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The Church In Philippi

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This is a series I’m doing on churches that were planted during the new testament. Below are other posts in the series

The church of Philippi has an interesting history behind it. Not so much because of the church, but because of the town it was planted in.

Philippi — a ‘little Rome’

The site of Philippi was just a Greek village until Philip II of Macedon captured it from the Thracians in 360 BC. Philip named the place after himself. In fact he was best known
not for the founding of Philippi, but for the son who was born to him four years later, who became Alexander the Great.

The Romans captured Philippi in 168 BC and made it part of their province of Macedonia. The Roman generals Antony and Octavian marched there in 42 BC to avenge the murder of Julius Caesar. They defeated the rebels Brutus and Cassius, and settled many retired soldiers in the city. Octavian became Emperor Augustus. He made Philippi a Roman colony and it became a ‘little Rome’. Its citizens spoke Latin, were governed by Roman law and enjoyed the same rights — as though they were living in Rome itself. They were free from scourging or being arrested, and could appeal to Caesar for justice.

This settlement made Philippi a Roman colony (Acts 16:12). These Philippian residents were given special privileges including the “Italic right.” This meant that the colonists, in return for their displacement, were treated as if their land were part of Italian soil. So the residents were citizens of Rome, their “mother city,” and enjoyed the full rights of Roman citizenship, including exemption from taxes. So Paul’s words (Phil. 1:27) “conduct yourselves” (lit., “live as citizens”) and “our citizenship is in heaven” (3:20) had special meaning to the Christians at Philippi.

It was Augustus who gave the order for the census which took Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem for the birth of Jesus.

From This A Church Is Born

Paul founded the church in Philippi when he travelled there with Silas and Timothy in about AD 50. This was in the course of Paul’s second missionary journey.

This is also interesting because on the first missionary journey Paul and Barnabas tried to reach Asia (modern-day Turkey) by planting churches in Lystra and Derbe. Where they were worshipped as ancient greek Gods because they healed a man. Barnabas was actually considered to be Zeus.

But as Luke points out, they were being led by the Holy Spirit (Acts 16:6-15) and ended up at the coastal port of Troas. It is here where he has his vision of the man from Macedonia in Greece which caused them to cross the Aegean Sea.

The result of this adventure…the gospel is preached and brought to Europe for the very first time.

The church or Philippi had a strong foundation

When they hit the city of Philippi, Paul and his band of merry men came across a group of women sitting at the river banks praying. Out of these women Paul comes into contact with Lydia. She was a businesswoman who traded in purple cloth. She became a christian and started to welcome the missionaries into her home.

But as most of Paul’s adventures, this one would end up with him running for his life once again.

Faith and Money

While they were staying in Philippi, Paul and Silas released a slave girl from an evil spirit. This ended her ability to tell fortunes, and enraged her owners! Paul and Silas were flogged (a punishment that was illegal for a Roman citizen) and thrown in prison, with their feet fastened in stocks. Despite their suffering, they sang hymns until midnight.

When an earthquake threw open all the prison doors, Paul and Silas refused to escape. Instead, they preached the gospel to the jailer and baptized him and his family.

So the church in Philippi was founded — from an extraordinary variety of people.

The church never forgot Paul. 

When the Philippian believers heard about Paul’s imprisonment at Rome, they sent Epaphroditus, who may have been their pastor, to minister to him. Epaphroditus personally comforted Paul, expressing to him the affection of the saints in Philippi. And he brought Paul a financial contribution from them so that his confinement would be more comfortable (4:18). Three times before—twice when Paul was at Thessalonica, and once when he was at Corinth (Phil. 4:15-16; cf. 2 Cor. 11:9)—the saints ministered to his needs. The Book of Philippians might be called a thank-you note to saints in Philippi for their generous gifts.

Scriptures About The church in Philippi

a. Organized by Paul in the home of a woman convert named Lydia Acts 16:15, 40
b. The scene of Paul’s healing of a demon-possessed girl Acts 16:18
c. Where the jailor became a convert Acts 16:33
d. Paul wrote a letter to this church. Phil. 1:1
e. Timothy ministered to this church. Phil. 2:19
f. Sent Epaphroditus to minister to Paul while the apostle was in prison Phil. 2:25
g. Was in danger of legalism Phil. 3:1-3
h. Paul wrote and asked the “true yokefellow” to help two quarrelling church women named Euodias and Syntyche. Phil. 4:1-3
i. Helped to supply the material needs of Paul Phil. 4:15, 18


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