Paul’s Letter to the Philippians
The Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Church in Philippi likely around 62 AD, during his imprisonment in Rome. The main purpose of the letter appears to have been in order to thank the Philippian Church for their continual support of Paul, both during his ministry and his imprisonment. However, the letter also serves to act as a way for Paul to update the Philippians about his present situation, and to offer them additional instruction concerning the problems they had been facing.
The letter can be divided in to roughly four parts:
Part 1: Paul’s situation and attitude (1:1-26)
Paul begins the letter by explaining that he has been imprisoned because of his commitment to Jesus (1:12&13). Paul is not ashamed of his situation but takes joy in it because it has allowed him to spread the Gospel to his captors, and because the work of God still continues without him (1:14-20). Paul does not know whether he will live or die but expresses his confidence that regardless of what happens to him, it will either be to his benefit, or to the benefit of the Church (1:21-26).
Part 2: Oneness through Humility and Service (1:27-2:30)
Here, Paul addresses issues of division in the Church by encouraging them to be of one mind and one spirit, so that they could look to the interests of others, and further bring about the message of the gospel (1:27, 2:3&4). To this end, Paul provides the example of Jesus Christ, who left His exalted position behind to become a lowly man where he was crucified and then exalted “to the glory of God” (2:5-11). Paul encourages the Philippians to “do all things without grumbling” so that they may be “as lights in the world,” (2:12&13) and then additionally provides himself, Timothy, and Epaphroditus as examples of this kind of service (2:17-30).
Part 3: True and False Models (3:1-21)
In this part, Paul warns his audience to watch out for the people who try to take confidence in their salvation because of their status, or because of something that they have done (3:1-3). Instead, he entreats them to take confidence in their faith, and uses his own life as an example, how he was the “Hebrew of Hebrews,” but counts that, and all other things, as a rubbish, so that he might “gain Christ” (3:4-10). He also asks that the Philippians continue to strive toward the goal of salvation in Christ Jesus, just as he does.
Part 4: Final instruction and Conclusion (4:1-23)
In the Final part of the letter, Paul provides the Church some additional instruction, imploring them to give thanks in everything, to meditate on whatever is pure and just and commendable, then to put into practice what they have learned and seen (4:4-9). Finally, Paul concludes the letter with thanks for all that the Philippians have done for him (4:14-23).
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