The Apostle Paul: Prison Epistles; Philippians. Part 3.

Satanic opposition to the new church in Philippi quickly arose in the person of a demon-possessed, fortune-telling slave girl (Acts 16:16–17). Not wanting even positive testimony from such an evil source, Paul cast the demon out of her (Acts 16:18). The apostle’s act enraged the girl’s masters, who could no longer financially benefit from her services as a fortune-teller (Acts 16:19). They brought Paul and Silas before the city’s magistrates (Acts 16:20) and pandered to the civic pride of the Philippians by claiming the two preachers were a threat to Roman customs (Acts 16:20–21). As a result, Paul and Silas were beaten and imprisoned (Acts 16:22–24).

As we have studied, Paul and Silas were miraculously released from prison that night by an earthquake, which unnerved the jailer and opened his heart and that of his household to the gospel (Acts 16:25–34). The next day the magistrates, panicking when they learned they had illegally beaten and imprisoned two Roman citizens, begged Paul and Silas to leave Philippi.

Paul then apparently visited Philippi twice during his third missionary journey, once at the beginning (cf. 2 Cor. 8:1–5), and again near the end (Acts 20:6). About four or five years after his last visit to Philippi, while a prisoner at Rome, Paul received a delegation from the Philippian church. The Philippians had generously supported Paul in the past (Phil. 4:15–16), and had also contributed abundantly for the needy at Jerusalem (2 Cor. 8:1–4).

Upon hearing of Paul’s imprisonment, the Philippian church sent another contribution to him (Phil. 4:10), and along with it Epaphroditus to minister to Paul’s needs. Unfortunately Epaphroditus suffered a near-fatal illness (2:26–27), either while in route to Rome, or after he arrived. Accordingly, Paul decided to send Epaphroditus back to Philippi (2:25–26) and wrote the letter to the Philippians to send back with him.

Paul had several reasons for composing this particular epistle. First, he wanted to express in writing his thanks for the Philippians’ gift (4:10–18). Second, he wanted the Philippians to know why he decided to return Epaphroditus to them, so they would not think his service to Paul had been unsatisfactory (2:25–26). Third, he wanted to inform them about his circumstances at Rome (1:12–26). Fourth, he wrote to exhort them to unity (2:1–2; 4:2). Finally, he wrote to warn them against false teachers (3:1–4:1).

Philippians contains little historical material, no OT quotes), separate from the momentous treatment of Paul’s spiritual autobiography (3:4–7). There is little direct theological instruction, with one momentous exception.

The magnificent passage describing Christ’s humiliation and exaltation (2:5–11) contains some of the most profound and crucial teaching on the Lord Jesus Christ in all the Bible. The major theme of pursuing Christlikeness, as the most defining element of spiritual growth and the one passion of Paul in his own life, is presented in 3:12–14. In spite of Paul’s imprisonment, the dominant tone of the letter is joy (1:4, 18, 25–26; 2:2, 16–18, 28; 3:1, 3; 4:1, 4, 10).

I encourage you to read the Book of Philippians today. Have a blessed day.

Soli deo Gloria!

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