Philippians - How to Have Real Joy

  • Philippines is often referred to as the letter of joy. The words “joy” and “rejoicing” are used eighteen times throughout the book. The words “sin” and “sins” are not found in this epistle. In fact, we find no murmuring or complaining. Paul finds joy as he prays for the people in their tribulation (1:4). Happiness depends on happenings, but joy depends on Christ.
  • The book was written to the church at Philippi by Paul while he was in prison in Rome. In obedience to the Macedonian call, Paul had taken the Gospel to Philippi on his second missionary journey. There was no synagogue there, so he met with interested people at the riverside. As a result, a church was established, which was the first church in Europe.
  • At the time of this writing, Epaphroditus had brought a contribution to Paul from the church in Philippi (4:18). While he was in Rome, he became so ill he almost died (2:27). When he was well enough, Paul sent him back with this letter of thanks and an explanation of Epaphroditus’ long absence.
  • The unusual thing about this letter is that Paul’s situation was such that there appears to be no reason for him to be rejoicing. He was a Roman prisoner, chained to a Roman soldier, and was not permitted to preach in public. His case was coming up shortly, and there was a possibility he might even be beheaded. Yet, in spite of his circumstances, Paul was filled with joy.
  • The initial reason for Paul writing this book was to thank the Philippians for their love gift. However, he also took advantage of this opportunity to address some of the problems in the church. Those included rivalries (2:3-4), the teaching of the Judaizers (3:1-3), perfectionism (3:12-14), antinomian influence that was creeping in (3:18-19), and personal ambitions (4:2).
  • The Philippian believers had enjoyed a very special relationship with Paul, so he wrote them a personal expression of his love and affection. They had brought him great joy (4:1).
  • Paul’s desire to know Christ above all else is wonderfully expressed in 3:8-9: “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him."

The outline that Warren Wiersbe gives to this epistle is as follows:

  1. Joy in spite of circumstances (chapter 1).
  2. Joy in spite of people (chapter 2).
  3. Joy in spite of things (chapter 3).
  4. Joy that defeats worry (chapter 4).