By Don Ruhl
“The ancient city of Philippi was just north of Greece in Macedonia, the home of Alexander the Great. Indeed, the city was named after Philip of Macedon, Alexander’s father. The city had a prominent place in Roman history, as it was the site at which Mark Antony and Octavian Augusts triumphed over Brutus and Cassius and established the Roman Empire. The city was set up as a colony for retired Roman soldiers” (The Bible and Its Influence, Teacher’s Edition, p. 296).
The church at Philippi was the first one in Europe.
Sixteen times Paul mentioned “joy” or “rejoice” in this letter. The remarkable thing about this is that Paul was a prisoner when he wrote this letter. Yet, that did not seem to bother him much (Phi 1.19–26). Can we have that spirit when faced with adversity?
Unity Through Humility
A major theme of the Letter of Philippians is that of unity (2.1–4). Paul urged the brethren to show the spirit of unity through humility, highlighting the humility of Jesus, saying that the mind of humility that existed in Jesus, should also exist in us, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Phi 2.5–8). What do you see when you hear that passage?
In addition to Judaism, the early church had to weave its way through various cults and religions. It is believed that Paul addressed that problem in the following words, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power” (Col 2.8–10).
With other teachings in the Letter to the Colossians, Paul warned the brethren against mixing the religion of Christ with the religions of men. Perhaps this is why Paul also magnified Jesus in the eyes of the Colossian Christian (Col 1.15–20).
He also headed off earthly religions and other materialistic ways of thinking (Col 3.1–4).
It is believed that this letter is the first one written of the New Testament books, written about 20 years after Jesus had been on the earth.
There are two sections to this letter:
- Chapters 1–3 Paul spoke about his relationship with the congregation.
- Chapters 4 and 5 Paul addressed the Second Coming of Christ, although Paul mentioned the Second Coming at the end of every chapter.
- 2.19, 20
- 3. 12, 13
5.1–10 also has a major teaching on this subject.
With all the teaching about the return of Jesus, someone had forged a communication from Paul, alleging that the return of Jesus would happen in that generation. Therefore, Paul had to write to the church again to show them that there were some things that had to happen first, “Now, brethren, concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come. Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition” (2Th 2.1–3). Those conditions were a long way off for them, but for us they have already passed. Therefore, Paul exhorted them to get back to work and to mark anyone not working or who was disorderly in some other way (3.6–15).