Modeled after the capital of the empire, Philippi is a miniature Rome. It is of great political, geographical and commercial significance. For Paul, it is a gateway for evangelism. After the vision of the man from Macedonia, European doors begin to open (Acts 16:9). In Philippi, Lydia and a demon-possessed girl are saved, Paul and Silas are thrown in jail, freed by an earthquake, and the jailer is converted. Paul has his first taste of the Roman lash in Philippi, but it does not stop him from frequently visiting the first church he establishes in this area. It is a congregation that has experienced its share of suffering (1:29), is possibly in danger of division (1:27-2:2) and seems to be experiencing persecution (1:28). Despite trying times, Paul encourages them to stand fast and witness for Christ (1:27; 2:15).
The prominent role of Euodias and Syntyche in the church at Philippi agrees with the historical record that Macedonian women enjoy high status. These two ladies are called fellow-workers.
In the evangelism of Philippi recorded in Acts, a businesswoman and a demon-possessed girl both become Christians. This clearly demonstrates God’s gender-inclusiveness in His plan of salvation. It seems logical that women are the key factor in this church family’s warm attentiveness to Paul’s needs.
Like most thank you letters, the book of Philippians shifts from topic to topic. Its primary purpose is to commend Epaphroditus and to explain why he is returning to Philippi prematurely. By so doing, Paul assures him a welcome worthy of his meritorious service (2:25-30). This epistle is uncluttered by the doctrinal problems which frequently surface in Paul’s letters. He does not write to correct any particular false doctrine, but rather pleads for consistent Christian living. This brief treatise provides profound insight concerning Jesus’ preexistence, incarnation, humiliation and exaltation. It contains the most comprehensive statement concerning the nature and scope of salvation. But all other texts are eclipsed by the dynamic kenosis passage (2:5-11). This magnanimous revelation of Christ’s self-abasement is skillfully woven into the letter as a pragmatic exhortation to humility.
As Paul expresses sincere appreciation for this faithful church, his style is affectionate. Paul loves this church and rejoices over its spiritual progress. Despite the harsh environment from which Paul writes, the letter is warm, positive and is perhaps the most intimate of all his writings.
Although Paul is confident of an acquittal and a subsequent visit with the Philippians, he is aware the verdict might be adverse (2:24; 1:21-26). Paul rejoices, even under the extreme pressures of an unwarranted captivity and an uncertain future (1:21). Despite his current situation, there is a pervasive undertone of strong personal attachment and joy throughout this book. The reoccurring words joy and rejoice are used sixteen times, more frequently than in any other of Paul’s letters. This epistle conveys the worldview all Christians must adapt regarding suffering for Christ. The keynote of the letter is the spirit that Paul continuously reiterates: “Rejoice in the Lord always…and again I say, Rejoice!” (4:4).