The three church epistles each have a specific emphasis:
All of these letters were apparently sent out at about the same time (c.64 AD). The letter to the Philippians was carried by Epaphroditus (Php 2:25; 4:18). The other three letters were carried by Tychicus, who was accompanied by other brothers, including Onesimus, who is the subject of the letter to Philemon (Eph 6:21; Col 4:7-9; Phm 1:10).
The book of Acts records the history of Paul's relationship with the Philippian believers. Paul had begun his second missionary journey, accompanied by Silas, because Paul and Barnabas disagreed about whether John Mark should accompany them. While Paul and Silas went to visit the churches established during the first missionary journey, Barnabas took John Mark and went in a different direction (Acts 15:36-41). After visiting the established churches in the regions of Phrygia and Galatia (in what is today, central Turkey), Paul wanted to journey into unreached territory. He planned to turn to the southwest, toward Ephesus. But the Holy Spirit forbade him (Acts 16:6). So, he turned himself toward the north. But again, the Spirit would not allow him to go there (Acts 16:7). He had come from the east. The way north and south were blocked. So, he continued on to the west, to Troas, which was as far as he could go, on land. We are not told how long he waited for direction in that city (Psa 27:14; 32:8,9; Prov 3:5,6). It was there, in a vision, that he received the call into Macedonia (Acts 16:9-12). Assured of the Lord's leading, Paul and Silas secured passage on a ship, arrived in the region of Macedonia, and then traveled over land to its capital city, Philippi. Only a few days later, the Lord began to build His church at Philippi (Acts 16:13-15).
The prayer meeting, led by Lydia, may well have been the reason for the Macedonian call. The Lord answered the prayer of people who were seeking to know Him aright, as He had done previously, when He answered the prayer of Cornelius the Roman centurion, by sending Peter to present the gospel to him and his gentile companions.
Soon after Lydia and her family believed, others were added to the church, notably a girl who had been demon possessed, and the Philippian jailor and his family (Acts 16:16-40).
This church had been very close to, and supportive of, Paul and his work (Php 4:15). But after his departure on his final journey to Jerusalem, they had lost track of him. Apparently, they had been unaware of his imprisonment, his appeal to Caesar, and his shipwreck enroute to Rome. [These events are recorded in Acts ch. 21 - 28.] As soon as they learned that he was in prison in Rome, they sent Epaphroditus with a monetary gift (Php 4:18). Therefore, Paul's purposes, for writing, included his desire to thank them for their continued support, and also to reflect, joyfully, on their longstanding relationship.
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