An Overview Of The Book Of Philippians


The City Of Philippi

Originally the city was named Krenides, which means fountains. Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, at the outset of expanding his Macedonian empire annexed the adjoining territory in which the city of Krenides was located. After expanding and fortifying the city, he renamed it Philippi after himself.

The gold mines around the city supported Philip's and Alexander's armies and empire. Alexander the Great proceeded to conquer the Mediterranean world. In doing so he spread the Hellenistic culture and the Greek language throughout that vast area. God used his spreading of the Greek language to make it possible for the apostles like Paul to proclaim the gospel from the east into the west and into Europe. The Greek language became the language in which the New Testament was written.

The Romans conquered the Macedonian empire about two hundred years later. By then the gold in the mines around Philippi had been depleted. Philippi had therefore been deserted. In 42 B.C. Philippi became the battleground on which Mark Antony and Octavian, who later became Caesar Augustus, defeated the forces of Brutus and Cassius, who had plotted the assassination of Julius Caesar.

Philippi was made a Roman colony where retired army veterans were given a grant of land as a reward for their years of service and were settled there. As in other places, this placed loyal Roman citizen/soldiers at this strategic location along the Egnatian Way, which was the main road that connected Rome in the west with the far flung Roman provinces of its empire in the east.

The Citizens Of Philippi

Being a Roman colony, the citizens of Philippi were mostly Roman citizens. They dressed in Roman attire, used Roman coins, and spoke Latin, which was the official language of the city.

Being Romans explains why the citizens of Philippi were so easily upset when they heard that Paul and Silas were Jews who were advocating customs which were unlawful for those Romans to accept and practice (cf. Acts 16:19-22). No doubt the retired Roman veterans and their families who heard and read Paul's letter to the Philippians identified themselves with the praetorian, or palace, guard in Rome, to whom Paul referred in Philippians 1:13. Being Roman citizens who were proud of their Roman citizenship, they were undoubtedly struck by Paul's words in Philippians 3:20 that the true citizenship of Christian believers was in heaven and not in the Roman empire.

The Start Of The Church Of Philippi

The Spirit led Paul to establish the church of Philippi on his second missionary journey. Acts 16:6-10 inform us the Spirit had expressly forbidden Paul to preach the Word in the northern Roman provinces of Asia Minor and Bithynia in what is now the country of Turkey. Rather the Spirit led Paul to Troas, the ancient city of Troy, on the west coast of Asia Minor across the Aegean Sea from Macedonia, which is now northern Greece. There in Troas the Lord gave Paul a vision of a man beckoning him to come to Macedonia. Understanding that the Lord wanted him and his co-workers to preach the gospel there, Paul together with Silas, Timothy, and Luke sailed west to Macedonia and set their feet for the first time on European soil at the port city of Neapolis. From there they traveled by foot to the strategic city of Philippi. Acts 16:2 states that Philippi, a Roman colony, was the leading city of the district of Macedonia.

Few Jews lived in Philippi. Thus there was no synagogue where Paul could begin to preach the gospel of Jesus as he had customarily done in the eastern cities of Galatia on his first missionary journey. On the Sabbath Paul and his co-workers left the city and walked about a mile east to the banks of the Gangites River (cf. Acts 16:13). There they suspected they would find a place of prayer where the few Jews in the area gathered for prayer on the Sabbath. They spoke to some women who had gathered there. One of them was a proselyte named Lydia (cf. Acts 16:14), who was a worshipper of the Lord God. She was a woman of some means and wealth, for she conducted her own business of selling fine purple fabrics. The Lord awakened faith in her heart as she listened to Paul speak the gospel of Jesus. She and her household were then baptized. She urged Paul and his companions to stay at her house, which then became the headquarters for Paul's mission work and the church in Philippi.

Some time later Paul cast a demon of divination from a slave girl, who had continued to harass Paul and his co-workers. When her owners realized they had lost their lucrative income from the girl's fortune-telling, they had Paul and Silas arrested, beaten with rods, and imprisoned. About midnight that night, after the Lord had responded to their prayers and songs of praise from prison with an earthquake that opened the prison gates, Paul and Silas shared the gospel with their jailer. The jailer and his household believed and were baptized (cf. Acts 16:16-34).

With the conversion of Lydia and the Roman jailer and their households the church of Philippi came into being. From this small beginning the church grew in numbers. It was the first church Paul established in Europe.

Writer Of The Letter To The Philippians

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, Philippians 1:1

For more information about Paul and his ministry, see An Overview Of The Book Of Acts.

Date Of The Letter To The Philippians

About 61 A.D. See the Background For Paul's Prison Epistles: Colossians, Philemon, Ephesians, Philippians.

Occasion For The Writing Of The Letter To The Philippians

While under house arrest in Rome, Paul received a visitor named Epaphroditus. Epaphroditus was a member of the church in Philippi. In behalf of the congregation he brought a gift for the support of Paul's apostolic ministry. He then reported to Paul that the Philippians were eager for some news about Paul's circumstances and the outcome of his trial before the Roman imperial court.

Epaphroditus remained with Paul for some time. He assisted Paul in doing the Lord's work. In the process he became seriously ill and nearly died. The Lord in his mercy spared his life and renewed his health.

Paul was intent on sending Epaphroditus back to the Philippians, who had heard of Epaphroditus' serious illness. Epaphroditus could then report Paul's circumstances to the Philippians. Paul took the opportunity that Epaphroditus' return offered to write his letter to the Philippians. He wrote to thank them for their gift, to inform them about his circumstances in Rome and about his trial, and to strengthen them in the hope and joy that was theirs in Christ.

Theme Of The Letter To The Philippians

Rejoice in the Lord always, Philippians 4:4

Outline Of The Letter To The Philippians

Part 1: Introduction, Philippians 1:1-11

A. Greeting, Philippians 1:1,2

B. Paul thanks God for the Philippians' partnership in the gospel from the first day to the present. He expresses the bond of love and affection he has for them. Philippians 1:3-8

C. Paul prays that the Philippians' love may abound and their knowledge increase, so they may approve what is excellent to remain blameless until Christ would come in judgment. Philippians 1:9-11

Part 2: Paul's news on his circumstances in prison in Rome, Philippians 1:12-26

A. Paul's imprisonment had worked for the good of the preaching of the gospel, for which he rejoices. Philippians 1:12-18

B. For Paul to live is to serve Christ and to die is gain. Philippians 1:19-26

Part 3: Live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, Philippians 1:27-2:18

A. Stand united in one spirit to strive for the faith of the gospel in the face of persecution. Philippians 1:27-30

B. Live harmoniously and humbly together, having the attitude of Christ Jesus--God himself in the flesh--who humbled himself to go to the cross to save us. Philippians 2:1-11

C. Work out your salvation with fear and trembling. Philippians 2:12-18

1. God works in you to desire and to do his will. Philippians 2:13

2. Do all things without complaint or dispute to be blameless lights of God in a wicked world. Philippians 2:14,15

3. Hold fast the Word of life, for which reason Paul will glory on the day of Christ's coming. Philippians 2:16

4. Paul is ready to be sacrificed for the Philippians in whom he rejoices and whom he urges to share his joy. Philippians 2:17,18

Part 4: Paul's intended actions for the sake of the Philippians, Philippians 2:19-30

A. Paul will send Timothy to them, whom they can receive as a valuable servant of Christ. Philippians 2:19-23

B. Paul hopes to visit them again soon. Philippians 2:24

C. Paul is sending Epaphroditus back to them with this letter. They should receive him joyfully and respect him highly. Philippians 2:25-30

Part 5: Beware of those who threaten your rejoicing in Christ the Lord's righteousness and resurrection to heavenly glory. Philippians 3:1-21

A. Rejoice in the Lord. Philippians 3:1

B. Beware of the Judaizers who insist circumcision is a necessary work of righteousness for salvation. Philippians 3:2-11

1. Beware of the Judaizers who are dogs, evil workers, who uphold what is a false circumcision. Philippians 3:2

2. The true circumcision is a heart that worships the Lord in the Spirit, glories in Christ alone, and trusts not in one's self. Philippians 3:3

2.a Paul could put his confidence in whom he was and in his zealous efforts as a Pharisee to be righteous by keeping the law. Philippians 3:4-6

2.b Paul discarded all this, however, to possess the true righteousness of God himself that comes through faith in Christ and insures the resurrection to eternal life. Philippians 3:7-11

2.c Forgetting what is in the past, Paul presses ahead for the perfect righteousness that is attained in heaven. Philippians 3:12-16

C. Beware of the enemies of the cross. Philippians 3:17-4:1

1. Follow the example Paul set as a Christian believer. Philippians 3:17

2. Many have made themselves enemies of the cross, who will be condemned for their shameful manner of life. Philippians 3:18,19

3. But our citizenship is in heaven with our Savior Jesus Christ, who will glorify us with his glory. Philippians 3:20,21

4. Therefore, stand firm in the Lord. Philippians 4:1

Part 6: Paul's concluding admonitions, Philippians 4:2-9

A. Settle your differences and live in harmony. Philippians 4:2,3

B. Rejoice in the Lord always. Philippians 4:4-7

1. Let your joy in the Lord be evident to all through your gentle clemency. Philippians 4:5

2. Let your joy in the Lord result in prayers for all things with the giving of thanks, which will cure your personal worries. Philippians 4:6

3. Rejoice in the Lord and the peace of God will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7

C. Focus your mind on the virtuous things and practice what you have learned from the apostle Paul, for then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8,9

Part 7: Paul's joyful thanks for the Philippians' gift, Philippians 4:10-20

A. Paul rejoices in the Lord over the Philippians' gift for his support and aid. Philippians 4:10

B. Paul has learned to be content with whatever his circumstances may be, for he can do all things through the Lord who strengthens him. Philippians 4:11-13

C. Paul acknowledges receipt of the Philippians' gift, which followed their previous gifts for the support of his apostolic ministry to the pleasure and glory of God. Philippians 4:14-20

Part 8: Paul's concluding greeting, Philippians 4:21-23