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Thoughts about Philippians
February 20, 2010, 7:31 pm
Filed under: M Letter to Philippians

I come now to a letter by Paul that he wrote to the Christians at Philippi. I generally agree with John Pollock on his narrative story of Paul titled “The Apostle: A Life of Paul” where the letter to the Philippians was written from Ephesus during Paul’s third church planting journey. In Ephesus Pollock believes Paul was arrested and put in prison during his two year stay as mentioned in Acts chapter 19. It is not without possibility.

While in Ephesus Paul wrote his second letter to the church in Corinth and described how he had ‘worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.” While Paul was mentioned as being arrested on a number of occasions in Acts, surely he had been arrested at other times as well that were not documented by Luke, as inferred from his letter to the church in Corinth. Additionally, I find that while reading Philippians Paul mentions how he hoped to send Timothy to the church soon “as I see how things go with me. And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.” There is no mention of going to Spain as mentioned in his letter to the Roman Christians. And it seems that this imprisonment was for short duration, indicating that this arrest was neither the one in Caesarea or Rome.

I also believe this letter to the Philippians was written before Paul left to Corinth, where he wrote the letter to the Romans. J.B. Lightfoot (1) sees “so close parallels” between the two letters and “most nearly resembles” each other he believes they would certainly have been written “in chronological order” suggesting an earlier date of it’s writing, although Lightfoot contends it was almost certainly at the beginning of Paul’s first Roman imprisonment.

Paul describes himself as being “in chains for Christ” and how “the whole palace guard” knows this. At the end of the letter Paul sends the church greetings “especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” Most believe this to be the main reason why this letter must have been written during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment. Pollock (2) mentions that historically that wherever there was a large Roman presence there was a “proconsular palace” that included “the Praetorian Guard.” We see this also in Jerusalem and other places from the gospels and Acts. It was even thought, that because Paul was a Roman citizen, he could walk around the city although still chained to a Roman guard. Some have thought for these reasons Paul could have written the letter from Caesarea before he was taken to Rome. I do not take this as being plausible because of the short time Paul felt he was going to stay in prison in his letter to the church in Philippi. In Caesarea he knew that God was using the events to send him to Rome and had to patiently wait on God’s timing for those events to unfold. Paul also knew that Luke was doing his research into Jesus earthly life while in Judea and so realized that his time there was more than just for him but for God and what He was doing. Also Caesar’s household refers normally to any of the household slaves that worked in Roman palaces no matter the location. Because of this I believe Paul was in prison in Ephesus when he wrote this letter.

When Paul journeyed with his companions on his second church planting mission they “traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia.” They met Lydia and her household who became followers of Jesus Christ as a result of “the Lord” opening “her heart to Paul’s message.” Paul and his companions enjoyed fellowship with them in their home. Soon, after Paul and Silas imprisonment in Philippi, their jailer and his household believed “in the Lord Jesus” and were saved! God had formed a living expression of Jesus Christ in Philippi, a body of Christ, through these two households! Paul took Silas with him and left his other companions, we assume Luke and Timothy and perhaps others, to help them to learn to make Jesus as Head in their gatherings and to show them how to live according to the Spirit in each others lives and homes and to be living expressions of Christ to friends and co-workers. It is perhaps possible that towards the end of his second church planting journey that he wrote this letter, maybe from a prison in Corinth. The letter to the Philippians is also quiet about any appeals as the Corinthian letters and the comment in Romans about the collection of support for the poor Christians in Jerusalem. This mean that the letter might have been written some time after his letters to the Thessalonians and before the Corinthian and Roman letters. Of course because of not mentioning the collection could be because it was written early in his Roman imprisonment.

No matter when Paul wrote the letter, Philippi was the place Paul enjoyed the mutual giving and receiving of life with Christ and His people. Paul would always seem to go back and forth through Macedonia to enjoy the mutual love and fellowship in Christ Jesus as well as to send his assistant church planters to visit them and to encourage them. What a wonderful group of Christians whom Paul loved with such affection! May we be a body of believers whom others would long to be with “with the affection of Christ Jesus”!

(1) Lightfoot, J.B., St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, J.B. Lightfoot’s Commentary on the Epistles of St. Paul, 4th Vol. Ed., Hendrickson Publishers, 1995, 42-44.
(2) Pollock, John, The Apostle: A Life of Paul, Chariot Victor Publishing, 1985, 193-202.

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Hello! I would love your opinion of my blog. In Him,

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