V. Characteristics

V. Characteristics

Philippians has been cited as the most personal of Paul's writings. A strong note of mutual affection and warmth is sounded here. A mostly joyous confidence fills the letter. The note of “joy” appears in verb or noun form sixteen times. This is remarkable given the fact that Paul writes from the confines of prison.

There appears to be no major doctrinal focus such as we have in Galatians or Romans. This does not mean, however, that the epistle lacks theological content. On the contrary, several crucial doctrines of the church are raised or implied: Christology; resurrection-life; faith-righteousness; the Second Advent; Christian perfection; and the Cross. Furthermore, the epistle contains vital moral and practical admonitions basic to Christian holiness. Oneness in Christ is affirmed in various ways. A strong corporate note is sounded by the frequent use of “you all.”

In this intensely pastoral letter, Paul, who had more than once received their material support, expresses his deep gratitude and love to the Philippians.

One feature much discussed among scholars is the question of the identity of the “opponents” mentioned in 1:28 and possibly referred to again in 3:2-19. They may have been Jews (Judaizers) seeking to impose the Mosaic Law (esp. circumcision), or some group advocating a blend of Jewish-Greek ideas that undercut the significance of the Cross and the true meaning of Christian perfection and resurrection. Whoever they were, they prompted a strong response from Paul.