This is not an exegesis of the study of Philippians, but an overview of Paul’s attitude and understanding in writing the Words of God to the Church at Philippi. This is to help gain an overall understanding of the book of Philippi as you begin your study of the epistle.
Understanding Paul’s position
When Paul speaks of putting his mind on their behalf he is referring to the completion of the good work that God has begun in each believer. He is not so much concerned with the minutia of the details as he is with the completion of the renewed heart that God has begun. You’ll notice in the next verses that Paul begins to explain how that love should be manifested.
Paul recognizes that his bonds to the Praetorian Guard are because of the gospel and that they are not a means to silence him, even if it brings him more trials and pain, but as a means for him to further the knowledge of the Truth of Christ.
Torn between life in Christ and death in Christ, Paul states that he will do whatever God has called him to do that will best further the gospel, although it is clear that he believes to live in the flesh is more important for other Christians at the time of the writing.
Paul’s only request is that he not live this life in vain, that the Philippians do him the courtesy of listening to the message that he is obviously here on earth to proclaim.
Greek Interpretation in Philippians
When Paul calls the Philippians to stand together it is as a team of athletes would. We can understand the phrase in terms of athletic teams of our day, but athletics in the days in which this is written bonded entire countries, determined prestige, and honor. Paul graciously requests that the Church do the same, sharing common interests because our lives, like an athletic team, are bound by a common interest.
Paul’s Allusions to Christ as an Encouragement & Example
What better example can Paul direct our attention to than that Jesus emptied himself of the Divine Deity of Heaven to come to earth and live as god-man in the flesh. He literally took on the body of a slave considering that a divine deity is not bound by time, space, or flesh – but now, once and for all Jesus would be bound by this body of flesh.
Jesus did this as a voluntary act, so Paul thinks it only reasonable that we fulfill the mandates of Christ without grumbling. Rather, we should rejoice that we have the opportunities to be partakers with Deity who has humbled himself for our reconciliation with God.
Rejoice in the Lord, Paul says, but his intimation is that we are to rejoice with a watchful eye, not denying God, but mindful of the things that have happened to those who have openly confessed him so that we will not be taken off guard, even if we are taken, ridiculed, or even killed for our faith.
Paul digresses momentarily to tell of his lineage, not to brag, but to put forth the facts so that those who think he has no right to speak, no right to tell of the things which he knows will be silenced. He has given up privilege and position in Rome to become a servant of Christ. Paul freely admits that he has attained nothing in Christ, but is still reaching for the things which God has called him to do.
While he has given up everything he has, Paul points again to Jesus. There is nothing Paul can give that would begin to touch the measure of things Jesus has given up in leaving heaven to come to earth.
Paul’s Encouragement to the Philippians regarding those who cause dissention
Paul is well aware of the weakness of the flesh and the evil heart of man. He knows that there are those who would turn Christians away from the faith declaring that it is too hard, to sacrificial, too demanding. Once again, it is important to understand the Greek reference to the team to which Paul has referred earlier. It is so important; Paul reminds us that we stick together as a team, not letting our teammates be pulled away by false plays and promises that will never be fulfilled.
Paul is passionate about the truth and desires that Christians stick to the truth. To those who find it difficult, he has offered himself up as an example to follow when they feel torn, or weak in the faith. To those who have hold of the faith Paul has exhorted them to keep their fellow Philippians in the game.