Philippians

The Mature Christian Life

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An Introduction to Courses

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Taster Course

A short introduction

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Starter Course

Getting into the guts of what’s going on

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The meat! And what to do about it!

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Material for Church leaders and Tertiary level students

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The Key
The Key to unlocking the dynamic

The key to unlocking the dynamic of Philippians is to understand that the letter is written within the context of the special partnership of giving and receiving (4:15) to which the apostle Paul and the Philippian church had committed themselves for over 12 years. As Paul waits for the outcome of his hearing before Caesar, an outcome which could mean execution, he writes to those who have been his long-term partners in gospel ministry to exhort them to live a life ‘worthy of the Gospel’ (1:27) and ‘stand firm’ (1:27,4:1). The letter is essentially about mature Christian living. Here is a letter written in a gentle, quiet tone from the (mature) apostle Paul to a mature Christian church describing the mature Christian life. The letter is profoundly loving, it is a rich celebration of the gospel and the life of the community shaped by the gospel.  It is full of exhortation, gratitude and kindness, and is centred on the humble sacrificial death of Christ for humanity.

 


hear
Hear
Listen Here

Download the Bible App for your smart phone and listen when you’re at the gym, travelling etc …

Listen Here

Listen to the worship song ‘All I once held dear’ by Graham Kendrick which is based on Philippians 3:10


Read
Read

Easy:   Read aloud the four chapters of Philippians straight through. It should take you about 10 minutes. Do read this letter aloud if possible, since it was intentionally written to be read aloud to the assembled community of believers. It is surprising how much more of the meaning is communicated when the letter is read aloud. You should also read the story of how the church in Philippi was established (Acts 16:6-40).

 

Main:   Read Philippians several times – making notes after each reading about what stood out to you. Try and identify the main sections of the letter and Paul’s main arguments in each section. As you read, try and feel the tone of what is being said. Practice reading the sections dramatically and with emotion, as if you were Paul dictating the letter to the scribe.

 

 

 

 


Watch
Watch
Watch here

The Beach (2000)

 

This film (starring Leonardo De Caprio) explores the utopian life of a community in Thailand. As such, it provides a foil and contrast to the mature community of humble sacrificial love established by Paul through the gospel at Philippi.


Study
Study

Here is a letter of settled and joyful maturity that provides all apprentices of Jesus with an opportunity to study, learn and pursue the life patterns, attitudes and lifestyle of mature Kingdom living. Yes, there are one or two small issues among the Philippian believers that Paul needs to admonish (4:2-3), but even this is evidence that the faith and the operation of their church life is established and adult (the very opposite of the Corinthians who he repeatedly addresses as ‘children’). This letter gives several windows into godliness and all that we shall become in Christ through the Spirit’s transforming work (1:6, 2:13). Apprentices should first study Christ’s humble sacrificial lifestyle (2:5-11), along with Paul’s own peaceful perspective on death (1:19-26). Then, there are the descriptions of Timothy (2:19-24) and Epaphroditus (2:25-30), and in contrast with them the striving tyranny of those desperately promoting harsh legalistic religion (3:2-3) and others who want Christ, but without any cross, so that they can pursue their desires (3:17-21).


Meditate
Meditate

Suggested verses for meditation …

 

1:6 ‘…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ.’

 

1:27 ‘Whatever happens conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.’

 

2:6-8 ‘Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death even death on a cross.’

 

3:10 ‘I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain the resurrection from the dead.’

 

4:8 ‘Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.’

                          


learn
Learn

Excellent passages and verses to learn include:

 

2:5 – 11 – Christ’s humble sacrificial life and death

 

3:7 – 4:1 – Paul’s goals and motivation

 

4:6-7 ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’

 

4:13 ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’

 

3:13-14 ‘But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind, and straining towards what s ahead, I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus.’

 


Challenge
The Challenge

Explanation: We all learn in different ways. This section is for those who find that challenging questions motivate them to master a subject.

Here are ten questions about ‘Philippians’. See how you score. The answers are at the bottom of the page.

 

Easy:

Q1   What is Paul’s context when he writes this letter?

 

Q2   Who had the Philippians sent to Rome to look after Paul while he was in prison?

 

Q3 Which group of important people have heard the gospel precisely because Paul is in prison?

 

 

Straightforward:

Q4 What were the three circumstantial reasons why Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians?

 

Q5. What special relationship exists between the apostle Paul and the Philippian church?

 

Q6. What is the first pastoral issue that Paul addresses in the Philippian church?

 

 

Difficult:

Q7 As he writes and teaches about Christian maturity, Paul cites four examples. Who are they?

 

Q8. Why does Paul break down in tears?

 

 

Testing:

Q9 What is the astonishing promise with which Paul encourages the Philippian church as a result of their generosity to him?

 

 Q10. What should be the leading goal and aim of every mature disciple?

 

 

Answers:

A1 – He is in prison (1:13) (most likely in Rome, awaiting the outcome of his appeal to Caesar).

A2 – Epaphroditus (2:25).

A3 – Caesar’s household (1:13, 4:22).

A4 – (1) To thank the church for sending a financial gift (4:10-19, especially v 18).

(2) To explain why he is sending Epaphroditus back to Philippi (2:25-30).

(3) To let them know that he is sending Timothy to them, and that he intends to visit the Philippian church soon (2:19-24).

A5 – They have established a partnership of ‘giving and receiving’ (1:5, 4:15-16) whereby both apostle and the Philippian church make sure each have what they need for the ministry of the gospel.

A6 – He urges the church to help his two former co-workers, Euodia and Syntyche, resolve their dispute and live at peace with each other (4:2).

A7 – 1) Christ (2:5-11).

2) Timothy (2:19-24).

3) Epaphroditus (2:25-30).

4) Paul himself (3:12-15).

A8 – Because some believers are ‘living as enemies of the cross of Christ’ (3:18), that is, although they believe in Christ, they are continuing to follow their bodily desires to their own shame. Paul states that they will end up being destroyed (3:18-19).

A9 – Since the Philippian believers have ‘sent aid again and again when (Paul) was in need’ (4:16), Paul assures them that God will meet all their needs (4:19).

A10 – Straining forward and pressing on towards the goal of the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus (3:13).

 

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Overview

Questions

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    • Summary

    Summary & Exhortation

     

    Praise God that ‘Philippians’ is in the New Testament! If it wasn’t, we might be tempted to think that the Christian life is an endless struggle towards a goal we would never reach while on this earth. The letter to the Philippian church is a letter by the ‘mature’ apostle, at a point where his ministry is well established, to a mature church with which he shares a strong ministry partnership. The letter is full of joy, and despite Paul’s personal circumstances in prison, from start to finish it is written in a tone of deep peace and contentment. The whole letter communicates love and kindness. It is full of faith, and at the centre of it all is the guiding example of Christ’s own humble, sacrificial life and death.

     

    The circumstances of the letter are not completely clear. A lively debate continues as to exactly which imprisonment Paul was enduring, but the weight of opinion views Paul writing ‘Philippians’ towards the end of his imprisonment in Rome from 62-64CE as he awaits the outcome of his final hearing before Caesar. He writes to thank the Philippian church for their financial gift, to explain why he is sending Epaphroditus back to them, to assure them that his imprisonment is actually having a beneficial effect on the wider gospel ministry, to let them know that Timothy will be visiting them soon, and that Paul himself also hopes to travel to them. But something deeper is going on here. In ‘Philippians’ we see the apostle opening his heart to those with whom he is deeply bonded in gospel partnership. As he faces the possibility of execution, he lifts his eyes to the wonder of what is ahead in Christ and writes to those who have stood with him over the years and exhorts them, whatever happens, to live a life ‘worthy of the Gospel’ (1:27) and to ‘stand firm’ (4:1). The two main sections of the letter enlarge on both these statements.

     

    Here is letter of settled and joyful maturity that provides all apprentices of Jesus with an opportunity to study and learn and pursue the life patterns, attitudes and lifestyle of mature kingdom living. Yes, there are one or two small issues among the Philippian believers that Paul needs to admonish, but even this is evidence that the faith and the operation of their church life is established and adult (the very opposite of the Corinthians, who he repeatedly addresses as ‘children’). This letter gives several windows into godliness and all that we shall become in Christ through the Spirit’s transforming work. Apprentices should first study Christ’s humble sacrificial lifestyle, along with Paul’s own peaceful perspective on death. Then, there are the descriptions of Timothy and Epaphroditus, and in contrast with them, the striving tyranny of those desperately promoting harsh legalistic religion, and others who want Christ, but without any cross so that they can pursue their desires.

     

    Summary >
    taster Questions - Questions to start you off

    Question 1 -

    Do you know anyone who is always serving other people?


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    Question 2 -

    At Spring Harvest 2018, my wife Lucy heard a North Korean woman describe the brutal persecution that she and other Christians had, and are, suffering at the hands of the government of that country. How is it possible to understand ‘contentment’ (4:12) in such circumstances?


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    Question 3 -

    In February 2018, the woman’s suffragette movement in the United Kingdom celebrated its 100th anniversary. Is this movement united? Is the world-wide church actually unified? What does ‘church unity’ look like? What has the C20th Ecumenical movement achieved?


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    Question 4 -

    One of the deep truths of Philippians is that a person’s sacrificial service of others, even to the point of death, proves that such a person can be trusted with great authority and power. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years in South Africa and was then elected president. To what extent should we view Mandela’s exceptional endurance as a contemporary illustration of Christ’s own example?


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    starter course

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    the essentials

    The Argument

    Questions

    10 mins

    • podcasts - 3 to 5 minute ‘Teach-Ins’ on key themes

    What is a mature disciple?

    What is a mature Church?

      the essentials - The literary features explained
    • Context
    • /
    • Literary Genre
    • /
    • Structure
    • /
    • Themes

    Context:

     

    Author:   Paul writes from Rome where he is in prison awaiting his trail before Caesar (Paul mentions the Imperial guard and Caesar’s household.)

     

    Date:   62CE

     

    Circumstances behind the letter: Early in the Apostle Paul’s church-planting ministry, he entered into a partnership ‘of giving and receiving’ with the Philippian church (4:15). This partnership had operated for around 12-14 years since Paul and Silas had founded the church in 48/49CE. Within this context, when the Philippian believers heard that Paul was in Rome they sent one of their members, Epaphroditus, to Rome to give a financial gift to Paul, and to look after him. However, once in Rome, Epaphroditus fell seriously ill and nearly died (2:27). When he had recovered, and was strong enough to travel, Paul sent Epaphroditus back to Philippi with this letter.

    Although there were one or two minor pastoral issues (4:2), Paul is not writing in order to correct or admonish the Philippian church. Instead, this is a unique opportunity for Paul to teach and exhort those he loves (whom he describes as ‘my joy and crown’ (4:1)) to aspire to Christian maturity. The letter is written in a deep tone of love, peace and tenderness, even though both Paul and the Philippians are in different ways experiencing persecution.

    There is one other interesting feature of this letter. The city of Philippi was a Roman colony on the Via Egnatia, the major east-west route from Rome through Macedonia. Here is Paul, a Roman citizen, writing from Rome where he is awaiting trial before the Roman Emperor, to a Roman colony (where there is no synagogue).

    So Paul writes to thank the Philippian church for their financial gift, to explain why he is sending Epaphroditus back to them, to assure them that his imprisonment is actually having a beneficial effect on the wider gospel ministry, to let them know that Timothy will be visiting them soon, and that Paul himself also hopes to travel to them.

    Genre: This is a personal letter from Paul to the Church he founded in Philippi, and it follows Paul’s ‘usual’ composition: Greeting, thanksgiving, prayer, body of instruction, final greeting and blessing. Paul employs aphorism, lyric and metaphor at different points. A tone of friendship between Paul and the church dominates the letter and reflects their mutual relationship of ‘giving and receiving’ (4:15). It is also a letter of moral exhortation, citing the examples of Christ, Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus. There is a complication in the letter, in that there is some dissonance between 3:1-4:1 and the rest of the letter; it appears that this section is a ‘set piece’ that has been inserted by Paul from another context.

     

    The Structure of Paul’s argument in Philippians:

     

    Introduction

    1:1-2 Opening greeting

    1:3-11  Thanksgiving and prayer

    1:12-18 Paul’s imprisonment has catalysed the gospel ministry

     

    1:18-30   Paul expresses his expectation about the verdict and his future

    1:18b-26 Paul states his deep expectation that he will not be executed

    1:27-30 Paul exhorts his supporters to live a life worthy of the Gospel

     

    2:1-30   Live a life ‘worthy of the Gospel’, by following Christ’s example of sacrificial humility

    2:1-11 Paul exhorts them to follow Christ’s example of humility

    2:12-18 Paul exhorts them to become ‘blameless and pure children of God’

    2:19-24 Paul explains that he will be sending Timothy to them soon

    2:25-30 Paul explains why he is sending Epaphroditus back to them

     

    3:1 – 4:1  ‘Stand Firm’ by pressing on to know Christ

    3:1-4a Paul warns the Philippian to avoid the Judaisers

    3:4b-11 Paul explains his rejection of Pharisaism and his choice of righteousness in Christ

    3:12-16 Paul’s strategy for godliness

    3:17-21 Paul warns against compromising the lifestyle of the cross

    4:1 Paul summarises that this is how believers should ‘stand firm’

     

    4:2-9   Exhortations to godly living

    4:2-3 The church must sort out a dispute between two workers 

    4:4-9 Four lifestyle exhortations 

     

    4:10-20   Paul thanks the Philippians for their financial gift

    4:10-13 Paul reflects on the importance of ‘contentment’

    4:14-20 Paul thanks them for their gift brought to him by Epaphroditus

     

    4:21-23   Final Greetings

    Themes:

    1  Maturity – Philippians describes the mature Christian life. The letter gives insights into the mature church, the mature apostolic ministry, and the relationships between each of these.

     

    2  The Gospel Ministry – Throughout Philippians, the ministry of the gospel is paramount. A ‘mature church’ is a church which perseveres in taking the gospel to the world. Different aspects of this ministry are cited throughout this letter.

     

    3  The Cruciform life – ‘Cruciformity’ is the pattern and lifestyle of Christ himself, supremely exhibited by Christ’s example of humility, service and ultimate sacrifice in 2:6-11. Three other examples are given in this letter: the lives of Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus. There is one negative example; those around Paul, with the exception of Timothy, who look after their own interests (2:20-21, 3:18-19).

    Literary Genre >
      The Argument -

    Paul develops his argument as follows …

     

    Introduction

     

    1:1-2   Opening Greeting

     

    1:3-11  Thanksgiving and prayer Paul thanks God for the Philippians and for the ‘gospel partnership’ that he has with them. He tells them of his deep love for them, and explains what he is praying for them.

     

    1:12-18 Paul’s imprisonment has catalysed the gospel ministry Paul assures his ministry partners at Philippi that, rather than frustrating the gospel ministry, his imprisonment has, through ‘fair means and foul’, actually catalysed the preaching of the gospel. 

     

    1:18-30   Paul expresses his expectations about the verdict and his future

     

    1:18b-26 Paul states his strong expectation that he will not be executedPaul explains why, even though on balance he would prefer to die and be with Christ, that for the sake of the church he will be granted more time to preach the gospel and build up the church.

     

    1:27-30 Paul exhorts his supporters to live a life worthy of the Gospel – Paul turns from his situation to the situation of the Philippians and, using two of his leading values, exhorts them to live a life ‘worthy’ of the gospel, and to ‘stand firm’, no matter what the outcome of the forthcoming court verdict.

     

     

     

    2:1-30   Live a life ‘worthy of the Lord’, by following Christ’s example of sacrificial humility

     

    2:1-11  Paul exhorts them to follow Christ’s example of humility – Paul’s leading appeal is that the Philippians live ‘in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (1:27), which he now explains in a moving and powerfully inspirational passage centred on an imperative to be humble, not selfish, illustrated by Christ’s very own example of submitting willingly to crucifixion.

     

    2:12-18 Paul exhorts them to become ‘blameless and pure children of God’ – From 1:27 onwards, Paul has been describing how mature Christian believers can live ‘in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (1:27). As we renounce our own selfish ambition, all complaining and arguing, and follow Christ’s own example of humble sacrifice, God himself works in us to make us pure and blameless ‘in a crooked and depraved generation’ (2:15).

     

    2:19-24   Paul explains that he will be sending Timothy to them soonSince 2:1, Paul has been exhorting and explaining to the Philippians how they can ‘live a life worthy of the Gospel’ (1:27) by following Christ’s own humble, sacrificial lifestyle. He now cites Timothy as a further example.

     

    2:25-30   Paul explains why he is sending Epaphroditus back to them This is the last subject in the first part of this letter. Paul now explains that since Epaphroditus (who the Philippians had sent to Paul to look after him during his imprisonment in Rome) has now recovered from his serious illness, Paul is sending him back to them.

     

     

    3:1 – 4:1 ‘Stand Firm’ by pressing on to know Christ

    Having explained that disciples must live ‘in a manner worthy of Christ’ (1:27), by following Christ’s example of humble sacrificial love, Paul now turns to explaining his second admonition, that the believers must ‘stand firm’ (1:27). This section seems to be a ‘set piece’ that Paul has written on an earlier occasion.

     

    3:1-4a   Paul warns the Philippians to avoid the Judaisers – Paul introduces his exposition about ‘standing firm’ with a very strong warning about avoiding the Judaising deception of trusting in the physical act of circumcision.

     

    3:4b-11   Paul explains his rejection of Pharisaism and his choice of righteousness in Christ – Paul contrasts the ineffectiveness of legal religion, which he himself was perfect at, with the effectiveness of knowing Christ as a way not only to gain right-standing with God through faith in Christ, but to know Christ, his power, his sufferings and his resurrection.

     

    3:12-16   Paul’s strategy for godliness

    Having given a severe warning against legalistic religion, and then described the wonderful goal of knowing Christ and his power in death and resurrection, Paul now describes and commends his own strategy and means for achieving this goal.

     

    3:17-21   Paul warns against compromising the lifestyle of the cross

    Throughout 3:1 – 4:1, Paul is exhorting his friends at Philippi to ‘stand firm in the Lord’ (4:1). After warning them against the pernicious work of the Judaisers, he describes the wonderful state of righteousness through faith in Christ, his motivation to know Christ more and more, and his strategy for achieving progress ‘in Christ’. He now develops his caution not to regress (v16) into a major warning not to ‘live as an enemy of the cross of Christ’.

     

    4:1   Paul summarises that this is how believers should ‘stand firm’

    Although this is Paul’s first specific reference to it, the whole section from 3:1 – 4:1 has been an explanation how the Philippians should and can fulfil his first exhortation to ‘stand firm’ (1:27). Whatever happens to Paul (whether he is executed or freed), his Philippian partners in the gospel must live ‘worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (1:27), and ‘stand firm in the Lord’ (4:1).

     

     

    4:2-9   Exhortations to godly living

    Paul has explained his own situation to his gospel partners at Philippi (1:12-26), and in two leading passages has exhorted them to live lives ‘worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (1:27) and to ‘stand firm in the Lord’ (4:1). He has also explained his travel plans and why he is sending Epaphroditus back to them. In this last section he gives leading exhortations about godly living before turning to thank them for their financial gift (4:10-19).

     

    4:2-3   The church must sort out a dispute between two workers 

    One priority is to ensure that two leading Christians live at peace with each other.

     

    4:4-9   Four lifestyle exhortations 

     

     

    4:10-20   Paul thanks the Philippians for their financial gift

    Paul seems to always address the financial issues last, because money serves ministry, not the opposite (e.g. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8-9 (Chapters 10-13 being a separate letter written a few weeks afterwards), Galatians 6:6, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

     

    4:10-13   Paul reflects on the importance of ‘contentment’

     

    4:14-20   Paul thanks them for their gift brought to him by Epaphroditus

    This is the leading reason for Paul writing the letter.

     

     

    4:21-23   Final Greetings

    Paul ends the letter with greetings to and from all the believers.

     

     

    starter Questions - To help you think carefully about the key issues

    Question 1 -

    Have you ever witnessed the level of sacrificial support that Paul and the Philippian church both benefited from as a result of their ‘partnership of giving and receiving’ (4:15)?


    Question 2 -

    How should we respond when our best acts of service fail, and instead of being a blessing and help to others we, like Epaphroditus in his sickness, become a problem and a burden to the very people we set out to assist?


    Question 3 -

    The Romans despised humility, whereas Paul celebrates humility and cites Christ as the leading example. In what other ways is Christianity completely counter-cultural?


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    Question 4 -

    A young man I knew stopped going to church because he witnessed an ugly dispute between two elders in his church. When did you last witness a dispute in a church? Did other believers help the two parties to reconcile (4:3)?


    Question 5 -

    Who are the most ‘mature’ Christians you know? What exactly about them impresses you? To what extent is ‘Christian maturity’ defined by doctrine, and by character?


    main course

    Verse by Verse

    The Apprentice

    Questions

    • Verse by Verse - For a thorough understanding of the Biblical text
    • 1:1-18 Prayer & Appeal Outcome
    • /
    • 2:1-30 Living 'worthy of the gospel'
    • /
    • 3:1-4:1 "Standing firm in the Lord"
    • /
    • 4:2-23 Mature Godly living

    Introduction

     

    1:1-2   Opening Greeting

    As usual, Paul adapts the standard ‘greeting’ pattern of a mid-first century CE Roman letter to introduce and emphasise the arguments he will develop in the letter. He introduces himself and Timothy not as ‘apostles’ but as ‘servants’, a theme he will elaborate substantially in chapter 2. All believers are ‘saints’ because all who believe in Christ are sanctified and ‘set apart’  for God (just as your toothbrush is set apart for you – no one else uses it), through and because of their faith. This is the only letter in which Paul addresses ‘the overseers and deacons’ (although he teaches about these offices in ‘1 Timothy’), and this immediately indicates that the Philippian church is large and well established. Paul is writing to a mature church.

    V2   Paul’s usual greeting; alongside ‘God our Father’, Paul states that Jesus is Lord. Grace and peace are the substance of the Aaronic blessing (Numbers 6:24-27) and Paul always (starts and) ends his letters with a benediction of grace, 4:23, because the Christian life is from first to last an act of God’s grace – his redeeming work through Christ, at his expense, because of his love and kindness and mercy.

     

     

    1:3-11  Thanksgiving and prayer Paul thanks God for the Philippians and for the ‘gospel partnership’ that he has with them. He tells them of his deep love for them, and explains what he is praying for them.

    Paul’s prayers always begin, and usually always overflow, with thanksgiving but in this letter Paul goes even further and expresses his great joy for the partnership he has with the Philippians which has proved over the years to be such a source of help to them both. Before articulating his prayer for them, he takes time to express his deep love for them in the gospel ministry. Those who have partnered with others in the gospel ministry will know and immediately recognise the deep love one experiences for all those who also sacrifice their careers, time, money and opportunities so that others can also know Christ and live in the kingdom. Paul’s prayers are always instructive, and in this case, we see him asking that the mature loving Christian community at Philippi will grow still stronger in love. His petition is that they will be able to ‘discern what is best’ (1:10) as they love each other and the outside community.

    V6   A strong promise and assurance that Christ will never renege on his commitment to complete his work of salvation in every disciple.

    V7   Although Paul is writing to thank the Philippians for their gift, and to send Epaphroditus back to them, he takes the chance to assure them that his imprisonment is not something they should be unsettled by.

    V11 ‘…filled with the fruit of righteousness’ seems to be a reference to the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

     

     

    1:12-18 Paul’s imprisonment has catalysed the gospel ministry Paul assures his ministry partners at Philippi that, rather than frustrating the gospel ministry, his imprisonment has, through ‘fair means and foul’, actually catalysed the preaching of the gospel. 

    Paul’s opponents were using Paul’s imprisonment as evidence for rejecting Paul, so he begins by assuring his friends and supporters at Philippi that actually, as a direct result of his imprisonment, the gospel is being much more widely preached, by both friend and opponent.

    V15   In Colossians 1:24, Paul makes a similar point of writing to assure his hearers that they should not understand his imprisonment as God’s discipline and rejection of the gospel.

     

     

    1:18-30   Paul expresses his expectation about the verdict and his future

     

    1:18b-26 Paul states his strong expectation that he will not be executedPaul explains why, even though on balance he would prefer to die and be with Christ, that for the sake of the church he will be granted more time to preach the gospel and build up the church.

    Paul is in Rome, towards the end of the two years, waiting for his appeal to be heard by Caesar. He is deeply confident that whatever happens he will bring honour to Jesus, but says that while he would much prefer to leave this life and be with Christ, nevertheless for the sake of the wider Christian community he will not be executed, but spared so that he can continue to preach the gospel fruitfully and build up the community of believers.

    V25   Once again we see that joy is the great hallmark of mature Christian living. Joy is the profound heart response to our certain future with Christ, as guaranteed by the dynamic Holy Spirit.

     

    1:27-30 Paul exhorts his supporters to live a life worthy of the Gospel – Paul turns from his situation to the situation of the Philippians and, using two of his leading values, exhorts them to live a life ‘worthy’ of the gospel, and to ‘stand firm’, no matter what the outcome of the forthcoming court verdict.

    V27   Both of the words ‘worthy’ and ‘stand firm’ are taken directly from Jesus’ own teaching on mission (Matthew 10:10,22). They are leading concepts in Paul’s understanding of the reception of the gospel and the growth in discipleship.

    V28   Those who ‘oppose’ the gospel will be ‘destroyed’. If a person rejects the only means of salvation that God has given, then there is no alternative but to reap the full results of one’s own sin, in other words to be ruined and destroyed.

    2:1-30   Live a life ‘worthy of the gospel of Christ’, by following Christ’s example of sacrificial humility

     

    2:1-11  Paul exhorts them to follow Christ’s example of humility – Paul’s leading appeal is that the Philippians live ‘in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (1:27), which he now explains in a moving and powerfully inspirational passage centred on an imperative to be humble, not selfish, illustrated by Christ’s very own example of submitting willingly to crucifixion.

    The encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness and compassion of our life with Christ in the Spirit should lead a Christian community to have a common agreed purpose together. This will involve individual believers, and groups of believers, foregoing their own desires and plans for the greater good of the whole Christian community in its pursuit of the kingdom in the Spirit.

    V1-2   A mature, adult Christian community is not only evidenced by the experience of the fruits of our fellowship with the Trinitarian God-head (encouragement, comfort, fellowship, tenderness and compassion), but through the peaceful common pursuit of an agreed programme for the believing community.

    V3   This is the first imperative admonition of the letter. Whether or not Paul had a specific incidence, or person, in mind is not clear, but his point is that all the believing community should submit their own agenda before others as they corporately pursue the Spirit’s purposes for the local church.

    V5-11   This is almost certainly an early Christian hymn that Paul has adapted and is using as a statement and description of Christ’s example in ‘not looking after [his own] interests but after the interests of others’ (v4).

    V7   In ‘making himself nothing’, Christ nevertheless continued to be divine. ‘All the fullness of deity’ is pleased to dwell in Christ (Colossians 2:9) and ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’ (2 Corinthians 5:19). It was the love of God himself on the cross, as Christ both embodied all humanity as the Trinitarian God, that made atonement for all human sin.

    V11   He is Supreme Lord, because he has demonstrated his ultimate service and sacrifice, even to the point of such sacrificial death for others. He is the only one who is worthy to have and to execute ultimate power.

     

    2:12-18 Paul exhorts them to become ‘blameless and pure children of God’ – From 1:27 onwards, Paul has been describing how mature Christian believers can live ‘in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (1:27). As we renounce our own selfish ambition, all complaining and arguing, and follow Christ’s own example of humble sacrifice, God himself works in us to make us pure and blameless ‘in a crooked and depraved generation’ (2:15).

    Having described Christ’s own perfect example of humility, he now exhorts them all to continue to live out the full implications of God’s saving work because God himself is at work in them. There is no place for complaining or arguing in their growth towards living pure and blameless lives as children of God.

    V14   Paul’s second imperative admonition is that we must reject all ‘complaining and arguing’.

    V15   Shining ‘like stars in the universe’ is a powerful picture.

    V17   A ‘libation’ was a special offering poured out on the animal being sacrificed. Paul in prison, waiting for the outcome of his appeal, is in a similar way laying down his own life and the opportunities he could have had, in order that other believers in Christ may love and follow Christ.

     

    2:19-24 Paul explains that he will be sending Timothy to them soonSince 2:1, Paul has been exhorting and explaining to the Philippians how they can ‘live a life worthy of the Gospel’ (1:27) by following Christ’s own humble, sacrificial lifestyle. He now cites Timothy as a further example.

    Paul is actually confident that the verdict will be given soon and that he will be released from prison. He explains that he is sending Timothy to them so he can hear their news – within the context of the ‘giving-and-receiving’ partnership (1:5 & 4:15-16). Paul takes this opportunity to point out Timothy’s own example of Christ-like humility.

     

    2:25-30 Paul explains why he is sending Epaphroditus back to them This is the last subject in the first part of this letter. Paul now explains that since Epaphroditus (who the Philippians had sent to Paul to look after him during his imprisonment in Rome) has now recovered from his serious illness, Paul is sending him back to them.

    Epaphroditus had travelled to Rome in order to look after Paul, but he had fallen so seriously ill that he had become a liability to Paul. Paul is full of affirmation for Epaphroditus, but nevertheless is keen that he returns to his home at Philippi. This short section about Epaphroditus therefore serves as another example of sacrificial service for Christ, and with this final example Paul ends this first section in the letter.

    3:1 – 4:1 ‘Stand Firm’ by pressing on to know Christ

    Having explained that disciples must live ‘in a manner worthy of Christ’ (1:27), by following Christ’s example of humble sacrificial love, Paul now turns to explaining his second admonition, that the believers must ‘stand firm’ (1:27). This section seems to be a ‘set piece’ that Paul has written on an earlier occasion.

     

    3:1-4a   Paul warns the Philippians to avoid the Judaisers – Paul introduces his exposition about ‘standing firm’ with a very strong warning about avoiding the Judaising deception of trusting in the physical act of circumcision.

    The ‘finally’ with which Paul introduces this section seems to indicate that this unit (3:1-4:1) stands on its own, that it is something that Paul has taught on another occasion, but that the substance applies to the Philippians. This would explain why Paul immediately explains that he has communicated the message before.

    V2   Circumcision (cutting off the foreskin) was the sign of Abraham’s covenant with God and the evidence of his faith that God would fulfil His promise to him (Genesis 17:24).

    V3   With these two statements, Paul wonderfully summaries the Trinitarian worship of God the Father; it is ‘by the Spirit’ and through glorying in Christ Jesus. ‘Mutilating’ the flesh in the act of circumcision is irrelevant and deceptive! Through faith in Christ’s atoning death, God performs the deeper and truly effective ‘circumcision’ of sin and the sinful nature at the deepest level of our beings (Romans 6:4,6, Colossians 2:13).

     

    3:4b-11   Paul explains his rejection of Pharisaism and his choice of righteousness in Christ – Paul contrasts the ineffectiveness of legal religion, which he himself was perfect at, with the effectiveness of knowing Christ as a way not only to gain right-standing with God through faith in Christ, but to know Christ, his power, his sufferings and his resurrection.

    In some of the most loved statements of the New Testament, Paul summarises his life’s goal, which is to know Christ so completely that he enters into the very death of Christ and even experiences his resurrection.

    V7   Pharisaic righteousness was a ‘loss’ for Paul because it had prevented him from seeing the truth.

    V8   The word Paul uses should really be translated as ‘crap’. We get a better sense of Paul’s meaning when we state that Pharisaic disciplined obedience to the external religious rules is nothing but a ‘pile of shit’!

    V10   Christian ministry is ‘cruciform’. Paul explains this in 2 Corinthians 4, but in this letter he has already described Christ’s humble sacrificial loving death as the example which all Christians should aspire to live by (2:5-11). The essence of religious law is performance, but the essence of faith in Christ is being caught up in the glorious knowledge of Christ through the dynamic lifegiving power of the Holy Spirit.

     

    3:12-16   Paul’s strategy for godliness

    Having given a severe warning against legalistic religion, and then described the wonderful goal of knowing Christ and his power in death and resurrection, Paul now describes and commends his own strategy and means for achieving this goal.

    The key words in this section are the verbs.  Twice Paul states ‘I press on’ (3:14), adding that he forgets ‘what lies behind’ and strains forward ‘to what lies ahead’ (both 3:13). This is mature Christian living and, in 4:1, he will add that this is how we ‘stand firm’.

    V12   Our heavenly Father has taken hold of those who believe through Christ’s atoning work, the door is now open, and it is up to each disciple to ‘take hold of’ all that is ours in this new life in the kingdom. Paul’s teaching here corresponds to his teaching in 2:12-13; both passages hold the creative tension of the divine and the human working together towards the same goal.

    V13  ‘We all make many mistakes’ (James 3:1), but in Christ we are forgiven and there is a right place for ‘forgetting’ the past. Paul probably has his violent religious past in mind at this point. Paul is not encouraging irresponsibility (he himself was open about his past, in 1 Timothy 1:13), but disciples need to learn to let go of earlier mistakes and ‘allow God to take our past to the cross’ (Colossians 2:14-15).

    V15   If we are genuinely seeking God then He will show us where our thinking needs to change.

    V16   Ever the pastoral realist, Paul knows the power of evil and the ever-present tendency to compromise so he exhorts his mature Christian friends to always be careful to live up to all they have so far achieved in godly living in Christ.

     

    3:17-21   Paul warns against compromising the lifestyle of the cross

    Throughout 3:1 – 4:1, Paul is exhorting his friends at Philippi to ‘stand firm in the Lord’ (4:1). After warning them against the pernicious work of the Judaisers, he describes the wonderful state of righteousness through faith in Christ, his motivation to know Christ more and more, and his strategy for achieving progress ‘in Christ’. He now develops his caution not to regress (v16) into a major warning not to ‘live as an enemy of the cross of Christ’.

    While outside the church, the danger comes from those zealously promoting legalistic righteousness (3:2-4a), the danger inside the believing community comes from those who deny the lifestyle of the Cross. The very first warning Jesus gave Peter after his confession ‘You are the Christ’, was that ‘If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself take up his cross and follow me’ (Matt 16:24, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). Paul now warns his Philippian friends against those (perhaps even in the Philippian church) who deny the cruciform life. The lifestyle of ‘the enemies of the cross of Christ’ (v18) is described in v19 and contrasted with those who live the life of the cross, now waiting in anticipation of the full coming of Christ. Paul develops a contrast between those who pursue the satisfaction of earthly, ‘shameful’ desires and bodily appetites here and now, and those who wait for Christ to transform our earthly bodies to be like his glorious body. We touch upon the warning of Jude at this point (Jude 4).

    V18   Fee: “He is probably describing some itinerants; whose view of faith is such that it allows them a great deal of undisciplined self-indulgence.” Paul is straining and ‘pressing forward towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenwards in Christ Jesus’ (3:14), conscious that ‘our citizenship is in heaven’ (3:20), but these people’s minds are on earthly things, and they are led by the desires of their bodies and stomachs.

    V19-21   Paul is certainly not promoting any harsh, disciplined flagellation of the body, (the sort of thing he criticised by implication in v4-6), he is addressing the satisfaction of the desires of the sinful nature. He is never against the proper enjoyment of the good gifts God has given, but he is against the hedonistic satisfaction of the desires of the stomach (and body).

     

    4:1   Paul summarises that this is how believers should ‘stand firm’

    Although this is Paul’s first specific reference to it, the whole section from 3:1 – 4:1 has been an explanation how the Philippians should and can fulfil his first exhortation to ‘stand firm’ (1:27). Whatever happens to Paul (whether he is executed or freed), his Philippian partners in the gospel must live ‘worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (1:27), and ‘stand firm in the Lord’ (4:1).

    V1   This verse should be allowed to stand for what it says. The Philippian church was the only church that had entered into (and maintained) this gospel partnership with Paul, (4:15), and there is a sense in which the Philippian church was indeed the leading church and finest example of church arising from Paul’s ministry! Here is maturity, here is cruciform living, here is the faithful example all churches should aspire to imitate. They are the ‘crown’ of his ministry; his ‘Exhibit A’.

    4:2-9   Exhortations to godly living

    Paul has explained his own situation to his gospel partners at Philippi (1:12-26), and in two leading passages has exhorted them to live lives ‘worthy of the gospel of Christ’ (1:27) and to ‘stand firm in the Lord’ (4:1). He has also explained his travel plans and why he is sending Epaphroditus back to them. In this last section he gives leading exhortations about godly living before turning to thank them for their financial gift (4:10-19).

     

    4:2-3   The church must sort out a dispute between two workers 

    One priority is to ensure that two leading Christians live at peace with each other Unresolved disputes in church leadership are divisive and very, very dangerous (often leading to church splits), so unsurprisingly this is the first pastoral issue Paul addresses. Since this is the very first issue that Jesus addresses in the body of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21-26), the resolution of interpersonal conflict ought to be every disciple’s first priority.

    V2   Two conflicts are specifically mentioned in the New Testament: Paul and Barnabas disputed in Acts 15:36-41, and these two women at Philippi are also in a dispute.

    V3   Paul does not take sides in the dispute. He exhorts specific individual leaders to work to restore ‘agreement’ between these two women. He affirms both women as ‘fellow-workers’, he states that the names of both ‘are in the book of life’, and therefore they are both ‘saved’, and both will spend eternity together!

     

    4:4-9   Four lifestyle exhortations 

    Paul often closes his letters with ‘kingdom lifestyle maxims’. Obvious examples would include:  1 Thessalonians 5:12-22, Romans 12:9-21, 1 Corinthians 16:13-14, Colossians 3:15-17. In the case of Philippians, he takes a little more space to develop and substantiate the exhortations.

    V4   This repeats the imperative of 3:1 and again emphasises the powerful theme of joy and rejoicing that runs throughout the letter (the words ‘rejoice’ and ‘joy’ are mentioned about 12 times). Joy is the natural, excited and happy response to the prospect of our future with Christ, which every year of our lives comes closer, and is guaranteed by the overriding dynamic of the Spirit that believers experience and enjoy right now in the present. Jesus said ‘I have told you this so my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete’ (John 15:11).

    V5 ‘Gentleness’ (or, ‘moderation’) is a fruit of the Spirit, and the characteristic of the humble life Paul has highlighted in 2:5-11.

    V6-7   One of the very great promises about prayer in Scripture. This verse works! For five years Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, has been living under Roman custody, there would have been so much for him to be anxious about, and yet these verses describe the experience of peace that he has so continuously known and experienced. Every disciple can and should discipline themselves to obey and master the instructions in these sentences. Indeed, the evidence that an apprentice is making progress in discipleship is that the fruit and evidence of these instructions is seen in their lives. You can’t really explain how it happens, but when we carefully bring our anxieties to the Lord in this way then this ‘peace and order’ does rule over the situation.

    V8   When Paul writes ‘Finally’, he then seems to introduce a ‘set piece’, and these seven related exhortations, which could possibly be a ‘chorus’ set to music, all address our thoughts. It has been well said by author Stephen R. Covey: ‘Sow a thought, reap an action. Sow an action reap a character, sow a character reap an eternity.’

     

     

    4:10-20   Paul thanks the Philippians for their financial gift

    Paul seems to always address the financial issues last, because money serves ministry, not the opposite (e.g. 1 Corinthians 16:1-4, 2 Corinthians 8-9 (Chapters 10-13 being a separate letter written a few weeks afterwards), Galatians 6:6, 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15, 1 Timothy 6:17-19).

     

    4:10-13   Paul reflects on the importance of ‘contentment’

    Contentment, whatever the circumstances, is another characteristic of mature discipleship.

    V13   Christ enables us to be content, whatever our circumstances, because HE is our contentment. It is profoundly true that when we have Christ, we have everything in Christ.

     

    4:14-20   Paul thanks them for their gift brought to him by Epaphroditus

    This is the leading reason for Paul writing the letter.

    V16   This reference to his time in Thessalonica strongly implies that Paul spent much more than ‘three sabbaths’ to establish the church in that city.

    V19   Paul summarises (in a way that follows the pattern of v13), with the firm assurance that because the Philippians have provided for the needs of Paul, God himself will see to it that the needs of the Philippians are provided for.

     

     

     

    4:21-23   Final Greetings

    Paul ends the letter with greetings to and from all the believers.

    V22   The believers in Caesars’s palace get a special mention, because Paul is underlining the truth that his imprisonment is having a very positive outcome for the gospel ministry (1:12-14).

    V23   Paul always closes his letters with a blessing proclaiming ‘grace be with you’, (or words very similar).

     

    2:1-30 Living 'worthy of the gospel' >
      The Apprentice - Helping apprentices of Jesus think through the applications
    • Overall Message
    • /
    • Leading Imperatives
    • /
    • Implied Imperatives
    • /
    • Holy Habits

    The overall message of the letter:

    The letter of Philippians is written within the context of the unique relationship of ‘giving and receiving’ to which both the apostle Paul and the Philippian church had committed themselves (1:5, 4:15). This ‘giving and receiving’ involved the sharing of both financial resources (4:10) and people (2:23,25), a commitment to encourage each other, to love each other, share information with each other and pray for each other. The tone and message of this letter is strongly loving, encouraging and kind. While ‘Philippians’ includes a few items of (relatively minor) correction, the heart of the letter is an outstanding exhortation to become mature, by having the attitude that Christ himself had towards all humanity (2:6-11) and by pressing into all that Christ has for us (3:12-15). These should be the primary applications for the apprentices of Jesus.

    The leading imperatives:

     

    1:27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.

     

    2:1-5 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being on in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

     

    2:12 … continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

     

    2:14 Do everything without complaining or arguing, …

     

    2:29 Welcome him (Epaphroditus) in the Lord with great joy, and honour men like him, …

     

    3:1 … Rejoice in the Lord.

     

    3:2 Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh…

     

    3:17 Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern that we gave you.

     

    4:3 … I ask you … help these women.

     

    4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.

     

    4:5 Let your gentleness be evident to all…

     

    4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God.

     

    4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice.

     

    4:21 Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus.

     

    The implied imperatives:

     

    Avoid the two opposing dangers of religion, based on legalistic righteousness on the one hand (3:1-7), and on the other, faith without the daily practice of taking up the cross and suffering for it (3:18-19).

    Holy Habits: (Holy Habits are patterns of living and lifestyle practices which we choose to do in our lives.  These can be in order to either withdraw from the dominion of the world, such as silence, secrecy, submission, fasting, watching, simple living, or, practices that plunge us into the life of the Kingdom, such as prayer, worship, celebration, study, serving the poor and deprived, etc. They can be as simple as kneeling by your bed and thanking God at the end of the day, or as substantial as attending an annual Christian festival.)

     

    Since the two leading exhortations in this letter are to ‘live a life worthy of the Gospel’ (1:27) and ‘stand firm’ (1:27, 4:1), apprentices in the Kingdom ought to consider carefully what practices, patterns and rhythms of life will strengthen us to do these things.

    For Example: Quietly and privately (without telling anyone about it) serve a (different) person each day for a month.

    Leading Imperatives >
    main Questions - Important questions directly from the text

    Question 1 -

    Write down the names of 3 other Christians in your church. Then write down ‘their interests’. What can you do to help them achieve their ‘interests’ (2:4)?


    Question 2 -

    Who are the religious law enforcers today (3:2-6)?


    watch video

    Question 3 -

    How is it actually possible for a Christian to live as an enemy of the cross (3:18-21)?


    Question 4 -

    On the notice board of your favourite café there will almost certainly be several adverts for ‘spirituality’ courses and programmes that promise “peace”. What are the features of the peace described in New Testament? Have you experienced the ‘peace of God’ keeping you in the way Paul describes in 4:7?


    Question 5 -

    What are the ‘conditions’ for God to supply all your needs (4:19)?


    Question 6 -

    List some of the leading features of Christian maturity mentioned in ‘Philippians’?


    dessert course

    A prayer

    Commentaries

    Suggested Sermon Series

    Questions

    • A prayer -

    A Prayer based on Philippians

    God our Father, whose son Jesus humbled himself, becoming obedient even to death on the cross, may our love abound more and more through knowledge and insight, that following Christ’s humble and sacrificial example we may know him and the power of his resurrection, becoming like him in his death, and so live lives that are worthy of the gospel of Christ and stand firm in the Lord, in whose name we pray, Amen.

     

    Commentary on the Prayer:

    God our Father (1:2) whose son Jesus humbled himself becoming obedient even to death on the cross (2:8), may our love abound more and more through knowledge and insight (1:9), that following Christ’s humble and sacrificial example we may know him and the power of his resurrection, becoming like him in his death (3:10), and so live lives that are worthy of the gospel of Christ (1:27) and stand firm in the Lord (4:1), in whose name we pray, Amen.

     

      Commentaries - Introducing the best commentaries

    Commentaries on Philippians  

    (Updated: June 2018)

     

    Commentary Comment
    Peter T. O’Brian

    New International Greek Commentary (1991)

    This would be my leading recommendation for anyone who wants to study Philippians in depth.
    Gordon Fee

    New International Commentary on the NT

    A thorough commentary and exposition which gives an excellent grasp of Paul’s letter to the Philippian church.
    G B Caird

    Paul’s letters from prison,

    New Clarendon Bible Series

    Caird is always good value. This short book provides a sound start for the student of Philippians.
    English Standard Version Study Bible Good introductory material for the reader of Philippians.

     

     

      Suggested Sermon Series -

    Sermon Series on Philippians:

    (Updated: 3rd June 2018)

     

     

    Series Title:           The Mature Christian Life.

     

    Text Title Subject
    First Sermon:

    3:15

    ‘The mature Christian’ – The circumstantial reasons why Paul wrote this letter. Context and Background:

    ·       Paul in prison

    ·       The partnership of giving and receiving

    ·       The Philippian church is Paul’s ‘joy and crown’

    ·       The exhortations to ‘live worthy of the Gospel’, and ‘stand firm

    ·       The features of joy, peace, humility and contentment

     
    1:21 ‘For me to live is Christ!’ Maturity is devotion to Christ (see also 3:10).
     
    2:5-11 ‘Real humility’ The mature Christian follows Christ’s humble example.
     
    2:16 ‘Always holding out the Word of life’ The Mature Christian is committed to furthering the message of the gospel.
     
    3:1-21 ‘Avoid the extremes’ The Mature Christian avoids the extremes of legalistic religion (3:2-6) and license (3:17-21).
     
    3:13 ‘Straining forward to what lies ahead’ The mature Christian pursues all that Christ has given us in the Kingdom.
     
    4:2-3 How to resolve disputes The mature Christian carefully resolves disputes in church.
     
    4:4 ‘Joy, joy, joy’

     

    ‘The mature Christian rejoices continuously’ – the words ‘Joy/rejoice’ are mentioned 12 times.
     
    4:6-7 No anxiety! The mature Christian knows how to leave difficulties with the Lord and receive His peace.
     
    4:10-20 The secret of contentment The mature Christian has learned the secret of being content in every situation.
     
    dessert Questions - Gloves off; hard questions for the Bible student and theologian

    Question 1 -

    Does the interpretation and understanding of scripture require a particular creedal or sacramental understanding? If the Christian community is in disunity, is its interpretation of scripture compromised, or rendered redundant?


    Waiter's Brief

    Answers to Questions

    Coaching Questions

    Questions

    • Answers to Questions -

    Taster Course Questions:

     

    QQQ

    Do you know anyone who is always serving other people?

    Internet link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcjKv_SWRQo

     

    QQQ

    At Spring Harvest 2018, my wife Lucy heard a North Korean woman describe the brutal persecution that she and other Christians had, and are, suffering at the hands of the government of that country. How is it possible to understand ‘contentment’ in such circumstances?

    Internet link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMkgI5SBeF4

    Comment :

     

    QQQ

    In February 2018, the woman’s suffragette movement in the United Kingdom celebrated its 100th anniversary. Is this movement united? Is the world-wide church actually unified? What does ‘church unity’ look like? What has the C20th Ecumenical movement achieved?

    Internet link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D0QVQcqkPDs

    Comment :

     

    QQQ

    One of the deep truths of Philippians is that a person’s sacrificial service of others, even to the point of death, proves that such a person can be trusted with great authority and power. Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years in South Africa and was then elected president. To what extent should we view Mandela’s exceptional endurance as a contemporary illustration of Christ’s own example?

    Internet link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqoYmx_L-Xs

    Comment :

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Starter Course Questions:

     

    QQQ

    Have you ever witnessed the level of sacrificial support that Paul and the Philippian church both benefited from as a result of their ‘partnership of giving and receiving’ (4:15)?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    A relationship of ‘giving and receiving’ between both parties would include (4:15):

    • Resources – financial and people
    • Love and encouragement – both ways
    • Information and prayer – both ways

     

     

    QQQ

    How should we respond when our best acts of service fail, and instead of being a blessing and help to others we, like Epaphroditus in his sickness, become a problem and a burden to the very people we set out to assist?

    Internet link:

     

    Comment:

     

     

    The Romans despised humility, whereas Paul celebrates humility and cites Christ as the leading example. In what other ways is Christianity completely counter-cultural?

    Internet link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7XcnJ6K7YA

    Comment:

    1) We worship Jesus as Lord and God, and refuse to worship anything else

    2) Love for others is the primary ethic – we refuse to hate anyone, we even love and bless and pray for our enemies

    3) Sexual purity is a primary requisite (1 Thessalonians 4:3)

     

     

    QQQ

    A young man I knew stopped going to church because he witnessed an ugly dispute between two elders in his church. When did you last witness a dispute in a church? Did other believers help the two parties to reconcile (4:3)?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    The reconciliation of divided and hurt brothers and sisters in Christ is one of the proofs of maturity. See Galatians 6:1.

     

    QQQ

    Who are the most ‘mature’ Christians you know? What exactly about them impresses you? To what extent is ‘Christian maturity’ defined by doctrine, and by character?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

     

     

     

     

    Main Course Questions:

     

    QQQ

    Write down the names of 3 other Christians in your church. Then write down ‘their interests’. What can you do to help them achieve their ‘interests’ (2:4)?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

     

    QQQ

    Who are the religious law enforcers today (3:2-6)?

    Internet link:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UMjwDEhae2U

    Comment:

    Fundamentalist religions, and strict Christian cults.

     

    QQQ

    How is it actually possible for a Christian to live as an enemy of the cross (3:18-21)?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    To ignore Mark 8:34.

     

     

     

    QQQ

    On the notice board of your favourite café there will almost certainly be several adverts for ‘spirituality’ courses and programmes that promise “peace”. What are the features of the peace described in New Testament? Have you experienced the ‘peace of God’ keeping you in the way Paul describes in 4:7?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

     

     

    QQQ

    What are the ‘conditions’ for God to supply all your needs (4:19)?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    In Philippians 4:14-19, Paul is stating that since the Philippians have taken responsibility for carefully looking after him as he does God’s work, God will himself look after them and supply their needs.

     

     

    QQQ

    List some of the leading features of Christian maturity mentioned in ‘Philippians’?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

    1) ‘Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the upward call of God in Christ Jesus’ (3:13-14).

    2) Committed to holding out the gospel to the world (1:5).

    3) Having joy; rejoicing (1:25, 3:1, 4:4).

    4) Humble service and servanthood (2:6-11).

    5) Concern for the interests of others (2:4).

    6) Avoiding the dangers of both religious legalism (3:2) & license (3:18).

    7) Resolving disputes (4:3).

    8) Contentment in every situation, whether want or abundance (4:12). 

     

     

     

    Dessert Course Questions:

     

    QQQ         

    Does the interpretation and understanding of scripture require a particular creedal or sacramental understanding? If the Christian community is in disunity, is its interpretation of scripture compromised, or rendered redundant?

    Internet link:

    Comment:

     

     

     

     

     

     

      Coaching Questions -
    Discipleship Coaching Session                                Philippians

     

    Podder:

    Start:    ‘Hello’ and Beginning

    Key current things in your life

    Last pod you said you wanted to make progress in …  How have you got on?

    10 min: Prayer:        Ask for the Spirit’s help now.  
    11 – 45 mins: ‘Understanding the content’

     

         How did you engage with ‘Philippians’?

    What were the verses/stories that made the greatest impression on you?

    Use the “Challenge Questions” – in the Engage Menu

          What do you want to talk about from your study of ‘Philippians’?

                       Do you have any questions – points to clarify?

     

          What are the main themes and points?

    •   Maturity
    •   QQQ – What are the key features of the mature Christian life?
    •   The Gospel Ministry
    •   QQQ – In Philippians there is a lot about the church’s task of taking the gospel to humanity. How does Paul say we should do this?
    •   The Cruciform life
    •   QQQ – Many consider Christ’s example in 2:6-11 to be the central passage of the letter. What is the essence of Christ’s lifestyle attitude in this passage, and what would it look like in our lives if we were to live like this?
    •   Joy, peace, humility and contentment:
    •   Topics: Facing Death – “worthy” living – genuine humility – avoiding the extremes of strict legalism & avoiding the cross – anxiety & prayer – giving money

    *** Use some of the Menu Questions

    45 – 60 mins:    Personalised Coaching Qs for “the Podder

     

    1)    ‘Think on these things’ (4:8)    What behaviour patterns help you keep your mind thinking on: the true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and the admirable?

     

    2)    What Holy Habit will best help you to ‘press on into that for which Christ has taken hold of you’?

    60 min: Prayer: God our Father, whose son Jesus humbled himself becoming obedient even to death on the cross, may our love abound more and more through knowledge and insight, that following Christ’s humble and sacrificial example, we may know him and the power of his resurrection, becoming like him in his death, and so live lives that are worthy of the gospel of Christ and stand firm in the Lord, in whose name we pray, Amen.