The letter of Paul to the Philippians is a frequently overlooked and disregarded text in the Bible by today’s Messianic community—yet it speaks so profoundly to many of the spiritual issues we are facing, or will undoubtedly be dealing with in the near future. Perhaps with the most Roman character of any other book of the Apostolic Scriptures (New Testament), save Paul’s letter to the Romans, Philippians invites us into a community of First Century Believers on their own in the Roman colony of Philippi. These people are surrounded by neighbors who are hostile to both Judaism and the gospel message of Messiah Yeshua. Their numbers are few, but the Apostle Paul is able to consider them his close and affectionate friends, and seldom has a negative word for them. The Philippians are generous to his ministry work, and Paul has strong feelings for their well-being and calling in the Lord.
The Epistle to the Philippians presents us with many theological and social questions that cannot be avoided by anyone who reads it. Above all things, the Apostle Paul places Yeshua the Messiah (Jesus Christ) at the center of his life, and urges his Philippian brothers and sisters to do the same. He urges the Philippians to be kind, generous, and significantly different from their neighbors. He urges them to show humility and to be about the supreme service of the gospel, even unto death. He urges unity in the assembly, and that all demonstrate God’s love to others. He affirms the mystery of both the Divinity and humanity of Yeshua. Paul also recognizes the value of women in the local congregation as servants and leaders. For the modern Messianic, Philippians gives us a definitive example of how small fellowships and congregations on their own should function, in addition to the huge questions of how we must have a global vision that recognizes the virtues of other ethnicities and cultures, while still maintaining an Hebraic view of the Scriptures and God’s mission.
In this study of Philippians, Messianic Apologetics editor J.K. McKee addresses many of the avoided issues that this text asks Messianic Believers. He takes into account the First Century Jewish and Roman background of Paul’s letter. He also considers the large amount of intertexual references that Philippians makes to the Tanach (Old Testament), deeply embedded in Paul’s vocabulary and mannerisms. Most importantly, he considers the centrality of Yeshua and His completed work for Paul, and how all human achievements pale in comparison to who He should be for us as born again Believers who have experienced His transforming power.