The book of Philippians is one of the most personal letters found in the New Testament. Paul, often used a first person singular personal pronoun, such as, I, me, or my. The apostle Paul and the church members at Philippi had a special bond that appears on every page of this relatively short epistle. Few books in the New Testament reveal the heart of Paul any more than Philippians. Although it had been approximately 10 years since Paul had been in Philippi, his love for them had not waned and neither had their loyalty to Paul subsided (Phil. 4:10-14). A special relationship existed between the missionary and the church at Philippi that could not be interrupted with the passage of time or the distance of miles. To gain a better understanding of the epistle, it is necessary to consider the following background information.
The Place. Paul, in his initial greeting in the Epistle of Colossians, wrote, “To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are in Colosse” (Colossians 1:2). In this twenty- first century most are accustomed to identifying churches by name. Popular names of churches are Calvary Baptist Church, Faith Baptist Church, Macedonia Baptist Church, and many more. Frequently, churches are identified by street location such as Langdon Street Baptist Church or Twelfth Street Baptist Church. The churches of the New Testament were usually identified by the city or area in which they were located. Paul addressed the church at Colosse simply as those saints and faithful brethren who were in Colosse.
The Writer. The apostle Paul was the writer of this letter to the church at Thessalonica. The letter began, “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians” (1 Thessalonians 1:1). Later, he removed any doubt about authorship when he wrote, “Wherefore we would have come unto you, even I Paul, once and again; but Satan hindered us” (1 Thessalonians 2:18).
The City of Thessalonica. Geographically, the seaport city of Thessalonica was located in what is now northern Greece on the Balkan Peninsula. Cassander, in 315 BC, rebuilt the original city Therma, and he named it Thessalonica in honor of his wife, the sister of Alexander the Great. Thessalonica was about 100 miles from Philippi, where Paul and Silas had previously ministered (Acts 16; 17:1). In its place today, stands the modern city of Thessaloniki with a population of nearly 400,000.
The Writer. There was never a doubt that the apostle Paul was the writer of this epistle to the Thessalonians. The letter begins, “Paul, and Silvanus, and Timotheus, unto the church of the Thessalonians in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:1). To remove any doubt concerning authorship, Paul closed the epistle stating clearly, “The salutation of Paul with mine own hand, which is the token in every epistle: so I write” (2 Thessalonians 3:17). The epistle was immediately accepted into the canon of Scripture by the early churches, appearing in the Syriac and Old Latin versions and in the Muratorian fragment. Polycarp, who died a martyr’s death in AD 155, made reference to this epistle as did Irenaeus and Tertullian.