Philippians: Who were they?

This past week one of my teens asked me, “What is a Philippian?” I almost laughed! Then, it dawned on me- they really had no clue. It reminded me that not everyone has the privilege of growing up with Christian parents and a lifetime of Sunday School. So to answer their question and to continue with the background of the book of Philippians today I want to take a look at the people of Philippi.

The first thing to mention is that a Philippian is a person. A human being with a body, soul and spirit. A person with emotions, desires, dreams and ambitions, and a very large problem. The same problem that all human beings have — sin.

The second thing to mention is that a Philippian could be someone from a number of backgrounds. Soldiers had retired to Philippi. Merchants lived and worked in Philippi. Slaves were owned and lived in Philippi. Also there were priests and priestesses of many Roman and Greek gods in Philippi, the most prominent of which would probably be Diana — the goddess of fertility. Some would be Asian, some would be Greek, and some would be Roman citizens.

On an even more basic level a Philippian would be well aware of the importance of his city. Philippi was a center of commerce, and politics. It was also a significant piece of geography over which many battles had been fought. So what was a Philippian like? If you will permit me to, I would say that a Philippian would be very much like a New Yorker. They know it ain’t perfect but wont let you tell them so.

For our purposes we need to understand that in the city of Philippi there was also a group very different than the average. This was a group of Christians. It was to this group that Paul was writing. And this group of Christians had gone to great length and personal sacrifice to take care of Paul. These were friends, but more than that they were partners in the Gospel. Coming from Paul there was no greater complement.

So that is what a Philippian is. Next week we will look at the world the Philippians lived in.


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