Survey of Philippians

Book Type: Pauline Epistles, also one of four Prison Epistles, 11th book of the New Testament.

Author: Paul and Timothy are named as the authors in Philippians 1:1. Paul is traditionally considered the primary author

Audience: Philippians is written to a group of believers with whom Paul founded a church, during his second missionary journey in approximately AD 49 (Acts 16). Philippi was a Roman colony, with believers consisting primarily of Gentiles.

This group had donated support to Paul, financially and otherwise, at least three times prior to this letter (Philippians 4:16). They had also delivered another gift through Epaphroditus. This letter, written about 12 years after the founding of the Philippian church, is largely a thank you letter to the Philippians, and as a result is mostly positive. However, because Paul wrote this letter during a time of house arrest in Rome, it includes the major theme of rejoicing during suffering.

Paul personally identified with those who suffer. He had sympathy for the suffering of Philippian believers, and gives much encouragement to help them during times of hardship. Paul also speaks against those who preached out of personal ambition (Philippians 2:3–4; Philippians 1:15–18) and various false teachers (Philippians 3).

Date: Approximately AD 60–62, during Paul’s first Roman imprisonment.

Overview: The focus of the book of Philippians is the proper Christian attitude during times of suffering. Specifically, this is an attitude of rejoicing. Paul encourages believers to rejoice despite suffering (Philippians 1), rejoice through humble service (Philippians 2), focus on Christ during hard times (Philippians 3), and depend on Christ’s strength when struggling (Philippians 4).

Chapter 1 includes a brief introduction (Philippians 1:1–2) followed by three key sections. First, Paul gives thanks and prayer on behalf of the Philippian Christians (Philippians 1:3–11). Second, he focuses on the expansion of the gospel (Philippians 1:12–18). Third, he emphasizes to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:19–30).

Chapter 2 emphasizes the theme of rejoicing during times of suffering. First, Paul gives Christ’s own example of humility (Philippians 2:1–11). Second, he emphasizes believers as lights in a world of darkness (Philippians 2:12–18). Third, he gives instructions regarding fellow Christian workers Timothy and Epaphroditus (Philippians 2:19–30).

Chapter 3 speaks about Christ as the focus during suffering. First, Paul discusses the importance of righteousness through faith in Christ rather than by works (Philippians 3:1–11). Second, Paul talks about straining toward the goal of following Christ (Philippians 3:12–21).

Chapter 4 speaks of Christ’s strength in times of suffering. This includes prayers and encouragement (Philippians 4:1–9) and a focus on God’s provision (Philippians 4:10–20), followed by a short conclusion (Philippians 4:21–23).

Key Verses (ESV)

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

Philippians 2:8: "And being found in human form, [Jesus Christ] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."

Philippians 3:7: "But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ."

Philippians 4:4: "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice."

Philippians 4:6–7: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Philippians 4:13: "I can do all things through him who strengthens me."