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New Testament Survey: The Book Of Philippians

Written By: Steve Shirley

The Book Of Philippians


  • Paul (Phil 1:1)
    (For more on Paul see: Survey: Biography Of Paul)
  • Both the internal and external evidence points to Paul writing this Epistle. The personal details shared all match what we know of Paul from other New Testament books. The doctrine, style, language used, and manner of thought are all Pauline.
  • The early church fathers (Clement of Rome, Ignatius, Polycarp, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Eusebius) agreed that Paul authored this book.
  • Most agree that this was the 10th of the 13 Epistles that Paul wrote.

The Stats:

  • Chapters: 4
  • Verses: 104

Date Written:

  • 60-62 A.D.

Place Written:

  • Rome
  • While in prison (Phil 1:7,13,14,17) at Rome (greetings from Caesar’s household [who had been converted]: Phil 4:22)(the palace/praetorian guard: Phil 1:13).
  • This was the final of four “Prison Epistles” that Paul wrote (Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, Philippians) during his 1st imprisonment in Rome which lasted 2 years (Acts 28:30).
  • There are a number of things that point to this being the last of the four written, likely well after the first three, and near the end of his Roman imprisonment:

1. News of his arrival had been carried to Philippi, a contribution to his needs had been raised among his friends there, and Epaphroditus had carried it to Rome. In Rome, Epaphroditus had become seriously sick, and the news of this sickness had been carried back to Philippi, with the Philippians sending back a message of sympathy to him. Therefore, at least four trips between Rome and Philippi are indicated (and there was obviously some period of time between each trip). The distance between the two cities was around 800 miles. This journey would take at least a month (many made this journey).>/p>

2. Paul says that through him Christ had become known “to the whole praetorian guard” (Phil 1:13). This would have taken some time.

3. Outside of his prison, Paul speaks of Christ being “preached” by some from “goodwill,” and others from “envy and strife.” This is not found in the earliest months of Paul’s time in Rome (Phil 1:15-17). This must belong to a time when Christianity had developed in the city, and parties had been formed in the church.

4. Luke did not send a greeting to the Philippians as he had done previously in (Col 4:14), and (Phile 1:24). If he was with Paul, it seems likely he would have sent a greeting, since he was well known to those in Philippi. In (Phil 2:19-20), Paul promises to send Timothy to Philippi, and says, “I have no man likeminded, who will care truly for your state.” This must mean that Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke were all gone. They had all been with him when he wrote the other Epistles.

5. Paul mentions to the Philippians that he expects to be released from his “house arrest” soon, and he was hoping to visit them (Phil 1:25-26)(Phil 2:23-24). While he mentions something similar in (Phile 1:22), he does not mention it in his first two “prison epistles.”

Written To:

  • The church at Philippi.

Key Verses:

(Phil 1:6,9-11,21)(Phil 2:5-12)(Phil 3:7-8)(Phil 4:4-7,11-13)


1. To express his love for his “beloved” Philippian church, and thank them for the gift they had sent by Epaphroditus.

2. To give them some information about his circumstances, and his condition in the Roman prison.

3. To encourage and strengthen them, and tell them how to find joy in Jesus Christ regardless of circumstances.

4. To explain why he was sending back Epaphroditus prematurely.

5. To exhort them to be unified, and not divided.

6. To warn them about Judiazers, and their legalistic teachings, as well as antinomians (those who held that because of grace, moral laws no longer needed to be followed because salvation is by “faith alone”).

About The City:

  • Originally known as Krenides, (meaning: fountains or springs, because many were located there), Philippi was given its name in 356 B.C. by Philip of Macedon (the father of Alexander The Great) who captured it (likely because of its gold mines and strategic location) and renamed it after himself.
  • In 42 B.C., there was a battle with Brutus and Cassius on one side, and Mark Antony and Octavian (Augustus) on the other. When Mark Antony and Octavian prevailed, Philippi became a “Roman colony.” Many of those who fought in the war ended up settling in Philippi.
  • Philippi was “the chief city of that part (the western part) of Macedonia” (Acts 16:12). It was situated between the mountain ranges of Pangaeus and Haemus, about 8-10 miles from the coastal city of Neopolis and the Aegean Sea. The Gangites River (where Lydia and her household were converted: Acts 16:13) was located just outside the city.
  • It was located along a major trade route called the Egnatian Way (Via Egnatia), which connected Europe with Asia and Rome. This (along with its gold mines) was a major reason for its prosperity.
  • It also had a forum, library, open air theatre, public baths, a famous “arch” just outside of the city on the way to the river, and several temples.
  • Today, the ruins of each of these things which were in the city can be seen in a quiet meadow where cattle graze in a place called Philibedjik.

About The Church:

  • Paul, along with Silas, Timothy, and Luke, first visited this city during his 2nd missionary journey (49-52 A.D.) and planted the church (the 1st church in Europe) at this time. The account of this visit is found in (Acts 16:12-40). (Paul also wrote 2nd Corinthians during this visit.)
  • The reason Paul went to Philippi was because while he was in Troas, God had given him a vision where a man from Macedonia pleaded with Paul to “Come over into Macedonia, and help us” (Acts 16:9-10).
  • After this vision, Paul left Troas and landed at Neapolis, where he took the Egnatian Way to Philippi.
  • Several noteworthy events occurred during this trip:
    • Lydia became the first Christian convert in Europe, along with her household and companions (Acts 16:13-15).
    • A woman with a spirit of divination had been following Paul and Silas. Paul cast the demon out of her, and her masters, becoming angry at their loss of income, dragged Paul and Silas before the authorities and magistrates. They had them flogged and put into the “inner prison” bound in stocks. At midnight, God sent an earthquake which opened the doors to all of the cells. The jailer was going to kill himself because the prisoners had escaped, however, Paul reassured the jailer that they were all still in their cells. At this, the jailer asked the famous words, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” and Paul and Silas replied, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” The jailer and his household were saved that night (Acts 16:16-34).
    • The magistrates learned the next day that Paul and Silas were Roman citizens and could not legally be flogged. Terrified, they begged them to leave the city, and Paul and Silas agreed to do so. (This may have given the church favor in Philippi.)
  • Because Philippi was primarily a military center, it did not have many Jews. There was no synagogue in the city (it took 10 Jewish men who headed households to start one). In the New Testament, no Hebrew names are found among the converts of this city.
  • In addition, women were unusually prominent in this church (i.e. Lydia and her companions, as well as Euodia and Syntyche: Phil 4:2).
  • The church at Philippi apparently faced a great deal of persecution (Phil 1:28-29). They were poor (2 Cor 8:1-2), but generous. They raised money for Paul numerous times (Phil 4:15-16)(2 Cor 11:8-9)(2 Cor 8:1-5).
  • In fact, part of the reason Paul wrote this letter was to thank them for sending money to him while he was in prison in Rome through one of their members named Ephphrodites (Phil 2:25)(Phil 4:18).
    (At some point during the trip, Ephphrodites became very ill and almost died [Phil 2:25-30]. However, he did recover and Paul sent back this letter with him.)
  • The Christians at Philippi were Paul’s favorite church. He considered them his children. They loved him, and he loved them (Phil 1:8-9). He called them his “beloved” (Phil 4:1)(Phil 2:12), and his “joy and crown” (Phil 4:1). He said that they “obeyed not only in his (my) presence, but much more in his (my) absence” (Phil 2:12). He thanked them for “their fellowship in the Gospels from the first day until now” (Phil 1:5).
  • In contrast to his letters to the other churches, Paul had nothing critical to say to the church at Philippi. He gave them only a small warning to be united and not divide (Phil 1:27)(Phil 2:1-4)(Phil 4:2-5).
  • The Philippians were proud to be Romans (Acts 16:21). Because they were a Roman colony, which came about in 42 B.C., they were given many rights by Rome. These included Roman citizenship, exemption from taxation, and being allowed to own, purchase, and transfer land.
  • They spoke Greek, although the official language was Latin.
  • Paul also visited Philippi twice during his 3rd missionary journey (about 5 years later), but we are told little about these visits (Acts 20:1-6).

Special Emphasis:

  • The word “rejoice” is used 9 times in Philippians. This is more than any other book in the New Testament.
  • The word “joy” is used 6 times. This is more than in any other Epistle Paul wrote.
  • “Christ” (37 times) is used in more than one-third of all the verses in Philippians.
  • While not an emphasis, it is interesting to note that there are no Old Testament quotes used in Philippians.


1. Christ, the believer’s life, rejoicing in suffering, 1:1-30.

2. Christ, the believer’s pattern, rejoicing in lowly service, 2:1-30.

3. Christ, the believer’s object, rejoicing despite imperfections, 3:1-21.

4. Christ, the believer’s strength, rejoicing over anxiety, 4:1-23.

(Survey from Scofield Reference Notes [1917 ed.]: Public Domain)

Copyright: © Steve Shirley