In this letter from Paul to the church at Philippi. he gives a missionary report on the progress of his work and thanks the church for their reception of the gospel and for their active support of his ministry (v. 5).
Paul first preached in Philippi on his second missionary journey about AD. 49. He wrote this letter to the church while he was imprisoned in Rome, waiting to appear before the Emperor about AD 60 or 61. From house arrest, he was free to impart the gospel to all who came to him (v. 14).
Though written from prison (vs. 13, 14), the entire book of Philippians nonetheless focuses on joy! The word “joy” in all its various forms is used 16 times throughout the letter. Note particularly verse 18 where Paul rejoices that the gospel can be preached in spite of his adverse circumstances.
Am I able to rejoice when my circumstances may be unpleasant, or even worse, life threatening? What happens to my joy when I am accused falsely, or am persecuted for Christ’s sake or even suffer because of the Gospel? Can I rejoice under such circumstances? For some of us that may be easier said than done. Whereas happiness may have an outward dimension based on our external circumstances, an inward joy can be experienced even when circumstances around us may be unpleasant.
Paul is communicating to the church not to let anybody steal such inner joy. We can also be confident that whatever we have to face today, God is faithful. Christ Jesus will complete the work of salvation that God started in us (v. 6). We are not alone in this Christian journey. How reassuring!
May we be able to say with Paul: “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (v. 21). Christ was the secret and source of Paul’s continual joy. May Christ also be the source of our joy today.
Edward A. Appollis