Under house arrest in Rome, Paul pens this letter to the Philippian believers as he awaits trial. He expresses how thankful he is for the Philippians in his prayers. They have financially supported Paul throughout his ministry, so he views them as co-laborers, and is confident that Jesus will continue to work through their faithfulness until His return.
Paul tells the Philippians how dear they are to him, that they share the favor from God that he receives for his suffering for Christ, since they are supporters of Paul’s ministry. He encourages them to grow in love and understanding, to pursue all good things until Christ returns, experiencing the result of living harmoniously with one another, which brings glory to God.
Despite being imprisoned in Rome, Paul’s ministry has increased. He has become well known to the emperor’s guards and has preached the gospel to them. Seeing how Paul has endured his hardships so well, the Roman believers have grown more courageous in sharing their own faith. Many do it out of sincerity, but there are some who preach Christ to gain status among the believers; they think that since Paul is a prisoner, he is out of the way, and they have an opportunity to gain influence and admiration in the church. They even seem to think their preaching would bother Paul, projecting their own envious attitudes onto him. But Paul is simply happy that the gospel is preached, whether the motive is pure or selfish.
He rejoices that he is imprisoned. He views his circumstances as positive, because they embolden him to continue to preach Christ with all his strength. Whether he is executed or set free, he will exalt Christ, and will not forsake his calling. If he lives, Paul gets to continue to preach Christ. If he dies, he gets to be with Christ in glory. Either circumstance is favorable. However, Paul admits that he believes that he will be set free from imprisonment so that he can continue his ministry. Specifically, Paul anticipates returning to Philippi to further grow and mature the believers there.
Paul urges the Philippians to live out a life that reflects the gospel of Christ. They should not be surprised or dismayed when enemies oppose them. The fact that anyone opposes them means they are honoring God, and that those who attack them will be judged for it by God. The Philippians have been given the privilege of suffering for Christ, just as Paul has suffered; it is a badge of honor that we suffer for Christ, for it means rewards in the next life, and a fulfilling life of faith in the present. It is a good thing to have the comforts of life taken away, because they are ultimately distractions from service to God.
Despite the challenging situation he is in, Paul takes on a perspective that no matter what, his only concern is to remain faithful in his ministry of preaching the gospel of Christ. He wants the Philippians also to have this attitude, one that is true and right in the face of suffering. In Chapter 2, Paul will expound on this proper mindset, which believes that radical obedience to God is the path of our own true self-interest.