Author: Paul, with Timothy
Audience: Christians in Philippi
Subjects: Be encouraged despite hardship, It's a privilege to suffer for Christ, Be humble, Imitate Jesus Christ's obedience, Be content with what you have, etc.
The beginning of the church of Philippi is recorded in Acts 16. Paul had a dream for him to travel in that direction, and he meets Lydia and her family there near a river outside the city.
Those who became Christians during this time would be the foundation of the church in Philippi that Paul writes to in this letter to the Christians in Philippi.
Paul introduces himself and Timothy as authors of this letter to the believers in Philippi. Timothy is generally believed to be added as a formality, with Paul being the actual author.
Paul expresses his gratitude for how thankful he is for his audience. He reveals in Philippians 1:12 that he wants to reassure them about his current imprisonment for the gospel, telling them that his imprisonment has "helped to spread the gospel."
Paul explains that his imprisonment has also caused others to boldly proclaim the gospel, although some are doing it for selfish reason. However, he says that he is still glad that the gospel is being spread and "that Christ is proclaimed in every way." (Philippians 1:18)
Paul then appears to indicate in Philippians 1:20-26 that he is potentially facing death. He contemplates openly the benefits of death versus life, ultimately saying that it would be best for those living that he be able to live so he could continue to do God's work. Paul then instructs them to "live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that...I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit." (Philippians 1:27)
Paul says it is a privilege to be able to suffer for Christ.
Paul continues to give his audience instructions on how to live, saying, "Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others." (Philippians 2:4)
Paul then says, "Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God...humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross." (Philippians 2:5-8)
He then continues to give instructions on how to behave in Philippians 2:12, saying, "so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world." This small metaphor given by Paul compares the world as the black night sky with Christians being small specks of light dotting the world.
Paul expresses how proud he is of the believers in Philippi, saying that because of them, "I can boast on the day of Christ that I did not run in vain or labor in vain." (Philippians 2:16) Paul then says that if he does become a martyr because of his faith, that he is thankful for them.
He notes that he intends to send Timothy in order to get a report from the church regarding how they are doing. Paul says that Epaphroditus, who had been sent to Paul by the believers in Philippi, should go back to Philippi to be with the church.
Paul then warns them of false teachers and those who teach evil (such as basing salvation on anything related to marking or mutilating the physical body), saying that he has every reason to boast about his own heritage, but he considers it all worthless in comparison to knowing Christ.
Paul says that he wants to know Christ more "and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his suffering by becoming like him in his death..." (Philippians 3:10)
He tells them to be mature in Christ and to imitate him as he has been imitating Christ. He remind them that they are citizens of heaven, and that Jesus Christ will transform their humiliation into glory, "by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself." (Philippians 3:21)
Paul is ending his letter, so he gives some final instructions to his audience. He tells them to not worry, and that God's peace will be with them. He also says to keep their minds focused on good things and that they should continue in the teachings given to them. He thanks them for their concern, and he tells them that he has learned to be content.
In Philippians 4:13, Paul says, "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."
In context, this is the secret that Paul is speaking of when he says he has learned to be content when "being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need." (Philippians 4:12)
There are many who reference this verse out-of-context for various purposes, but in-context Paul is speaking of this being the secret to being content.
Paul continues to thank the Philippians for their generosity, saying that they will be blessed by God for their kindness.
Paul's letter to the Philippians is largely a message of encouragement while Paul is in prison. He tells them to not be discouraged by his imprisonment, and he appears to be giving them instructions in the event that he becomes a martyr for his faith in Jesus Christ.
He tells them to be mature and imitate Christ's obedience (who "humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death— even death on a cross." Philippians 2:5-8).
Paul also tells them to not worry and to find peace in God. The essential message that Paul is telling the Christians in Philippi can be summarized by what he says in Romans 8:28 "we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
In Romans 8:18-28, Paul is discussing this same subject of dealing with suffering. The main subjects that Paul covers in Philippians are: Be encouraged despite hardship, It's a privilege to suffer for Christ, Be humble, Imitate Jesus Christ's obedience, Be content with what you have, etc.
Visit Bible.org's Introduction, Background, and Outline of Philippians for more information about the background information on Paul and the church in Philippi.
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