The theme of this letter is joy. The word rejoice is found nine times, the word joy four times, and the expression “rejoice with” two times. Even though he was writing as a prisoner, Paul was filled with joy, and that joy permeates his letter. The secret of his joy was his relationship with Jesus Christ. The letter begins and ends with the name of Jesus. Forty times Paul mentioned his beloved Savior’s name, eighteen times in chapter 1 alone, which averages at least one citation in every two or three verses.
Paul saw himself as a slave of Christ. He referred to the Philippians as saints in Christ. He described his imprisonment as his bonds in Christ; and even though he knew that some were taking advantage of his imprisonment, he rejoiced that Christ was being preached. He had abandoned all things for the excellency of the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and he spoke of his life as “to live is Christ.” For the apostle, even death was defined as being with Christ.
As he admonished the congregation in Philippi to be unified, he expressed his hope that they would “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Even his personal plans were expressed in relationship to his Lord. He trusted in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to the Philippians, and he trusted in the Lord that he would be able to come to them himself.
He desired to win Christ and to know Christ, and he pointed to heaven from whence also he was looking for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. He concluded his letter by expressing his desire that the “grace of our Lord Jesus Christ” would be with the Philippians.
The reason for Paul’s joy was his relationship with Christ! As we study his letter to the Philippians, we will observe the testing of that joy in the crucible of Roman imprisonment. If Paul’s relationship to his Master could bring him joy under those conditions, then surely we who also love the Savior can learn to rejoice in our difficult times as well.
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Jeremiah, David. 2016. Count It All Joy: Discover a Happiness That Circumstances Cannot Change. Colorado Springs, CO: David C Cook.