PAUL'S EPISTLE TO
Paul, in conjunction with Timothy, addresses himself to the saints at Philippi. This letter deals with practical Christian living. Although Paul was in prison in Rome at the time he wrote this epistle, he did not hesitate to make it clear that his beloved “son in the faith,” Timothy, was there with him and was to be considered to be included with him in what he was writing. Paul had an especially warm place in his hear for this church in Philippi. Their love for him, and his love for them, seems to shine through all through this epistle.
I. THE CITY OF PHILIPPI
PHILIPPI is mentioned in the New Testament only in the following places and connections. In Acts 16:11,12, it is said that Paul and his fellow-travellers "loosed from Troas, came with a straight course to Samothracia and Neapolis, and from thence to Philippi." It was at this time that "the Lord opened the heart of Lydia to attend to the things which were spoken by Paul," and that the jailer was converted under such interesting circumstances. In Acts 20:1-6, it appears that Paul again visited Philippi after he had been to Athens and Corinth, and when on his way to Judea. From Philippi he went to Troas. In I Thess.2:2, Paul alludes to the shameful treatment which he had received at Philippi, and to the fact, that having been treated in that manner at Philippi, he had passed to Thessalonica, and preached the gospel there.
Philippi received its name from Philip, the father of Alexander the Great. Before his time its history is unknown. It is said that it was founded on the site of an old Thasian settlement, and that its former name was Crenides, from the circumstance of its being surrounded by numerous rivulets and springs descending from the neighbouring mountains, (from krhnh--krene, a spring.) The city was also called Dathos, or Datos–datov. See Barnes for Acts 16:12. The Thasians, who inhabited the island of Thasus, lying off the coast in the AEgean Sea, had been attracted to the place by the valuable mines of gold and silver which were found in that region. It was a city of Macedonia, to the north-east of Amphipolis, and nearly east of Thessalonica. It was not far from the borders of Thrace. It was about fifteen or twenty miles from the AEgean Sea, in the neighbourhood of Mount Pangeeus, and had a small river or stream running near it which emptied into the AEgean Sea. Of the size of the city when the gospel was preached there by Paul we have no information.
This city was originally within the limits of Thrace. Philip of Macedon having turned his attention to Thrace, the situation of Crenides and Mount Pangeeus naturally attracted his notice. Accordingly he invaded this country, expelled the feeble Cotys from his throne, and then proceeded to found a new city, on the site of the old Thasian colony, which he called after his own name, Philippi. Anthon, Class. Die. When Macedonia became subject to the Romans, the advantages attending the situation of Philippi induced that people to send a colony there, and it became one of the most flourishing cities of the empire. Comp. Ac 16:12; Pliny, iv. 10. There is a medal of this city with the following inscription: COL. JUL. AUG. PHIL.; from which it appears that there was a colony sent there by Julius Caesar. Michaelis. The city derived considerable importance from the fact that it was a principal thoroughfare from Asia to Europe, as the great leading road from one continent to the other was in the vicinity. This road is described at length by Appian, De Bell. Civ L. iv. e. 105, 106.
The city of Philippi is celebrated in history from the fact that it was here that a great victory, deciding the fate of the Roman empire, was obtained by Octavianus (afterwards Augustus Ceesar) and Antony over the forces of Brutus and Cassius, by which the republican party was completely subdued. In this battle, Cassius, who was hard pressed and defeated by Antony, and who supposed that everything was lost, slew himself in despair. Brutus deplored his loss with tears of the sincerest sorrow, calling him "the last of the Romans." After an interval of twenty days, Brutus hazarded a second battle. Where he himself fought in person he was successful; but the army everywhere else gave way, and the battle terminated in the entire defeat of the republican party. Brutus escaped with a few friends, passed a night in a cave, and, seeing that all was irretrievably lost, ordered Strato, one of his attendants, to kill him. Strato for a long time refused; but seeing Brutus resolute, he turned away his face, and held his sword, and Brutus fell upon it.
Augustus established at Philippi a Roman Armh Colonia, a town where those who retired from the Legions could settle. Augustus gave to colonia the name of Colonia Augusta Julia Philippensis. Therefore, it si probable that many of the members of the church there in Philippi were either retirees from the Legions, or membes of these military families, such as their children, or as we would say in our vernacular, "Army Brats."
The city of Philippi is often mentioned by the Byzantine writers in history. Its ruins still retain the name of Filibah. Two American missionaries visited these ruins in May, 1834. They saw the remains of what might have been the forum or market-place, where Paul and Silas were beaten, Acts 16:19; and also the fragments of a splendid palace. The road by which Paul went from Neapolis to Philippi, they think, is the same that is now travelled, as it is cut through the most difficult passes in the mountains. It is still paved throughout.
II.–THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CHURCH IN PHILIPPI.
PHILIPPI was the first place in Europe where the gospel was preached; and this fact invests the place with more interest and importance than it derives from the battle fought there. The gospel was first preached here, in very interesting circumstances, by Paul and Silas. Paul had been called by a remarkable vision Acts16:9 to go into Macedonia, and the first place where he preached was Philippi; having made his way, as his custom was, directly to the capital. The first person to whom he preached was Lydia, a seller of purple, from Thyatira, in Asia Minor. She was converted, and received Paul and Silas into her house, and entertained them hospitably. In consequence of Paul's casting out an evil spirit from a "damsel possessed of a spirit of divination," by which the hope of gain by those who kept her in their employ was destroyed, the populace was excited, and Paul and Silas were thrown into the inner prison, and their feet were made fast in the stocks. Here, at midnight, God interposed in a remarkable manner. An earthquake shook the prison; their bonds were loosened; the doors of the prison were thrown open; and their keeper, who before had treated them with peculiar severity, was converted, and all his family were baptized. It was in such solemn circumstances that the gospel was first introduced into Europe. After the tumult, and the conversion of the jailer, Paul was honourably released, and soon left the city, Ac 16:40. He subsequently visited Macedonia before his imprisonment, at Rome, and doubtless went to Philippi, Acts 20:1,2. It is supposed that after his first imprisonment at Rome, he was released, and again visited the churches which he had founded. In this epistle Phil. 1:25; 2:24, he expresses a confident hope that he would be released, and would be permitted to see them again; and there is a probability that his wishes in regard to this were accomplished.