philippians 1:1-11 [greeting, thanksgiving, and prayer]

Written by Rachel Slough

Teacher, mentor, guide, seeker of Christ.

June 27, 2011

UPDATE: You can now get the Philippians Community Commentary, enhanced with additional Bible study tools, on Kindle!


Read Philippians 1:1-11 (ESV, NIV, The Message)

In these first eleven verses, Paul establishes a tone and message that will continue throughout this letter. He speaks with love of hope, grace, joy, and peace–words that will continue to echo. He also states his opening wish for the church of Philippi: that they would be able to discern God and live in His love, whatever the circumstances. It establishes Paul’s role as a mentor to the church.

In her book Altar in the World, Barbara Brown Taylor argues for the importance of blessing each other as a spiritual practice. Articulating specific blessings allows you to connect to other people and to God in a unique way, valuing them, treasuring them, and learning to love them in a way that God loves. These opening verses are a model for this kind of blessing, filled with kindness, joy, and a promise that challenges and unites with Christ.

As you study this passage and continue on this study of Philippians, I would encourage you to think of your own mentors. Who are you mentoring and being mentored by? Following Paul’s model, what kind of blessing would you wish for them?


  1. Mark Lafler

    So often we don’t think of the authors of the NT letters as mentors to the churches they are writing.  It is a great thought and helpful.  Thanks!

    • @bibledude

      i like this perspective on the writer (paul) as a mentor to the people to whom he’s writing too. as i blog more and share the history of the church as it’s happening right now, i tend to identify with the writers of the Bible. not that i’m comparing my writing to theirs, but i identify more with the writers and what they were doing. it’s cool to think of what they were doing with their writing… and not JUST what they were saying.

  2. Charles Bailey

    What a perfect example Paul is of how we should pray for the Body of Christ and those who are close to us. In Paul’s other letters, he always starts with his official position, why he has the right to write, and why the recipients have the duty to listen; but not when he writes to the Philippians. There is no need; he knows that they will listen, and listen lovingly because of the great example and mentor he has been to them. Great introduction to this study.

    • @bibledude

      cool observation charles! it definitely speaks to the relationship that he had with them… and it’s one that we should model as we Christians as we continue to share the Gospel and encourage other Christians.

  3. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    What provocative comments–and I mean that in a good way! I’d never considered the the mentoring aspect nor the purpose of a given writer in the Bible before. I need to chew on how that dovetails with my acceptance of the Bible as God’s holy Word.

    Charles, that’s an excellent point you make. It’s so popular these days to say “it’s all about relationship”; your comment illustrates that’s always been the case.

    Lyla, I’m a sucker for any story about reconciliation. Isn’t that the heart of our Gospel? You tell yours economically and beautifully.

  4. Lyla Lindquist

    Being part of a church with a conflicted history, I remember the days when our regional staff would come to meet with us, and the tone was firm, hard, corrective. As we healed and grew and experienced restoration, I remember remarking to him on one visit that his tone had completely changed. He agreed, and shared how excited he was to be able to come with words of encouragement instead of correction, drawing us instead of driving at us as he’d had to before. I sense Paul’s relationship with the Philippians was much more of that nature, encouraging them in what they were already doing. What a restful type of ministry that can be. 

    He had to be both with us, but when he could come blessing, as you talk about here, instead of correcting, it was a joy for all of us.

  5. Ryan Tate

    Great perspective and great reminders for us. There are no parts of scipture, not even the opening greetings of a letter, that are not full of insight, truth, and depth.

  6. Melissa Brotherton

    There’s something about reading that passage that blesses me in hearing it as well. Paul’s words are so encouraging and uplifting. I loved how the Message put it (and I am usually not a fan of the Message): “Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush.”

    • Daniel Humphries

      I like this (paraphrasing the paraphrase) … use your head so that you’re sincere and don’t go all saccharine, mushy, fakey fake. I think insincerity is something we can all spot a mile off. And, for some reason, I think it’s even more pronounced when Christians try and fake love for the world. I think it’s better to admit you struggle with loving than to give lip service and have nothing backing it.

  7. Diana Trautwein

    You had me at ‘An Altar in the World,’ as I am a BBTaylor fan.  And, more to the point, I am a big Paul ‘fan,’ too.  And ‘mentor’ is a great word for his role in the life of this church – his love for these people is evident throughout the letter – and their love for him, too.  Thanks for this good beginning, Rachel!

  8. Anonymous

    It’s amazing how fully you can sense Paul’s love for this body, and his pride for their continued faith — and all expressed in just these first few words.

    Generally not a fan of The Message, but a couple of things that spoke to me …  (MSG) 1:8b “Sometimes I think I feel as strongly about you as Christ does!” I have to admit that this depth of love is something I don’t even approach among those in my realm of mentoring, nor for those in my local body. Sure, I love these folks, but as strongly as Christ does? That’s certainly a level of love I rarely approach, much less obtain.

    And I like the way this is expressed … (MSG) 1:10-11 “Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.” Makes me stop and reflect on how much of my life would make Christ proud and how much of what I do in my day-to-day is making him attractive to those with whom I come into contact.

    Thanks, Rachel for a great kickoff!


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philippians 1:1-11 [greeting, thanksgiving, and prayer]

by Rachel Slough time to read: 1 min