Likely written from Rome somewhere near 62 AD, Philippians is one of the four prison epistles penned by Paul. No one knows for certain as to which imprisonment this epistle belongs. It may have been written during the time of Paul's house arrest which is mentioned in Acts 28:16, 30. Regardless of the exact circumstances surrounding the writing of Philippians, it is an epistle which exudes Christian warmth. Upon reading the first few verses of this letter, the reader will immediately notice that the church in Philippi had Paul's deepest affection. Why? The answer may be found by surveying the Scriptures' comments concerning this body of believers.
First of all, they were partakers of God's amazing grace, the same grace that saved Paul the Pharisee and set him free to serve in newness of spirit. After receiving the commendation of their sending church in Antioch of northern Syria, Paul and Silas set out upon what is known as Paul's second missionary journey. They traveled west to Derbe and Lystra where they found the young man Timotheus who would eventually become as a son to Paul (Philippians 2:22). After confirming the churches of that region which had been founded during Paul's first missionary journey, he and his companions set out for the region of Phrygia and Galatia; however, as Acts 16:6 says, they "were forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the word in Asia." Perhaps somewhat confused, they changed their course and proceeded northward toward Mysia and Bithynia which lay along the southern border of the Black Sea, but God's Spirit "suffered them not (Acts 16:7)." Forbidden of the Holy Ghost to proceed any farther northward, they turned back and continued southwest, finally arriving in Troas which lay along the coast of the Aegean Sea. Unknown to them, the Spirit of God was forcing them westward in preparation for their departure into Macedonia. The text does not disclose how long Paul and his companions waited in Troas for divine direction; however, God's will was eventually revealed to Paul through a vision. "There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us (Acts 16:9)." The answer finally came! No one can make a parked vehicle change direction. Paul and his helpers were doing what they could to serve the Lord. They were not wrong for moving in a direction; they just had to allow God to take the helm and direct them to those who were prepared to hear. Upon arriving in Macedonia, the missionaries made their way to Philippi, the chief city of Macedonia. Their stay in this region would consist of both joy and pain. They would witness many people come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, people such as Lydia and those of her household. In this city they would be beaten and imprisoned, yet through these events they would see the Philippian jailer and his entire house come to repentant faith in Christ. As the believer considers God's orchestration of the events which led to the gospel being preached in Philippi, he should be pressed in his spirit to give God thanks for his amazing grace. It is this unmerited favor which endeared the Philippian church to Paul's heart, and it is this unmerited favor which enables every repentant sinner to find peace through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Lastly, Paul loved this church because they were partakers of God's amazing charity. After Paul's departure from Philippi, the church stayed in contact with him, providing him with the monies and services necessary for the continuation of God's work (Philippians 5:15-16). On his third missionary journey, as he passed through Macedonia on his way to Corinth (Acts 19:21), their heart of charity surfaced again. The church urged him to accept a financial gift for the saints at Jerusalem even though the Philippian believers were, as II Corinthians 8:2 says, in "deep poverty;" however, this body of believers had first given "their own selves to the Lord (II Corinthians 8:5);" therefore, they were enabled to give liberally. This heart of charity continued on. When Paul was detained, the Philippian church sent him financial aid by the hand of Epaphroditus (Philippians 4:18). Their testimony of charity stands as a rebuke to the believer who will not submit to God's commands concerning giving.
Many believe that the main theme of Philippians is joy; however, the overall context reveals the main theme to be this - with one mind, stand fast in the faith of Christ. Joy is the natural result of such faithfulness. By obeying the command to stand fast in the faith, the Philippian believers would bring joy not only to their own lives but also to the life of Paul.
This theme of standing fast is seen throughout the book. It first appears in 1:6 where Paul expresses confidence in Christ's ability to sanctify His children. It makes a rather bold appearance in 1:27 where Paul gives them an indirect command to stand fast in one spirit. In 2:2, the theme appears in the form of likemindedness. In one way or another, this theme of being steadfast in Christ appears in 2:12, 2:19, 3:1-2, 3:14 and 3:16 while 4:1 directly commands the church to stand fast in the Lord.