This reading is Philippians 1.
When Paul refers to the Philippians as saints, he means it in the sense of being “set apart,” not that they are perfect. Paul referred to the “Lord Jesus Christ,” which is rich in meaning. As Lord, He is over all and we are subject to him. As Jesus, He is our Savior. And as Christ, He is the Messiah promised to the Jews.
As shown in verses 3-4, Paul obviously had a strong relationship with the Philippians: “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.
Verse 6 teaches the doctrine of eternal security, that is, if you are really in Christ then you will stay that way. Don’t confuse that with the doctrine of assurance, which deals with whether you really are in Christ or not.
Paul is sometimes misconstrued as being harsh or chauvinistic, but if you read his writings closely, he is very personal and caring. Consider verse 7: “It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart . . “
As God does so often, a bad situation like Paul’s imprisonment is used for good, as Rome’s “whole palace guard” heard of Christ because of it. You get the feeling that no one could be around Paul for long without hearing about Jesus. In addition, Paul’s example emboldened other believers to more courageous and fearless.
Paul humbled himself so much that he didn’t even care if others used his situation against him to preach about Jesus, as long as they got the Gospel right.
Verse 21 (“For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”) is famous. He has such confidence in the Lord that he is willing to be obedient and suffer on earth though he would prefer to be with Jesus in Heaven.
Paul notes that all Christians will suffer for their belief in some way – “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him.” This is an important point to mention when sharing the Gospel. Sometimes churches focus solely on the peace, love and joy parts of Christianity without mentioning the suffering and sacrifice it can require.
Paul challenges the church to stay unified, “contending as one man for the faith of the Gospel.” Fellowship is much more than just cookies and punch after church. It is living life together and carrying out the mission of Christ’s church together.
The next reading is Philippians 2.