The Journal of a Jailbird

Title: The Journal of a Jailbird

Bible Book: Philippians 1 : 1-11

Author: Steve Wagers

Subject: Joy; Partnership; Paul



John Bunyan was introduced to Christ through two books, Arthur Dent's "Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven", and Lewis Bayly's "Practice of Piety." Those books opened his eyes to his sinful condition and stirred his insatiable desire to tell others about his Savior. So at age 30, Bunyan started preaching. But, because Bunyan lacked governmental approval to preach, he was picked up by the police, hauled off to jail, and tossed into a prison cell for the disgraceful act of preaching without a license. Finally, after three months of confinement, he was brought before the local magistrate and offered a full pardon on one condition: "Stop preaching the gospel!" But that was something John Bunyan couldn't do. So, back to jail he went; this time for 12 years in the Bedford city jail. Yet, it was during those 12 years, in that cell, that Bunyan wrote the classic work, "Pilgrim's Progress." His small cell had one window through which he could see only the outer stone wall. And so, each day Bunyan would do what came naturally; he would preach-through a barred window to any who could hear his voice. Day-in and day-out, the unmistakable sound of the license-less preacher was heard through the streets of downtown Bedford. Passersby would stop their shopping to gather outside the prison wall to hear his message of hope. During his long imprisonment, he carved a flute out of the leg of the only stool he had. With that flute, from a lonely prison cell, he played melodies of praise and worship to God.

The apostle Paul had stays in prison as well. Paul was in thrown in prison, like Bunyan, for preaching the gospel. While in the Mamertine prison in Rome, around A. D. 63, Paul wrote a letter to the church at Philippi. The church at Philippi was birthed during a season of revival described in Acts 16. The charter members of Philippi were a converted business woman named Lydia, a demonic soothsayer, a jailor, and some prisoners. The Philippian letter has been referred to as the “Epistle of Joy.” The words “joy or “rejoice” are found 18 times throughout the book. I have entitled this series, “Joy from the Jail,” because ironically enough, while serving time in a dark, damp, dismal, and depressing jail cell, Paul wrote with joy, about joy for the purpose of joy.

George Duncan says that, “The Christian life was meant to be a life of continual rejoicing.” That seems to be an impossibility in today’s society, but it is a reality to the Spirit-filled believer.

Happiness: Human Circumstances

Joy: Heavenly Confidence

Paul doesn’t write about the “I’ve got a wonderful feeling, everything’s going my way” kind of joy. But, rather an indescribable, irreplaceable, and inexpressible kind of joy that the world doesn’t give, and can’t take away.

The first section of the letter is like reading the journal of a jail bird.

I. The Greeting Sent to Them

[1-2] “Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons. [2]Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.”

We often overlook such greetings and salutations, but there are a couple of revealing things in the greeting Paul sent to the Philippians. He reveals that he was:


[1] “The servants of Jesus Christ.”

Several Green words can be translated into the word “servant.”

1) A servant who serves: diakonos

2) An attendant: therapon

3) A house servant: oiketes

4) A hired servant: misthios

The word Paul uses is doulos. It speaks of one in a relationship to another that only death can break. It literally speaks of a “bond slave,” one that has been bought and is owned by their master. Outwardly, Paul was a slave of Caesar. Inwardly, he was a bond-slave to Jesus Christ. To the Greeks, this idea would have been intolerable. To the Jews, to call someone a “doulos” was one of the worst insults you could use. Yet, while we consider Paul a “super-saint,” he thought of himself a slave to the One who had bought him, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Spurgeon told of the day he surrendered his life to Christ. "I surrendered myself to the Savior; I gave him my body, my soul, my spirit...for eternity! I gave him my talents, my powers, my eyes, my whole manhood! So far from regretting what I did then, I would fain renew my vows and make them over again. I pray God, that if I have a drop of blood in my body that is not His, let it bleed away."

We think of a slave in terms of bondage; but one who is a slave to Christ could not be any more free. Can you honestly, wholeheartedly say with Paul, “I am a doulos, a bond slave, bound to my Master?”

B. Blessed by the Ministry

[1] “To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.”

Paul expresses how he has been blessed by their:

1) Position

The word “saints” is descriptive of every genuine, born again believer. The Greek is hagios, or “set apart ones.” We think of a saint in terms of Mother Theresa or Ghandi, but a saint is not made, a saint is born. A saint is one who has had their robes washed white in the previous blood of the Lamb.

We express more confidence in what we were as sinners than in who we are as saints. Think about those who chartered the church at Philippi. A converted business woman named Lydia, a demonic soothsayer, a jailor, and some prisoners.


This church was a broad cross section of people from all sinful walks of life, but they had one thing in common: they had been made saints by the blood of Jesus Christ.

My dad used to say, “There are 2 kinds of people: saints and aints. You are either a saint, or you ain’t.” That may be poor grammar, but it’s excellent theology.

Paul was not only blessed by their position, but by their:

2) Practice

[7] “Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.”

Robert Gromacki presents a valid point, “A distinction must be made between being a saint and being saintly. The former refers to a believer’s position whereas the latter points to his practice. All believers are saints, but not all believers are saintly.” [1]

These believers were not only saints, but they behaved themselves in a saintly manner. Simply put, they acted like Christians ought to act.

I think of the Sunday school teacher who was teaching his class the importance of living out the Christian life before the world. He asked the class, "Why do you think that everyone thinks I am such a great Christian?" A little boy raised his hand and said, "Because they don't know you very well!"

Are you a slave to Jesus? Have you been a saint by Jesus? The two go hand in hand and could not be anymore relative. To be a saint means that I should want to be a slave to the One who purchased my freedom.

II. The Gratitude Showed toward Them

[3-4] “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you. [4]Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy.”

When it came to the Philippian believers, Paul was thoughtful, as well as thankful.

The word “thank” is eucharisto, and it denotes continuous action. Paul gave thanks for these believers on a regular basis. He was grateful for them, and he showed that gratitude to them.

One of my joys as your pastor is to pray for you on a regular basis. I pray through our directory every week, calling each member by name, asking God to bless, use, protect, and keep you.

I think one of the failures in our life is how forgetful we are. We are a lot like the couple that was sitting in church when the wife suddenly said, "Oh, honey, I forgot to turn off the electric iron before we left home." He looked at her and smiled, "Don't worry dear, it won't burn long. I just remembered I forgot to turn off the faucet in the bathtub."

How often we forget what God has done in our lives. How often we forget those God has put into our lives. How often we take for granted the blessings of God, as well as those who have been a blessing to us. Paul was ever thoughtful and thankful for these people.

His gratitude is shown for their:

A. Gracious Partnership

[5] “For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.”

The word “fellowship” is the Greek word koinonia. It speaks of much more than in what we think in terms of fellowship. It spoke a covenant between 2 people. In ancient times, it spoke of a marriage contract.

The idea is that of a working partnership. It is an agreement between 2 parties who are committed to a common task. The common task was the:

[7] “Defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace.”

Paul was grateful for the Philippians and their partnership with the gospel. He did not have to pump, prime, or prod them to share the gospel. But, they were partners “from the first day until now.” For approximately 10 years, the Philippian believers had been Paul’s partners in the gospel.

A pastor in a small town went down to the train station every day and watched the train come roaring through. One of his deacons asked him why he followed that same ritual every day. The pastor said, “That’s the only thing moving in this town that I don’t have to push.”

Paul didn’t have to push the Philippians. They were self-starters. They had initiative. They were committed partners to the common task of proclaiming the gospel.

If Heaven is real; and it is. If hell is real; and it is. If the Bible is true; and it is. If God is love; and He is. If Jesus died to save; and, He did. Then, the greatest thing we could ever do is to bring men, women, boys and girls to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

This isn’t a job just for pastors, deacons, full-time staff members, or outreach leaders. Every believer is to be in partnership with the gospel. The early churches did not hire ministers of evangelism or outreach. Every Christian was an evangelist and outreach leader.

Billy Sunday was right, “Let’s quit fiddling with religion, and do something to bring this world to Jesus Christ.”

B. Godly Ownership

[6] “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

I’m not going to spend much time on this verse now, because our next study will deal exclusively with it. But, let me suffice it to say that Paul not expressed his gratitude for what they were doing for God, but for what God was doing in them.

Outward relationships may change, but their upward relationship would never change. God was working for them, through them, with them, in them, and on them.

Furthermore, what God starts, HE ALWAYS FINISHES! God had started the good work of salvation, and He would carry it through to completion until the “day” they stood before Jesus Christ.


The final entry in the journal of a jailbird speaks of:

III. The Growth Sought for Them

[8] “For God is my record, how greatly I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ.”

The word “bowels” speaks of the “deepest inward parts.” It spoke of the seat of one’s emotions. In essence, Paul was saying, “I love you with all my heart, and I long for your well-being with every fiber of my being.”

They were the people he loved on, and there was the purpose he longed for. The purpose was their growth, progress and maturity in the things of God.

A. Loving that Exceeds the Standard

[9] “And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more.”

The word “abound” is the Greek word perisseuo. It literally means, “To super abound, to be in excess, to overflow.” One translator described it as rising higher and higher. Our English word "abound" has a Latin ancestry and when spelled out literary it means "wave upon wave."

George Duncan says that the picture “Is that of a bucket standing under a streamlet with the water pouring out on every side, overflowing to others.”

“Abound”: EXTENT of their Love

“More and More”: EFFECT of their Love

Paul desired that they would so grow in Christ that their love would “abound,” overflow, be in excess to reach many people. But, he also desired that it would “abound more and more” like a shaken bottle of pop that spews out in every direction.

Mary Guy Pearse writes: "The Lord turns up the leaves of our profession, looking first for the golden fruit of love. The tree is barren, the garden is empty, that grows no love."

A little girl named Nan, writes this letter: “Dear God, I bet it is very hard for you to love all of everybody in the whole world. There are only four people in our family and I have trouble loving them!”

Loving those that love us is the standard; however, to love those who do not even like us, and allowing that love to “abound more and more” exceeds the standard.

B. Learning that Exercises the Spiritual

[9] “In knowledge and in all judgment.”

Paul desired for their love to “abound more and more,” but in a specific way; in “knowledge and in all judgment.” In other words, they were not only to be focused on loving, but on learning.

While love is the river, “knowledge” and “judgment” are the banks that contain the river.



The word “knowledge” refers to a thorough grasp of spiritual truth. This is one who doesn’t make a rash decision, but gathers all of the facts and examines them carefully.

Gromacki states, “True love does not act in ignorance. True love must discriminate between good and evil, between important and unimportant issues. A believer must know what to love and whom to love.” [2]

We have often heard the statement, "Love is blind." Real love is not blind. Real love uses the heart and the head whether it is in handling ourselves or handling others.

Real love not only sees the positive, but the negative as well. It gathers all of the facts and weighs all of the evidence. To love with knowledge means that we don’t allow the sympathy in our heart to cloud the sincerity of our head.

The word “judgment” is better translated “discernment.” The word means to see clearly, to confirm, to test, and make sure.

[10] “That ye may approve things that are excellent.”

The word “approve” means to “put to the test.” The word was used of how metal were assayed or tested to determine their true value.

Stuart Briscoe comments, “The love of which Paul speaks should be able to differentiate between a genuine need you should attempt to meet, and a phony pitch you should attempt to expose.” [3]

For their love to grow and be what it ought to be, Paul says that they must learn to love in “knowledge” and “judgment.” Real love NEVER compromises truth. We never compromise God’s Word in the name, or for the sake of love.

Let me put it this way. If God’s Word says it’s wrong, then it’s wrong; and real love never compromises, or condones wrong. David Jeremiah comments, “Without knowledge, the Philippians would not know whom to love. Without judgment, they would not know how to love.” [4]

Let’s say for example that you see a person that seems cold and distant. Your first reaction is, "They won’t talk to anyone. They are so stuck up. They just come in and go right out. I wonder what their problem is."

When the truth is known, they do have a problem. Maybe their heart is burdened or broken. Maybe there is a terrible situation at home. Maybe their life is under constant pressure.

When our love reaches the level described by Paul, we will have “knowledge” and “judgment.” We will not immediately move into the seat of the scornful, but we will gather all of the facts, ascertain all of the evidence, and instead of criticism, there will be compassion; instead of sarcasm, there will be sympathy.


[10] “That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ.”

The word “sincere” literally means, “To be judged by the sun.” It was a word used to describe how ancient jar and vases were examined for disguised cracks by holding them up to the sunlight. If it was cracked, the light of the sun would immediately reveal the defect.

The only true way to test our authenticity or sincerity is to be held up to the light of the SON. His light reveals our flaws, failures, defects, and disadvantages. We must seek to correct these areas so that we be blameless and “without offense” until the “day” we stand before Him.

Paul’s desires that these Philippian believers would grow in such a way that they would be genuine and authentic. He wanted them to be real in their walk with Christ, lest they be a stumbling to another Christian, or the cause of Christ.

This is the best statement I’ve ever heard about sincerity:

Be who you is,

Because if you is who you ain’t,

You ain’t who you is!

Are you a help or a hindrance to a fellow believer? Are you the reason they want to serve Christ, or are you the excuse they used for not serving Christ? May God help us to be a help and not a hindrance.

How can be a true, sincere, genuine help?

[11] “Being filled with the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God.”

Our lives must not only be emptied of wrong things, but they must be filled with right things.


“I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15: 5)

As believers, we are the branches; but a branch cannot bear fruit in and of itself. Rather, for there to be fruit, it must allow the life of the root to flow through it.

Attached to Poor Richard’s Almanac in 1758 was a little poem that expresses the thought.

A little neglect may breed mischief;

For want of a nail, the shoe was lost;

For want of a shoe, the horse was lost;

For want of a horse, the rider was lost;

For want of a rider, the war was lost.

All for the want of a nail.

Do you see the connection? You start with the nail. If there were no nail, there would be no shoe; no shoe, no horse; no horse, no rider; no rider, no victory. Each was a natural progression that comes out of the other.

The starting point of the Christian life is love for God. If there is no love, there will no sense of what is vital. If there is no sense of what is vital, there will be no pure and blameless life. If there is no pure and blameless life, there will be no glorifying God. It all begins with our love for God.

Bob Richard's, the Olympic pole vaulter of years ago, loved to tell the story of the goof-off who played around with football. If there was mischief to be done, this kid was doing it.

Everything was casual, no big deal. And he added very little to the team. He practiced but wasn't committed. He showed up to play, but never with enthusiasm. He liked to hear the cheers but not to charge the line. He liked to wear the suit, but not to practice.

One day the players were doing 50 laps and this showpiece was doing his usual five. The coach came over and said, "Hey, kid, here is a telegram for you." The kid said, "Read it for me Coach." He was so lazy he wouldn't take time to read the letter. The coach opened it and read, "Dear son, your father is dead. Come home immediately." The coach swallowed hard and said, "Kid, take the rest of the week off." In truth, he didn't care if he ever came back.

Well, Friday night at game time, the teams came running onto the field, and lo and behold, the last one out was the goof-off. No sooner were they on the side line when the kid started saying, "Coach, can I play tonight? Can I play?" The coach thought, "Kid, you’re not playing tonight. This is homecoming. This is the big game. We need every real guy we have and you are not one of them." Yet every time the coach turned around there was this kid, "Coach can I play. Please let me play. Coach I have to play."

The first quarter ended with the score lopsided against the coach and his team. At half time they were further back. The second half started and things got progressively worse. Up came this kid, "Coach, Coach, let me play." The coach looked at the scoreboard and said, "All right. Get in there kid. You can't hurt anything now." No sooner did the kid hit the field than he exploded. He ran, blocked, and tackled like a star. The score evened up.

In the closing seconds of the game, this kid intercepted a pass and ran all the way for the winning touchdown. The stands broke loose. The kid was everybody's hero. Such cheering you never heard. After the game the coach came over and said, "Kid, I never saw anything like that. What in the world happened to you out there?" He said, "Coach, you know my dad died last week." "Yes, I read you the telegram." "Well coach, my dad was blind. And today was the first day he could ever see me play."

Writing his journal, Paul, the jailbird, reminds us that our Heavenly Father is watching us; thus, we should play every down of the Christian life “unto the glory and praise of God.”


1 “Stand United in Joy,” Robert Gromacki, pg. 25.

2 IBID, pg. 45.

3 “Bound for Joy,” Stuart Briscoe, pg. 11.

4 “Turning Toward Joy,” David Jeremiah, pg. 25.


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