Introduction to the Book of Philippians

What is the book of Philippians about?

Book of Philippians
Ruins of Ancient Philippi. De Agostini / Getty Images

The joy of the Christian experience is the dominant theme running through the book of Philippians. The words "joy" and "rejoice" are used 16 times in the epistle.

Book of Philippians

Author: Philippians is one of the Apostle Paul's four Prison Epistles.

Date Written: Most scholars believe the letter was written around AD 62, while Paul was imprisoned in Rome.

Written To: Paul wrote to the believers in Philippi with whom he shared a close partnership and special affection. He also addressed the letter to church elders and deacons.

Key Characters: Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus are the major personalities in the book of Philippians.

Who Wrote Philippians?

The Apostle Paul wrote the letter to the Philippians to express his gratitude and affection for the Philippian church, his strongest supporters in ministry. Scholars agree that Paul drafted the epistle during his two years of house arrest in Rome.

Paul had established the church in Philippi approximately 10 years prior, during his second missionary journey recorded in Acts 16. His tender love for the believers in Philippi is apparent in this most personal of Paul's writings.

The church had sent gifts to Paul while he was in chains. These gifts were delivered by Epaphroditus, a leader in the Philippian church who ended up assisting Paul with ministry in Rome. At some point while serving with Paul, Epaphroditus became dangerously sick and nearly died. After his recovery, Paul sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi carrying with him the letter to the Philippian church.

Besides expressing thanks to the believers in Philippi for their gifts and support, Paul took the opportunity to encourage the church concerning practical matters such as humility and unity. The apostle warned them about "Judiazers" (Jewish legalists) and gave instructions on how to live a joyous Christian life.

The book of Philippians conveys a powerful message about the secret of contentment. Although Paul had faced severe hardships, poverty, beatings, illness, and even his current imprisonment, in every circumstance he had learned to be content. The source of his joyous contentment was rooted in knowing Jesus Christ:

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. (Philippians 3:7-9a, NLT).

Landscape of the Book of Philippians

Under house arrest as a prisoner in Rome, yet full of joy and thankfulness, Paul wrote to encourage his fellow-servants living in Philippi. A Roman colony, Philippi was situated in Macedonia (current-day Northern Greece). The city was named after Philip II, father of Alexander the Great.

One of the major trade routes between Europe and Asia, Philippi was a chief commercial center with a mixture of different nationalities, religions, and social levels. Founded by Paul in approximately 52 AD, the church in Philippi was made up mostly of Gentiles.

Themes in Philippians

Joy in the Christian life is all about perspective. True joy is not based on circumstances. The key to lasting contentment is found through a relationship with Jesus Christ. This is the divine perspective Paul wanted to communicate to the Philippians.

Christ is the ultimate example for believers. Through following his patterns of humility and sacrifice, we can find joy in all circumstances.

Christians can experience joy in suffering just as Christ suffered:

...he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal's death on a cross. (Philippians 2:8, NLT)

Christians can experience joy in service:

But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy. (Philippians 2:17-18, NLT)

Christians can experience joy in believing:

I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. (Philippians 3:9, NLT)

Christian can experience joy in giving:

I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:18-19, NLT)

Key Bible Verses

Philippians 3:12-14
Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. ... But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (ESV)

Philippians 4:4
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! (NKJV)

Philippians 4:6
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; (NKJV)

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. (NKJV)

Outline of Philippians

  • Joy in all circumstances, even suffering - Philippians 1.
  • Joy in serving - Philippians 2.
  • Joy in faith - Philippians 3.
  • Joy in giving - Philippians 4.
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Fairchild, Mary. "Introduction to the Book of Philippians." Learn Religions, Sep. 3, 2021, Fairchild, Mary. (2021, September 3). Introduction to the Book of Philippians. Retrieved from Fairchild, Mary. "Introduction to the Book of Philippians." Learn Religions. (accessed June 10, 2023).