Between Acts 16 and when the church received the letter from Paul, both Paul and the church kept in contact. Note the following from the letter:
- Partnership in the Gospel from the moment Paul left until now, (Philippians 1:5). They kept up the support for 10 years.
- Providing gifts and partnering with other churches that had needs. The Macedonian churches (where Philippi was located) are mentioned in 2 Corinthians 8 in giving to Jerusalem.
- They heard Paul was in jail and wanted to seek his welfare. Paul’s response is that the Gospel is advancing from jail and they should rejoice in this. Not to mention that Paul’s boldness was infectious to others (Philippians 1:14).
And then one day, a man named Epaphroditus arrived from Philippi, unwell from the journey and landed in Paul’s cell with a gift from the Philippian church.
Paul wrote this letter in reply to their concern for him and to thank them for the gift that Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:25) sent to him – In the prison Paul was in, he had freedom to have visitors who could bring him gifts. He was most likely chained to a Roman soldier wherever he went, so he had the freedom to interact and relate to others, but, was still under arrest. He was then sent back to them with Paul’s reply, the letter we have called Philippians.
Into this, Paul also added the following:
- That their prayers for him will be heard and answered (Philippians 1:19)
- To encourage them to suffer for the sake of the Gospel just like he is and Jesus did (Philippians 1:27-30) and to not be frightened because of those who oppose them (Philippians 1:27) but to be confidence and to make the Gospel look good to others.
- To remind them of what they are already doing – to work out their salvation in each moment and keep the example of Christ burning in their minds (Philippians 2:18).
- To be mutually encouraged by sending friends and also himself to them (Philippians 2:19-30). Paul’s joy in seeing them again and hearing they are standing firm will give him great joy and cause less anxiety for the believers (Am I anxious for the growth of the Gospel in the lives of Christians I know? This stands in contrast to the anxiety in chapter 4.)
- To remind them to watch out for those who wish to promote circumcision above Christ (Philippians 3:1-8) and that gaining Christ is worth more than any achievement we can mount (Philippians 3:9-4:1).
- To gently help a dispute between two believers (Philippians 4:2-3). But this is a by and by remark – so little time does Paul spend on this, it must surely have come up in conversation with Epaphroditus and Paul felt it necessary to see they agree in the Lord over the matter, but he goes no further than to ask Clement to help.
- To help them keep their minds in check (Philippians 4:4-9)
So then, Paul writes to thank them for the gift they had given him and to relieve their concern for him being in prison. He thanks God for them and their kindness and grace in Christ that they have shown him, and goes to great lengths to express his joy in them. He encourages them to continue to live with Christ as their example, and to make Christ their aim in life or death. He writes, urging them to keep growing in maturity and to fill them with joy.
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Bible Study, Theology