Sunday School Bible Survey:      PHILIPPIANS

Theme: Joy (Some form of the word "joy" occurs 19 times.)

Key verse: "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice" (4:4).

From the Scofield Study Bible:

WRITER: The Apostle Paul (1:1)

DATE: The date of Philippians cannot be positively fixed. It is one of the prison letters. Whether Paul was twice imprisoned, and if so, whether Philippians was written during the first or second imprisonment, affects in no way the message of the Epistle. A.D. 64 is the commonly received date. The immediate occasion of the Epistle is disclosed in Philippians 4:10-18.

THEME: The theme of Philippians is Christian experience. Soundness of doctrine is assumed. There is nothing in church order to set right. Philippi is a normal New Testament assembly--"saints in Christ Jesus, with the bishops (elders) and deacons." The circumstances of the apostle are in striking contrast with his Christian experience. As to the former, he was Nero's prisoner. As to the latter, there was the shout of victory, the paean of joy. Christian experience, he would teach us, is not something which is going on around the believer, but something which is going on within him.

The key-verse is, "For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Philippians 1:21). Right Christian experience, then, is the outworking, whatever one's circumstances may be, of the life, nature, and mind of Christ living in us (1:6, 11; 2:5, 13).

The divisions are indicated by the chapters:

  1. Christ, the believer's life, rejoicing in suffering (1:1-30).
  2. Christ, the believer's pattern, rejoicing in lowly service (2:1-30).
  3. Christ, the believer's object, rejoicing despite imperfections (3:1-21).
  4. Christ, the believer's strength, rejoicing over anxiety (4:1-23).


  1. On the apostle Paul's second missionary journey, he traveled as far as Troas (Troy), located on the northwest coast of Asia Minor, across the Aegean Sea from Greece.
  2. One night, in a vision, a man from Macedonia appeared to Paul, saying, "Come over into Macedonia, and help us" (Acts 16:9-15).
  3. So apparently Lydia was the first known Christian convert on the continent of Europe. The Lord allowed difficulties to arise, and out of this turmoil more souls were saved and a local church was established (Acts 16:16-34).
  4. Paul's epistle to the Philippians was written about ten years later.
  5. Philippians was one of the apostle Paul's four "Prison Epistles," the others being Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon.
  6. Philippians is one of the most personal and affectionate of Paul's epistles. It is evident that Paul loved this church that he had established (cf. 1:3-8).
  7. The Philippian believers were generous and had helped Paul several times with his financial needs (cf. 4:14-19).
  8. Paul cited them as examples to others in giving (II Corinthians 8:1-5).
  9. The church at Philippi was free from the various doctrinal errors referred to in Paul's other letters.
  10. "Paul's reasons for writing were twofold. He wished to acknowledge the receipt of a financial gift delivered by Epaphroditus, and he wished to urge some of the members of the church to lay aside animosity and live in peace one with another" (John Phillips, Exploring the Scriptures).
  11. "I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. (Philippians 4:2).

OUTLINE from J. Vernon McGee:

  1. PHILOSOPHY for Christian living (Chapter 1)
  1. Introduction (1:1, 2)
  2. Paul's tender feeling for the Philippians (1:3-11)
  3. Bonds and afflictions further the gospel (1:12-20)
  4. In life or death — Christ (1:21-30)
  1. PATTERN for Christian living (Chapter 2)
    (Key verses: 5-11)
  1. Others (2:1-4)
  2. Mind of Christ — humble (2:5-8)
  3. Mind of God — exaltation of Christ (2:9-11)
  4. Mind of Paul — things of Christ (2:12-18)
  5. Mind of Timothy — like-minded with Paul (2:19-24)
  6. Mind of Epaphroditus — the work of Christ (2:25-30)
  1. PRIZE for Christian living (Chapter 3)
    (Key verses: 10-14)
  1. Paul changed his bookkeeping system of the past (3:1-9)
  2. Paul changed his purpose for the present (3:10-19)
  3. Paul changed his hope for the future (3:20, 21)
  1. POWER for Christian living (Chapter 4)
    (Key verse: 13)
  1. Joy — the source of power (4:1-4)
  2. Prayer — the secret of power (4:5-7)
  3. Contemplation of Christ — the sanctuary of power (4:8, 9)
  4. In Christ — the satisfaction of power (4:10-23)

These are simple Sunday School survey notes. They are not for sale. The author used many outlines from popular Bible teachers such as C.I. Scofield and J. Vernon McGee, and he has tried to give credit when using their material.

—  Pastor James J. Barker  —