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How do I study?

And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.”

Acts 16:9

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How do you read your Bible?

There are many great ways to study your Bible. As we study Philippians, we will focus on an inductive way of studying the Bible. “Inductive” basically means an approach of studying scripture that is done by collecting information and then drawing conclusions based on that info. It has been an approach used by many people in various church traditions and is a great way to dig deeper into the text. Through the inductive approach, we will use the Bible as a means to interpret itself. In other words, we will consider Philippians in the context of the entire Bible to help us understand its meaning and through collecting information, we will seek to see clearly what the text has to offer. We believe that scripture is full of not just wisdom or helpful advice, but it is the very source of our life.

As we study each chapter of Philippians, we will focus on three words: observation, interpretation, and application. Observation focuses on discovering what the passage of Scripture is actually saying. Observation is the foundation for interpretation and application. Interpretation focuses on the meaning of the passage. Application focuses on the personal application of the Scriptures to your life (Precept Ministries International, 2000).

If the Scriptures are true, how will they impact your life?

The ABC’s of Philippians

When studying the Bible, it is important to start with the ABC’s: author, background, and context (Newton, 2014). Bible commentaries are a great resource to help identify the author and historical context of a passage. To accurately understand the book of Philippians, we will explore the ABC’s of the text.

Author: The apostle Paul is the author of Philippians (Herrick, 2004). Paul, formerly known as Saul, was a devout Jew. Soon after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, Paul regularly persecuted Christians. But God audibly spoke to Paul, and he committed his life to spreading the good news of Jesus to all, specifically the Gentiles. (Read Paul’s conversion story in Acts 9.)

Background: Paul lived from around AD 5 to AD 68. After his conversion around AD 33, Paul went on three different missionary trips spreading the gospel and starting churches. Paul was imprisoned several times throughout these missionary journeys. From his prison cell, Paul wrote the book of Philippians. Some believe Paul wrote the Philippians from his imprisonment in Rome, while others believe he was in Caesarea or even Ephesus (Walvoord and Zuck, 2004). Depending upon the location of Paul’s imprisonment, his letter to the Philippians was written at some point between AD 52 to AD 62 (Precept Ministries International, 2000) On his second missionary journey and before he wrote the letter to the Philippians, Paul visited the city of Philippi, which was in the region of Macedonia (northeastern Greece) (Herrick, 2004). God told Paul to go to Macedonia in a vision (Acts 16:9). Paul was imprisoned in Philippi. While in prison, Paul shared the gospel with a Roman jailer who converted to Christianity, along with his family. These events led to the beginning of the church in Philippi around AD. 50. To learn more about Paul’s first visit to Philippi, read Acts 15:35–17:1. Philippi was a part of the Roman Empire, which consisted of Roman and Greek inhabitants (Herrick, 2004). The city of Philippi was an urban center. Their religious culture included worship of the emperor, the Egyptian gods Isis and Serapis, and many other gods.

Context: As mentioned earlier, the book of Philippians fits into the explanation section of the New Testament, as part of the epistles (letters). The epistles include the books from Romans to Jude. They were all written after Christ’s life, death, resurrection, and ascension. At this point in history, the church of Jesus Christ had begun and was spreading throughout the world. The epistles, including Philippians, explain who Jesus is, what He did, and how to follow Him. Paul wrote to the church in Philippi for several reasons. First, he wanted to update them on his imprisonment and plans for the future, as well as thank them for their support. Second, Paul encouraged the believers in Philippi to pursue unity, since there were divisions in the church. Third, he called them to be humble as Christ was humble. Fourth, Paul warned them of false teachings (Herrick, 2004).

Now that you know more about the author, background, and context, you have a greater ability to observe, interpret, and apply the book of Philippians. As we study the book of Philippians, we pray this prayer with you: “May Your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes.” (Psalm 119:135)

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