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LESSON 1: INTRODUCTION TO PHILIPPIANS

Philippians 1:1,2

 INTRODUCTION

An itinerant missionary travelling to a city successfully won a few converts to Christ and sought to firmly establish them in Christ and in the Gospel. His discipling process was quickly brought to a halt by Satanic oppression. Though this interfered with the missionary’s ministry and personal ministry among them it stimulated their growth in Christ and established a partnership in the Gospel. The converts were endeared to the missionary and the missionary deeply endeared to those converts. A close knit relationship of affection resulted between them. The young church thus established, prayed for and pursued a relationship with the missionary. They demonstrated their concern by frequent contributions. The missionary likewise prayed for them and wrote to them encouraging them from time to time and acknowledged their contributions to him.

Then a period of time lapsed in which communication was dormant. But the interest was revived again as The Spirit of God stirred those believers of that young church, now eleven years old, to give again to the missionary. In return he sent a letter of thanksgiving to that church.

The apostle Paul is the missionary that the saints in the church at Philippi supported. He presented essential attributes for productive Christian living in that Epistle. These essential attitudes that Paul deemed necessary for the Philippian believers in Christ are just as necessary for The God’s people to display for productive Christian living today as it was in early A.D. 63.

 

I. THE PRELIMINARY TO THE EPISTLE

Any piece of literature is best understood when a knowledge of the background, purpose, and setting of the writing has been grasped. This is even more important in the study of a Book of the Bible. Such a preliminary study will enhance the meaning of the Book and enlighten the mind of the reader.

      A. Background Of The Book

The belief in verbal plenary inspiration of The Scriptures precludes denial that the apostle Paul is the author of The Epistle to the Philippians. Much is known about the apostle Paul. Luke the beloved physician has seen to it through the historical account he recorded in the Book of Acts. But what can be said of the Philippians? It is good to consider the city and the church.

            1. The city of Philippi.

Philippi was a Roman colony that was located in the northern-most and eastern-most sector of Macedonia. Geographically it was the first city in Asia into Europe from the East. Neapolis, the port for Philippi, belonged to the northern province of Thrace. Philippi was an important military outpost of the Roman Empire, named after Philip of Macedon, who was the father of Alexander the Great. In 42 B.C. Augustus Caesar made it a colony and frontier stronghold against Thrace to commemorate his victory in battle with Brutus and Cassius, who assassinated Julius Caesar. Its citizens were granted full Roman citizenship even though it was removed from Rome 1,000 miles by land or 1,300 by sea. They were granted the rights and privileges to vote and maintain their own senate and magistrate, and the use of Roman coins for currency. Philippi is situated on a somewhat marshy plain surrounded by mountains nine miles inland north-west of Neapolis on the Egnatian Road. The city itself was surrounded by a high wall wide enough for chariot races.

            2. The church at Philippi.

Paul and Silas were hindered by the Spirit of God from preaching the Gospel in Asia minor. While in Troas Paul had an extraordinary appearance of a Macedonian man calling for help (A.D. 51). Luke joined Paul and Silas and immediately they set sail for Neapolis, the closest port to Macedonia. They continued their journey by foot to Philippi to preach the Gospel there. They met with a few praying women by the riverside on the Sabbath day. Lydia, a seller of purple from Thyatira responded to the gospel and was baptized with her houshold servants

After exorcizing a demon from a fortune-telling young lady, Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison. At midnight while they prayed and sang praises to God, an earthquake shook the prison and freed the prisoners. The jailor was wakened from sleep. When he saw all the prison doors open, he drew his sword to kill himself. But Paul shouted to him and forestalled him. Then Paul dealt with the jailor and his household spiritually and baptized them. The next morning the magistrates released Paul and Silas and urged them to depart from Philippi leaving Luke behind. This handful of converts was the beginning of the church at Philippi. But by the time Paul wrote his Epistle to them they had grown to be a mature church with a full compliment of leaders—bishops, deacons, and ministers (Phil.1:1; 2:15). They had endeared themselves to Paul maintaining contact with him through the years and ministering to his needs. Time and again they demonstrated their love for him. The most recent manifestation of love prompted the writing of this Epistle.

            3. The setting of the Book

Paul’s love for his brethren and concern to minister to them cost him his freedom. The riot in the temple courtyard at Jerusalem resulted in his arrest and imprisonment. The injustice he received prompted him to appeal to Caesar which resulted in a very stormy and perilous trip to Rome and imprisonment there for three years. From his Roman imprisonment in the praetorian (imperial palace) of Caesar Paul wrote this Epistle in approximately A.D. 62.

      B. Purpose Of Writing

Prisoners in Bible times were responsible to provide for their own sustenance. Because of the nature of the charges laid against Paul and his rights as a Roman citizen, Paul enjoyed a measure of freedom for a while. Then the political scene changed and he was more confined to the palace guard house. The Philippian church considered Paul as their missionary. They cared enough to send their pastor with another monetary gift to assist their missionary with the costs of such predicament because of the Gospel. In gratitude Paul responded to their continued fellowship in the Gospel with this letter of thanks.

Epah-fróhdeetohs became deathly sick on the journey from Philippi to Rome to minister to Paul’s needs. The church learned of their pastor's sickness and Epah-fróhdeetohs’ life. Paul sent him back carefully and wanted the Philippians to welcome him back with gladness and respect. In the letter Paul explained the circumstances surrounding the sickness and exhorted the Philippians accordingly.

Also there appears to be a problem threatening the unity of the church. Paul’s concern that they deal with this problem is seen in every chapter (1:27; 2:2,12-15; 3:2,15,16; 4:2). Deep concern is reflected in the stern warning to beware of those who would tear at the Truth and divide the unity in Christ through contention and false teaching.

II. THE PANORAMA OF PHILIPPIANS.

An overview of the whole Book of Philippians reveals thirteen paragraphs. A short paragraph opens the Book in which the writer gives his name, the name of his companion and a greeting to those to whom he is writing. Another short paragraph concludes the book and indicates another of the essential attitudes presented in the bulk of the Book. Throughout the Book Paul presents eleven essential attitudes for productive Christian living. Paul recognized the value of each attitude not only in his own life but also in the lives of the Philippian saints as well as Christians today.

These twelve attitudes include confidence in prayer, confidence in proclaiming the Gospel, humility in disposition, joy in usefulness, responsibility in service, persistence in devotion, anticipation of glory, faithfulness in the Lord, peacefulness through prayer, thoughtfulness in purity, gratefulness always, and gregariousness. When the proper attitude is manifest in each of these twelve areas of life Christ will be magnified and the child of God will be productive.

 

III. THE PRELUDE OF PHILIPPIANS (1:1,2).

“Paul and Timothy, bondslaves of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus |namely| the ones being at Philippi, together with overseers (bishops) and deacons. Grace to you& and peace from God our Father and 0Lord Jesus Christ!”(Phil. 1:1,2APT).

      A. The Writer

There is little doubt that the writer of Philippians is the apostle Paul. The basis that a few critics have for questioning Paul’s authorship is very shaky. External evidence given by the church fathers credits the apostle Paul as the author. Polycarp, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian give strong evidence to the fact. It is shown that even Marcion acknowledged it.

In his usual style, Paul identifies himself at the outset. He includes his beloved son in the faith, Timothy as associated with him. No doubt Timothy was with him while imprisoned in Rome (2:19). Both are designated as servants or bondslaves of Jesus Christ. Paul does not need to, nor does he call attention to his apostleship. He is so endeared to these people to whom he is writing that they readily understand his humility in identifying himself as a bondslave of Jesus Christ rather than as an apostle. They knew the significance of the term involved total surrender and commitment to Jesus Christ which Paul had demonstrated the day he entered their noble colony and also in acceptance of his position as a prisoner for Christ’s sake. This title carried special honor to those who truly deserved the title because of sincere bond-service to The Lord Jesus Christ. Then too, they considered Paul to be their missionary. Their fellowship in the Gospel reflected that they considered him an apostle.

      B. The Recipients

“All the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi” is the encompassing phrase Paul uses to address his readers. The all inclusive terminology in the salutation indicates Paul’s intention not to take sides in any conflict that may exist. Paul’s concern is for all the saints. When he prayed (v.4), when he thought of them (v.7), and when he longed for them (v.8) he considered them all. He included them all as fellow partakers of grace with him. They all are holy ones or separated ones in Christ Jesus through the faith of Christ which seals a holy union with The God.

Paul called special attention to the bishops or overseers and deacons. The leadership of this local church received special attention, because Paul wanted the leaders to pay special attention to his Epistle. Such a phrase indicates the maturity of the Philippian church; especially the designation of bishops or overseers in the plural. Apparently these leaders were drawn from the rank and file of the church and Paul gave them recognition at the outset of the letter but he does not mention them again throughout the letter.

      C. The Regards

“Grace be unto you& and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This typical Pauline salutation is found exactly so in several other Epistles (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1.2. Col. 1:2; and 1 Thes. 1:2). Grace is God giving to man freely, undeservedly His love, and all spiritual blessings to sinful man. Wave upon wave of The God’s grace floods the souls of God’s people day after day. Paul’s desire is for the collective body of saints in Philippi to experience more grace along with The God’s perfect peace—the calmness and serenity which characterizes The God Himself along with blessed reconciliation to Him.

Although this is Paul’s common salutation, it has special meaning in each case and is not just inserted out of common practice. In this case Paul is filled with gratitude because they are fellow partakers of grace having given an abundantly gracious gift to his need. Since they were fellow partakers of His grace, his desire was for them to abundantly experience a fresh supply of the grace of God.

CONCLUSION:

This Preliminary Study of the Book to Philippians gave insight to the history and location of the city Philippi. Named after the father of Alexander the Great, it was made a colony of Rome by Augustus Caesar in 42 B.C. with full citizenship rights. The Gospel was brought to Philippi by Paul, Silas, and Luke under adverse conditions. Paul and Silas were forced to leave the city. Luke remained at Philippi. The church grew and maintained fellowship with Paul. The setting of the book was the palace guardhouse in Rome sometime between the end of A.D. 61 and early A.D. 63.

Paul wrote this Epistle to express his thanks and gratitude for the recent abundant gift they sent to him. He needed to set their mind at ease concerning their pastor and messenger, Epah-fróhdeetohs who became deathly sick on the journey to Rome. Also there was the need to encourage the Philippians to maintain unity.

The panorama reveals twelve essential attitudes for productive Christian living which you are to develop in order to glorify The God. Paul the writer included his associate Timothy in the designation “bondslaves of Jesus Christ,” which indicates his total surrender and commitment to Jesus Christ for whatever service He wants wherever He wants. The recipients of the letter are those separated ones in Christ Jesus with their leaders, both bishops and deacons. Paul’s salutation has special meaning because they became fellow partakers of grace with him. He desired for them to have a fresh supply of grace.

      What can you do to benefit most by this study? Three things!

1. Determine to anticipate and discover the essential attitudes for productive Christian living

2. Determine to apprehend and develop these attitudes in your life. And,

3. Determine not to miss one lesson throughout the study.

 

Discussion Questions

1. What relationship between Paul and the Philippian church prompted the writing of this Epistle?

2. Why is it concluded that the Philippian church had a problem that threatened the unity of the church?

3. How would you explain the absence of the term ‘apostle’ in connection with Paul in this Epistle?

4. How does the use of the term ‘bondslave’ relate to question 3?

5. Why did Paul call attention to twelve attitudes throughout the Book of Philippians?

6. Why should Paul's salutation have special meaning for the Philippians?

7. What three things can you do to benefit the most from a study of the Book of Philippians?

APPLICATION

As we approach this excellent Epistle which offers abundant help for practical Christian growth, what will you do to extract from it the most profit you can get?

What attention will you give to the twelve attitudes presented by Paul in His Epistle to the Philippians?


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Last modified: May 24, 2014