This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus.
I am writing to all the followers of Jesus, pastors and ministers included. We greet you with the grace and peace that comes from God our Father and our Master, Jesus Christ.
Every time I think of you, I give thanks to God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ. And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will be faithful to complete it when Christ returns.
You have me in your heart as I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in my defense of the good news, you share in God's matchless grace with me.
God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
This is my prayer: that your love will flourish. Love much. Love well. Learn to love appropriately.
Love much. Love well. Learn to love appropriately.
You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life of which Jesus can be proud. Be bountiful in fruits from the soul. Make Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
I want to report to you that my imprisonment has had the opposite of its intended effect. Instead of being silenced, the Message has prospered. All the soldiers here, and everyone else, too, found out that I’m in jail because of Christ. That piqued their curiosity, and now they’ve learned all about him. Not only that, but most of the followers of Jesus here have become far more sure of themselves in the faith than ever, speaking out fearlessly.
Some, it is true, are actually preaching Christ out of envy and rivalry toward me—for no better reason than a competitive spirit or misguided ambition. But there are others who preach Christ out of goodwill and a loyal spirit. They preach from a place of love, because they know that I have been put here by God to defend the gospel. That former group preaches Christ insincerely, out of selfish ambition and self-promotion.
So how am I to respond?
I’ve decided that I am unconcerned about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens their mouth, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. For I'm confident that this will turn out well, both through your prayers and the superabundant supply of the Spirit which sustains me. I will never be ashamed, but will continue to be bold, just as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.
To live is Christ, and to die is gain.
If, however, I am to go on living, this will mean useful and productive service for me; so I do not know which to choose (if I am given that choice). I am hard-pressed between the two. I have the desire to leave this world and be with Christ, for that is far, far better; yet, it is more necessary for your sake that I keep living. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain with you for your progress in the faith, so that your joy may overflow in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.
Remember, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the good news about Christ. Then, we will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting for the faith.
Stand united, singular in vision, contending for people’s trust in the good news, not flinching or dodging in the slightest before the opposition.
Your courage and unity will show them what they’re up against: defeat for them, victory for you—and both because of God.
There’s far more to this life than trusting in Christ. There’s also suffering for him. And suffering is as much a gift as trust.
If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Love each other. Be deep-spirited friends. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.
Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to grasp.
Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,
he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on the cross.
Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue declare
that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus Christ is Lord
To the glory of God the Father
Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
Do everything without grumbling or disputing so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world , holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not labor in vain.
But I will rejoice, even if I lose my life--even if my life is poured out like a drink offering upon the altar. You should rejoice, also, for your faithful service is likewise an offering to God.
Rejoice in the Lord, always.
Rejoice in the Lord, always.
Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who ruin their bodies. For we who are born-again have been spiritually transformed, renewed, set apart for God's purpose. We worship in the Spirit and exult in Christ Jesus, placing no confidence in what we have or who we are.
You know my pedigree: a legitimate birth, circumcised on the eighth day; an Israelite from the elite tribe of Benjamin; a strict and devout adherent to God’s law; a fiery defender of religious purity; a meticulous observer of every statute. The very credentials of which these people are so proud, I’m tearing up and throwing out—along with everything else for which I used to take credit.
And why? Because of Christ.
Yes, all the things I once thought were so important are gone from my life. Compared to the high privilege of knowing Christ Jesus, everything I once considered a benefit is now insignificant. I’ve discarded it all so that I could embrace Christ and be embraced by him.
I don't want some petty, inferior brand of righteousness that comes from keeping a list of rules. Instead, I want the robust righteousness that comes from trusting Christ—God’s righteousness. I want to know him personally. I want to have the same power in my life that raised Jesus from the dead. I want to understand his sufferings, and share in them, and be like Christ in every way possible so I come back to life.
I’m not saying that I have already become perfect. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me.
Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward that which lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of Christ Jesus.
Press ever onward.
Press ever onward.
Everyone who pursues spiritual perfection should have this attitude. Let us stay true to what we already know and eternally have.
Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.
But our citizenship is in heaven. We’re waiting for the arrival of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who will transform us. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same power by which he is setting everything right.
Therefore, my fellow believers, whom I love and long for, my delight and my crown of victory, stand firm forever.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.
Make it as clear as you can to all you met that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication--with thanksgiving--let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
I’m far happier than you would ever guess—happy that you’re showing such strong concern for me once again. Not that you ever quit praying…you just had no chance to show it. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want.
I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.
You can be sure God will take care of everything you need, also. His generosity exceeds even yours in the glory that pours from Jesus.
And my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
To our God our Father be glory forever and ever.
Give our regards to every follower of Jesus you meet. All the Christians here, especially the believers who work in the palace of Caesar, want to be remembered to you.
Urge Euodia and Syntyche to work out their differences and reconcile. God doesn’t want his children holding grudges. Indeed, I ask you to help these women cooperate, for they have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.
I hope to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may also be encouraged by learning news about you. For I have no one else like him who is so kindred a spirit who will be genuinely concerned for your spiritual welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the good news. I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.
But for right now, I’m dispatching Epaphroditus, my good friend and companion. You sent him to help me; now I’m returning him to help you. He has been wanting to come home. Especially since recovering from the illness you heard about, he’s been wanting to get back and reassure you that he is just fine. He nearly died, as you know, but God had mercy on him. And not only on him—he had mercy on me, too. His death would have been one huge grief piled on top of all the others.
So you can see why I’m so delighted to send him. When you see him again, hale and hearty, you’ll rejoice and I’ll be relieved. Give him a grand welcome, a joyful embrace! People like him deserve the best you can give. Remember the ministry to me that you started but weren’t able to complete? Well, in the process of finishing up that work, he put his life on the line and nearly died doing it.
You Philippians well know, and you can be sure I’ll never forget it, that when I first left Macedonia province, venturing out with the Message, not one church helped out in the give-and-take of this work except you. You were the only one. Even while I was in Thessalonica, you helped out—and not only once, but twice.
Not that I’m looking for handouts, but I do want you to experience the blessing that issues from generosity. It was a beautiful thing that you came alongside me in my troubles.
And now I have everything I need—and keep getting more! The gifts you sent with Epaphroditus were more than enough, like a sweet-smelling sacrifice roasting on the altar, filling the air with fragrance, pleasing God to no end.