New Testament Overview: Philippians

The Pauline Epistles

The Pauline Epistles
The Prison Epistles
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    @ by J. Hampton Keathley, III {original source}  


Both the internal and external evidence again points to Paul as the author. “The early church was unanimous in its testimony that Philippians was written by the apostle Paul (see 1:1). Internally the letter reveals the stamp of genuineness. The many personal references of the author fit what we know of Paul from other NT books.”fn56
The epistle to the church at Philippi, the first church Paul established in Macedonia, is titled in the Greek text, Pros Philippesious, “To the Philippians.

DATE: A.D. 60-61

As with Ephesians, this epistle was written while Paul was imprisoned. His reference to the Praetorian guarddb01 (Phil. 1:13) along with the possibility of death (vv. 20-26) suggest he was writing from Rome. Though death was possible, Paul also seemed confident of his release. This suggests Philippians was written after Ephesians later in A.D. 60 or 61.


Whereas Ephesians sets forth the glorious mystery, “the church which is Christ’s body,” Christ as the head of the Church (1:22-23), and believers as co-members of one another who are equally blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ (1:3; 2:11-22), Philippians guards the practice of Ephesians. Philippians guards against the failure to practice Christ-provided unity and against the failure of believers to rejoice in their blessings and position in Christ (Phil. 1:27; 2:2; 4:1f.). The theme of Philippians might well be “joy and unity in Christ.”

Paul had several obvious purposes in writing this letter to the Philippians:

(1) He sought to express his love and gratitude for the gift they had sent him (1:5; 4:10-19);

(2) to give a report about his own circumstances (1:12-26; 4:10-19);

(3) to encourage the Philippians to stand firm in the face of persecution and rejoice regardless of circumstances (1:27-30; 4:4);

(4) to exhort them to live in humility and unity (2:1-11; 4:2-5);

(5) to commend Timothydb02 and Epaphroditusdb03 to the Philippian church (2:19-30); and

(6) to warn the Philippians against the legalistic Judaizersdb04 and the libertarian antinomiansdb05 who had slipped in among them (ch. 3).


The key word, occurring in one form or the other some 16 times, is

  • joy” or
  • rejoice.
  • Unity” or
  • oneness

is another key idea of the book.

This is expressed in a number of ways like,

  • being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose(2:2);
  • standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together(1:27), and
  • be in harmony(4:2).


1:21. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

3:8-118 More than that, I now regard all things as liabilities compared to the far greater value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things—indeed, I regard them as dung!—that I might gain Christ, 9 and be found in him, not because of having my own righteousness derived from the law, but because of having the righteousness that comes by way of Christ’s faithfulness—a righteousness from God that is based on Christ’s faithfulness. 10 My aim is to know him, to experience the power of his resurrection, to share in his sufferings, and to be like him in his death, 3:11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

4:11-1311 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in any circumstance. 12 I have experienced times of need and times of abundance. In any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of contentment, whether I go satisfied or hungry, have plenty or nothing. 13 I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.


Chapter 2 is certainly a key chapter in the way it sets forth Christ as our example in putting others before ourselves by having the mind of Christ. In the process of this, Paul then launches into a grand revelation regarding the humility and exaltation of Christ in 2:5-11.


No passage is clearer and more declarative regarding the nature, fact, and purpose of the incarnation of Christ as is found in this book, the great kenosis passage (2:5f.). Further, in view of all Christ was, is, has and will accomplish,

Paul declares Christ as the believer’s life, “for to me to live is Christ(1:21), that He is the perfect model of humility and sacrificing love (2:4-5), that He is the one who will transform our humble bodies into the likeness of His glorious body at the resurrection (3:21), and He is our means of enablement in any and all circumstances of life (4:12).


  • I. Salutation and Thanksgiving for the Philippians (1:1-11)

  • II. The Personal Circumstances of Paul in Rome: The Preaching of Christ (1:12-30)

  • III. The Pattern of the Christian Life: Having the Mind of Christ (2:1-30)
    • A. The Exhortation to Humility (2:1-4)
    • B. The Epitome of Humility (2:5-11)
    • C. The Exercise of Humility (2:12-18)
    • D. The Examples of Humility Seen in Timothy and Epaphroditus (2:19-30)

  • IV. The Prize of the Christian Life: Having the Knowledge of Christ (3:1-21)
    • A. The Warning Against Legalistic Judaizers (3:1-4a)
    • B. The Example of Paul (3:4b-14)
    • C. The Exhortation to Others (3:15-21)

  • V. The Peace of the Christian Life: Knowing the Presence of Christ (4:1-23)
    • A. Peace With Others (4:1-3)
    • B. Peace With Self (4:4-9)
    • C. Peace With Circumstances (4:10-23)
Pauline Epsitles Menu
56 The NIV Study Bible Notes, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, electronic media.
57 The outline used here closely follows that of Ryrie with slight variations, pp. 1886-1887.
db* = Content added by to assist the reader
db01 Praetorian Guard: The Praetorian Guard (Latin: Praetoriani) was a force of bodyguards used by Roman Emperors. [From Wikipedia]
db02 Timothy: Timothy (Greek: Τιμόθεος; Timótheos, meaning "honouring God" or "honored by God") was the first first-century Christian bishop of Ephesus, whom tradition relates died around the year AD 97. He was from the Lycaonian city of Lystra in Asia Minor, became Paul’s disciple, and later his companion and co-worker. The New Testament indicates that Timothy traveled with Saint Paul, who was also his mentor. [From Wikipedia]
db03 Epaphroditus: Epaphroditus (Greek: Ἐπαφρόδιτος) is a New Testament figure appearing as an envoy of the Philippian church to assist the Apostle Paul. Epaphroditus appears in the New Testament only in the letter to the Philippians (2.25-30, 4.18). [From Wikipedia]
db04 Judaizers: Judaizers is predominantly a Christian term, derived from the Greek verb ioudaïzō (ἰουδαΐζω "live according to Jewish customs", "one who has Judaized", refers to a Christian who has accepted the necessity of adhering to the Mosaic Laws or to specific laws that are believed to be superseded, such as circumcision, Sabbath observance, or observation of the Passover. [From Wikipedia]
db05 Libertarian Antinomians: an antinomian is "one who holds that under the gospel dispensation of grace the moral law is of no use or obligation because faith alone is necessary to salvation". [From Wikipedia]
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