Philippians 1

Introduction

"Written to: The church at Philippi in Macedonia, probably the first branch established in Europe. (See Acts 16.)

"Author: The apostle Paul.

"Where written: Traditionally from Rome (Philip. 1:13, Philip. 4:22), where Paul was held prisoner awaiting trial 'in my bonds' (Philip. 1:7, 13, 16).

"When written: Apparently near the end of Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, about A.D. 61-62.

"Purpose of the letter:

"The Philippian saints had sent Epaphroditus to Rome to take gifts to Paul (Philip. 4:18) and to minister to his needs (Philip. 2:25). Paul sensed the longing of Epaphroditus to return home after a near-fatal illness and decided to send him back. This decision furnished an occasion for the letter.

"Unlike most of Paul's other epistles, this one did not seem to be prompted by major doctrinal squabbles or moral difficulties among the saints, but was rather 'a letter of friendship, full of affection, confidence, good counsel and good cheer. It is the happiest of St. Paul's writings, for the Philippians were the dearest of his children in the faith.' (J. R. Dummelow, The One Volume Bible Commentary, New York: MacMillan Co., 1936, p. 969.)" (J. Lewis Taylor, "New Testament Backgrounds: Philippians," Ensign, Mar. 1976, 38)

Philip 1:1 to all the saints... with the bishops and deacons

With all the offices of the priesthood, why would Paul refer only to the Bishops and Deacons? While we often describe the organization of the latter-day Church as based on the pattern of the meridian Church (A of F 1:6), the early Church was not as well organized as it is today. The Joseph Smith's revelations regarding church government are actually much more complete and perfected than what was revealed to the meridian saints. With small congregations, large organizational structures were not necessary, and early church government was composed primarily of three offices: bishops, elders or presbyters, and deacons. In particular, deacons took direction from the bishop attending to more temporal tasks. While the deacons tended to be younger (the word origin of deacon actually means young just like elder means old), many of them were old enough to be married with families (1 Tim. 3:8-13). Hence, in this verse, Paul refers to three main groups of members among the Philippians: "the saints... the bishops and deacons."

"For, in this century and the next (1st and 2nd centuries), a bishop had charge of a single church, which might ordinarily be contained in a private house; nor was he its lord, but was in reality its minister or servant; he instructed the people, conducted all parts of public worship, and attended on the sick and the necessitous in person; and what he was unable thus to perform, he committed to the care of the presbyters...

"The form of church government which began to exist in the preceding (or first) century, was in this (the second century) more carefully established and confirmed in all its parts. One president or bishop presided over each church. He was created by the common suffrage of the whole people. With the presbyters for his council, whose number was not fixed, it was his business to watch over the interests of the whole church, and to assign to each presbyter his station. Subject to the bishop and the presbyters, were the servants or deacons who were divided into certain classes, because all the duties which the interests of the church required, could not well be attended to by them all." (John Lawrence von Mosheim, Mosheim's Ecclesiastical History, [London: M'Corquodale and Co., 6th ed., 1868] 35, 62)

Philip 1:2-3 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you

Chieko Okazaki

May this be our blessing, too (Philip. 1:2-6)-that as members of families, as circles of friends, and as ward members, we will hold each other in remembrance, and that together we can remember Jesus Christ, our beloved Savior, and the good work he is performing in us. I pray that we will all remember that the Lord is our shepherd, that he loves us, and that we will be good undershepherds, giving love and care to those we come in contact with. I pray that we will have hearts quick to remember and slow to forget, and that as a result of our remembrance we will have hearts filled with gratitude. (Sanctuary [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 127.)

Philip 1:4-8 Always in every prayer of mine... I have you in my heart... how greatly I long after you

Imprisoned under Roman guard, Paul's affections naturally turned to those he had brought into the faith. Amongst his successes, the Philippian branch had been particularly faithful-perhaps the most faithful. They had been a financial support when other branches were lacking (Philip. 4:15, 2 Cor. 11:7-9). The women of Philippi had been a particular strength. Lydia was "a seller of purple," originally from Thyatira. She gladly received Paul and his companions, bringing them into her house and caring for them both before and after their tortured imprisonment in Philippi (Acts 16:14-40). The Philippian saints had been faithful to Paul and the gospel "from the first day until now." Such loyalty gave the Philippians a special place in Paul's heart.

"Moreover, the quality of the members there rises above that of all other known branches. Paul's warm feelings are expressed at the beginning of the final chapter, where he calls the Philippians 'my joy and crown' (Philip. 4:1), terms not used elsewhere. Appreciation to the strong women of that branch is evident as he asks for harmony between Euodia and Syntyche and mentions 'those women which laboured with me in the gospel' (Philip. 4:3)... Here is another unique compliment to the Philippians... They are told that they 'have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence' (Philip. 2:12). What other letter to a church made such a statement? Paul could not say anything like that to the Corinthians or Galatians, so the Philippians stand at the high end of the spectrum of faithfulness. What Paul would teach them is most revealing on the subject of how exaltation is obtained." (Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 292-293)

Philip 1:10 approve things that are excellent

Bruce R. McConkie

"The gospel embraces all truth. Every good thing comes from God. If the world has any edifying principle, any sound practice, any true doctrine, it is automatically accepted by the true Church. Converts to the Church never forsake anything they believe which is good and true; they simply gain the added light and knowledge which God has given by revelation to his servants the prophets. Thus we find Joseph Smith, building upon the concept here given by Paul, saying... "If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things." (Thirteenth Article of Faith.)." (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2:543)

Philip 1:12-18 the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel

Paul had been imprisoned in part to shut him up, to stop his preaching of the gospel. The adversary's attempt to forestall the growth of the Church would not bring the desired result. Rather, Paul's imprisonment would have other unintended effects. Paul's witness of Christ would be manifest in the governmental center of the Roman Empire. His example would strengthen other brethren to be bolder amidst rising opposition. The controversy of Christianity, indeed, would spread the message one way or the other-with good publicity or with bad.

We see a similar pattern in our dispensation. While the apostates cry foul, the church moves steadily forward. While Satan wins a battle here and there, the overall effect is that the kingdom rolls down the mountain picking up speed with every revolution.

Samuel O. Bennion

Brigham Young once said-so I am informed-that you cannot hurt Mormonism it is like a rubber ball: every time you kick it the farther it goes. It is my experience, and is history, that where men persecute the church, or the principles of it, and those who preside in Israel, they often make friends for the Latter-day Saints. (Conference Report, April 1913, Second Day-Morning Session 31.)

Joseph Smith

When men open their lips against these truths they do not injure me, but injure themselves. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 373)

Philip 1:13 my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace

"By appealing his rights of Roman citizenship, Paul had been brought to Rome to stand trial before Nero's court. There in a hired residence near the Imperial Palace on the Palatine hill, and for two whole years, Paul was confined to house arrest. Whatever motives his enemies had in pressing for the delay of his trial, or if legitimate purposes may account for the wait, Paul used those years to build in Rome the cause of the Master. He was guarded day and night by a sequence of soldiers, many of whom, together with others from the royal household, became convinced by the steady faith and persuasions of Paul that Jesus was indeed the Lord and Redeemer whom they should serve. His preaching in those years was incessant, and his letters to the church never tired." (Institute Manual, The Life and Teachings of Jesus & his Apostles, 2nd ed., p. 359)

"At the time when Paul penned these epistles he had been teaching the great truths of the gospel in Rome for certainly over a year, and was, therefore, doubtless in a position to realize some of the results of his labors; and it must have been with a considerable degree of satisfaction that he was able to write, 'So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places.' (Philip. 1: 13). 'All the Saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.' (Philip. 4: 22). And thus while the great preacher was himself fettered and circumscribed in his movements, the word of God was not bound, but circulated freely, accomplishing the purposes of the Almighty, and penetrating into the very threshold of the Csar." (Col. R. M. Bryce Thomas , "The Closing Years of St. Paul's Life in Rome." Improvement Era, 1907. Vol. X. August, 1907, No 10)

Philip 1:20 in nothing I shall be ashamed...with all boldness... Christ shall be magnified

You would think after a few beatings or stonings that Paul would be more circumspect in his teachings. Perhaps he could display a more reconciliatory tone. Perhaps he would tone down his message a little if more suffering seemed imminent. However, the greatness of Paul's spirit is that he would not hold anything back. It didn't matter what he had suffered already. It didn't matter that he was in prison. It didn't matter that he might soon be killed for the cause. In spite of all he had been through, he would still preach Christ with all the boldness of his younger days.

See also commentary for Romans 1:16.

Philip 1:23 I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ

Spencer W. Kimball

The meaning of death has not changed... But to those who have knowledge and faith in the promise of the gospel of Jesus Christ, death's meaning is also... a change of condition into a wider, serener sphere of action; it means the beginning of eternal life, a never-ending existence. It means the continuation of family life, the reuniting of family groups, the perpetuation of friendships, relationships, and associations.

Paul, approaching his death, said, "For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you." (Philippians 1:23-24.)

Sometimes we think of death as a great calamity, but death is a blessing; it never comes when we want it or how we want it, but ... Paul wasn't thinking of it as a calamity. (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, edited by Edward L. Kimball [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982], 39-40.)

Philip 1:27 let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ

Gordon B. Hinckley

"Let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." That is a tremendously compelling injunction given to each of us. I recommend those words as a personal motto. May I suggest that you type or write them and put them on the mirror before you so that each day you might be reminded of them. They could become a powerful motivator in restraining from anger, in thinking better thoughts, in speaking more elevating language. ("If Thou Art Faithful," Ensign, Nov. 1984, 90)

Philip 1:27 stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel

Russell M. Ballard

"Be of one mind," the Apostle Paul urged early Christian leaders in Corinth (2 Corinthians 13:11). And to the Saints at Philippi he wrote, "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ . . . that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Philippians 1:27). Through the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord counseled his latter-day followers to "be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27). In every council of the Church, but especially in stakes and wards, this divine counsel is profoundly important. If we are one in purpose, spirit, principle, and faith, then it doesn't really matter if we are always of the same opinion. Opinions change and can be easily altered by time, experience, and circumstance. But principles, purposes, spirituality, and faith are enduring values that can bind us as one despite disagreement or dispute. (Counseling with Our Councils: Learning to Minister Together in the Church and in the Family [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1997], 63 - 64.)

Richard G. Scott

Satan would segregate Father's children into groups with strongly held individual interests. He would encourage a tenacious preservation of those interests regardless of the consequences to others. Father's plan is expressed in His Son's words, "Behold, ... I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine" (D&C 38:27). ("Removing Barriers to Happiness," Ensign, May 1998, 86)

Gordon B. Hinckley

This great unity is the hallmark of the true church of Christ. It is felt among our people throughout the world. As we are one, we are his... We pray for our prophet dear, whom we love and honor. We pray for one another that we may go on in unity and strength. If we do so, no power beneath the heavens can stop the onward progress of this great kingdom. ("Except Ye Are One," Ensign, Nov. 1983, 5)