This is one of Shaul’s shorter letters and was written from both Shaul and Timothy while Shaul was in Rome, awaiting trial after having appealed to the emperor to avoid being killed in ambush while being transported back to Jerusalem (Acts 23).
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The time of this letter was probably around 60-62 A.D., and in this letter Shaul is basically sending his thanks to the congregation for helping to defray his costs while he was awaiting trial.
He explains to the people how his imprisonment is a good thing because it is an example of his suffering for Messiah.
He states in 1:15-18 that there are some who preach about Messiah in Rome for good reasons, and others who do so to cause trouble for Shaul, for their own selfish desires. Now this is interesting: he goes on to say that whether they preach for selfish means or for righteous means, so long as Messiah is preached, that is a good thing.
Let me go off on tangent for a moment: there are many believers who deny the validity of Christians celebrating Easter or Christmas because those holidays fall on the same days as pagan holidays did; in fact, Easter is still called that, even though Easter is the English pronunciation of the name of a pagan fertility goddess. They state, and they may be correct in doing so, that celebrating those holidays are ungodly, even though the holidays now have nothing to do with the pagan gods, but rather to celebrate and proclaim Messiah Yeshua.
To my way of thinking, which now I can say agrees with Shaul’s statement in this letter, what the holidays used to be doesn’t matter because now they are proclaiming Messiah, and any time we proclaim the Messiah it is a good thing.
Continuing his letter, Shaul states he is confident that whatever happens will be good, and to live is for the messiah and to die is gain, in that he would rather be with the messiah, but for the sake of the people who he leads, he will stay alive.
As he begins to close the letter, he encourages the congregation to be like-minded, not to argue, and to show the same humility that the Messiah showed.
Shaul says he wants to send Timothy to them and will be sending Epaphroditus, who had come to Shaul with the support from the Philippians but caught ill and is now well enough to go back, being very homesick.
Shaul sends a warning against being forced into undergoing b’rit milah (circumcision) because this is what many of the Jews were forcing the Gentile believers to do, stating that it was necessary to be saved, even though they have accepted Yeshua. Since this is mentioned in a number of Shaul’s letters, it seems to have been an issue throughout the Middle East and Asia where Shaul was ministering to Gentiles. He explains that no one can receive righteousness through acts of the flesh, but through the messiah, Yeshua.
As he finishes, we come to the real reason he sent this letter, which is to address the interpersonal problems the congregation was having. Here is where he is finally getting to the point of this letter- the managerial directives that the members of the congregation needed to be reminded of so that they would stay on track.
He tells them to follow in his example, and then chides (in a nice way) two women, Euodia and Syntyche, for disagreeing, which must have been so damaging to the congregation that it was bad enough to reach Shaul’s ears, all the way in Rome.
He finishes by thanking them for being so helpful and tells them he has learned to be content in all situations, whether with or without necessities.
I see a bit of a guilt trip being laid on them, as Shaul does much “guilt-tripping” in so many of his letters, although you have to look carefully at how he writes to people to pick-up on it. For instance, here he states how the congregation had been the only ones to help him, and how he has learned to be content in all situations, then states in 4:17 that he is not looking for a gift, but rather he is asking them for something that will be credited to their account.
Maybe it’s just me, but that sounds like a Jewish guilt trip (being Jewish, I can recognize these things a mile away) because he says he doesn’t need anything and that he is content in all things, BUT if they do send something, he will credit it to their account. If he is content in all things, why even mention sending anything?
This letter is not so much a managerial concern as with many of the other letters, and the only problem they were having that we see here is the need to stand firm regarding circumcision, and for the two ladies to stop arguing with each other.
That’s it for this letter; the next time we will see what the problems were that Shaul had to address in the congregation that was in Colossus.
Until then, l’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!