Bible Philippians

A Thankful Assurance (Phil 1:1-11)

I started playing golf at the age of eleven by hitting golf balls on our 82 acre land in Valley Springs. We had a large open field where I would hit the golf balls out into the field and my grandpa who was a retired army war veteran would ride our four-wheeler out there and pick up the golf balls. Both of us had too much free time and this gave us each something to do. I started to really enjoy the game of golf and started playing every day. Several years went by and when I entered High School I was eager and excited to play on the golf team for Calaveras High School.

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A. Grace and Peace from Paul and Timothy (vv. 1-2)

1. Paul and Timothy to the Saints at Philippi (v. 1)

“From Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi with the supervisors and assistants.” (Phil 1:1)

Take notice of the use of “supervisors” and “assistants.” These are common ways to address all the believers while looking at a few with special responsibilities and authority.

The Greek word ἐπισκοπος, translated in my translations as supervisors, or can be rendered as “bishops” (NRSV, KJV 1900, NKJV, AV 1873), overseers (NET, NASB95, LEB, ESV, NIV), elders (NLT) “refers to one who has a definite function and fixed office of guardianship and related activity within a group” (BDAG, 349).

The Greek word διακονος, translated as assistants or deacons (NET, NLT, NASB95, LEB, ESV, NIV, NRSV, KJV 1900, NKJV, AV 1873) refers to “one who gets something done” under the request and instruction of a supervisor (BDAG, 230).

This idea is sometimes hard to grasp because we know that we all are made in the image of God and that we all are loved by God equally. Yet, there still seems to be (at least within in the church) a hierarchy of people with different levels of influence and responsibilities.

2. Grace and Peace to the Believers (v. 2)

“Grace and peace to you all from God our father and Lord Jesus Christ.” (Phil 1:2)

Notice the order here: grace first and peace second. We see the same order of “grace” first and “peace” second in Rom 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; 2 Cor 1:2; Gal 1:3; Eph 1:2; Col 1:2; 1 Thess 1:1; 2 Thess 1:2; 1 Tim 1:3 (“grace, mercy, and peace”); 2 Tim 1:2 (“grace, mercy and peace”); Titus 1:4; Phlm 3. There are thirteen of Paul’s letters included in our Bible and every single one of them contains the phrase “grace” first, then “peace” second.

Robert Lightner observes, “In his greeting to the Philippians, Paul used two words descriptive of Christian graces: grace and peace. The order in which he used them is significant. Before there can be any genuine peace there must be a personal response to God’s grace, His unmerited favor manifested climatically at Calvary. Both grace and peace find their source in God our Father and the LORD Jesus Christ (Robert P. Lightner, “Philippians.” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, vol. 2 edited by J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck [Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985], 649).

I think we can make the conclusion that as Christians we can receive grace first, then peace follows second.

B. Paul’s Prayers for the Philippians (vv. 3-4)

1. Paul Thanks His God (v. 3)

“I give thanks to my God every time I mention you.” (Phil 1:3)

Paul was grateful to the Philippians because they had been generous to him in the past (4:14-18). As a result, Paul thanked God when he remembered the Philippians. Oh yeah, and did I mention that he was in prison when he wrote this?

The verb used here is εὐχαριστω, translated as “I give thanks.” Peter O’Brien notes that this verb and its cognates are used 46 times in Paul’s letters (Peter O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians, in The New International Greek Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1991], 56).

Leaders sometimes struggle to give thanks to the people they lead. This is somewhat ironic because leaders can only accomplish great things through others, yet it is easy for leaders not to thank people. It is too easy to get focused on tasks and projects, doing one thing after another, only to forget to slow down and say thank you to people who are getting the work done.

Paul had no trouble expressing his gratitude in his letters. Examples are:

  • “Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world” (Rom 1:8, NLT)
  • “I always thank my God when I pray for you, Philemon,” (Phl 4, NLT).
  • “Timothy, I thank God for you—the God I serve with a clear conscience, just as my ancestors did. Night and day I constantly remember you in my prayers.” (2 Tim 1:3, NLT)
  • “Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.” (2 Thess 1:3, NLT)
  • “How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence.” (1 Thess 3:9, NLT)
  • “We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly.” (1 Thess 1:2, NLT)
  • “We always pray for you, and we give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Col 1:3, NLT)
  • “I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor 1:4, NLT)

Paul had no hesitation to express his gratitude to the people he ministered to and with, therefore leaders should not have any hesitation either.

2. Paul Always Prayed with Joy (v. 4)

“In every prayer for you I give thanks for you,” (Phil 1:4)

 Phil 1:4 begins a series of statements by Paul which provide a brief glimpse into his prayer life. Pay close attention to Paul’s words in vv. 4-11 and look for what you can learn about how Paul prayed.

II. Paul’s Thanksgiving and Prayer (1:5-11)

A. Partners in Work until Christ’s Return (vv. 5-6)

1. The Philippians and Paul as Partners (v. 5)

 “because of your fellowship in the Gospel from the first day until now.” (Phil 1:5)

Paul was thankful for the partnership that he and the Philippians shared. Paul thanked them for their “fellowship” and their work regarding the “Gospel.” Apparently the Philippians had a good faith and a strong faith. Additionally, he mentions later in the book that a “woman” was his partner. We all have a role to play in the sharing of the Gospel.

2. Unfinished Work (v. 6)

“For I am certain that the one who began a good work in you all will bring it to completion on the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6)

(a) Salvation

 When I read this verse two things come to mind: “eternal security and assurance.”

Since I am a “Small Groups” pastor and lead three small groups I probably have more exposure to peoples questions about the Bible than most people, but one of the questions people often ask is if you can lose your salvation. That’s one thig that most people have a sincere and genuine concern about. So, let’s take a look at what the Bible says about salvation, but first let’s define two terms.

Eternal Security: The biblical teaching about how God saves people and once he saves them that salvation can never be lost.

Assurance: Assurance is a believer’s personal feeling that he or she is eternally secure.

The doctrinal statement at the church I currently serve at says that believers are secure in their salvation through their faith in Jesus Christ. “Believers are eternally safe and secure in Jesus, giving evidence of genuine faith by a life of good works.”

Now, you’ve heard what I said. You’ve heard what the church says. Let’s look at the Bible and see what it says.

  • “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16, NLT)
  • “However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them. . .  For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:37–40, NLT)
  • “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. . . No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand.” (John 10:27–29, NLT)
  • “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. . .indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38–39, NLT) 
  • “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.” (Romans 11:29, NLT)
  • “Because of God’s grace to me, I have laid the foundation like an expert builder. Now others are building on it. But whoever is building on this foundation must be very careful. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one we already have—Jesus Christ. Anyone who builds on that foundation may use a variety of materials—gold, silver, jewels, wood, hay, or straw. But on the judgment day, fire will reveal what kind of work each builder has done. The fire will show if a person’s work has any value. If the work survives, that builder will receive a reward. But if the work is burned up, the builder will suffer great loss. The builder will be saved, but like someone barely escaping through a wall of flames.” (1 Corinthians 3:10–15, NLT)
  • “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:30, NLT)
  • “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is.” (2 Timothy 2:13, NLT)
  • “and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.” (1 Peter 1:4, NLT)
  • “Now all glory to God, who is able to keep you from falling away and will bring you with great joy into his glorious presence without a single fault.” (Jude 24, NLT)

I have read ten passages by four different New Testament authors that explain the doctrine of eternal security and assurance. Here, and in most of Paul’s writings, Paul seems to indicate that salvation is an event that occurs and cannot be taken back. For example, here in Phil 1:6 he says that he is “certain that the one who began good work in you all will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus.”

Other Scripture that supports eternal security and assurance: John 1:12; 3:15; 17:2-4, 6; Col 2:9-14; 2 Tim 1:12; 1 Peter 1:1-9; James 2:14-17; 1 John 2:18-19; 5:11-13

(b)  Sanctification

Here in verse six Paul introduces his emphasis on sanctification in the lives of the Philippians and he will continue that thought farther down in verse ten. A few important observations should be made here in verse six. Paul says that the one (God) began the work of salvation. Paul says that he (God) will bring it to completion. Paul says that it will continue “until the day of Christ.”

This is similar to what Paul had already written to the Corinthians, “He [Jesus Christ] will keep you strong to the end so that you will be free from all blame on the day when our Lord Jesus Christ returns” (*1 Cor 1:8, NLT).

Additionally, the words “ἐργον ἀγαθον” / “good work” indicate the work that God commenced in the readers’ lives.

(c) Christ’s Return

ἄχρι ἡμέρας Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ / at the day of Christ Jesus ( or “on the day when Christ returns” [NLT]) need a brief comment. “The expression refers to a definite point of time when Christ will appear, and some anticipation of its near approach seems to underlie ἄχρι here (cf. *1 Thes. 4:17; 1 Cor. 15:51). This consummation is the goal of history, which the OT designated the ‘day of the Lord’” (Obrien, Epistle to the Philippians, 65).

B. The Philippians Place in Paul’s Heart (vv. 7-8)

Paul had the Philippians in his heart in his imprisonment, defense, and confirmation of the Good News. This thought is continued from verse six as it starts with καθώς, which is used to introduce a further idea in the flow of thought.

1. Defense and Confirmation of the Good News (v. 7)

“It is right for me to think this about you because I have you all in my heart for in my imprisonment, defense, and confirmation of the Good News you all became my partners in the grace of Christ.” (Phil 1:7)

Basically, Paul says that it is a special favor of God to share in imprisonment, and in defending and confirming the Good News (see NLT translation). I believe that Paul was secure in his standing before God as a righteous man, therefore he did not worry about the consequences of his Godly actions.

“Defense and confirmation” language suggests “a legal defense. Indeed, both Greek words suggest this. The first (apologia [TG627, ZG665]) is obvious, but even the second (bebaiosei [TG951, ZG1012]) was typically used in first-century papyri in the technical sense of affirming truth by legal means (MM 108). Paul was ready to make a defense before the courts and in so doing defend the gospel” (Comfort, Philippians, 155). This was a real and serious position for Paul. He was ready to take a stand and because he was imprisoned for his faith, Paul certainly had lived this out.

This defense reminds me of when the movie, “Noah” came out a few years ago. I was interested to see how nonChristians were receiving the video so I started to cruise around the internet to see what people were saying. And, of course it was negative. I saw things like, “The Bible is a bunch of ficitional stories” or “Nothing in the Bible has any historical value.” So, I started to push back showing the connection between many of the Biblical stories and contemporary history. I also was reminded how to really make people mad. If they are saying, “How can you prove the Bible is true?” I would reply, “Well, how can you prove that it is not true.” Never before have I seen people become so angry. Yet, if people are going to question and criticize our faith, I think it is okay to push back and question them for their beliefs also. And, I think that is the idea that Paul has here. He knows the Gospel and Bible message is true, therefore he legally defends it.

2. Deep Love for the Philippians (v. 8)

 “For God is my witness how I continually long for every one of you with the deep love of Christ Jesus.” (Phil 1:8)

C. Future Sanctification of the Philippian Believers (vv. 9-11)

1. Overflowing Love and Growth (v. 9)

“Indeed, I always pray that the love you all have might abound more and more in knowledge and discernment” (Phil 1:9)

Paul’s first mention of sanctification is that the love of the Philippians will grow in two areas: knowledge and understanding. These two areas have a purpose. See Col 3:14; 1 Thess 3:12.

περισσευῃ (περισευω – to abound, to overflow) is used here in the progressive present tense. The progressive present tense describes a scene in progress that involves a continuous action (Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics: An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996], 518-519).

ἐπιγνώσει (ἐπίγνωσις, εως, ἡ — knowledge, recognition) is used here and in several other places in Paul’s letters. Paul likely means “knowledge” related to moral matters. Three main uses of this word occur in these categories: 1) Knowledge of truth (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Tim 3:7; Tit 1:1; Heb 10:26). 2) Knowledge of God (Col 1:10; 2 Peter 1:2, 17). 3) Knowledge of God’s son—Jesus (Eph 4:13; 2 Peter 1:8; 2:20). Sometimes ἐπίγνωσις is best glossed as “recognition” and that is used as recognition of God (Rom 1:28; Phil 1:19) (BDAG, 369).

If you attend church on a regular basis you are participating in this. If you read your Bible on your own you are doing that. There is one guy I know who attends church here with his wife. One Mondays his wife volunteers in the church office so he takes her to the church, drops her off and while she is volunteering he drives to the park, sits in his truck and reads his Bible. Additionally, if you are involved in a small group you are growing in this knowledge

αἰσθησιει (αἰσθησις, εως, ἡ — discernment, understanding) is used only one time in the New Testament. My translation reads discernment while the NLT and ESV use understanding and the NET uses insightful. This word communicates that something can be affected by external stimuli, perception, sensation or has capacity to understand, discern (BDAG, 28).

2. What Really Matters (v. 10)

“so that you prove the things that really matter and will be pure and blameless for the day of Christ,” (Phil 1:10)

See the conjunction here: “in order that” (“so that” in NLT and NET).

This is the what—pure and blameless lives.They understand and prove the things that really matter. This is the second mention of “Day of Christ.” Paul is painting for us a goal of sanctification: love grows (v. 9), be pure (v. 10), and be blameless (v. 10). Cf. 1 Cor 1:8.

3. Fruit of Righteousness (v. 11)

“because you all have been filled with the fruit of righteousness that is through Jesus Christ for the purpose of the glory and praise of God” (Phil 1:11)

This is the why. There is a little more shared here about what the goal of verse 10 is: “filled with the fruits of righteousness.” Most importantly those fruits of righteousness come from God. And, what is the purpose? It will bring much glory and praise to God.

What is the “fruit of righteousness?” Where does it come from? Is it the result of our union with Christ? Or does the fruit of righteousness produce our union with Christ?

Elsewhere in the NT we read that “fruit” is

  • the result of our repentance (Matt 3:8);
  • the Holy Spirit produces the “fruit” of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, etc. (Gal 5:22); and
  • you identify false prophets by their “fruit” (Matt 7:16, 20).

“Here at Phil. 1:11 the phrase means the fruit resulting from and demonstrating righteousness” (O’Brien, Philippians, 81).


A. During my prayer time I will be thankful about God and others.

One of the things that I do every day (almost every day) is I take about forty-five minutes in the morning to journal, read my Bible, and pray. I don’t do it every day because of the work schedule I have with my other job, but more days than not, I have my quiet time in the morning. During my prayer time I have a 5×7 card and on the front side I write down all of the things I am thankful for and praise God for. It can be anything I want to share with God and thank him for. Then, on the back side I have the “asks” and “prayer requests” that I have and that other people share with me. After hearing this message today one way you can apply what Paul says is to be thankful about God and others during your prayer time.

B. I will share the good news with unbelievers about the assurance which the Bible teaches.

Everywhere I go I meet unbelievers. Some of these people are hard core atheists, some are agnostics, and some simply believe in a “higher power” but do not attribute it to a specific God. When I meet with these people I often try to get a feel for their faith and where they are at. And, if possible I try to invite them to church. But, in your interactions with people this week I encourage you to share that the Bible teaches that salvation is secure—and as a result we can enjoy assurance of the salvation we have. The doctrine of eternal security and assurance is good news to share. It reminds of the joke about the guy in need of money. He had two friends: one was an optimist and the other was a pessimist. So, he decided to ask the pessimist for the money. Do you know why? Because he knew the pessimist wouldn’t expect to get the money back.

When my wife and I were living in Texas while at attended graduate school I worked at a very prestigious golf course as a caddie. My boss was a unique guy that was pretty quite but also very funny at times. In the three years I worked with him I never saw him eat a vegetable or fruit. Hot dogs and Dr. Pepper were his regular breakfast. Because I was attending seminary while working there a lot of my coworkers new I was “religious” or that I was a “Christian” and they sometimes would make comments to be. One such day, my boss announced that he was no longer smoking saying, “I’ve stopped smoking. I want to make it into heaven like Christopher.” There was a group of us around when he announced this and even though I normally am a quiet and reserved person, I took that little opportunity to teach my boss and coworkers about what the Bible teaches about assurance. I told him, “That decision about whether or not you go to heaven has already been made. You’re behavior and whether or not you smoke does not make a difference whether or not you go to heaven. Your belief in Jesus Christ and commitment to follow him is what decides whether or not you get to go to heaven. Jesus has provided ‘grace’ and that grace is God’s free gift.”

C. I do not have to be perfect.            

One of the best things about assurance is that it helps us realizing we do not have to be perfect. I know for me, I struggle with always feeling like everything has to be organized, prepared, and in its place. However, when it comes to our salvation we do not have to be perfect. One of the other things (of the many) is that I struggle with jealousy. If I see good things happening to others in their professional or personal life I often would get jealous and ask, “God, why not me? Why can’t I have that?” Yet, the blessing of the doctrine of assurance is that I do not have to be perfect. My performance does not really matter when it comes to my eternal security. Regardless of my performance, God has accepted me and saved me.

By Christopher L. Scott

Christopher L. Scott serves as senior pastor at Lakeview Missionary Church in Moses Lake, Washington. Through his writing ministry more than 250,000 copies of his articles, devotions, and tracts are distributed each month through Christian publishers. Learn more at