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Philippians 2: This chapter contains warm and encouraging words and a beautiful hymn or poem to Christ.

Why is this chapter called great?

The words in this chapter are among the most gentle and positive in all of scripture. The hymn to Christ strikes many as beautiful. But these words about love and humility are not a set of "warm fuzzys." Paul also makes a logical, coherent argument about why the Christian is called to this, and what it means. He even provides examples of people who are doing this.

A key verse

Verse 5-7: and think the same way that Christ Jesus thought: Christ was truly God. But he did not try to remain equal with God. He gave up everything and became a slave

These words form the core of Paulís argument. He urges Christians to follow in Christís path.

Philippians 2 is composed of four sections:

  • Section 1: 2:1-4: True Humility comes from realizing that Christ loves you.
  • Section 2: 2:5-11: A Hymn to Christ who defined for us what is truly god-like behavior.
  • Section 3: 2:12-18: Lights in the World Ė this is what the Christianís life should be, out and among the struggles of the world.
  • Section 4: 2:19-30: Examples of true humility: Timothy and Epaphroditus. It is possible to live this way, and Paul gives examples.

It you liked this chapter, here are some other chapters you might want to read:

Chapter 1 of Philippians is in much the same tone as chapter 2.

The first chapter of the letter of Colossians has ideas that parallel this chapter of Philippians, and it even includes another poem about Christ.

The famous "love chapter" is 1 Corinthians 13.

About the city of Philippi

The city of Philippi is located in what was known as Eastern Macedonia, part of modern day Greece. It is at the north end of the Aegean sea, to the east of Thessalonica (another city Paul wrote letters to), north of the island of Thasos. Not a port, it was 10 miles inland. A previous settlement was rebuilt in 356 B.C. by king Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great. Philippi takes its name from this King. It also gave its name to a famous Roman battle (The Battle of Philippi) which was fought near the city. In this battle of 42 B.C., Anthony and Octavian defeated Brutus and Cassius.

In the Bible, the city of Philippi is mentioned at Acts 16:12 and 20:6, in the first verse of the book of Philippians and at 1 Thessalonians 2:2. In Acts 16 is found the story of the woman, Lydia, a "dealer in purple cloth." Purple cloth was a specialty item. Archeological evidence has been found at Philippi of commerce in this special cloth. Ruins and other evidence of Christians in the city of Philippi have been found dating as far back as the 2nd century.

 

About the book of Philippians

Philippians is a letter. It's overall structure is that of an ancient letter, though it, like most letters in the New Testament, is very much longer than any secular ancient letter that has been found. Paul wrote it from some unknown location and sent it to the Christians in the city of Philippi.

Like Paulís other letters (except for Romans) he is writing to people that he has some connection and personal contact with.

Paul is in jail when he writes, facing possible death (see 1.7, 2.17, 3.10).

No one knows for sure when Paul lived. But it is suspected that he was born about the time Jesus was, was converted to Christianity about the year 34 and started writing letters about the year 50.

Summing up the chapter

Here are some questions to think about now that you have read this chapter.

  • We often have trouble separating being humble from being weak. Does this chapter help clarify these terms?
  • We sometimes make "serving" out to be something like "self-denial." To serve, we think is to do something unpleasant that we really didnít want to do and arenít very good at. But how do the verses 12-18 affect that view with their words about being light in the world?
  • Do you know in what way that you should be serving?

Last updated 12/16/00; © 2000 John P. Nordin