This is the first Bible Gem in the series on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. The letter to the church in Philippi is one of the smaller books of the New Testament and as such can be read in 3O minutes at the most. There are only four short chapters in the letter. That will be easy to read multiple times within a week. There are only 104 verses in total.
Time Spent Watching TV compared with Reading the Bible
Twenty seven books of the Bible can be read in less than 20 minutes. That’s one segment of “60 Minutes“. You have to admit that is not a hardship. Those 27 books are:-
Old Testament: Ruth, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Malachi.
New Testament: Philippians, Colossians, 1 Thessalonians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, James, 1 Peter, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, Jude.
Woodrow Kroll, in his book Reading the Bible a Book at a Time has gone through all the Bible books and tested them for adult average reading speeds.
You can read 50% percent of the books of the Bible within 30 minutes. That’s the length of a normal short programme on TV. Now you have to admit that is not so hard. Forty books of the Bible can be read within the space of an hour at normal reading speed. . That leaves just 13 books which will take longer than 120 minutes to read – the normal time for an average movie.
To begin this morning, I read through the whole of Paul’s letter to the Philippians in 12 minutes. Yes that’s right 12 minutes! You can do it. But bear in mind people read at different speeds. So what does it matter if it takes you 30 minutes to read the whole letter. Isn’t it better to read the whole of Philippians sometime today instead of watching a pointless half hour programme on TV? Imagine what you could accomplish in getting familiar with the text of Philippians if you read it everyday for a week in a different version of the Bible.
Are you up for the challenge?
Here is the whole of text of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians in the New Living Translation (NLT). It may surprise you to see I have removed the chapter boundaries and have joined the text together without verse numbers or section headings. That really is the best way for you to read the text of what Paul wrote.
Paul’s Letter to the Philippians
This letter is from Paul and Timothy, slaves of Christ Jesus. I am writing to all of God’s holy people in Philippi who belong to Christ Jesus, including the church leaders and deacons. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace. Every time I think of you, I give thanks to my God. Whenever I pray, I make my requests for all of you with joy, for you have been my partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the time you first heard it until now. And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News. God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding. For I want you to understand what really matters, so that you may live pure and blameless lives until the day of Christ’s return. May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.
And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear. It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me.
But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance. For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honour to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live.
Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me. Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose. Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honour and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him. Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people. Hold firmly to the word of life; then, on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless. But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy.
If the Lord Jesus is willing, I hope to send Timothy to you soon for a visit. Then he can cheer me up by telling me how you are getting along. I have no one else like Timothy, who genuinely cares about your welfare. All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ. But you know how Timothy has proved himself. Like a son with his father, he has served with me in preaching the Good News. I hope to send him to you just as soon as I find out what is going to happen to me here. And I have confidence from the Lord that I myself will come to see you soon.
Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need. I am sending him because he has been longing to see you, and he was very distressed that you heard he was ill. And he certainly was ill; in fact, he almost died. But God had mercy on him—and also on me, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. So I am all the more anxious to send him back to you, for I know you will be glad to see him, and then I will not be so worried about you. Welcome him in the Lord’s love and with great joy, and give him the honour that people like him deserve. For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.
Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith. Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death, so that one way or another I will experience the resurrection from the dead!
I don’t mean to say that I have already achieved these things or that I have already reached perfection. But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Let all who are spiritually mature agree on these things. If you disagree on some point, I believe God will make it plain to you. But we must hold on to the progress we have already made. Dear brothers and sisters, pattern your lives after mine, and learn from those who follow our example. For I have told you often before, and I say it again with tears in my eyes, that there are many whose conduct shows they are really enemies of the cross of Christ. They are headed for destruction. Their god is their appetite, they brag about shameful things, and they think only about this life here on earth. But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior. He will take our weak mortal bodies and change them into glorious bodies like his own, using the same power with which he will bring everything under his control. Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and the crown I receive for my work.
Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement. And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life. Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.
How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever! Amen.
Give my greetings to each of God’s holy people—all who belong to Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send you their greetings. And all the rest of God’s people send you greetings, too, especially those in Caesar’s household. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.Phil 1:1-4:23 (New Living Translation – a good dynamic equivalence version)
Ian, what are you doing to us?
I am giving you the Scripture package in a form closer to how it first came to us in the earliest manuscripts, with no chapter boundaries or little titled segments. Just the translation equivalent of the plain text Paul wrote. In fact I have been kind to you. I have left the text in paragraphs and I have utilised the word breaks. The early text of the Bible had no separation between the words or little section headings. Imagine that.
My initial challenge is for you to begin reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians in one sitting; it’s not such a burden. I’m going to add another challenge and suggest you try reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians in as many different translations as you can before the next Gem. If you read the Philippian letter once a day (for fifteen minutes) in a different translation you would cover seven different versions before I send the next Bible Gem. It doesn’t matter if you don’t succeed in reading the letter seven times. Just read it as many times as you can in the week. Two people, who are familiar with the Bible Gem process, have asked if I would give you more time to do what I suggest you do before I send the next Gem. So I intend to give you the week to do what I have suggested.
Doing that will give you a good platform to understanding the book. I suggest to Deeper Bible students to read the passage in multiple versions, choosing:
- a Literal Version
- a Dynamic Equivalence Version
- and a Free Version
- some of your favourite versions
Dr Basil Brown, my Greek professor, challenged us to read a text of the Bible seven times to make sure we understood it well. The reference to “seven” was an allusion to the symbolism behind the number 7 in the Bible. Seven is the number of perfection, completion, consummation. So spend some time perfecting your understanding of Paul’s letter to the Philippians by reading it over and over through this coming week.
Read the text with your pen or your notepad or tablet beside you. Write down any questions that come to mind. Especially when you read it in different versions and realise there are some variations between the versions. If you don’t have multiple versions there at home, use the versions available to you on the internet through You Version or Bible Gateway or E-Sword, the FREE Bible software available to download from www.e-sword.net. Take note of the things which make you wonder in what Paul wrote.
- Why did Paul say that?
- Why did he use that word?
- What does that sentence / verse even mean?
- What is the meaning of that word in context?
- How does that connect with what Paul wrote just before (after) that?
The Bible Gem series are interactive. So send an email to me at [email protected] or a note in any way you like with your questions or your need for help or your complaints. You will not doubt find out in doing this exercise that you need to both read the Bible to read it and then separately read the Bible to study it. That is what I intend to lead you into with this series of Bible Gems on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians.
Be patient with yourself. You will come to understand the benefits of this approach.
Until you decide that your spiritual development is worth at least 15 minutes per day in the Word of God, you will remain a mediocre Christian.Tim LaHaye
A working knowledge of the Bible is based on at least 15 minutes per day just reading the Bible and 15 minutes per day studying the Bible.Tim LaHaye
No Bible, no breakfast, no exceptions.Tim LaHaye