Paul's Letter to the Philippians

Discovery for Students

Paul's Letter to the Philippians

OVERVIEW
DAYBREAK

SOURCE FOR QUESTIONS
Philippians 1:1 through 4:23

KEY VERSE FOR MEMORIZATION
“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

BACKGROUND

The Book of Philippians is a letter written by the Apostle Paul to the church at Philippi. Philippi was a city located in Macedonia, in the northern part of what is now Greece. It was located on the northern highway that connected the east with the west. Noted for its gold mines, it was an important Roman city and military port during Paul’s lifetime.

The church at Philippi was Paul’s first European church. It was founded by Paul around A.D. 51 with the help of Timothy, Silas, and Luke. Paul and his fellow workers went to Philippi during Paul’s second missionary journey after God showed them in a vision that they were to go to Macedonia. It is believed that Luke, the Gentile physician who wrote the Book of Acts and the Book of Luke, was its pastor for the first six years of its existence. The account of the church’s establishment can be found in Acts 16.

Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians from Rome, where he was in prison. It was written about ten years after the church had been founded, and three years after Paul had last visited there. The personal, affectionate tone of the letter reveals his close relationship with the church and its members. Out of all of the many churches that Paul founded and encouraged, Philippi was the only one that is recorded to have supported Paul financially. They sent several gifts of money to Paul for his ministry, and also had contributed to his collection for the poorer saints in Jerusalem. This reflects the trust and friendship that must have existed between the apostle and the people of the Philippian congregation.

Paul wrote this letter in thanks for a gift that the Philippians had sent to him. He had been out of contact with them, and may have believed that he had been forgotten. Then Epaphroditus, a member of the Philippian church, arrived in Rome with gifts and messages from the church. Epaphroditus found Paul in need of his encouragement, and stayed in Rome to help him for a time. When he became ill, apparently to the point of death, he extended his stay even longer than planned. Once he was well again, Paul sent him home with this letter of thanksgiving and a commendation for his helpfulness.

In addition to making very personal statements about his own faith, Paul encouraged the church at Philippi to keep the faith, be joyful, develop humility, and remain unified under Christ. Paul also took this opportunity to address two issues in the church that had come to his attention.

Apparently, there was a faction in the church that was causing strife over issues relating to the law and circumcision. Paul told the church to beware of these “evil workers” and to seek to have humility like Jesus. Also, he exhorted two women, Euodias and Syntyche, who were leaders of house churches in Philippi, to “be of the same mind in the Lord” instead of allowing a personal argument to cause division in the church.

He ended the letter by encouraging the church (and ultimately us) to rejoice, pray, be thankful, and keep their minds on the things of God.

QUESTIONS

  1. Like most of Paul’s letters, the greeting in the letter to the Philippians includes some words of encouragement, and Paul’s prayers and spiritual desires for the church. What were some of the things that Paul wanted for the Philippians? Why do you think he might have included some of these in his greeting to them?
  2. At the time Paul wrote this letter, he was imprisoned in Rome. This may seem like a dire circumstance to us, but Paul had an interesting perspective about his situation. In Philippians 1:12-18, what did Paul say about how God used his imprisonment?
  3. How can we apply to our own lives Paul’s perspective on difficult circumstances?
  4. In chapter 2, Paul encouraged the Philippians to be humble and obedient, and to strive for unity. He pointed to Christ as the ultimate example of this kind of attitude. List the qualities found in verses 2-15. How can we cultivate this attitude in ourselves? According to verse 15, what is the spiritual reward for such an attitude?
  5. In chapter 2, verses 19-30, Paul lamented the lack of selfless, committed workers, and praised Timothy and Epaphroditus for their faithfulness. What are some of the qualities needed in an effective Christian worker?
  6. In chapter 3, Paul warned the Philippians against false prophets. Today, as in Paul’s time, there are false teachers and spiritual leaders who are more interested in power, money, and oppressing those under their care than in truly following Christ. How can we identify and guard against leaders such as this?
  7. In verses 9-21 of chapter 3, Paul recorded his own personal statement of faith, and reminded his readers that they were seeking the “prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” He encouraged them to copy his attitude, and promised that God would be faithful to show them if they did not have the right attitude. How can you “press toward the mark?”
  8. In chapter 4, Paul challenged the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord.” What are some ways of ensuring this joy?
  9. In verse 13 of chapter 4, Paul gives us the ultimate answer on how to cultivate humility and obedience, serve God, press toward the mark, and keep the joy of the Lord in our hearts. What is his conclusion?

CONCLUSION

Paul remained faithful and kept drawing closer to Christ until the end of his life. We can learn much from his example. He kept a positive attitude in hard times, faithfully followed and obeyed God, prayed regularly, kept himself humble, and shared his joy in the Lord with others.