Philippians was written as letter of thanks from Paul to the church at Philippi for the gift they had sent him while he was in chains in Rome. It is one of Paul’s most encouraging letters.

After thanking them for their gift, Paul tells them that his difficult circumstances served to further the gospel among the prison guard. Further, his own deliverance was not necessarily his focus, for “to live is Christ, to die is gain” (1:21). Paul felt the best outcome for him would be to die and be “with Christ, which is better by far” (1:23), although living would continue to further the gospel. He also asks for the return of his friend Epaphroditus, who was a great aid and comfort to him.

Paul speaks of humility as the core Christian virtue, which itself reflects the humility Christ displayed in leaving his heavenly advantage and becoming human—not to mention suffering an ignominious death as a thief on a Roman cross. Putting his money where his mouth is, Paul renounces all claims to status based on his Jewish learning and heritage. His only goal is to know Christ—meaning the power of his resurrection and the sharing in Christ’s suffering, both of which are at work in his life and the life of all believers.

As the letter winds down, Paul encourages his readers to rejoice in all circumstances while letting God know of their needs through prayer. Such a way of living brings true peace, as does a determination to fill one’s thoughts with things that are pure and right.

Peter Enns