Background on Philippians

Philippi: the City

The Macedonian (Greek) city of Philippi was an historic city with deep roots and civic pride. Named after Alexander the Great’s father Philip II, and the first of the Roman colonies in Greece, the residents enjoyed an autonomous government, relief from taxes, and equality with those who lived in Italy.

Paul visited Philippi twice, in Acts 16 and again in Acts 20, on his second and third missionary journeys. The first time was in obedience to what has been dubbed his “Macedonian Call,” in which he had a vision that the people of Greece needed the gospel (see Acts 16:6 and following). Since the Spirit had prevented them from going elsewhere, they took the hint and headed to Macedonia. (They includes Paul's traveling companions, who we know to be Silas and others.) Once in Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city of that district of Macedonia, they stayed for several days (Acts 16:12). They met Lydia there, and she became the first European to accept the gospel while in Europe (Acts 16:15). Certainly some Europeans did so on the Day of Pentecost.

They also met a “slave girl” possessed by the devil who told the future. She bothered them for days and finally Paul called out the demon in the name of Jesus. Because her talent made people money, this upset the girl’s masters, so they had Paul and Silas punished (Acts 16:19ff). The punishment was jail, which also resulted in their miraculous escape (Acts 1625ff).

We also have record in Acts 20 that Paul & Co. visited Philippi on the way back through Macedonia on his way to Jerusalem, though it doesn’t appear that he spent much time in Philippi.

Philippians: the Letter

No one doubts that Paul wrote Philippians. Well, not no one, but enough people that it’s a pretty done deal. He says he did, for one thing (see Philippians 1:1), and throughout history, only lame attempts have been offered at finding alternatives.

There’s also no doubt he wrote it from prison. Although there is some question as to which prison, most people who study this sort of thing believe it was in Rome. The fact that he wrote in prison is important when we come to verses like, “to live is Christ and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). It wasn’t just fancy speech by Paul, it was an eminent reality.

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