Welcome to the overview of Philippians.
Who wrote this? The Apostle Paul (formerly known as Saul).
Paul’s story was recounted three times in the Book of Acts, in chapters 9, 22 and 26. His conversion is amazing and important for a couple major reasons. First, if the main persecutor of Christians and the church can be converted, anyone can. His job was to destroy Christians and Christianity. Jesus even said, “Saul, Saul why do you persecute me?” Yet he was forgiven and transformed. He became the first missionary to the Gentiles (non-Jews) and arguably the best missionary ever.
Second, Paul was a first-rate Jew in every measurable way. He listed his credentials in Philippians 3 and 2 Corinthians 11 yet pointed out how that wasn’t enough to reconcile himself to God. So if Paul still needed Jesus, then everyone does.
It is important to note that Paul wrote this while in jail. His message of joy is that much more powerful considering his environment.
Who was Paul writing to, and why was he writing? New Testament letters were typically written to correct false teachings, but Philippians was an exception. It is mainly a thank-you letter to the church in Philippi, Greece that Paul had started and that had helped him immensely. This church most likely helped and fed Paul when he was in the Philippian jail in Acts 16:25-40. In those times, if someone didn’t come to feed the prisoners they might starve to death.
When was it written? Roughly 61 AD, which is nearly thirty years after Jesus’ resurrection and roughly three years before Paul was put to death for being a Christian.
The resounding theme of Philippians is joy. He mentions joy or rejoice sixteen times. Only Luke mentions joy more, and that book is twelve times the length of this one. So Philippians has more joy per page than any book in the Bible.
It is important to note the distinction between happiness, which depends on current circumstances, and the joy of Christ, which depends on Jesus. We can be unhappy yet joyful at the same time.
I encourage you to read the whole book of Philippians quickly then go back through one chapter at a time.
If you really want to dig deeply into this incredible book, I recommend James MacDonald’s audio series, I Choose Joy. It contains about eight hours of a series of sermons which cover Philippians verse by verse. Many of my study notes will come from that series.
The next reading is Philippians 1.