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by Dr. Fred Wittman

Philippians 1:3-11


The first itinerant missionaries to Europe planted their first European church in the Macedonian colony of Philippi. Satanic opposition forced Paul and Silas to depart from the city. However, Luke, the beloved physician was left behind to care for the young converts and convene them into a church. Early reciprocal communication between Paul and the Philippians developed into a close knit relationship between church and missionary. The young church prayed faithfully for their missionary and he for them. Paul wrote to them from time to time, acknowledging their contributions and encouraging them in the faith.

After a lapse of time, communication was resumed. The Spirit of God prompted the eleven year old church to assist their missionary in prison at Rome with his needs. The Holy Spirit saw fit to preserve this Epistle of response to the Philippians and include it in the Canon of Scripture. What confidence in prayer this missionary so aptly expressed in his opening remark!

Because of his confinement in prison, Paul was unable to visit the Philippians to personally care for their needs, to strengthen them in the faith, and to insure unity. He must have confidence that The Exceedingly-able God would respond to his prayers and preserve and encourage the flock. The Philippians must likewise place their confidence in The God to preserve and care for their missionary. Sending financial aid would alleviate the temporal pressure, but only prayer would supply the power to sustain him and deliver him from his predicament.

Such an attitude of confidence in prayer is essential for productive Christian living today. Missionaries of the cross face difficult circumstances and intense pressures as Satanic attacks increase both in frequency and intensity. The work is so vast that often time lapses between sessions of instruction, preaching, and prayer. He must have confidence in prayer. Our churches must have confidence in prayer concerning the work of The God by their missionaries. One might ask, What is necessary for the development of such an attitude of confidence in prayer? How can one go about developing such confidence in prayer which is essential for productive Christian living?

The answer is found in Philippians 1:3-11 where the apostle Paul demonstrated this kind of confidence in prayer. Notice from this passage of Scripture that first Paul explained his reasons for confidence and then he expressed his requests in confidence.


“I give thanks to The God of mine upon every /memory of you&, 4all the time in every supplication of mine in behalf of you& all, while making supplication with joy) 5for your& /fellowship in the Gospel from 0first day until the now; 6standing persuaded of this very[same] thing, that The+ One |Who| commenced a beneficially good work in you& shall perfectly accomplish |it| until 0Day of Jesus Christ, 7according as it is just~ for me to mind this concerning you& all, on account of the fact of me having you& in my heart both in my /bonds and in the answer in defense and |in| verification of the Gospel, you& all |are| being my fellow partakers of the grace. 8For The God is my judicial witness, how I long for you& all with Jesus Christ’s inner, tender-affectionate-yearnings” (1:3-8 APT).

Paul gave four reasons for his confidence in prayer: his gratitude for their fellowship in the Gospel, his expectation of The God to finish His work in which he was instrumental to begin, the establishment of His work firmly, and his deep concern and affection for them.

      A. Expression Of Gratitude For Fellowship (vs.3-5).

Paul gave thanks for them. In 1 Corinthians 1:4 Paul similarly expressed himself as he said, “I thank my God always on your behalf for the grace of God which is given to you.” In his Epistle to the Ephesians he also expressed such gratitude. “I cease not to give thanks for you making mention of you in my prayers” (1:16). Again to the Colossians Paul wrote in 1:3, “We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ praying always for you.”

            1. A thankful heart

It was a vital part of Paul's ministry to give thanks in prayer for those whom he won to Christ. He won these Philippians under adverse circumstances. It was because of this relationship he had with them as their spiritual father that he developed an attitude of confidence in prayer. He had a thankful heart for them.

            2. A fond remembrance

The whole memory of them conjured up thanksgiving in his heart, so that he had joy in praying for them. “Concerning all of you, in every prayer of mine as I make request with joy.” I remember you. “The whole memory of you” represents a corporate understanding. The presence of the article in the Greek requires “the whole” rather than the use of “every.” It was a corporate memory. Literally: “the whole of your remembrance.” Paul made his requests with joy as he remembered the church at Philippi.

            3. A joyful fellowship

Paul also expressed his gratitude for their fellowship in the Gospel because of their contributions which were preceded by their deep concern and prayer for him as he ministered the Gospel. Fellowship is a mutual relationship. (For better understanding of fellowship in the Gospel see the paper entitled Fellowship in the Gospel on our website under the heading MISSIONS. To view it now click here.) The word κοινωνία comes from Κοινή which is the word for the common Greek language and means common. Therefore κοινωνία conveys both the thought of sharing in common and a close relationship.

                  a. Fellowship is a mutual sharing.

The Philippians were sharing with Paul in the gospel by sending contributions as he shared the Gospel with them and on their behalf to others where ever he went. There was a mutual relationship.

                  b. Fellowship is a mutual concern.

Paul was concerned for them. He cared about their problems and prayed for them. They were concerned for him. They cared about his needs. They prayed for his deliverance. They prayed that his message would go forth in power. Paul and the church at Philippi prayed for each other.

Not only did Paul express gratitude for their fellowship but Paul expected The God to finish His work in them.

      B. Expectation of The God to Finish His Work (v.6).

“Being confident of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will finish it in (until) the day of Jesus Christ.”

            1. Confident that The God will finish His work.

Paul had confidence that The God completes what He begins. He does not leave His work unfinished. The word for ‘finish’ means ‘to completely perform.’ It is used in 2 Corinthians 8:6: “Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also.” The beginning work with The God is to be the completed work. Unquestionably when The God begins to work He will complete it! The fact that The God had begun a good work in the Philippians is evidence that He will complete it. He will finish it. He will completely perform it. The word is also used in Galatians 3:3: “Are ye so foolish? having begun in The Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” That which is begun in The Spirit; is it completely performed in the flesh? No; The God Who begins the work will finish it and will finish it in the day of Jesus Christ. See Isaiah 55:11.

            2. Confident when The God will finish His work.

The God will continue to work in the lives of those He saves until the day of Jesus Christ. Paul refers to “the day of Christ” twice in Philippians--in verse 10 and again in 2:16. Paul mentions “the day of Christ” again in 2 Thessalonians 2:2. There he was concerned that the Thessalonians would not be disturbed by reports that “the day of Christ is at hand.” That day could not come until there was an apostasy, a falling away first, and then the man of sin must be revealed. But in 2 Corinthians 1:14 Paul refers to it as “the day of The Lord Jesus.” “As also ye have acknowledged us in part, that we are your rejoicing, even as ye also are our’s in the day of The Lord Jesus.”

“The day of Jesus Christ” then would be that time when there is the consummation of the work that The God is now performing. That would seem to be when The Lord Jesus Christ comes again for His saints whom He redeemed and The Holy Spirit regenerated. In 1 Thessalonians 5:23 Paul wrote, “And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” The work that The God is performing will be completed when He conforms us to the image of Christ. He will do that when He comes in the air to take His church to be with Himself.

      C. Establishment of The Gospel Firmly (v.7)

Not only does Paul explain the reasons for his confidence because of his gratitude for their fellowship in the Gospel and because he expected The God to finish His work in them, but also because he established the Gospel firmly among them. “Just as it is right to think this concerning you& all, because I hold you in my heart; both in my bonds and in the answer in defense and |in| verification of the Gospel, you& all |are| my fellow-partakers of grace.” Paul was confident because he established them firmly in the Gospel. He said it was right to think that The God would do this--that The God who began the good work in them will complete it in the day of Jesus Christ.

In addition he is thinking this because he holds them dear in his heart. Now that phrase in the Greek is a very difficult phrase. Because of the special use of the infinitive, it can also be translated the other way around “because of the holding me (or you) in the heart as to you (or me)” is the literal rendering (A. T. Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, 6 Vols., 4:436). Paul could have said it another way. No doubt he preferred to use the infinitive for emphasis to express mutual affection. Now with that deep mutual concern there are three things that give evidence to the fact that Paul established the Gospel firmly among them.

            1. They partook of this grace.

“. . . both in my bonds and in the answer in defense and |in| verification of the Gospel, you& all |are| my fellow-partakers of grace.” This is the grace in which he was laboring. They partook of this grace, when they communicated to him by fellowship in the Gospel. They shared with him in this grace by sharing in the cost to proclaim it. ‘Fellow-partakers’ is the translation of the same Greek root word used in verse 5 with the prefix meaning ‘with or together.’ Thus the meaning is fellow-partakers, fellow-partners, or joint fellow-shippers. They are jointly fellowshipping with Paul, both in his bonds as he is in prison enduring the chains and in firmly establishing the Gospel wherever he preaches it. They ministered to him with a contribution which they sent by way of Epah-fróhdeetohs. It was a sacrificial generous, monetary gift which enabled him to be sustained in prison. They partook of this grace.

            2. They persisted in his proclamation of the Gospel.

He was confident because they were established in the Gospel firmly. The evidence to that fact is that they persisted in fellowshipping in his proclamation of the Gospel.

                  a. They prayed for him in his bonds.

They persisted in praying for him while he was in bonds and in his defense and confirmation of the Gospel. During his imprisonment they were standing with him and behind him in prayer back in Philippi (cf. 1:19).

                  b. They prayed for his defense.

‘Defense’ is a translation of a word that is used in a legal sense to refer to the one accused in court. Luke used it in Acts 22:1, “Men, brethren, and fathers, hear ye my defense which I make now unto you.” It is also used in Acts 25:16 when Paul stood before King Agrippa and Bernice and replied, “To whom I answered, it is not the manner of the Romans to deliver any man to die, before that he which is accused have the accusers face to face, and have licence to answer for himself concerning the crime laid against him.” Paul was going to Rome to ‘answer’ for himself in order to ‘defend’ the Gospel. That word ‘answer’ is a translation of the Greek noun translated ‘defense’ or the Greek verb translated ‘defend.” Both in the defense of the Gospel before Caesar and in the firm establishment of the Gospel, all of the Philippians shared as fellow-partakers of this grace with Paul.

            3. They persevered in fellowship in the Gospel.

Now not only did Paul believe he established the Gospel firmly among them because they partook of this grace and persisted in financially supporting his proclamation of the Gospel, but also because they persevered in fellowship in the Gospel with him.

                  a. They persevered in giving.

They communicated with him twice in the first three weeks after he left Philippi with Silas (4:15,16 cf. Acts 17:2-10). They continued to share with him for several years since A.D. 51, the time of the first brief stay of Paul and Silas at Philippi in which approximately ten became disciples of Christ. Time and again they sent him a gift. Now at the last in A.D. 63 they sent a sacrificial gift to him again.

                  b. They persevered in prayer through all his trials.

They were upholding him in prayer through his imprisonment and defense before Caesar. Paul had good reasons for confidence in prayer. He expected God to intervene so he would be released because of their prayer (1:19). He was mindful that “The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (James 5:16). The God would honor his fervent prayer!

      D. Exhibition of Deep Concern and Affection (v. 8).

“For The God is my judicial witness, how I long for you all with Jesus Christ’s inner tender-affectionate yearnings.”

It was with the tender-heartedness of Christ in the inner feelings, the bowels of compassion from which came the deep affection that he longed for them. Because he exhibited such deep concern for them he had confidence in prayer. He expected The God to complete His work in them. He experienced the work of The God in the firm establishment of the Philippian church in the Gospel. They participated in grace with him. They were still going on in Christ. They had persisted through many trials and difficulties as the result of prayer. He expressed these many reasons for confidence in prayer.


“And this I continually pray, that the love [sovereign preference for another over self and others] of yours& continually be abundant yet more and more in full knowledge[from experience] and in all discernment, in order for you& to test and approve the things continually being of superior worth, so that you& be lucid [unadulterated] and unoffending ones unto 0Day of Christ, standing fully filled ones with fruits of righteousness which |are| through Jesus Christ for the purpose of God’s 0glory and acclamation” (Phil. 1:9-11 APT).

The apostle Paul expressed his requests in confidence. His petitions to God were threefold.

      A. That Love, Knowledge. and Discernment Abound (v. 9).

Paul continually brought the Philippians before the Throne of Grace. He indicated this first concern for them.

            1. Love.

The word for love is ’aγάπη, that self-denying, self-renouncing, self-surrendering, self-sacrificing love which was demonstrated by the Lord Jesus Christ when He gave Himself for us. The Lord Jesus said, “A new commandment I give unto you, that you love one another; as I have loved you” (John 13:15). It is that kind of love which was demonstrated by The Lord Jesus Christ that Paul prays will continually overflow from the heart of the Philippians. It is this divine, self-sacrificing love which The Lord Jesus demonstrated that Paul desires for them.

            2. Knowledge.

Paul prayed continually that this love will keep on overflowing yet more and more in full experiential knowledge. This kind of knowledge is not just insight, or awareness. It is not enlightenment, but a knowledge which has full understanding from experience Paul wanted them to abundantly know in full this wonderful love by experience.

            3. Perception (Discernment).

Paul is concerned that their love keeps abounding in experiential full knowledge as well as in all perception. Perception means ‘insight, understanding, direct cognition.’ It is knowing from the standpoint of awareness and judgment so that you can formulate and arrive at a decision. Paul wanted those believers at Philippi to grow in Christ, so that they continually overflow with love, and they develop full experiential knowledge in abundance as well so as to perceive in order to formulate and arrive at a decision concerning the things that really matter. Perception is a translation of αíσθησς, a word that denotes moral understanding and discernment. It is found in the verb form in Luke 9:45. The Lord Jesus had been up on the mount of transfiguration with Peter, James, and John. When they descended, Jesus found a crowd gathered together with the other disciples who had remained at the bottom of the mountain and had been unsuccessful and impotent to cast out demons from a little boy. The Lord Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and then said, “Let these sayings sink down into your ears: for the Son of Man shall be delivered into the hands of men. But they understood not this saying, and it was hid from them, that they perceived it not: and they feared to ask him of that saying.” That word ‘perceived’ is the same word that we have in our text in Philippians 1:9 translated ‘judgment’ in the Authorized Version. Paul prayed that they abound or keep on overflowing in their love in order to be able to understand more and more through full experiential knowledge and in all discernment or perception. Paul confidently requested that this would be the case with them. Then Paul also prayed:

      B. That They Test And Choose The Best (v. 10a).

“. . . in order for you& to test and approve the things continually being of superior worth” (10a APT).

Paul prayed that they might test and prove the things that really matter. In order to approve something it must be tested first. This Greek word δοκιμάζω carries the meaning ‘to test and approve.’ The word from which ‘the things that really matter’ is translated by the Authorized Version is a substantival form of the verb διαφέρω, which means ‘to differ’ with an emphasis upon ‘to one’s advantage.’ Thus it is sometimes translated ‘things that are excellent’ or grammatically more precisely “things continually being of superior worth.” This very same idiom is found in Romans 2:18. The context refers to the Jew who rests in the law making his boast in The God. Thou “knowest His will, and approvest the things that are more excellent, being instructed out of the law” (AV), or rather “approve the things of greater worth, being orally instructed out of the Law” APT). Those who are properly instructed, can differentiate between the things that are excellent and those which are not, but are rather mediocre. This concept of ‘excellence’ or ‘to one's advantage’ is a possible translation because of The Lord’s use of the word in Matthew 10:31. “Ye are of more value than many sparrows.” Paul wanted their love, knowledge, and discernment to abound. He wanted them to test and choose the best. He also prayed:

C. That They Be Sincere (Lucid), Blameless (unoffending), and Fruitful (vs. l0b,11).

“. . . in order for you& to test and approve the things continually being of superior worth, so that you& be lucid[unadulterated] and unoffending ones unto 0Day of Christ, standing fully filled ones with fruits of righteousness which |are| through Jesus Christ for the purpose of God’s 0glory and acclamation” (vs. 10b,11 APT).

            1. Sincere or Lucid.

The English word ‘sincere’ is an unusual word. It comes from the Latin word which means ‘without wax.’ It is the word which is used for assaying metals, pottery, or furniture. When there were flaws in pottery, they would take wax and fill the nick or dent, and then stain it. But if it was held up to the light it could be seen that there was a flaw. The Greek word from which sincere was translated is εíλικρινής. It is a compound word in which εíλη (hehée-lay) which means ‘sun’s rays or sunshine’ combined with κρίνω (kree-nō) which means ‘to judge.’ Thus the literal meaning is ‘judged by the sun’s rays or by sunlight.’ If there was a nick or flaw in the pottery and it was filled with clear wax, the flaw would be clear as the sunlight shone through it. Then the metaphorical meaning of the noun is ‘sincerity’ while the actual meaning is ‘lucidity.’ The metaphorical meaning of the adjective is ‘sincere’ and the actual meaning is ‘lucid.’ Thus Paul wanted the Philippians to be lucid (clear and open) so that the inner reality was apparent to all. He prayed that they be sincere in motive, pure and not mixed, not alloyed, not superficially appealing, and not ‘waxed over’ to cover-up blemishes. He prayed that they be without superficiality, but real.

            2. Blameless or Unoffending.

The word ‘blameless’ in the Authorized Version is a translation of the Greek word ’aπρόσκοπος which means ‘one not causing stumbling against’ or ‘one not giving offense’ thus an ‘unoffending one’ or one without blame for offending are causing stumbling. Paul wanted his disciples to be blameless, unoffending ones, not stumbled against, but not damaging when the Lord Jesus Christ returns--in “the day of Christ” (see I. B. 2. v. 6 above).

            3. Fruitful.

Paul was concerned that they would be fruitful. He desired that they continue in the fruits of righteousness with which they had been filled full through Jesus Christ. This results in the glory and praise of The God, which is the reason God made man and redeemed him.

The requests that Paul made where threefold:

1) that their love would be self-sacrificing love like Christ’s love for us, continually overflowing more and more in full knowledge through actual experience as well as to be able to discern and form a decision about things that really matter,

2) that they would test, approve, and choose the things which really count in this life, and

3) that they would be lucid (sincere), open, and without superficiality, blameless (unoffending, not causing anyone to stumble), and filled with the fruits of righteousness when the Lord Jesus Christ comes in the air for His church.


Paul demonstrated confidence in prayer in the opening verse of Philippians. Paul’s confidence in prayer is seen in his gratitude for the fellowship of those he won to Christ, in his expectation of The God to finish His work in them, and because he trusted his work that was established upon The God’s Holy Word. He believed that he established them firmly in the Gospel. He trusted The God to preserve them and to complete His work in them. After explaining his reasons for confidence in prayer he expressed his requests in confidence. He prayed that they may be fully mature, that their love, that their experiential knowledge, and that their perception and discernment would abound. He prayed that they would know how to test and approve the things that really matter by choosing the best. He prayed that they would be lucid (or sincere), unoffending (or not causing stumbling), and fruitful.

The very things that Paul demonstrated in his life concerning prayer should be evident in all our lives. The Philippians could have that same confidence and so can you. The reasons for this confidence in prayer are the same. You and I should be grateful for the fellowship in the Gospel which The God has provided to fulfill the mandate given to the church to reach the uttermost parts of the Earth with the Gospel. You can expect The God to finish His work in you, in your local church, and in the lives of all those won to Christ by your missionaries. If you participate with your missionary and become a fellow-partaker of grace, you can have confidence in prayer. You participate in fellowship in the Gospel with your missionary by upholding him in prayer and by giving to his needs. To develop such a confidence in prayer begin to lead souls to Christ, establish them in the faith by discipling them, and pray for them, believing God will complete His work in them.


As you consider these factors in relationship to the attitude of confidence in prayer, what steps will you take in order for you to be confident in prayer?

To what extent will you go to develop this attitude which is so vital in Christian growth and productive Christian living?

Now consider the practical meaning of our lesson by answering the discussion questions.

Discussion Questions.

1. What attitude in relation to prayer is essential for productive Christian living? Why?



2. What vital relationship for a disciple is implied by the context and is essential for the development of such an attitude as confidence in prayer which was demonstrated by the apostle Paul?


3. What principle underlies this implied relationship which is essential to develop an attitude of confidence in prayer like that of Paul?



4. What three reasons can be cited to show why Paul was so confident in prayer for those he won to Christ?









5. How did Paul know he had firmly established the Gospel among the Phlippians? (Answer is found in verse 7).







6. What was Paul’s motive in making such requests in behalf of the Philippians, which motive should be ours?






7. What three things can you do to develop such confidence in prayer?



| | understood $singular &plural /the 0no article +masculine ~neuter
[ ]basic meaning
/ \ manuscripts divided

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Last modified: January 11, 2021