Summary: An overview message on the Book of Philippians
A Call to Rejoice
Philippians 1:1 - Book Level Survey
Philippians Topical Overview Series
January 25, 2009
Have you ever been waiting for an important piece of mail? You got out with expectations to find that mail each day. Sometimes we wait several days and other times we wait weeks before the package arrives. Waiting can be frustrating because of our anticipation or excitement.
The anticipation is fulfilled the day that the letter or package arrives. One that day our expectation is satisfied. If you can relate or imagine this kind of anticipation, you can multiply that feeling one hundred times over and begin to understand what it was like to wait on a letter during the ancient days.
Couriers did not travel like the modern post office. Someone carried the letter personally from the sender to those receiving the letter. There would be an incredible excitement when a letter arrived because it was indeed a rare occasion. There must have been great excitement when Epaphroditus returned to Philippi with a letter from the Apostle Paul.
As we begin our topical survey of Philippians, we need to understand some of the background facts about the letter.
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons: Philippians 1:1
As we read the first verse of the letter clearly, the author is the Apostle Paul. Paul founded the Philippians church in Acts chapter 16 following his vision of the man from Macedonia. Paul led a team of evangelistic church planters into Philippi and among them were Silas, Timothy and Luke, writer of the gospel and the book of Acts. Paul is writing to the church from prison, he claims that he is in chains. Likely Paul is serving his first imprisonment in Rome that the final verses of Acts refer.
The second name on the letter is Timothy. It is unlikely that Timothy has done any of the writing of this letter but rather is with Paul when the letter was written. Remember Timothy was with Paul when the Philippian church was founded. The people of the church would have remembered Timothy and Paul greets the church from Timothy as well. Timothy would be traveling to Philippi in the near future to help continue the work that Paul had started with the church.
Paul writes this letter in an incredibly warm and affectionate tone. The letter feels this way because of the wording that Paul uses throughout the letter. Here are a few examples
I thank my God every time I remember you. 1:3
In all my prayers, I always pray with joy 1:4
It is right for me to feel this way about you, since I have you in my heart. 1:7
Paul writes this letter specifically for the church in Philippi. He specifically writes first to the leaders of the church and then addresses the whole church in general. The leaders would read the letter first before passing it on or reading it to the whole church. In many ways, the message is for the entire church.
Paul addresses the believers in Philippi as saints. In our modern context, we usually reserve the term saint for someone who is considered a pillar of the church. However, this does raise an important question: who were the saints? From the records of Acts 16 we know three of the possible saints in the church. There was Lydia, the first Christian convert in Philippi, who was a merchant dealing in colored cloth. The demon possessed slave girl was likely a convert following Paul’s exorcism of her demon. The Philippian jailer who was converted following the earthquake that freed Paul and Silas.
We see others mentioned within the letter itself. Epaphroditus is a leader within the church who was with Paul at the time of the letter being written. Epaphroditus had been sent by the church to help care for the needs of Paul while he was in prison. He will deliver the letter to the church upon his return to Philippi and is likely one of the key leaders.
Euodia and Syntyche are two women within the church who hold some prominence and influence. Paul addressed both of these women because they are at the center of a feud that seems to be tearing the church apart. These women were causing a great deal of controversy within the church.
Clement is mentioned only in the letter to Philippians and we know little about this man. We know that he clearly worked with Paul in Philippi. Ancient tradition claims that this man may have been the Philippian jailer. There is one other unnamed person mentioned: the loyal yokefellow. It is unclear who this may be but the term could be plural and be a reference to the entire church or it could be a key leader within the church.