Explore the Bible Sunday School Lesson for September 5

Joy in prayer

Philippians 1:1–11

Over the next few weeks we will study one of the most beloved of Paul’s letters. Philippians frequently is referred to as “the Epistle of Joy” because Paul uses the words “joy” and “rejoice” repeatedly.

As we study Philippians, I pray you and I will experience the truth of this joy.

Today we see that there is joy in prayer.

Shared Faith. (1–2)

Paul begins by referring to God’s people as “saints” (v. 1). The Greek word means “holy” or “other than.” Throughout the Bible this terminology has been used when talking about God setting people apart for Himself.

In the Old Testament priests were holy because they were set apart for God. Jews were to be holy because they were different from all other nations; they had a special place in God’s redemptive plan.

Similarly, Paul says Christians are saints or holy because they too are set apart by God. True faith means a person is “in Christ Jesus” (v. 1). In the way humans cannot exist without oxygen, Christians cannot survive apart from being in a personal, intimate relationship with the Lord.

All followers of Christ have a shared faith and thus a common bond. In a world where Christians are increasingly attacked and persecuted, it is wonderful to know we are not alone — we have joy knowing God has called other saints who share in the same faith.

Thankful Faith. (3–8)

Paul’s focus is on God, and the assurance believers find in Him. As Paul remembers the Philippians, he erupts into thanksgiving to God (v. 3), then joyful intercession (v. 4). Specifically, Paul is thankful for faithful partnership in the gospel (v. 5). This joy is rightfully focused on God.

Why are the Philippians faithful followers? Why will these people remain true to Christ? God! He began the work, and He completes what He starts (v. 6). There is great joy knowing God begins, continues and completes the Christian life.

Paul loved the Philippians, and they loved him (v. 7). Their “defense and confirmation of the gospel” and continual support in his imprisonment were evidence they were partakers in grace with him. In other words, God started and is finishing a good work in the Philippians.

Paul is thankful for the faith of this church, as evidenced by their good works. Christians are saved by grace through faith, not by works. Nevertheless, once someone is saved, good works will follow.

Even now, God is calling people to faith in Himself. Salvation and subsequent partnership in the gospel are a gift for which we must be thankful. 

Growing Faith. (9–11)

This love and partnership with the Church at Philippi didn’t stop at thanksgiving; Paul also interceded for them.

If left to our flesh, Christians and churches could drift to complacency and laziness. Paul didn’t want this fate for his beloved Philippians. Everything must be done with a view that Christ is coming soon, and believers must be prepared for the day. 

Hence, Paul teaches on the process of growth beginning with a seed of love, culminating with the fruit of righteousness at harvest (v. 11). In Christ, we are now what we need to be; and with God’s help we will grow into this new nature as we are transformed into His image.

This challenge of growth can become overwhelming. How can we be pure and blameless? In part, spiritual disciplines are God-intended for our growth. But a joyful reality is that all is done through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God (v. 11).

We have a human responsibility for our growth, but ultimately we are filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ! Are you praying for other believers? Are you asking God to grow them in their faith? Spiritual growth results in much joy!


Jackson has served in a variety of ministry roles, including pastor and state missionary.

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