THE BOOK OF PHILIPPIANS
Paul writes a thank-you note to the believers at Philippi for their
help in his hour of need, and he uses the occasion to send along some
instructions on Christian unity. His central thought is simple: Only in
Christ are real unity and joy possible. With Christ as your model of
humility and service, you can enjoy a oneness of purpose, attitude, goal
and labor – a truth which Paul illustrates from his own life, and one the
Philippians desperately need to hear. Within their own ranks, fellow
workers in the philippian church are at odds, hindering the work in
proclaiming new life in Christ. Because of this, Paul exhorts the church
to “stand fast…be of the same mind…rejoice in the Lord always..but..
by prayer…let your request be made known…and the peace of God…shall
keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:1,2,4,6,7).
This epistle is called (Pros Philippesious), “To the Philippians.” The
church at Philippi was the first church Paul founded in Macedonia.
THE AUTHOR OF PHILIPPIANS
The external and internal evidence for the Pauline authorship of
Philippians is very strong, and there is scarcely any doubt that Paul
THE TIME OF PHILIPPIANS
In 356 B.C., King Philip of Macedonia (the father of Alexander the
Great) took this town and expanded it, renaming it Philippi. The Romans
captured it in 168 B.C.; and in 42 B.C., the defeat of the forces of
Brutus and Cassius by those of Anthony and Octavian (later Augustus) took
place outside the city. Octavian turned Philippi into a Roman colony
(cf. Acts 16:12) and a military outpost. The citizens of this colony were
regarded as citizens of Rome and given a number of special privileges.
Because Philippi was a military city and not a commercial center, there
were not enough Jews for a synagogue when Paul came (Acts 16:13).
Paul’s “Macedonian Call” in Troas during his second missionary Journey
led to his ministry in Philippi with the conversion of Lydia and others.
Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned, but this resulted in the
conversion of the Philippian jailer. The magistrates were placed in a
dangerous position by beating Roman citizens without a trial (Acts 16:37
-40), and that embarrassment may have prevented future reprisals against
the new Christians in Philippi. Paul visted the Philippians again on his
third missionary journey (Acts 20:1,6). When they heard of his Roman
imprisonment, the Philippian church sent Epaphroditus with financial help
(4:18); they had helped Paul in this way on at least two other occasions
(4:16). Epaphroditus almost died of an illness, yet remained with Paul
long enough for the Philippians to receive word of his malady. Upon his
recovery, Paul sent this letter back with him to Philippi (2:25-30).
Silas, Timothy, Luke, and Paul first came to Philippi in A.D. 51,
eleven years before Paul wrote this letter. Philippians 1:13 and 4:22
suggest that it was written from Rome, although some commentators argue
for Caesarea or Ephesus. Paul’s life was at stake, and he was evidently
awaiting the verdict of the Imperial Court (2:20-26).
THE CHRIST OF PHILIPPIANS
The great (kenosis) passage is one of several portraits of Christ in
this epistle. In chapter 1, Paul sees Christ as his life (“For to me to
live is Christ,” 1:21). In chapter 2, Christ is the model of true
humility (“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,” 2:5)
Chapter 3 presents Him as the One “Who shall change our vile body, that
it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body” (3:21). In chapter 4, He
is the source of Paul’s power over circumstances (“I can do all things
through Christ which strengtheneth me,” 4:13).
KEYS TO PHILIPPIANS
KEY WORD: TO LIVE IS CHRIST
Central to Philippians is the concept of “For to me to live is Christ,
and to die is gain” (1:21). Every chapter resounds with the theme of the
centrality of Jesus in the Christian’s life. High points include the
following: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”
(2:5); “I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge
of Christ Jasus” (3:8); and “I can do all things through Christ which
strengtheneth me” (4:13).
KEY VERSES: PHILIPPIANS 1:21 and 4:12
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (1:21).
“I know both how to be aabased, and I know how to abound: every where
and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both
to abound and to suffer need” (4:12).
KEY CHAPTER: PHILIPPIANS 2
The grandeur of the truth of the New Testament seldom exceeds the
revelation of the humility of Jesus Christ when He left heaven to become
a servant of man. Christ is clearly the Christian’s example, and Paul
encourages “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus”
SURVEY OF PHILIPPIANS
Philippians is the epistle of joy and encouragement in the midst of
adverse circumstances. Paul freely expresses his fond affection for the
Philippians, appreciates their consistent testimony and support, and
lovingly urges them to center their actions and thoughts on the pursuit
of the power of Christ. Paul also seeks to correct the problems of
disunity and rivalry (2:2-4) and to prevent the problems of legalism and
antinomianism (3:1-19). Philippians focuses on: Paul’s account of his
present circumstances (1); Paul’s appeal to have the mind of Christ (2);
Paul’s appeal to have the knowledge of Christ (3); Paul’s appeal to have
the peace of Christ (4).
PAUL’S ACCOUNT OF HIS PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES
(1): Paul’s usual salvation (1:1,2) is followed by his thanksgiving,
warm regard, and prayer on behalf of the Philippians (1:3-11). For years,
they have participated in the apostle’s ministry, and he pray’s for their
continued growth in the real knowledge of Christ. Paul shares the
circumstances of his imprisonment and rejoices in the spread of the
gospel in spite of and because of his situation (1:12-26). As he
considers the outcome of his approaching trial, he expresses his
willingness to “depart, and to be with Christ” (1:23) or to continue in
ministry. Paul encourages the Philippians to remain steadfast in the face
of opposition and coming persecution (1:27-30).
PAUL’S APPEAL TO HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST
(2): Paul exhorts the Philippians to have a spirit of unity and mutual
concern by embracing the attitude of humility (2:1-4), the greatest
example of which is the incarnation and crucifixion of Christ (2:5-11).
The (kenosis), or “emptying,” of Christ, does not mean that He divested
Himself of His seity, but that He withheld His preincarnate glory and
voluntarily restricted His use of certain attributes (e.g., omnipresence
and omniscience). Paul asks the Philippians to apply this attitude to
their lives (2:12-18), and he gives two more examples of sacrifice, the
ministers of Timotheus and Epaphroditus (2:19-30).
PAUL’S APPEAL TO HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST
(3): It appears that Paul is about to close his letter (“Finally, my
brethern,” 3:1) when he launches into a warning about the continuing
problem of legalism (3:1-9). Paul refutes this teaching with revealing
autobiographical details about his previous attainments in Judaism.
Compared to the goal of knowing Christ, those pursuits are as nothing.
True righteousness is received through faith, not by mechanical obedience
to any law. Paul yearns for the promised attainment of the resurrected
PAUL’S APPEAL TO HAVE THE PEACE OF CHRIST
(4): In a series of exhortations, Paul urges the Philippians to have
peace with the brethern by living a life-style of unity, prayerful
dependence, and holiness (4:13). In 4:4-9, Paul describes the secrets of
having the peace of God as well as peace with God. He then rejoices over
their gift, but explains that the power of Christ enables him to live
above his circumstances (4:10-20). This joyous letter from prison closes
with greetings and a benediction (4:21-23).
OUTLINE OF PHILIPPIANS
I. PAUL’S ACCOUNT OF HIS PRESENT CIRCUMSTANCES…………..1:1-30
A. Paul’s Prayer of Thanksgiving…………………….1:1-11
B. Paul’s Afflictions Promote the Gospel…………….1:12-18
C. Paul’s Afflictions Exalt the Lord………………..1:19-26
D. Paul’s Exhortation to the Afflicted………………1:27-30
II. PAUL’S APPEAL To HAVE THE MIND OF CHRIST……………..2:1-30
A. Paul’s Exhortation to Humility……………………2:1-4
B. Christ’s Example of Humility……………………..2:5-16
C. Paul’s Example of Humility………………………2:17, 18
D. Timothy’s Example of Humility……………………2:19-24
E. Epaphroditus’s Example of Humility……………….2:25-30
III. PAUL’S APPEAL TO HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE OF CHRIST…………3:1-21
A. Warning Against Confidence in the Flesh……………3:1-9
B. Exhortation to know Christ………………………3:10-16
C. Warning Against Living for the Flesh……………..3:17-21
IV. PAUL’S APPEAL TO HAVE THE PEACE OF CHRIST…………….4:1-23
A. Peace with the Brethern………………………….4:1-3
B. Peace with the Lord……………………………..4:4-9
C. Peace with All Circumstances…………………….4:10-19
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