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GIVING OF THANKS (Phil. 1:3-8)

Lesson Three

Victor M. Eskew




A.   Paul follows a common pattern of writing in this section of his epistle to the Philippians.

1.     Thanksgiving

2.     God is petitioned regularly.

3.     The reason for the petition


B.    “It is noteworthy that Paul emphasizes the spiritual aspects of his readers’ welfare instead of their physical health” (Stewart, 144).


C.   This section can be divided into three parts.

1.     Appreciation (Phil. 1:3-5)

2.     Assurance (Phil. 1:6)

3.     Association (Phil. 1:7-8)


D.   Some refer to this section as an “exordium.”

1.     Definition:  introduction

2.     Witherington:  “The exordium in deliberative Greco-Roman rhetoric serves the purpose of setting forth or alluding in advance to the subjects to be advanced in the discourse, thus expressing some of the reasons for writing and speaking” (as quoted by Stewart, 145).


I.           APPRECIATION (Phil. 1:3-5)


I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for you fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.


A.   It was Paul’s custom to begin his letter with thanksgiving.  All of his letters begin with gratitude except Galatians, I Timothy, and Titus.


B.    The term for “thank” in the Greek is “eucharisteo.”

1.     It is the term from which the word “Eucharist” comes.

2.     “Paul employs eucharisteo in the opening of his letters to show appreciation to God for His work in the lives of Christians, helping them to develop in their spiritual maturity” (Stewart, 147).


C.   Paul said:  “I thank MY God…”

1.     This indicates the personal nature of Paul’s relationship to God.

2.     Acts 27:23


For there stood By me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve.

3.     Harrell:  “…God is Paul’s precisely because Paul is God’s…” (as quoted by Smith, 148).


D.   This church was constantly in the mind of the apostle.  His remembrances of them caused him to offer up prayers of thanksgiving to God.


E.    Verses 3 and 4 form a parallelism.

1.     Definition:  the repetition of the same thought in two different sentences

2.     Verse 4 expresses the same thought as that found in verse 3.


Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy.


a.     Prayer

1)     Definition:  intercession or supplication

2)     Paul’s prayer was one of the evidences of his “care for all the churches” (II Cor. 11:28).

b.    His prayers involved the whole church, not just a select part.  “From the beginning of the letter, Paul is trying to bring the Philippian church to-gether as one body” (Stewart, 149).

3.     His prayers for the Philippians were filled with joy.

a.     He remembered their conversion.

b.    He remembered their hospitality.

c.    He remembered their previous gifts.

d.    He recalled their steadfastness to the truth.


F.     In verse 5, he notes the exact reason for his thanksgiving and joy.


For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.


1.     Fellowship: 

a.     Definition:  sharing in common, partnership, communion, joint participation

b.    Through their giving the Philippians were partakers in Paul’s proclama-tion of the gospel.  Even when they could not physically go to teach others, they still could be participants.

c.    NOTE:  This seems to be a specific “avenue” of fellowship.

1)     One can participate in the sufferings of Christ (Phil. 3:10).

2)     In the Lord’s Supper, there is a communion, a participation in the body and blood of Christ (I Cor. 10:16).

2.     They had been in this fellowship with Paul from the first day until the present time.

a.     For more than a decade (A.D. 49-62) the Philippians had assisted Paul’s missionary efforts.

b.    They had sent help numerous times:

1)     Thessalonica (Phil. 4:15)

2)     Corinth (Acts 18:5; II Cor. 11:9)

3)     The third missionary journey (II Cor. 8:1-5; Rom. 15:25-28)

4)     Presently in Rome (Phil. 4:10, 14)

II.         THE ASSURANCE (Phil. 1:6)


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.


A.   Two things happen in this verse:

1.     Paul moves from past service to future service.

2.     He also shifts from the work the Philippians did to the one behind this working.


B.    NOTE:  The Christian life has two elements that must always be at work:  the human element and the divine element.


C.   Paul states that he is “confident” God will complete the good work He began in the Philippians.

1.     Confident

a.     Strong:  to rely (by inward certainty)

b.    Thayer:  to be persuaded of a thing by a person

2.     God had begun a good work in these Christians.  How did He do this?

a.     His grace and love

b.    The sacrifice of Jesus

c.    The message and power of the Gospel

d.    The sending out of the apostles

e.     All of this happened when Paul first went to Phillipi and preached the good news to them and they believed and obeyed.

3.     Paul was confident that God would finish the work that He has started in them.

a.     “The Lord is committed to helping Christians throughout their spiritual journey” (Stewart, 155).

b.    He will always do His part!

c.    His grace provides spiritual power and motivation for the good works of the believer (II Cor. 9:8; Gal. 6:10; Eph. 2:8-10; Col. 1:9-10; II Thess. 2:16-17; II Tim. 2:21; 3:16-17; Tit. 3:1; Heb. 13:20-21).

d.    This thought ought to encourage us to do our part in the salvation process (See Acts 2:40).


D.   The work that God begins and finishes is “good” work.

1.     This work involves the sanctification of the individual.

2.     It also involves all of the good works that the child of God performs in this world.


E.    God will continue His work “until the day of Jesus Christ.”

1.     “The day” is the Second Coming and Judgment Day.

a.     It is a definite day that will come in the future.

b.    Only God knows when that day will come (Matt. 24:36).


But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels in heaven, but my Father only.


2.     Muller:  “The ‘good work’ in them will reach its culmination and perfection on the day of the death of the believers and their departure from this world, but at ‘the day of Christ’…” (as quoted by Stewart, 155).

3.     Illustration:  The Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30)

a.     Who gave the talents to the servants?  The lord

b.    Who choose to either use the talents or not?  The servants

c.    The reward was given to the faithful when the lord returned (Matt. 25:21, 23).


His lord said unto him, Well done thou good and faithful servant:  thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things:  enter thou into the joy of thy lord.


F.     IMPORTANT REMINDER:  “God’s working does not leave His servants passive; it does not remove the need for one’s faithful obedience and patient endurance” (Stewart, 155).


G.   False Doctrine Refuted:  Some use this verse to teach “once-saved, always saved.”  ANSWER:  Those who use this verse forget there is also a human responsibility in the salvation process.

1.     Let’s go back to the Parable of the Talents.

2.     There were three “servants” of the lord.  One was given only one talent.

3.     The one talent man did not use his talent (Matt. 25:24-25).

4.     He was not given just a lesser reward.  He was cast into outer darkness:  there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30).


III.       THE ASSOCIATION (Phil. 1:7-8)


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.  For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.


A.   Paul’s Rationale (Phil. 1:7)


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.


1.     Paul was assured that God would complete His work in the Philippians because he had a special relationship with this church.  This relationship is centered deep within the apostle’s heart.

2.     He says that “it is meet for me to think this of you all…”

a.     Meet

1)     Strong (1342):  equitable, just, right

2)     Thayer:  righteous, passing just judgment on others

b.    Think

1)     Strong (5426):  to exercise the mind, entertain or have a sentiment or opinion; by implication to be (mentally) disposed (more or less earnestly in a certain direction).

2)     Thayer: to feel, to think, to judge

3)     Some translations render the term “feel.”  Paul had exercised his mind about this congregation often and his conclusions led him to certain “feelings” about them.

3.     His thinking often centered on the fact that they had been regular support-ers of him in his bonds and in his defence and confirmation of the gospel.

a.     In his bonds

1)     The word “bonds” literally means “chains.”

2)     “Warsink:  “Imprisonment so frequently involved being placed in chains that synecdoche was employed in texts, with the Greek and Latin words for ‘chains’ often interchangeably used for ‘prison’” (as quoted by Stewart, 157).

3)     Acts 28:20 confirms that Paul was in chains when he was writing to the Philippians.


For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you, and to speak with you:  because that for the hope of Israel I am bound in this chain.


a)     Paul was most likely chained to a Roman soldier.

b)     Rapske:  “Prisoners and their guards were often manacled together.  The usual practice was for the prisoner to be chained by his right wrist to the soldier’s left, thus giving the latter the advantage should force be required to either subdue or protect the prisoner” (as quoted by Stewart, 158).

c)     Bonds brought

-        Physical pain

-        Shame, disgrace, and humiliation

b.    The defence and confirmation of the gospel

1)     Defence

a)     The word denotes explaining the truth of the matter through sound logic.

b)     In this Paul would use his own testimony and the Old Testament Scriptures.

c)     All of are supposed to be able to do this (I Pet. 3:15).


But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts:  and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.


2)     Confirmation

a)     This would guarantee the truthfulness of the matter.

b)     This was done through the miraculous signs given to Paul as an apostle of Jesus Christ (Mark 16:20; Heb. 2:3-4).


And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them, confirming the word with signs following.


c.    In their support of him they became “partakers” of Paul’s grace.

1)     The word “partakers” is a form of the word “koinonea” which means “fellowship.”

a)     They were not just spectators of Paul’s efforts.

b)     They were not just people who offered up prayers for the apostle.

c)     They were “partakers.”  (Ex., a woman cleaning the house who longs for others to be a partaker in her labors with her).

2)     Paul’s grace

a)     Here, Paul’s ministry is referred to as “grace.”

-        Divine favor had been bestowed upon Paul in allowing him to be the preacher to the Gentiles (Gal. 2:7-9).

-        His forgiveness and his position were directly related to the grace of God (I Tim. 1:12, 14).


And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry…And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.


b)     The afflictions and successes Paul had in preaching the gospel were also credited to the Philippians because they enabled him to do what he did through their support.

4.     Their support caused Paul to have them in his heart.

a.     The word “heart” can include at least three aspects:

1)     Rational functions such as thinking, reflecting, and understanding

2)     Feelings and emotions

3)     The volition or will to act

b.    “When Paul says that he has the Philippians in his heart, he is referring to both the way he thinks and feels about them.  Although separated by hundreds of miles, Paul was joined together with the Philippians in spirit” (Stewart, 157).


B.    Paul’s record (Phil. 1:8)


For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.


1.     Paul calls God as his record.

a.     Defintion:

1)     Strong (3144):  a witness

2)     Thayer:  a witness in a legal sense

3)     One called upon to testify on behalf of another.

b.    Keener:  “Ancients commonly called on a deity as a witness, assuming the deity’s knowledge; to lie under such conditions was to invite the deity’s wrath” (as quoted by Stewart, 162).

c.    Paul used this device to confirm the truth of his love for the Philippians and to end all disputes.

2.     How greatly I long for you.

a.     Long

1)     Strong (1971):  to yearn, intensively crave

2)     Thayer:  to long for, desire, to pursue with love, to long after

3)     This is the same word translated “desire” in I Peter 2:2.

b.    Paul longed to be with “all” the saints in Philippi.

3.     In the bowels of Jesus Christ

a.     Bowels

1)     Strong (4698):  an intestine, figuratively pity or sympathy  :- bowels, inward affection, +tender mercy

2)     Thayer:  bowels, intestines…The bowels were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews the seat of the tenderer affections, especially kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence our heart (tender mercies, affections, etc.)

3)     “This phrasing reflects the current psychology of that day.  In the times when the New Testament was written, the psychology of the day felt that the emotions were grounded in the visceral organs” (Gutzke, 23).

b.    Of Jesus Christ

1)     Paul loved them with the love of the Lord.

2)     “The sacrificial love that Christ poured out on the cross was imitated by Paul in his sacrificial love for the Philippians” (Stewart, 163).