The church in Philippi
Paul responded to the vision of Philippi and went to Philippi on his second missionary trip (Act 16:10). Paul preached the gospel to Lydia and her family and the Philippian jailer and his family. They responded to the gospel (Acts 16:33) and was baptized, that was the beginning of the church in Philippi. It became the first church in Europe.
The city of Philippi
Located 10 miles inland from Neapolis on the Aegean Sea. It was named after Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great when he conquered the city in 356 BC to gain access to gold mines nearby the city. Philip enlarged the city with many new inhabitants and considerable construction. In 200 BC, Philippi became part of the Roman province of Macedonia.
Julius Caesar’s heirs Mark Antony and Octavian confronted the assassins of Caesar, Marcus Junius Brutus and Cassius, at the Battle of Philippi in the plain to the west of the city during October in 42 BC. Antony and Octavian were victorious in this final battle against the partisans of the Republic.
Octavian received the title Augustus from the Roman Senate in 27 B.C. He made a Roman colony. Its citizens had an autonomous government, were immune from tribute, and were treated the same as if they actually lived in Italy. Many veterans of the Roman army settled there.
The main highway from Asia to the west is called “Via Egnatia”. It passed through Philippi and ran alongside the forum of the city.
Theme – Joy of Christians
Joy of Christians is the theme of this epistle. “Joy” (chara) is used four times (1:4,25; 2:2;4:1); “rejoice” (chairo) occurs eight times (1:18; 2:17-18; 3:1, 4:4, 10), and “glad” occurs twice (2:17-18-, 28).
Date and Vanue
Paul wrote this from a prison in Rome in 62 AD.
The church at Philippi sent Epaphroditus to bring financial contribution to Paul so that his confinement would be more comfortable (4:18). Epaphroditus became so ill he almost died (2:27). After he recovered, he brought this letter to the church at Philippi.
The church of Philippi has been partnering with Paul in the gospel (1:5) since the beginning of the church by financially support Paul’s work. At lease four time they had sent financial contribution to Paul, twice when Paul was in Thessalonica (4:16), once in Corinth (2 Cor 11:9), and once in Rome.
Purpose of the letter
- express thanks for the Philippians’ gift (4:10-18)
- he wanted the Philippians to know why he decided to return Epaphroditus to them, so they would not think his service to Paul had been unsatisfactory (2:25,26)
- he wanted to inform them about his circumstances in Rome (1:12-26)
- exhort them to unity (2:1,2;4:2)
- warn them against false teachers (3:1-4:1)
This letter contains one of the most magnificent passage describing Christ’s humility and exaltation (2:5-11).