Let's start with three observations.
Do you agree with this observation: “A person who has
joy can preach powerfully without saying much”?
Someone else made this observation: “. . .
Joy flows on through trouble; joy flows on through
the darkness; ... joy flows on through all persecution and
is an unceasing fountain bubbling up in the heart; a secret
spring the world can’t see and doesn’t know anything about.
The Lord gives His people perpetual joy when they
walk in obedience to Him” (Moody)!
The last observation is based on a story.
There was once a French general under Napoleon who
led an army to capture a city in Austria.
The town council had about decided to surrender when
someone said, “Let's not forget that this is Easter!
Let's ring the church bells to remind others!
Let's leave it to God to determine our fate!”
So the church bells were rung.
When the French army heard them, they falsely
concluded that the people were welcoming an Austrian army.
So they retreated and returned to France!
Then came this observation: “This incident has often
been duplicated in individual lives.
When Christians have rung joy bells in the face of
Satan's attacks and trials, they have often conquered.
Speedily, the foe has shrunk away [for] no enemy is
quite so strong as faith combined with joy” (Wells)!
Since the words “joy and rejoice” occur about 16
times in the letter of Philippians, it has been called “the
epistle of joy” (Barclay).
Indeed, a good two word summary this letter is “Be
all things without complaining and disputing, that you may
become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault
in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among
whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word
of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I
have not run in vain or labored in vain” (2:14-16)!
“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord” (3:1)!
“'Rejoice in Lord always!' Again I will say,
When we think about the history of this congregation
and its loving relationship with Paul, we discover that it
was a church founded in joy, developed through joy, and
fortified by joy.
So let's look quickly at this congregation's three
phases: its joyful past, its joyful present, and its joyful
First of all, this congregation was founded in joy; it had a
Let's recall for a few moments how the church was founded.
The apostle Paul and Silas had been wondering which
way to go and had tried several directions, but the Holy
Spirit had forbidden them.
Then Paul received a vision in the night of a man
calling, “Come over into Macedonia and help us!”
This was in about 52 A.D.
So Paul, Silas, and Luke eventually make their way
over to Philippi.
This city was named for Alexander the Great's father,
lay at some very important crossroads that connected the
Empire, and it had the political privilege of choosing its
own rulers and of being “a little Italy” in Macedonia.
Of course, Paul is interested in finding a synagogue,
but in this city, there was none.
“It became a custom for the Jews in captivity to go
to a river and weep because they were away from their
the tradition grew that where there was no temple and there
was no synagogue, Jews would find a riverside like they did
in captivity and weep over their plight. So Paul knew
exactly where he would find some Jews, and he found some
Jewish women” (MacAuthur).
Lydia, a wealthy seller of purple goods heard Paul's
preaching and became a Christian, along with others in her
then offered her home as a place where the missionaries
Then we have the story about a slave girl, who was probably
Greek, and how Paul eventually cast a demon from her.
Although the text doesn't say it explicitly, this
slave girl probably became a Christian too.
When this happened, her owners grew very upset
because they had been using her to make a profit by having
her tell people's fortunes.
The owners brought Paul and Silas before the
magistrates and falsely charged them with causing trouble.
The rulers didn't make much of an investigation but
immediately tore off the missionaries' clothes, had them
beaten, and had them put in jail.
One source described their situation in this way:
“They had just been flayed open by a bundle of rods in the
hands of experts that left their backs a pulp and often
caused intense hemorrhaging, often caused injuries to
organs, often smashed vertebra and crushed ribs.
So these aching bleeding limping men are then taken
in, thrown into a deep dark cell in the inner dungeon and
then they're put in stocks. Not the kind of stocks
that we think of when we think of the English.
The stocks that the Romans used had a series of holes
extending further out.
Depending on the size of the individual, they
stretched the legs to the farthest possible extremity and
then locked them in those holes. And then they
stretched the arms to the same extremity and locked them
there. And in
that condition they were placed in that inner dungeon,
aching, bleeding, sitting in a dark cell, cramping up in
ways that we couldn't even imagine, alone with the filth of
the cell, the rats, and the stench. And why?
Because some men lost their money when they lost
their demon-possessed girl” (MacAuthur)
But the church in Philippi was born out of joy, a joy
unrelated to circumstances.
They were alone and in pain, but they were praying
and singing praises to God!
Now that's joy ... so deep and so profound that
nothing in our normal world touches it!
They knew the joy that comes from the Holy Spirit
because they were willing to obey God, and they trusted in
the Lord Jesus Christ.
Then we remember how God sent an earthquake, and the
jailer was about to kill himself, but Paul tells him not to
hurt himself, and the jailer then asks that all important
question: “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”
Paul and Silas encouraged him to believe on
Christ, and they preached the Gospel to him and his family,
and they had their wounds washed by this penitent jailer,
and they baptized that jailer and his household into Jesus'
name. Now look
at verse 34 because there is more rejoicing: “Now when he
had brought them into his house, he set food before them;
and he rejoiced, having believed in God with all his
Those evangelists had been rejoicing despite their physical
difficulties, and now their convert is rejoicing over his
new status before God!
Look how all the Roman Empire is being drawn into the
church at Philippi—a woman who is Asian, a girl who is
probably Grecian, and a jailer who is Roman!
And all levels of society are seen as well: Lydia was
wealthy, the slave girl was poor, and the jailer was
Our Lord Jesus was uniting them all!
“All those converts had a had a bond with Paul that
They saw him [having been terribly mistreated].
They loved him.
Lydia and her household loved him, [the slave girl
love him], and the jailer and his household loved him.
There was a [joyful] bond there [despite a pagan society all
around them that was very materialistic and selfish]”
we see there is joy in Paul's converts, and Paul and Silas
had been joyful evangelists, notwithstanding the harsh
Then there was one other person filled with joy.
Look at the later part of verse 15: “So she
Now it happened, as WE went to prayer, that a certain
slave girl, etc, etc.”
Do you see that Luke is including himself in this
company at this point?
But notice what happens in verse 20: “And they
brought THEM to the magistrates, etc. etc.”
Now drop down to verse 40: “So THEY went out of
the prison and entered the house of Lydia; and when THEY had
seen the brethren, THEY encouraged them and departed.”
Notice how Luke has
begun to use the third person plural
instead of the first person plural.
Now go over to Acts 20:6: “But WE sailed away from
Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread, etc., etc.”
Now Luke again goes back to the first person plural
after a visit to Philippi by Paul.
What's is going on here?
Well, most commentators believe that Luke stayed
behind to work as the preacher for the church in Philippi!
One commentator rightly observed:
absence of the pronoun 'we' indicates that Luke remained in
that Grecian city (Acts 16:40), and he is still there some
years later when Paul returns (Acts 20:5), although of
course Luke may have been elsewhere in the interval”
Luke was about a joyful as they come!
Remember how he began his gospel with the angel's
announcement about good tidings of great joy at the birth of
Christ, and then ends it with the apostles returning to
Jerusalem with great joy after Jesus' ascension (Luke 2:10;
24:52)! So, the
Philippian church was blessed to have a joyful preacher as
church in Philippi was founded in joy; it had a joyful past.
Now let's fast-forward about 10 years, around 62 A.D., and
here we see that church developed through joy.
Paul's letter represents a joyful present.
First of all we find joyful numerical growth.
Notice how Paul begins this letter: “Paul and
Timothy, bond-servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in
Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops [or
elders] and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our
Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Before noticing the growth, let's think just a moment
about that expression bond-servants of Jesus Christ.
It really means to be Jesus’ slave, but this slavery
This slavery is also joyful because “a bond slave was
a slave bonded to the individual.
And it was often the case that that bonding was out
of affection and love and a sense of esteem, not some kind
of abject fear” (MacAuthur).
This affection led to joyful willing service, not
forced behavior, unwilling duty, or abusive subjection!
Alright, let’s go back to that joyful numerical
10 years, we now see that Paul says that this congregation
has grown from two families and a slave girl to one with at
least four more families.
There were probably many more than that, but the fact
that there are elders and deacons (always in the plural)
would indicate that, at a minimum, there had to be four more
chapter 4, Paul mentions three more members by name: Euodia,
Synthyche, and Clements.
Undoubtedly, others in Lydia's and the jailer's
households must have converted as well. Someone made this
observation: “[This] church to which Paul wrote must have
flourished, because in his letter he referred to levels of
leadership in the church, such as [elders] and deacons”
Seeing a congregation expand out of love for the Lord truly
makes for a joyful development!
And the diversity of status and nationality probably
continued as well since Philippi “was one of the most
integrated places in the Mediterranean world” (Study Bible)!
Next, we see joyful gifts being given by the Philippian
brethren to express their love for Paul.
“The Philippian brethren had sent him a gift; they
sent him some kind of gift.
But they were always doing that!
Look at verses 16-17: 'For even in Thessalonica,
you sent aid once and again for my necessities.
Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that
abounds to your account.'
This church was always sending him gifts.
It was the Philippians alone who sent him a gift when
he moved on and had arrived in Corinth by way of Athens.
In 2 Cor. 11:9, Paul says that the brethren in
Macedonia supplied his need (that reference to Macedonia
really means Philippi).
It was also the Philippians who had sent him a gift
[How those Philippian brethren kept up with Paul's
travels without phones and computers may baffle us, but love
finds a way doesn't it?]
It was the Philippians who sent him a gift now
The Philippian brethren loved Paul,
and they joyfully expressed their love by giving
gifts to him.
Years have passed since the last gift; some estimate even
six years later.
[So Paul] writes this letter to thank them for the
gift and to tell them [in essence], 'Don't worry about me,
I'm rejoicing...[the Gospel is expanding despite my chains,
so] I'm rejoicing'” (MacAuthur). They were a generous
church who gave their gifts joyfully to Paul time and time
again. Maybe we
should imitate this good congregation and send some gifts to
our missionaries as well.
Our family was given such gifts when we worked abroad
on the mission field, and every one of them lifted our
spirits! So who
will make joyful gifts a reality among us as well?
Then we notice that Paul himself is such a joyful prisoner.
He is under house arrest and would have been chained
to guard 24 hours a day.
But you don't hear any complaints in this letter.
Listen to some passages: 1) 1:18: “Only that in
every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is
preached; and in this I rejoice, and will rejoice!”
2) 1:25-26: “And being confident of this, I know
that I shall remain and continue with you all for your
progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be
more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.”
In essence, Paul is asking them not to worry about
him, and one day he'll come visit them again.
And he does!
“When he left this imprisonment, he went to Ephesus,
and then he sent Timothy to get the church at Ephesus [back
on track]. Paul
then took off and went to Philippi [from where he] wrote 1
Timothy and Titus” (MacAuthur).
In 1 Tim. 1:3, “Macedonia” once again probably means
4:1 “Therefore, my beloved and longed for brethren, my
joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.”
4) 4:10: “But I rejoiced in the Lord
greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished
has noted that the word “Christ” is found 50 times in this
where there is Christ, there is joy!
Here's how someone else describes Paul's intentions
in Philippians: “But it says in summary, 'I want the best
for you. I want
the best for you, God's best.'
You see, here's a man who is concerned about others,
who is lost in his concern for others.
And he writes them: 'Thank you for your gift; I don't
need it, but I'm so glad [you remember me and] love me that
much. Thank you for [sharing] Epaphroditus, but I'm sending
him back because you need him more.
Don't worry about me, I'm rejoicing.'
Listen to this, in chapter 1, he says, 'People have
disappointed me, but I'm rejoicing.'
In chapter 2, he says: ‘The plans have sort of
I'm sending Epaphroditus, [and] I'm going to send
Timothy, [and] I'm going to be all alone, [but] I'm still
rejoicing.' Chapter 3, 'I've lost all my past possessions;
I'm still rejoicing.'
Chapter 4, 'I'm in very very trying circumstances,
[but] I'm still rejoicing.'
That's his message. ... People are going to fail you,
plans are going to fail you, possessions are going to fail
you, and circumstances are going to fail you, but it doesn't
ever need to touch your joy” (MacAuthur)!
When Paul wrote in 62 A.D., the church in Philippi
had a joyful present!
Well, did Paul's example and epistle on joy stick or have an
these brethren's lives continued to by fortified by joy.
This was their joyful future.
Well, how do we know that?
There was church leader in the second century who
served as an elder in Smyrna and was one of the apostle
His name was Polycarp.
Another church leader visited Smyrna whose name was
Ignatius, and he left some letters that he had written to
the church in Smyrna and to some other churches in the area.
Then Ignatius visited in Philippi.
When the Philippian brethren heard about the letters
that he had written to the other churches, they wrote to
Polycarp and asked if they could have copies of them.
Polycarp not only sent them copies but also wrote
them a letter himself (Davis).
This letter was written about 60 years later after
the letter of Philippians (around 122).
He writes to the Philippian brethren: “It does my
heart good to see how the solid roots of your faith, which
have such a reputation ever since early times, are still
flourishing and bearing fruit. … Though you never saw
[Christ] for yourselves, yet you believe in Him in a glory
of joy beyond all words (which not a few others would be
glad to share), well knowing that it is by His grace you are
saved, not of your own doing but by the will of God through
Jesus Christ.” And Polycarp mentions deacons, young men,
widows, and other sisters as a part of the congregation
there. And we
see that they all still have “a joy beyond all words!”
“As a third-century man was anticipating death, he penned
these last words to a friend: 'It's a bad world, an
incredibly bad world.
But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and
holy people who have learned a great secret.
They have found a joy which is a thousand times
better than any pleasure of our sinful lives.
They are despised and persecuted, but they care not.
They are masters of their souls.
They have overcome the world.
These people are the Christians--and I am one of
“'Rejoice in Lord always!' Again I will say,
Discover in Christ that bubbling fountain that can
help you through all kinds of adversities!
Claim the strength that Christ can give when faith is
combined with joy!
Your life can be founded in joy, developed through
joy, and fortified by joy!
Become Jesus disciple by being immersed into His name
or redevote your life to becoming a more faithful
bond-servant to our Lord, following His will for the rest of