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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

A Quick Overview Of The New Testament Book Of Philippians

Image result for letter to the Philippians
Philippians 3:1 "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you."

Introduction to Philippians

Today's post is about considering the overall significance of Paul's letter to the church at Philippi. Commentator Paul S. Rees has this to say about Paul's letter to the Philippians: 

"Paul, while in prison (probably in Rome, possibly at Ephesus, improbably at Caesarea) writes a letter of thanks, love, and solicitude to the Christians in Philippi. They have sent him a gift by Epaphroditus their messenger; and they will soon receive, at Epaphroditus' hand, this epistle of cheerful, almost blitheful gratitude." 

Reese later notes: 

"These believers were the first fruits of the apostle in Europe. Bringing the Gospel to them had been a costly venture. Acts 16:12-40 tells the story. It was at Philippi, which proudly flew the flag of a Roman free city, that Paul and Silas had been flogged half to death. It was here that they had been brutally jailed." 1

Upon my own reading of Acts 16:12-40, we see that section of Acts begin with the conversion of Lydia the purple trader and end with the conversion and story of Cornelius the Jailer. It is in Acts 16:31 that we read one of the clearest explanations of the Gospel: "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved." 

A quick look at a map of the ancient Mediterranean world will enable the reader to see Philippi in relationship to the other lands of the Bible and the travels of the Apostle Paul.

Dr. Woodrow Kroll, longtime host of the radio program "Back to the Bible", writes the following about Philippi: 

"Philippi was just a minor village in Thrace until about 356 b.c when Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, conquered and rebuilt it, enlarging and fortifying the city, giving it his name ("Philip's City"). Years later Philippi became a major city in Macedonia and a Roman Colony. It was situated on the Ignatian Way, the Roman road that linked the Adriatic and Ignatian Seas." 

It would be in the time of Paul's first imprisonment at Rome, recorded in Acts 28, that Paul would had composed Philippians along with three other letters: Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon.  

The key verse of Philippians

As quoted at the beginning of today's post, Philippians 3:1 appears to be the key verse to unlocking the main theme of the letter - joy. Paul states in that verse: "Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you."  The NASB does a great job of rendering the Greek of this text, in that it shows how Paul's is writing of the same things or "same types of things" he had written previously and was prepared to write again - namely the theme of Christian joy. 

The great commentator R.C.H Lenski writes: 

"Joy is the music that runs through this epistle, the sunshine that spreads over all of it. The whole epistle radiates joy and happiness."3 

Normally in a New Testament epistle or letter, the first half is dedicated to doctrinal instruction (which would be Philippians 1-2), whereas the second part (Philippians 3-4) deals with practical application. Such an observation must not be held to rigidly, since rich doctrine and life-practical application weaves together quite often in either half.

Grand Themes in the Book of Philippians

With the grand theme being: "The Book of Christian Joy", we discover upon reading through Philippians, other important themes. For sake of convenience I will simply lay out each theme and the verse references that are found in Philippians.

1. Joy 1:4,25; 2:2,17-18; 4:1

2. Rejoicing 1:18,26 ; 2:16-18, 28; 3:1,3; 4:4, 10

3. Confidence/confirmation 1:6,7,14,25; 3:3,4

4. Mind/thought-life  1:27,2:2,3,5; 3:15,16,19; 4:2

5. In Christ 1:1,13,14,26; 2:1,5,3:3,14; 4:7,21

6. In the Lord  2:24,24; 3:1; 4:1-2

7. The Gospel 1:5,7; 1:27

8. Work of God Philippians 1:6; 2:12-13, 14-18

9. Call of God/Will of God  2:12-13,14-18; 3:12-14; 4:13

10. Christian life  1:21-22; 2:12-13; 3:14; 4:13

Another major theme is that of revival. Philippi was among Paul's healthier churches to which he wrote. Throughout the letter we find Paul urging the church to abound in the the things of God (1:9-11; 2:12-13). At one point, Paul makes reference to the church having "revived" or "renewed" interest in what he is experiencing during his imprisonment on account of the Gospel (4:10). Undoubtedly true revival ought to result in greater joy in God. All these various themes are expressions of the golden thread running through Philippians - namely that of joy. 

Quick outline of the Book of Philippians

Having considered some introductory matters, as well as the key verse and major themes of this "Book of Christian Joy", we will close out today's post by considering a suggested outline.  It is hope the reader can take this and use it for their own spiritual enrichment or as a resource to teach or preach to others.

Outline of Philippians
Key Verse: Philippians 3:1
Key Theme: The Book of Christian Joy

Christian Joy's confidence - Philippians 1
Wherever there is joy, there is confidence.  Christian joy supplies confidence in:
a. Living 1:1-6; 21-26
b. Suffering 1:18-19
c. The Gospel 1:12, 27-30

Christian Joy's thought-life - Philippians 2
Christian joy's thought-life is cultivated in the following ways:
a. Formed by Christ's humility 2:1-5
b. Flourishes under Christ-centered doctrine 2:6-11
c. Functions to live for Christ 2:12-30
    i. Living for Christ stated 2:12-18
   ii. Living for Christ exemplified 2:19-30

Christian Joy's goal - Philippians 3
The goal of Christian joy is to rejoice in Jesus by...
a. Rejoicing in what Jesus did 3:1-7
b. Rejoicing in what Jesus will do 3:8-11
c. Rejoicing in what Jesus is doing 3:12-21

Christian Joy's necessity - Philippians 4
Christian joy is needed in the following areas....
a. Relationships 4:1-3
b. Prayer 4:4-9
c. Contentment 4:10-14
d. Possessions 4:15-23


Endnotes:


1. Paul S. Reese. Proclaiming the New Testament volume 4 - The Epistles to Philippians, Colossians and Philemon. Page 15.

2. Woodrow Kroll. Places in the Bible. Countryman. Nashville, TN. 2005. 224-225. 

3. R.C.H Lenski. Interpretation of Saint Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians. Wartburg Press. Page 691. 

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