Many years ago I had the wonderful opportunity to train with YWAM's (Youth With a Mission), School of Biblical Studies (SBS). God had placed a call on my heart to teach women how to study His Word and when the opportunity with SBS arose, I welcomed it.
During my time of training, one thing was profoundly emphasized: context, context, context. For centuries people have studied the Word of God in exclusion of it's original meaning. This has created a great deal of mis-inturpretation, luke-warm converts, and even, in extreme cases, apostasy. As I dove into our first book of study (Philemon), I quickly understood the power of context.
Knowing the 'who-what-when-where-why' of a book's writing can drastically transform our understanding of what is being said. It also, often, takes a culture, millennia detached from our own, and brings to light how similar and timeless human drive and passion can be.
As we jump into our Gratitude study in Philippians, I wish to repeat my old instructor's commands: context, context, context! Are you ready for a history lesson?
To view a more thorough overview of Paul's letter to the believers in Philippi, you can visit this link to GotQuestions.org (they are a GREAT resource for any questions you might have on the Bible and their staff is reasonably interactive should you need to message them on a topic!) Many Bibles, especially a good Study Bible, will contain book intros you can read as well for context information.
In sum, for our purpose here, it helps to understand how Philippi was not a tiny little town, off the beaten path. Rather, they were technically a Macedonian city under Roman rule. Many army veterans lived in this bustling town on the Egnatioan way, "an important Roman commercial road". The influence of Roman culture and the many other people groups passing through deeply impacted the ethos of the city.
It is strongly believed that the first church Paul established was here, after Lydia's conversion as well as the amazing testimony of a jailer (and his family)'s conversion. It is suggested that Paul loved the Philippian church very much. They were a healthy congregation - not perfect, but doing well, and nothing like those who were struggling in Corinth and Galatia.
While it is clearly stated that Paul wrote this very personal letter to the church to thank them for a gift of money and commentators believe there was no need for major correction of doctrinal issues, it is also suggested that the ever-present threat of false teachers pushing the idea of a works-based-faith and severe persecution of believers in the region, required regular encouragement to stay the course... and, as per Philippians, to do so with joy.
This brings us to our most profound contextual point: Paul's letter to the Philippians was written from prison under the most heinous Nero, who would set Christians ablaze as torches to light his banquets! Not only was this the kind of fate a 60s a.d. Christian might face, but the prison accommodations of that era were nothing like the cushy ones we know today. No free WiFi or cable t.v., free-time in 'the yard', a cozy bed and latrine as well as three-square-meals-a-day... no, jail-time in the 1st century would leave many human rights activists in a tizzy! In many instances, not even a toilet or a light to read by would have been provided and meals certainly weren't part of the deal either. Prisoners would rely on the compassion of those they may have known on the outside to bring the creature comforts we take for granted: a pillow, a blanket, a loaf of bread... Paul truly knew what it was to "have a little or have a lot" and to "be content in all".
Studying the book of Philippians is not an entry into some passive easy-talk of a pious individual. It is a dive into the trenches of Christian warfare and the power of the gospel to bring joy and gratitude regardless of a situation.
So, are you ready to dive in? To see the life of a Christian through the eyes of a prisoner to a people under hope through persecution? Are you ready to walk out the same?
I hope you said "yes"!!
Be sure to grab your FREE copy in the image link below or on our "Resources" tab. Come follow along on Instagram and be sure to return next Wednesday for some thoughts on our study so far as we round out Chapter 1 and learning how to choose gratitude!
Blessings to you as we enter this Thanksgiving season!
P.S. If you are looking for more Thanksgiving inspiration and an easy to use set of planning pages, be sure to come back on Fridays and Mondays this month as I share recipes, tips and even a challenge for holiday preparation.... and click the image below to grab your FREE Thanksgiving planner. I will be sharing how to use it this week.
Other Thanksgiving printables are available on our Resources page.