Summary: We can rejoice no matter what is going on around us or to us. Paul demonstrates this in the book of Philippians. This sermon is the introduction to a series on the letter to the Philippians.
A. I heard about a waitress who couldn’t get a smile out of her customer no matter how hard she tried.
1. The sad old woman sat there looking miserable, depressed and dejected all through dinner.
2. As the lady paid her bill and was leaving, the waitress warmly said, “Have a nice day!”
3. The woman responded coldly, “I’m sorry, but I’ve made other plans!”
B. My brothers and sisters, if any of us have made other plans than to be happy and to rejoice in the salvation that God has given us in Christ, may the Word of God today release us from the bondage of sadness and misery and fill us with everlasting joy.
1. Today’s message is about joy - the kind that is not dependent on external circumstances, but the kind that comes from knowing the God of Joy.
2. Today’s message begins a sermon series on Paul’s letter to the Philippians that I am calling “Joy for the Journey.”
3. If there’s one thing we need, it is joy for the journey and Paul’s letter to the Philippians shows how Paul experienced joy in his journey and how we can experience joy for our journey.
4. Paul opens this little letter with joy, and that mood of joy continues throughout the letter, so it is a subject that we will come back to time and time again in this series.
C. As we begin this study of the book of Philippians, I want to remind us of the importance of studying the Bible in its historical context.
1. If we are going to understand and apply God’s Word in our lives and times, we must first understand what was going on in the life of the inspired writer and the life of the people to whom he wrote.
2. Once we have understood those things, then we can move to application for us in our times.
3. So, as we study Paul’s letter to the Philippians, we will try to first understand it in its historical context, and then we can apply it to ourselves.
D. As we try to understand the letter to the Philippians in its historical context, let’s begin with the city.
1. The city of Philippi was a Roman Colony and the leading city in the province of Macedonia.
2. Philippi was located on the Roman Road called the Via Egnatia and had a population of between 10 and 15 thousand people.
3. We will have more to say about Philippi as we continue in the sermon series.
E. The letter to the Philippians is one of the so-called, “prison epistles.”
1. That means it is one of the letters to the churches that Paul wrote while in chains.
2. The letter to the Philippians was written around 63 A.D. from Rome, where Paul had been taken as a prisoner.
3. Acts chapters 21 through 28 tell the story of how Paul came to be there in Rome.
4. Following his third missionary journey, Paul returned to Jerusalem where it wasn’t long before he was falsely accused by the Jews of teaching things contrary to the Law.
a. In the course of a ruckus that might have ended up in Paul’s death by a mob, he was rescued by Roman soldiers who kept him in custody for his protection.
b. No one really knew what to do with Paul.
c. He wasn’t really guilty of any wrongdoing, either against the Jews or the Romans, but the Romans didn’t want to let him go and the Jews didn’t want to let him live.
5. So Paul eventually was given hearings before the Roman Governors Festus and Felix, and finally before the Jewish king called Agrippa.
a. During this time, Paul was in custody in Caesarea for two years until he finally appealed to Caesar and was sent to Rome.
6. On the way there, Paul was shipwrecked, washed up with the other passengers and crew onto the isle of Malta where he is bitten by a deadly poisonous viper, yet he was not affected, which amazed the inhabitants of the island.
a. Do you get the feeling there was a spiritual battle going on here for the life of the one who would, in the next couple of years, write these important portions of the New Testament and lead large numbers to Christ by his preaching of the gospel?
7. At the end of Acts 28, we’re told that Paul was placed in a rented house where he was chained to a Roman guard but allowed to have visitors.
a. And so we are left to imagine what happened during Paul’s house arrest.
b. We can imagine how people came regularly to hear what Paul would teach them.
c. And when the house was free of visitors, we can picture him turning to his papyrus and writing the prison epistles.