Paul’s Letters

There is treasure hidden in Paul’s thirteen letters, but the path to find it is not obvious. Here is a tip: in the Bible, Paul’s letters are not sequenced in chronological order.

The Bible rarely gives us specific dates about events it addresses, which can be frustrating for modern readers. As an example, this is a very brief timeline of the first four decades of Christianity that is probably correct to within a few years:

27 AD to 30 AD           Ministry of Jesus

30 AD to 39 AD           Death, resurrection of Jesus; Christianity spreads among the Jews

40 AD to 48 AD           Christianity spreads increasingly to non-Jews

48 AD to 57 AD           Paul’s three missionary journeys

58 AD to 70 AD           Paul’s imprisonment; Paul’s death; Temple destroyed

Paul wrote his letters within the two decades of 48 AD to 68 AD. His thirteen generally accepted letters are arranged in the New Testament in two blocks: the nine written to churches, then the four written to individuals. The nine written to churches are generally placed in order by length. (This also assumes Hebrews was not written by Paul.)


Philippians is probably the last letter Paul wrote during his first imprisonment in Rome. He wrote the Philippians to thank them for the offering they sent to support him while in prison, and to assure them that Epaphroditus recovered from his serious illness. It was probably written soon after Ephesians and Colossians, so it has some similarities to those letters. The letter is attributed to Paul and Timothy.

This letter was written to both the members and leaders of the church in Philippi. This church was previously founded about a dozen years before when Paul, Timothy, Luke, and Silas baptized Lydia and her household on the Second Missionary Journey (Acts 16:11-15). Paul references this joyous event in Philippians 1:5. The first eleven verses of the letter show Paul and Timothy had a close relationship with this church.

When Paul writes about being in prison and living a life worthy of the Gospel, his words are encouraging. They do not seem to be a defense of his apostleship as in some of his other letters.

Paul’s words in Philippians 2 are words of encouragement to become more mature and unified. The Philippians’ increasing maturity is of utmost importance because they are still being harassed by the Jewish Christians, who teach the importance of following the Laws of Moses, signified by circumcision. Paul assures them those people are wrong. His words in Philippians 3:7-13 are some of his most powerful personal testimony.

Philippians 3:20-21 shows that the Philippians, like their neighbors in Thessalonica, are influenced by their understanding that Jesus will return and they will get to participate in the resurrection.

As in many of his other letters, Paul pleads for the church to be unified. As a part of this, Paul encourages them to have the right attitudes and thought processes. His words from Philippians 4:4-8 are some of the most encouraging words in any of his letters.

Epaphroditus and Euodia
Primary Scriptures:
Philippians 1-4
Story Summary:
Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi
Roman Empire; Macedonia; Philippi
AD 30 Jesus crucified and resurrected; Pentecost; Holy Spirit arrives AD 48 Paul’s “famine visit” to Jerusalem; First Missionary Journey starts AD 50 Council at Jerusalem; Start of Second Missionary Journey. AD 53 Start of Third Missionary Journey AD 61 Paul writes Philippians while imprisoned