though the only places of imprisonment mentioned in the biblical record are Philippi (Acts 16:23), Jerusalem (Acts 22:23-30), Caesarea (Acts 24:23-27) and Rome (Acts 28:16,30). Of these four places, Rome is the most likely as the place from which Paul wrote his letter to the Philippian church. Ephesus has also been suggested as a possibility. There is no doubt that Paul met severe opposition in Ephesus (1 Cor 15:32), but there is no certainty that he was imprisoned there.
Purpose of the letter If the letter was written from Rome, the occasion was probably Paul’s two-year imprisonment when he was awaiting the outcome of his appeal to Caesar (Acts 25:12; 27:1; 28:16,30). The church in Philippi sent one of its members, Epaphroditus, to Rome to help Paul and to give him a gift from the church. Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians to thank them for the gift (Phil 1:5; 4:18) and to correct wrong attitudes that had developed among some in the church (Phil 2:1-4,14; 4:2-3). The Philippian church was the first church Paul established in Europe (Acts 16:11-40; see PHILIPPI) and he seems to have had a special affection for it (Phil 4:1). His letter to it was warm and optimistic, expressing the hope of a quick release and an early visit to Philippi (Phil 1:25,27; 2:24). Contents of the letter After thanking the Philippians for their partnership in the gospel, Paul prays for their further spiritual growth (1:1-11).
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Far from being discouraged because of his imprisonment, he rejoiced over the good that has come from it (1:12-26). Paul encourages the Philippian believers to be united (1:27-30) and to have the same humility and concern for others as Christ had (2:1-11). They must demonstrate in practice the nature of their salvation (2:12-18). For two examples of practical Christianity, he refers them to Epaphroditus and Timothy (2:19- 30). Developing the idea of Christian completeness, Paul shows that it comes not from lawkeeping, but from the power of the living Christ within (3:1-16). The certainty of Christ’s return should encourage Christians to be more holy (3:17-21), as they submit to each other and trust steadfastly in God (4:1-7). In a final note of thanks, Paul assures them that God will reward their sacrificial giving (4:8-23).