Over the next two months we will work our way through the book of Philippians together, a few verses at a time. We will focus on three scripture passages each week, spending 2 days on each passage, and one day each week solely in prayer. One day will be focused on the exploration of the passage itself and the second day will be centered on application for our lives with a journal prompt and a focused prayer.
Today we will begin with a little background on the book itself to help give us context for what we will be learning.
The Writer of Philippians
Written by Kayla Ferris (First 5 Ministries)
The book of Philippians is a personal letter between the Apostle Paul and a church that was very dear to him. In some ways, it is like a thank-you note. Paul’s friends in Philippi supported him, and he wanted to show his appreciation. But Philippians is more than a thank-you. When we approach Philippians by reading it as a letter between friends, the words and context truly come alive.
This friendship between Paul and Philippi began on Paul’s second missionary journey. As he was deciding where to travel, Scripture says the Holy Spirit forbade them to speak the word in Asia, then forbade them from going into Bithynia. (Acts 16:6-7) As they wandered around, trying to figure out what to do, Paul had a God-ordained vision. He saw a Macedonian man saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” (Acts 16:9). What’s one of the leading cities of Macedonia? Philippi. You might say this friendship was providential.
However, the time spent in Philippi was not easy. Paul was captured, beaten with rods and thrown into prison. This did not deter Paul from praising God, and it eventually led to the conversion of a Philippian jailer. Ultimately, Paul was released and went on his way. He would return to Philippi for a quick stop on his third missionary journey.
Because Paul mentions being imprisoned in his letter, most scholars believe that this particular letter was written after Paul’s third missionary journey. And because of his references to the “imperial guard” (Philippians 1:13) and “Caesar’s household,” (Philippians 4:22) many think it was written while he was in Rome. This would date the letter to around A. D. 60-62.
Let’s then sum up what we know. The time Paul spent in Philippi was rough. He was in a Roman prison, awaiting his trial, which could possibly lead to his death. How might you expect this letter to feel? Would you expect overflowing joy? Unfathomable peace? Warmth and love and gratitude? Probably not. Yet this is exactly what we find in this letter between friends.
In Christ, relationships are born. We meet people along our life journeys. The circumstances are not always easy. We might not even agree on every detail. (Philippians 3:15) But through Jesus, we are better together. We can have joy when others succeed. We can be grateful when others help us along the way. We can encourage and lift each other up because the tie that binds us together is Christ.
Prayer: Lord, thank You for the relationships and friendships You give to us. Thank You for those friends who remain with us even when our personal circumstances are very difficult. Thank You for the unity we have through You even when we don’t agree on every detail. Help us to not desire just easy friendships. Rather, help us cultivate and nurture healthy friendships through every season of life, especially the times that are anything but easy. May we desire to represent and honor You in our relationships. In Jesus’ name, amen.