A Missionary Letter
It is not easy to give a Subject to this Epistle, It is, letter-like, about a number of things. However, as it was occasioned by the reception of an Offering of Money from one of Paul's Churches, to help support him in his Foreign Missionary work, we call it a Missionary Letter.
As a rule, Paul would not take pay for Preaching, but maintained himself by working at his trade, as a Tent-Maker (I Corinthians 9:12; Acts 18:3), because there were many false teachers who would make wrong use of his example or put e wrong construction on it. However, he did accept offerings from the Philippian Church, while
he was in Thessalonica (4:16), and also while he was in Corinth (ll Corinthians 11:9).
At the southeast corner of Europe, in Macedonia, the north part of what we know as Greece. A strategic city. On the Great Northern Highway between the East and the West. Noted for its gold mines. It was on the plains of Philippi (42 B.C), that the battle was fought, in which, with the defeat of Brutus and Cassius, the Roman Republic fell, and the Roman Empire was born. Augustus made it a Roman Colony.
The Church in Philippi
This was Paul's first European Church. Founded about A.D. 51, in the early part of Paul's Second Missionary Journey (Acts 16). Lydia and the Jailor were among the converts. Luke, the beloved physician, was its pastor the first six years.
It may have been Luke's home, where he practiced medicine. Luke must have had a hand in the development of the unspotted character of the Church. As far as we know, the Philippian Church was one of the purest of New Testament Churches.
Occasion of the letter
Paul was in prison in Rome, A.D. 61-63, about ten years after he had founded the Church in Philippi, and about three or four years after he had last visited there. Apparently (4:10), he had begun to wonder if they had forgotten him. Then Epaphroditus arrived from far away Philippi with an offering of money. Paul was deeply touched. Epaphroditus had nearly lost his life, in the journey. When he recovered (2:25-30; 4:18), Paul sent him to Philippi with this beautiful Letter.
Chapter 1. The Gospel in Rome
Timothy (l), probably wrote the Letter, at Paul's dictation. He had helped Paul found the Philippian church. So Paul had him join in the salutation. Timothy had also helped in the writing of II Corinthians, Colossians, I & II Thessalonians, and Philemon.
Paul's Prayer for Them (3-11). Thus he nearly always starts his Letters. Compare the beautiful prayers of Ephesians 1:16:23; 3:14-19; Colossians 1:9-12. "Fellowship in the furtherance of the Gospel" (5): this refers to the offerings of money which they had sent him. This made them sharers in his work. (See further under 4:17.) "Bowels"
(8; 2: 1) : this is one of the instances where the Revise' Version "tender mercies," is a better translation than the King James' Version.
The Gospel Growing in Rome (12-18). His coming to Rome as a prisoner had turned out to be a help rather than a hindrance in making Christ known in the Imperial City. Had given access to official circles, so that he had some converts in Nero's court (4:22).
As he had rejoiced that night in the Philippian jail (Acts 16:25), so now he was rejoicing in his Roman chains (18).
Paul's Desire for Death (19-26) . No doubt there were ever present pains in his scarred and broken body from repeated stonings and beatings. An old man. He knew the churches needed him. But he longed to go home. Still it was no great matter. In prison or in Paradise Christ was his Life and Joy. Whether he was to depart or remain was in God's hands. He was hoping to return to Philippi (26; 2:24).
The Sufferings of the Philippians (27-30). It had been ten years, and they were still being persecuted. Paul kept his eye on the day of vindication, when tables would be turned, and persecutors would reap what they had sown (28; II Thessalonians 1: 5-10).
Chapter 2. The Humility of Christ
An Example of Humility (1-11). There is less of rebuke in this Epistle than in most New Testament books. But we wonder, from the connection in which this charming exhortation to humility is set, if perhaps Epaphroditus had brought Paul hints that there were seeds of faction in the pride of certain Philippian leaders, as, possibly,
Euodia and Syntyche (4:2). "A thing to be grasped" (6): here is another instance where the RV translation is better than the AV "robbery." The Humility and Suffering of Christ are often set over against his Exaltation and Glory, as in 8-11. (See Hebrews 2:9-10; I Peter 1:11.)
His joy in the Day of Christ (2:12-18). Paul conceived of earthly friendships as continuing on into eternity. He expected his happiness to come to rapturous climax in greeting his beloved friends in the upper kingdom, at the feet of Jesus, his own offering to the Lord, saved forever, because he himself had brought them to Jesus (16).
His Plan to Return to Philippi (19-30). -I-his reads as if he were expecting his trial to come to a speedy end, especially in 24. There is no hint here of going on to Spain, as had planned originally (Romans 15:24). His long imprisonment seems to have changed his plans. The commonly received view is that he was acquitted, and did re-visit Philippi and other churches in the East (I Timothy 1:3). Was later rearrested, brought back to Rome, and executed, some five years later.
Chapter 3. The Heavenly Goal
This One thing (1-21). The background of the picture in this chapter seems to have been the appearance in Philippi of the Judaizers, though they had not made much headway, emphasizing the observance of the Law quarreling over un-essential matters, with dispositions like dogs (2). Paul himself had possessed the righteousness of the Law, which they were preaching, in a marked degree (4-6). But he now counted it as "refuse" (8 RV is better than the AV "dung"). His whole dependence was on Christ. His one aim was to know Him.
Paul pictures himself as in a race, straining every nerve and muscle, and exerting every ounce of strength, like a runner, with bulging veins, lest he come short of the goal. That goal was that he might attain unto the resurrection from the dead (11). This was the secret of Paul's life. He had had a glimpse of the glory of Heaven (II Corinthians 12:4), and was determined that for himself he would, by the grace of Christ, get there, with as many others as he could possibly persuade to come along. This chapter is one of the fullest of Paul's statements of his own personal hope of heaven' "Citizenship'' (20), RV is better than AV "conversation'" Strangers here, our
homeland is there. Our walk here, our hearts there.
Chapter 4. Joy
Euodia and Syntyche (2-3). Two women leaders, either of social rank, or deaconesses, or those whose homes were used as churches, who were allowing their personal differences to become an annoyance to the church.
Rejoice, Rejoice, Rejoice (4-7). Joy is the predominant note of this Epistle. Written by a man in prison, who for thirty years had been mobbed, beaten, stoned, and cuffed about, enough to make the angels gasp. Yet he is overflowing with JOY. The very things which would naturally tend to make him sour only added to his happiness. It is simply amazing what Christ can do in one's life. "The Lord is at hand" (5): Paul had said, ten years earlier, in II Thessalonians 2, that the Lord would nor come till after the Apostasy; but that apostasy was working fast in some of Paul's churches, and he never
got his mind completely off the approaching nearness of the Lord's Coming. This was one of the secrets of his perennial joy. Another was his unceasing prayer with thanksgiving (6). Gratitude to God for what He does give us will surely incline Him to grant what we do not have.
The- Coming of Epaphroditus (10-20). He had brought the offering of money to Paul (18). Paul was profoundly grateful, for as a prisoner he had no means of sustenance except what the prison allowed. The most beautiful and exquisitely delicate touch in this entire, Epistle is in 17, where, in thanking them for the money, he tells them that he appreciated it, not so much because he needed it, though he did need it sorely (2:25), but because it gave them a share in the rewards for his work, "fruit credited to their account." Because they supported him, his work was theirs. In the Final Day
they would be rewarded for the multitudes of souls they had helped him to save. The lesson holds for us, in our missionary offerings, of the modern world. Each offering, just a mite of an offering, does not amount to much. But even as the tiny raindrops that fall ill over the central part of the North American continent make possible the torrent that rolls over Niagara Falls, so these mites of offerings from hundreds of thousands of Christians all over the land together constitute the stream of funds which is supporting the vast army of foreign missionaries out on the far-flung battle lines of the Cross, enduring hardships for Christ we would nor think of enduring here at home, the noblest army of men and women the sun ever shone on. Those who, by their offerings to Missions, make themselves a part of this mightiest movement of all the ages, will, in the day of final reckoning, be entitled to share in its rewards.
Social Standing of New Testament Christians (22), "they of Caesar's household," from the palace of Nero. Most of the early Christians were of the humbler classes. Many of them slaves. But there were some prominent people among the converts, as these from Caesar's palace. The treasurer of Ethiopia (Acts 8:27). Cornelius the
centurion (Acts 10:1). A foster brother of Herod (Acts 13:1). Proconsul of Cyprus (Acts 13:12). Chief women not a few of Thessalonica (Acts 17:4). Greek women of honorable estate in Berea (Acts 17:12). City treasurer of Corinth (Romans 16:23). Joanna the wife
of Herod's steward (Luke 8:3).