Throughout August and September we are focusing upon the letter to the Philippians. We are basing the title of the series on Phil. 1:27,” stand firm in one Spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel.”
The letter to the Philippians was written sometime between 60-62 AD by the Apostle Paul who was in prison in Rome. He wrote to a faithful group of believers in Jesus Christ who lived in Philippi, an ancient city but a new Roman colony less than 100 years old established after Octavius defeated Antony (around 30 BC) and then settled Philippi with veterans from the war; transplanted Roman citizens. Now, Nero was Emperor of Rome and the pressure to worship the emperor had only increased throughout the Roman territories. The primary title for the emperor were Kyrios and Sōtēr (“Lord and Savior”) and every public event was to be given in honor of the emperor.
Paul’s purpose in writing the Philippians is to encourage them that even as he suffered in prison because he claims Jesus as Lord and Savior, they too in Philippi can resist the pressure to succumb to the emperor that cares not a twit about them and to stand together in their commitment to the true Lord, Jesus Christ who “though in the form of God emptied himself taking the form of a slave.” They can live as people striving side by side for the faith of the gospel as they seek the well-being of one another just as their true Lord, Jesus Christ, did. They can live as people whose hope rests in their true citizenship of belonging to the God on high and not be dismayed by the opposition that would frighten them to follow an earthly emperor. They can live with a joy that transcends all circumstances because Jesus their Lord is with them in all circumstances. Why? Because they follow the true Lord who turned power on its head and said, “if you want to be first be last”…”if you care for the least of these you care for me.” They follow the true Lord who assures them they are not subjects of a capricious lord but beloved partners and co-workers who are being transformed into their true identity as one’s created in God’s image.
Philippians reminds us that we know who we are as we seek to know our true Lord, Jesus. We discover our true purpose as we work together to share in the sufferings of others and live together, in all our uniqueness, by the power of the one Spirit. We can be content in all circumstances when we remember who we are in Christ.
Our challenge in reading Philippians today: Who vies for our attention? What makes it difficult to trust that Jesus is Lord? What are pressures we face from the current day “empire”? What does it mean to have faith in the gospel? How does gospel living change how we live “side by side”? What is our purpose as followers of Jesus?
May our attitude be the same as Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:5)