Philippians: Introduction

Philippians is a different kind of letter than most of Paul’s other writings. It’s far more personal in most respects than his writings to other churches. By way of comparison, in his writings to the believers in Corinth, where there is an almost tangible sense of the love that the Apostle has for the believers there, it is also abundantly clear that Paul’s relationship with the Corinthian church had a parental angle to it – that it was in many instances a labor of love. Like a good parent, Paul would need to bring firm correction and redirection to the carnal believers there, always seeking to turn them from their spiritually self-destructive ways onto the path of godly-maturity. It was worth it, but it was work…hard work.

In Philippi, there seems to have been no such effort required. Rather, the writing here would indicate a relationship that was a source of genuine refreshment. Partners in the Gospel from the start, Paul rejoiced at every thought of the Philippian believers, prayed for them often, invested in them – even seemed to confide in them, and received support from them.

The letter to the Philippians is one of four “prison epistles” written by Paul while incarcerated in Rome (Acts 28), prior to his subsequent trial and martyrdom; the others being Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon. As is true with each of his writings, there are number of poignant themes which emerge. While the most prominent theme would be the “high-tide” of joy, within these same pages, Paul also shares very transparently of his experience with the low-ebb of despair. He is both a prisoner in chains and yet free to be an Ambassador for Christ.

The letter also gives us some of the most well-known passages in all of Paul’s writings. He reminds us that God will complete that which He has begun in us (1:6); he encourages us to have the mind of Christ (2:5), urges us to press on in the upward call of Christ (3:14), and invites us to rest in Christ-anchored contentment (4:11-13).

For its relative brevity, the letter to the Philippians presents us with a deep well from which to draw.

So drink deep…