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Bible Dictionaries

Bridgeway Bible Dictionary

Philippians, Letter to the

At the time of writing this letter, Paul was being held prisoner (Philippians 1:13). Over the course of his ministry Paul was held prisoner many times (2 Corinthians 11:23), though the only places of imprisonment mentioned in the biblical record are Philippi (Acts 16:23), Jerusalem (Acts 22:23-30), Caesarea (Acts 24:23-27) and Rome (Acts 28:16; Acts 28:30). Of these four places, Rome is the most likely as the place from which Paul wrote his letter to the Philippian church. Ephesus has also been suggested as a possibility. There is no doubt that Paul met severe opposition in Ephesus (1 Corinthians 15:32), but there is no certainty that he was imprisoned there.

Purpose of the letter

If the letter was written from Rome, the occasion was probably Paul’s two-year imprisonment when he was awaiting the outcome of his appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:12; Acts 27:1; Acts 28:16; Acts 28:30). The church in Philippi sent one of its members, Epaphroditus, to Rome to help Paul and to give him a gift from the church. Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians to thank them for the gift (Philippians 1:5; Philippians 4:18) and to correct wrong attitudes that had developed among some in the church (Philippians 2:1-4; Philippians 2:14; Philippians 4:2-3).

The Philippian church was the first church Paul established in Europe (Acts 16:11-40; see PHILIPPI) and he seems to have had a special affection for it (Philippians 4:1). His letter to it was warm and optimistic, expressing the hope of a quick release and an early visit to Philippi (Philippians 1:25; Philippians 1:27; Philippians 2:24).

Contents of the letter

After thanking the Philippians for their partnership in the gospel, Paul prays for their further spiritual growth (1:1-11). Far from being discouraged because of his imprisonment, he rejoiced over the good that has come from it (1:12-26).

Paul encourages the Philippian believers to be united (1:27-30) and to have the same humility and concern for others as Christ had (2:1-11). They must demonstrate in practice the nature of their salvation (2:12-18). For two examples of practical Christianity, he refers them to Epaphroditus and Timothy (2:19-30).

Developing the idea of Christian completeness, Paul shows that it comes not from lawkeeping, but from the power of the living Christ within (3:1-16). The certainty of Christ’s return should encourage Christians to be more holy (3:17-21), as they submit to each other and trust steadfastly in God (4:1-7). In a final note of thanks, Paul assures them that God will reward their sacrificial giving (4:8-23).

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Bibliography Information
Fleming, Don. Entry for 'Philippians, Letter to the'. Bridgeway Bible Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/bbd/p/philippians-letter-to-the.html. 2004.

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