city of Philippi
was named after Philip II of Macedon, the father of Alexander the Great. He fortified it and exploited its mineral wealth,
having conquered it in 360 B.C. The city became a Roman colony in 167 B.C. Its population was a mixture of indigenous
Thracian, Greek and Latin families. Consequently there was a great variety of divinities and religious cults. There
was a Jewish community to whom were attached the Gentile “God fearers”, who worshipped the God of the Jews.
A description of the foundation of the church at Philippi is found in Acts 16:9–40.
Here we learn that Paul was specifically instructed to go into northern Greece
(as we now call Macedonia) to preach the
gospel there. When he preached in Philippi and founded a church there he was accused
of introducing an alien cult. This was because Christianity, unlike Judaism and other religions did not have the sanction
of the state as a religion and was thus technically unlawful.
Having founded the church Paul kept in touch with it and, as this letter reveals, received various gifts from the members.
He wrote the letter from Rome when he was in prison
there (Acts 28:16). His imprisonment was more like what is called today “house arrest” and so he was free
to employ a scribe and obtain papyrus to write his letters.
The obvious reason for his writing this letter was to thank the Philippians for the gift which they had sent him to help him
when he was in need. It is a very personal letter sent to his first converts on European soil. He urges the Christians
to live humbly and worthy of their calling as disciples of Christ. The letter is impregnated with the themes of joy,
confidence in God, unity in Christ and perseverance in the Christian life and faith.