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.
Tags: Bible, BIble reading, confidence, joy, Lydia, Paul, Philippi, Philippians, prison, Prison Epistles, Roman, thank you letter
Though some have doubted it because of the lack of personal greetings so common in his letters, the apostle Paul is stated twice as the author of Ephesians (1:1; 3:1), a letter likely written while the apostle was under house arrest in Rome (3:1; 4:1; 6:20) around AD 60. The other Prison Epistles — Colossians, Philippians, and Philemon — would have been written at this same time, and we will be reading all four together in the next month.
The Temple of Artemis
Ephesus was an important city in the ancient world and in the life of Paul. Situated at the nexus of sea and land trading routes, Ephesus became both a commercial and cultural center, by far the most important in Asia Minor and one of the top five most important cities on the Mediterranean. Home to the Temple of Artemis (Diana), one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, Ephesus also became a religious center as pilgrims flocked to the temple seeking a blessing from the many-breasted fertility goddess. You may recall it was Ephesus where the silversmiths rallied a large part of the city to chant “Great is the Artemis of the Ephesians” for two straight hours (Acts 19:23-34). Paul spent almost three years here (Acts 19:10) growing very close to the leaders in the church and using the Ephesian church as a home base for his evangelism of western Turkey. This Ephesian church is the one to whom Paul sent Timothy in 1 and 2 Timothy towards the end of the apostle’s life in an effort to set them straight when they apparently went off track. John would warn the Ephesian church to regain their “first love” in Revelation 2.
Ephesians may be the most general of Paul’s letters. Whereas Paul usually addressed a problem or threat to the church, he only seems to be encouraging the Christians in Ephesus to know how blessed they are and to stand firm in those blessings appreciating the high calling of the Church. In a unique way, Ephesians talks about how the work of God on behalf of Christians impacts all areas of life — spiritual, religious, ethnic, and social. The general nature of this letter makes some theorize Ephesians was really a circular letter sent to many churches in western Turkey.
Tags: Artemis, background, Bible, BIble reading, blessing, church, Diana, Ephesians, Ephesus, Paul, prison, Timothy