Paul's Letter to the Philippians

Paul's letter to the Philippian church is one of the most inspiring letters of the Bible. It is a positive message from a man in prison to a people that he was grateful to and that he cared about deeply. In it, there is genuine concern and appreciation expressed from a deeply spiritual man to a beloved people. Philippians is an expression of joy to a cherished church.

Philippi was a Roman colony in Macedonia. A citizen of Philippi was also a citizen of Rome. It had been named after King Philip II of Macedonia, father of Alexander the Great. Many of the cities prominent citizens were retired Roman military men who had been granted lands for their service to Rome. Philippi was also unique to the prominent cities of the New Testament in that there was not a large Jewish presence in the city. There is not even a mention of a synagogue in Philippi and Paul does not make extensive use of the Old Testament Scriptures in this epistle.

Paul wrote this letter from prison. It is most likely that the letter was written from Rome during Paul's first imprisonment there. There were several other times when Paul was in prison, so there could have been other times when it may have been written, but the internal evidence of the letter leads to a dating of around 61 AD.

The reason that Paul writes to the Philippians is that he had just received a monetary gift from them. They had sent him their money and their support to sustain him while he was imprisoned. Paul had been the man who had brought the gospel to Macedonia and they were expressing their gratitude during his time of distress. It may have been easy for them to turn their back on him at this time, but the Philippians did not do this. Even though they were a Roman colony and Paul was being held in Roman confinement, the Philippians continued to stand behind Paul and his teachings.

What Paul writes to them is full of encouragement. He tells them to rejoice in all things. He even tells them to rejoice in his own imprisonment. Even Paul being in prison is working to the glory of God. He instructs them to be dedicated to each other and to be dedicated to God. He tells them to press on toward the goal of their salvation and to let nothing deter them from the hope that is in Christ Jesus.

In fact the central message of this entire letter is the centrality of Christ to the joyous expression of life as a Christian. This epistle contains one of the most profound Christological passages in the New Testament, Philippians 2:5-11. Paul tells them to have the same mind as Christ did when He came to this world. Christ became as a servant and poured out His life as a sacrifice for others and they should do likewise. And Paul shows them with his own life what it is to do just that. Paul is a prisoner for the sake of the gospel and yet even incarceration does not prevent him from caring for those that God has placed in his hands.

The epistle to the Philippians has so much to teach us today. Through it we can learn to be humble, even as Christ was humble. We can learn to courageously speak for the truth regardless of the personal consequences. We can learn to rejoice in all things, even in our trials and adversities. And most importantly, we can learn that there is nothing more important than knowing Christ and the power of His resurrection.

For more information on Philippians and other New Testament books including excellent bibliographies for in-depth studies, see

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