Like the book of Ephesians, the letter to the church at Philippi is a “prison epistle,” written by Paul while he was under house arrest in Rome (Philippians 1:7, 13-14, 16; 4:22).
The theme to the book of Philippians is rejoice. The word “joy” and its derivatives appear in this short book 16 times, including the well known admonition, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).
The church at Philippi was started by Paul while on his second missionary journey. In Acts 16, he received a vision of a man pleading with him to come to Macedonia. Thus, Paul and his companions sailed from Troas to Samothrace, on to Neapolis, and then to Philippi, described in Acts 16:12 as “…the foremost city of that part of Macedonia…” On the Sabbath he went to a riverside meeting where some Jewish women gathered to pray (Acts 16:13). There he met and taught Lydia, who with her household were baptized into Christ (Acts 16:14-15). Afterward, Paul healed a servant-girl who had a spirit of divination, which angered her masters, and so Paul and Silas were arrested and put into prison (Acts 16:16-24). Some wonderful things happened overnight in the prison (Acts 16:25-32), ending with the jailer and his family being baptized into Christ (Acts 16:33-34). Lydia’s family and this jailer’s family were the beginning of the church at Philippi.
Paul and his companions kept contact with these new brethren at Philippi, In fact, it appears Luke may have stayed in Philippi. He includes himself among those who went to Philippi (note the “we” and “us” of Acts 16:10-17) but he did not include himself among Paul’s companions who departed Philippi (note “they” in Acts 16:40 and following). Paul returned to Philippi on his third missionary journey, and at that time Luke rejoined the apostle and his companions (“we,” Acts 20:6).
The church at Philippi provided support for the apostle Paul. Near the end of his letter to them, we read:
Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. (PHILIPPIANS 4:15-16)
Here is a summary of the book of Philippians:
- The importance of relationships (1:1-11)
- The cause of Christ, not me (1:12-18)
- Put Jesus first in everything (1:19-30)
- Having the attitude of Christ (2:1-11)
- Work out your own salvation (2:12-30)
- Forsaking the former man (3:1-11)
- Pressing on (3:12-31)
- Pursing unity among the brethren (4:1-9)
- Contentment and final thoughts (4:10-23)
Next time, we’ll look at Colossians.