3 I thank my God every time I remember you, 4constantly praying with joy in every one of my prayers for all of you, 5because of your sharing in the gospel from the first day until now. 6I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. 7It is right for me to think this way about all of you, because you hold me in your heart,* for all of you share in God’s grace* with me, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I long for all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus. 9And this is my prayer, that your love may overflow more and more with knowledge and full insight 10to help you to determine what is best, so that on the day of Christ you may be pure and blameless, 11having produced the harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ for the glory and praise of God.
Paul’s greeting is followed by a thanksgiving – most of Paul’s letters have a thanksgiving of some sort following the greeting. The section of Thanksgiving has a three part structure, reflecting either: by content – gratitude, affection, and prayer for the church; or, by movement – Paul’s relationship to the Philippians past, present, and future.
In verses 3 – 6, Paul speaks of the relationship he has had with his friends in the church at Philippi. He remembers them with fondness, and with joy. He thanks God whenever he remembers them. He is grateful for their service in the sharing of the gospel from the first day. They were partners with Paul in the spread of the gospel. And, he is confident that God will complete the good work that he has begun among them.
In verses 7 & 8, he speaks of the relationship he has with these good friends. They hold him in their hearts; they share with him in God’s grace – even in his imprisonment. He longs for all of them – God can witness to that longing. (There is much debate as to whether Paul’s imprisonment is in Rome, Caesarea, or Ephesus. But it is clear that the letter is written from prison.)
Finally, Paul expresses his hopes and prayers for the Philippians in verses 9 – 11. He prays that they might first of all have love – overflowing their hearts; and, that love should produce knowledge and full insight – this is not just knowledge and full insight of situations around them, but of God’s will for them. The purpose of this is to help them live as God intends, lives that mirror the love of Christ, that they may be pure and blameless when Christ returns. Reflecting his love, they will have produced the fruits of love – here Paul calls that righteousness, but don’t think here of righteousness as “holier than thou”, afraid to live sort of thing we think of as self-righteousness. What Paul speaks of is far from that! It is to live a full life overflowing with love. From love we live into the sort of “righteousness” Paul is speaking of – a reflection of Jesus Christ in our lives that brings glory to the God we serve. Nor does Paul’s hope for them reflect only the “second coming” of Christ, but rather, the presence of Christ with them, in them, always. For that he prays – daily.