OVERVIEWS OF PHILIPPIANS, COLOSSIANS, AND PHILEMON
AUTHOR: Phil. 1:1 identifies the apostle Paul as the author, likely with some help from Timothy.
DATE OF WRITING: The Book was written in approximately 61 A.D.
PURPOSE OF WRITING: As one of Paul's prison epistles, the Book was written from Rome. It was at Philippi, during Paul's Second Missionary Journey (Acts 16:12), that the Philippian jailer, his family, and Lydia were converted to Christ. By this time the church there was well established, as may be implied because the letter is also addressed to its "bishops (elders) and deacons" (Phil. 1:1). The occasion for the writing was to acknowledge a gift of money from the church at Philippi, delivered to Paul by Epaphroditus, one of its members (Phil. 4:10-18). It is an affectionate letter to a group of Christians who were close to the Paul's heart and says comparatively little about doctrinal error.
BRIEF SUMMARY: The book is about Christ in our life, Christ in our mind, Christ as our goal, Christ as our strength, and joy through suffering. It was written about thirty years after Christ's ascension and about ten years after Paul first preached at Philippi. Although Paul as imprisoned, the epistle fairly bursts with triumph, the words "joy" and "rejoice" appearing over and over. The right Christian experience and attitude is the outworking of our faith, whatever our circumstances may be.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Philippians is one of Paul's most personal letters, and as such it has several personal applications to believers. Written during his imprisonment in Rome, Paul exhorts the Philippians to follow his example and be "encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly" (Phil. 1:14) during times of persecution. All Christians have experienced, at one time or another, the animosity of unbelievers against the gospel of Christ. This is to be expected. Jesus said that the world hated Him and it will hate His followers as well (John 15:18). Paul exhorts us to persevere in the face of persecution, to "stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel" (Phil. 1:27).
AUTHOR: The apostle Paul was the primary writer, with Timothy also given credit (Col. 1:1).
DATE OF WRITING: The Book of was most likely written between 58-62 A.D.
PURPOSE OF WRITING: The first half of the Book of Colossians is a theological treatise that includes one of the most profound presentations of Christology anywhere in the New Testament. The second half is a mini-ethics course, addressing every area of Christian life. Paul progresses from the individual life to the home and family, from work to the way we should treat others. The theme of this book is the Lordship of Jesus Christ and His sufficiency in meeting our needs in every area.
BRIEF SUMMARY: Colossians was written explicitly to defeat the heresy that had arisen in Colosse, which endangered the existence of the church. While we don't know what was told to Paul about it, his response in this letter indicates that this heresy taught a defective view of Christ, which denied His real and true humanity and did not accept His full deity. Paul also appears also to dispute the "Jewish" emphasis on circumcision and traditions (Col. 2:8-11; 3:11). And the heresy itself appears to have been either a Jewish version of Gnosticism or a mix between Jewish asceticism and Greek (Stoic?) philosophy. As with many early churches, the issue of Jewish legalism in Colosse was of great concern to Paul. The concept of salvation by grace apart from works seemed radical to those who were steeped in Old Testament law, so that there was a continual movement among these legalists to add certain requirements from the law to this new faith.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Although Paul addresses many areas, the basic application for us today is the total and complete sufficiency of Christ in our lives, both for our salvation and our sanctification. We must know and understand the gospel so as not to be led astray by subtle forms of legalism and heresy. We must likewise be on guard for any deviation that would diminish the centrality of Christ as Lord and Savior. Moreover, any "religion" that tries to equate itself with the truth using books that claim the same authority as the Bible, or which combines human effort with divine accomplishment in salvation must be avoided, and they can't be combined with or added to Christianity. Christ gives us absolute standards of moral conduct: Christianity is a family, a way of life, and a relationship-not a religion. Good deeds, astrology, occultism and horoscopes do not show us God's ways. Only Christ does. His will is revealed in His word, His love letter to us; we must get to know it!
AUTHOR: The apostle Paul was the author of the Book (Phile. 1:1).
DATE OF WRITING: The Book of was written in approximately 60 A.D.
PURPOSE OF WRITING: The shortest of all Paul's writings, the letter deals with the practice of slavery. Philemon was a slave owner who also hosted a church in his home. During the time of Paul's ministry in Ephesus, Philemon had likely journeyed to the city, heard Paul's preaching and became a Christian. The slave Onesimus robbed his master, Philemon, and ran away, making his way to Rome and to Paul. Onesimus was still the property of Philemon, and Paul wrote to smooth the way for his return to his master. Through Paul's witnessing to him, Onesimus had become a Christian, and Paul urged Philemon to accept Onesimus as a brother in Christ and not merely as a slave (Phile. 10).
BRIEF SUMMARY: Paul had warned slave owners that they had a responsibility towards their slaves and treated slaves as responsible moral beings who were to fear God. In Philemon, Paul did not condemn slavery but presented Onesimus as a Christian brother rather than a slave. When an owner sees his slave as a brother, the slave has reached a position in which the legal title of slave is essentially meaningless. While the early church did not attack slavery directly, it did lay a foundation for a new relationship between owner and slave, and here, Paul is attempting to unite both Philemon and Onesimus with Christian love so that emancipation would become necessary.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Employers, political leaders, corporation executives and parents can follow the spirit of Paul's teaching by treating Christian employees, co-workers and family members as members of Christ's Body. Christians in modern society must not view subordinates as stepping stones to help them achieve their ambitions but as Christian brothers and sisters who must receive gracious treatment. In addition, all Christian leaders must recognize that God holds them accountable for the treatment of those who work for them, whether the helpers are Christians or not. They must eventually answer to God for their actions (Col. 4:1).