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Philippians

General

Although the order of Paul's letters in the New Testament is determined by the length of each letter (the longest at the front and the shortest at the back) and is therefore actually determined on wrong grounds, it is nice that the Philippians letter is placed exactly between the letters. to the Ephesians and to the Colossians. These three letters arose simultaneously and were thus written from the same background. Yet in the Philippians letter it is mainly about life in this time, whereas in the other two letters it is mainly about Christ and the position in Christ.

Writer, origin and destination

Like the letter to the Ephesians, this letter was also written by Paul in the two-year period mentioned at the end of the book of Acts (chap. 28:30). That was probably at the end of that time. In Philippians 2:23 and 24, Paul expresses the hope of meeting the Philippians himself soon.

The Philippian church has surrounded Paul and his ministry from the beginning of Paul's evangelism and has supported him all along (chap. 4:15). Over the years, a close bond has developed; this is apparent, for example, from chapter 1:7, where Paul writes: "...because I hold you in my heart...".

The city of Philippi was a Roman colony (Acts 16:12). It was the first city in present-day Europe where the apostle was allowed to preach the gospel. Since Philippi was a Roman colony, its inhabitants had the same citizenship as the inhabitants of Rome itself. What Paul wrote about citizenship in heaven must have been very recognizable to them (chap. 3:20).

The immediate reason for writing this letter lies in the support that the Philippians had extended to Paul (see especially chap. 4:10 and 18). It is likely that Epaphroditus who had brought this material gift took the letter back to Philippi (chap. 2:25-28).

Like us, the Philippians were "saints in Christ Jesus" (chap. 1:1). In that sense, this letter is particularly close to us and contains rich lessons regarding the life we ​​may live by grace.

Structure

A. 1:1 and 2 Letter style and greeting. Grace be to you.
B. 1:3-26 Paul's desire and concern for the Philippians.
C. 1:27-2:18 Exhortation and the example of Christ.
D. 2:19-24 The example of Timothy.
D. 2:25-30 The example of Epaphroditus.
C. 3:1-4:9 Paul's exhortation and example.
B. 4:10-20 The Philippians' longing and concern for and about Paul.
A. 4:21-23 Letter style and praise. Grace be to you.

Purpose and content

While the letters to the Ephesians and Colossians have a much more doctrinal character, this letter is mainly concerned with the practice of the life of the believer who is part of the body of Christ. Anyone who reads the Philippians carefully and earnestly cannot remain unmoved. This letter mainly revolves around the disposition of Christ, as it may also be revealed in our lives. The basis for all this is the grace of God, which has brought us to such a high position and which has linked us directly to Christ (cf. eg Eph. 1:3-14 and Col. 3:3). In the Greek, the word 'grace' is directly related to 'joy' and 'thanksgiving' and it is the joy that constantly comes to the fore. Joy by grace. And therefore: happiness in all circumstances! Paul speaks of his struggle (Phil. 1:12-18) and of his circumstances (Phil. 4:10-19), but he does not complain. No, joy from the mind of Christ. That's what it's about!

In any case, the message of God's rich grace did not leave the apostle himself untouched. In everything he was oriented to know Christ (chap. 3:8 and 10). The rest he considered damage.

And in all of that - and it should apply to us too - there is a deep sense of Christ's sacrifice to (also) save us. The words of chapter 2:5-8, where the "extreme" humiliation of our Savior is described, are so impressive! What He wanted to endure in order to advance the purpose of the LORD (cf. Isaiah 53:10), is actually not even comprehensible for us humans. We can only make a limited picture of that, but that should be enough to live in His disposition. And what a difference it would make, also for the relationships between believers, if we all heeded Paul's call: "Let this mind be with you...".

Therefore: the entire Word of God influences our disposition, our thinking, but the Philippians letter certainly has that!

core text

"Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus..." (chap. 2:5).