Last Updated on May 7, 2023 by David H Mercer
In Philippians, although Paul was writing from prison, joy is a dominant theme in this letter. The secret of his joy is grounded in his relationship with Jesus Christ. People today desperately want to be happy but are tossed and turned by daily successes, failures, and inconveniences. Christians are to be joyful in every circumstance, even when things are going badly, even when we feel like complaining, even when no one else is joyful. Christ still reigns, and we still know him, so we can rejoice at all times.
Writer of Philippians
Written by the apostle Paul, in the company of Timotheus (Timothy), (Philippians 1:1), having been commissioned of God with an apostleship (job) in the dispensation of grace to write a book.
There can be little doubt that Philippians comes from Paul. The entire epistle bears the stamp of his language and style; the setting pictures Paul’s imprisonments; and the recipients correspond with what we know of the church at Philippi.
During his second missionary journey, in A.D. 49, Paul sensed the Lord called him to visit Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10). At Philippi, he founded the first Christian congregation on European soil (Acts 16:11-40). A lifelong supportive relationship developed between the Philippians and Paul. He visited the church again during his third missionary journey.
At the time he wrote Philippians, Paul was in prison awaiting trial, probably A.D. 60. The Philippian Christians came to Paul’s aid by sending a gift, perhaps money, through Epaphroditus. During his stay with Paul, Epaphroditus fell desperately ill. But he recovered and Paul sent him back to Philippi. Paul sent this letter with Epaphroditus to relieve the anxiety of the Philippians over their beloved fellow-worker.
During the two years that Paul was in his own hired house (A. D. 60), continuing to preach the kingdom of God (Acts 28:31). Written from Rome.
To Whom Written
To “all the saints in Christ Jesus in Philippi, with the overseers (episkopos) and servants (diakonos)” (Philippians 1:1).
Purpose of Philippians
The purpose of the book of Philippians was to serve as a comfort to the believers in Philippi who had come to know Christ under the extraordinary circumstances of the Acts period (when preaching of Christ was done only by God-commissioned messengers, using God-inspired words, and with God-given miracles accompanying their actions) and had now lost their privileges. The Philippians were now to have the same disposition that Christ had when He gave up His prerogatives (Philippians 2:5).
Now that the gospel itself had been sent to the nations (Acts 28:28), suddenly the acts of the apostles were ended and the acts of the apostled gospel had begun. Understandably, this predominately Jewish group of believers in Philippi would have been confused by the proclaimed dispensational change, mourning over the loss of the miraculous gifts, and the disappointment at the postponement of the kingdom. Paul admonished them to take the same attitude as Christ did when He gave up His position of equality with God in order to take the form of a servant and to die on the cross. The book of Philippians revealed what God was expecting of these believers now that they were living in the dispensation of grace. However, when a dispensation changed, it does not mean that everything changed, In this post-Acts 28:28 book, Paul prayed, “that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ” (Philippians 1:10). The Greek word for “are excellent” (diaphero) is badly translated. The word has two possible meanings. One is “to differ” and the other is “to carry through.” Probably both meanings carry truth. We must distinguish in the Acts period epistles which things are different from today and which things carry through to today. The things that carry through are still as relevant now as they were back then. While we can learn from the things that differ, we must not try to apply them directly to our situation today. Thus, in the things that carry through, the Acts period books are still very relevant.
When reading later things written to the dispensation of grace believers (things in Ephesians, in particular), the Philippian believers could not directly apply everything said of these believers to themselves. In postponing the kingdom, God had begun to write a record of His dealings with man, exclusively in grace, in secret, in silence, and through the faith of those who would take Him at His written Word. Although the Philippians had to rightly divide what they were reading, most noteworthy is the fact that the gospel of salvation is one of the things that did not change between the Acts period and the current dispensation. The God Who began a good work in the Philippian believers (the blade stage of the kingdom during the Acts period, according to the most important parable in Mark 4:26-29), promised to resume that work in the Day of Jesus Christ – the pre-parousia kingdom of God on earth (II Timothy 4:1).
The focus of Paul’s thoughts in this epistle is the Christ-centered life, the hallmark of which is joy. Paul had surrendered everything to Christ and can say. “For to me, to live is Christ,” “to be a prisoner for Christ,” “to live and die in Christ,” “and to give up all to win Christ.” Because Paul’s only motive is to “know Him”, he shared in the power of Christ and “can do all things through Christ,” who is the joy and strength.
Nowhere is the mind of Christ presented to the Christian more strongly than in Philippians 2:1-11. Appealing to the Philippians to be of “one mind” in pursuing humility, Paul cites the example of the incarnation of God in Jesus Christ. Unlike Adam, who sought to be equal with God, Christ did not try to grasp for equality with God. Instead, being God, he poured himself out and took upon Himself the form of a slave, to the point of dying the death of a common criminal.
Click here to download or print the Bible Outline “Philippians – To Live is Christ“.