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New Testament Survey
Lesson Twelve


The book of Philippians is the most joyous of all the books Paul wrote.  There is scarcely a sour note in the whole book.  The result of this characteristic is that is a personal letter rather than a formal treatise.  It is addressed to the first church Paul founded in Europe and is said to be his favourite church.

The city was named after Philip the Macedonian who was the father of Alexander the Great. It had been called Daton, but was renamed Philippi which means pertaining to Philip. Later it became a Roman colony. Like all cities of the time it was a miniature of the Imperial city.  They were not under the Roman governor of the province, but had their own senate.   

The population was rich and varied.  The citizens of the city could be divided into three groups. The most dominate group was the Roman colonists.  Then there were the native Macedonians who were the most numerous.  Next there was a mixture of Orientals which included a very few Jews.  The city was the meeting place of East and West. Travellers from all over the civilized world met there daily.

The church was founded in Philippi as a result of Paul's vision in Troas of a man from Macedonia asking Paul and his company to come and help them.  The vision necessitated a drastic change of plans for Paul.  The gospel was being brought to the western world for the first time.  It appears that there was no Jewish Synagogue in the city, most likely because the Jews were a small minority.   Consequently Paul and his party went to the river to pray and minister the word to the few Jews gathered there.  

The first European convert was a lady named Lydia who was a Jewish proselyte, a seller of purple from Thyatira.  A short time after the conversion of Lydia, a slave girl followed Paul and his company and declared they showed the way of life.  She had a spirit of divination so Paul cast it out of her.  The girl's masters saw their money-making opportunity was gone so they hauled Paul and Silas before the Roman officials who beat them publicly and cast them into prison. Paul and Silas prayed and sang songs then at midnight there was an earthquake and the prison doors were opened.  The result was the jailer and his house were saved.  The Roman officials sent to release them, but Paul claimed his right as a Roman citizen and they came to him in fear.  They had beaten Paul, a Roman citizen, uncondemned a crime punishable by death.  Paul was released and left Philippi at his leisure.

The Philippian church was different than most founded by Paul in that it was largely a Gentile church.  The fellowship seemed closer among the Christians in this church than in any other church of those times.

There was no specific heresy or schism that called for disciplinary action in the church or a rebuke by the Apostle.  References to Judaizers (3:2) show them as more a potential then a present danger. Paul uses strong language, not necessarily to refute their error but more to encourage the Philippians to walk worthy of the heavenly citizenship they had been given (3:17-21).

1. The book contains 4 chapters and 104 verses.

2. The Apostle Paul was the writer of the letter.  Epaphroditus was the messenger to bring the letter to Philippi.  His name means belonging to Aphrodite (Venus).  He was the one (possibly with others) who brought the financial gift to Paul.

3. It was written between A.D. 60 and 65.  It probably was written near the end of his imprisonment so that would be around  A.D. 61 or later.

4. There is general agreement among conservative scholars that Philippians is one of the four Prison Epistles and it was written during Paul's first Roman imprisonment.  There is disagreement over whether it was written during the beginning or near the end of that imprisonment.

The time of writing does not effect the date significantly but does effect the place from which it was written.  Some suggest that it was written near the beginning of the imprisonment because they see a similarity between Philippians and Romans.  The argument states that Philippians was written soon after Romans.  There are several things that are against this view.

a. The similarity between Romans and Philippians is not as pronounced as the proponents of this view have suggested.  The similarity between Romans and Galatians is greater, as is the similarity between Colossians and Ephesians.  There are clear resemblances between Philippians and Colossians  which would suggest that they were written in the same time frame.  The argument from similarity is, at best, weak.

b. The internal evidence indicates the epistle was written from Rome, rather than Caesarea.  1:13 speaks of his bonds being manifested in the palace.  These words in Greek signify the Imperial Guard, which was a well-known part of the household of Caesar in Rome.  Then in 4:22 he brings salutations from the saints, mainly those from Caesar's household.         

c. Other factors could be considered.  It would take time for the news of Paul's arrival in Rome to reach Philippi.  They would need to have some time to raise funds and send Epaphroditus to him. Add this to the time it would take for Paul's reputation to effect the praetorian guard and penetrate the household of Caesar and some time would need to elapse.

d. In chapter 1:15,16, there were those who envied and disliked him and others who stood with him. Such animosities and loyalties would take time to develop.

e. There are indications in the epistle that Paul was not certain as to the outcome of the pending trial (1:23-26; 2:17,24). He was resigned to whatever the outcome would be but he had confidence that he would soon be released from prison to travel in ministry again.


The theme of the book is rejoicing in the Lord whether the circumstances be favourable or unfavourable.


Christ is seen as the source of the fruits of righteousness,  the theme of preaching, the One equal with God who humbled Himself, the One who arrests His called ones, and the Coming One.

Key Words

The key word is joy, along with its companion words, rejoice and gladness.  The word gospel also is a prominent word.

Key Verse

Phil.4:4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say rejoice.


1. He wrote to communicate to them his heart-felt appreciation for their thoughtful fellowship.

2. He wrote to confirm his confidence in the continued progress and to express his continued prayers for them that they would increase in their growth.

3. He wanted to clarify that his sufferings were not related to disobedience on his part nor were they a failure of the plan and purposes of God.  They were for the furtherance of the gospel.

4. He further desired to comfort them in their sufferings, showing that these sufferings were a part of God's good plan so they could bear persecutions and not come into despair.

5. He wrote to urge them to work towards unity, humility, and behaviour that was consistent with that expected of the followers of Christ, Who had been an obedient suffering servant.

6. He gave this letter to confer with them regarding the plans of sending Timothy to them to further minister to them.

7. He needed to write to them to give the reason for Epaphroditus returning to them so soon.

8. He wrote to warn them of the division caused by Judaizers.

9. He used the letter to instruct two women Euodias and Syntyche, who were in disagreement to be reconciled.

10. He gave this epistle to call them to joyfulness, prayerfulness, and diligent pursuit of all that is good.

11. He wrote to express his gratitude for their generosity and to send them greetings.

12. He wrote to remind them that God is faithful and rewards those who contribute to His kingdom.


Events and Characters

1. Paul expresses his personal thankfulness because of them and their fellowship in the gospel.  He knows God will complete the work He has begun in them, for they  have received of the same grace as Paul himself.  He expresses his longing for them and his prayer that they should have abundant knowledge and judgment, filled with His righteousness.  He explains that his imprisonment has furthered the gospel in that others have been encouraged to be bold in declaring the gospel.  Some hope to increase his problems by their preaching, but others preach for the love of the gospel.  He sees his present circumstances as an opportunity to glorify Christ, whether by life or death.  They are to be careful that their lifestyle is proper for those redeemed.  They may have to suffer but that is part of the Christian life.

2. The Philippians are instructed to be in unity, loving one another and to care for each other.  Christ is the example, Who is God yet became man, yielded to death to bring us life.  He is now exalted and all will one day be required to acknowledge His lordship.  Therefore they are to walk blamelessly in the presence of a wicked world, so that their lights will shine in the darkness.  Timothy is going to be sent to them and he is a true son whose heart is in the gospel. Epaphroditus is also coming, he nearly died but was restored through prayer.  He had risked his life for the sake of the gospel.

3. They are to beware of the Judaizers who are only evil workers sent to destroy the work of grace in their hearts.  He has reason to boast in his heritage but he counts it all loss because He has been apprehended to win Christ.  His own righteousness could not make it. His heart's cry is to know Christ in His various aspects and reach the goal for which he had been arrested by Christ.  The Philippians are to follow him rather than those who are enemies of the cross by their works of the law.  We are to remember we are heavenly creatures and that Jesus will come and our bodies be made like His.

4. The two ladies who were at odds with each other are to be united and cease their feuding.  Those ladies who had helped him were to be assisted by the church.  They were to rejoice continually, live moderately and be people of faith, praying with thankfulness, making their requests to God.  They were to think on the things that were good, pure and uplifting.  He expresses gratitude that they had once again taken up their care for him.  He had learned the secret of contentment but they did well to help him. This they had done in the past  and been the only church to do so.  He did not so much desire their gift as he desired the fruit for them as a reward of what they were doing. God would supply their need.  He concludes with the salutations.

Lessons to Remember

1. God begins the work and He will complete it, regardless of how it appears on the surface.

2. The gospel should be and is worth defending.

3. Even the adverse circumstances of our lives are ultimately intended for the advancement of the gospel.

4. Not everyone preaches the gospel for pure motives, but thank God the gospel is preached.

5. Suffering is both a part of the Christian life and an identification with Him.

6. We are to be concerned about how our brothers and sister are doing.

7. It is important to develop the humble attitude of Christ.

8. Natural heritage or religious background is not sufficient to justify us in the sight of God.

9. God has a purpose for each life and we must press into His purposes for us.

10. Contentment is a rare jewel but should be a part of the life of the Christian.



I. Rejoicing in the Progress of the Gospel    1

II. Rejoicing in Sacrificial Service    2

III. Rejoicing in Christ    3

IV. Rejoicing in the Peace of God    4

Outline (Alternative)

I. Salutations    1:1  -  2

II. Thanksgiving for Personal Fellowship    1:3  -  11

    A. Gratitude    1:3  -  5
    B. Confidence    1:6  -  8
    C. Prayer    1:9  -  11

III. Encouragement in Personal Circumstances     1:12 - 2:18

    A. Paul's Personal Courage    1:12  -  26
    B. Paul's Encouragement to the Philippians    1:27 - 30
    C. Christ, the Model for Service    2:1  -  11
    D. The Objective of Service    2:12  -  18

IV. Personal Relations with Messengers    2:19  -  30

V .Personal Warning Against Legalism    3:1  -  4:1

    A. Personal Example    3:1  -  16
    B. Exhortation to the Philippians    3:17  -  4:1

VI. Concluding Counsel    4:2  -  23

    A. Unity    4:2  -  3
    B. Joy    4:4  -  7
    C. Thought    4:8  -  9
    D. Thanksgiving    4:10  -  20
    E. Salutations    4:21  -  23

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Colosse was a large Graeco-Phrygain city on the Lycus River in the Roman proconsular "Province of Asia".  The province covered the western area of the large peninsula which today is known as Asia Minor.   The capital of the province was Ephesus which was located near the western coast of the province. Colosse was about 100 miles east of Ephesus and 10 miles from Laodicea.  Laodicea and Hierapolis were located on opposite sides of the valley of the river Lycus.  Colosse was farther north on the river itself.

These three cities, like Thyatira, (which was still further north) were well known for their manufacture of dyes, especially crimson or purple.  They were also located in excellent sheep pastureland, which provided a lucrative trade in wool.  There appears to have been a large and wealthy Jewish community in the area. Herodotus is quoted as saying that Colosse had been a great city of Phrygia, and Zenophon called it a populous, prosperous and great.  There is not record that Paul ever visited Colosse and he did not found the church there, (2:1). Epaphras may have been the founder (1:7;4:12-13).  Philemon lived there (4:9) and the church met at his house (4:17).26    

Paul had spent 3 years at Ephesus and had a great impact not only on that city but also on all the region.  He had daily discussion in the lecture room of Tyrannus and all Asia heard the word of the Lord (Acts 19:10). His success was so well-known that Demetrius was angered and alarmed that Paul persuaded many people not only in Ephesus but also throughout all Asia to follow God and forsake idols.  This would have included Colosse.   

Six years after the founding of the church in Colosse, Epaphras comes to Rome and visits Paul who was in prison.  There is a good report in general and the assurance of love.  However there are certain men of influence and eloquence who have come in and are teaching false doctrine.  These doctrines were deceptively attractive and were a danger to the church.  Paul, like Epaphras, is concerned about this and so sends this letter back to them.

The language of Paul indicates there were two major teachings that threatened the purity and practice of the Christian faith in Colosse. The one was a legalism that seemed to come out of Judaism.  The observance of sabbaths, new moons, a distinction in meats and drinks was being introduced as a part of the teaching of Christianity.  It is possible that Paul's teaching on the spiritual meaning of circumcision was to counter the initiatory rite of circumcision, that comes from Judaism.

We also see that there is an element of mystical speculation that had crept into the church.  This was alien to Judaism, but it had come as a form of gnosticism.  It is believed that they tried to show Jesus as one of many sons of God on a graduating scale from the Godhead.  It is much like the modern beliefs of Bahi Faith.  It involved contemplating the unseen world. There was a series of spiritual agencies, intermediate beings, between God and man. These were instruments of communication and objects of worship, (2:4,8,11,23).

1. Colossians contains 4 chapters made up of 95 verses.

2. The author is very clearly the Apostle Paul.  His signature appears twice in the book (1:1; 4:18).  The style of writing is that of Paul.  There is a close resemblance between the writing of Colossians and that of Ephesians. The same author wrote both books.

3. It was written about A.D. 60 or 61.

4. Colossians is the first of the four prison epistles that Paul wrote during his first Roman imprisonment.  It was therefore written from the Mamertine Prison in Rome. It was taken to the Colossians by Tychicus.


The theme of the book is the pre-eminence of Christ, over all competing systems and how believers should conduct their lives.  It shows His person and work and the believers union with Him. This is the answer to the errors that have crept in.


Christ is seen as the pre-eminent one.    He is the one of glorious power and the king of His kingdom. He is the Redeemer who is in the image of God.  He is seen as the Creator who upholds all things by His power.  He is the conqueror of the principalities and powers, the risen One.

Key Words

The key words are peace and reconciliation.  Redemption and blood could also be key words.

Key Verse

Col.1:18 And He is the head of the body the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence.


1. It was written to warn them against relapse into their former state with all the wickedness which would destroy their soul.

2. It was given to warn themr egarding the teachings of those who refused to recognize Jesus as the complete all-sufficient Saviour.

3. It was given to bring their attention to the Love of Jesus in whom the believers attain their fullness.

4. It was also written to enhance the prestige of their faithful servant and minister Epaphas.

5. Paul also used this to emphasize to the Colossians the virtue of forgiveness and kindness.

6. Paul wrote to express his desire to present them complete in Christ.

7. He encouraged them to seek spiritual things.

8. He challenged them to walk worthy of their calling, in their every day life and relationships.


Events and Characters

He begins by expressing gratefulness for their reputation of love.  He then prays that they will be increased in the knowledge of Christ and walk worthy of His name. He has delivered us and so we see Him as preeminent and as the One who has given us the victory.

He challenges them to remain faithful to the gospel they have received and not to be spoiled by vain philosophy.  It is Christ who is the fullness of the Godhead, in whom we have received circumcision and completeness.  He has defeated the enemy forces for us.

In light of all these things we are to seek that which is above and mortify those fleshly things that hinder our relationship with Him and each other.  We have put off the old nature and put on the new so we should leave the deeds of the old and put on kindness, humbleness, longsuffering and forgiveness as well love and other such attributes of the new nature.  He gives instruction that we are to encourage one another and walk in proper family and work relationships.

He encourages us to continue in prayer for him. We are to walk in wisdom in this present world and speak with grace.  He then concludes with remarks about various individuals known both to the Colossians and Paul.

Lessons to Remember

1. We are to learn from those who have faithfully served us.

2. We have been delivered  from the power of darkness and so are to walk accordingly.

3. We are to beware of enticing words which can be deceptive human philosophy.

4. We are complete in Him so should put off the body of sin and walk in Him.

5. We are a body and should nourish one another.

6. We are risen with Him so must seek those things that are heavenly.

7. We are to teach and admonish each other in songs both spiritual, from the word and our understanding.

8. Because we are risen with Him, we should live our daily lives with those around us as becomes our heavenly disposition.


I. The Supreme Glory of Christ in His Person and Work     1

    A.  His Person        15  -  19
    B.  His Work        20  -  29

II. Warning Against Error    2

    A. Enticing words of man's wisdom        1  -  10
    B. Ritualism        11  -  17
    C. Worshipping angels        18  -  19
    D. Asceticism        20  -  23

III. New Life In Christ        3

    A. Separation        1  -  9
    B. Christian Virtues        10  -  17
    C. Instructions for different people        18  -  25

IV. New Fellowship in Christ    4

    A. Exhortation to masters, workers and people        1  -  8
    B. Comments about mutual friends        9  -  17
    C. Closing        18

Outline (Alternative)

I. Salutation    1:1  -  2

II. Christ Pre-eminent in Personal Relationships     1:3 - 2:7

    A. In personal contacts    1:3  -  8
    B. In personal presentation    1:9  -  23
    C. In personal purpose    1:24  -  2:7

III. Christ Pre-eminent in Doctrine    2:8  -  3:4

    A. False philosophy versus Christ     2:8  -  15
    B. False worship versus Christ    2:16  -  19
    C. False Asceticism versus Christ    2:20  -  3:4

IV. Christ Pre-eminent in Ethics     3:5  -  4:6
    A. Negatively, "Put off..."    3:5  -  11
    B. Positively  "Put on..."     3:12  -  17
    C. In Family Relationships    3:18  -  4:1
    D.  General    4:2  -  6

V. Concluding Personal Greetings    4:7  -  18

Feed Yourself Students:

Before the next lesson arrives do the following:

1.  Read through the Books of I & II Thessalonians 2 times each.

2.  Do a Subject search in these two books on everything you can find about how Christians are to live if this present world.

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