Paul discusses how to live and work, day-by-day, depending on God and thereby shining out against the crookedness and perversity of the world. He also mentions his two loyal disciples, Timothy and Epaprhoditus. Epaproditus nearly died from sickness and is coming back to Philippi to assauge concerns from the community about his health. These human worries, if continually brought to Christ in prayer, are fundamentally compatible with the Christian life.
Paul illustrates the humiliations that Christ endured, which contrast with the sins of Adam. These humiliations are exactly how we should imitate Christ.
Paul exhorts the Philippians stand firm with one another and to be of one mind in the strongest rhetorical terms. Unity in Christ is a witness to Christ and the lack of unity is a scandal. Real love (not sentimental love) binds Christians one to another. All of us should have the same disposition, the same love, of the same soul, and the same mind. We are to put to death our own selfishness, and put others in our Christian community first.
Paul has concerns about unity breaking down in Philippians at a spiritual level. They have suffered years of persecution and poverty. Paul comforts them in this, saying it is a sign from God. They have been granted suffering for Him, and the evildoers will be punished.
Paul calls for the Philippians’ love to grow and abound in knowledge and in understanding. He discusses suffering, giving joy that his imprisonment has led his preaching the Gospel to have such a wide reach. He argues that persecution is a privilege and a sign of one’s devotion to Christ.
Paul is incredibly thankful to God for Philippi, and thankful for God’s grace and work through them. This thankfulness buoys him as he serves his prison sentence, and is a model for us as we are called to “rejoice always and in everything give thanks.”
Paul introduces himself and Timothy as servants of Christ Jesus, and the significance of this title is discussed. The letter is addressed to the entire community, not just the overseers and deacons. They are all saints, through grace in Jesus Christ. The titles of overseer and deacon also have different connotations in that time than today.
Paul maintains a warm friendship with the church of Philippi. They are poor and persecuted but joyful and generous beyond their means. Paul’s letter to them, written from prison, reflects that effusive joy. Some references to Philippi in the other letters are discussed.
Some of Paul and Luke’s initial efforts at preaching in Philippi are chronicled. They meet and convert Lydia, a wealthy woman who would later be helpful in their other Macedonian efforts. They are arrested and beaten for their work, yet their are freed by the Lord through an earthquake. They convert their jailer and his family, but are asked to leave by the law in the town.
Paul entered Asia but the Holy Spirit prevented him from evangelizing. He has a vision of a Macedonian man encouraging him to come to Macedonia. Paul makes his way to Phillipi, a major city in Macedonia. Phillipi is a rich port city with access to farmland and gold. It is also the site of the Battle of Philippi, where Octavius Caesar and Marc Antony defeats the Roman Republic. Afterwards it becomes a home for Roman veterans to retire. Philippi also had easy access via the Egnatian Way to many other cities. However it was far outside of Christianity’s reach thus far.
Note: A map of Paul’s missionary journeys is frequently referred to in this episode and may be useful.