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N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study: Philippians

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About this Series

The widely respected pastor and New Testament scholar, N. T. Wright, walks you book by book through the entire New Testament in this series. Perfect for group use or daily personal reflection, these studies use the popular inductive method combined with Wright's thoughtful insights to bring contemporary application of Scripture to life.

About this Volume

Things don't always go the way we intend. It's easy to feel discouraged because what we hope for id badly thwarted, or because people make life difficult. Paul, writing to the Philippians from prison, certainly knew what it was like to have plans interrupted. But he maintained robust confidence in God's overruling power, even when everything seemed to be going wrong. These eight studies will help us learn from Paul the art of seeing God's purposes working out through problems and difficulties, and they will deepen our own confidence in God's will.

This volume also available as part of a money-saving bundle.

Features

  • Includes suggestions for individual and group study (with leader's guide)
  • Features the popular inductive Bible study method with notes and comments from a world-renowned New Testament scholar
  • Designed specifically for lay people to facilitate contemporary application of Scripture

From the Preface

Philippi, in northern Greece, was the first place in Europe that heard the news that there was a new king, the crucified and risen Jesus of Nazareth. You can read the story of Paul's first visit there in Ac 16. This letter makes it clear that as Paul looked at all the churches he had founded, the people of Philippi were the ones who gave him the most joy. He loved them all, but this letter breathes a confident trust and enjoyment which we don't always find elsewhere.

For Paul, bringing the gospel to Greece (described in Ac 16:9-12) was like a completely new beginning (see Phl 4:15). Although he had been preaching and planting churches in Asia Minor (modern Turkey) for some while, he seems to have had a sense that when he came in to Europe he really was in new territory, and that if the gospel took root here it would prove in a further sense just how powerful it was. These, after all, were the Macedonians and Greeks, who had given the world one of its greatest cultures to date! And the Philippian church was the first of those churches on Greek soil.

Philippi was a Roman colony. In 42 B.C., about a hundred years before Paul came to that area, Philippi was the setting for one of the great battles in the Roman civil war that had broken out after the death of Julius Caesar. The two victorious generals, Antony and Octavian (the future Emperor Augustus), had found themselves with a lot of soldiers in northern Greece with nothing more to do. They certainly didn't want to bring them all back to Rome, or even to Italy. It would be dangerous to have thousands of soldiers suddenly arriving in the capital. So they gave them land in and around Philippi, making it a colony of Rome.

Once the colony was established, other veterans from other battles joined them. By the time Paul went there, Philippi contained quite a number of families descended from those original Roman colonists, as well as several local people who had benefited from the Roman presence—and a good many who hadn't, and who resented the Latin-speaking elite that had taken over their Greek town.

Philippi was on a main road which ran west to the narrowest part of the Adriatic Sea, where you could sail easily across to Italy and travel on to Rome. Close contact could be maintained with the mother city. The Philippian colonists were proud of being Romans, and would do their best to order their civic life so that it matched the way things were done in Rome. The most recent innovation down that line was, of course, the establishment of the imperial cult: Caesar, the emperor, was to be worshiped as savior and lord.

Now, some time after the church had been established, Paul is in prison, almost certainly in Ephesus since he speaks of coming to see them again (1:26), and in his other imprisonments he had no intention of returning to Greece. When people were put in prison in Paul's world, they were not normally given food by their captors; they had to rely on friends helping them. The Philippian Christians have sent Paul a gift of money, presumably a quite substantial gift, since it would hardly have been worthwhile sending a messenger with a small amount. One of the reasons Paul writes to them is to say a heartfelt "Thank you."

The fact that people from a different country would raise money, and send one of their number (Epaphroditus, see 4:18) on the dangerous journey to carry it to an imprisoned friend, speaks volumes for the esteem and love in which they held him. People sometimes speak today as though Paul was an awkward, difficult, unpopular sort of person, but folk like that don't normally find this kind of support reaching them unbidden from friends far away.Paul's own circumstances make this letter especially poignant, and it gives us a portrait of a man facing huge difficulties and hardships, and coming through with his faith and hope unscathed. We will see through this guide, prepared with the help of Dale and Sandy Larsen for which I am grateful, what he has to say to this young church. Already, within thirty years of Jesus' death and resurrection, Paul has worked out a wonderful, many-colored picture of what Jesus achieved, of God's worldwide plan and of how it all works out in the lives of ordinary people.

About the Author(s)

N. T. Wright, formerly bishop of Durham in England, is research professor of New Testament and early Christianity at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He was formerly canon theologian of Westminster Abbey and dean of Lichfield Cathedral. He also taught New Testament studies for twenty years at Cambridge, McGill and Oxford Universities. Wright's full-scale works The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God and The Resurrection of the Son of God are part of a projected six-volume series titled Christian Origins and the Question of God. Among his many other published works are Surprised by Hope and Simply Christian.

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