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"Amillennialism 101" -- Audio and On-Line Resources
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"At the Day of Jesus Christ" -- Philippians 1:1-11

The Second in a Series of Sermons on Philippians

The Apostle Paul is in prison.  He’s facing a possible death sentence.  He is writing to a church which he helped to found a decade earlier, offering them words of encouragement while also exhorting them to regard themselves as citizens of heaven.  Despite the difficulties Paul is facing while imprisoned, even the casual reader of Philippians cannot help but notice the constant refrain of joy throughout this letter–in fact, Paul uses the word for joy as a noun or a verb sixteen times in the epistles’s four chapters.  The Philippian Christians reading this letter are enduring well despite the persecution they are facing.  One of their number–a man named Epaphroditus (who perhaps a pastor or an elder)–has learned of Paul’s imprisonment, and has come with an offer of help for Paul from the Philippians, who regard Paul as their father in the faith.  This reflects their sincere desire to help the Apostle.  Paul hopes to send Timothy to Philippi to encourage them, but in the meantime he composes this short letter encouraging the members of this church to progress in joy and in the faith, and he sends it back with Epaphroditus.  Philippians is truly a wonderful letter, and I am sure our time spent studying it will be a blessing to us all.

Whenever we begin a new series on a book of the Bible, it is important to know who wrote the particular document, when it was written, and under what historical circumstances.  Such information is vital so that we understand the context in which the book was written, and so that we interpret the book correctly.  This is also a great aid in preventing the all-too common tendency among American Christians to turn every book in the Bible into “my story,” and focus on tips for Christian living or timeless truths or principles for success, rather than understand that as we go through the various books of the Bible (tied to real history), God is including us in that redemptive-history.  He is actually rewriting our own self-understanding by including us in the on-going story of how it is that God redeems sinful people–like the Philippians and like us.  For this to happen, we need to know and understand the context of these books.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is one of the few books of the Bible virtually unchallenged by critical scholars.  It is accepted by most everyone that this letter was written by the Apostle Paul to the church in Philippi founded about AD 50.  The letter to the Philippians was composed by Paul between the mid-fifties of the first century, and perhaps as late as 60-62 AD.  The only debate among scholars is what were Paul’s exact circumstances when this letter was written.  We do know that when Paul writes this letter, he is a prisoner–he mentions this fact three times in the first chapter alone (1:7, 13, 17).  

Paul does not say where he is imprisoned, and those who argue for an earlier date for the composition of this letter contend that Paul’s imprisonment is in the city of Ephesus or even Caesarea.  But Paul’s Roman imprisonment is much more likely given his reference to the Praetorium in verse 13 of the opening chapter (the Praetorium is the “imperial guard” in Rome).  We know from the closing chapters of the Book of Acts that while appealing his arrest to Caesar (Acts 28; 16, 30-31), Paul lived in a rented house in Rome, Timothy was present with him (1:1; 2:19-23), and that a Roman soldier was assigned to guard him while Paul remained under house arrest.  A Roman imprisonment also fits with Paul’s directive in Philippians 4:22 to extend greetings from Christians in Caesar’s household to their Christian brothers and sisters in Philippi.  A date of 60-62 is most likely, about 10-12 years after Paul had first preached the gospel in Philippi and founded a church as we discussed last time when we considered Acts 16 and the gospel’s arrival on the European mainland.

To read the rest of this sermon:  Click Here

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