Click here to learn more!
by Thomas Constable
The name of the city of Philippi was originally Krinides (lit. springs). It stood about 10 miles inland from the Aegean Sea in the Roman province of Macedonia. In 356 B.C. Philip II, King of Macedonia and father of Alexander the Great, renamed the town after himself and enlarged it.
In 42 B.C. the Romans Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus defeated Brutus and Cassius in a battle fought just west of Philippi. After that battle Philippi became a military colony. Subsequent battles in 42 and 31 B.C. resulted in Philippi receiving even higher status. The citizens enjoyed autonomous government, immunity from taxes, and treatment as if they lived in Italy. [Note: F. J. Foakes Jackson and Kirsopp Lake, eds., The Beginnings of Christianity. Part I: The Acts of the Apostles, 4:187-90.] Some commentators have seen indications of the pride the Philippians took in their city in Act_16:20-21 and Php_1:27; Php_3:20. Luke’s description of Philippi as a "leading city of the district of Macedonia" (Act_16:12) probably refers to its colonial status since it was the only Roman colony in the area. Amphipolis was the capital of the district, and Thessalonica was the capital of the province.
The Via Egnatia, the main highway from Rome to the east, ran through Philippi and brought much commerce and many travelers to Philippi. Also the nearby Gangites (modern Angitis) River was another natural advantage since it constituted another ancient thoroughfare (cf. Act_16:13).
The story of the founding of the church in Philippi appears in Acts 16. Philippi was the first town in which Paul preached after he crossed the Aegean Sea from Troas and entered what we now call Europe. Then, in A.D. 50, the city had few Jewish residents and the first converts were Lydia, a Gentile businesswoman from Thyatira in the province of Asia Minor, and the Philippian jailer. The church evidently met in Lydia’s home at first (Act_16:15). Paul’s companions on his first visit to Philippi included Silas, Timothy, and Luke. Luke may have stayed in Philippi to establish the new converts when the other members of Paul’s missionary team moved on to Thessalonica. Luke dropped the use of "we" from Act_17:1 through Act_20:4. The Philippian Christians sent financial support to Paul in Thessalonica more than once (Php_4:15-16).
Probably Paul visited Philippi again during his third missionary journey in A.D. 57. He traveled from Ephesus to Corinth by land and then from Corinth back to Miletus, mostly by land. From there he took a ship to Jerusalem. The land route he took on both occasions would have led him through Philippi.
No serious question about the Pauline authorship of this epistle arose until the nineteenth century. Paul claimed to have written it (Php_1:1), and the references to his acquaintances, events in his life, and his way of thinking all point to him as the writer.
The apostle was a prisoner when he penned this letter (Php_1:7; Php_1:13; Php_1:16). References to the palace guard (Php_1:13) and Caesar’s household (Php_4:22) have led most interpreters to conclude that Paul wrote from Rome (cf. Php_1:19-24; Php_2:24), though some writers have defended a Caesarean origin for this epistle. [Note: E.g., Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, pp. xxxvi-xliv.] A few have also argued for Ephesus as being the place of origin. [Note: E.g., G. S. Duncan, "A New Setting for Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians," Expository Times 43 (1931-32):7-11. For a good discussion of these options, see Ralph P. Martin, The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians, pp. 18-36; or Donald A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, pp. 503-6.] The Marcionite Prologue (ca. A.D. 170) refers to Paul writing Philippians from Rome. Evidently he did so during his first Roman imprisonment (A.D. 60-62) during which time he also wrote Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, the other Prison Epistles. Gordon Fee believed the internal evidence of Philippians puts its writing toward the end of this period. [Note: Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, p. 37.]
The primary purpose Paul had in mind in writing this epistle seems to have been pastoral: to reassure and encourage the Philippians. Epaphroditus, whom they had sent with a gift for Paul and to minister to his needs in prison, had recovered from a serious illness and was about to return to Philippi. Paul built up Epaphroditus in the eyes of his readers (Php_2:25-30), which suggests that they may not have appreciated him adequately for some reason. Secondary reasons for sending this letter include explaining Paul’s present circumstances (Php_1:12-26), announcing Timothy’s anticipated visit (Php_2:19), and expressing thanks for the Philippians’ gift to Paul in prison (Php_4:10-14). Robert Lightner suggested that the book "might be called a thank-you note to saints in Philippi for their generous gifts." [Note: Robert P. Lightner, "Philippians," in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, p. 647.] Paul also wanted to explain his desire to revisit his readers (Php_2:24) and to deal with the problem of the two women in the church who needed to reconcile (Php_4:2). One commentator identified the genre of this epistle as a letter of friendship and moral exhortation. [Note: Fee, p. 2.]
Of all Paul’s epistles, Philippians is the most consistently positive and personal. It reflects a joyful spirit. One popular exposition of Philippians stresses the importance of living joyfully in spite of circumstances. [Note: See Charles R. Swindoll, Laugh Again.] Paul did not rebuke this church sharply nor did he refer to any major problems in it. His warnings are of a precautionary nature. His occupation with Jesus Christ also stands out. In 104 verses there are 51 references to the Lord Jesus by name. There are also many references to the gospel (Php_1:5; Php_1:7; Php_1:12; Php_1:27; Php_2:22; Php_4:3; Php_4:15) and the fellowship that Paul and the Philippians shared in the gospel ministry (Php_1:5; Php_1:7; Php_2:1; Php_3:10; Php_4:14; Php_4:16).
". . . what is most noticeable in this letter is the general paucity of Paul’s more specialized theological vocabulary and the infrequency of the explanatory ’for,’ which is always a dead giveaway that Paul is involved in heavy argumentation." [Note: Fee, p. 20.]
I. Salutation Php_1:1-2
II. Prologue Php_1:3-26
A. Thanksgiving Php_1:3-8
B. Prayer Php_1:9-11
C. Progress report Php_1:12-26
1. Paul’s present imprisonment Php_1:12-18
2. Paul’s anticipated deliverance Php_1:19-26
III. Partnership in the gospel Php_1:27 to Php_4:9
A. A worthy walk Php_1:27-30
B. Unity and steadfastness Php_2:1 to Php_4:1
1. Walking in unity ch. 2
2. Walking in steadfastness Php_3:1 to Php_4:1
C. Specific duties Php_4:2-9
1. Restoring unity Php_4:2-3
2. Maintaining tranquillity Php_4:4-9
IV. Epilogue Php_4:10-20
A. The recent gift Php_4:10-14
B. The previous gifts Php_4:15-20
V. Greetings and benediction Php_4:21-23
Alford, Henry. The Greek Testament. 4 vols. Cambridge: Deighton, Bell, and Co., 1884.
Bailey, Mark L., and Thomas L. Constable. The New Testament Explorer. Nashville: Word Publishing Co., 1999. Reprinted as Nelson’s New Testament Survey. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999.
Barclay, William. The Letters to the Philippians, Colossians and Thessalonians. Daily Study Bible series, 2nd ed. and reprint ed. Edinburgh: Saint Andrew Press, 1960.
Bateman, Herbert W., IV. "Were the Opponents at Philippi Necessarily Jewish?" Bibliotheca Sacra 155:617 (January-March 1998):39-61.
Baxter, J. Sidlow. Explore the Book. 6 vols. London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1965.
Beare, F. W. A Commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians. London: Adam & Charles Black, 1959.
Bing, Charlie. "Does Php_1:6 Teach Perseverance?" Grace Evangelical Society News 6:2 (February 1991):2.
Blazek, Gerald. "Unity through Humility in Philippians." Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1977.
Bock, Darrell L. "A Theology of Paul’s Prison Epistles." In A Biblical Theology of the New Testament, pp. 299-331. Edited by Roy B. Zuck. Chicago: Moody Press, 1994.
Boice, James Montgomery. Philippians. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1971.
Bruce, F. F. The Epistle to the Galatians. New International Greek Testament Commentary series. Exeter, England: Paternoster Press, 1982; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1983.
Brug, John F. "The Principles of Financial Stewardship in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians," Wisconsin Lutheran Quarterly 86:3 (Summer 1989):215-24.
Burtch, Bryan Gordon. "The Greek Words for Prayer in the New Testament." Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1951.
Carson, Donald A., and Douglas J. Moo. An Introduction to the New Testament. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.
Collange, J-F. L’épître de saidn Paul aux Philippiens. Commentaire du Nouveau Testament series. Neuchatel, Switzerland: Delachaux et Niestlé, 1973
Constable, Thomas L. "What Prayer Will and Will Not Change." In Essays in Honor of J. Dwight Pentecost. Edited by Stanley D. Toussaint and Charles H. Dyer. Chicago: Moody Press, 1986.
Conybeare, W. J., and J. S. Howson. The Life and Epistles of St. Paul. New ed. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1964.
Dahms, John V. "The Subordination of the Son." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 37:3 (September 1994):351-64.
Dalton, William J. "The Integrity of Philippians." Biblica 60:1 (1979):97-102.
Darby, John Nelson. Synopsis of the Books of the Bible. 5 vols. Revised ed. New York: Loizeaux Brothers Publishers, 1942.
Deissmann, Adolf. Light from the Ancient East. Translated by Lionel R. M. Strachan. Revised and reprinted ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1965.
Dictionary of the Apostolic Church. Edited by James Hastings. 1915 ed. S.v. "Philippians, Epistle to the," by D. Mackenzie.
Dictionary of the Bible. Edited by James Hastings. 1910 ed. S.v. "Philippians, Epistle to the," by J. Gibb.
Dillow, Joseph C. The Reign of the Servant Kings. Miami Springs, Fla.: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1992.
Duncan, George B. The Life of Continual Rejoicing. Chicago: Moody Press, 1965.
Duncan, G. S. "A New Setting for Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians." Expository Times 43 (1931-32):7-11.
Eadie, John. A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Epistle of Paul to the Philippians. Edinburgh: T. and T. Clark, 1894; reprint ed. Minneapolis: James and Klock Christian Publishing Co., 1977.
Fee, Gordon D. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. New International Commentary on the New Testament series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995.
_____. "Php_2:5-11 : Hymn or Exalted Pauline Prose?" Bulletin for Biblical Research 2 (1992):29-46.
A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament. By C. G. Wilke. Revised by C. L. Wilibald Grimm. Translated, revised, and enlarged by Joseph Henry Thayer, 1889.
Gromacki, Robert. Stand United in Joy. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1980.
Guthrie, Donald. New Testament Introduction. 3 vols. 2nd ed. London: Tyndale Press, 1966.
Harrison, Norman B. His in Joyous Experience. Chicago: The Bible Institute Colportage Association, 1926.
Hawthorne, Gerald F. Philippians, Word Biblical Commentary series. Waco: Word Books, 1983.
Hellerman, Joseph H. "The Humiliation of Christ in the Social World of Roman Philippi, Part 1." Bibliotheca Sacra 160:639 (July-September 2003):321-36.
_____. "The Humiliation of Christ in the Social World of Roman Philippi, Part 2." Bibliotheca Sacra 160:640 (October-December 2003):421-33.
Hendricks, Howard G. Color Outside the Lines: A Revolutionary Approach to Creative Leadership. Swindoll Leadership Library series. Nashville: Word Publishing, 1998.
Hendricksen, William. New Testament Commentary: Exposition of Philippians and Exposition of Colossians and Philemon. Reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1979.
Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible. Edited by Leslie F. Church. 1 vol. ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961.
Ironside, Harry A. Notes on Philippians. New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Bible Truth Depot, n. d.
Jackson, F. J. Foakes, and Kirsopp Lake, eds. The Beginnings of Christianity. Part I: The Acts of the Apostles. 5 vols. London: Macmillan and Co. Ltd., 1939; reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1965.
Jamieson, Robert, A. R. Fausset, and David Brown. Commentary Practical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible. Revised ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1961.
Jewett, Robert. "Conflicting Movements in the Early Church as Reflected in Philippians." Novum Testamentum 12 (1970):362-90.
_____. "The Epistolary Thanksgiving and the Integrity of Philippians." Novum Testamentum 12:1 (January 1970):40-53.
Johnson, S. Lewis, Jr. "The Out-Resurrection from the Dead." Bibliotheca Sacra 110 (1953):139-46.
Jowers, Dennis W. "The Meaning of Morphe in Php_2:6-7." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 49:4 (December 2006):739-66.
Kelly, J. N. D. A Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. Thornapple Commentaries series. London: A. & C. Black Publishers Limited, 1963; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981.
Kennedy, H. A. A. "The Epistle to the Philippians." In The Expositor’s Greek Testament, 3 (1910):399-473. Edited by W. Robertson Nicoll. 5 Vols. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1900-10.
Kent, Homer A., Jr. "Philippians." In Ephesians-Philemon. Vol. 11 of The Expositor’s Bible Commentary. 12 vols. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein and J. D. Douglas. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1978.
Lange, John Peter, ed. Commentary on the Holy Scriptures. 12 vols. Reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1960. Vol. 11: Galatians-Hebrews, by Otto Schmoller, Karl Braune, C. A. Auberlen, C. J. Riggenbach, J. J. Van Oosterzee, and Carl Bernhard Moll. Translated by C. C. Starbuck, M. B. Riddle, Horatio B. Hackett, John Lillie, E. A. Washburn, E. Harwood, George E. Day, and A. C. Kendrick.
Lees, Harrington C. "Epaphoditus, God’s Gambler." Expository Times 37 (1925):46.
Lenski, Richard C. H. The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians to the Ephesians and to the Philippians. Reprint ed. Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1961.
Lightfoot, J. B. St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. London: Macmillan & Co., 1913; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1953.
Lightner, Robert P. Evangelical Theology. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1986.
_____. "Philippians." In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: New Testament, pp. 647-66. Edited by John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1983.
Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn. Life of Peace. London: Hodder & Stoughton, 1990.
López, René A. "A Study of Pauline Passages with Vice Lists." Bibliotheca Sacra 168:671 (July-September 2011):301-16.
Luter, A. Boyd. "Partnership in the Gospel: The Role of Women in the Church at Philippi." Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39:3 (September 1996):411-20.
MacLeod, David J. "The Exaltation of Christ: An Exposition of Php_2:9-11." Bibliotheca Sacra 158:632 (October-December 2001):437-50.
_____. "Imitating the Incarnation of Christ: An Exposition of Php_2:5-8." Bibliotheca Sacra 158:631 (July-September 2001):308-30.
Martin, Ralph P. The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians: an Introduction and Commentary. Tyndale New Testament Commentaries series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1959.
Matzat, Don. Christ-Esteem. Eugene, Oreg.: Harvest House Publishers, 1990.
McClain, Alva J. "The Doctrine of the Kenosis in Php_2:5-8," Biblical Review 13:4 (October 1928):506-27.
McNeile, A. H. An Introduction to the Study of the New Testament. 2nd ed. revised by C. S. C. Williams. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1965.
Minirth, Frank B. and Meier, Paul D. Happiness Is a Choice. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1978.
Morgan, G. Campbell. Living Messages of the Books of the Bible. 2 vols. New York: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1912.
Motyer, Alec. The Message of Philippians. The Bible Speaks Today series. Leicester, England, and Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1984.
Moule, H. C. G. The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Philippians. Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges series. Cambridge: University Press, 1936.
Mounce, Robert H. "The Epistle to the Philippians." In Wycliffe Bible Commentary, pp.1319-31. Edited by Charles F. Pfeiffer and Everett F. Harrison. Chicago: Moody Press, 1962.
Müller, Jacobus J. The Epistles of Paul to the Philippians and to Philemon. New International Commentary on the New Testament series. Grand Rapids; Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1955.
Munro, John "Prayer to a Sovereign God." Interest 56:2 (February 1990):20-21.
Murray, George W. "Paul’s Corporate Witness in Philippians." Bibliotheca Sacra 155:619 (July-September 1998):316-26.
The NET (New English Translation) Bible. First beta printing. Spokane, Wash.: Biblical Studies Press, 2001.
The New Bible Dictionary. 1962 ed. S.v. "Crucifixion," by D. H. Wheaton.
The New Scofield Reference Bible. Edited by Frank E. Gaebelein, William Culbertson, et al. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967.
O’Brien, P. T. Commentary on Philippians. New International Greek Testament Commentary series. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991.
Panikulam, George. Koinonia in the New Testament-A Dynamic Expression of Christian Life. Rome: Biblical Institute Press, 1979.
Pentecost, J. Dwight. The Joy of Living. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973.
Plummer, Alfred. A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. London: Robert Scott, 1919.
Pope, W. B. The Prayers of St. Paul. London: Charles H. Kelly, 1897.
Pyne, Robert A. "Antinomianism and Dispensationalism." Bibliotheca Sacra 153:610 (April-June 1996):141-54.
Ramsay, William M. St. Paul the Traveller and the Roman Citizen. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1897; reprint ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1960
Ridderbos, Herman N. Paul: An Outline of His Theology. Translated by J. R. DeWitt. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1975.
Robertson, Archibald Thomas. Word Pictures in the New Testament. 6 vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1931.
Ryrie, Charles C. Basic Theology. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1986.
Saucy, Robert L. The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1993.
Showers, Renald E. Maranatha Our Lord, Come: A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church. Bellmawr, Pa.: Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, 1995.
Smith, Charles R. "The Book of Life." Grace Theological Journal 6:2 (Fall 1985):219-30.
Stagg, Frank. "Philippians." In Broadman Bible Commentary; 11:178-216. Edited by Clifton J. Allen. 12 vols. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1972.
Stanton, Gerald B. Kept from the Hour. Fourth ed. Miami Springs, Fla.: Schoettle Publishing Co., 1991.
Strauch, Alexander. Biblical Eldership. Littleton, Colo.: Lewis & Roth Publishers, 1986.
Strong, Augustus Hopkins. Systematic Theology. Westwood, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1907.
Swift, Robert C. "The Theme and Structure of Philippians." Bibliotheca Sacra 141:563 (July-September 1984):234-54.
Swindoll, Charles R. Laugh Again. Dallas: Word Publishing, 1992.
_____. So, You Want to Be Like Christ? Eight Essentials To Get You There. Nashville: W Publishing Group, Thomas Nelson Inc., 2005.
Tatford, Frederick A. The Patmos Letters. By the Author, 1969; reprint ed., Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, n.d.
Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Edited by Gerhard Kittel and Gerhard Friedrich. Translated and edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley. 1964-74. S.v. "kardia," by Friedrich Baumgartel and Johannes Behm, 3 (1965):605-14.
_____. S.v. "koinonos," et al., by Friedrich Hauck, 3 (1965):797-809.
_____. S.v. "tareinos," et at., by Walter Grundmann, 8 (1972):11-12.
Trench, Richard Chenevix. Synonyms of the New Testament. Revised ed. London: James Clarke & Co. Ltd., 1961.
Vincent, Marvin. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistles to the Philippians and to Philemon. Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1897.
Vine, W. E. Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words. 4 vols. London: Oliphants Ltd., 1940.
Vos, Howard F. Philippians: A Study Guide. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1975.
Wall, Joe L. Going for the Gold. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991.
Walvoord, John F. Jesus Christ Our Lord. Chicago: Moody Press, 1969.
_____. Philippians. Everyman’s Bible Commentary series. Chicago: Moody Press, 1971.
Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Joyful. Wheaton: Scripture Press Publications, Victor Books, 1981.
_____. The Bible Exposition Commentary. 2 vols. Wheaton: Scripture Press, Victor Books, 1989.
Wilkin, Robert N. "Php_3:10 : Is Our Resurrection Certain?" Grace Evangelical Society Newsletter, November 1987, pp. 1-2.
_____. "Raised to Run." Grace Evangelical Society News 6:8 (August 1991):2-3.
_____. "Working Out Your Salvation." Grace Evangelical Society News 8:3 (May-June 1993):2-3.
Witmer, John A. "The Man with Two Countries." Bibliotheca Sacra 133:532 (October-December 1976):338-49.
the First Week of Advent