Philippians Bible Study Lessons
The Epistle to the Philippians names the apostle Paul as author. Paul’s authorship is authenticated by the internal claims of the epistle (1:1, 2) and numerous personal references by the author (1:12–24; 2:19–24; 3:4–14; 4:10–16). The perspective of the author is consistent with what is known of Paul from other New Testament sources, and the style and language are Pauline. External evidence from the primitive church is early and widespread. Only the most radical New Testament scholars have questioned Pauline authorship of this epistle, and their views have been almost universally rejected.
DATE: A.D. 60–63
Philippians was probably written while Paul was first imprisoned in Rome, c. A.D. 60–63 (1:7, 13, 14). The stage of development of the church in Rome, the association with Rome mentioned by Paul in the epistle (4:21, 22), and the circumstances surrounding Paul’s imprisonment in Rome favor dating the epistle near the end of the imprisonment. It is perhaps the last of the four Prison Epistles Paul wrote, the other three being Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon.
RECIPIENTS: Philippian Christians
Paul may have penned this letter with his own hand, but it was his custom to use an amanuensis (secretary). Timothy and Epaphroditus were with Paul when he wrote the letter. The account of the founding of the church in Philippi is related by Luke in Acts 16:11–40. Paul visited Philippi on his second missionary journey, which lasted from A.D. 50–53, at which time Lydia and the Philippian jailer and his family were converted. The church at Philippi in ancient Macedonia was the first European church founded by Paul and represented the first major penetration of the gospel into Gentile territory. The congregation was primarily Gentile. Philippi was a Roman colony in government and customs.
THEME: Rejoice in the Lord
The theme of the Book of Philippians is “rejoicing in the Lord.” The keynote is joy. The word “joy” (chara, Gk.) is found five times (1:4; 1:25; 2:2, 29; 4:1), and the verb “to rejoice” (chairein, Gk.) occurs eleven times (twice in 1:18; 2:17, 18; 4:4; once in 2:28; 3:1; 4:10). Similarly, the phrases “in Christ” and “in the Lord” occur frequently in Philippians (1:26; 2:1, 19, 24; 3:1; 4:1, 4, 10). Paul’s immediate purpose is to assure the Philippian church of his appreciation for their lives and for the kindness demonstrated in their recent gifts. His appreciation is mentioned three times (1:3–11; 2:19–30; 4:10–20). Paul tells also of his own situation in Rome, and expounds upon his comfort in Christ.
W. A. Criswell et al., eds., Believer’s Study Bible, electronic ed. (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1991), Php 1:1.