Divine Author                         God the Holy Spirit                            2 Timothy 3:16

Human Author                        Paul, the servant of Jesus Christ         Philippians 1:1

Date of Writing                       c. AD 64

Reason for Writing                 Paul is grateful for a gift of grace       Philippians 4:10-18

Theme                                     There is joy in life and in death          Philippians 3:1 

Statistics                                 11th book of the NT; 4 chapters,

                                                104 verses 

Category                                 One of four Pauline Prison Epistles

                                                (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon)

Key Verses                             Philippians 1:21; 3:7; 4:4; 4:6-7

In AD 50 or 51, the Church in Philippi was established in Europe by the apostle Paul following his conversion to Christ, which had occurred c. AD 33 – 36. Study Acts 9:1-19; 22:6-21; 26:12-18 with Acts 16

While on his second missionary journey Paul came to the city of Philippi, where Gentiles were converted to Christ, and a congregation was established. Women played an important role in the fellowship of that church.

The city of Philippi was in Greece on the eastern border of the Roman providence of Macedonia, about ten miles inland from the Aegean Sea.

Many retired soldiers lived in Philippi, which had been named by Alexander the Great for his father, Philip of Macedonia. During the days of Alexander, the city became the capital of the Greek Empire.

By the time Paul arrived, the city had come under the rule of the Romans, but continued to prosper. A famous school of medicine was established in Philippi. Here, the gospel writer Luke may have studied, for he was a physician (lit. one who heals). Study Colossians 4:14

When Paul began to preach Christ the Lord, to opened the hearts of individuals such as a lady named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, which was known for its textile industry. Lydia was a seller of purple dye which was highly valued. Her business enterprise led her many miles from home for, in the providence of God, she had a date with destiny, which was to save her immortal soul. It was in Philippi Lydia came under the sound of the gospel.

As the gospel was preached, many souls came to the Savior. The church thrived despite religious persecution from the Jewish community, and the Roman authorities. The Romans valued patriotic nationalism, and felt threatened when Paul preached Jesus was the true King of kings, and Lord of lords.

After the apostle left Philippi, he continued his missionary journey until he was arrested. During his first imprisonment in Rome, Paul received a generous financial gift from the Philippians, and wanted to express his appreciation. There was a special bond between the believers at Philippi and their spiritual father in the faith. At the hands of Epaphroditus, a gift had been sent to Paul (Phil. 2:25-30; 4:18).

The name, Epaphroditus was a common personal name in the ancient pagan world. It means “belonging to Aphrodite” the goddess of love who was known to be “lovely,” and “charming.” Because of redeeming grace, a man who once belonged to Aphrodite, pledged his new allegiance to Jesus.

Though his ministry is not familiar to many, Epaphroditus played an important role in biblical history. Consider the evidence.

It was Epaphroditus who was entrusted to deliver an expensive gift to Paul in prison in Rome.

It was Epaphroditus who, though severely ill himself, ministered to others, risking his own life in the process. Study Philippians 2:4-5, 25-30

It was Epaphroditus who delivered Paul’s Prison Epistle to the believers in Philippi.

It was Epaphroditus who became a blessing to many through his dedication, love, and faithfulness to Christ. He is an example of many unsung heroes of the Christian faith.

A Reason to Rejoice: Philippians 1:1-11

In the opening verses of the Epistle to the Philippians, Paul is expressing his love and appreciation for the believers at Philippi. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (1:3). Sometimes, the memory of a person brings sorrow, or even anger. It is far better when one’s life brings joy, pleasure, and good memories to others.

One reason for Paul’s joy is his confidence that the transforming work of grace which God began in the saints would continue until the day of Jesus Christ (1:6). The day of Jesus Christ is a technical phrase used three times in the New Testament, though in slightly different forms.

Paul speaks of the day of Christ,” “the day of Jesus Christ”, and “the day of our Lord Jesus Christ”. The reference is to that specific time when the salvation and sanctification of the believer shall be complete, because they are made perfect in a resurrected, immortal, glorified body, never to sin again. “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed” (1 Cor. 15:51). “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is” (1 John 3:2).

“What a day that will be,
When my Jesus I shall see,
And I look upon His face,
The One who saved me by His grace;
When He takes me by the hand,
And leads me through the Promised Land,
What a day, glorious day that will be.”

~Jim Hill

Turning Tragedy into Triumph: Philippians 1:12-26

After expressing words of personal appreciation for the believers, and providing confidence of their eternal security, Paul turns his attention to his imprisonment. The believers must not be unduly alarmed over the apostle’s situation, because God has turned tragedy into triumph. Though the gospel was to be silent through his arrest, it has spread into the royal court itself, and beyond (1:13). Only the sovereign God could cause this to happen.

The primary way not to despair when a tragedy in life happens is to do what Paul did, and turn your eyes on Jesus, and consider your situation from a divine perspective. The Holy Spirit allowed Paul to perceive that his imprisonment was designed to advance the gospel to the royal household despite official condemnation.

‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full on His wonderful face.
And the cares of this world will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.”

Though Paul rejoiced the gospel was being preached even while he was in prison, he had no illusion about the seriousness of his situation. He believed he would be released, but he realized he could be executed.

As Paul reflected on the possibility of an impending death, he concluded that if he were to be executed for the cause of Christ, he would be rewarded for “to die is gain” (1:21). To die is to gain a rest from pain and suffering. To die would be to receive eternal life. To die is to be with Jesus and loved ones in heaven. But then, for Paul to live, would mean he could continue to produce and cultivate spiritual fruit.

The result of Paul’s philosophical and theological mediation was to place him in emotional conflict. The apostle’s pastoral dilemma was placed against his personal gains (1:23).

Time passed, and the Lord made the final decision. Paul would not be executed immediately, but soon he would gain all that he thought about, including the Crown of Life (James 1:12).

Five Crowns of Glory

Everlasting Crown                              1 Corinthians 9:25

Soul Winning Crown                          Philippians 4:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:19

Crown of Righteousness                     2 Timothy 4:8

Crown of Glory                                  1 Peter 5:4

Crown of Life                                     James 1:12; Revelation 2:10

A Perfect Example Philippians 1:27-30  

Paul turns from his own situation to exhort the saints to let their manner of life reflect the gospel of Christ. Paul longs to hear the believers at Philippi are harmoniously striving together for the faith of the gospel, and not in conflict (1: 27). Nor does Paul want the believers to be afraid of their adversaries, of which there are many, such as organized religion, the world, the flesh, and the devil. Death is an enemy of Christ and Christians. Sickness, tragedy, and fear of the future are great adversaries.  Nevertheless, in nothing is the Christian to be terrified or frightened. Rather, joy and peace, and the centrality of Christ, are to characterize the believe in the journey in grace.

The Humiliation and Exaltation of Christ: Philippians 2:1-11

Christ will become the central point of a Christian’s life, and the perfect example to follow, when His humiliation is kept in mind. The mind of Jesus was one of humility, self-sacrifice, and service. Though Christ was very God of very God, He did not think it wrong to make Himself of no reputation, and take upon Himself the form of a servant. Beyond that, the eternal Messiah allowed Himself to be put to death in a shameful public execution on the cross. This was the will of the Father (2:8).

Because Jesus was obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, God exalted Him that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, whether in heaven, or on the earth. Every tongue shall confess Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (2:11).

A Warning Against Careless Living: Philippians 2:12-18

Lest the Christians in Philippi become complacent about their relationship to God, Paul instructs them to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling. This strong warning is ironic, for Paul has just exhorted the saints to fear nothing. Does Paul now want believers to live in terror of God? Would he have Christians believe in a works salvation? Can salvation be lost? The answer to these questions is consistently, “No!” because, such ideas would contradict so many other teachings of the apostle.

It is instructive to know the Greek term translated fear (phobas [fob’-os]), and the word for trembling (tromos [trom’-os], can properly be understood to mean, reverence. The phrase is used by Paul where he refers to Titus being received by the Corinthians with “fear and trembling” meaning with proper reverence. Titus was a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is to be received with humility and respect. Paul himself went to the Church of Corinth “in fear and trembling.” Paul was not afraid of the believers in Corinth, but he was respectful of them.

What Paul is exhorting the believers in Philippi to do, is to continue the work they are doing to advance the cause of Christ and His kingdom in their own lives, and in the lives of others, until there is a completion of the work entrusted to them.

As Christians strive to gain the prize of eternal life promised to them by faith in Christ, there should be a desire not to offend God through disobedience. When the gospel is understood, the believer will want to be good. The Christian will want to do good. The redeemed will want to show awe and respect before the majesty and holiness of Christ. Reflecting on the person and work of Christ will cause the heart of the godly to tremble, naturally. In 1899, an African-American spiritual song appeared that reflects the spirit of Philippians 2:12.

“Were you there when they crucified my Lord
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?
Oh, sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.
Were you there when God raised him from the tomb?”

Christian, remember Christ, and tremble. Work out you salvation with reverence, which is due Jesus, for He is the Savior of the world.

In Christ, prophesy is fulfilled, for it was said long ago, every knew shall bow before the Messiah. “I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear” Isaiah 45:23).

Two Men who Feared God, and Trembled: Philippians 2:19-30

Lest anyone should think Paul was teaching a system of salvation by works and self-effort, he immediately notes that it is God who works in the life of the believer “both to will and to do of His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13). Two men are mentioned by name as examples of the divine truth that salvation and sanctification are of the Lord. The person who is born again will work out their salvation with fear and trembling in the sight of God after the examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus.

Timothy was a travelling companion to Paul. Because Timothy was not self-willed or self-centered, Paul notes his good example. He was committed to seeking “the things which are Jesus Christs” (2:21). Timothy wanted to do the will of God.

Then Paul speaks of Epaphroditus, whom he references as a brother and companion in Christian work. Epaphroditus is also called a fellow soldier, for it takes courage to preach the gospel in a hostile world. Like Jesus, Epaphroditus was a messenger sent from God who ministered to those in need (2:25). Despite his own physically weak health, being near death at one point, Epaphroditus recovered to minister in Philippi. Paul asked the Church to receive Epaphroditus with all gladness; and to hold him in good repute as a faithful example of Jesus (2:29). Perhaps you know of a Christian role model that is an example of Jesus and worthy of emulation.

Paul’s Personal Testimony: Philippians 3:1-21

After honoring the godly examples of Timothy and Epaphroditus, Paul offers himself as an example of what it means to follow Jesus. This is done so it would never be said Paul told others to do what he was not willing to do himself. It is easy to tell others to be humble, to serve others, to suffer in silence, or to risk all that one has for the cause of Christ. It is more difficult to be an example to the believers. Paul was not going to be a hearer of the Word only, but a doer as well. Paul remembered his past privileges in life, and misguided passion for God.

Then, Paul met Jesus, and his life was changed forever. The time came, in the providence of God, when all that Paul wanted was to be found in Jesus, “not having his own righteousness, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (3:9). Paul does not consider himself to be without sin, but he does present himself as a godly man working out his salvation with fear and trembling. He presses “toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus” (3:14).

A Plea for Christian Unity: Philippians 4:1-2

As Paul brings his epistle to a conclusion, he makes an appeal to Euodias (lit. “fine travelling”) and Syntyche (lit. “an accident”), to find peace among themselves. Whatever the issue was that caused the conflict, Paul humbly pleads with them to be of the same mind in the Lord. Paul does not command from a position of authority. He humbly pleads for the women to learn to co-operate, and not be in competition with one another. 

A Call to Christian Cheerfulness: Philippians 4:3-23

Paul’s final words in the Epistle to the Philippians are words of encouragement, with a view to rejoicing.  “Rejoice in the Lord always: and again, I say, Rejoice” (4:4). To rejoice (Gk. chairo [khah’ee-ro]) is to be cheerful, i.e., to be calmly happy or well-off. This is possible by taking specific steps in gospel obedience. Would you be at peace? Would you be cheerful in your Christian walk with the Lord? Do this.

Live a life of moderation (4:5).

Guard your heart against unnecessary care. This can be minimized by prayer and giving thanks to God (v. 4:6).

Let the meditations of your heart be acceptable in the sight of God. Focus on what is true, honest, pure, good, virtuous, and gentile (v. 4:8).

Follow those who follow Jesus, such as Timothy, Epaphroditus, and Paul (4:9).

Believe, with Paul, you can do all things through Christ which empowers you (v. 13).

Trust God to supply all your needs. No one receives everything they covet, but each Christian will receive the inheritance God has appointed for them (4:19).

Be socially gracious. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus (4:21).

Lessons from The Letter of Paul to the Philippians

God will do whatever is necessary to bring a person under the sound of the gospel. Lydia had to travel from Thyatira to Philippi to find Jesus, but, in the providence of God, she did.

Every Christian should anticipate hatred, hostility, and opposition from religion, and from the state when it challenges cherished beliefs, or political policies. 

It is the will of God that Christians live a joyful and peaceful life, which is to flow from faith in the person and work of Jesus Christ. When Christians remember the teachings of Jesus, and embrace them by faith, they will continue in a state of joy and peace.

Pray for the people of God. Paul prayed the peace of God, which passes all understanding, would keep the hearts and minds of the Philippians, through Christ Jesus.

Any person who advances the cause and kingdom of God is worthy of honor and praise. While not everyone shall receive such honor in this world, heaven does take notice, and such individuals shall one day be properly rewarded.

You Are Not Home Yet

An old missionary couple had been working in Africa for years, and they were returning to New York City to retire. They had no pension; their health was broken; they were defeated, discouraged, and afraid. They discovered they were booked on the same ship as President Teddy Roosevelt, who was returning from one of his big-game hunting expeditions.

No one paid much attention to them. They watched the fanfare that accompanied the President’s entourage, with passengers trying to catch a glimpse of the great man.

As the ship moved across the ocean, the old missionary said to his wife, “Something is wrong. Why should we have given our lives in faithful service for God in Africa all these many years and have no one care a thing about us? Here this man comes back from a hunting trip and everybody makes much over him, but nobody gives two hoots about us.”

“Dear, you shouldn’t feel that way,” his wife said.

“I can’t help it; it doesn’t seem right.”

When the ship docked in New York, a band was waiting to greet the President. The mayor and other dignitaries were there. The papers were full of the President’s arrival, but no one noticed this missionary couple. They slipped off the ship and found a cheap flat on the East side, hoping the next day to see what they could do to make a living in the city.

That night, the man’s spirit broke. He said to his wife, “I can’t take this; God is not treating us fairly.”

His wife replied, “Why don’t you go into the bedroom and tell that to the Lord?”

A short time later he came out from the bedroom, but now his face was completely different. His wife asked, “Dear, what happened?”

“The Lord settled it with me,” he said. “I told him how bitter I was that the President should receive this tremendous homecoming, when no one met us as we returned home. And when I finished, it seemed as though the Lord put his hand on my shoulder and simply said, ‘But you’re not home yet!’” (From Talking To My Father, by Ray Stedman. Barbour & Co. 1997)

In times of tragedy, consider how God can manifest Himself in the circumstances of life so that His cause and kingdom will be advanced. Those who have been in prison, like Paul, have found a way to pray, preach, and testify to others. Those who have been in a hospital for an extended period have found a way to evangelize other patients while witnessing to doctors, nurses, and others on staff. Those who have lost a loved one to death have found a way to speak of the hope of the resurrection.

Do not forget Jesus. As the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians is read, keep in mind the whole narrative focuses around the person and work of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. 9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:6-11). Come to Christ. Bow before Him as Lord and Savior. Rise to serve Him, with fear and trembling. Go with God in joy and peace. Amen.

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