2 February 2022
The four letters to the Ephesians, the Philippians, the Colossians, and the Philemon are called prison letters. These are letters written from inside the prison. Written by the apostle Paul, who was put in prison and in distress. Now that we are suffering from the Corona Virus in many ways, I think we can learn from this prison epistle and have a message from God. Not only Paul, who wrote the letter, but also the Philippian church, which was the suffered. Both Paul and the Philippian church were in a difficult situation, but the characteristic of this letter is “joy”. The letter to the Philippians is called the “letter of joy.”
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. （Philippians 1: 1-8)
The Philippian Church was established when the apostle Paul preached the gospel of Jesus Christ on his second missionary trip. It was the first church in Europe. It seems to be around 52 AD. The town of Philippi was a large city in the Macedonian region of Greece. It was a geographically important location on the eastern side of the Aegean Sea, at the junction of Asia and Europe. The town of Philippi was built in 368 BC by King Philip, the father of Alexander the Great. It was named Philippi after Philip.
Evangelism in Philippi appears in Chapter 16 of the Acts. A woman named Lydia opened her heart to what Paul said and believed in Jesus Christ that Paul preached. Not only her but her family believed in Jesus and was baptized. After that, there was a woman who was obsessed with the spirit of fortune-telling, but when Paul prayed to leave in the name of Jesus Christ, she was freed from evil spirits. However, Paul and Silas were put in prison because of the antipathy of those who had made her fortune-telling. However, at midnight, when they were praying and singing a song of praise, a big earthquake suddenly occurred. The earthquake emptied all the doors of the prison and broke everyone’s chains. The awakened guard thinks that the prisoners have escaped because the doors of the prison are empty, and tries to commit suicide by pulling out his sword, thinking that this has become a serious problem. But Paul stopped his suicide by saying, “Don’t harm yourself. We are all here.”
The guards are moved and ask the two, “Teachers, what must I do to be saved?” This is one of the famous words in the New Testament, but Paul and Silas replied, ” Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you and your family will be saved ” (Acts 16:31). He and his entire family believed in Jesus and were baptized. That is how the Philippian church is born. That is recorded in chapter 16 of Acts. Therefore, when looking at Paul’s epistles, Acts becomes a very important reference material.
Paul left the town of Philippi and set out on a missionary trip, but the fellowship between Paul and the Philippian church continued. Paul has since visited the Philippian church a few times. There are various opinions about this letter to the Philippians around 61,62 AD, about 10 years after that time, it is said that it was written from a Roman prison. Many people left Paul as he entered prison, but it was the Philippian Church that still loved Paul, prayed for him, and actually sent donations to support him.
The apostle Paul evangelized all over the world and pioneered churches here and there. Many churches were worried by Paul, but the Philippian church was a church that encouraged Paul.
The ruins of a prison that Paul was imprisoned
Let’s take a look at today’s passage.
Paul wrote the names of his fellow workers, Timothy, in addition to himself (verse 1). If we read Chapter 16 of Acts, we can see that Timothy and Luke were also on a missionary trip with Paul Silas. Timothy was a well-known person in the Philippian church who cooperated with Paul’s Philippian mission. It was the saints of the Philippian church who received the letter. This is not a human saint. The people of the Philippian church, and we are sinners, are sanctified by God’s one-sided grace and mercy. A saint is not, therefore, a holy and righteous person in the human sense, but a person who is forgiven of their sins and made holy before God by believing in Jesus Christ. It was Christ Jesus that linked Paul and the Philippian church (verse 1). It was Jesus, the Savior, who connected the two, beyond human intimacy and ties.
Paul is praying for the Philippian church. May grace and peace be upon you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (verse 2) . The people of the Philippian church would have been worried because of the persecution. Today is also an era of anxiety, but the high priest Jesus is praying in heaven for peace, and various people are praying for us.
We used to be sinners and opponents of God, but now we are repenting of our sins, receiving forgiveness, reconciling with God, and being given peace with God. God’s peace is given to one’s heart. Not only that, we are called and chosen as peacemakers. The God we believe in is Yahweh Shalom (Lord of Peace). This peace is the peace given through Jesus Christ.
Paul wrote in verse three that he thanked “my God . ” This is important. It means that the existence of God is “my God” and “my personal God”. The expressions world God, Japanese God, church God, family God, and our God are important, but the belief that God is our own God, “my God” is very important.
Paul was praying for the pioneered churches, but also for the Philippian church. How did Paul pray? He prayed with gratitude and joy (verse 3, 4). We are prayed by some churches and pray for some churches. What connects us, unites us, is more than a human bond. It is Jesus Christ. So, like Paul, we thank God and thank the people.
Oratory commemorating Rudea
Paul looks to the past, present and future of the Philippian church. Thank you for your participation in spreading the gospel from the first day to the present day (verse 5). Paul is grateful that Paul and his friends went on a mission to the city of Philippi, met them, and from the birth of the Philippian Church to the present day, they have faithfully continued their work to this day. Paul looks back on the past and gives thanks and is grateful when he sees the present.
The Philippian Church has been cooperating with Paul’s work from the beginning. They helped Paul financially as well. Those who have started good work (evangelism work, salvation work) ,Jesus Christ will complete this work by the time of the day of Christ Jesus, that is, at the end of the world. Paul believed and was convinced. I firmly believe that those who have begun good work in you will complete it by the time of the day of Christ Jesus (verse 6) .
Like Paul, we can firmly believe and be convinced of our faith and of the work of the church. Because this is not a human-initiated work. Because it is the work that God himself started. Jesus is the founder and perfecter of faith (Hebrews 12: 2). Our faith and church life began when we believed in Jesus, but now it is still developing and will finally be completed. We are saved by God’s grace and guided by God’s grace to churches, worship services, and bible studies. We can continue to live in faith with the grace of God, and in the end, grace will lead us to perfection. That is why Paul prayed that grace was upon you (verse 2). There is a force on this earth that tries to separate us from God. The work of the devil, various temptations, difficulties, desires within oneself. No one of us will be able to complete this race of faith to the end without the grace of God.
Rudea river. Rudea was the first to be baptized in Europe. It seems that baptismal ceremonies and worship services are still held in this river.
The Philippian church was always on Paul’s side. They also helped Paul when he was in prison. They supported Paul’s work through prayer and donations. Through prayer and donations, we too can cooperate and contribute to the work of God and the work of the Church and can benefit from grace. Working together to preach will create a spiritual bond. The Philippian church was a community of people who enjoyed grace with Paul. You are all graceful with me, both when I was imprisoned and when I justified and proved the gospel (verse 7). It can be said that a person who is with us when we are in pain is a true friend, rather than a person who is with us when we are doing well. The Philippian church continued to stand by Paul even when Paul was suffering. The people of the Philippian church were Paul’s true friends. Therefore, the people of the Philippian church could also receive the grace and blessings that Paul received.
Here is the figure of a community, a church that stands firmly in the Gospel. The church is Ecclesia, a group of people called from this world. We have many differences, but we have one thing in common. It means that we are the people who have experienced the grace. It is the grace of salvation and the grace of participating in the work of the evangelization. The Philippian Church was a Church of Encouragement, a Church of Help, a Church of Dedication to Evangelization, and a Church of God’s Delight. Let us be such a church, and each one. Let’s move forward step by step while praying with gratitude and joy so that we can do a good job in 2022. And let’s walk with gratitude to God and people.