PHILIPPIANS & COLOSSIANS
PHILIPPIANS & COLOSSIANS
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PHILIPPIANS & COLOSSIANS
Philippians and Colossians are two of the so called Prison Letters which Paul wrote, the others being Ephesians and Philemon. Yet again there is debate about the location and time, and even if it was Paul who wrote theses, but evidence certainly supports that they are the letters of Paul.
Although these letters were almost certainly written while Paul was in prison, the location of his incarceration is almost certainly to be in Rome in 61, as it ties in with his house arrest in Act 28:14-31 along with a number of other observations and practices which is very much in keeping with a prison in Rome.
A couple of examples, the Praetorian Guard, the Emperors personal body guard and only soldiers who were allowed in Rome with weapons, a law put in place in order to give some protection to the Emperor against a military coup, the phrase Crossing the Rubicon comes from this, the Rubicon was a river marking the boundary , no army were legally allowed to cross over the Rubicon into Rome… Anyway, I will also point out that there is a hint and some plausibility that he could have been in Ephesus around 53-55 or Caesarea 57-59 at the time, but unlikely.
Before we move on to look at the Philippians and Colossians, I thought we could take a little time to look at the reasons why Paul would have been imprisoned,.
The first Century AD saw the Golden age of the Roman Empire, unmatched in military strength and technology, all nations bordering the Empire were easy pickings. Bringing in plenty of wealth, trade and people.
One highlight was In the year 43 when Emperor Claudius invades Britannia (England). Also note that in 61, the same year that Paul is said to have been imprisoned, there was the uprising of Boudica in Britannia, which caught the Romans totally by surprise and nearly ended with the Roman army defeated. Boudicas revolt was eventually put down and she committed suicide.
Paul’s missionary work took place within the Roman Empire. Many towns and cities he visited, such as Philippi were very much Romanized and people proud to be Roman citizens.
These Romans were very religious, just about everyone believed in a multi-gods system of religion, just as Greek and Egyptians. Every house had its own little god or deity, there were thousands of minor gods all with a specific task such as helping you find something you have lost.
Many people would have carried around a portable shrine , which they could then use whenever and wherever, but there were also dozens of temples and shrines dotted around the city that you could visit and make a sacrifice.
The Emperor was also considered to be a god, when an emperor died they would take their place in the pantheon of gods, even while still alive on earth an emperor was still worshiped, popular emperors had many shrines and temples erected in their name where sacrifices and offerings were made to the Emperor.
Single God religions were looked upon with disgust and mistrust and seen as dangerous and blasphemous. How can there only be one God when everyone knew there were many. There was no problem when conquering a new land or tribe which practice multi-god religions, as the Romans would simply say “oh well we recognize that god as our god so and so, therefore from now on you must call that god by the name we know it as.”
So when we see likes of Paul going around preaching that there is only one God and further more Jesus is the king of Kings and Lord of Lords, this is a recepie for trouble. The Emperor was the highest authority on earth that ever would live, no question what so ever, so by declaring that Christ was such an authority and that every knee will bow to Him, that is not going to go down very well with the Emperor and those who follow the cult of the Emperor, remember, Emperors are considered to be gods themselves.
Therefore, the reaction that people would have given Paul would be the same as if you or I were to go into the middle of Tehran stand in the middle of the busiest road and start to preach the gospel. Christians did enjoy some tolerance under a number of Emperors such as Trajan, but at this time of writing, Paul was living in a time , where Christians were under a rule of terror and persecution from the tyrannical Emperor Nero, who was considered to be insane and a very nasty piece of work.
So, I hope you now have a better understanding in the conditions and situation in which Paul and the other apostles had to operate in.
Philippi was founded by King Philip II of Greece in 356BC, to control and protect the gold mines in the area. Today it lies in ruins near the a municipality and village, Filippoi in the Kavala Prefecture, Greece. Philippi came under Roman control in around 167 BC after the conquest of Macedonia.
This city was the site of the last battle in the Civil war that raged after the assassination of Julius Caesar. Caesars heirs, Octavian and Mark Antony defeated Brutus and Cassius. Vetran soldiers of the 28th Legion were released and moved into the city. Along with it gold trade and a major road that ran through the middle of the city, it quickly became populated with Roman citizens, which saw the usual building and entrapments associated with a Roman town.
So it was then in the year 49-50 that Paul visited Philippi on his second missionary trip, after a vision from God to go there Acts 16:9-10. He was most likely accompanied by Sialis , Timothy and possibly Luke. You can read about this in Acts 16 : 12-40.
If there were any Jews living in Philippi, then they were not many in number as they were not allowed to build a synagogue, and one of the reasons why we do not see Paul quoting or referring to the Old Testament in his letter .
Although Pauls visit was short, his presence attracted a lot of hate and violence towards him. However a number of people did accept his ministry work, which saw him cast out demons of a girl. A number of people converted, Lydia and her household, a jailer and his family, Epaphroditus, Phi 2:25-30 Euodias and syntyche PHI 4:2 and other labourers Phi 4:3
The church Paul founded out of this visit quickly grew and became a solid strong and organized church with strong leadership from Bishop and deacons. This church became the most dearest to Paul and remained so, without any trouble or problems, which we see with churches at Corinth and Galatia. Phi 1:5
The bond was so strong between the church at Philippi and Paul that they sent him money and help on a number of occasions. They took interest in Pauls works and his suffering and even helped him in an active role with his ministry work. Phi 4:16-18 and 2 Cor 11:9 ,
Paul addresses them as brethren, beloved, my joy my crown, Phi 4:1. He writes how they are on the whole in good solid spiritual health, but the only flaw he can fault them with is that there is a problem with a few individuals which is creating arguments and confrontations and bickering amongst the church, which Paul writes a few times to try and reunite them. Phi 1:27, 2:1-4, 4:2,3 Now doesn’t that sound familiar!
We also read how they are experiencing problems and facing enemies, along with persecution and suffering, remember the hostility Paul encountered, these people have to live with this every day for rest of their lives, but despite all this they are happy and thriving in their faith and under the Grace of God. Phi 3:1-4:1 , 1:28-30
After founding the church, it was another 5 years before Paul visited on his 3rd Trip on his way to Jerusalem. around year 55. Acts 20,1-6. On his arrival he was arrested. As a Roman Citizen he was allowed to appeal to the Emperor, which he duly exercised, so he was sent to Rome where he spent a few years in prison. This is when he wrote this letter to the Philippians, some 10 years after founding the church.
So why did he write to the Philippians? Well we already seen how loyal and loving and helpful the Philippians are towards Paul, upon hearing of his arrest they sent to Rome one of their congregation, Epaphroditus with money and gifts to Paul in prison. On arrival, Epaphroditus remained with Paul to assist in any way he could. 4:18.
However, Epaphroditus grew ill and almost died. 2:26-27. Upon hearing of this, the Philippians grew rather concerned and were in some distress over his health,
Which in turn worried Epaphroditus, which in turn placed burden strain and worry on Paul.
In his wisdom Paul decided the best thing to do was to have Epaphroditus return home, he gave him a valid reason to do so in writing this letter, which he then told Epaphroditus to deliver in person.
In the letter He tells the Philippians not to worry about his prison conditions, 1:12-20, explains why he has sent Epaphroditus home early, 2:25.. He also writes about how they should live in harmony upon hearing of the problems that were being created over a couple of individuals, Euodias and Syntyche and that they should all live in a Christian way. Cautions them about enemies and encourages them in the Lord.
The basic theme of this letter is that of Joy with 16 direct references to it
1: 4, 18, 25 ;
2: 2 ,17,18,28,29;
3: 1 ;
even though we see a number of depressing events, Pauls imprisonment, the near death of Epaphroditus and the persecution of the church, despite all this, they are encouraged to find Joy in the Lord and experiencing the power 3:8-10, that joy can be found in suffering and they are not to worry. They are to follow Jesus example 2:4-11 as God accomplishes good through these sufferings. 1:12-14 and that there will be harmony amongst everyone which prevails. 2:4 4:2-5. Joy from the adequacy of Christ produces contentment for every circumstance of life (4:13, 19)
Outline of Philippians.
1:1-2 The greeting
1:3-11 Paul prays they may love with discernment and wisdom
1:12-26 Pauls Circumstances are providentially ordered for the progress of the gospel
1:27-2:18 The Philippians are urged to exhibit exemplary behaviour and maintain an effective ministry for the benefit of the gospel.
2:19-30 Timothy and Epaphroditus will be sent back to carry out certain duties.
3:1 – 4:1 The Philippians are warned about their religious enemies
4:2-20 Gods peace will sustain the Philippians.
4:21-24 Closing Comments..