Preparation Prior to the study session, participants should read the entire book.
Orientation Philippians is book #11 of 27 in the New Testament, and and is one of Paul's letters. For more information see the Bible Overview page.
Synopsis Paul is in house arrest (location not known, perhaps Rome). The church at Philippi (in northern Greece) sends Epaphroditus, a trusted member, to visit Paul with gifts - perhaps money to help with his expenses. Paul writes this letter to thank the church for their gifts and ongoing support, and sends it back with Epaphroditus.
Paul expresses joy and optimism throughout the letter (1:18). He warns them they may have to suffer, and urges them to stand firm in their faith and to conduct themselves in a worthy manner (1:27). He urges them to behave like Christ (2:1). He urges them to work without complaning (2:14). Epaphroditus becomes ill but recovers (2:27).
He warns them to watch out for 'dogs' - apprarently Jews who believe in Christ yet teach that old Jewish law must also be observed (3:2) as fully described in Galatians. He should know, he used to be a Jewish leader (3:4).
Paul urges them to strive for the goal - to pursue perfection in the faith, pressing on towards the goal (3:14) and claim citizenship in heaven (3:20). After some personal greetings, he urges them to seek what is best, noble, pure, and admirable (4:8); and to always be content (4:11).
Activity Page through the book and list all the specific behaviors Paul is encouraging. Discussion points Paul writes while under 'house arrest', a rather low-security operation, perhaps due to his status as a Roman citizen. Note his discussion of citizenship in 3:20. Is he advocating using the 'perks' of citizenship? How are privileged people arrested today placed in similar confinements?
This letter is unusual in that it contains no quotations at all from the Old Testament. It may be because the church at Philippi consisted mostly of gentiles, who would be unfamiliar with the Jewish literature.
Connections The account of Paul starting the church at Philippi is in Acts 16: 11-40.
For source citations see the home page. Revised April 11 2014
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