Examples of Paul’s use of military metaphors in the epistle:

  1. “The praetorian guard” (1:13 AV “palace”) and Caesar’s household (4:22) are mentioned only in Philippians.
  2. “Furtherance of the gospel” (1:12,25). Greek word is prokope and is used of pioneers cutting a way ahead of an army and so furthering its march.
  3. Citizenship (1:27, 3:20) – Paul describes the believer as a “citizen of heaven” not of Rome.
  4. Rulership – Philippi’s citizens bowed the knee before Caesar and swore their allegiance to him. In contrast Christ has inherited a name far above any- thing that Rome could offer. To him every knee shall bow—not to Caesar (2:9-11)
  5. Epaphroditus was called a fellow soldier in 2:25.
  6. Paul employs the military imagery of a city-state defending itself against a siege:
  • a. “stand fast in one spirit” (1:27) = steko = to stand firm. The word was used in the context of military battles referring to “soldiers who determinedly refuse to leave their posts irrespective of how severely the battle rages”
  • b. “striving together” (1:27) = sunathleo = contend in the games, or in classical Greek to contend in battle and of conflicts of cities
  • c. “walk” (3:16) = stoicheo = to proceed in a row as the march of a soldier
  • d. refusing to be affected by the “terror” of the enemy (1:28)
  • e. “keep” (4:7) = phroureo = to mount guard as a sentinel

When Paul arrived at Philippi around AD49, the city was an urban centre at the eastern end of the plain. Being a military outpost there was little interest from Jewish communities; a fact which explains why Paul didn’t find a synagogue there.

The beginnings of the ecclesia are dramatically outlined in Acts 16. Who can forget the conversion of Lydia and the jailor, and the healing of the damsel with a spirit of divination? Yet when Paul writes to the Thessalonians he highlights just one incident—how he was “shamefully treated” by the Roman authorities at Philippi (1 Thess 2:2).

There are two other occasions in Acts when Paul went to Philippi whilst on his third journey. The first one is implied in Acts 20:1-2 where Paul left Ephesus following the uproar: “And after the uproar was ceased, Paul called unto him the disciples, and embraced them, and departed for to go into Macedonia. And when he had gone over those parts, and had given them much exhortation, he came into Greece.”

In the first century AD, Macedonia was a Roman Province which was divided into four parts stretching from modern, northern Greece, to the Adriatic Sea in the west. It included Philippi. The term Greece was used to describe the southern half of modern Greece.

The second mention is in Acts 20:6 where we learn that Paul returned through Macedonia, leaving from Philippi after staying in Greece (Athens, and mostly Corinth) for three months (Acts 20:6).

The Philippian ecclesia stood out for its generosity even though they were mired in poverty. They provided for Paul’s needs in prison and communicated with him frequently (Phil 4:14-18) as well as later contributing to the Jerusalem poor fund (Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 8:1-5).

Today the ruins of the ancient city remain in reasonably good condition. Visitors can walk along the remains of the Agora pavement or tread along the Via Egnatia next to it. There are many mosaics in various buildings, as well as a theatre, all dating back to Paul’s time. May we emulate the generous spirit of the Philippians as they gave of their necessities to assist others and forward the work of the Truth. May we be exhorted to “work out our salvation with fear and trembling”, allowing God to work in us (Phil 2:12-13). May we “communicate” with our brothers and sisters just like they did, perhaps remembering them by making that phone call or sending that email or card. What a big difference our fellowship and joy in Christ can be if we share it with others.