Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians

Paul’s letter to the Philippians was written while he was under house arrest in Rome, probably around A.D. 61. The Philippians were a constant support to Paul since his planting of the church in Philippi during his second missionary journey. Since learning of his imprisonment, they had sent Epaphroditus to him with aid and to provide any help he could. However, Epaphroditus had become very ill and so Paul felt it best he should return to Philippi. This gave him the opportunity to write to his beloved saints there.

Thanksgiving and prayer for the Philippians; Paul’s personal circumstances

[1] Paul expresses his joy in their steadfast fellowship in the gospel, how they are constantly in his thoughts, and how he prays that their love, faith and the fruits of their work will continue to grow. He explains how his circumstance – his house arrest – has led to furtherance of the gospel amongst the Romans, with the consequence that there is a greater boldness in Christians preaching the word. Nevertheless, there are some who preach with less than honourable motives, but Paul’s joy is that, for whatever reason, the gospel is being preached by many. At this time he doesn’t know whether he will be released or martyred, but he is able to say, For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain! Paul longs to be with Christ, but knows in life he can further the gospel and would love to be able to visit them again. In any event, he calls for them to be of one spirit in faith and not to fear their adversaries.

Imitating Christ’s humility; Timothy and Epaphroditus

[2] In his call for unity, Paul encourages them to be humble, expressing Christ’s humility as their ultimate example. In this they are to be a light amongst the crooked and perverse nation around them. Paul tells them he will be sending Timothy when there is further news,and highly commends him. He also tells of the need to send Epaphroditus back to them following a serious illness he had while he was with him.

Warning against Judaisers

[3] Paul reminds them to beware of Judaisers who preach the need for circumcision, telling how he was once zealous as a Jew and, in the consideration of righteousness by the law, thought blameless. He tells of his transformation in which righteousness is not of his own achievements but by faith in Christ and of his ambitions as a Christian. He calls them to be like-minded, looking forward to the glorious resurrection at Christ’s second coming.

Final exhortations, thanks and salutations

[4] Paul appeals to his readers to rejoice in the Lord, be prayerful in all things, and for their thoughts to be always on all things virtuous and praiseworthy. The Philippians’ generosity and support of Paul have followed him since they first knew him and surpassed that of any other church. Paul rejoices in their support, yet reminds them of his attitude to material things, having dependency on God who will also supply all their needs according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Paul ends his letter with the usual salutations, and here is able to include the new converts of Caesar’s household.
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