Faith In Prayers
Philippians Lesson 1
CENTRAL THEME: FAITH FOUND IN PRAYER
INTRODUCTION: Friends who will pray for us are treasured. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN THROUGH AN ORDEAL BUT YOU KNEW PEOPLE WERE PRAYING FOR YOU? There is a spiritual connection that occurs between a praying friend and those who receive the grace of God because someone is interceding for you. HOW DO THE PRAYERS OF OTHERS IMPACT YOUR SPIRITUAL LIFE? Well, often they encourage us, give us direction, challenge us, and create an unbreakable bond as we accept the support and love of another person. Paul had forged a special relationship with the believers in Philippi and that relationship grew through genuine prayer that focused on continued spiritual growth.
HOW DOES PRAYING WITH A PERSON BUILD OR STRENGTHEN A RELATIONSHIP? SHOULD PRAYER BE A PART OF EVERY HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP?
UNDERSTAND THE CONTEXT
Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is commonly considered his most personal epistle, written to a church for which he had affectionate memories and a warm attachment. The message of Paul to this Church is best understood in the context of how this congregation came into existence. Circa 51 AD, Paul obeyed a vision from God when a man from Macedonia appealed to the Apostle to leave Asia Minor and make this foray into Europe. The missionary team included Paul, Timothy, Silas, and Luke. The beachhead for this western advancement of the Gospel was the city of Philippi where the first Church in Europe was established. Paul wrote this letter to his dear friends primarily to thank them for their prayers and their financial support (Phil. 4:10-20). Prior to sharing his appreciation, Paul updated the Church at Philippi about his circumstances, warned them about false teachers, and admonished them to maintain harmony in their fellowship.
Paul opens the letter with his somewhat standard salutation (1:1-2) In so doing, he named himself as the writer and stated that Timothy was right there with him. In his greeting, Paul first mentions the “saints” within the Church, and then he made particular mention of the “bishops” (i.e., Pastors or Elders – all synonymous terms for the overseers of the local church), and the “deacons” (vs. 1). This speaks to the close and intimate relationship Paul felt for these believers. As was his normal pattern Paul also shared his heartfelt expression of thanksgiving for the Philippian Church (1:3-8). He goes on in the paragraph to assure his friends of his intense love for them, as well as his deep appreciation for their help during a time of imprisonment. As Paul did in his Letter to the Colossians, he enlarged his opening sentiments with a prayer of intercession following his expression of gratitude for his readers (1:9-11). He prayed for their spiritual growth, their abounding love, and their sincere service until Jesus came back. All of these acts of righteousness were to be done to “the glory and praise of God.” (vs. 11).
EXPLORE THE TEXT: PHILIPPIANS 1:1-11
Objective Statement: Every believer should recognize the joy of praying because of the three results of faith considered in our text.
RESULT #1 – SHARED FAITH (PHIL. 1:1-2)
1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: 2 Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.
The first two verses of the letter follow the usual pattern for the opening of a polite letter in that era. Naming himself as the writer, Paul also included Timotheus (or Timothy) by name. Given Timothy’s prior history with the Philippian church and the fact that Timothy was with Paul at the time of writing, he included Timothy in his greeting – not as a co-author of the letter but as a trusted colleague and fellow servant in the ministry of the gospel, one who had a positive history with the Philippian church. The singular pronouns that follow in verses 3-4 point to Paul alone as the writer.
Noteworthy also is what Paul omitted. He did not refer to himself as an Apostle, something he did mention in all but four of the epistles that bear his name, three of which were sent to churches in Macedonia. The significance of this silence suggests Paul was already known and trusted by the Philippian believers as a genuine Apostle. He didn’t need to defend himself and his authority was unquestioned by this Church at Philippi. SO WHAT TERM DID PAUL CHOOSE TO IDENTIFY HIMSELF AND TIMOTHY? WHY? Identifying himself as a “servant” emphasized his willingness to be humble and submissive to Jesus. There was a dependence upon the Lord. Paul and Timothy addressed these friends as lowly servants for Christ, rather than emphasize their apostleship. Paul will exhort the Philippian Christians to also maintain a spirit of humility, following Jesus’ example (2:5-9).
Paul wrote this letter to “all the saints in Christ Jesus.” The significance of such a designation is not on the excellence of character, although Christlike character should be the aim of every believer. The root word for “saints” is “people set apart,” or those dedicated to God and thus set apart for His service. Properly understood, “saints” is a biblical way of referring to the people of God. All true believers are saints; not just those who have been canonized for their supposed good works. In vs. 1, Paul also addressed the recipients of his correspondence as to the “bishops and deacons.” The two, official, offices of the local church are the Pastor (another name for bishop, or overseer), and deacons. Paul singles out the leaders of the local church as being instrumental in the success of his ministry to the rest of Macedonia. Had the leaders and the “saints” in the church not been faithful to the Gospel, Paul acknowledges that his efforts would have suffered. He goes on to declare a blessing of “grace” and “peace” upon the believers of this wonderful Church (vs. 2). Where did Grace and Peace come from according to Paul? Well, it came “from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.” Indeed, they are the source of all such blessings and gifts that are imparted to His children. God’s unmerited favor and His unparalleled, calm, assurance are directly from our Heavenly Father, through the love of Jesus.
CAN YOU RECALL A TIME WHEN YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES WERE TROUBLESOME, BUT AMID THOSE CHALLENGES YOU STILL EXPERIENCED AN INWARD PEACE?
RESULT #2 – THANKFUL FAITH (PHIL. 1:3-8)
3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4 Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, 5 For your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now;
After the standard opening of the letter, Paul expressed his personal gratitude to God for his friends in Philippi. Every “remembrance” of them prompted the Apostle to uphold them in prayer “with joy.” You know, that’s a great way to encourage someone who you know needs prayers. Tell them, “I promise, every time the Lord prompts me to think about you, I will be sure to pray for you and your special needs.” PAUL HAD MANY FOND MEMORIES OF HIS FRIENDS IN PHILIPPI THAT HE WOULD NEVER FORGET. CAN YOU REMEMBER FROM ACTS 16, SOME OF PAUL’S CONVERTS THAT THE GOSPEL CHANGED? Remember Lydia’s conversion and the other women that were with her? He, no doubt, thought of the young slave woman who was given to fortune-telling by means of an evil spirit until her life, through the Gospel, brought a dramatic change! Could he ever forget the conversion of the Philippian jailer? Of course not! Every “remembrance” of those people brought “joy” to Paul’s heart.
When Paul remembered these individuals and no doubt numerous others to whom he had given witness in Philippi, praying for them was as natural as breathing. Having been instrumental in their salvation through the Gospel, he could never abandon them to their own path. Intercessory prayer was a constant pattern for Paul. To pray for those converts to Christ brought Paul great joy when he remembered all of them in his “every prayer” (vs. 4). Paul was not content to mention the fact of his continual prayers, he went on to explain the reason for his praying. He not only was prompted to intercessory prayer whenever he remembered the Philippians; he also was given to prayer when he considered their “fellowship in the gospel” (vs. 5). That unbroken partnership had begun on the very “first day” and continued for the decade or so that had elapsed from that time to the writing of the letter. The believers’ partnership with Paul began with Lydia’s hospitality (Acts 16:15), as well as that of the jailer and his family (Acts 16:33-34). In the time that followed Paul’s departure from Philippi, those faithful believers had sent gifts to him multiple times at Thessalonica (Phil. 4:16), and at Corinth (2 Cor. 11:9), as well as the most recent offering they sent to him by the hand of Epaphroditus (Phil. 4:18).
6 Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: 7 Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace. 8 For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.
Paul knew the heart of these Philippian believers to assist him in his missionary endeavors to share the Gospel. Paul was sure of their genuineness and that “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it” (vs. 6). Paul’s certainty was anchored in God’s faithfulness and ability to complete in their sanctification what He had begun in them at their conversion. As these Christians grew in Christlikeness, they were to keep being faithful until Christ’s return, which Paul expressed as “the day of Jesus Christ” (vs. 6). Paul articulates an important principle of giving when he makes the assertion “ye all are partakers of my grace” (vs. 7). This declaration states that the faithfulness of the Philippians resulted in every victory Paul experienced and it was really fruit that was to their account. Because the Philippians had joined Paul in his missionary endeavors, all his blessings, by the hand of God, were shared with his co-laborers in the ministry. Even when Paul experienced hardship and imprisonment, they steadfastly supported him in his “bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the Gospel” (vs. 7). The Philippians did not shrink from their care and support of Paul whether his ministry was establishing and defending the Gospel in the population centers or spreading that same Gospel in the confines of a prison. Paul so loved these friends in Philippi, he wanted them to know, “For God as my record,” he was ready to invoke the witness of God to his sincerity. He so desired to see them again he said, “how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ” (vs. 8). Paul’s love for them was best expressed as a visceral, reaction, deep in his emotions and it was rooted in the very center of Jesus’ love!
AS WE BEGIN OUR MISSION’S MONTH, ISN’T IT FITTING TO SEE THE WITNESS OF THIS GREAT MISSIONARY, WHO IS JOINED SO INTIMATELY WITH THIS MISSION’S CHURCH? tHAT IS WHY CHERRY ST. BAPTIST CHURCH SUPPORTS AND SENDS MISSIONARIES TO SPREAD THE GOSPEL. WE PARTICIPATE IN THE RESULTS OF THEIR EFFORTS AND THE BLESSINGS THEY RECEIVE FROM GOD!
RESULT #3 – GROWING FAITH (PHIL. 1:9-11)
9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment: 10 That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ; 11 Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.
Having assured the Philippian believers of his heartfelt love for them and joyful times of prayer for them, Paul added a summary of what his intercessory prayers contained. At the top of his list was the request of God that their love might “abound yet more and more” (vs. 9). This statement affirmed that Paul knew of their tremendous love for him and he just hoped it would continue to abound more and more. Genuine Christlike love is not shallow sentiment or tolerant indulgence. Paul wanted the love that he made central in his praying for the Philippians to be characterized by “knowledge and . . . judgment” (vs. 9). Knowledge has to do with content, while discernment focuses on the practical application of what is known. True Christian love does not wink at things that are morally questionable or make allowances for immature behavior. While understanding there will be human imperfections, we sincerely desire for those imperfections to lessen, and growth toward Christian maturity to be evident.
So Paul basically summarized the content of his prayers, namely, their growth in love and then he moved on to share his motivations for interceding on their behalf. Paul wanted these Philippian believers to individually and collectively “approve things that are excellent” (vs. 10). In other words, he wanted them to do things that really matter and strive to do them the best way possible. Paul believed that spiritual discernment would ultimately lead to being found “sincere and without offence” until the day Christ returns (vs. 10). We should always strive to be genuine in our internal walk with the Lord, and maintain a testimony to those who are outside the household of faith. We never want people who don’t know the Lord to level an accusation of hypocrisy in our direction. “Genuine growth in Christian love does not occur in the soil of hypocrisy” (Explore the Bible, p. 19). What are the results of us growing in Christian love and having a growing faith? Well, we will be filled “with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ” (vs. 11). We do not produce fruit; we simply bear what Christ produces in us and through us. Jesus, in His well-known analogy of a vine and its branches, made it clear that branches do not produce grapes; they only bear what the vine produces (John 15:4-5). A final thought about growing in faith and love, and all that goes into that growth, is that this whole process is to be “unto the glory and praise of God” (vs. 11c). All spiritual growth comes by means of Jesus who is indwelling us by His Spirit, and the only legitimate exclamation is “to God be the glory; great things He has done.”
WHAT ARE A COUPLE OF THE FACTORS THAT HAVE CONTRIBUTED TO YOUR GROWING FAITH? HOW HAS YOUR INVESTMENT IN THE MISSION’S OUTREACH OF OUR CHURCH GIVEN YOU JOY AS YOU PRAY FOR OUR MISSIONARIES?
Remember our Objective Statement: Every believer should recognize the joy of praying because of the three results of faith considered in our text.
RESULT #1 – SHARED FAITH (PHIL. 1:1-2)
RESULT #2 – THANKFUL FAITH (PHIL. 1:3-8)
RESULT #3 – GROWING FAITH (PHIL. 1:9-11)