Epistle to the Philippians – Introduction

Mar 21, 2022 // By:Dave // No Comment

this letter is written under seemingly conflicting circumstances to a fellowship that was not part of Paul’s missionary plan.

On Paul’s 2nd missionary trip, he intended to return to Galatia, then go either north or south.

but we read in Act 16, that the “Spirit stopped him from going either way.

they come to Derbe and Lystra (just a little west of Tarsus, where Paul came from, as Saul)

but we read in verse 

1 Paul [and Silas] came also to Derbe and to Lystra. And a disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek,

2 and he was well spoken of by the brethren who were in Lystra and Iconium.

Do these towns sound familiar ? Where do we know of these places ?  (Acts 14:1-8)


3 Paul wanted this man to go with him; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those parts, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.

Why did Paul circumcise Timothy since he already argued against it being required for salvation ?  
(missionary strategy, he made Timothy less objectionable to the Jews)

4 Now while they were passing through the cities, they were delivering the decrees which had been decided upon by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem, for them to observe.

What decrees ?  (Acts 15:20)

5 So the churches were being strengthened in the faith, and were increasing in number daily.

6 ¶ They passed through the Phrygian and Galatian region, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia;

7 and after they came to Mysia, they were trying to go into Bithynia, and the Spirit of Jesus did not permit them;


How might the Holy Spirit and/or Spirit of Jesus not permit someone from speaking the Word or from entering an area ?

Why would the Spirit prevent or forbid someone from speaking the Word ?

Acts 14:3  (“timing is part of the testimony”)

8 and passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas.

9 A vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing and appealing to him, and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

10 When he had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.

notice the 3rd party personal pronoun “we” referring to the traveling Party that started as Paul and Silas, Timothy joins them verse 3, now we have a fourth member of the team …  who ?

Who wrote the book of the Acts of the Apostles ?  (Luke… meaning this is where and when he joins the journey)

Let us also not miss the complete Trinitarian nature of this supernatural guidance through Asia Minor.

verse 6 refers to Holy Spirit

verse 7 refers to the Spirit of Jesus

verse 10 refers to God (Theos   the Father)

11 ¶ So putting out to sea from Troas, we ran a straight course to Samothrace, (island in the Aegean Sea) and on the day following to Neapolis;

12 and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia, a Roman colony; and we were staying in this city for some days.

13 And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to a riverside, where we were supposing that there would be a place of prayer; and we sat down and began speaking to the women who had assembled.

what a let down ?! (no man to say “come and help us”) ?!

No synagogue ?!

In Jewish law, a congregation was made up of ten men. Wherever there were ten male heads of households who could be in regular attendance, a synagogue was to be formed.

if less than ten men, they could meet under the open sky near a river or the sea. (place of prayer = proseuche) 

14 A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.

they travel through Asia Minor, to get to the shore to sail to Greece, to get to Philippi, to meet Lydia (who comes from Asia Minor)

(divine appointment?)

This was a well off business women from Thyatira.  those purple fabrics are only owned by super rich , such as royalty

To make Tyrian purple, marine snails (that only live in the western mediterranean ocean) were collected by the thousands. They were then boiled for days in giant lead vats, producing a terrible odor. The snails, though, aren’t purple to begin with. The craftsmen were harvesting chemical toxins from the snails that, through heat and light, were transformed into the valuable dye. Tyrian purple.

through heat and light, the color purple is brought out

(through trial and illumination, the color of royalty is “developed” and created)

a king’s purple robe was cloth soaked in mucous of a boiled sea snail.

sounds foolish (think about how much we spend for compressed coal, and shiny metals for jewelry)

the value of something is not intrinsic, it is valued by the beholder, the purchaser, the redeemer of that item (or person)

15 And when she and her household had been baptized, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.

good sales pitch (are they going to say “no , we don’t count you faithful to the Lord”?)

Now we just read about the first conversion on European soil (a rich business woman who is freed from bondage and handed to a kinder master

next we read about another 

16 ¶ It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling.

17 Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.”

18 She continued doing this for many days. But Paul was greatly annoyed, and turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her!” And it came out at that very moment.

Why did Paul stop the demon from speaking the truth ?

spirit of divination is python spirit (culturally acceptable term meaning a person possessed by a demon who spoke through them)

according to Greek mythology, the Python was a mythical serpent or dragon that guarded the temple and oracle of Apollo, and had the power to speak about the future. This later became entangled with demon possession, and the possessing demon, who spoke through the person about truths and predictions, came to be known as a “spirit of the python”

[from Jesus in Acts]

  • Satan tried to derail the missionaries’ work in Philippi by attempting to form an alliance with the missionaries for his own devilish purposes.
  • Satan tried to use the slave girl to associate Paul’s message with the occult (v. 17), 
  • but the missionaries obviously needed to distance their ministry from this evil work. 
  • For many days the slave girl uttered things that were entirely true, but the missionaries didn’t fall prey to the evil scheme behind the girl’s words. 
  • In the Gospels demon-possessed people say true things about Jesus, but Jesus rebukes them every time
  • After becoming “greatly annoyed” by Satan’s attempt to associate with the team through the girl—or perhaps out of deep grief for her—Paul frees her with a word in Jesus’s name. 
  • In a moment, Jesus casts out the demon at work through the girl; Jesus masterfully crushes serpents.

Easton’s Bible Commentary:

But while the demon-inspired words provided some free publicity for the missionaries and helped gather an audience, when it continued for many days, it became a nuisance. The demon’s words were getting more of a hearing than the proclamation of the gospel!

19 ¶ But when her masters saw that their hope of profit was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the market place before the authorities,

20 and when they had brought them to the chief magistrates, they said, “These men are throwing our city into confusion, being Jews,

21 and are proclaiming customs which it is not lawful for us to accept or to observe, being Romans.”

They weren’t upset with “the team” for days until the demon was cast out, then suddenly, they were throwing the city into confusion.

Expect a reaction when you come against peoples false gods (often protected or empowered by demons)

22 The crowd rose up together against them, and the chief magistrates tore their robes off them and proceeded to order them to be beaten with rods.

23 When they had struck them with many blows, they threw them into prison, commanding the jailer to guard them securely;

24 and he, having received such a command, threw them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.

inner prison = central, dark, no light no air, = dungeon.  

25 ¶ But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them;

Im sure singing hymns in jail at midnight went over well ! LOL

26 and suddenly there came a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison house were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and everyone’s chains were unfastened.

27 When the jailer awoke and saw the prison doors opened, he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.

28 But Paul cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here!”

29 And he called for lights and rushed in, and trembling with fear he fell down before Paul and Silas,

30 and after he brought them out, he said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

31 They said, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.”

32 And they spoke the word of the Lord to him together with all who were in his house.

33 And he took them that very hour of the night and washed their wounds, and immediately he was baptized, he and all his household.

again , a baptism immediately follows a choice of salvation.

37 But Paul said to them, “They have beaten us in public without trial, men who are Romans, and have thrown us into prison; and now are they sending us away secretly? No indeed! But let them come themselves and bring us out.”

38 The policemen reported these words to the chief magistrates. They were afraid when they heard that they were Romans,

39 and they came and appealed to them, and when they had brought them out, they kept begging them to leave the city.

40 They went out of the prison and entered the house of Lydia, and when they saw the brethren, they encouraged them and departed.

So Paul can look back in memory of Phillipi and recall:

  • obstacles in ministry
  • stalled in Asia Minor (Galatia region)
  • Had to Circumcise Timothy (causing delay and discomfort)
  • not allowed (by God)  to preach the gospel while passing through the regions of Galatia and Phrygia
  • going as far northwest as Mysia trying to get to Bithynia
  • stopped again by God
  • stop at Troas (since it’s on the eastern coast of Mysia (basically they ran out of dirt to walk on)
  • vision to come to Macedonia (Greek mainland)
  • hop on a boat, a little island skipping, and they land in a major roman city in Macedonia on the shore called Phillipi 
  • after a few days, realize there is not even a synagogue there, so must go to shore to find a few jews on sabbath
  • meet Lydia
  • not long after that, the whole ordeal with the slave girl with the demon
  • being arrested
  • being beaten
  • thrown in an inner jail
  • stocks
  • at midnight, Paul and Silas have a praise and worship session
  • earthquake, and broken doors
  • guard takes them to his house, they get saved, guard takes them back to their cell
  • finally released by the magistrates in secret and told to leave the city

Paul has not had an easy time before this, and it does not get any easier afterwards

we can read that while he has hoped to travel to Rome (he did not plan on doing so while under arrest.

(God arranged an all expense paid, armed escort, trip)

He will be shipwrecked, bitten by venomous snake, and held in a Roman cell for years.

The Philippi believers will send Epaphroditus to him with a collection to help

and he writes this letter in response.

Paul does not want them to feel bad about his situation and this letter is meant to encourage them based upon the fact that He is encouraged by something that no one would expect him to have … joy.

joy = χαίρω   chairō   to be full of gladness

Phil. 1:4 always offering prayer with joy in amy every prayer for you all,

Phil. 1:25 aConvinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy 1in the faith,

Phil. 2:2 amake my joy complete 1by bbeing of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Phil. 2:17 But even if I am being apoured out as a drink offering upon bthe sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.

Phil. 2:18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

Phil. 4:1 ¶ Therefore, my beloved brethren 1whom I along to see, my joy and crown, in this way bstand firm in the Lord, my beloved.

same greek word is used in the following philippian verses translated as the verb rejoice (choice to have an attitude of joy)

Phil. 1:18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. ¶ Yes, and I will rejoice,

Phil. 2:17 But even if I am being apoured out as a drink offering upon bthe sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.

Phil. 2:18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.

Phil. 2:28 Therefore I have sent him all the more eagerly so that when you see him again you may rejoice and I may be less concerned about you.

Phil. 3:1 ¶ Finally, my brethren, arejoice in the Lord. To write the same things again is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.

Phil. 4:4 ¶ aRejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!

Phil. 4:10 ¶ But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last ayou have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.

clearly, any attitude is contingent upon one’s perspective of a situation.

some can be upset that after saving money over five months for a trip

to have to spend it on a car repair.

or that same someone can be glad that they had the money at all to afford the car repair.

the situation did not change, the perspective made the difference, which makes the attitude possible

Paul is not in the best situation, by human standards

but he is joyful 

why ?

He can see, and chooses to focus on what God is doing throughout everything !

and he sees himself as a willing servant (a “doulas” in verse 1) to his master in a win-win situation

what is a doulas ?

a willing, lifetime servant who  accepted a mark as a sign of loving his master

I said that Paul saw his new life in Christ as a win-win situation

Phil. 1:21 For to me, ato live is Christ and to die is gain.

Paul has joy

Phil. 1:4 always offering prayer with joy in amy every prayer for you all,

Phil. 1:25 aConvinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy 1in the faith,

Phil. 2:2 amake my joy complete 1by bbeing of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Phil. 2:17 But even if I am being apoured out as a drink offering upon bthe sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.

paul also uses this term in 2 Tim 4:6

first drink offering was in Genesis 35:14  (right after God changed Jacob’s name to Israel)

The picture of poured out is from OT sacrificial system. As commanded in the book of Numbers, the people of Israel, as well as Gentiles who lived among them, were first to give a burnt offering of one of the prescribed animals, then a grain offering, and finally a drink offering (Nu 15:1-10). Pouring out as a drink offering refers to the topping off of an ancient animal sacrifice. The offerers poured wine either in front of or on top of the burning animal and the wine would be vaporized. That steam symbolized the rising of the offering to the deity for whom the sacrifice was made (cf. Ex 29:38, 39, 40, 41; 2Ki 16:13 ;Jer 7:18 ; Ho 9:4).

the wine is spoken of each time as a pleasing aroma to the Lord (as opposed to the smell of burning flesh)

is there a NT fulfillment of this practice  ? (what might it mean)

Luke 22:20, John 19:34

The Lord’s referred to Himself , his blood, as a drink offering (the topping off of the sacrifice)

Paul alludes to this idea

Phil. 2:5 aHave this attitude 1in yourselves which was also in bChrist Jesus,

Phil. 2:6 who, although He aexisted in the bform of God, cdid not regard equality with God a thing to be 1grasped,

Phil. 2:7 but 1aemptied Himself, taking the form of a bbond-servant, and cbeing made in the likeness of men.

Phil. 2:8 Being found in appearance as a man, aHe humbled Himself by becoming bobedient to the point of death, even cdeath 1on a cross.

Rom 12:1 sacrifice again mentioned, who is the sacrifice ?

is He talking about an animal, is he talking about Christ ?

no, he is speaking to the believer, telling the believer to be the sacrifice 

back to Phillipians

Paul has joy, wants the Phillipi believers to understand his joy and to share in his joy

and tells them how

we will see that joy is not something to be pursued 

rather , it is something to experience by pursuing someone, Christ

Joy is not based upon circumstances

it is based on the unchanging person of Christ Himself


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