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Philippians - a synopsis

Title

The Epistle (letter) to the Philippians, also known as "Pros Philippesious".

Who wrote the book

Paul with Timothy (verse 1), however, since it is written in the first person singular eg: I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche.. (4:2) it is clearly Paul speaking. The letter is not apostolic in nature, in that Paul is not presented as an Apostle unlike some other letters eg: 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians or Timothy, but as a servant of Christ along with Timothy.

Why was it written

Unlike some of the other Pauline letters such as Romans there is little in the way of doctrine in the Epistle to the Philippians. Instead it gives an outline of what a true Christian should experience in his or her growth in Christ. It is an account of the journey through this world, not taking any notice of what went before, but looking forward to what is coming – "to press on" (3:14).

Philippians 3:12 (NKJV)Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

It is about pressing on. The letter essentially is one of thanks, and one of encouragement. Paul writes to express his joy and thanks to the believers in Philippi for their help in his time of need.

Philippians 1:3-4 (KJV) I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, 4Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy,

Clearly the Philippians had given to Paul for his day to day needs and he had reciprocated by ministering to their spiritual needs. This activity he articulates as being in the normal course of a Christian’s life which is the theme of the letter. Hence, our object in studying this letter is to gain an in site as to how a Christian walks in Christ.

When was it written

Towards the end of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome in about mid year of 63 AD[1] although clearly Paul hoped for release soon after writing this letter:

Philippians 2:24 (NIV) And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.

Where was it written

From a prison in Rome, where Paul had been incarcerated, as given in evidence by Polycarp, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria and others and shown in Acts.

To whom was the book written

The Christians of Philippi.

Philippians 4:15 (NKJV) Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.

Philippi was a city of little importance in Macedonia (Thessalonica was the main city), visited by Paul as described in Acts 16. It was in this city that Lydia lived and was converted and were a demon possessed girl was delivered, the city were Paul and Silas was imprison and where an earthquake broke open the prison and the were a jailer was converted and of his house.

Of what or of whom it speaks

The Christian in his or her journal through life, a true Christian experience, as they press on toward Christ Jesus in glory. It articulates the life of a Christian as epitomised by the actions of the Christians in Philippi and of Paul. The Christians had saved and given aid to Paul for his temporal needs (eg 4:16,17), and Paul ministers to their spiritual needs encouraging them in their walk with the Lord:

 4:6,7 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Content

Divisions

The book is divided into four chapters which fits the content.

Chapter 1.       Christ, the controlling principle of the believer’s life

Chapter 2.       Christ, the believer’s pattern or model

Chapter 3.       Christ, the object and the goal

Chapter 4.       Christ the believer’s strength, sufficient for all circumstances.

Relevance to the Canon

One has suggested it would be better to place Philippians after Colossians. In some ways this makes sense if one views the Letter to the Ephesians as showing the believers position in Christ, while Colossians gives the glory of Christ being the head of the body in whom the fullness of the Godhead dwells, and Philippians describes the walk of the Christian in Christ see 1.

It has an assumed knowledge of the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians. It assumes the reader is saved, and indeed, assured of his salvation, knows he has been justified by the blood of Christ (neither of which are mentioned in the letter) and has peace in Christ (also not mentioned).

Key verse of the letter - 3:12

(NKJV) Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me.

Main idea

The main idea of the book is the experience of one who walks in the power of the Spirit of God. In doing so it assumes the reader knows what salvation is, and indeed, has experienced some of this walk – pressing forward, being the principle idea. It is interesting to note that the word sin or sins cannot be found in this book – the Christian is viewed in his state of salvation, and it does not enter into salvation as an act of grace, since a true believer knows that his sins are put away for ever – blotted out before God. It also does not speak of justification, peace with God, or indeed the assurance of salvation – this is assumed knowledge – hence the need to read Ephesians and Colossians first before this letter.

Statistics[2]

Divisions         None
Chapters         4
Verses             104
Words             2183

 

The name of Jesus is used more than 50 times in the book (17 times as Christ alone, 3 times as Jesus only, 10 times as Jesus Christ, 9 times as Christ Jesus and 22 times as God).

[1] Gaebelein A.C. (1970 revised 1985) Gaebelein’s Concise Commentary of the Whole Bible, Loizeaux Bros, USA, pp 1005.

[2] KJV

David L Simon (June 2008)
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