Book of Philippians

Book of Philippians
– Presented on 18 Jan 09 by the Adult ‘F’ Class (Teacher:Leong Peng Cheong)
Part 1

It is one of the 4 Epistles written by Paul during his First Roman Imprisonment.

Characteristics of the Epistle

  1. This Letter was extremely personal in nature exhibiting his deep affection for them.
  2. Joy & Rejoice, are results of being filled with the Holy Spirit, they are prominent in this epistle (the word “joy” or “rejoice” occur more than 15 times)
  3. This book of Philippians contains a profound Christological passage (Phil 2:6-11), which will be elaborated later in this presentation.

Historical Background of the City of Philippi

  1. Its ancient name was Krenides or the little fountains‘ named after the many springs in the area.  It was located in north eastern Greece, in the area called Macedonia
  2. In 356 B.C., King Philip of Macedonia (the father of Alexander the Great) took this town and expanded it, renaming it Philippi.
  3. The objective of the founding of this frontier town was to take control of the neighbouring gold mines and to establish a garrison at a strategic passage.
  4. Located on the Via Egnatia, that stretched from the Adriatic Sea to the Aegean Sea linking Rome to Asia Minor.  The Via Egnatia was a major Roman highway that ran through Philippi towards Thessalonica and modern day Istanbul.
  5. In 168 B.C. it became part of the Roman Empire and came under its rule when the Roman defeated the Persians at the battle of Pydna and Macedonia was divided into 4 districts, Philippi being one of them.
  6. However, in 42 B.C. it became the site of one of the most crucial battles in Roman history.  In that battle, the forces of Antony and Octavian (cf. Luke 2:1) defeated the republican forces of Brutus and Cassius. The battle marked the end of the Roman republic and the beginning of the empire.  Many of the Roman army veterans settled at Philippi, which was given the coveted status of a Roman Colony.  Viewed as a strategic, military outpost, the colonization of Philippi ensured the loyalty of its citizens to the Roman Emperor.

Political Background

  1. It is one of the 4 administrative areas in Macedonia which the Romans divided.
  2. The Philippians were known as Roman citizens and not Macedonians. It was a miniature reproduction of Rome and having the same rights as the other Italian cities.
  3. It was with much civic pride that the Philippians enjoyed the privileges of being a Roman Colony including the use of Latin as the official language. They were exempted from the oversight of the provincial governor that had immunity from polls and property taxes and also the right to hold land and in full ownership under Roman laws.
  4. There were few or no Jews in Philippi, since there was apparently no synagogue in the city. This probably explains why Paul did not quote the Old Testament in this letter.

Cultural Background

  1. Philippians worshipped Roman and foreign gods, partly influenced by its colonial masters and the influx of people from neighbouring cities.
  2. It was a modern city with stadiums, theaters and other forms of Roman architecture.
  3. Philippi was a place with a rich history and of strategic importance.

Founding of the Philippians Church

  1. The first convert in Philippi was a businesswoman from Thyatira, named Lydia.
  2. The opening of her home to missionaries provided a base of operation for the work and a place of assembly for the young church.
  3. The Philippians jailer and his household were also converted and baptized
  4. These conversions marked the early membership of the first church which Paul founded in Europe.

Characteristics of the Philippians Church

  1. The prominence of women in Philippi was evidenced by their gathering for prayer by the river outside the city (Acts 16: 13) since there were insufficient Jewish men to form a synagogue.  Also, in the epistle two women, Euodia and Syntyche, were mentioned as co-workers with Paul
  2. Memberships were largely Gentile in background.
  3. The Philippians church had its share of problems. Its members were desperately poor, but were very generous in their giving.  Lydia’s generous hospitality was carried over in the church.  The Philippians were among the Macedonian Christians whose remarkable generosity Paul held up as an example to the Corinthians (2 Cor 8:1-5 )
  4. Their gospel partnership with Paul was consistent and dependable which Paul commended highly.  (Philippians 1:5; 4:10-18).
  5. They were steadfast, zealous and diligent in their services
  6. Though a young church, they were even ready to suffer for the sake of the gospel; something which they already witnessed in Paul’s ministry.
  7. It had strong ties of brotherly love and devotion to Paul. They were prepared to sent one of their beloved brethren, Epaphroditus, to Rome to take care of Paul (Philippians 2:25) when they heard of his Roman imprisonment. In addition, they were willing to contribute financially toward Paul missionary efforts (4:18);   This whole epistle radiates joy and happiness as the Philippians church shared in this partnership with Paul.

Rome – Destined –
Acts 1:8 – But you will receive the power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.

a. Our Lord’s post-resurrection instruction to His disciples as recorded in Acts 1:8  were to be ready to bear witness for Him in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  Paul’s mission was no different.  He was led by God in his missionary efforts to wherever God desired, even while he was enduring severe persecutions.

Acts 23:11 – The following night the Lord stood near Paul and said, “Take courage! As you have testified about me in Jerusalem so you must also testify in Rome”

b. Paul was eventually brought to Rome to complete the mission of bringing the gospel of Jesus to the ends of the earth.  With the coming of Paul to Rome the gospel was brought from the Jewish capital of Jerusalem in the east to Rome in the west as recorded in Acts 23:11.

Events Leading to Rome:

Second Missionary Journey  

  1. Paul’s leading into Macedonia was through a vision from God in Troas (Acts 16:9-10 ).
  2. This vision set the stage for Paul’s missionary thrust into Western Europe with the founding of churches in Philippi. Together with Silas, Timothy and Luke, his ministry impacted the lives of many Jews and Greeks alike as well as stirring up strong opposition and threats to his life.
  3. The Gospel reached Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens & Corinth.  It was no stopping to the spread of the Gospel.

Third Missionary Journey

  1. Paul was falsely charged with inciting trouble and defiling the temple  (Acts 21:20-40 )
  2. He was saved from a determined Jewish plot and taken to Caesarea under heavy guard (Acts 23:11-35 )
  3. Paul spent 2 years imprisonment & trial before Felix in Caesarea  (Acts 24:27 )
  4. At the beginning and towards the end of his third missionary journey, Paul traveled through Macedonia (2 Cor 1:16 & Acts 19:21, 20:1-3) and, in all likelihood, visited the Philippians church again. It was a fulfillment of Paul’s desire to revisit Philippi as expressed several times in this epistle and truly an enduring partnership in the Gospel.

(Voyage from Caesarea to Rome) Acts 27-28

Porcius Festus succeeded Felix as governor in Caesarea during the time of Paul’s imprisonment.  Just like Felix, Festus intended to appease the Jews by having Paul transferred for trial in Jerusalem.  But Paul stood by his right as a Roman citizen and his pushed ahead with his appeal to Caesar in Rome (cf. Acts 25:9-11).  From this point on Paul was on his way to Rome.  There he was held under house arrest and guarded for the next two years.

The Prison Letters during First Roman Imprisonment.
While under house arrest in Rome, Paul was able to receive visitors, such as the Jewish leaders of the synagogue in Rome and to minister to the needs of the churches by means of letters which he was free to write. Because Paul was under house arrest and imprisoned at that time, his letters have been called the Prison Epistles. These include letters written to the Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, during this first imprisonment in Rome.

Internal Evidence of Imprisonment Letters:

The internal evidence within the letters clearly indicated Paul wrote them while a prisoner in Rome. The internal evidences are as follows:

1)         In the Letter to the Ephesians:
Ephesians 6:20
“For which I am an ambassador in chains. Pray that I may declare it fearless, as I should “

2)         In the Letter to the Philippians:
Philippians 1:13-14
“As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard that I am in chains for Christ. Because of my chains most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.”

3)         In the Letter to the Colossians:
Colossians 4:10
“My fellow prisoner, Aristarchus sends you his greetings, as does Mark, the cousin of Barnabas.”

4)         In the Letter to Philemon:
Philemon 10
“I appeal to you for my son Onesimus, who became my son while I was in chains.”

Impact of the Church after Paul Visit

  1. Paul visited the city on two other occasions.  During the course of Paul’s third missionary journey (52-56 AD), he revisited the cities of Macedonia including Philippi.  In all, Paul visited Philippi 3 times.  These visits must have encouraged the Philippians Christians to speak the truth boldly even during times of suffering and persecution.
  2. As Paul was guarded round-the-clock in his rented house, it was not surprising for the guards to listen to all his conversations.  In fact, there was evidence that some of these elite guards were touched by the gospel and were saved (Phil 1:13) and these include some servants and employees of the palace area as God’s Word spread (Phil 4:22).
  3. The early church fathers like Ignatius and Polycarp were very much influenced by the writings of Paul.  They, in turn, paid much attention and showered their love to the Philippians church through visits and letters of encouragement.  The subsequent developments of Christianity in Philippi were well-attested, notably by a letter from Polycarp who was a bishop of Smyrna (modern Turkey) and addressed to the brethren in Philippi and also by funerary inscriptions.  The testimonies and stand taken by Ignatius and Polycarp were unshakeable, even to the point of martyrdom.  These must have inspired the churches in Macedonia even more.

Second Missionary Journey – Paul and Silas

  1. Started at Antioch Syria – moved to Lystra where Paul asked Timothy to join him in his work.
  2. Luke joined Paul at Troas where Paul received vision that encouraged him to travel to Macedonia
  3. They set sailed west to Macedonia and set their feet at the port Neapolis. From there they travelled by foot to Philippi
  4. Paul casted out a spirit from the demon possessed girl which resulted in loss of income for her masters.
  5. They instigated and had Paul arrested.
  6. Paul was imprisoned at Philippi and there founded the first church in Europe.
  7. Via Egnatia – city of Philippi sat on it which is the gateway that ran through the city an important trade route during that time.

Voyage to Rome

  1. Porcius Festus sent Paul to Rome to appeal to Caesar
  2. Sailed past Cyprus and changed of ship at Myra (modern Southern Turkey)
  3. After travelling past the island of Crete, ship lost in storm at Mediterranean Sea
  4. Ship smashed into reef and all aboard swam to shore (Malta )
  5. From Malta they travelled northwards and finally arrived in Rome.

Some Pictures of What We Can See Philippi Today:

  1. The archaeological site of ancient Philippi lies on the Via Egnatia, which runs through it.
  2. Acropolis and Town Walls
  3. The Theatre was dated from the 4th Century BC. One of the largest in the world
  4. Forum ( or Agora ) – The Forum had a rectangular square of approximately 300 by 100 feet
  5.  Basilica A ( c. 500 A.D )
    1. Around AD 500, The first “church building” was built in Philippi; however it was destroyed by an earthquake shortly after its completion.
  6. Basilica B (subsequently around AD 560)
    1. Subsequently in about sometime AD 560, an ambitious attempt to build a church building with a dome; the structure was top heavy and collapse before it was dedicated.
  7. Philippi Jail
  8. Inside the Jail
  9. Excavation of Philippi

Sites of Philippi   

  1. Philippi prospered during the 5th and 6th centuries as a place associated with the memory of Paul. However catastrophic earthquakes in the early 7th century AD together with invasions by Slavs and Bulgars brought the city into a state of decline.
  2. After the Turkish conquest during the 14th century (after 1387 AD) the city and its fortifications were abandoned and fell into ruin.
  3. Now in total ruin – a paltry site mainly for tourist attractions.
  4. The site of the city today is near to modern Kavalla. Modern Kavalla is located at Northern Greece


Having a great past does not guarantee a good future. Like so many places in the lands of the Bible, we can see great monuments and relics of the past, but ultimately God decides and keeps those who are faithful to Him.