The authorship of Philippians is generally accepted to be from Paul. In the first verse of
Philippians, the Apostle Paul clearly states that he is the one writing, which is typical of most of
his letters attributed to him, but he does not clearly state his apostleship like in most of his letters.
However, his letter is slightly different, because does Paul only write himself down as the author,
but he as includes Timothy as well (Phil 1:1). Even though he includes Timothy as an “author”,
Paul clearly is the one responsible for the contents of the letter. For example, Paul uses personal
pronouns like “I” and “me”, which excludes Timothy.1
Philippians is very similar to many of
Paul’s other letters, which also attests to his authorship. Church history also affirms this.
Polycarp, Irenaeus, Clement and other church fathers solely assign the letter to Paul.2 Therefore,
it is safe to say that the other of the letter can be no one else than Paul, and there is nothing that
can strongly argue against it.
The date and place that the letter of Philippians was written is important to the context of
the letter, specifically who Paul’s opponents were and what they thought.3 We know from the
letter that Paul was in prison when he wrote the letter (Phil 1:7, 13, 16), most likely under house
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arrest in Rome.4 Paul was under imprisonment for two years, during which he also wrote the
other prison epistles. Some scholars argue based of internal evidence that his was one of Paul’s
first prison epistles, and others argue that it was one of the last ones.5 Regardless, scholars place
the date of Philippians to be somewhere in the late A.D. 50s to the early A.D. 60s based off this
two year time period he was under arrest.
The occasion or purpose that Paul wrote Philippians is mostly for pastoral reasons. Paul
seems to have wrote to reassure and edify the church at Philippi. The Philippians had sent
Epaphroditus with a gift for Paul and to help him out in prison, and Paul writes to tell the
Philippians to welcome him back because of the hardships he faced.6 He also writes to explain:
what his present circumstances are (Phil 1:12-26), to announce Timothy’s future visit (Phil 2:19),
to express his thanks for the Philippians’ gift (Phil 4:10-14), and to encourage them in Christ
(Phil 3:1, 4:4).
7 Paul also warns them against false teaching from the Judaizers and
antinomiantists (Phil 3-4:1), and makes an appeal to reconcile two women (Phil 4:2-3).8
The recipient of Paul’s letter were addresses as “all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at
Philippi” (Phil 1:1). Paul arrived at Philippi in A.D. 50 on one of his missionary journeys, and he
founded the church there. One of the first converts was Lydia, and based off Acts 16:15, her
house was where the church met at.9 Since Philippi was a Roman colony, the majority of its
citizens were Roman citizens. As for the church at Philippi, the members were most likely poor
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(2 Cor 8:1-2), and they were undergoing persecution (Phil 1:28-30). This is why Paul writes with
themes like joy, fellowship, and the gospel.10
Paul’s letter of Philippians is one of Paul’s four prison epistles. This letter can be split up
into five different parts: his salutation, his missionary report, the Philippians partnership in the
gospel, arguments against false teaching, and his benediction. The main theme in this letter is
participating in gospel, in which Paul exemplifies Jesus’s self-sacrifice, and everything that Paul
talks about deals with that theme in some way.11
Paul’s letter of Philippians starts off like most of Paul’s letters. He gives his standard
introduction in Philippians 1:1-11, consisting of a salutation, thanksgiving, and a prayer. Unlike
his other letters, Paul does not make an effort to emphasize his apostleship in this section. In
Philippians 1:3-8, he gives his thanksgiving for the Philippians’ participation in the gospel. Paul
continues in Philippians 1:9-11 to offer a prayer for them, which calls for their love to abound,
for them to have discernment, and for them to be filled with the “fruit of righteousness”. Paul
prays that all of these bring glory and praise to God (Phil 1:11). Paul continues in Philippians
1:12-26 with a missionary report of what has been going on with him. He proceeds from his
introduction to explain his personal circumstances and sufferings. He does this because the
church of Philippi was interested in hearing about him since he was imprisoned, and his
explanation would be beneficial for them trying to follow Christ in the midst of persecution.12
Paul began this section by explaining that his imprisonment has “served to advance the gospel”
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(Phil 1:12). He emphasizes that, despite opposition and persecution, the gospel is being
proclaimed. Philippians 1:12-18 is Paul’s explanation of his present imprisonment, which also
serve as a positive model for all believers going through sufferings for Christ. Paul even goes as
far to say that he is rejoicing regardless of the suffering he is going through, simply because of
the fact that the God is being glorified (Phil 1:18). Paul then goes on in Philippians 1:19-26 to
talk about his hopeful future deliverance. He tells of this so the church at Philippi would adopt
the same outlook that he has on his suffering and maybe they would apply that to their own
The next section Philippians 1:27-4:9 is the majority of the letter as well has its heart.
Here, Paul discusses the Philippians partnership in the gospel, which has a lot packed into it.
Paul starts out in Philippians 1:27-30 to talk about the Philippians living a life worthy of gospel.
Paul expresses that he wants to come back and see them, but if he cannot make it, then he still
wants them to stand firm in the Spirit. These few verses stand as a topic sentence for the rest of
the section. These verses expresses Paul’s desire for the Philippians, and later Paul will explain
and illustrate what makes up a live worthy of the gospel.14
In Philippians 2:1-4, Paul tells the church of Philippi to be unified in Christ. He explains
that they can do this by being “like-minded”, “having the same love”, and “being one in the spirit
and of one mind” (Phil 2:2).
B. Unity and steadfastness 2:1—4:1
1. Walking in unity ch. 2
2. Walking in steadfastness 3:1—4:1
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C. Specific duties 4:2-9
1. Restoring unity 4:2-3
2. Maintaining tranquility 4:4-9
IV. Epilogue 4:10-20
A. The recent gift 4:10-14
B. The previous gifts 4:15-20
V. Greetings and benediction 4:21-23
The second section of Paul’s letter takes place in Romans 1:18 to 3:20. In this section
Paul gives his explanation that everyone needs the gospel of Christ. Since everyone lacks the
righteousness that God requires, everyone must trust in Christ, or else they are subject to God’s
condemnation.15 Paul starts to explain this need of all people’s for God’s righteousness in
Romans 1:18-32. Paul tries to widen the focus of this section to emphasize that this is for
Gentiles and not just Jews. He explains the reasons for human guilt, why humans are ungodly,
and the reasons that humans are wicked. Paul shows that mankind is condemned for refusing to
accept God in regards to general revelation. In Romans 2:1-3:8, Paul shifts more to talk about
mankind’s failure to respond to special revelation. This section is more focused on the Jews
because they had Old Testament knowledge unlike the Gentiles.
16 Paul addresses people who
think they are already “good” and reveals to them that no one can be truly good or righteous on
their own, but they can only be through Christ. He also explains God’s principles of judgement
and the guiltiness of the Jews, and then answers some objections that the Romans might have.
Paul, in Romans 3:9-20, once again describes the guilty of all humanity, Jew or Gentile, and their
15 Constable, Notes on Romans 25.
16 Ibid. 35.
need for a savior. He also clarifies that works of the law are based on faith, and it is by faith
alone through Christ that brings about justification and thus God’s righteousness.
The second major section that Paul goes into is his explanation of imputation of God’s
righteousness, which he covers in Romans 3:21-5:21. In this section, Paul explains how we
receive righteousness, which is by grace from God through faith. So, having proved in the
previous section that justification based off good works or legalistic following of the law is
impossible, Paul presents the method of salvation based on the gospel of Christ.
17 Paul starts off
with a description of justification in Romans 3:21-26. Then, he goes into his defense and
reaffirmation of justification by faith alone in Romans 3:27-31. Paul then gives proof of
justification by faith from the law in Romans 4. Paul shows that God justified people by faith in
the Old Testament, and if Paul could convince his Jewish readers of this, then he could prove to
them that justification is by faith alone.
18 In Romans 4:1-5, he describes Abraham’s faithfulness
which justified him. Paul moved on in Romans 4:6-8 to talk about David’s description of the
justified to show that David based his understanding off faith. Romans 4:9-12 talks about the
priority of faith over circumcision, and Romans 4:13-17 discusses the priority of faith over being
Abraham’s decedents. Paul then, in Romans 4:18-22, makes an example of Abraham’s faith by
showing that trusting in God is essentially what everyone must do for justification. Paul then
draws out some conclusion from Abraham’s example in Romans 4:23-25, and he says that it was
Abraham’s faith is the reason why God credited him righteousness. Paul then goes on in Romans
5:1-11 to describe the results or benefits of justification. He includes this section because of
questions that might occur because of how uncertain this method of justification might have
17 Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 136.
18 Constable, Notes on Romans 61.
seemed to some.
19 Then, in Romans 5:12-21, Paul describes the restorative effects of
justification. He explains that justification not only saves us from sin, but it also brings us into a
new union with Christ. This section also serves as the conclusion to the opening section of the
letter (Rom 1:18-5:21).
Romans 6-8 is the last section covered in this summary. Paul moves from talking about
justification and righteousness to talking about sanctification in this section. Paul starts off in
Romans 6 to talk about sin in relationship to the believer in Christ. No longer is the topic on
salvation, but on living out that salvation.
20 In Romans 6:1-14, Paul gives an explanation of sin
in regards to the believer’s life. He claims that sin or our “old self” should be crucified with
Christ, and that we should be raised with him in new life (Romans 6:6-10). Paul goes on in
Romans 6:15-23 to explain that we are no longer a slave to sin, but to righteousness. Romans 7
talks about the relationship between the Law and the believer. Paul explains this relationship
because he said in Romans 6:14 that they are no longer under the Law, so the question of what
the Law has to do with the believer is sure to come up. Paul starts off in Romans 7:1-6 and
explains that the Law only has authority until death cancels that, and therefore Christ can be the
replacement authority. Romans 7:7-12 talks about the Law and sin. Paul clarifies that the Law
itself is not sinful, but that it produces conviction of sin.
21 However, it cannot destroy bondage to
sin, but it is Christ alone that can free from sin. Paul clarifies that the Law is actually “holy,
righteous, and good” (Rom 7:12). Paul then talks about the Law’s inability in Romans 7:13-25.
He explains his own personal struggle with sin and following the Law. Paul tells how the Law
has no ability to keep him from sin, in fact he basically says it almost made him what to do it
19 Ibid. 71.
20 Ibid. 87.
21 Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 314.
more (Rom 7:19-20). He stresses that only Christ has the ability to keep us from sin. Romans 8
goes on to explain the believer’s relationship to God, and it explains the benefits of sanctification
that the Holy Spirit brings. This chapter has a great focus on living according to the Holy Spirt,
with seventeen references to it.
22 It starts out with Paul discussing our deliverance from the flesh
by the power of the Holy Spirit in Romans 8:1-11. Then, in Romans 8:12-17, Paul explains our
new relationship to God, one that is led by the Holy Spirit. This new relationship consists of
being a child of God, which also includes being an heir. Romans 8:18-25 goes on to talk about
present sufferings and future glorification. Here, Paul gives a fairly wide view of God’s
redemption plan, and tells the Romans to be patient in their sufferings for the hope promised in
23 He then goes on in Romans 8:26-30 to tell of our place and role in God’s redemption
plan. Lastly, Romans 8:31-39 tells of our eternal security. In this section, Paul ask questions and
answers them himself about the truth of Christ, effectively producing the climax of his argument
Romans 3:21-26 is Paul’s summary of his explanation that righteousness comes through
faith alone, and not by works of the Law. Prior to this section, Paul had already proved that
justification based off following the Law or doing good works is impossible.
24 In Romans 3:21,
Paul starts to explain the concept of justification. Paul starts off by talking about “righteousness
of God”, which he explains in regards to God’s method of bringing someone into a right
relationship with him, or simply, justification.
25 In Romans 3:22, Paul goes on to talk about how
one attains this righteousness. He emphasizes that this righteousness is only given through faith
22 Constable, Notes on Romans 116.
23 Ibid. 127.
24 Hodge, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans 136.
25 Constable, Notes on Romans 53.
in Christ to all who believe in him. He makes clear that the object of faith is Christ, and it is
notable that there is no reason to think that our faith makes any contribution to our salvation
other than accepting God’s gift.
26 In this verse, Paul also distinguishes that there is no difference
between Jew and Gentile. Both of them attain righteousness through faith in Christ, and neither
can attain it through works. Romans 3:23 puts both the Jew and Gentile on level ground, saying
that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. This verse basically summarizes
Romans 1:18-3:20, and it is easy to see from it that sin is the separating factor between God and
man. Paul wants to stress to the Romans that Jew or Gentile, they still are a sinner and need
Christ. Romans 3:24 talks about how justification is brought about. Paul makes it extremely clear
that justification is only brought about freely through the graceful, redemptive work of Christ
Jesus. This verse is the greatest verse in the Bible in regards to the manner of justification by
27 Romans 3:25 explains that Christ’s death was a sacrifice of atonement, that by the blood
he shed one can receive justification through faith in him. Paul writes that God did this to
“demonstrate his righteousness”, meaning that God did this to be true to his character and his
28 Paul also tells of God’s forbearance, how God was graceful to leave sins unpunished,
and sent his son to take the punishment for our sins. In Greek, Romans 3:22-26 are all one
sentence, and therefore these verses all have the same main idea and theme. Romans 3:26
continues the flow of thought and is the last part of the sentence.
29 Once again, Paul states that
God allowed Christ to die to demonstrate his righteousness. Paul explains God is just and is the
one who justifies, but he points out that this is only for those who has faith in Jesus. By
describing justification by faith in Romans 3:21-26, Paul gives a pretty good explanation of
26 Ibid. 53.
27 Constable, Notes on Romans 54.
28 Utley, The Gospel According to Paul: Romans 54.
29 Ibid. 51.
God’s imputed righteousness to believers. To summarize, God can justify sinners because of the
atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection has allowed those who place their
faith in him to be made righteous through his sacrifice.30
Paul’s letter of Romans has given me a refreshed look on justification, sanctification, and
righteousness. The way Paul dealt with the Jew and Gentile controversy in the letter gave me
reminded me how I should treat all people equally when in regards to the gospel. No one is more
deserving of the gospel, and everyone has the same need for salvation. Therefore, there is no
reason to discriminate who I should share the gospel with. Romans 1:18 to 3:20 really
emphasized the need that all have to be saved by Christ, which honestly was a good reminder for
me to hear. Many times I forget that simple truth, and it should be something that I am constantly
thinking about and a driving factor for me to share the gospel. I really enjoyed Romans 6:1-4,
which talked about dying to our sin nature, “being baptized into Christ”, and being raising up
with him to live a new life. I love the imagery that Paul uses to describe this truth of salvation. In
Romans 8, Paul talks about living in the Spirit and not according to the flesh. This chapter
challenges me to live more by the Holy Spirit, and allow it to dictate how I live. Paul points out
in Romans 8:14 that those who are led by the Holy Spirit are children of God. I feel like I could
do a better job of surrendering myself over to be led by the Holy Spirit. Overall, I generally
enjoyed working though the first half of Romans, and I saw things for the first time that I had
skipped over during previous readings that I had never really thought about.
30 Constable, Notes on Romans 58.