by Jeff Dominguez
Chapter 01 – GODLY POSITIVITY
Welcome to the official start of our Bible study series on the Book of Philippians!
In the introduction, we discussed that the main theme of this book is finding our joy in Christ in whatever circumstance in life. But there’s a question about that: how do we do that exactly?
While it is easy to say to we should be joyful whenever bad things happen, we need to admit that that is not easy to do. And for many of us, we don’t even know how to do that. Paul knew that that is why in this chapter, he introduced a concept that would teach us how to be joyful in Christ during that bad times. And that concept is known as GODLY POSITIVITY. But before we explain that, let’s break down this chapter first.
I. GREETING, THANKSGIVING, AND PRAYER (vv1-11)
“Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Like in most of his letters, Paul started with the traditional greeting which blesses his readers with the “grace and peace” from our Lord Jesus Christ. But immediately after this, he offered a beautiful message of thanksgiving and prayer to the Philippians. If we will recall, one of the reasons why Paul wrote this letter is that he wanted to thank the Philippians for the gifts that they sent him while he was in prison (Phil. 4:8). In this message, we can see that Paul has a very warm relationship with the Philippians. He mentioned that he always remembers them and that they were his partners in ministry since the “first day.” This is why it can be observed that Paul loved them so much (v7).
Another important aspect that we should take notice of in this short thanksgiving is the theological concept that Paul subtly taught. In verse 6, Paul said, “And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” In this short and simple line, Paul taught three important doctrines: The doctrine of sanctification, glorification, and eternal security. At the baseline, these doctrines teach what Paul just said; that God is doing a good work in us (sanctification) and that He will bring it to completion on the day of Jesus Christ (glorification). And the fact that God will finish what He started implies that no one will be dropped out of this process (eternal security). In the prayer that followed (vv9-11), Paul prayed that they continue to grow in this process, becoming more loving, knowledgeable, and discerning to produce the desired result which is to become “pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
II. GODLY POSITIVITY (v12-26)
We now come to the main message of chapter 01 which is Godly Positivity. This is one of the keys to finding joy in Christ. To better understand this, let us first read the passage from verses 12 to 26.
A. Godly Positivity #01: The Advancement of the Gospel Despite Being in Prison (vv12-14)
“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
B. Godly Positivity #02: The Advancement of the Gospel Despite the Preachers who have Impure Motives (vv15-18)
“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
C. Godly Positivity #03: The Blessing in Life or Death (vv19-26)
“Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.”
This breakdown reveals to us what godly positivity is. In each of these groups, Paul discussed one problem as well as his corresponding mindset or response. The chart below will help you understand it further.
As you can see, for every problem that he mentioned, Paul responded in a positive way. He did not even fret or worry. And his response is more than just positive, it is a godly positive response. He always saw the potential benefit or blessing that could arise from a bad situation.
SO WHAT IS GODLY POSITIVITY?
This is what Paul is teaching us in this chapter and he is teaching it by setting an example. There’s actually a potential fourth scenario here. Paul might have anticipated that the Philippians were worried about him being in prison. So again, by being godly positive, he used this opportunity to teach them that when they are faced with problems, they should be joyful and optimistic in Christ-like him.
Godly positivity is a very beautiful Christian trait. But of course, this is not something that one can learn immediately. But again, this is the reason why Paul said what he said in the opening thanksgiving and prayer. Remember, he prayed for them to grow more in “knowledge and all discernment” (v9). This is how we learn godly positivity. The more we grow in our relationship with Christ, the deeper we understand how Jesus can help us in our problems in life. Godly positivity is a natural product of our intimacy and growth in Christ. Therefore, to achieve that joyful heart, we must prioritize our walk with Jesus Christ, the very source of our joy and hope.
III. THE BOTTOM LINE: “LIVE A LIFE WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST” (vv27-30)
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.”
In this passage, Paul concludes his presentation on the concept of godly positivity. First, he summarized his point by saying, “only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” What did he mean by this?
This is what we call the bottom line of his point. In context, Paul is discussing how to be joyful amid bad situations. And remember, Paul said in First Thessalonians that God’s will for His people is to “rejoice always.”
“REJOICE ALWAYS, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; FOR THIS IS THE WILL OF GOD IN CHRIST JESUS FOR YOU.”
– 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Therefore, when we respond in a godly positive way during the bad times, we are living in a manner that is worthy of the gospel of Christ. After all, the gospel is the “good news” right? It is therefore proper that we who believe in the gospel should reflect this good news in our lives. In another way to put it, the way we live should reflect what we believe. So if we believe in the good news, then our lives should reflect that by being joyful and hopeful in whatever circumstances come our way.
Paul further cements this teaching by affirming to them that as Christians, they will have opponents (v28), sufferings (v29), and conflicts (v30). These things are inevitable in the Christian life. But hey! this is not a discouragement but an encouragement. It is actually a good way to test if they truly understand Paul’s teaching about godly positivity. If they truly understood it, then they shouldn’t be worried about these things. Rather, they should be joyful and hopeful in Christ. After all, as Paul said in his letter to the Romans:
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”
– Romans 8:28
God Bless!! 🙂