Author: Dr. George M. Flattery


brown cross on mountain

Thoughts about Philippians.

Most of my posts have been about various topics based on Biblical passages. Today, I will start a series on Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. We will walk through this letter section-by-section, applying the text in a practical way to our lives.

The reason why I have selected Philippians is that this letter so clearly portrays the mind of Paul as he is entering the later years of his ministry. The epistle speaks to people of all ages, but it has a special significance for all who have finished or at least nearly finished their course.

Concerning Paul’s life and ministry, dates are often not precise, but approximate dates will suffice to illustrate my point. Paul was born about 5 AD. He was converted on the road to Damascus around 34-37 AD. He wrote to the Philippians during his first imprisonment in Rome in about 62 AD. Many expositors date his execution after his second imprisonment in 68.

Paul founded the church in Philippi about 51-52 AD on his second missionary journey from Antioch in Syria. The traditional view is that Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while he was in Rome during his first imprisonment there. Some of that time, if not all, he was under house arrest.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians was very personal. He wrote to thank them for the generous gift that they had sent with Epaphroditus for him. Also, Paul wrote that Epaphroditus would be coming back to Philippi and urged the people to warmly receive him.

Another reason Paul wrote was to tell them about his court case. He had appealed to Caesar. Now he wrote to inform them that his case was before the imperial court. There was a possibility he would be set free, it was also possible that he would not be freed.

An important characteristic of this epistle is the theme of joy. Despite all that was happening and that he might face death, he maintained his joyful hope for the future. He especially stressed the importance of spiritual maturity and our daily walk with the Lord.

Thoughts about Philippians 1:1-2.

Paul’s salutation in his letter to the Philippians is written in the standard format of a letter at the time. He states who is writing, to whom the letter is addressed, and adds his opening greeting. He writes:

“1 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:1-2 NAS).

The letter begins by identifying Paul and Timothy as the writers. Paul was the content author of the letter, but he may have dictated it to Timothy who, in turn, actually did the writing. Why Timothy was included is often discussed. The text does not say why, but there are several very reasonable thoughts.

One reason is that Timothy helped found the church at Philippi (Acts 16:12); Paul intended to send him to them sometime after writing this letter (Philippians 2:19). No doubt the Philippians would appreciate the inclusion of Timothy.

Also, Timothy was a trusted and younger member of Paul’s leadership team. No doubt Paul included him every time he could. By including Timothy, Paul would put his blessing on Timothy, encourage him in his leadership, and pave the way for his handover of ministry to him.

The relationship between Paul and Timothy is full of meaning for all ministers today, young, older, and elderly. Even early in their ministries, ministers should be concerned about training and those who might follow them. The older that ministers become, the more concerned they ought to be.

In my next “thoughts” I will continue to discuss Paul’s salutation. The salutation says a lot to us. As we walk through Philippians, your comments and applications are always welcome.

George M. Flattery, Ed.D., is the founder of Global University and Network211.

Excerpts transferred from a series originally posted on Dr. George's Facebook.

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