The book of Philippians is actually a letter written by the Apostle Paul to a group of Christians in the city of Philippi in the mid-first century. Philippi was located in a region known as Macedonia, in northern Greece. Paul had travelled to Philippi on one of his missionary journeys, and while there he helped establish a mission congregation. There were probably other letters written back and forth between Paul and the Philippian congregation. What we have here is the letter(s) that have survived and been incorporated by the early church into the canon of scripture.
Some interesting aspects of Philippians:
• Length: 4 Chapters
• Authorship: In Philippians 1:1, Paul sends greetings to the Philippians from “Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus”. Timothy was one of Paul’s co-workers in spread-ing the gospel, but it was Paul who actually wrote this letter.
• Philippi was the first Christian community on the European continent.
• The letter itself indicates that Paul wrote this letter while he was in prison (Phil. 1:12- 14) and awaiting trial, for preaching the gospel. It is not entirely clear where Paul was imprisoned when he wrote this letter, most likely either from Rome or Ephesus.
• Given that Paul wrote this letter from jail, it is remarkable that its overarching theme is rejoicing in the cross of Jesus, even in the face of tribulation. Philippians is some-times referred to as “The Letter of Joy”.
• The immediate occasion for this particular letter was Paul thanking the Philippian congregation for their faithfulness, their financial support, and for sending one of their own, Epaphroditus, to care for him. Apparently Epaphroditus had become ill while tending to Paul, so Paul sent him back to Philippi (Phil. 2:25-30).
• Spreading the gospel was never an easy task, and Philippi was no exception. Paul mentions “opposition” that he encountered when he first reached Philippi (Phil. 1:28- 30) and the shameful treatment he ran into while there (1 Thess. 1:2).
• Paul warns against those who would try to proclaim a gospel different from the one he originally brought to them (3:2), possibly referring to the insistence on circumcision and full conversion to the Jewish faith in order to be a Christian, which he adamantly opposed.
• Paul also mentions the dangers of pettiness and jealousy within the community
• Philippians contains what is sometimes referred to as “The Christ Hymn” (Phil. 2:6-11), possibly a fragment of an early Christian hymn, emphasizing Christ’s humble and obedient sacrifice as a model for faith.
• Paul emphasizes the joy of knowing Christ and his resurrection, which provide a new perspective on life and enable believers to rejoice, even in the midst of difficult circumstances.