Jesus in the Book of Philippians

Joy is the theme of the book of Philippians. Admonitions to rejoice are found throughout this short epistle. When we consider the circumstances under which Paul wrote Philippians (an innocent prisoner awaiting an uncertain outcome), we are humbled and challenged to truly rejoice in our own lives.

Jesus is mentioned in all four chapters of Philippians. The context in which His name is found in each chapter makes for an interesting study. One reason Paul was able to rejoice was because he was focused on Christ.

First, Christ was Paul’s PURPOSE (Philippians 1:21-24). Paul’s trial would result in his execution or freedom. He was “hard-pressed between the two” — he couldn’t decide which outcome he preferred. Being set free would allow him to continue to serve God’s people, but death would bring the ultimate reward for every faithful Christian — “to depart and be with Christ, which is far better”.

Paul was able to calmly face the possibility of death because of his relationship with Christ: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (v. 21). When Paul became a Christian, his life centered around the person and will of Christ. His life had true purpose.

We may never be placed in a situation where we have to choose life or death, but our lives can always have peace and meaning if we are living for Christ.

Second, Christ was Paul’s PATTERN (Philippians 2:5-8). To “live Christ” isn’t as difficult as it sounds because Christ left us a pattern to follow. In learning to love and care for one another, Paul challenged them to think like Christ.

Jesus was deity, but placed Himself under obedience to the Father, came into this world as a servant, suffered and died on the cross – for others. If we can think about one another like Jesus thought of mankind, and follow His example of obedience and sacrifice, we will always treat others the way we should. We will contribute to maintaining a better local church, a better marriage, a better workplace, a better classroom, etc.

Third, Christ was Paul’s PRIZE (Philippians 3:12-14). Paul wasn’t talking down to the Philippians when he told them to strive to live better. Even though he was an apostle, he admitted he wasn’t where he wanted to be spiritually. He pressed onward to lay hold of perfection. He let go of the things in his past and stretched forward to the things that were ahead. He had one ultimate goal with his life — “the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”.

It’s good for us to have various goals in our lives. However, if we fail to obtain Christ, we have failed as Christians. We’re to strive to take on the image of Christ (Galatians 4:19) by adopting the mind or thinking of Christ (Philippians 2:5). Also, as we leave this world, we want to be in a position to grasp the goal that Christ has set before us — a resurrection to eternal life.

Fourth, Christ was Paul’s POWER (Philippians 4:11-13). Paul was able to endure living as a prisoner awaiting an uncertain future because he had learned to be content. His work as an apostle had given him opportunity to experience every possible circumstance life has to offer. He had slept in the comforts of a warm bed, spent a night fastened in stocks in a prison (Acts 16:24-25), and had even spent a night at sea clinging to wreckage to stay alive (2 Corinthians 11:25).

How was Paul able to do this? What was Paul’s secret? “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (v. 13). The word “strengthens” is from the Greek word dunamis, from which we get our English word “dynamite”. Christ was Paul’s dynamite. Our Lord was the power that propelled Paul ahead as he pressed towards the goal. He is the same power that will sustain us so we can rejoice always — even in our trials.

This admonition is needed today. Many of us are in undesirable circumstances. We face trials we wish would go away. We can’t run from them, ignore them, and most of us can’t change them. However, we can endure them! We can survive and function as faithful Christians through Christ who strengthens us.

The book of Philippians remains a favorite among many Christians because it is focused on joy and rejoicing. A closer look reveals why — Paul was focused on Christ. Christ was Paul’s purpose for living, pattern to follow, prize to be won, and power to do all things. Can we say the same?

 Adapted from Heath Rogers