Introduction to Philippians
Philippians is Paul’s most warmly personal letter. After initial difficulties in the city of Philippi (Acts 16), a strong bond developed between Paul and the converts there. Paul wrote to thank the church for a gift it had recently sent him in prison and to inform them of his circumstances.
CIRCUMSTANCES OF WRITING
AUTHOR: Paul the apostle wrote this short letter, a fact that no scholar seriously questions.
The church at Philippi sent Epaphroditus to help Paul in Rome. While there he became ill (2:25-28). The church learned of Epaphroditus’s illness, and Paul wished to ease their concern for him. Some people possibly blamed Epaphroditus for failing his commission, but Paul commended him and sent him home. Perhaps Epaphro-ditus carried this letter with him.
MESSAGE AND PURPOSE
One purpose of this letter was for Paul to explain his situation at Rome (1:12-26). Although he was concerned about the divided Christian community at Rome, his outlook was strengthened by the knowledge that Christ was being magnified. Paul’s theology of life formed the basis of his optimism. Whether he lived or died, whether he continued his service to others or went to be in Christ’s presence, or whether he was appreciated or not, he wanted Christ to be glorified. Within this explanation are several messages.
Christian unity results when individuals develop the mind of Christ. In more difficult situations, the church collectively solved problems through the involvement of its leadership (4:2-3). Harmony, joy, and peace characterize the church that functions as it should.
FREEDOM FROM LEGALISM: Paul warned the church to beware of Jewish legalists (3:2-21). Legalistic Jewish teachers threatened to destroy the vitality of the congregation by calling it to a preoccupation with external religious matters. Paul countered the legalists with a forceful teaching about justification by faith. He chose to express his theology through his personal experience. He had personal experience with their message and found it lacking.
SALVATION: Salvation was provided by Christ, who became obedient to death (2:6-8). It was proclaimed by a host of preachers who were anxious to advance the gospel. It was promoted through varying circumstances of life—both good and bad—so that the lives of believers became powerful witnesses. Finally, salvation would transform Christians and churches into models of spiritual life.
The church at Philippi had reached a maturity regarding material possessions. It knew how to give out of poverty. It knew the value of supporting the gospel and those who proclaim it, and it knew that God could provide for its needs as well. Paul also demonstrated his attitude toward material things. He could maintain spiritual equilibrium in the midst of fluctuating financial circumstances. Christ was his life, and Christ’s provisions were all he needed. In everything, Paul’s joy was that Christ was glorified in him.
IMITATION: The epistle abounds with Christian models for imitation. Most obviously, the church was to imitate Jesus, but other genuine Christians also merited appreciation. Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus embodied the selflessness that God desires in his people.
CONTRIBUTION TO THE BIBLE
II.Explanation of Paul’s Concerns (1:3-2:30)
A.Paul’s thanksgiving and prayer (1:3-11)
B.Paul’s joy in the progress of the gospel (1:12-26)
C.Exhortation to Christlike character (1:27-2:18)
D.Paul’s future plans (2:19-30)
III.Exhortations to Christian Living (3:1-4:9)
A.Exhortations to avoid false teachers (3:1-21)
B.Miscellaneous exhortations (4:1-9)
IV.Expression of Thanks and Conclusion (4:10-23)
A.Repeated thanks (4:10-20)
B.Greetings and benediction (4:21-23)
Settlers from Thasos occupy what would later be called Philippi and named it Krenides. 500
Philip II of Macedon invests in the development of the area and so the city was named in his honor. 358
The Romans win an overwhelming victory over the Macedonians at the battle of Pydna, after which Philippi came under Roman control. 168
The Battle of Philippi, a strategic turning point in Roman history, is fought between the army of Cassius and Brutus against that of Octavius and Mark Antony. 42
31 BC-AD 49
A decade later Octavius (Augustus) prevails against Mark Antony in the Battle of Actium, after which Philippi became a colony where veterans of the Roman civil war were settled and enjoyed the privileges of those who lived in Rome. 31 BC
Jesus’s trials, death, resurrection Nisan 14-16 or April 3-5, AD 33
Pentecost AD 33
Saul’s conversion on the Damascus Road October AD 34
Paul, Barnabas, and John Mark make first missionary journey. AD 47-49
Paul and Silas begin second missionary journey overland through Cilicia to Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. AD 49
Paul, Silas, and Timothy continue through North Galatia to Troas. 49
Paul and his companions arrive in Philippi and plant the first Christian church in Europe. 50
Paul’s ministry in the Macedonia cities of Thessalonica and Berea 50
Paul plants the church at Corinth. 50-51
Paul concludes second missionary journey, returning to Antioch of Syria. 52
Paul’s third missionary journey takes him to Ephesus. 54
Paul’s extended ministry in Ephesus 54-56
Paul likely revisits Philippi collecting funds for the church at Jerusalem. 57
Paul’s first imprisonment in Rome 60-62
Paul writes his letter to the church at Philippi. 62
Polycarp’s letter to the Philippians 110-140