Philippians 1: Joy in Just About Everything

We don’t talk much about joy these days.  We talk about fun or we talk about happiness.  In fact the Declaration of Independence talks about the pursuit of happiness being one of the natural rights mankind enjoys as a gift from God.  But I’m not sure that happiness is the same as joy, at least not the same kind of joy Paul is talking about in Philippians 1.

Paul and Timothy are in Rome and Paul is under house arrest.  As we learn in the letter his appeal to and trial before Caesar is nearing some conclusion and he is awaiting the outcome.  The people of the Church at Philippi have sent Epaphroditus with a gift for Paul and to inquire about his wellbeing.  Paul’s response is, well, joy.


Joy for the Philippians

Paul is joyful first for the Philippians and the work that God is doing in them.  He thanks God and prays with (wait for it) Joy because they were eager to accept the Gospel and partner with Paul and, more importantly, with God in spreading the Gospel. 

And what does he pray with Joy? That the Philippians love will continue to increase in wisdom and insight to let them find the very best and bear the fruit of righteousness.

Joy in the Gospel

Don’t think that Paul was happy about his circumstances, about being on trial and under house arrest.  But he was joyful that because of his condition the gospel was being preached.

  • It was being preached through his example.  Even the praetorians were aware that Paul was there because of Christ, not some crime he had committed.
  • By others encouraged by his example.  Other Christians in Rome were emboldened by what was happening to Paul and spoke out.
  • By those who were jealous of Paul’s status.  Paul didn’t care how it was preached or why.  He could trust God for the outcome.

Joy in What May Come

It was possible that Caesar would find against Paul and order his execution.  But even in this Paul found joy because the prospect of death in this body meant he would be with God.  In fact either prospect, to live or die, was such a joyful prospect that he could hardly decide which he would rather have happen.

He uses his personal joy and his belief that “what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” to encourage the Philippians to stand firm, “contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened”.  He tells them that, like him, they will suffer for Christ.  Implied is the notion they should do so with joy, for the same reasons as Paul.


  1. What is joy?  Is a feeling or something else?
  2. How much do we love the Gospel, the Good News that Christ has made a way for us, and everybody else, to be at peace with God?
  3. Is it really OK for the Gospel to be preached for the wrong reasons?
  4. Do others see the Gospel through our example?
  5. Can we say, and mean it, that if God wills us to live or die, that’s just fine?