Skip to main content

Philippians: Paul's Joy Book

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


Paul wrote 13 books of the New Testament. They are listed in the Bible by their length from the longest to the shortest instead of in the order in which they were written.

Paul wrote four books while he was under house arrest. They are referred to as the prison epistles.

  1. Ephesians
  2. Philippians
  3. Colossians
  4. Philemon

Book of Philippians

As you can see from the list above, Paul wrote Philippians while he was under house arrest. Yet, it is his "Joy" book. He used the word "joy" 19 times in the short book of only four chapters. Even though Paul was in chains, he expressed joy and encouraged others to rejoice and be joyful.

Joy is the theme in the entire book and can be clearly seen in each chapter. Paul encourages the Philippians to live a joyful life no matter what their personal circumstances were.

  • Philippians 1: Have joy in all circumstances.
  • Philippians 2: Experience joy in serving.
  • Philippians 3: Be joyful by having faith.
  • Philippians 4: Know what joy is like while giving.

Joy in Philippians

Joy is used in the form of either the noun “joy” (chara in Greek) or the verb “rejoice” (chairo) in this short letter. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit along with the other eight fruits as recorded in Galatians 5:22-23, another one of Paul's books

Joy as a noun (chara)

Joy as a noun is what a person has.

  1. Paul prays for the Philippian believers with joy because they partner with him in the gospel (1:4-5).
  2. Paul is convinced that the continuation of his ministry to the Philippians will contribute to their " joy in the faith” (1:25).
  3. Paul has joy because the Philippians believers are unified and single-minded (2:2).
  4. Paul encourages the Philippian church to receive Epaphroditus back with joy since he risked his life for the work of Christ (2:29).

Rejoice as a verb (chairo)

Rejoice as a verb is what a person does.

  1. Paul rejoices that Christ is proclaimed (1:18).
  2. Paul rejoices that his present hardship will lead to his deliverance because of the many prayers of the Philippians believers and the help of the Holy Spirit (1:18-19).
  3. Paul rejoices with the believers in his sacrifice for the sake of their faith so that his ministry would not be in vain (2:17).
  4. Paul encourages the Philippians to also rejoice with him (2:18).
  5. Paul is excited to send Epaphroditus back to the Philippians so they can rejoice to see him again (2:28).
  6. Paul frequently repeats “rejoice in the Lord” because he realizes how important it is (3:1).
  7. Paul encourages the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord always” and not just sometimes (4:4).
  8. The Philippians’ support in Paul's ministry caused him to rejoice in the Lord as he wanted the Philippians to do (4:10).

Joy for the Philippian Church

Paul had established the church in Philippi approximately 10 years before he wrote the letter to them. His love for the believers is indicated throughout the Book of Philippians which is his most personal letter.

Paul wrote the letter to express his gratitude and affection for the Philippian church. He wanted the believers to have joy because they were his strongest supporters in ministry.

The church had sent gifts to Paul the entire time he was in chains. Besides expressing thanks to the believers in Philippi for their gifts and support, Paul also encouraged them along with giving them instructions on how to live a joyous Christian life.

Paul's Joy

Paul knew the pleasure of being joyful even while he was under house arrest. He repeatedly told others to rejoice in the Lord along with him.

"Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, "Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4).

It seems strange that a man who was under house arrest for ten years as a prisoner could be full of joy. Paul could boldly tell people to rejoice as he used himself as a prime example. He was full of joy because he knew that no matter what happened to him outwardly, Jesus Christ was with him inwardly.

Paul’s joy was not because of what was happening around him. He was full of joy because of what was happening within him. Even in prison, he could rejoice (1:18). He had learned to be content in whatever his current circumstances were (4:11).

Paul’s joy came about through the growth he saw in people as a result of his teachings. He urged the church to “complete my joy” (2:2). He was able to rejoice that his labors with them have not been in vain (2:16). Paul wanted the Philippians to know he could be content and have joy no matter what was going on around him. Knowing Christ gave Paul all the joy he needed (3:3-14). He called the Philippians “my joy and crown” and exhorted them to stand fast (4:1).

Paul was able to face every hardship and to be joyous in every circumstance even those that included beatings, illness, and imprisonment. The apostle and servant of God knew pure joy because of his work in the ministry.

But I will rejoice even if I lose my life, pouring it out like a liquid offering to God, just like your faithful service is an offering to God. And I want all of you to share that joy. Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy (Philippians 2:17-18).

Our Joy

We can have joy when we follow Paul's advice and example. Like Paul, we can also experience the fullness of joy by trusting in the Lord and in his word.

Paul's attitude teaches us that our inner attitudes do not have to reflect our outward circumstances. He encouraged believers to be joyful in spite of their circumstances because joy comes from Christ who dwells within us.

In order to experience true joy like Paul, we need to know that it is not based on circumstances. Joy is found through a relationship with Jesus Christ. By following Jesus, we can find joy in all circumstances, including suffering just as Christ and Paul suffered.

Related Articles