Paul wrote the letter to the church in Philippi while he was a prisoner in Rome around 61 A.D. In Acts 16, we learn how the church in Philippi started during Paul’s second missionary journey. A vision led Paul and his traveling companions to Macedonia, where both Lydia and a jailer and his family came to faith, creating the core of this small church (Acts 16:1-40; 1 Thess 2:2).
Paul wrote to both members and church leaders in Philippi; he sought to comfort and challenge them. He was about to send Epaphroditis and Timothy their way, so it was a convenient time to send a letter.
He warned them about several enemies of the gospel and encouraged them to pursue unity by remembering the way Christ lived—humbly serving and giving Himself for others. If Christ, the Son of God, lived a life of humility and service, how much more should they live for the good of others, not complaining, arguing, or seeking their own way? Multiple times, Paul calls the Philippians to “conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel,” to “be like-minded,” and to avoid complaining and arguing. He even risked publicly shaming two women by mentioning them by name, calling them to reconcile with each other.
Paul reminded the Philippians of the importance of knowing Christ and trusting only in His righteousness. Christians are not to trust in rituals, as those who taught the necessity of circumcision; nor are they to trust in religious traditions, as Paul easily could have, given his personal history. But Christians, Paul wrote, should trust only in Christ and gain a righteousness that comes through faith, not works.
Paul ends his letter calling the Philippian church to rejoice in the Lord in all circumstances and to follow his example as he followed Christ. He thanked them again for their partnership in the work of the gospel, including the most recent gift they’d sent with Epaphroditus.
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.
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