The New Testament has a unique perspective when researching the Biblical text. Specifically, this is true of the inclusion of the epistles within the text of scripture. Most of these New Testament epistles were written by the Apostle Paul. He writes to various churches or individuals. Understanding the each letter requires a careful examination of the reasons that the letter was written. There are a number of reasons that Paul writes this letter to the Philippian church. Four key reasons seem to be evident in the text.
A Joyous Reminder
Paul writes to the church as a means to remind them of the true source of joy. The Philippian church was undergoing intense persecution and was dealing with some significant internal strife. Paul was simply calling the church to remain focused on their mission and on whom they are serving, Christ Jesus. Beyond any doubt this purpose weaves throughout the body of the letter. Joy seems to pour out of through the words and pages.
A report on Epaphroditus
This letter to the Philippians automatically implies additional correspondence that we do not possess. As Paul writes on the condition of Epaphroditus, the Philippians have obviously heard about his illness and have become concerned about his condition. Paul takes the opportunity to praise Epaphroditus for his service and commends him to the church as he returns.
Response to reports about the church
Likely Epaphroditus has brought a report about the church or maybe even a correspondence from the church or leaders in the church. There is a clear message that the church is suffering persecution and is possibly discouraged in the midst of incredible hardships. Epaphroditus obviously shares the internal issues with Paul. Paul gives no doctrinal corrections in this letter, unlike the majority of his epistles, but offers some practical suggestions to the church.
Paul thanks the church for their gift
The Philippian church had sent aid to Paul during his imprisonment. Remember that Paul was required to pay the expenses of his prison stay. These expenses would have included pay for the guards, food for himself and the guards, and any other personal needs that may have been essential.
The church has sent Epaphroditus to help Paul and to be of service while Paul was in prison. Likely he would have filled various roles including the running of errands, purchasing of food and running correspondence. Paul makes it clear that the church had supported him in the past and was now renewing their support. Paul thanks the church for their gift and their previous support.