Monday, January 18, 2010

Philippians: Introduction And Outline

Background:

The church at Philippi was the first established in Europe, on Paul's second missionary journey (Acts 16).  Lydia (a seller of fabric), a demon possessed fortune telling girl, and a Philippian jailer were among the first to become saved there.  When Paul was in Thessalonica, the Philippians sent him gifts on at least two different occasions (Philippians 4:14-16). Paul stopped at Philippi again on his third journey (Acts 20:6).

Purpose:

To inform them of the circumstances of Paul's imprisonment (1:1-30), to address the need for unity (2:1-8; 4:2-3), to inform them of a future visit by Timothy (2:18-24), to explain Epaphroditus' illness and recovery (2:25-30), to warn them about false teachers (3:1-4:1), to thank them for financial assistance (4:10-20), and greet them all (4:21-23).

Contents:

2:5-11 is one of the most important doctrinal passages in the Bible, as it explains the manner in which Christ humbled Himself to secure our salvation.

Practical unity, or fellowship in the gospel, appears to be the most abundant theme.  Such words as "one mind", "fellowship", "fellow laborer", "fellow", "share", "kindred", "with", "same", "like", and "partake", permeate the text, with at least 27 references.  Also, it seems that after each summary "therefore", comes a call to share one mind (2:1; 3:15; 4:1-3).

Rejoicing is also a major thread, but even this seems to issue from fellowship in the gospel.  For example, 1:4-5 says Paul was "offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now" (1:4-5).  Or again, in connection with joy (1:25), the text reminds, "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ; so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, striving together for the faith of the gospel..." (1:27).  And again, the central thrust of the letter seems to be "...make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose" (2:2).  There are at least 14 references to rejoicing, but even these seem to be tied to practical unity, or fellowship in the gospel ministry.

The main point of the letter, then, is that the Philippians share one attitude, or mind, in promoting the faith of the gospel. Chapter one describes a "mind" of love, which abounds in wisdom, approves those things which are excellent, stays sincere (single in motive) and blameless, and bears the fruit of righteousness.  Chapter two refers to a mind of humility, which yields its rights, serves others needs, obeys God, suffers wrong, and follows godly examples.  Chapter three speaks of a spiritual mind which worships God in spirit, counts human merit loss, desires Christ's righteousness, hopes for Christ's resurrection glory, and thus minds heavenly things.  Chapter four describes a mind of peace, which lives in harmony with other believers, rejoices in everything, shows moderation, makes its requests known to God, dwells on praiseworthy things, and stays content.

Key Verse:

"...make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose... (2:2, 5)

Theme: You should share Christ's mind.

Outline:

1. By abounding in love (1)
2. By humbling yourself (2)
3. By worshiping God in spirit (3)
   4. By promoting peace (4)

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