The city of Philippi, housed the believers to which the Apostle Paul penned the epistle of Philippians during his Roman captivity. Philippi boasted a long history, as the city was founded in 359 BC by Callistratus as a Greek colony named Krenides. Subsequently, it was seized by Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the Great's father; thus, the name Philippi. Alexander used the city as a base of operations for his conquests, until the second century BC when the area was conquered by Rome. The wealth of the city was fostered by the gold and silver mines that it contained. Philippi became a city populated by Roman veterans and it enjoyed the benefits of Roman heritage, including immunity from imperial taxation. Latin was the predominate language spoken and traditional Grecian dress was worn. The city was nestled between Asia and Europe which made it excellent for trade. There is some Theological debate as to when this epistle was written; although most scholars agree that its dating is sometime in the vicinity of AD 60-63. The evangelization of Europe began in Philippi (Acts 16:14-15).
Philippi contained no synagogue, which suggests that the Jewish population was small, as the building of a synagogue required that ten Jewish male head of households live in a city. This epistle was a personal and heartfelt correspondence which reveals much about Christ's nature and Paul's relationship with Him. In Philippians 1:21, Paul speaks of his devotion to Jesus, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain”(NIV). In his commentary on the book of Philippians, Matthew Henry speaks of this scripture, “Death is a great loss to a carnal, worldly man, for he loses all his earthly comforts and all his hopes; but to a true believer it is gain, for it is the end of all his weakness and misery. It delivers him from all the evils of life, and brings him to possess the chief good”(Henry 1997, 1157). This hope is what makes the hardship of sacrifice possible for a believer. In Philippians 2:9-11, Paul proclaims Christ's Glory, “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”(NIV). Paul further explains his position in Christ, “What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ-the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith”(Phil. 3:8,9 NIV). Verse 9, as it pertains to righteousness from the law, is a refutation of the Judaizers, who were a group of Jews who legalistically contended that in order to become a good Christian, one must first become a good Jew, including circumcision. Paul contrasts worldly thought to Christian truth in Philippians 3:19-21, “Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body”(NIV).
The book of Philippians is an encouragement to Christians as they navigate in this fallen world. We must set our eyes only on Jesus in order to not drown in its darkness. I pray that you read the book of Philippians and ask God to show you how to live your own life in the safe haven of His will. As Paul closes the book, I bid you the same, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen”(Phil. 4:23 NIV).