Introduction to Philippians

Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi is uniquely positive in character, thanking the church for the gift it sent him while he was imprisoned in Rome.  Throughout the letter, though, Paul takes the opportunity to encourage the church in the midst of persecution and to exhort them to humility and unity within the faith community there.

The city of Philippi had a very unique and sorted history, being named after a Greek king, Philip the second, who conquered the city and named it after himself.  In the time of the Roman Empire, Philippi was a prosperous city which was located on the main highway that connected the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire with Rome itself.  This road, known as the Egnatian Way, was both the lifeline of the city and also the reason for its prosperity.  Philippi was also unique in that very few Jews lived within the city.  This may account for the fact that Paul’s letter to the church here contains no direct quotations of the Old Testament.

Philippi was located in Macedonia, in what is now northern Greece. Photo Credit: www.holylandphotos.org

Philippi was located in Macedonia, in what is now northern Greece.
Photo Credit: www.holylandphotos.org

Acts 16 records Paul’s first visit to the city of Philippi in roughly A.D. 50-51, on his second missionary journey.  Following a vision that God gave him, Paul and his traveling companions made the journey to Macedonia and preached the Gospel to those he met there.  Out of that came the conversion of Lydia, a particularly prominent woman in the early church whose hospitality and leadership are noted by Paul in Scripture.

The book of Philippians expresses a very practical and yet rigorous type of Christian living, commending its readers to follow the very example of Christ as it is expressed in chapter 2.  This is widely considered to be one of the most profound Christological passages in the New Testament.



Introduction to Galatians

Unlike many of Paul’s letters, the book of Galatians may not have been written to a specific city church, but rather to a region with a more general audience.  The region Galatia is located in what is now the country of Turkey and was visited frequently by Paul during his three missionary journies.  While it is not documented directly, we know that Paul visited and set up churches in several cities in the region including Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13), Lystra and Derbe (Acts 14), and Iconium (Acts 16 and 2 Timothy 3).

 

Paul took several missionary journeys and often passed through the region of Galatia. Photo Credit: www.psephizo.com

Paul took several missionary journeys and often passed through the region of Galatia.
Photo Credit: www.psephizo.com

 

While the destination of this letter may be a bit different than the others, the content and layout of the book of Galatians, as well as the purpose for Paul’s writing strikes a very familiar chord.  The Judaizers, those Jews who converted to Christianity but still held to many of the ceremonial practices of the Old Testament, were both questioning Paul’s Apostolic authority and pressing Gentile Christians to abide by Old Testament laws, specifically circumcision.

Paul, responding to this situation, is quick to defend his authority as an Apostle.  He then writes a doctrinal treatise of the doctrines of Justification, Christian freedom, and faith.  This is followed by a practical application section regarding this doctrine, as is often the case with Paul’s writing.

The book of Galatians may be one of Paul’s earliest known writings.  Though there is some dispute as to when it was written, there is no doubt that this letter came very early on in Paul’s ministry.  Galatians is both eloquent and vigorous in its apologetic nature, defending the essential truth of the Gospel and the New Testament that those who believe in Jesus Christ are justified by faith in Him, through the grace of God alone.