Notes on Paul’s Letter to Philippi

It has been suggested, and apparently generally accepted, that Paul’s letter to the early church at Philippi is a composite of various Pauline fragments. Philippi was a city in Thrace (modern Macedonia), originally called Crenides (“fountains”) but later renamed after Philip II of Macedon.

The letter is addressed from Paul and Timothy. Paul opens with a prayer that the people’s “love will abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight” (1:9). Paul talks about longing to depart his flesh and die in order to be with Christ, which is “better by far” or stay and continue preaching on earth, as this was an internal struggle among the people at Philippi. He calls on the people to be like-minded in unity as a sign to the enemies of Christianity.

Paul delivers a fascinating little poem about Jesus at 2:6-11. The poem is a tribute to God/Jesus who made himself a humble servant and died on earth. However, paradoxically this means he is the highest, and deserving of ‘every knee bowing.’ Paul calls on them all to figure out their own internal disagreements, even in Paul’s absence. Paul says he hopes to send Timothy soon, a man who has proven himself, and Paul also hopes to come soon, as well. Paul also hopes to send Epaphroditus, a fellow brother and soldier, who is also a messenger from Philippi who apparently nearly died but has recovered and will return to Philippi.

In Chapter 3, Paul gives an account of the worthless ways of the flesh and the law, and praises the fact that he gave up everything for his “Lord” Jesus. Paul longs for his true citizenship, which is in heaven with Jesus who has the power to “transform our lowly bodies” into something perfect, like his.

Paul closes in Chapter 4 with a prayer for unity among certain members named: Euodia and Syntyche. Paul prays with Clement and his other co-workers. Paul calls for peace among the brethren.

Paul praises the church at Philippi for being one of the first to send to him a financial contribution when he was in need, and thus God will help meet all of their needs, for their donation was like a “fragrant offering.”

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