Shout Joy: What Was Paul Thinking?

Photo by  Rubén Vique

Photo by Rubén Vique

This week marks the final week in our Shout Joy! blog series. We have looked at several elements to the book of Philippians. 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. In this final week, we take a look at four themes found in the book of Philippians. Regardless of what Paul was writing about, these four themes were prominent in everything he wrote to the Philippians.

What Was Paul Thinking About When He Wrote Philippians?

  1. Joy
    • “Philippians is unified by its joyful, almost exuberant mood (the words for “joy” or “rejoice” occur more than a dozen times).”1 Despite Paul’s circumstances, he is joyful and encourages the Philippians to follow his lead in this unconditional joy. Their joy was not to be found in circumstances but rather in the gospel of Jesus Christ. His life, death, and resurrection brought them peace between God and one another. Because of what Jesus had done for them, they were then to live in joy.
  2. Encouragement
    • Related to the above theme of joy, Paul wanted to encourage the Philippian church. He recognized that both his circumstances and the circumstances of the church were not ideal. Nonetheless, because of God’s work in their lives, Paul wanted to offer them hope. In particular, Paul encouraged the Philippian church for sending Epaphroditus with a gift for him. Paul also encouraged them for partnering with him in his ministry throughout the Greco-Roman world.
  3. Unity
    • Although already discussed in the purpose of the book, unity is a significant theme in Philippians. Because of the nature of the church at Philippi, there was strife and divisiveness among its people. Utilizing the example of Jesus in Philippians 2:1-11, Paul encourages the Philippians to be united by humbling themselves and thinking of each other over their individual selves. In maintaining unity, the church at Philippi is again a beacon for the gospel.
  4. Suffering
    • Finally, suffering is a significant theme throughout the book of Philippians. From the onset of the letter, Paul lets the church know that he is imprisoned and could die. At the conclusion of the letter, Paul reminds the church that he “knows how to be brought low, and I know how to abound” (Philippians 4:12). Suffering is an important element of Paul’s life and ministry and therefore a crucial element throughout the book of Philippians.

1”Introduction to Philippians,” in the ESV Study Bible (Wheaton: Crossway, 2014), 2278.