The church at Philippi was founded about AD 50 and was the first church Paul founded on the continent of Europe (see Acts 16:11-40.) The letter was written from prison and is usually grouped with Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon as the “prison epistles.” Paul has a deep and cordial relationship with the church at Philippi as can be seen in the warmth of this letter. Philippi is also the only church from which Paul accepted financial support. It is generally dated in the early AD 60’s, but the prison conditions appear harsher than are recorded in Acts, and a good argument can be made for an earlier imprisonment in Ephesus in the mid-AD 50’s. Philippi is in the Greek region of Macedonia and was a region of the Roman Empire where women enjoyed high status. Unlike most of the Empire, where women could not own property, businesses, or hold office, the Philippian women enjoyed a significantly more active role in public and business life. This freedom and emancipation of women is reflected in the life of the church.
Servant leadership is the calling of all Christians. The “kenosis” passage in chapter 2 (called Kenosis from the Greek “to empty”) stands as the ultimate example of service: Jesus, though God, emptied himself and became a servant. We should all do the same.