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8.1 Philippians -- Suffering

The context of Philippians is the ongoing warfare of the believer's life.  Paul is conscious of his own suffering, and assumes his readers share in the struggles of faith.

           Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly (Phi 1:14).

           Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you....For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have (Phi 1:27-30).

            But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you (Phi 2:17).

            I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death (Phi 3:10).

Doubtless, he has in view his own possible martyrdom, but there is also his awareness of the ongoing battle for the gospel that is being waged.  Some preach Christ out of envy (Phi 1:15), some preach a different gospel (Phi 3:2), and some have fallen away (Phi 3:18-19).  But Paul writes as a seasoned soldier, a combat veteran who has come through many a firefight, one of which was at Philippi itself.  It was there in the jail at midnight that he earned the right to write:

             Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! (Phi 4:4)


             and also:

             I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want (Phi 4:12).


Here, as elsewhere in his epistles, his doctrine flows out of his life experience.  Likewise, his confidence of ultimate victory:

            I can do everything through him who gives me strength (Phi 4:13).

           This is his foundation, his reliance, his bottomless well of optimism through a life of suffering that out-did Job himself:  exile from his homeland, imprisonment, beatings, Gentile depravity, mob violence, shipwreck, chains.  Nevermind all that, he writes:

            Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it.  But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phi 3:13-14).

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