Hard to believe a year has just about come and gone since we started reading Wisdom Literature. But now that the the year is drawing to a close, it is time to make some final decisions on the reading schedule for 2014 – to be announced soon. While we wait, we thought a preview of part of what we will be doing on Sundays in 2014 would be a good idea. So we will start here with an overview of Paul’s letter to the Philippians.
There is little descent among scholars as to whether Paul is the author of the Philippian letter. His location when writing it is another story. We know from Paul himself that he was in prison at the time (Philippians 1:13). Some say it was in Caesarea, some say Ephesus, and some say it was in Rome. The latter seems clearly the case because of the mention of Caesar’s household in Philippians 4:22, among other things. The time was likely about A.D 62.
The city of Philippi was founded in eastern Macedonia by Philip II in 356 B.C. It was brought under Roman rule in 168 B.C. and re-founded in 42 B.C., when Mark Anthony and Octavian (later titled “Augustus”) defeated the forces of the assassins of Julius Caesar, Cassius, and Brutus in a series of military battles – including the famous Battle of Philippi. As a Roman colony, the city enjoyed full benefits of such, including not having to pay tribute to the emperor.
Archaeologists have unearthed much of what existed there during the time of Paul’s visit during his second missionary journey (about 50 A.D.), including the Greek theater, Basilicas, and many Latin inscriptions testifying to the Roman influence. Philippi was one of the first (if not THE first) of the churches that Paul founded in Europe, so it would no doubt hold a special place in his heart. This fact is clearly voiced in Philippians 1:3-11.
If one had to sum up the letter’s purpose in one word, perhaps “encouragement” would be the proper choice. And chapter one certainly exemplifies that. Indeed, the entire letter offers such encouragement, and is free from the sort of rebukes that Paul had for some of the other churches he wrote to, such as the one at Corinth. No doubt they had their own problems, but it seemed to be a strong church.
It is Paul’s words in chapter one, written from prison yet expressing his love for them, his contentment, and his hope for the future in Christ that demonstrate his appreciation for the memories he has of them and for their support during his imprisonment. This latter would mean a great deal, as imprisonment carried with it a stigma even though his cause was righteous. In Philippians 1:12-14, he tells them how he had made it clear “throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest” that his imprisonment is for Christ.
Paul expresses courage and certainty that death would only mean getting closer to the Lord, yet he realizes the work that is needed to be done here by him, as well as by them – and that is to proclaim Christ to the world. He tells them honestly that they will see suffering for Christ’s sake.
Perhaps the most important message for us from this chapter of the letter comes from verse 27, in which he urges them to “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” This message must never get lost on us as we go about our busy lives. The souls of others may depend on it.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.