Life was hard in the city of Philippi. The Christians were being persecuted for their faith. Paul, their first teacher, was in prison far away. One of their key members had fallen deathly ill. They had worked for the sake of the gospel ever since Paul first shared it with them—and the work was really hard.
And in the middle of all this, Paul tells them to rejoice. Why?
Because God is at work.
The book of Philippians is one of Paul’s most encouraging letters. Paul commends the Philippians for their earnest work in spreading the Word of God. He tells them how much he longs to see them. He warns them about potential pitfalls. He coaches them on dealing with hard times, and provides examples from his own life, other Christians, and the Lord Jesus Christ.
No matter what, the good news of Jesus will advance. God will complete His work in the Philippians’ lives. His children will have all their true needs supplied. Paul will continue to minister to them.
And that’s reason to rejoice.
Theme verse of Philippians
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Php 4:4)
Philippians’ role in the Bible
Philippians is the sixth of Paul’s letters. Of the 27 New Testament books, Paul wrote 13. Nine of these book are letters to local churches (like the one in Philippi).
No book of the Bible focuses on joy like Philippians. The imprisoned Paul hears that the Philippians are going through difficult circumstances:
- They were being persecuted for their faith (Php 1:28)
- Other teachers were trying to trouble their friend Paul while he was in prison (Php 1:17)
- Their friend Epaphroditus had gone to visit Paul but had fallen very sick (Php 2:26–27)
- False teachers were trying to submit the Gentile believers to the Old Testament law (Php 3:2)
Despite all these hardships, they were still doing their part to spread the gospel—even sending Paul a gift to provide for his needs. Paul writes this letter as a response to all this.
Like his letters to the Ephesians and Colossians, this epistle is meant to encourage the Philippians to joyfully walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (Eph 4:1; Php 1:27; Col 2:6). Whereas Ephesians focuses on how to walk as part of God’s family and Colossians focuses on the believer’s mind, Philippians focuses on the believer’s attitude. And Paul drives his point home: of all the books of the Bible, Philippians has the highest concentration of the words translated “rejoice” or “joy.”
Quick outline of Philippians
- Rejoice! Christ is our life (Php 1)
- Rejoice! Christ is our example (Php 2)
- Rejoice! Christ is our glory (Php 3)
- Rejoice! Christ is our strength (Php 4)