Introduction: Paul tells us that while writing this letter to the church in Philippi, he was in prison awaiting trial. Other than this, we do not know for sure where or when he wrote the letter.
Philippians: I thank God every time I remember you, because you hold me in your heart and share in God’s grace with me. May you be blameless on Christ’s coming. I want you to know that my imprisonment helped to spread the gospel, since fellow believers have been emboldened by it and dare to preach the gospel fearlessly. Be of the same mind; do not be selfish; just as Christ humbled himself despite being in the form of God, humble yourselves also. Be blameless, shine like stars in the world. I am sending Epaphroditus to you, since you were worried that he was deathly ill; you will now rejoice at seeing him again.
Beware of the evil workers, who mutilate the flesh! I am circumcised, a member of the people of Israel, a Pharisee, and blameless under the law; yet everything I have is through Christ, not the law. I have sacrificed many things to press toward the goal of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus. Imitate me; the enemies of Christ are doomed to destruction. Keep on doing the things you have learned and received from me, and God will be with you. Finally, thank you for your gift in my time of distress, and greet the believers in Philippi.
- In 1:21-24, Paul ponders his own death:
For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better;
but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you.
So Paul prefers to die, and is “hard pressed” to choose between living and dying. He finally chooses life, for the sake of the Philippians. Was Paul pondering suicide?
- Even though Paul is imprisoned, he expects to be released and to visit the Philippians shortly: “I hope therefore to send him as soon as I see how things go with me; and I trust in the Lord that I will also come soon.” (2:23-24)
- 2:6-11 is a Christian hymn that celebrates Jesus’ humility and obedience to God, even to the point of death, and subsequent exaltation. The Christology embodied in the hymn is in dispute, as is almost everything else about the hymn. Numerous books have been written on just these few verses, such as this massive 448-page tome.