Perhaps one of the most studied and quoted books in the entire Bible is the letter to the Philippians. We’ve explored a summary of this Biblical book elsewhere (see The Book of Philippians Summary), focusing on the structure and content it covers. With that macro-level understanding in mind, let us consider the lessons of the Book of Philippians. What are the major lessons of this text and how can we best apply them to our lives?
Context and Overview
As we reflect on the lessons and implications of Philippians, let us briefly consider the context in which this letter was originally written. The Book of Philippians was written by the apostle Paul as a letter to the church located in the city of Philippi. Paul had first visited the city during his second missionary journey and was instrumental in founding the church there. As a result, Paul felt a great amount of kinship and affection for the people he addressed in this letter and this level of familiarity and care comes out in the text. Unlike some of Paul’s other letters, such as Galatians and Colossians, Philippians was not written in response to a crisis or a false teaching. Rather, the letter offers a message of affection and encouragement to a beloved community.
Several years after Paul’s time in Philippi, Paul wrote Philippians while he was imprisoned in Rome. In the midst of this difficult situation, Paul spends much of the letter reflecting on the notion of perseverance and giving thanks for the strength and encouragement of Jesus Christ.
The Central Themes
At the heart of the Book of Philippians is a call to lean into the example set by Christ Jesus. Early in the letter, Paul devotes much time to outlining and reflecting upon precisely what this example is—he details what, precisely, Jesus did. Paul’s picture of Jesus Christ as a humble servant serves as the core of this letter, laying the foundation for the major teachings that follow.
Three Major Lessons from Philippians
With the historical context and primary theme in mind, we now turn our attention to the three major lessons Paul seeks to teach in Philippians.
Centering Our Lives on Christ
The first key takeaway from Philippians is to center our lives on Jesus Christ. Ruminating on the work of Christ—on the humility, obedience, and love that characterizes who Jesus is, Paul urges us to let our lives be guided by this example. In good times and bad, in the face of celebration and hardship, we strive to respond as Jesus would. Our faith in God becomes the primary driver of our lives.
Faith Leads to Joy
When we live Christ-centered lives, Paul assures us that this faith will lead us to experience joy. According to Paul, great joy—true joy—is born not out of our circumstances, but out of the restoration and renewal that God works through our lives. Even in prison, Paul writes about experiencing the joy of God. Assurance that Jesus strengthens and preserves us in all things and a desire to share the love of God with all he encountered move Paul to rejoice and give thanks even in the midst of challenging circumstances.
Unity of Believers
The third key lesson of Philippians is the call to unity amongst fellow believers. We live in a world often far more interested in establishing difference and distinctiveness. Categories of “us” and “them” can paint diversity as an uncrossable divide. But Paul reminds us that in the midst of our uniqueness, we are united in what matters most; we are all beloved children of God. In our pursuit of a life of faith, centered on Jesus, we can come together as a community to support each other and to participate in God’s Shalom.
Implications For Our Lives Today
The lessons of Philippians have profound implications for us today. Paul’s letter gives tangible direction for lives defined by faith. As we read the Book of Philippians, we are invited to draw closer to Jesus Christ and to each other. No matter what we are facing, we are not alone.
It is with good reason that the Book of Philippians is such a studied and well-loved part of Scripture. We hope that exploring these major lessons and takeaways from this book will help you to engage with the text in new and meaningful ways. Paul's love for Jesus and for the Philippian church is infectious. May we read this letter and feel encouraged to lean into Christ Jesus all the days of our lives.