So we are beginning our study of Philippians tonight. Lord willing, we’ll team-teach through the letter, Mike and Brian each taking two weeks back to back per chapter. Brian will do the intro this week, and Mike will do chapter one for the two weeks after that. The letters in the new testament (that’s everything between Acts and Revelation) are our chief source of knowledge about what it means to be a Christian and live out our faith in our day and age. They are very deep, and very practical, full of all the things that make walking with God so exciting.
We have a plan to memorize the whole letter for you to download, just click on the “resources” link above. Can’t wait to dive in with you all tonight! Let’s allow God’s work to form us every time we’re together.
An introduction to Paul’s letter to the Philippians :: 3.16.11
Before we jump into the letter, it’s important to remember the back story behind this letter, which stretches from Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and goes to His followers, to Paul himself getting saved, to the founding of this church in the city of Philippi, which is recorded in Acts 16:7-40.
What were the letters in the New Testament? After Jesus ascended into heaven and left His followers to do His work, the Holy Spirit filled them and also empowered them to remember, understand, and proclaim what Jesus said and did and what it meant. Eventually they wrote down what they taught. They wrote letters to the new communities of Christians that were forming wherever the message was proclaimed. These letters explain who Jesus is and what He did, and tell Jesus’ followers how to live as followers of Christ when He is not on earth to be seen.
Why was Philippians written?
1. The church sent Epaphroditus to Paul with a gift of support. Paul is sending him back and he uses the “free shipping” to send a thank you note back to the church. (4:10-20, 1:3-5, 2:25-30)
2. Paul’s friends in Philippi knew he was in prison waiting for his trial, and they were concerned about how he was doing. He uses this letter to give them a “status update.” (1:13-14, 2:23-4, 4:10-13)
3. Paul has heard (maybe from Epaphroditus) that there are some false teachers giving the church trouble. In chapter 3 he gives them warnings to watch out for these people. (3:1-4, 17-19)
4. Paul also seems to have heard that there were some divisions creeping into the church. He addresses two fighting women in particular, keeps coming back to the idea of how important it is for Christians to stand united. (2:1-2, 4:1-2)
5. Paul also uses the letter to remind the church about how much the Gospel is his whole life. It has become their whole life too so he encourages them to live in a way that makes sense with what they believe. (1:12-14, 1:21, 1:27)
What is Philippians about?
Ch 1: Paul loves the church, and he’s confident that God’s work in their lives will continue till the end. He wants them to know that what seems bad (imprisonment) is working for good and also, that they can expect suffering too, so…
Ch 2: They need to live in humble unity like Jesus. In the meantime, he wants to send Epaphroditus to help them until He can come to them.
Ch 3: Also, he warns them about false teachers and offers himself as a better example. He laid everything from his old life aside because Christ is better.
Ch 4: Finally, he reminds them they don’t have to worry about anything, but can pray. He is their example in this, with Christ as His strength. But still, He appreciates the gift they sent.
What kinds of things can we learn from all this?
1. God is working in History. (Eph 1:10). God was using Paul to work out His plan… is He using you?
2. Faithfulness brings fruit. Paul obeyed God in a tough environment, and a church was born.
3. This letter contains a great model for how we should care for each other. The Philippians loved Paul and sent a monetary gift to support Him. They had all sacrificed for each other. Paul uses the word “brothers” 9 times and “beloved” three times.
4. What we believe is the truth about Jesus as it was revealed to and taught by the Apostles, including Paul. (The term for this is “Apostolic Doctrine.”) We know what we know about God because he had men write it down. (1 Pet 1:21) Philippians is one of those documents.