A Preview to a Journey of Joy     (click here for audio)


Philippians 1:1-2

We begin our study in a most precious epistle called Philippians.  Most Bible scholars refer to Philippians as the “epistle of joy”,  and rightly so,  because that is the theme in the four brief chapters.  We might call the Apostle Paul, the Apostle of Joy, because his joy in the Lord Jesus Christ is clearly seen as he writes this short letter to Christians who resided at the city called Philippi.   The word  “joy” or “rejoice” is used often, about 16 times in the entire letter.  Christ is mentioned about 50 times and that tells you the reason for Paul’s joy.   Paul had absolute confidence in the Lord and that gave him joy.

In our time this morning we will only introduce the letter, this epistle of joy under the topic I’ve chosen to call A Preview to a Journey of Joy.    Since joy is the major theme in the epistle to the Philippians, it is important to define the word “joy”.

I. A Definition of Joy

John Macarthur has helped us in presenting in a long sentence what he calls a “theology of joy” and I think it’s very useful in defining true biblical joy.

1. A gift from God –

Psalm 4:7-8       7 You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.  In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.


Psalm 16:11  You make known to me the path of life;   in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.


2.  To those who believe the gospel

The good news of Christ,  It’s all about Jesus,  Who He is,  Why He came, and What He has done.  Remember the announcement when Jesus was born –  Luke 2:10

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people….   JESUS IS GOD’S   GIFT FOR SINNERS.  Jesus came preaching His gospel….when we receive His words, our lives our filled with joy.

John 15:11   These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

3. Produced by the Holy Spirit

Joy is a gift from God to those who believe the gospel being produced by the Holy Spirit.  Recall the scripture that gives a list of the fruit of the Spirit-  Galatians 5:22  “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace….”    And there’s Romans 14:17  “the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and Joy in the Holy Spirit.”

4. As the believer receives and obeys the Word

Jeremiah 15:16  Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy  and the delight of my heart,

1John 1:4    And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

TRUE JOY comes when we are applying God’s Word in our everyday life.  It’s not just hearing the Word,  but taking it in and making application in daily life.

5. Being mixed with trials

Joy is a gift from God to those who believe the gospel being produced by the Holy Spirit as the believer receives and obeys the Word being mixed with trials.

We think –  joy is only possible when there is an absence of trials and troubles.  On the contrary, that’s when TRUE JOY is experienced ….it’s in the midst of trials and tribulations.

1Thessalonians 1:6  And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit,

When you think about it….that’s  when joy is a precious gift….in a time of great affliction.

James 1:2   Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

6. Set hope on future glory

Joy is a gift from God to those who believe the gospel being produced by the Holy Spirit as the believer receives and obeys the Word being mixed with trials setting their hope on future glory.

NOW we  “endure with Joy”;   but one day  we will   “receive future joy”       JOY is COMING!

Psalm 30:5   Weeping may tarry for the night,    but joy comes with the morning.


Jude 24    Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy,


THIS JOY is not to be confused with  “happiness”.   Happiness depends on what happens.  It’s superficial, it comes and goes… but Christian Joy is deeper and it endures even through the trials we face.  Joy is a constant because Christ is constant.  Joy is ever-abiding because Christ is ever-abiding.


II.  A Description of Joy

When it comes to joy a definition is helpful, but a description is even better.   A picture is worth a thousand words.  On the canvass of life a beautiful picture of the Apostle Paul is helpful to see what it means to be full of joy.   Paul gives a picture of a true servant.

  1. A Picture of SERVANTS

Phil 1:1    Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus –

Paul is a prisoner of Rome.  We know that by looking down in the first chapter.  Look at v.12

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

Paul writes from his prison cell in Rome  four letters (or epistles).  3 were written to churches and 1 to an individual Christians.    Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians…… Philemon was written to encourage a friend.   All 4 are called the PRISON EPISTLES.   Paul does NOT begin Philippians by making this a BIG issue.    HE doesn’t say… Paul..a prisoner of Rome…. But rather….SERVANT of Christ Jesus.

The word for “servant” is  “slave”.  Paul says   HE IS A SLAVE OF CHRIST JESUS.     That’s  the literal meaning for the word  “servant” in this verse.

Paul was NOT a  slave to Rome.     He was NOT  a slave to the church.    He was NOT a slave to others….He was a SLAVE to Christ!      A slave did not have his own rights.  He was not the owner of himself,  rather  He was the owner of His Master.    Paul did not start off by saying  “this is

Paul the great Apostle;    or    Paul the great leader;   or  Paul,  the great defender of Truth.”

He is humble in his greetings to the Philippians.    He gives an example for all Christians to follow. If we are to know JOY…. It begins with knowing who we are in Christ.    We are NOT our OWN.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.  1Cor. 6:19-20

We are slaves to Christ;  He bought and pay for us.  He redeemed us from the slave market of sin.


22 But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Bondage to sin leads to death;  but now we are under a different bondage.   It’s a bondage of love and gratitude.  It’s not forced labor.  We are free to serve,  free to give, free to love the Lord and others.   Christ is our Master and we serve gladly.  We obey with joy and great honor.

Ray Steadman, a great servant for Christ told of seeing this strange-looking character on the streets of Los Angles…. he was carrying around a sandwich board….on the front the board read  “I am a slave to Christ”   on the backside it read   “Whose slave are you?”

We are someone’s slave.    Paul says   “I along with Timothy are slaves to Christ”

Timothy was a great servant (or slave) to Christ as well.   He wasn’t incarcerated like Paul.  He was in contact with Paul and was useful as a messenger.    Timothy’s father was Greek and his mother was Jewish.  Paul will later become separated from Timothy and will write a letter which bears the name of 1 and 2 Timothy.  Paul will say   I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well.      2Timothy 1:5

Paul at the time of writing Philippians is joined by Timothy.  He has great confidence in Timothy.  Notice in chapter 2:19

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you.  20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21  For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

The name TIMOTHY – means  –  he who honors God – He truly lived up to the meaning of his name. He along with Paul were pictures, llustrations of true servants.


2.  A Picture for SAINTS

Not only that,  but Paul and Timothy were descriptions of Joy…  They were illustrators of Christian Joy…. They are walking billboards advertising what true Christian joy looks like.  They were pictures for all the saints in Philippi to learn from.

Why saints?   What do you think of when you hear the word  “saints”?     Some might think of New Orleans and football.  Some might think of some super Christian in the past.  Like Saint Paul, Saint Mary,  …but really the word “saint”  means  “one set apart to God”.      I think it was J.Vernon McGee who said, there are only two kinds of people in the world,  “saints and the aints”.    If you are a believer in Christ, you are a saint.  You may not feel like one,  or many times act like one, but you are one by virtue of faith in Christ.

Paul has joyful memories as he writes to them.   God used Paul to begin the church at Philippi.

Acts 16…  Paul comes to a place called Lystra —  there meets Timothy… He invites Timothy to accompany him… they go from city to city… came to a place called Galatia…. Paul wanted to go to Asia, but the Holy Spirit did not allow Paul to do that….

He wanted to go to Bithynia but the Spirit did not allow Paul to go there…   He came to Troas…and while he was there..a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come voer to Macedonia and help us.”

This was the Lord leading him to go to Macedonia  and that’s how he came to Philippi.  This was a very strategic move because Philippi was a leading city and a Roman colony.  It was at the crossroads connecting the east and the west.  A major trade route and the location would serve as a springboard to advance the gospel to the entire Roman world.

As was Paul’s custom he would come into a new city and first visit the synagogue.  He would approach the Jews first with the gospel.  That’s the order..”to the Jew first…then to the Gentiles”.

There were some Jews at Philippi but not enough Jewish men to have a synagogue.  You had to have at least 10 Jewish men to justify the building of a synagogue. The place to find Jews on the Sabbath day was at a river.  This was a customary place for Jews to meet on the Sabbath when they did not have the convenience of a synagogue.  So we read in ACTS 16:13

13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. 14 One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul.

LYDIA – she opened her home to Paul, Timothy, and also we know Luke, and Silas accompanied Paul.    As they were going to  place of prayer – met by a slave girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners much gain by fortune-telling.

Slave girl –   “these are the servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation”

Did this for many days…  Paul greatly annoyed at this….   “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her”…..

Owners – upset— their source of money—gone…they dragged Paul and Silas…before the leaders..

Accused them of disturbing our city…. Advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice…..order to be beaten….   “many blows inflicted on them….thrown in prison…stocks….  Legs extended…arms extended…jailor was ordered to keep them secured…

Midnight –  Paul/Silas     praying and singing hymns to God  prisoners heard them…

Great earthquake……foundations of prison shaken… bonds were unfastened…. Doors opened…

Jailor woke up…saw …..about to kill himself….  Paul says…… Do not harm yourself …we are all here.

What must I do to be saved?….washed their wounds….

He…and his family were baptized…

Paul and Silas were released……


10 years later…. From that event…. Paul writes this letter…

The Philippian Christians  had heard that Paul was in a Roman prison.  They were concern…were greatly troubled at this….  Paul writes this letter to help them stay focused on Christ and to experience  JOY.

Paul was a PICTURE for the Saints to learn how to be joyful  even during difficult times.

This letter would help all of them….  Especially the overseers and deacons.   The word “overseers” means pastors or elders.  As their numbers increased there would be the need for more pastors to oversee the flock and to preach the Word.  Deacons would be needed to deal with other matters so the pastors or elders could concentrate on prayer and the preaching of God’s Word.

 In this letter there’s something said about  competition and rivalry in the ministry..There are other preachers who preach Christ but not with pure motives…some were jealous of Paul’s popularity and they tried to do damage to Paul.    In all of that Paul’s focus remained on Jesus Christ.

He said  in 1:15-18

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.  Yes, and I will rejoice,

Paul did not get sidetrack away from the gospel and respond to all his critics.  He took the high road and stayed positive.  He lifted up the Lord Jesus because that was his joy.

Overseers, pastor, elders, deacons they all needed the hear and see the example of Paul.  Paul didn’t let his critics take him away from the duty to the flock and the ministry of the Word.

Paul says,   For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.   That’s the perpective they all needed to see.   That’s the key to having true joy in the Lord.

In these 4 brief chapters the Philippian believers profited from the rich treasure of what it takes to rejoice and even laugh.  Chuck Swindoll has given an overview of each chapter as it relates to laughter.  It’s not the laughter of folly; and of the world,  but the laughter that comes from deep abiding joy in Christ.

Chapter 1 – we learn there’s laughter in LIVING.   Even if we don’t get what we want, even during difficult circumstances, and even during great conflicts..

Chapter 2 – we learn there’s laughter in SERVING.   It starts with the right kind of attitude…that of humility…it is maintained by the right kind of theology – (God is God);  and it is encouraged by the right kind of mentors and models…people like Timothy and Epaphroditus

Chapter 3 – we learn there’s laughter in SHARING.  Paul shares 3 happy things:  his testimony;  his goal in living;  and his reason for encouragement

Chapter 4-  we learn there’s laughter in RESTING.  Here Paul gives some outstanding principles in personal contentment.  He speaks of RESTING in total confidence in God.


TO ALL the SAINTS in Christ Jesus….that includes  US…. We have in these 4 chapters  a picture…a snapshot DESCRIBING what it is —to have JOY in Christ.


We see in the greetings section –  the source of Joy –  “grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We have already pointed out –   Joy is a gift from God to those who believe the gospel.

That’s what we see here —  GRACE TO YOU – that’s how we receive JOY….it’s given to us by GRACE.  We don’t earn it.  It’s a gift from the Holy Spirit.

Grace to you –  is a common greeting among the Gentile world.  It’s a way of saying “greetings”!

Peace to you – is a common greeting among the Jewish world.  The word is “shalom”.

Paul puts both of these common greetings together – Grace to you and peace….


  • (1) Unmerited Grace – THAT means the unmerited favor of God toward humanity. God does not grace us because of something we’ve done;   it’s not because of who we are;   it’s not because of some character trait we have on the inside….

Romans 5:8   but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God acted graciously toward us even while we were sinners with no merits,  nothing to earn God’s favor.    Paul never got away from that.  If it wasn’t for God’s grace, Paul would not have been saved,   he would not have been forgiven for killing Christians,  the same is true for us.

WE are what we are  BY THE GRACE OF GOD!

  • (2) Abounding Grace – not only is this grace unmerited;  it is  abounding grace…   James Montgomery Boice tells of a story he read…a young man in Clearwater, Florida suddenly inherited a three million dollar share of his father’s lumber business.   He had been working as a four-dollar-hour waiter.  Let’s suppose now this young man had received word from the owner of the restaurant that he would be getting a raise from 4 dollars to 5 dollars an hours?  The owner…just decided with no knowledge of what’s going on…out of the goodness of his heart…he raises his pay by another dollar…  THAT ITSELF WOULD BE AN ACT OF GRACE…IT WOULD BE A SMALL THING…  However, the young man received three million dollars. Instead of a small raise, he experienced what we might call “grace abounding.”

In the same way…we deserve hell at the hands of God, and anything God might do to help would be “grace”… Here’s the thing…God’s act of grace is NO SMALL THING!  It’s not a dollar-an-hour grace. It is a grace that has made us millionaires in Christ.[1]

Abounding GRACE –   it is grace that has saved us…. Grace that has sent Jesus to us….  Grace that has brought us through many trials…. Grace that has sustained us in times of conflict,  times of great difficulty,  times of desperation,  times of sickness,  times of heartaches and grief,

It will be grace that will lead us,  all the way home..



Grace is from above;   Peace is that which we have on the inside…

Naturally, we are NOT at peace with God and with others.   That’s why we see so much strife today.  So much violence…  there’s the absence of peace.

John 14:27     Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

The first word Jesus gives when greeting His followers after His resurrection – PEACE

See Phil 4:6-7     Paul will speak of Peace…



There are many  JOY STEALERS;   or  Joy Killers….  Paul will address that in the letter…

Worry is one of them…   We must remember the promise – Jesus -I will never leave you.. I AM with you…

I AM —  I can do all thing through Christ….   He is my Strength…

Helen Mallicoat writes the following:

I was regretting the past

And fearing the future…

Suddenly my Lord was speaking:

“My name is I AM”  He paused.

I waited.  He continued,

“When you live in the Past,

With Its mistakes and Regrets,

It is Hard.  I am not there.

My name is NOT  I was.

When you live in the Future,

With its problems and fears,

It is hard. I am not there.

My name is Not I Will Be

When you live in this moment,

It is not hard.

I am here.

My name is I AM.



[1] Philippians, expositional commentary, Boice, pg.26

-----Outline for the Church Bulletin----------------
A Preview to a Journey of Joy

Philippians 1:1-2

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:  Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

  I. A Definition of Joy     (John Macarthur's study)
  1. A Gift from God Ps 4:7-8  Ps. 16:11
  2. To those who believe the gospel Luke 2:10  John 15:11
  3. Produced by the Holy Spirit Gal. 5:22;  Romans 14:17
  4. As the believer receives and obeys the Word Jer. 15:16; 1John 1:4
  5. Being mixed with trials 1Thess. 1:6;  James 1:2
  6. Set hope on future glory Ps. 30:5;  Jude 24
    II.  Description of Joy
    1. A Picture of Servants
    2. A Picture for Saints - Acts 16
        Chapter 1 Laughter in Living
        Chapter 2 Laughter in Serving
        Chapter 3 Laughter in Sharing
        Chapter 4 Laughter in Resting
    III. The Reception of Joy
      1. Grace to you
         (a) Unmerited grace Romans 5:8
         (b) Abounding grace
      2. Peace John 14:27