BOOK OF PHILIPPIANS
The apostle Paul, in a night vision a decade before the writing of this letter received a call to preach in the region of Macedonia (Philippians 1:1; see Acts 16:6-10). Paul had never before been to Europe, but, obedient to the vision, he sailed to Macedonia’s coastal port Neapolis, then walked nine miles inland to Philippi, the area’s “foremost city” (Acts 16:12). Timothy, his young disciple and traveling companion on that trip may have served as an amanuensis or secretary for this letter (Philippians 1:1; Act 16:1-5; 1 Timothy :1, 2, 2 Timothy 1:1,2). Philippians is categorized as one of Paul’s four prison epistles (see chart , The Timeline of Paul).
After several subsequent visits to Philippi and the receiving of occasional financial support, Paul, now imprisoned in Rome, wrote this letter to the Philippians around A.D. 60-63.
Setting: Philippi’s original name was Krenides (lit. “Little Fountains”), a delightful town set on a hill with an abundance of springs for water supply. Philippi’s river bank was mentioned as a gathering place for prayer for Lydia and other women (Acts 16:13).
In 356 B.C., when Philip of Macedon began his reign over the surrounding province of Macedonia, he gave his own name to these springs (lit. “the-Philips”). In 42 B.C., Philippi became famous as a battlesite. Julius Caesar had been assassinated, and four of his generals vied to replace him: Cassius and Brutus fought Octavius and Mark Antony at Philippi. Octavius and Mark Antony were victorious, then fought each other for the top position. Octavius won, pronounced himself emperor, and changed his name to Augustus (even naming a month of the year after himself). With that, Rome was no longer a republic but an empirical dictatorship. About thirty years later, “a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered” (Luke 2:1). Under God, this caesar determined the birthplace of Jesus.
Meanwhile, Augustus retreated often to his Philippi resort, the site of his great triumph, and designated it a Roman colony (Acts 16:12). For the Philippians, this designation made a tremendous social and psychological difference. The surrounding province of Macedonia, physically lower in elevation, now had no authority over them. And like all other Roman citizens, they were exempt from taxes, could buy and sell as they pleased, could file legal suits, and could assume privileges appropriate to being part of empirical Rom (Acts 16:20, 21, 37-39). This situation might explain their tendency to arrogance and the need for Paul to stress humility in his letter to them.
AUDIENCE: These Philippians are our cultural forebears – progressive westerners. When Paul crossed the water westward from Troas to Philippi – from Asia to Europe, culturally, he took a giant step. The women of Philippi had great independence. They gathered for meeting (Acts 16:13); they ran their own businesses (Acts 16:14); and they even feuded in the church (Philippians 4:2, 3).
Women played a prominent part in the Book of Philippians – perhaps as much or more than any other single book. The Philippian story began with women meeting on “the riverside, where prayer was customarily made” (Act 16:12, 13). Since Philippi became the first European city in which Paul preached, his first European convert may have been a woman, Lydia of Philippi and her household (Acts 16:14); later came a Philippian jailer and his family (Acts 16:27-34). Paul’s persecution began over his compassion for a young woman – a Philippian girl abused by the occult (Acts 16:16-19). And a decade later, trouble within the church focused on two feuding women, Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2,3).
In the ten intervening years since his first visit, Paul, coming and going from Philippi several times, had been arrested, tried, and sent to Rome to a higher court, where he was soon to be on trial for his life before Nero (see chart, Political Rulers in the New Testament). Normally prisoners would have been held in some isolated dungeon and then executed; but because Paul was a Roman citizen, he had appealed to Caesar himself. Therefore, he was under house arrest and could write letters as well as receive visitors and gifts (Act 28:30,31). We have no biblical record of his death; tradition says he was later convicted and executed, following a second Roman imprisonment (see 2 Timothy 1:16, 17).
PURPOSE: The Philippians had occasionally sent Paul money, the latest support being delivered by young Epaphroditus, a member of their church. When Epaphroditus got deathly sick and then recovered, Paul wrote to the Philippians for two reasons: to thank them for their gift (Philippians 4:10-20) and to return Epaphroditus with the letter, so they could see for themselves that he was well again (Philippians 2:25, 27-30). He may also have used this letter to announce Timothy’s coming visit (Philippians 2:29), to express his own desire to come again to Philippi (Philippians 2:24), to address the problem between the two women in the Philippian church (Philippians 4:2), or perhaps some combination of these.
LITERARY CHARACTERISTICS: As in Paul’s other epistles, Philippians unfolds in the style of personal correspondence, opening with the mention of the author (which in subsequent generations has been moved to the closing of a letter), followed by the salutation or names of the addressees. There follows the formal greeting, then the body of the letter with final words of greeting as the conclusion. One unique feature of this letter is what some have described as a Christological hymn (Philippians 2:5-11). This beautiful; rhythmical passage presents a brief lesson in Christology, beginning with Jesus’ pre-incarnate state, followed by His Incarnation, Crucifixion, and ultimately His heavenly exaltation.
The letter is not primarily a doctrinal dissertation but a personal note: a flower as much to be enjoyed in a garden or vase as to be studied under a microscope. Its major themes, rather than being sequentially laid out, are mentioned and then interrupted many times.
The primary emphasis is joy (an idea occurring more than fifteen times) with resultant unity and humility as secondary emphases.
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons
2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
Paul’s Chains Advance the Gospel
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.
Life Worthy of the Gospel
27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
January 16 devotional
Philippians chapter 1
1. Scripture emphasizes the power of prayer; we see prayer exemplified by many important men and women of the Bible, and we know that Jesus constantly modeled prayer. However, many believers often neglect their prayer lives. This should not be!
One way to improve your prayer life is to study the prayers of these great men and women in God’s Word. Let’s begin by looking at Paul’s prayer for the Philippians in chapter 1. In verses 3-4 we see that he spent time thanking God for the Philippians.3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.
Pause to pray for those in your life today. Don’t forget to THANK GOD for those around you. Make a list of those whom you want to commit to pray for daily:
2. Verses 9-11 state: And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
According to verse 9, what is Paul’s prayer for the Philippians?
So they may be able to ______________________
So they may be _______________ and _________________________.
So they may be filled with the _______________________________________.
Why? To the glory ______________________________.
**Paul was specific in his prayers. We need to pray with a purpose.
3. Verses 12-13- Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ.
Can good come from bad? (vs 12-13) Explain
Pray that the wisdom from God’s Word will direct, correct, and instruct you today.