Paul concludes this first section of the body of the letter by again encouraging them to persevere in the faith and telling them of 3 ways he hopes to communicate with them.
Paul is imprisoned in Rome around 60-62 AD, waiting to see whether he will be released or executed. The Philippians church has generously sent him financial support. Paul is writing this letter to thank them and send them news.
Paul had 3 purposes in writing this letter
- to express his joy that their faith has led them to support him financially;
- to encourage them to live lives of obedient persevering faith;
- to update them on his circumstances.
In chapter 1, he expressed his gratitude for their faith that led them to support him financially and he told them he is praying for their spiritual health. He prayed that they would have a genuine faith that manifests itself in wisdom which leads them to love one another and that they would persevere in this faith until the end. In spite of his circumstances, he rejoiced that the gospel was progressing even though he was not free to proclaim it himself.
In this letter he has been encouraging them to extend self-sacrificing love and patience to each other. They are to flee rivalry and conceit, and consider the needs of others as more significant than their own interests. They are to have unity around their shared belief in the gospel, as they strive to embrace the gospel that will lead them to have one mind. He wants their common hope and faith to bring them together in spite of the many ways they might disagree.
He encouraged them to should work out their salvation with fear and trembling. Paul is not simply urging them to be nicer and behave better. He’s confronting them with the issue that embracing their salvation has implications for how they live and conduct themselves.
- In 2:15, Paul is alluding to the Deuteronomy 32:5: “They have dealt corruptly with him; they are no longer his children because they are blemished; they are a crooked and twisted generation.”
- In Deuteronomy 32, Moses is referring to the event record in Numbers 14:1-4 when the Hebrews grumbled against the Lord and wanted to return to Egypt.
- Paul encourages the Philippians to be the opposite of the Hebrews in Numbers.
- Moses says, the Israelites who grumbled in the wilderness were blemished, stained with their corruption, because they did not faithfully follow God. Paul wants the Philippians to be without flaw, without blemish, in order that they may be blameless and innocent.
- Moses says the rebellious Israelities showed that they were not the children of God. Paul wants the Philippians to show that they are the children of God.
- Moses calls the Israelities a crooked and twisted generation. Paul wants the Philippians to be without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation.
- Paul’s preaching would be in vain if on the day of judgment the Philippians have rejected the gospel.
- Paul suffered many trials to establish their church and teach them the faith. In that sense you could say he was poured out as a drink offering for their faith.
- Talking of his ministry is the transition to the next paragraph.
Paul hopes to communicate with the Philippians 3 different ways.
- He is sending Epaphroditus with this letter. They can read the letter and Epaphroditus will bring them other news.
- Paul intends to send Timothy a bit later with news of the outcome of his trial. Depending on the route, you had to cover 700 to 1,200 miles to travel between Rome and Philippi. A one way trip by foot would take about 6 weeks to 3 months, depending on the route, whether you travelled by sea or land, the weather at a time of the year, and whether you walked or rode a horse or donkey, etc.
- Paul hopes visit them in person. The New Testament does not tell us whether Paul visited Philip again, but tradition claims that he did.
For more detail and explanation, please listen to the podcast.
Series: Philippians: Choose Life
Study: Philippians Resources
Scripture references are from the English Standard version.