The letter to the Philippians has been called “The Epistle of Excellent Things” and “The Epistle of Joy,” because it is full of joy and encouragement. I recommend that everyone read the hole book – several times – as an encouragement. Almost paradoxically, this joyful letter – like those of Ephesians, Colossians and Philemon – was written by Paul from prison. However, unlike many of Paul’s other letters, Philippians is not written primarily to address the problem in the church, but rather as an expression of friendship. Philippi was an incredibly patriotic
Roman category, where the message that Jesus is King was met with very strong
resistance when Paul first went on his second missionary journey. The Philippian Christians were still facing this persecution 10 years later, when Paul was writing his letter (recorded in Acts 16). Even through their problems, the Philippians were very generous towards Paul. A few times, they sent him gifts to help him in his work, one of which was the faithful Philippian Christian, Epaphroditus.
So, this letter was written for four main reasons: firstly, to thank the Philippians for their most recent gift. Secondly, to assure the Philippians that Epaphroditus had done a good job in helping Paul, but was unable to continue due to falling ill, and that he should therefore be welcomed not as a failure, but as a success.Thirdly, to encourage the Philippians in the trials through which they were going. And finally, to appeal for unity in the Philippian church, in a time when some people were causing division.
We can learn a lot from this book, but one of the central things is that God is able to give us a joy the transcends our circumstances. What can help us in this is if we are united as the body of Christ. We can and should encourage and support one another through good times and bad.