What is the history and significance of the church in Philippi?

The Book of Acts, which is the historical narrative of the beginning of the Church, tells us that Philippi was the first place the apostle Paul established a church in Europe (Acts 16). Ancient Philippi was in Macedonia, and the remains can still be visited today.

Locals worshipped the Greek goddess Diana (also known as Artemis), who was associated with wooded places, women, childbirth, and the moon. The city had been defeated and then populated by Roman soldiers, as it was on a main Roman thoroughfare called the Egnatian Way. It was a gated city, with a theater, lots of trade, and places for public speaking.

The city got its name from Philip of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, before it became a Roman province. Because of its position, it would become the capital of the Greek Empire under Alexander's rule.

Philippi's first convert was an influential woman named Lydia (Acts 16:14–15). Her household also believed, and Lydia offered her home to Paul and Silas. While Paul and Silas were in Philippi, they healed a demon-possessed girl who told fortunes. This got them thrown into prison, but God miraculously freed them, drawing the jailer and his family to salvation in the midst (Acts 16:16–40). Paul and Silas left Philippi after their release from prison, a visit to Lydia, and encouraging the local believers.

The Philippian church became known as a very generous one, supporting Paul's ministry for years, no doubt because of its generous foundations. Largely, it was quite a healthy church, as Paul's letter to the Philippians is mostly about encouragement.

One of the most-quoted verses about prayer comes from Philippians 4:6–7: "do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

It was significant that Paul and Silas were imprisoned in Philippi, because they had the opportunity to convert the prison jailer, a Roman (Acts 16:16–40). His position of influence combined with Lydia's ensured the church would flourish and grow. This key European location became a solid launching place for the church further north and west.

Paul maintained a solid relationship with the church in Philippi, visiting them again and being supported by them, especially when he was imprisoned at Rome (Philippians 4:10–20). They sent him Epaphroditus, and he sent them his beloved Timothy in return (Philippians 2:19–30). His letter to the Philippians encourages them to pray, rejoice, and endure, with Jesus Christ as our example.

Related Truth:

What is the history and significance of the church at Jerusalem?

What is the history and significance of the church at Antioch?

What is the history and significance of the churches in Galatia?

What is the history and significance of the church at Thessalonica?

What was God's purpose in establishing the church?

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