Introduction to Philippians


Author, Date, and Recipients

The apostle Paul wrote this letter to the Christians in Philippi, probably from Rome c. A.D. 62.


Paul encourages the Philippians to live as citizens of a heavenly city, growing in their commitment to serve God and one another. Jesus is the supreme example of this way of life. Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus try to be good examples as well.


Paul wrote to the Philippians from prison. He had several purposes in mind: (1) to tell them that Epaphroditus had recovered from a serious illness; (2) to encourage them in their faith; (3) to assure them that he was still in good spirits; and (4) to thank them for their continued support.

Key Themes

  1. Christians need to keep making spiritual progress (1:12, 25; 3:12–16).
  2. Such progress requires a proper spiritual outlook (1:5–11; 2:1–11; 3:7, 15; 4:7–9).
  3. Christ is the supreme example for the Christian. Mature Christians can also serve as role models (1:12–26; 2:5–11, 19–30; 3:3–17; 4:9).
  4. Suffering will come, but Christians can still be joyful (1:12–26; 2:14–15; 4:4, 11–13, 19).
  5. Prayer is crucial for maintaining a joyful Christian life (1:3–11; 4:5–7).
  6. Christians can enjoy rich relationships with one another; they can be united in service to promote the gospel (1:4, 7, 24–27; 2:1–4, 19–30; 4:2–4, 14).
  7. Keeping the law cannot provide a right standing with God; believers are saved only through their faith in Jesus Christ (3:2–10).
  8. Jesus is fully God and fully man. Because of his suffering on the cross, he is now glorified as Lord and Christ (2:5–11).


  1. Greeting and Prayer (1:1–11)
  2. Paul’s Reflections on His Imprisonment (1:12–30)
  3. Encouragement to Humble Service (2:1–30)
  4. Opponents of the Gospel: Where Does Righteousness Come From? (3:1–21)
  5. Concluding Encouragement and Thanksgiving (4:1–23)

The Setting of Philippians

c. A.D. 62

Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians while in prison, probably in Rome. Philippi was the site of a key military victory by Augustus Caesar, and as a result it was made a Roman colony. Philippi was the first city in present-day Europe where Paul established a church.

The Setting of Philippians