t reach them by phone. This is a service provided by the police to make sure that someone is not sick or hurt. It has proven to be a valuable tool to someone who has employees working in multiple states.

    Paul sent Timothy to do a spiritual welfare check on the church at Philippi.

    “The concern Paul demonstrated in sending Timothy was an example for the Philippians and all believers to follow. Not only did Paul give them the gospel and lead them to Christ, but he also wanted to be sure they were growing spiritually. His genuine interest in them continued” (Lightner 657).

    Timothy would care for them (20-21).

    But Paul didn’t just want to know how they were doing. He wanted to send someone who would care for them and help them with their walk with the Lord. “Paul had no one else in Rome who was like him. Timothy’s interest in their welfare was unexcelled. He was an excellent example of one who was selfless, more concerned about others than himself” (Lightner 657). Timothy, unlike many others, would care for their souls.

    Timothy had good character (22-24).

    “The Philippians knew Timothy, so they knew that what the apostle said about him was true. From the start, when he worked with Paul in Philippi, Timothy was faithful (cf. Acts 16)” (Lightner 657). As Timothy worked with Paul, the two became a great team. It was like a father and son working together.

    But notice something in verses 23-24. Paul had not yet sent Timothy. His desire was to send Timothy soon, but he seemed to be waiting on something to happen before doing so. Perhaps he was waiting for his legal matters to be concluded because he mentioned that he was trusting the Lord to send him shortly.

    While Paul waited on sending Timothy, he chose to send another man to minister to them right away.

  3. Epaphroditus (Phil. 2:25-30)

    a. Who was he?

    From the verses we have read, it seems that Epaphroditus was a member of the church at Philippi. McGee says that he was “the pastor of the church in Philippi” (308). Whatever the case, he seemed to be a ministry-minded individual who had gone to Rome to minister to Paul’s needs while he was under house arrest.

    “It is uncertain whether Epaphroditus was still with Paul at Rome when Paul wrote Philippians or whether Epaphroditus had already left to return to Philippi. Traditionally Epaphroditus has been viewed as the bearer of this letter to the Philippians. He is mentioned only here and in 4:18” (Lightner 657).

    Philippians 4:18 – “Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.”

    Epaphroditus was someone sent by the church at Philippi to be a blessing to Paul. That mission had been fulfilled.

    b. What do we learn about him here?

    Epaphroditus was being sent back to them (25).

    It seems that Timothy was not available to be sent at the moment, so Paul decided to send Epaphroditus back to Philippi to minister to them. This was a selfless action because Paul considered Epaphroditus to be a brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, messenger, and minister. In other words, Epaphroditus was a big help to Paul while he was imprisoned. But Paul saw the need to send him back to Philippi for the good of the people in the church there.

    Epaphroditus had been very sick (26-27).

    “Whatever illness Epaphroditus suffered was serious because he almost died (Phil. 2:27, 30). There is no indication that Paul had the ability to heal him or that he tried to do so. Neither is there any hint that Epaphroditus was sick because of being out of God’s will” (Lightner 658).

    Why didn’t Paul heal him? “He was so sick he almost died! … Paul and the other apostles had ‘sign gifts’ because they did not have what we have today, a New Testament. … When he went into a new territory with his message, what was his authority? He had no authority except sign gifts, which included the gift of healing” (McGee 309). So Paul did not have the ability to heal all people at any time; it was limited to being used as a sign when he was presenting the gospel in new territories.

    News of Ephaphroditus’ sickness got back to the church in Philippi and they were concerned. But when Epaphroditus heard that they were concerned for him, he felt worse! This is the sign of a true minister. He was someone more concerned about the needs of others than his own.

    Paul “loved and needed Epaphroditus, so Epaphroditus’ death would have brought Paul additional heaviness” (Lightner 658). The church at Philippi also loved him and would have been greatly affected by his death. Thankfully, God spared his life and allowed him to recover from this sickness.

    Epaphroditus was an example to them (28-30).

    Paul sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi to be an encouragement to those who had been praying for him while sick. His return to his home church would have been a time of rejoicing. But Paul had one more thing to say about him.

    They were to hold him in high esteem for what he had done for the apostle Paul. He willingly faced the possibility of death to be a blessing to Paul. And his time with Paul had been an encouragement to him.


This passage has two applications.

  1. We need to recognize the godly examples God has placed in our lives.

    Over the years, each of us has had a number of people who have been a spiritual example to us. It may have been a Christian in the church, a pastor or his wife, a missionary, or someone in your own family. As you look back on these examples to you, thank God for how He used that person in your life.
  2. We need to seek to be a godly example ourselves.

Tonight, we have seen the examples of Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus. They each were an example to the church at Philippi. But who will be godly examples in our church? Who will be a godly example in your home? The only person you have control over is yourself. Will you choose to be an example of a godly person to those around you?


Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, pp. 656-658.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, pp. 307-10.