Posts Tagged With: Philippi

BONUS: An Introduction to Philippians

Paul is sitting in prison when he writes Philippians and the other Prison Epistles — Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon. Some have suggested this prison was in Ephesus or Caesarea, but the Prison Epistles were most likely written while Paul was under house arrest in Rome and not later when Paul was in the Mamertime dungeon in Rome at the end of his life. The fact that this hopeful letter of joy and contentment was written in such circumstance is, by itself, astounding.

We learn from Acts 16 that the first members of the Philippians church were the businesswoman Lydia in whose house the church may have met at first, a young girl delivered from demons, and a Roman jailer whose very life Paul and Silas had saved.  This church likely had predominantly pagan roots as there wasn’t even a synagogue in Philippi when Paul visited on his second missionary journey.  Philippi was a proud Greco-Roman city, named after Philip of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great, and a city in which faithful Roman soldiers had been given land in retirement.

Given the overwhelming positive tone of this letter, we can tell Paul was especially fond of the Christians in Philippi.  They had given him great financial and moral support on his journeys most recently in a love offering sent with Epaphroditus.  At least part of Philippians is simply a thank you letter for their generosity.  Paul also must have sensed that he was closer to the end of his life and ministry than the beginning.  As any “father” would want to do, Paul also takes advantage of the opportunity to warn against false teaching, encourage them to stand firm in hardships, and to find their center for attitude and actions in the example of Jesus.

More than almost any letter in the New Testament, Philippians exudes a confidence about life.  Paul has learned the secret to being content no matter the circumstances (4:11) and wants his children in the faith to know it too.  With it’s 16 uses of some version of the word “joy,” there is no wonder why this short epistle is a favorite of many people.

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Acts 17: Turning the World Upside Down

These are the people who are turning the world upside down! (17:6)

What an incredible thing to have people say about you, especially as Christians, especially knowing that upside down is really right side up!  What do such people talk about along their revolutionary way?

They’re saying that there is another king, Jesus! (17:7)

The kingship of Jesus was foundational to the message of the gospel from its beginning.  If you want to shake up a society, preach that Jesus is King.

This was Philippi, the main city in a highly patriotic Greco-Roman colony.  Many of the residents in Macedonia were former members of the military.  The city Philippi and the region Macedonia were named after Philip of Macedon, the father of Greek conqueror Alexander the Great.  There is only one king in this city: Caesar.  He is Lord and King, and to suggest otherwise is seditious.

Later in this chapter we see the same thing happening in Athens.  Paul walks into this thoroughly, conscientiously idolatrous city and says to the Athenians: your religiosity is “ignorance” (17:23).  There is an invisible God over all of these idols, from whom all life comes.  This God had even conquered death through a man named Jesus (17:31).  The intelligentsia of Athens heard this message and called it “ridiculous” (17:32).

I am not sure we have perfect equivalents to this.  Maybe it is like walking into the Republican Convention with a “Jesus for President” sign.  Better yet, it is like Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, on the day of Prince William’s coronation turning crown in hand to the front altar of Westminster Abbey and saying Jesus is the only real king.  It is telling Bill Gates that Jesus is the real CEO of this company.  It is telling Stephen Hawking, because of our King Jesus whom he rejects, we understand truth better than he.  It is telling the licentious celebrity culture of Hollywood and the materialistic advertisers of Madison Avenue that we can find greater fulfillment in a man named Jesus.  Seditious, ridiculous.

Actually, much more personally, it is like saying to our own hearts “there is another king, Jesus.  You won’t get your own way.  Your agendas and orders are not the final word here.  There is a better answer than following your own desires.  You are not the center of the universe.

Yeah, that’ll turn our worlds upside down.

What stood out to you in this chapter?  

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