Epistle to the Philippians
Introduction to the Book
The book of Philippians was one of the called “Prison Epistles” written by Paul. Prison Epistles includes Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, II Timothy and Hebrews. While in jail, Paul would not give in to despair and self-pity. Instead he showed that Christ gives joy in persecution, hardship, suffering, sad times, as well as good times. Christ is sufficient to supply all our needs if He is the center of our lives. The word “joy” is found six times, and “rejoice” ten times. The Book of Philippians is sometimes called the “epistle of joy”. If Paul can be joyful in prison, why can’t we be joyful?
As a third-century man was anticipating death, he penned these last words to a friend: “It’s a bad world, an incredibly bad world. But I have discovered in the midst of it a quiet and holy people who have learned a great secret. They have found a joy which is a thousand times better than any pleasure of our sinful life. They are despised and persecuted, but they care not. They are masters of their souls. They have overcome the world. These people are the Christians—and I am one of them.”
I. Historical Background
A. Philippi (city of Philip) got its name from Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. In the second century B.C., Philippi became a part of the Roman province of Macedonia. It became famous when the forces of Anthony and Octavian defeated the army of Brutus and Cassius in the “Battle of Philippi,” ending the Roman Republic and start of the Roman Empire. It became a Roman colony (Acts 16:12), where many veterans of the Roman army settled there.
B. The Church in Philippi was founded by Paul in A.D. 51 during his second missionary journey. In the midst of persecution: Paul and his travelling companions Timothy and Silas were making their way across Asia Minor (Turkey).
1. It was founded under divine leading (Acts 16:6-7).
2. It was a result of vision (Acts 16:8-11), which others call the “Macedonian Call”.
3. Its first convert was a woman named Lydia, a seller of purple (Acts 16:14-15) and then the by the Philippian Jailor and his family (Acts 16:25-34).
4. Chapter 4:4, Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say rejoice is considered by some the golden text.
5. The Philippian church was one of the purest of the New Testament Churches; it was very appreciative and charitable.
6. The lack or absence of synagogues in Philippi indicates that there were few Jews there, so we can say that the Philippian church is composed mainly of Gentiles.
II. Occasion of the Letter
A. Ten years after Paul founded the Philippian Church; he was imprisoned in Rome, A.D. 61-63. It seems that in Chapter 4:10, he thought they had forgotten him. Unexpectedly, Epaphroditus arrived from Philippi with an offering of money. He was deeply touched when he came to know Epaphroditus nearly lost his life in the
journey. When he got well (Phil. 2:25-30), Paul sent him to Philippi with a beautiful letter.
A. Paul’s primary purpose in writing this letter was to thank the Philippians for the gift they had sent him upon learning of his detention at Rome (1:5; 4:10-19). However, he makes use of this occasion to fulfil several other desires:
1. To report on his own circumstances (1:12-26; 4:10-19);
2. To encourage the Philippians to stand firm in the face of persecution and rejoice regardless of circumstances (1:27-30; 4:4);
3. To exhort them to humility and unity (2:1-11; 4:2-5);
4. To commend Timothy and Epaphroditus to the Philippian church (2:19-30).
5. To warn the Philippians against the Judaizers (legalists) and antinomians (libertines) among them (Ch. 3).
IV. Central Message
A. Jesus Christ
1. Jesus is the source of Spiritual fruit. Philippians 1:11
2. Jesus Christ is the theme of preaching. Philippians 1:18
3. Jesus is the highest motive of Christian service. Phil. 1:20-21.
1. Philippians contains no OT quotations.
2. It is a missionary thank-you letter in which the missionary reports on the progress of his work.
3. It manifests a particularly vigorous type of Christian living: (1) self-humbling (2:1-4); (2) pressing toward the goal (3:13-14); (3) proper attitude in prayer (4:6); (4) ability to do all things through Christ (4:13).
4. It contains one of the most profound passages about Christ in the NT (2:5-11).
5. The word “fellowship” appears 3 times. Fellowship means sharing; communion. The Christian is brought into fellowship with God, Christ, and the household of faith through Jesus Christ.
1. Fellowship of the Gospel (1:5). We get to know each other
2. Fellowship of the Spirit (2:1). We get to know ourselves
3. Fellowship of His Suffering (3:10). We get to know Christ
The Epistle to the Philippians is one of the most personal letters of Paul. Remaining faithful and strong in the Lord despite of difficult circumstances and being in prison, he looked only to Christ and experienced the sufficiency only Jesus can give. Humility is emphasized here as well as perseverance and thanks giving in prayer. Truly we can rejoice always in the Lord. Come to Jesus and experience the joy and peace beyond understanding.