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Philippi was the Macedonian city established by Phillip II, the father of Alexander the Great. When the city came under Roman control, Paul is credited to have established the Church there. He reportedly made three visits to Philippi and thus developed a special attachment for the Church of the great city. The Letter is written by Paul to the Christians of Philippi and sets out some of the noblest thoughts in Christianity, joy, humility and spiritual stability. (MacArthur. MacArthur. 2001).
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It is undoubtedly the most profound epistle in the Bible. Though it is short, only four chapters and 104 verses, it covers some of the most significant issues in life, overcoming the drudgery of suffering, seeking joy, the eternal boon that comes about through humility and the ultimate salvation for any human being, spiritual stability.
The Letter to the Philippians is also known as the Epistle of Joy. A number of issues would have been missing in the Bible had it been left out. Firstly is its fine message of humility, joy, spiritual stability and contentment. The practical message by Paul to the Philippians to strive through suffering for there is ultimate joy has been very aptly covered in the Epistle which too would have been missing. The link of Christianity with the people of Greece and the struggle by the people of ancient Greece to uphold the tenets of Christianity would also have been missing without the Letters.
The occasion for writing the letter is most certainly an acknowledgement for the gift of money received by Paul from the Philippians sent through Epaphroditus. He also desired to inform them of his concern for their welfare and assure them that though imprisoned, he would continue to spread the message of God. It was thus a means of reassurance for the Philippians as well as a grateful acknowledgement of their consideration for him as well as the work of God in general through their contributions.
The Church at Philippi was undergoing a turbulent period. While it appears that it was financially quite stable and had been providing monetary support to Paul during his journeys and at other times for which he had been frequently applauding them, they were under pressure from other religions in Philippi, particularly Judaism as is evident from Paul's references to circumcision in the Letter. (Wilson, 2006).
The purpose for the Letter thus is manifold, one could possibly be to recommend Epaphroditus to the Philippians who had come to help Paul in prison but had fallen ill, and another could be to reassure them of his welfare. The sustenance of belief in Christ was another salient reason as it was quite evident that the Philippians were under pressure from other religions to embrace their practices and beliefs. The final intention was to provide them stability amidst strife. Paul went about explaining these issues to the Philippians in a generic manner so as to provide encouragement and inspiration in a life full of anxiety, struggle and fear. (Wilson, 2006).
The most important lesson that Paul's letter to the Philippians provides is how to live a life of joy and happiness in a World despite periods of despair, depression and dissatisfaction. Paul provides us a guiding light to bring joy in our life which comes about not by any chance or circumstances, but through a deep confidence in our own selves, faith in God and belief in the virtues of Christianity and finally in the persona of the Lord. This enables us to live through misery with equanimity. (MacArthur. The Epistle of Joy. 1997).
Through this creation of joy within ourselves, comes spiritual stability which is a lesson which we should imbibe, one which will provide us the resolve to live through the many travesties of life and living. This will enable me to proceed with life without rancor or cynicism, taking the good and the bad in the same stride. (MacArthur. Spiritual Stability. 1997). Thus there will be no pressure, no compromise, no lure of the lucre or hedonist pleasures of carnality, dilemmas which modern life seems to impose on us constantly. This will inspire me to a life of integrity, develop my character and instill solidity. A combination of the feeling of joy and spiritual stability will provide the ultimate, contentment. (MacArthur. Secret of Contentment, 1997). These are the certainly the most significant lessons of the Letter to the Philippians.
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