Shout Joy!: Why Write a Letter

Photo by  insEyedout

Photo by insEyedout

Over the past few weeks as we have walked through our “Shout Joy!” series, we’ve taken a look at a few sections from our Philippians Intro Booklet. Remember, you can find all of the resources for this series, including the sermon video and audio, sermon notes, community group discussion guides, and an introduction to the book of Philippians here. One of the most important parts to understanding any part of the Bible is to understand why it was important. Throughout the book of Philippians, Paul gives his readers some clear reasons why he wrote to the church at Philippi. Here are four reasons why Paul wrote to the church at Philippi.

Why Did Paul Write to the Philippians?

  1. A Desire To Say Thanks
    More than anything, Paul simply wanted to tell the Philippian church thank you for sending Epaphroditus to Rome with a gift for Paul. Throughout Philippians, Paul “expresses his gratitude to his friends for their generosity (4:10-20; cf. 1:3, 5; 2:25-30), as evidenced in the recent gift Epaphroditus had brought.”1 Because Epaphroditus fell ill, Paul was delayed in sending him back and thanking the Philippians. Nonetheless, when Epaphroditus recovered, Paul made sure to take the opportunity to thank the Philippian church.
  2. An Update on Paul’s Circumstances
    “Paul wrote also to bring them up to date on the news about himself, about his present situation, and about the prospects for his future, namely, that he was in danger and was suffering but was at the same time rejoicing and optimistic.”2 The Philippian church had heard about Paul and, because of the report, had sent Epaphroditus with a gift for Paul. Therefore, it was only fitting that Paul provide the church with an update on his condition. In his report Paul is able to share with the Philippians that “what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ” (Philippians 1:12-13). Thus Paul’s letter to the Philippian church is an update of his imprisonment and his ministry in Rome.
  3. A Warning Regarding Judaizers
    Paul is emphatic that the Philippian church needs to watch out for Judaizers. In Philippians 3:2-3 he writes, “Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the real circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh.” Judaizers were Jewish Christians who were preaching that Christians were required to follow the Mosaic Law. This meant that men needed to be circumcised and all Christians needed to follow elements of the Mosaic Law like dietary rules held by the Jews. Paul warned the Philippian church of these Judaizers, believing that “their teaching was pernicious, their example ungodly, and their final destination eternal ruin and separation from the presence of the Lord.”3
  4. A Plea To Remain United in the Gospel
    Finally, Paul desired more than anything that the Philippian church remain united in the gospel. In Philippians 1:27, Paul writes, “Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one Spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Emphasis mine). In Philippians 2:2, Paul tells the church to be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” Paul tells the church to “stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved” (Philippians 4:1). He asks that Euodia and Syntyche “to agree in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2). The church at Philippi was not perfect. Like any other church, division, disputes, and rivalries existed in the Philippian church. Paul desired that the church at Philippi would remain united around the gospel, both glorifying Jesus in their unity and reaching Philippi with the message of Jesus.

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1 Peter T. O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians in The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 35.
2 Ralph P. Martin and Gerald F. Hawthorne, Philippians, rev., in vol. 43 of the Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville: Nelson, 2004), lvi.
3O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians, 36.