Introduction To The Epistle Of Paul To The Philippians
Overview And Background
The letter to the Philippians is one of four written by Paul while he was in prison. The other three are Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. Philippians was written to the first church established by Paul in Europe, then known as the province of Macedonia (see note 1 at Ac 16:9). Paul visited Philippi on his second missionary journey (see note 1 at Ac 18:22) after receiving a night vision where he saw a man from Macedonia standing before him, earnestly asking him to "come over into Macedonia, and help us" (Ac 16:9).
After receiving this vision, Paul and his companion, Silas (see note 4 at Ac 15:22), immediately endeavored to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called them to preach the Gospel to the people there (Ac 16:10). Paul crossed over into Europe, stopping first at Philippi (see note 6 at Ac 16:12). The Scripture records the meeting and conversion of several people at Philippi. Among them was Lydia (see note 1 at Ac 16:14), a woman of the city of Thyatira (see note 2 at Ac 16:14) whose heart was open to the Lord. She was baptized along with her whole household and was faithful to the Lord (Ac 16:13-15).
Paul cast a demon out of a girl who was possessed with a spirit of divination, and this led to both he and Silas being cast into prison (Ac 16:16-23). This is the incident where Paul and Silas praised God at midnight while their feet were fastened in stocks. The Lord sent an earthquake, opened all the prison cells, and loosed all the prisoners' bands, but not a single prisoner tried to escape. This led to the conversion of the jailer along with his whole family (Ac 16:30-34). There were many other members of the Philippian church who knew Paul but whose stories and conversions we do not know.
Paul's primary reason for writing this letter was to thank the Philippian church for the gift they had sent him in his time of need (Php 4:10-19). He also used this opportunity to encourage them to look confidently to Christ for their joy and unity, and to continue to persevere in their Christian life and faith.
Even though Paul wrote this letter from prison, it contains a constant theme of rejoicing. The words "joy" and "rejoice" were used sixteen times in this short epistle. Paul made it very clear in Php 3 that his personal relationship with the Lord was the key factor in his joy.
Paul had a special affection for the Philippians. They were not only the first fruits of his ministry in Europe but also the only church that contributed to his ministry after he had departed from their city (Php 4:15-16).
It is supposed that Paul wrote what we call the second letter to the Corinthians while he was in Philippi (see Life for Today Study Bible Notes, Introduction to 2 Corinthians, Date and Place of Writing).
Recipients Of The Book Of Philippians
The Roman colony of Philippi was located in northern Greece (called Macedonia in Paul's day). It was a thriving commercial center at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. The Philippian church displayed a strong missionary zeal. It consisted mostly of Gentile believers; therefore, Paul did not specifically quote any Old Testament passages in this letter.
Date And Place Of Writing
Philippians was probably written to the church at Philippi from Rome sometime in early A.D. 63. This can be deduced from the fact that Paul was imprisoned in Rome during A.D. 62-63. In this letter to the Philippians, Paul mentioned that they had sent offerings to him by Epaphroditus (Php 4:18). While in Rome, Epaphroditus fell sick, and enough time elapsed for word of that to filter back to Philippi (Php 2:26-27). More time elapsed as Paul learned of their concern for Epaphroditus' health. Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that this letter to the Philippians, which Paul sent by the hand of Epaphroditus, happened at least one year after Paul arrived in Rome.
About The Author
Paul is clearly the author of this epistle, as stated in Php 1:1. Numerous footnotes about Paul are found in Acts (some of the predominant notes are note 4 at Ac 7:58, note 1 at Ac 9:1, note 1 at Ac 9:26, and note 1 at Ac 28:30).