The Book of Philippians
"...but (Christ) made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant..."
  (Philippians 5:6)

J. Deering, editor,

Philippians: TO LIVE IS CHRIST
The Book Introduction

It is God who is at work in you,
Both to will and to work
His good pleasure.

Philippians, Epistle to:
a letter of the Apostle Paul addressed to the church at Philippi. It was the first city of the district called Macedonia Prima, correctly rendered "the leading city of the district of Macedonia, and a Roman colony” (Acts 16:12 R. S. V.). It was made a Roman colony by Augustus in honor of his celebrated victory over Brutus and Cassius. As a colony it was "a little Rome" itself, transplanted to the provinces. Its inhabitants were Roman citizens who had the privilege of voting and were governed by their own Senate and legislature.


The Epistle is general, correcting no disorders, false doctrines or disturbances but exhorting the Philippians to consistency of Christian living. The immediate occasion was the expression of thanks for a contribution sent by Epaphroditus, who was now returning to take back the Apostle's letter. The only disturbance behind it was a lack of lowliness of mind among some with resulting disputing and friction between two women, Euodias and Syntyche.

Background and Date

The Philippian church had been established by the Apostle Paul on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:9-40). The vision at Troas induced him to cross over into Europe and to visit the city of Philippi. There was apparently no synagogue in the city and the church began by the riverside. Lydia, a seller of purple from Thyatira, was converted. As a result of Paul's experience with a demon-possessed slave girl, he was cast into prison, miraculously delivered, and saw other converts in the Philippian jailor and his house. After this experience, he had to leave the city but Luke remained at Philippi. This is patent from the fact that from this point onward Luke uses the third person in speaking of the party. The small church established here was a nucleus of a real work of God. The church was loyal to Paul and twice sent a contribution while he was at Thessalonica (Philippians 4:15, 16) and the church also sent him a gift at Corinth (Acts 18:5; 11 Corinthians 11:8, 9). To thank the Philippians and to send them instruction and comfort, Paul wrote the letter, since Epaphroditus was about to return to Philippi (Philippians 2:28). The Epistle was manifestly penned from Rome (cf. 1:13; 4:22) and very likely near the end of Paul's two years in Rome (Acts 28:30, 31). The general background would suggest that Philippians is the last of the four so-called Prison Epistles. The first three of these epistles were written about A. D. 60; therefore, Philippians must be dated at the close of the year A. D. 61.

The Outline

  1. Salutation, 1 :1, 2

  2. Part. I. The Believer's Joy in Spite of Suffering, 1:3-30

  3. Part II. The Believer's Example in Christ of joyous and Loyal Service, 2:1-30

    1. Exhortation to unity and meekness, I :1 -3

    2. Christ's humiliation, 2:5-8

    3. Christ's exaltation, 2:9-11

    4. Manifestation of practical salvation, 2:12-16

    5. Paul's example, 2:17-30

  4. Part III. Christ, the Source of the Believer's joy, 3:1-21

    1. Warning against legalism, the enemy of joy, 3:1-6

    2. Trusting Christ, the Source of joy, 3:7-21

  5. Part IV. Christ, the Believer's Joy, giving victory over worry, 4:1-23

    1. Exhortation to united joy, 4:1-4

    2. The peace of God, the key to joy, 4:5-7

    3. The presence of God in practical joy, 4:8-22

  6. Benediction, 4:21-23

 History of Philippi: 

Philippi, meaning, literally “lover of  horses,” or figuratively “warlike”. A town of Macedonia, anciently known as Krenides, was situated about nine miles from the Aegean Sea, N. W. of the island of Thasos. King Philip II, of Macedonia (father of Alexander “the Great”) took it from the Thracians and gave it his own name.

In 356 BC, Philip of Macedonia, who had only recently become king but had already presented himself as a capable general and a shrewd diplomat, was invited to become the protector of a Greek town named Krenides ("wells" or “fountains”). Realizing that Macedonian expansion into this area would on the one hand almost certainly cause troubles with the Thracians, but on the other hand, give the Macedonian king access to the Gold ore mines of the Pangaeon mountains, he accepted what was offered, and the city received a new name: Philippi.

The Great Wealth of Philippi

The mines were exploited with new techniques, offering Philip an additional yearly income of no less than 1,000 talents, an immense amount of money (Greek Talent = Approx. 60 lbs or 60,000 lbs of Gold a year) (08/07/11 $1,693.7 p/troy ounce)

60000 lb = 874999.994 oz (troy) @ $1,693.7 = 52,499,999,640.00 = $52.5 billion annual (October 2011 currency value).

The draining of a part of the extensive marshes to the southwest of the town improved agriculture, and Philippi became a wealthy town, something that was shown by building a theater and minting splendid coins. Products could be exported from a port called Neapolis, modern Kavala, another colony of Thasos.

Like many towns in ancient Macedonia, Philippi retained some autonomy, which meant -among other things- that people who wanted to be admitted to a Greek sanctuary were registered as Philippians, not Macedonians. This remained unchanged when the Romans dismantled the Macedonian kingdom after the battle of Pydna (168 BC) and converted it into a province, about twenty years later.

A Natural Position for Control of Trade

A Roman road, the Via Egnatia, connected the town to Amphipolis, Thessaloniki, and the ports of the Adriatic sea in the west, and to Neapolis and Byzantium in the east. This road could be blocked at Philippi, which is situated on a precipitous hill. The City was called "the gate from Europe to Asia".

The position of the city on the main road from Rome to Asia, the Via Egnatia, made it strategically important. In spots its pavement has been laid bare and ruts made by ancient chariots and wagons can still be seen. On the Western side of the town a large arched gateway was excavated. About mile from the city the road leading to this gateway crossed a small river. This is un­doubtedly the place referred to in Acts 16:13 as "a place of prayer."

Roman Triumvirate (three centers of power in one government)

Marcus Junius Brutus Caepio (c.85-42 BC): Roman politician, murderer of Gaius Julius Caesar(44 BC) and one of the last defenders of the republic

Gaius Cassius Longinus (before 85 BC – October 42 BC) was a Roman senator, a leading instigator of the plot to kill Julius Caesar, and the brother in-law of Marcus Junius Brutus Caepio.

Marcus Antonius (January 14, 83 BC – August 1, 30 BC), known in English as Mark Antony, was a Roman politician and general. As a military commander and administrator, he was an important supporter and loyal friend of Julius Caesar And Augustus: Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus; (23 September 63 BC – 19 August AD 14) who would be considered the first emperor of the Roman Empire, which he ruled alone from 27 BC until his death in 14 AD. He was  Born Gaius Octavius Thurinus

Philippi was a natural battlement along the Via Egnia (Roman Road) as it stands upon a divided hill with the road running between the hills – like an ambush point. Because Brutus and Cassius had occupied the best positions on the hills of Philippi, Marc Antony  (83 BC – 30 BC) tried to circumvent Philippi by building a causeway through the swamps south of the city, but Cassius discovered this and built a transverse dam to flood the swamp. While his opponent was thus occupied building the dams, Marc Antony unexpectedly ordered his men to storm Cassius' camp. They were very successful, and Cassius, believing that all was lost, committed suicide before he had learned that Brutus had at the same time defeated the army of Octavian and had captured the camp of Marc Antony and Octavian. In other words, both sides had won a victory and suffered a defeat.

A second clash was decisive: a couple of days later, Marc Antony and Octavian were able to lure Brutus into a battle that he should not have accepted. In the end, the triumvirs were victorious. Eleven years later, Octavian defeated Marc Antony at Actium and became sole ruler of the Roman world, accepting the surname Augustus.             

Veterans of the double battle were settled at Philippi, which received the rank of colonia. The town started to grow rapidly, and the author of the Acts of the Apostles correctly calls the city "the leading city in that district of Macedonia" (Acts, 16.12).

The fertile plain of Philippi was the battle­field between Brutus and Cassius, in which the former conquered and the Roman Re­public was overthrown in 42 BC.

In celebration of the victory the city was made a Roman colony with the special privileges this involved. Paul and Silas were imprisoned here on the Second Missionary Journey (Acts 16:9-40).

Today, a visitor can see a more or less Roman site at the foot of the acropolis of Philippi, including two bathhouses, a forum, a temple dedicated to the emperor, an aqueduct, and inscriptions in Latin. There's also a temple for the Egyptian gods Isis, Serapis, and Harpocrates, which proves the international orientation of this town on the Via Egnatia.

Another foreign religion was Judaism; in 49 or 50 AD, the apostle Paul of Tarsus met a community of Christians among the gentile sympathizers of Judaism, and stayed in Philippi for some time. His stay was not without problems, however: he was flogged on the market (Acts, 16.19, 23).

The Christianization of Philippi

In the fourth century AD, the victory of Christianity was complete, and the Greek language also regained ground in Philippi. Archaeologists have excavated three basilicas and a palace with splendid mosaics, which was used by the bishop of the early church. The presence of basilicas meant that they were built at a time when Christianity was a major political and financial influence.

But then...

Later the city was occupied by Goths (East Germanic Scandinavians – Gőtaland/Sweeden, Gothiscandza/Poland) in 473 AD, but its favorable position meant that there was always a foundation for some prosperity. It survived the invasions of the Slavs (from Central Eastern Europe and the Balkans), Bulgars (Turkish/Iranian [Islam]), Crusaders (Western European Christians and mercenaries), and the Turks (Turkey, remnants of the Ottoman Empire – [Islam]), only to have been abandoned in the fifteenth century.

Other Important Facts

In Paul’s time the Philippian church was especially generous and beloved by the Apostle (2 Corinthians 8:1-6; 11:9; Philippians 4:16), and his epistle to this congregation has always been a favorite of Christians. The First and Second Epistles to the Corinthians were written in this city. The first church in Europe was here.