OceanSide church of Christ

  Return to list of Philippians Next 



Victor M. Eskew




A.   The book of Philippians is the fiftieth book of the Bible and the eleventh book of the New Testament.


B.    This book has been called “Paul’s love letter to the church at Philippi.”  “Because of the personal aspect of Philippians, scholars have categorized it as (1) a ‘Letter of Friendship,’ (2) a ‘Family Letter,’ and (3) a ‘Letter of Consolation’” (A Commentary on Philippians, Stewart, 89).


C.   Here we find a letter to a church with which Paul is well pleased.  “It reveals something of the satisfaction when his converts made progress in the faith ( An Introduction to the New Testament, Carson, Moo, and Morris, 327).


D.   Philippians is one of four letters written from Paul’s first Roman imprisonment, taking its place alongside Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon.




A.   The opening verse attributes the book to the apostle Paul (Phil. 1:1).


Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ…


B.    “Beginning at 1:3, the apostle uses the first person singular throughout the rest of the letter.  The terms ‘I,’ ‘me,’ ‘my,’ and ‘myself,’ appear approximately 120 times, making Philippians one of Paul’s most personal letters (Stewart, 1).


C.   The style is Pauline.


D.   No serious doubts have ever been raised to question the authorship of Paul.


E.    The external sources attribute Philippians to Paul.

1.     Polycarp said concerning Paul that when absent from you [Philippians] he wrote you a letter.

2.     Ignatius alluded to Philippians 2:2 as words with which “Paul admonished you.”

3.     Irenaeus prefaced a quotation from Philippians 4:18 with the words “As Paul also says to the Philippians.”

4.     Clement of Alexandria attributed Philippians 1:13-14 to “the apostle.”

5.     Tertullian began his quotation of Philippians 3:11-14 by saying “The apostle [Paul] writes to the Philippians.


F.     Question:  Did Paul write the hymn of Philippians 2:5-11?

1.     There are several arguments against Pauline authorship. (From Carson, Moo, and Morris)

a.     Some of the vocabulary is unusual.

1)     Form (v. 6, 7)

2)     Thought it not robbery (v. 6)

3)     Highly exalted him (v. 9)

b.    The rhythmic style is not common in Paul.

c.    The poem seems to be a possible Greek translation of a Hebrew or Aramaic composition.

d.    The passage speaks of Christ as “a servant” (v. 7)

e.     “Both before and after the hymn Paul exhorts the Philippians to right conduct, and it is urged that the apostle would not stop in his exhorta-tions to compose such an exquisite song and then go right back to them” (Carson, 318).

f.     Paul would not have omitted such characteristic themes as redemption through the cross, the resurrection, and the place of the church.

2.     Arguments answered:

a.     Other passages written by Paul have usual words and are rhythmic in nature (e.g., I Cor. 1:26-31; II Cor. 11:21-29).

b.    Paul’s mother tongue was Aramaic (Acts 22:2; II Cor. 11:22).

c.    In the context of the servant concept there is found the phrase, “death on the cross,” a common Pauline expression.

d.    As far as Pauline themes, there is no single place where Paul mentions them all.  His selection is always due to the needs of the moment.

e.     Two main reasons to accept the passage as coming from Paul:

1)     It is found in a writing undoubtedly penned by Paul.

2)     There is no convincing reason for rejecting Paul as the author or assigning the hymn to anyone else.




A.   Often Paul dictated his words to a scribe.  He would then add his salutation at the end of the book.


B.    Two scribes have been suggested for Philippians:

1.     Timothy (1:1)

2.     Epaphroditus (2:25-30)




A.   Epaphroditus was being sent back to the Philippians after delivering a gift to Paul and after being extremely sick.


B.    “Seeing their brother in Christ would alleviate the Philippians anxiety (2:25-30).  Epaphroditus’ close relationship with Paul allowed him to inform the church of the apostle’s well-being and answer any questions they had about the letter” (Stewart, 2).




A.   The recipients of the letter were members of the church in Philippi.

1.     Philippians 1:1


…to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.


2.     In Philippians 4:15, Paul refers to them as “ye Philippians.”

3.     A brief history of the church at Philippi.

a.     Paul entered into the city on his Second Mission Journey (A.D. 50).

1)     At Troas, Paul saw the “Macedonian vision” (Acts 16:9).


And a vision appeared to Paul in the night; there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us.


2)     Paul came to the port city of Neapolis, then entered into Philippi, ten miles inland (Acts 16:11-12).


Therefore loosing from Troas, we came with a straight course to Samothracia, and the next day to Neapolis; and from thence to Philippi, which is the chief city of that part of Mace-donia, and a colony:  and we were in that city abiding certain days.


b.    The events that happened while Paul was in the city of Philippi.

1)     The conversion of Lydia (Acts 16:13-15)

2)     Paul cast out a demon from a damsel (Acts 16:16-18).

3)     Paul and Silas were arrested, charged, beaten, and cast into prison (Acts 16:19-24).

4)     The conversion of the Philippian jailor (Acts 16:25-34)

5)     Their release from prison (Acts 16:35-39)

6)     They returned to Lydia’s house (Acts 16:40).

4.     Timeline:

a.     A.D. 50 – Paul’s first visit

b.    A.D. 57 – Paul second visit (Acts 20:1-6)

c.    A.D. 60-61 – Paul’s letter to the Philippians

d.    A.D. 61-62 – Paul may have visited the church again.


B.    The province of Macedonia (This information is supplied by Stewart)

1.     Macedonia was an ancient kingdom located on the Balkan Peninsula, being bordered by Thrace to the northeast, Illyria to the northwest, and Greece to the south (3).

2.     By the 4th century B.C., the kingdom was part of the Greek world.  Philip II (358 – 366 B.C.) was chosen by the Macedonian army to rule over them.

3.     The Romans divided Macedonia into four districts which were each administered by elected officials.  From east to west the districts were led by these capitals:  (1) Amphipolis, (2) Thessalonica, (3) Pella, and (4) Pelagonia (5).

4.     In 148 B.C. the Macedonians made their last bid for independence under the leadership of Andrisaus.  The Romans defeated them and incorporated Macedonia into the empire making it a province ruled by a governor (5).

C.   The city of Philippi (This information is supplied by Stewart)

1.     Philippi was located in northeast Macedonia on a hillside in a pass of the Pangaeus range of the Balkan Mountains which made it a strategic military site (5).

2.     The land surrounding Philippi was situated between the Strymon River on the west and the Nestos River on the east, making the area fertile for agriculture.  The land found north was wooded, while the area to the south had marshes (5).

3.     Originally the city was named Krenides, which means “Springs” or “Fountains” (5-6).

4.     Philippi was originally an old Thracian village….In 360 B.C. Krenides was settled by people from Thasos, an island located to the south in the Aegean Sea (6).

5.     The Greek settlers, however, were soon threatened by the Thracian tribes and appealed to Philip II of Macedonia for assistance.  In 356 B.C., Philip seized the opportunity to take the city to expand his power eastward.  Renaming it Philippi after himself, the ruler populated and fortified the city (6).

6.     In 168-167 B.C., Aemilius Paulus divided Macedonia into four districts.  Philippi was located in the first of these.  Strabo describes the city during this time as only “a small settlement” (7).

7.     In 130 B.C., the Egnatian Way crossed the Roman province of Macedonia from the Aegean Sea to the Adriatic Sea.  Philippi was located along this major road, which brought travelers and trade to the city (6-7).

8.     In 42 B.C. Mark Antony and Octavian defeated Cassius and Brutus on the plains and hills surrounding Philippi….The victors settled many of their veteran soldiers in Philippi making it a Roman colony.

9.     In 30 B.C. Octavian defeated Antony in the Battle of Actium.  Later, he populated Philippi with veterans from Antony’s army, taking them from their land in Italy (7).

10.  Peterlin cautions:


“The colony consisting of former soldiers cherished its military origin and retained something of the military flavor in it everyday life.  As such Philippi was a kind of ad hoc garrison.  However, there is no evidence for the presence of any unit of standing Roman army in Philippi after 27 B.C.” (8).


11.   The colony of Philippi was like a miniature Rome due to the fact that it employed Roman insignia, money, and dress.  In addition, Philippian archi-tecture included a Roman forum, gymnasium, and baths….The Roman style of government is also well attested (8-9).

a.     Wikipedia also refers to Philippi as a “miniature Rome.”

b.    Acts 16:20-21


And brought them out to the magistrates, saying, These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city.  And teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans.


12.  Latin was the dominant language found in ancient inscriptions.

13.   Prior to Roman occupation, Greek had been the official language for more than 300 years and it was still prevalent in the first century.  Paul wrote his letter in Greek.

14.  The cosmopolitan mixture of people inhabiting Philippi is demonstrated by evidence from religion.

a.     Romans had a temple to Bacchus (Dionysius), the god of grapes and wine.

b.    Many carvings to Diana (Artemis)

c.    One prominent figure was the Thracian horseman who supposedly guard-ed the deceased and led them into the next life.

d.    A temple dedicated to a pantheon of Egyptian gods.

e.     An altar dedicated to the emperor Augustus and later the ruins of 2 temples that point to the prominence of the imperial cult.

f.     The Jews did not occupy a very strong presence in the city.  We nowhere read of a synagogue being within the city.




A.   Paul’s exact location when he wrote the Philippian letter is not recorded, but there are several clues in the book which lead to a solid conclusion.

1.     His coworker Timothy was with him (1:1; 2:19).

2.     Paul was in chains for the sake of the gospel (1:7, 13-14, 17).

3.     He was being watched by soldiers of the Praetorian Guard (1:13).

4.     Many evangelistic efforts were going on within the city when Paul was imprisoned (1:14-17).

5.     Paul faced a trail that could either end his life in martyrdom or being acquitted (1:19-25; 2:17).

6.     Upon release he intended to make another trip to Philippi (1:26; 2:24).

7.     Messengers had already made several trips between Philippi and Paul’s location (2:25-26).

8.     Some from Caesar’s household lived there (4:22).


B.    These clues point to the Philippian letter being written from Rome about A.D. 61-62.


C.   “From the Marcionite prologues of the second century until the eighteenth century, there was little dispute that Rome was the origin of the Philippian letter” (Stewart, 60).


D.   We will not delve into all the pros and cons, but be aware that four prominent cities have been suggested by others as the place of imprisonment and the writing of Philippians:  Corinth (A.D. 50-52); Ephesus (A.D. 52-55); Caesarea (A.D. 57-59); and Rome (A.D. 61-62).


E.    The main argument against Rome as the place of writing involves the number of journeys from Paul to the recipients mentioned in the book.

1.     Some see up to seven journeys:

a.     News to the Philippians that Paul was in prison

b.    The sending of Epaphroditus

c.    News back to the Philippians that Epaphroditus was sick,

d.    The concern expressed by the church for Epaphroditus

e.     The sending of Timothy

f.     Timothy’s return to Paul with news about Philippi

g.     The sending of Epaphroditus

2.     The argument is that if Paul were imprisoned in Rome there would not have been enough time for all of these trips to be made.  Thus, many conclude that he prison had be closer to Philippi than Rome.  Many have assumed that he was imprisoned at Ephesus.

3.     Answer:  Paul’s first imprisonment lasted 2 years.  It would take about one month to make the journey from Philippi to Rome.  Seven journeys with time in-between the trip would have been easily possible.


VI.        THE PURPOSE OF PHILIPPIANS (Taken from Stewart’s commentary)


A.   Paul wanted to update them on his situation (1:12-26).


B.    Paul wanted to thank the Philippians for their gift (4:10-18).


C.   Paul wanted to expedite Epaphroditus’ return (2:25-39).


D.   Paul wanted to prepare the way for Timothy’s later visit (2:19-24).


E.    Paul wanted to encourage the Philippians in their grief….To overcome their grief, Paul admonished the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord” (2:17-18; 3:1; 4:4), to find peace through prayer (4:6-7), and to meditate on good things (4:8-9) (87).


F.     Paul wanted to promote unity in the Philippian church (2:2-4, 14; 4:2-3)


G.   Paul wanted to warn the Philippians against false teachers (3:2-3).




A.   Philippians belongs to general style of writing (genre) known as “letters” or “epistles.”

1.     A letter is an half dialogue or a substitute for an actual conversation.

2.     Craddock:  “Paul’s letters not only sought to create a kind of personal presence with the readers, as all personal correspondence does, but his letters functioned as an official, authoritative presence…” (Stewart, 89).


B.    This letter is filled with both rhetorical style and close relationship.


C.   Paul’s letter is a mixture of various letter forms:  commendation, thankfulness, friendship, consolation, praise, teaching, admonition, exhortation, and warning (Stewart, 90).




A.   Many believe that the Philippian letter is really a combination of several writings of Paul.

1.     Letter of Reassurance (1:1-3:1)

2.     Letter of Warning (3:2-4:3)

3.     Letter of Thanks (4:10-20)

4.     The text of 4:4-9 is put in various places


B.    The major concern is found in Philippians 3:1.


Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.  To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you it is safe.


1.     We are told that the first part of the verse and what follows from 3:1b to verse 19 is not consistent.

a.     Paul’s tone changes.

b.    “Paul’s assertion of his own authority in verses 4ff. is not prepared for by the earlier tone of the Epistle and would seem to be quite unfitted for the occasion (Guthrie, 536).

c.    We are told that 3:1a connected with 3:20 is a more natural reading.  Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord….For our conversation is in heaven…

2.     NOTE:  “Moreover, no interpolation theory is justified unless there is lacking an alternative explanation which maintains satisfactorily the unity of the whole” (Guthrie, 537).

a.     Positive:  It could have been that Paul was interrupted in his writing and before resuming had heard of the Judaizing teachers troubling the church.

b.    Negative:  If this section of Philippians was inserted by a scribe, why here?  No satisfactory answer exists for it.


C.   Why the letter should be looked upon as a unified whole (From Stewart).

1.     There is no manuscript evidence for the dissection theory.

2.     The dissection theory does not adequately explain necessary transitions.

3.     The integrity of Philippians is demonstrated by its themes, themes that are found in all the sections:

a.     Suffering (1:29-30; 3:10; 4:14)

b.    Joy (1:18, 25, 2:17-18, 29; 4:1, 10)

c.    Right thinking (1:7; 2:2, 5; 3:15; 4;2, 10)

d.    Humility (2:3, 7; 3:3, 8, 12-16)

e.     Christian growth (2:12-13; 3:12-16)

f.     Thanksgiving (1:3-11; 4:10-20)

4.     The integrity of Philippians is demonstrated by its vocabulary.  In other words, Paul uses similar vocabulary throughout the epistle.




A.   The early lists of New Testament books that were compiled by various Christians, and all contain Paul’s letter to the Philippians.

1.     Marcion’s cannon (A.D. 140-150)

2.     Irenaeus (A.D. 180-200)

3.     Muratorian Fragment (180-200)

4.     Tertullian (160-225)

5.     Clement of Alexandria (150-215)

6.     Hippolytus (200-235)

7.     Origen (185-255)

8.     Eusebius (260-340)


B.    Many of the “Apostolic Fathers” quote or make allusions to the Philippian epistle:  I Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, Martrydom of Polycarp, Shepherd of Hermas, and the Epistle to Diognetus.




A.   Joy – the words “joy” and “rejoice” occur 16 times in Philippians.  The words “joy” or “rejoicing” are found in every chapter.


B.    Key Verse:  Philippians 4:4


Rejoice in the Lord always:  and again I say, Rejoice.




A.   There is not one quotation from the Old Testament found in the book.


B.    Christ is found within the book of Philippians.

1.     Three great passages concerning Christ are found in the prison epistles.  One is found in Philippians (Phil. 2:5-11).

a.     The passage brings a clear message about the greatness of Christ and His condescension in taking a lowly place to bring salvation.

b.    It constitutes powerful evidence for the confession of a high Christology at a very early date in the church’s life (Carson, 322).

c.    It is pointed out that the hymn as commonly understood is the earliest example known to us of a division of Christ’s life into preexistence, his life on earth, and his exaltation to heaven (Carson, 324).

2.     Our relationship with Christ appears in every chapter:

a.     Chapter 1 – Christ is our life, He controls our life.

b.    Chapter 2 – Christ is our example, the pattern for our life

c.    Chapter 3 – Christ is our object, the goal of our life

d.    Chapter 4 – Christ is our source of joy, the strength of our life

C.   Paul does mention the enemies of God’s people in this book.

1.     Members of the church who tried to stir up trouble for Paul (Phil. 1:17)

2.     The concision (Phil. 3:2)

3.     Some who may have adopted some pre-Gnostic beliefs (Phil. 3:18-19)


D.   The epistle exhorts readers to positive Christian service.  “The suffering of the Christian fits in with this.”



 Previous Next