Confidence in Christ-Phillipians

Confidence In Christ-Philippians

PHILIPPIANS

CONFIDENT IN CHRIST

NOT YOUR AVERAGE BIBLE STUDY

JEFFREY E. MILLER

 

 

Philippians: Confident in Christ

Not Your Average Bible Study

Copyright 2017 Lexham Press

Adapted with permission from content originally published in Bible Study Magazine (March/April 2016, May/June 2016, July/August 2016).

Lexham Press, 1313 Commercial St., Bellingham, WA 98225

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All rights reserved. You may use brief quotations from this resource in presentations, articles, and books. For all other uses, please write Lexham Press for permission. Email us at permissions@lexhampress.com.

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture translations marked (nasb) are from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Print ISBN 9781683590699

Digital ISBN 9781683590705

Lexham Editorial Team: David Bomar, Abigail Stocker, Danielle Thevenaz

Cover Design: Liliya Vetkov

CONTENTS

How to Use This Resource

Introduction

Part I: Living Worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:1–30)

Lesson 1: Jesus Is Central to the Life of a Christian

Lesson 2: Jesus Enables Us to Suffer Joyfully

Lesson 3: Jesus Supplies Our Identity

Lesson 4: Jesus Helps Us Look Outside of Ourselves

Lesson 5: Jesus Helps Us Love One Another

Lesson 6: Jesus Is Worthy of Our Proclamation

Lesson 7: Jesus Is Worth Dying For

Lesson 8: Jesus Is Worth Living For

Conclusion

Part II: Giving It Up for the Gospel (Philippians 2:1–3:14)

Lesson 1: A Call to Serve Others

Lesson 2: Jesus Shows Us How to Yield Our Rights

Lesson 3: Obeying without Complaining

Lesson 4: A Reputation for Caring

Lesson 5: A Call to Imitate Others Who Sacrifice

Lesson 6: Recognizing Misplaced Confidence

Lesson 7: Resisting Self-Reliance

Lesson 8: Confidence in Christ

Conclusion

Part III: Citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:15–4:23)

Lesson 1: Imitating the Mature

Lesson 2: Setting Our Minds on Heavenly Things

Lesson 3: Living as Citizens of Heaven

Lesson 4: Rejoicing Together in Anticipation of Jesus’ Return

Lesson 5: Replacing Earthly Thoughts with Eternal Truths

Lesson 6: Receiving Strength for Earthly Contentment

Lesson 7: Putting Others Ahead of Ourselves

Lesson 8: Welcoming People as Members of God’s Family

Conclusion

HOW TO USE THIS RESOURCE

Not Your Average Bible Study is a series of in-depth Bible studies that can be used for individual or group study. Depending on your individual needs or your group pace, you may opt to cover one lesson a week or more.

Each lesson prompts you to dig deep into the word—as such, we recommend you use your preferred translation with this study. The author used the English Standard Version. Whatever Bible version you use, please be sure you leave ample time to get into the Bible itself.

To assist you, we recommend using the Faithlife Study Bible. You can download this digital resource for your tablet, phone, personal computer, or use it online. Go to FaithlifeBible.com to learn more.

May God bless you in the study of his word.

INTRODUCTION

Given that Paul wrote Philippians from a prison cell, it’s striking how often this letter expresses words of assurance. Paul tells the believers that God’s good work in them will be completed (1:6); he anticipates their progress and joy in the faith (1:25); he calls them to find encouragement in Christ and to rejoice in the Lord (2:1, 18; 3:1; 4:4); he reminds them of their heavenly citizenship and the glorious transformation that awaits them (3:20). At several points in Philippians, Paul urges the fledging congregation to stand united in Christ as they face hardship and persecution (1:27; 2:2; 3:16–17; 4:1), and he assures them that God’s peace will protect them (4:7).

Yet even while this letter emphasizes confidence in Christ, it also stresses humility (2:4–8; 3:7–8). At first, these two themes might seem contradictory, but in Paul’s gospel they actually go hand in hand: through emulating the humble obedience and self-sacrificing love of Christ, the believers will find joy and strength and peace—exactly what they need to stand confidently in every circumstance.

This is a message we sorely need to hear today. When our relationships are strained, when our values are belittled, when our faith comes under fire, we’re often provoked to assert our rights and stand up for ourselves. But that’s not the kind of confidence we find in Christ Jesus. Philippians reminds us that Christ Jesus emptied himself, took on the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death (2:7–8). As followers of Christ, our confidence is in his cross.

David Bomar

Editor of Bible Study Magazine

PART I: LIVING WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST

PHILIPPIANS 1:1–30

When the apostle Paul first shared the gospel in Philippi during his second missionary journey (ad 49–50), he was beaten and imprisoned by its citizens (Acts 16:12–40). Ten years later, from another prison, he writes to the church he planted there. His message is one of joy. He wants the Philippians to know and love Jesus so much that they, too, experience great joy—even when facing suffering.

Along with Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Philippians is one of Paul’s so-called “Prison Epistles.” This joyful letter offers instructions for maintaining a Christian attitude when life doesn’t turn out the way we planned. In this eight-part study of Philippians 1:1–30, we will be challenged to live worthy of the gospel of Christ in any circumstance.

lesson 1

JESUS IS CENTRAL TO THE LIFE OF A CHRISTIAN

 

Pray that God would help you live for Jesus in light of his return.

 

Read all of Philippians aloud in one sitting.

Paul’s original readers didn’t divide his letters into chapters and verses. They would’ve read his entire letter to understand and respond to the overall message.

Use the search tool on Biblia.com to locate every mention of “Jesus” and “Christ” in Philippians. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians contains a higher concentration of occurrences of “Jesus” and “Christ” than any other New Testament letter. Paul wrote to remind the Philippians to imitate Jesus Christ and boldly share his message.

Reflect on Philippians 2:1–11. This letter reminds us that everything changed when Jesus became flesh at the incarnation. Which of Jesus’ qualities, in particular, does Paul highlight in this passage? What attitude in the Philippian church was Paul seeking to correct (see 2:1–4)?

 

Locate each mention of the “the day of Christ” or “the day of Jesus Christ” in Philippians. What does this phrase mean?

 

The thought of Jesus’ first coming and the promise of Jesus’ second coming defined Paul. He reminds us that we will be held accountable when Jesus returns (1:6, 10; 2:10–11, 16; 3:20). Until then, we should strive to please him in all we do and say. Does this reminder help you maintain an eternal perspective? How does it affect the way you treat others?

 

God is “our Father” because of our relationship with Jesus Christ (1:2). We have citizenship in heaven because of our relationship with Jesus (3:20). Do you rejoice in your new identity in Christ?

 

How do you navigate life’s difficulties in light of these truths? Are you able to face trials more easily when you think about the future that awaits believers?

 

lesson 2

JESUS ENABLES US TO SUFFER JOYFULLY

 

Pray that God would help you discover joy even when you suffer.

 

Read all of Philippians aloud in one sitting.

Trace the theme of suffering and imprisonment in the Letter to the Philippians. Identify situations that could seem discouraging to Paul.

 

Paul wrote to the Philippians from prison. Since the believers in Philippi were also suffering for the gospel (1:29–30), Paul encourages them to stand firm (1:27; 4:1). As Christians, we should avoid complaining about our circumstances (2:14). We should learn instead to be content by relying on the strength of Christ (4:11–13), whose first coming was marked by suffering (2:7–8). Even when we suffer, we can experience the peace of God (4:6), which comes from the God of peace (4:9). Think of a time you recently felt God’s peace in difficult circumstances.

 

Trace the themes of joy and rejoicing in the Letter to the Philippians.

 

Even though Paul was in prison, he was joyful when he wrote to the Philippians. In this short, four-chapter letter, Paul uses the word “joy” five times (1:4, 25; 2:2, 29; 4:1), “rejoice” nine times (1:18 (2); 2:17, 18, 28; 3:1; 4:4 (2), 10), and “rejoice with” two times (2:17, 18). This message is particularly striking when we remember the persecution Paul was experiencing when he wrote.

How do you respond to suffering and inconveniences? Do you get discouraged when your plans are disrupted?

 

How does your attitude improve when you remember that you are following in the footsteps of your suffering Savior?

 

lesson 3

JESUS SUPPLIES OUR IDENTITY

 

Pray that God would show you how your relationship with Jesus defines who you are.

 

Read Philippians 1:1–11. Reflect on Philippians 1:1–2.

What label does Paul use for himself and Timothy?

 

Paul was a Pharisee, a church leader, and an apostle, but he calls himself a slave—a person owned by and fully submitted to someone else. (Some Bibles translate it “servant.”) Why did he choose to use this lowly title to describe himself?

 

On the other hand, Paul addresses those he’s writing to as “saints,” which means “holy ones.” The term is used consistently to describe all Christians, not just people who seem especially spiritual. In what way does this description communicate Paul’s expectations to the Philippian church?

 

The letter claims to be from Paul and Timothy (1:1), but the singular verbs and pronouns throughout suggest that Paul was writing. Paul visited Philippi shortly after he recruited and circumcised Timothy, who was present at the church’s founding (Acts 16:1–12). He writes to all of the Christians who live in Philippi, but he specifies the “overseers and deacons” (1:1). Including both of these groups of church leaders is unique among Paul’s greetings and suggests that the church was large and established.

You are both a saint and a servant of Christ Jesus. How do these labels shape your identity? What do they suggest about your relationship with God?

 

Does “saint” or “servant” more accurately reflect your walk with Jesus? Which title needs more attention from you to make it a reality?

 

lesson 4

JESUS HELPS US LOOK OUTSIDE OF OURSELVES

 

Pray that God would make you grateful for others and show you how to tell them.

 

Read Philippians 1:1–11. Reflect on Philippians 1:3–8.

Underline Paul’s expressions of affection for the Philippians. Paul missed the Philippian believers, often thought of them, prayed for them, and held them “in his heart” (1:7). Even though Paul is facing difficult circumstances, he remains unselfishly mindful of others and writes to express his joy and prayers for them.

Paul talks about the Philippians’ “partnership in the gospel” (1:5; see 4:15–16). What does he mean by this phrase?

 

Paul isn’t just thankful for the Philippians and their gifts—he also tells them so.

In 1:6, Paul expresses his utter confidence that God will complete what he had started in these Christians—neither circumstances nor suffering can impede the work of God. What does this verse communicate about Paul’s expectations for the Philippian believers?

 

What is “the day of Jesus Christ,” and how should it inform how we treat one another?

 

When we are suffering, our thoughts typically turn to ourselves. But Paul thinks of others even while he is in jail. What can you do to focus on others instead of yourself?

 

Who do you need to thank God for?

 

Is there someone you need to share your gratitude and affection with?

 

lesson 5

JESUS HELPS US LOVE ONE ANOTHER

 

Pray that God would increase your love for others.

 

Read Philippians 1:1–11. Reflect on Philippians 1:9–11.

Unlike most of Paul’s churches, the church in Philippi had no major moral or spiritual problems that needed correcting. They were going in the right direction, and so Paul prays that they would improve what they are already doing. What does it look like for a Christian to abound more and more in love for others? What does it mean to be filled with the “fruit of righteousness”?

 

The Bible often uses “God” as shorthand for “God the Father.” Three times in Philippians Paul declares that our ultimate goal is to glorify God (1:11; 2:11; 4:20). In addition to gaining a new Father, we also gain new brothers and sisters when we begin a relationship with Jesus (1:12, 14; 2:25; 3:1, 13, 17; 4:1, 8, 21). Paul reminds us that we please our Father when we love one another. Do you treat others properly in light of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and return?

 

One way we love others is by praying for them. These verses capture Paul’s prayer for the Philippians. Sometimes our prayers can be selfish, focusing only on our needs. Paul shows us that praying for others glorifies God. Why does Paul tell the Philippians the contents of his prayers for them?

 

Who do you pray for regularly? Do you tell them that you’re praying for them?

 

If someone says they’re praying for you, how does it make you feel to know what they are praying for?

 

lesson 6

JESUS IS WORTHY OF OUR PROCLAMATION

 

Pray that God would help you talk about Jesus regardless of the difficult circumstances you might be facing.

 

Read Philippians 1:12–30. Reflect on Philippians 1:12–18a.

Underline the terms that signify imprisonment in this passage. According to 1:14, how did Paul’s bold proclamation of Christ in prison affect other believers?

 

Although Paul was imprisoned, he was able to share the good news with the Praetorian Guard (1:13) and some from Caesar’s household (4:22). He was somehow able to look past his immediate circumstances and rejoice that Christ was being proclaimed. Paul was courageous; other believers who heard of his boldness in prison grew more courageous themselves.

In 1:15–18 Paul describes two groups who proclaim Christ. Who are they? Why isn’t he upset that some people are not properly preaching about Jesus?

 

Was their motive or their message incorrect?

 

Paul consistently seeks to silence those who might tamper with the message of the gospel itself (see Gal 1:6–9). For that reason, we can infer that it was their motive, not their message, that was flawed.

Paul found that his suffering could actually enhance his witness—and it can do so for us as well. By demonstrating gratitude, joy, and unselfishness during our pain, our message can earn an attentive audience. We’re called to be lights in the world even when our circumstances are at their darkest. By the power of the Spirit, we can be walking contradictions during our suffering by responding with supernatural, unpredictable joy. Have you witnessed a Christian respond to hardship with Christ-centered joy? How did it impact you and those around this person?

 

Read 2 Timothy 2:9. How does this verse apply to Paul’s situation in Philippians?

 

Paul could have used his imprisonment differently. But he refused to use it as an excuse to remain silent about Jesus. Do you use your circumstances as an excuse to remain silent?

 

What steps can you take to speak about Jesus—even, and maybe especially, in dark times?

 

lesson 7

JESUS IS WORTH DYING FOR

 

Pray that God would help you overcome any fear you have about living fully for Jesus Christ.

 

Read Philippians 1:12–30. Reflect on Philippians 1:18b–26.

Did Paul think that his imprisonment would end in death or release? How do you know?

 

How did Paul respond to the prospect of dying for Christ?

 

Consider Philippians 1:21. Paul concludes that his death would take him into the eternal presence of God to “be with Christ” (1:23). Rather than responding with bitterness toward God because of his imprisonment and potential martyrdom, Paul continues to adore and honor Christ. Death is inevitable for each of us; it is our response to that prospect that sets us apart. Paul also welcomes the possibility of remaining alive longer, knowing that he could continue to enjoy fruitful labor for the Philippians’ “progress and joy in the faith” (1:25).

Fear is a common and natural response to affliction. It may manifest itself in tears, withdrawal, anger, or any number of other forms. But harboring such fear is not a biblical option for Spirit-filled Christians. Instead, we are instructed to live worthy of the gospel by responding with courage in the face of persecution, fearlessness in the face of affliction, and boldness in the face of death. The world pays particular attention when the fear they expect to see in us is replaced by supernatural, uncommon courage that comes from faith in God. How does our faith give us this courage?

 

Why is fear not a biblical option? What does our fear say about our faith in God?

 

We expect Paul, imprisoned and suffering, to exhibit bitterness, discouragement, and hopelessness. Instead, we find him filled with optimism and an eternal perspective that allows him to rejoice. How do you allow circumstances to control your mood and tone?

 

Are you willing to suffer joyfully for Jesus? Like Paul, do you see benefits in both living and dying for Jesus?

 

lesson 8

JESUS IS WORTH LIVING FOR

 

Pray that God would help you live worthy of the gospel.

 

Read Philippians 1:12–30. Reflect on Philippians 1:27–30.

What does it mean to live worthy of the gospel?

 

What do you think Paul means when he says his desire is to see the Philippian community exhibiting one spirit and mind?

 

It seems that the Philippians had responded to their suffering by turning against one another in fear. Paul contends that standing together courageously can become a sign to their persecutors of their coming destruction (1:28). What response to persecution does Paul demonstrate that he’s inviting the Philippians to imitate?

 

According to Paul, suffering for the sake of Christ is a gift that has been granted to the Philippians (1:29). Read Acts 5:40–42. The early disciples regarded suffering for Jesus a privilege. They rejoiced that God considered them worthy to endure persecution for the sake of Jesus’ name. Because Jesus suffered, suffering like him is a privilege granted by God. Do you view persecution this way?

 

Live worthy of the gospel of Christ by uniting in boldness with other believers, and see how your actions and attitude confuse those who afflict you. Ask God to give you Spirit-filled courage in the face of affliction, persecution, or death. How would your life look different if you lived worthy of the gospel?

 

In what area is your conduct, attitude, or language failing to glorify God?

 

If living worthy of the gospel would cause you to suffer, would you still do it?

 

CONCLUSION

Life doesn’t always turn out the way we hope. With every passing year we realize how much lies beyond our control. But we do have control over our attitudes when facing life’s difficulties. Living worthy of the gospel of Christ means allowing Jesus to shape even our responses to suffering. Rather than growing bitter toward God or harboring resentment for our neighbor, we should allow our eternal perspective to shape our submission to God and love for others. May we live worthy of the gospel whether we are happy or hurting, so that we are living testaments to its message.

PART II: GIVING IT UP FOR THE GOSPEL

PHILIPPIANS 2:1–3:14

Christians aren’t immune to loss. Sometimes our loss is a result of persecution or a symptom of our fallen world; other times we voluntarily go without for the sake of others. Regardless of the circumstances, loss can bring hardship and cause us to focus on our own needs: Why did this happen to me? What did I do wrong? What can I do to feel better?

The biblical authors push us to fight this instinct. They instruct Christians to focus on serving others and to consider their needs before our own—even during desperate times. We’re assured that such selflessness maintains unity in the church and helps us face hardship with joy.

This is a difficult call to answer, but the person issuing it has first-hand experience in gladly serving others during times of hardship. Paul established the church in Philippi on his second missionary journey. Around ten years later, he wrote a joyful letter to them from a prison cell. In this eight-part study of Philippians 2:1–3:14, we will be challenged to suffer voluntary loss by sacrificing our rights for those we’re called to serve joyfully.

lesson 1

A CALL TO SERVE OTHERS

 

Pray that God would help you grow in your consideration of others.

 

Read all of Philippians aloud in one sitting. Reflect on Philippians 2:1–4.

Paul’s original readers didn’t divide his letters into chapters and verses. They would have read his letter in its entirety to understand its overall message.

The word “therefore” in 2:1 suggests that this section relates to the previous chapter. In many ways, the opening chapter of Philippians addresses involuntary loss resulting from the persecution of Christians. The second chapter addresses voluntary loss for the sake of those whom Christians are called to serve joyfully.

What does it mean to be “of the same mind” (2:2)?

 

Use Biblia.com to explore how different translations render this expression. What phrases did you find?

 

Christian unity is often put to the test when believers face persecution like the Philippians did. That’s because we don’t expect those who suffer to practice selflessness. In what ways does Paul challenge this perception in his letter?

 

In 2:2 Paul speaks of the joy he felt when he saw the Philippian Christians living together in unity. Later, Paul specifically addresses two members of the church who were finding it difficult to get along with one another (4:2). He urges them and the rest of the church to be of the same mind. Why does Paul place such great stress on unity in this letter?

 

What effect does disunity have on those within a community? In what ways does disunity within the church endanger the spread of the gospel?

 

In 2:3 Paul invites the Philippians to show humility by treating others within the church community as more important than themselves. How does humility help you to serve others joyfully?

 

When you face pressure in life, do you tend to become more selfish or less selfish?

 

What steps can you take to ensure that you consistently look to others’ interests instead of your own?

 

Identify someone in your life who you can serve unselfishly this week.

 

lesson 2

JESUS SHOWS US HOW TO YIELD OUR RIGHTS

 

Pray that God would show you what privileges to give up voluntarily.

 

Read Philippians 2:1–11. Reflect on Philippians 2:5–11.

In what way does Paul instruct us to imitate Jesus (2:5)?

 

Philippians 2:6–11 was probably an early Christian hymn. What does the term “form” (μορφή, morphē) in 2:6, 7 mean?

 

Jesus existed in the very “form” of God (2:6), but he emptied himself to receive the “form” of a servant by becoming human (2:7). This is one of the New Testament’s clearest descriptions of Jesus’ incarnation—when humanity was added to Jesus’ deity, compromising neither.

What does it mean that Jesus “emptied” himself? Of what did Jesus empty himself by becoming human?

 

Some think Jesus emptied himself of deity or the exercise of certain divine attributes when he became human. Since the passage builds to Jesus’ restored exaltation, it seems best to conclude that Jesus temporarily set aside the “glory” he shared with the Father prior to his incarnation (see also John 17:5).

Jesus voluntarily set aside his rights for the sake of others. Trace the arc of the passage: Jesus existed as God, became a humble servant, died, and was exalted. Underline the occurrences of the word “every” in Philippians 2:9–11. The repetition of this term reminds us that the lordship of Jesus is not something we create. Instead, it is something everyone will acknowledge is true.

How does Jesus serve as an illustration of selflessness in 2:3–4?

 

When was the last time you voluntarily suffered loss because of your care for another?

 

Ask God to make you sensitive to the needs of others so that you will be better prepared to offer them your thoughts, your concern, your time, your resources, and your prayers. Tell others that you want to yield your rights for them because Jesus yielded his for us.

lesson 3

OBEYING WITHOUT COMPLAINING

 

Pray that God would convict you when you are tempted to complain.

 

Read Philippians 2:12–30. Reflect on Philippians 2:12–18.

What does it mean to “work out your own salvation” (2:12), and how is that different from working for your salvation?

 

Underline the word “your.” “Your salvation” means it is something you already possess—not something we need to strive to obtain. In 2:13 Paul writes that God’s work is present in us (2:13). How does God’s presence within us affect our responsibility to produce good works after salvation?

 

In 2:14, the Greek word for “grumbling” (γογγυσμός, gongysmos) is designed to sound like the action it describes. Even our right to complain is something Paul invites us voluntarily to set aside for the gospel. God wants more than our obedience; he wants our joyful obedience.

How does Paul’s tone in this letter demonstrate suffering without complaining?

 

The Bible consistently refers to complaining as a sin (see Jas 5:9; 1 Pet 4:9), and Paul is writing from prison when he instructs us to do all things without grumbling. Notice also Paul’s statement that our obeying without complaining makes us shine as lights in the world (Phil 2:15). The joy expressed by suffering people becomes attractive and contagious in a world that expects us to complain. What steps can you take to avoid filling your conversations with complaints?

 

What does it mean to be “poured out as a drink offering” (2:17)?

 

Even if Paul’s life is to be cut short because of his ministry, he refuses to complain or declare the situation unfair. Instead, he rejoices and invites the Philippians to rejoice with him (2:18).

Why do we like to be around joyful people? Do you find yourself avoiding people who constantly complain?

 

Do you disguise complaining as “constructive criticism”?

 

How is rejoicing the opposite of complaining? How does rejoicing despite our losses help us shine the light of Christ?

 

lesson 4

A REPUTATION FOR CARING

 

Pray that God would show you who you can care for.

 

Read Philippians 2:12–30. Reflect on Philippians 2:19–24.

Although Paul himself hopes to visit Philippi soon, he first sends Timothy, his loyal and trusted colleague. How does Timothy serve as another illustration of the principle of selflessness Paul described in 2:3–4?

 

What reason does Paul cite for sending Timothy?

 

How does Paul seek to convince the Philippians that he’s not just sending Timothy to check in on them or police them?

 

Paul’s reason for sending Timothy seems different from his reason for sending Epaphroditus (2:25–30). Rather than seeking merely to encourage the Philippians, Paul hopes to be encouraged himself when Timothy returns to him with a good report on the church. How might your actions serve as encouragement to others?

 

Read Acts 16:1–12. This passage informs us why Paul would send Timothy to the Philippians instead of someone else: Timothy was present at the founding of the church in Philippi, which took place shortly after Paul recruited and circumcised him. Timothy was known for having a good reputation (Acts 16:2). In addition, the Philippians had seen for themselves how unselfishly Timothy had served alongside of Paul (Phil 2:22).

What is your reputation within your community?

 

Think of someone you know who has a reputation for being thoughtful and kind; how did they come to be known that way?

 

Good reputations are usually built by caring for one person at a time. Who can you selflessly serve this week?

 

lesson 5

A CALL TO IMITATE OTHERS WHO SACRIFICE

 

Pray that God would provide a role model who serves faithfully.

 

Read Philippians 2:12–30. Reflect on Philippians 2:25–30.

How does Epaphroditus serve as another illustration of the selflessness Paul described in 2:3–4?

 

What reason does Paul give for sending Epaphroditus to the Philippians (2:28)? How does that reason differ from his reason for sending Timothy (2:19)?

 

What does the description of Epaphroditus in 2:25 suggest about Paul’s feelings about him?

 

Philippians 4:18 can help us understand the purpose of Epaphroditus’ visit to Paul. According to Philippians 4, Epaphroditus came to Paul bearing gifts from the Philippian church, for which Paul writes to thank them. While visiting Paul in Rome, Epaphroditus became gravely ill. Note the language that Paul uses to emphasize the gravity of Epaphroditus’ illness (2:27–30).

The source of Epaphroditus’ emotional distress was not his sickness; what was it (2:26)?

 

Paul returns Epaphroditus to the Philippians because they had become terribly concerned for him upon learning of his severe illness. Paul takes this opportunity to praise Epaphroditus and to invite the Philippians to hold people like him “in high regard” (2:29 nasb).

Is there someone in your life that you seek to imitate? Have you expressed your gratitude to them for being a role model?

 

Do you know of others who look to you as an example for how to serve?

 

lesson 6

RECOGNIZING MISPLACED CONFIDENCE

 

Pray that God would show you if your faith is in something other than him.

 

Read Philippians 3:1–14. Reflect on Philippians 3:1–4.

Use the search tool at Biblia.com to see how different translations render the threefold description of the false teachers in 3:2 (note: dogs were regarded as wild scavengers, not pets).

 

If the greatest internal threat to the Philippian church was disunity, their greatest external threat was false teaching. False teachers invite us to place our faith in something other than the one true God. The false teachers in this passage were likely a group known as “Judaizers.” Since the earliest followers of Jesus were Jewish, the method for allowing Gentiles entrance into the church became controversial. Judaizers were Jewish Christians who claimed that Gentiles must first become Jews through circumcision in order to become Christians.

The notion that God accepts people by faith without their compliance with the law of Moses is perhaps Paul’s greatest theological contribution. This “justification by faith” teaches that trust in Jesus rather than obedience to the law renders us justified before God. Although this doctrine is articulated best in Romans and Galatians (see especially Rom 3:26–30; 5:1; Gal 2:16; 3:24), the influence of Judaizers in Philippi forced Paul to address it here also.

Paul was a confident Christian; how does that differ from the kind of confidence he confronts in Philippians 3:3?

 

What does Paul mean by the term “flesh”?

 

Why is it wrong to have confidence in the flesh? At what point does your “confidence in the flesh” impede your confidence in God?

 

Have you found your faith placed in something other than God?

 

lesson 7

RESISTING SELF-RELIANCE

 

Pray that God would redirect your confidence toward him.

 

Read Philippians 3:1–14. Reflect on Philippians 3:4b–7.

Underline the seven assets in which Paul placed his confidence prior to knowing Christ (3:5–6). Which ones do you find most impressive?

 

Paul’s assets are steeped in his Jewish heritage. His parents, like all good Jews, circumcised him when he was 8 days old. He belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, named for one of only two sons born to Rachel—Jacob’s true love—and the only son of Jacob born in the promised land. Saul, Israel’s first king and Paul’s namesake, was a Benjaminite, and Jerusalem was originally allotted to the tribe of Benjamin (Josh 18:28). In addition, Paul was a Pharisee—a highly influential and devout Jewish leader.

According to Philippians 3:7, how has Paul’s relationship with Jesus changed the way he views these prior assets?

 

In the same way that Jesus gave up what rightfully was his (2:6–8), Paul is voluntarily counting as loss the items on his résumé that he had worked so hard to gain and had held so dear. Jesus Christ turned Paul’s ledger of assets and liabilities upside down. The very credentials that had given him confidence are now regarded to count against him. Christ Jesus remains the only asset that is important to Paul.

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus taught us that our hearts follow what we treasure. What do you treasure above all else? What would you put on a life résumé as your most prized accomplishments or characteristics?

 

Do these assets compete with God in forming your identity? In what have you placed your confidence?

 

If Jesus Christ remained your only asset, would that be enough for you?

 

lesson 8

CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST

 

Pray that God would increase your faith and confidence in him.

 

Read Philippians 3:1–14. Reflect on Philippians 3:8–14.

When our confidence is in Christ, we’re willing to suffer both voluntary and involuntary loss. Paul claims that he has suffered the loss of all things for Christ Jesus (3:8). What specifically has Paul lost—both voluntarily and involuntarily?

 

Why does he refer to what he has lost as “rubbish” (or “excrement”)?

 

In 3:9 Paul describes how the righteousness he enjoys because of Jesus differs from what he pursued before he knew Christ: Instead of attaining righteousness by obeying the law, Christians enjoy righteousness through faith in Christ. This passage is about how confidence in Christ elicits the pursuit of Christ. Those who love Jesus want to know him more, which includes sharing in his sufferings (3:10).

What is the “it” that Paul has not yet attained (3:12) or laid hold of (3:13)?

 

What are the things “behind” Paul that he refuses to let impede him in his pursuit of Jesus (3:13)?

 

Use Biblia.com to see how other translations render 3:14. What it is that Paul is pressing toward?

 

Does Paul’s passionate pursuit of Christ sound like yours?

 

What things in your past are holding you back from putting your full confidence and hope in Jesus?

 

How does righteousness from God, based on faith, render you free to pursue the upward call of God in Christ Jesus?

 

This week, tell someone why Christ has your confidence.

CONCLUSION

The gospel invites us to give up our rights and points of pride in order to serve others. That’s what Jesus did when he became human and obediently went to the cross for us. We know Jesus better when we suffer voluntary loss and serve others like he did. As we follow his pattern of self-emptying, we enjoy the fellowship of his sufferings and experience the power of his resurrection. God wants more than our obedience; he wants our joyful obedience. And the reward is great.

PART III: CITIZENS OF HEAVEN

PHILIPPIANS 3:15–4:23

Jesus taught that his kingdom and his followers were not of this world (John 17:14–19; 18:36). Paul’s remarks in Philippians 3 reflect a similar idea: because Christians are citizens of heaven, their thoughts, language, priorities, and behavior will follow heavenly standards instead of worldly ones. The value we place on earthly things will be comparatively limited as we store up eternal treasures in heaven—our true home in God’s presence.

During Paul’s second missionary journey, he visited Philippi, a Roman colony located far from the center of the empire. His Letter to the Philippians was written from prison, probably many years after he planted the church. In this eight-part study of Philippians 3:15–4:23, we will be challenged to see ourselves as citizens of heaven—and to live accordingly.

lesson 1

IMITATING THE MATURE

 

Pray that God would keep your eyes on spiritually mature people.

 

Read all of Philippians aloud in one sitting. Reflect on Philippians 3:15–17.

Paul’s original audience wouldn’t have divided his letters into chapters and verses; they would have read the entire letter at the same time to understand and respond to the overall message.

 

Is Paul arrogant to consider himself “mature”?

 

Compare verse 15 with verse 12. Both verses draw on the same Greek root, which can mean “perfect,” “mature,” or “complete.” What kind of thinking and behavior marks a person as mature?

 

In keeping with 3:15, ask God to reveal anything that might reflect Christian immaturity.

Is Paul arrogant to encourage the Philippians to imitate him in 3:17 (compare 4:9)?

 

Paul was not perfect, but he considered himself worthy of emulation. He invited people to imitate him as he sought to imitate Jesus (1 Cor 11:1).

We’re inundated with bad examples as our controversy-loving culture showcases people’s failures. We may need to look harder for Christlike role models. Can you name people in your life who are worthy of imitation? Do you follow the example of those who live like Jesus and Paul?

 

What kind of example are you setting for others? Can you humbly claim that you exhibit Christian attitudes and behaviors? Do you imitate Christ in such a way that others would honor God by imitating you?

 

lesson 2

SETTING OUR MINDS ON HEAVENLY THINGS

 

Pray that God would help you avoid worldly indulgence.

 

Read Philippians 3:15–21. Reflect on Philippians 3:18–19.

What do Paul’s tears suggest about these “enemies”? How does their conduct reflect opposition to Christ and his cross?

 

Every person provides us with an example, either a positive one to follow (like Paul; see 3:17) or a negative one to avoid (like these enemies). Sadly, the people Paul describes here once might have been examples of godliness. We have to use caution when choosing our role models.

How would you summarize Paul’s descriptions in 3:19?

 

What does it mean that “their god is their belly” and that “they glory in their shame”? How do these portrayals relate to having their “minds set on earthly things”?

 

Read what Paul says in Colossians 3:1–4. How does this teaching correspond with Paul’s remarks in Philippians 3:17–21?

 

How do both of these passages compare to Philippians 2:5–11?

 

The world lures us to indulge in a variety of enticing excesses. If we’re not careful, we can prioritize temporary, earthly pleasures at the expense of eternal, heavenly treasures. We can become influenced by this world far more than we’re allowing our lives to be transformed in Christ.

When our physical or economic comfort declines, we may awaken to the reality that we’ve put too much stock in temporary benefits. Have you grown deep roots in this world by squeezing as much comfort and pleasure as possible out of this life?

 

How difficult would it be for you to pull up those roots and pursue a life of humility? Is your mind set on earthly things or heavenly things?

 

lesson 3

LIVING AS CITIZENS OF HEAVEN

 

Pray that God would enable you to represent his kingdom in your daily life.

 

Read Philippians 3:15–21. Reflect on Philippians 3:20–21.

Why does 3:20 begin with “but”? What does it mean to be a citizen of a town or nation?

 

How would you describe the relationship between a community’s citizens and its values, law, and government?

 

What is the relationship of citizens to each other?

 

In Acts 16:12, Philippi is described as a leading city and a colony of the Roman Empire. Although the community had a strongly Roman flavor, few of its residents had ever visited Rome (a journey of roughly 1,200 miles by land). This background likely influenced Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:20 that believers are citizens of heaven. The Philippian Christians would have understood that citizenship came with privileges and expectations—even for citizens who had never visited the homeland.

Read Philippians 3:7–11 and compare these verses to Philippians 3:20–21. What basis allows Paul to identify Christians as citizens of heaven?

 

What are the privileges and expectations of heavenly citizenship?

 

Reread verses 10–11 and verse 21. How does Jesus’ death and resurrection shape the identity of his followers?

 

Our conduct should reveal our true citizenship. Do you act more like an earthly or heavenly citizen? As a citizen of heaven, do you value what God values?

 

Do you honor God as your governing authority?

 

Do you love your fellow citizens? This week, look for opportunities to bear witness to your heavenly citizenship through your words and actions.

 

lesson 4

REJOICING TOGETHER IN ANTICIPATION OF JESUS’ RETURN

 

Ask God to help you stay united with heaven’s other citizens.

 

Read Philippians 4:1–9. Reflect on Philippians 4:1–5.

Notice Paul’s language of pride and affection for the Philippians in 4:1. What does he mean by referring to them as his “crown”? How might this make them feel?

 

What problem does Paul seem to be addressing in Philippians 4:2–3, and how might this passage be related to 2:1–4?

 

Unity can be a powerful testimony to the truth of the gospel. Disunity can just as easily distract outsiders from the gospel.

This is the only passage in the Bible that mentions Euodia and Syntyche. Paul decided not to address the details of their apparent conflict, preferring instead to ask them to work it out. We can only speculate about the circumstances; however, since Paul does not choose sides, we can reasonably surmise that their dispute was personal and not doctrinal. Resolving conflict may require the help of others in the faith community, as Paul suggests in 4:3. How might Paul’s earlier remarks in Philippians 3:15–21 encourage these women to live in harmony?

 

Use Biblia.com or another digital resource to count the number of times the words “rejoice” or “joy” appear in Philippians.

 

Instead of arguing or splitting into factions, believers are to rejoice together in the Lord. Such a hopeful attitude can be a compelling instrument for the gospel. In light of the nearness of Jesus’ return (4:5), Paul invites us to set aside our differences and demonstrate joy to the watching world.

Personal conflicts and difficult circumstances can be discouraging. What threatens to steal your joy today?

 

Is there a relationship you need to mend or hardships you need to entrust to God?

 

In light of Jesus’ return, can you find a way to rejoice?

 

lesson 5

REPLACING EARTHLY THOUGHTS WITH ETERNAL TRUTHS

 

Pray that God would supply you with his peace.

 

Read Philippians 4:1–9. Reflect on Philippians 4:6–9.

What does it mean to be anxious?

 

Why do believers sometimes experience anxiety about their circumstances despite having knowledge of God’s promises (compare Matt 6:25–34)?

 

What does Paul suggest as the proper response to anxiety, and what promise does he offer?

 

What kind of peace does Paul describe, and how does it differ from the peace between God and humanity that was accomplished through the cross (see Rom 5:1)?

 

In Philippians 4:7, the Greek word for “guard” is phroureō (φρουρέω). The noun form phrouros (φρουρός) can describe a sentinel in the military—someone who watches in advance. The verb phroureō appears three other times in the New Testament: 2 Corinthians 11:32; Galatians 3:23; and 1 Peter 1:5. How do these passages shape your understanding of Philippians 4:7?

 

After praying about what worries us, we’re instructed to think about things that will encourage us. Read the list in Philippians 4:8, and identify something from each category that can bring encouragement in your own life.

 

When we follow Paul’s guidance, we will encounter both the peace of God (4:7) and the God of peace (4:9).

Commit Philippians 4:6–7 to memory. Do you pray about everything, as Paul recommends?

 

Which characterizes your experience more—anxiety, or the peace of God?

 

This week, ask the God of peace to replace your anxious, earthly thoughts with reminders of his eternal truths.

lesson 6

RECEIVING STRENGTH FOR EARTHLY CONTENTMENT

 

Pray that God would help you discover contentment.

 

Read Philippians 4:10–23. Reflect on Philippians 4:10–13.

What does Paul mean when he says that the Philippians have revived their concern for him?

 

Why does Paul quickly clarify that he did not, in fact, need the generous gift the Philippians sent?

 

From what you know about Paul, can you think of times when he had plenty and other times when he had very little?

 

Paul claims that he has learned the secret to contentment. What is that secret?

 

Paul’s eternal perspective prevented him from relying on the fleeting comforts of this world. He is not saying here that poverty holds some inherent virtue; he claims that, even during times of abundance, he experienced contentment. Paul is talking about a deep stability that doesn’t depend on circumstances and instead draws strength from Christ (4:13). Because he was sustained by Christ, he was able to joyfully endure any situation life threw at him.

Read 4:12–13 aloud and ask yourself whether it’s true for you. Make an effort this week to memorize these verses. Paul had learned the secret of unconditional contentment, which allowed him to be joyful even in suffering. Do you know that secret? Does your sense of sufficiency come from Christ alone?

 

As you find peace and strength in knowing Christ, be prepared for some puzzled reactions. Such inexplicable contentment is countercultural, and your assurance will draw attention from the people around you.

lesson 7

PUTTING OTHERS AHEAD OF OURSELVES

 

Ask God to show you how to give sacrificially.

 

Read Philippians 4:10–23. Reflect on Philippians 4:14–20.

What does Paul say about the Philippians’ material support for the gospel?

 

In Philippians 4:17, what does Paul mean when he refers to profit (“fruit”) being added to the Philippians’ account (“credit”)?

 

After Paul left Philippi, the believers there sent financial support for his ongoing missionary work (see Phil 1:5). Recently, they had sent Epaphroditus to assist Paul in prison, and he apparently brought a sizeable donation from the church. While serving Paul, Epaphroditus became sick, and the Christians in Philippi were concerned about him (2:26–27). Paul wrote this letter to thank the Philippians for their gift and to return Epaphroditus to them in good health.

Why does Paul characterize the believers’ gift as a sacrifice that pleases God (Phil 4:18)?

 

The Philippians were suffering for the gospel, much like Paul was (Phil 1:28–30). When Christians distanced themselves from their community’s pagan religious traditions—especially worship of the Roman emperor—they naturally fell under suspicion and came to be regarded as troublemakers and outsiders. Consequently, many merchants and patrons would have cut ties with believers, leading to severe financial hardship for the church. Nevertheless, the Philippians prioritized generous giving—even when others might have stopped giving and started hoarding. Their giving was sacrificial.

What does Paul mean when he says that God will supply the believers’ every need (4:19)?

 

How could this verse be misunderstood?

 

God promises to meet our needs, not our wants; reflect on this difference.

Paul expresses gratitude for the believers’ practice of giving sacrificially. Does your giving record warrant similar gratitude from those who benefit?

 

Take time this week to reflect on God’s provision and return thanks to him. Consider whether God is calling you to change your giving practices, and invite him to bring you more opportunities for sacrificial giving.

lesson 8

WELCOMING PEOPLE AS MEMBERS OF GOD’S FAMILY

 

Pray that God would use you to help bring others into his kingdom.

 

Read Philippians 4:10–23. Reflect on Philippians 4:21–23.

Paul concludes his letter by referring to his readers as “saints,” the same designation he used for them at the beginning of the letter (1:1). What does the term “saint” mean (see 1 Cor 1:2)?

 

How can it be misunderstood?

 

Paul himself sends his greetings to the Christians in Philippi, but he also sends along greetings from others who accompany him. How do shared greetings like this help unite Christians who are separated by distance? Reflect on how it feels when someone warmly greets you by name.

 

What is meant by the reference to Caesar’s household, and why is it significant that some of them were “saints”? How would this news make the Philippian church feel?

 

Do you greet other saints appropriately?

 

Send someone a note—or even just a text message—to let them know you are thinking of them. At worship this week, greet people by name, and extend Christ’s peace to them. Kindness shown to our fellow saints is a clear mark of our faith and one of the most attractive features of Christianity to outsiders (see John 13:35). What is your role in bringing others into God’s kingdom?

 

CONCLUSION

In Philippians, Paul encourages the church to experience joy even in the midst of suffering and hardship. He invites us to imitate his maturity, practices, and contentment. He reminds us of our heavenly citizenship while instructing us to overcome earthly anxieties by praying. He promises that we can abound in joy when we rely on the strength that only the God of peace can supply.

NOT YOUR AVERAGE BIBLE STUDY

JEFFREY E. MILLER

 

 

Philippians: Confident in Christ

Not Your Average Bible Study

Copyright 2017 Lexham Press

Adapted with permission from content originally published in Bible Study Magazine (March/April 2016, May/June 2016, July/August 2016).

Lexham Press, 1313 Commercial St., Bellingham, WA 98225

LexhamPress.com

All rights reserved. You may use brief quotations from this resource in presentations, articles, and books. For all other uses, please write Lexham Press for permission. Email us at permissions@lexhampress.com.

Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture translations marked (nasb) are from the New American Standard Bible®, Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Print ISBN 9781683590699

Digital ISBN 9781683590705

Lexham Editorial Team: David Bomar, Abigail Stocker, Danielle Thevenaz

Cover Design: Liliya Vetkov

CONTENTS

How to Use This Resource

Introduction

Part I: Living Worthy of the Gospel of Christ (Philippians 1:1–30)

Lesson 1: Jesus Is Central to the Life of a Christian

Lesson 2: Jesus Enables Us to Suffer Joyfully

Lesson 3: Jesus Supplies Our Identity

Lesson 4: Jesus Helps Us Look Outside of Ourselves

Lesson 5: Jesus Helps Us Love One Another

Lesson 6: Jesus Is Worthy of Our Proclamation

Lesson 7: Jesus Is Worth Dying For

Lesson 8: Jesus Is Worth Living For

Conclusion

Part II: Giving It Up for the Gospel (Philippians 2:1–3:14)

Lesson 1: A Call to Serve Others

Lesson 2: Jesus Shows Us How to Yield Our Rights

Lesson 3: Obeying without Complaining

Lesson 4: A Reputation for Caring

Lesson 5: A Call to Imitate Others Who Sacrifice

Lesson 6: Recognizing Misplaced Confidence

Lesson 7: Resisting Self-Reliance

Lesson 8: Confidence in Christ

Conclusion

Part III: Citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:15–4:23)

Lesson 1: Imitating the Mature

Lesson 2: Setting Our Minds on Heavenly Things

Lesson 3: Living as Citizens of Heaven

Lesson 4: Rejoicing Together in Anticipation of Jesus’ Return

Lesson 5: Replacing Earthly Thoughts with Eternal Truths

Lesson 6: Receiving Strength for Earthly Contentment

Lesson 7: Putting Others Ahead of Ourselves

Lesson 8: Welcoming People as Members of God’s Family

Conclusion

HOW TO USE THIS RESOURCE

Not Your Average Bible Study is a series of in-depth Bible studies that can be used for individual or group study. Depending on your individual needs or your group pace, you may opt to cover one lesson a week or more.

Each lesson prompts you to dig deep into the word—as such, we recommend you use your preferred translation with this study. The author used the English Standard Version. Whatever Bible version you use, please be sure you leave ample time to get into the Bible itself.

To assist you, we recommend using the Faithlife Study Bible. You can download this digital resource for your tablet, phone, personal computer, or use it online. Go to FaithlifeBible.com to learn more.

May God bless you in the study of his word.

INTRODUCTION

Given that Paul wrote Philippians from a prison cell, it’s striking how often this letter expresses words of assurance. Paul tells the believers that God’s good work in them will be completed (1:6); he anticipates their progress and joy in the faith (1:25); he calls them to find encouragement in Christ and to rejoice in the Lord (2:1, 18; 3:1; 4:4); he reminds them of their heavenly citizenship and the glorious transformation that awaits them (3:20). At several points in Philippians, Paul urges the fledging congregation to stand united in Christ as they face hardship and persecution (1:27; 2:2; 3:16–17; 4:1), and he assures them that God’s peace will protect them (4:7).

Yet even while this letter emphasizes confidence in Christ, it also stresses humility (2:4–8; 3:7–8). At first, these two themes might seem contradictory, but in Paul’s gospel they actually go hand in hand: through emulating the humble obedience and self-sacrificing love of Christ, the believers will find joy and strength and peace—exactly what they need to stand confidently in every circumstance.

This is a message we sorely need to hear today. When our relationships are strained, when our values are belittled, when our faith comes under fire, we’re often provoked to assert our rights and stand up for ourselves. But that’s not the kind of confidence we find in Christ Jesus. Philippians reminds us that Christ Jesus emptied himself, took on the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death (2:7–8). As followers of Christ, our confidence is in his cross.

David Bomar

Editor of Bible Study Magazine

PART I: LIVING WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST

PHILIPPIANS 1:1–30

When the apostle Paul first shared the gospel in Philippi during his second missionary journey (ad 49–50), he was beaten and imprisoned by its citizens (Acts 16:12–40). Ten years later, from another prison, he writes to the church he planted there. His message is one of joy. He wants the Philippians to know and love Jesus so much that they, too, experience great joy—even when facing suffering.

Along with Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon, Philippians is one of Paul’s so-called “Prison Epistles.” This joyful letter offers instructions for maintaining a Christian attitude when life doesn’t turn out the way we planned. In this eight-part study of Philippians 1:1–30, we will be challenged to live worthy of the gospel of Christ in any circumstance.

lesson 1

JESUS IS CENTRAL TO THE LIFE OF A CHRISTIAN

 

Pray that God would help you live for Jesus in light of his return.

 

Read all of Philippians aloud in one sitting.

Paul’s original readers didn’t divide his letters into chapters and verses. They would’ve read his entire letter to understand and respond to the overall message.

Use the search tool on Biblia.com to locate every mention of “Jesus” and “Christ” in Philippians. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians contains a higher concentration of occurrences of “Jesus” and “Christ” than any other New Testament letter. Paul wrote to remind the Philippians to imitate Jesus Christ and boldly share his message.

Reflect on Philippians 2:1–11. This letter reminds us that everything changed when Jesus became flesh at the incarnation. Which of Jesus’ qualities, in particular, does Paul highlight in this passage? What attitude in the Philippian church was Paul seeking to correct (see 2:1–4)?

 

Locate each mention of the “the day of Christ” or “the day of Jesus Christ” in Philippians. What does this phrase mean?

 

The thought of Jesus’ first coming and the promise of Jesus’ second coming defined Paul. He reminds us that we will be held accountable when Jesus returns (1:6, 10; 2:10–11, 16; 3:20). Until then, we should strive to please him in all we do and say. Does this reminder help you maintain an eternal perspective? How does it affect the way you treat others?

 

God is “our Father” because of our relationship with Jesus Christ (1:2). We have citizenship in heaven because of our relationship with Jesus (3:20). Do you rejoice in your new identity in Christ?

 

How do you navigate life’s difficulties in light of these truths? Are you able to face trials more easily when you think about the future that awaits believers?

 

lesson 2

JESUS ENABLES US TO SUFFER JOYFULLY

 

Pray that God would help you discover joy even when you suffer.

 

Read all of Philippians aloud in one sitting.

Trace the theme of suffering and imprisonment in the Letter to the Philippians. Identify situations that could seem discouraging to Paul.

 

Paul wrote to the Philippians from prison. Since the believers in Philippi were also suffering for the gospel (1:29–30), Paul encourages them to stand firm (1:27; 4:1). As Christians, we should avoid complaining about our circumstances (2:14). We should learn instead to be content by relying on the strength of Christ (4:11–13), whose first coming was marked by suffering (2:7–8). Even when we suffer, we can experience the peace of God (4:6), which comes from the God of peace (4:9). Think of a time you recently felt God’s peace in difficult circumstances.

 

Trace the themes of joy and rejoicing in the Letter to the Philippians.

 

Even though Paul was in prison, he was joyful when he wrote to the Philippians. In this short, four-chapter letter, Paul uses the word “joy” five times (1:4, 25; 2:2, 29; 4:1), “rejoice” nine times (1:18 (2); 2:17, 18, 28; 3:1; 4:4 (2), 10), and “rejoice with” two times (2:17, 18). This message is particularly striking when we remember the persecution Paul was experiencing when he wrote.

How do you respond to suffering and inconveniences? Do you get discouraged when your plans are disrupted?

 

How does your attitude improve when you remember that you are following in the footsteps of your suffering Savior?

 

lesson 3

JESUS SUPPLIES OUR IDENTITY

 

Pray that God would show you how your relationship with Jesus defines who you are.

 

Read Philippians 1:1–11. Reflect on Philippians 1:1–2.

What label does Paul use for himself and Timothy?

 

Paul was a Pharisee, a church leader, and an apostle, but he calls himself a slave—a person owned by and fully submitted to someone else. (Some Bibles translate it “servant.”) Why did he choose to use this lowly title to describe himself?

 

On the other hand, Paul addresses those he’s writing to as “saints,” which means “holy ones.” The term is used consistently to describe all Christians, not just people who seem especially spiritual. In what way does this description communicate Paul’s expectations to the Philippian church?

 

The letter claims to be from Paul and Timothy (1:1), but the singular verbs and pronouns throughout suggest that Paul was writing. Paul visited Philippi shortly after he recruited and circumcised Timothy, who was present at the church’s founding (Acts 16:1–12). He writes to all of the Christians who live in Philippi, but he specifies the “overseers and deacons” (1:1). Including both of these groups of church leaders is unique among Paul’s greetings and suggests that the church was large and established.

You are both a saint and a servant of Christ Jesus. How do these labels shape your identity? What do they suggest about your relationship with God?

 

Does “saint” or “servant” more accurately reflect your walk with Jesus? Which title needs more attention from you to make it a reality?

 

lesson 4

JESUS HELPS US LOOK OUTSIDE OF OURSELVES

 

Pray that God would make you grateful for others and show you how to tell them.

 

Read Philippians 1:1–11. Reflect on Philippians 1:3–8.

Underline Paul’s expressions of affection for the Philippians. Paul missed the Philippian believers, often thought of them, prayed for them, and held them “in his heart” (1:7). Even though Paul is facing difficult circumstances, he remains unselfishly mindful of others and writes to express his joy and prayers for them.

Paul talks about the Philippians’ “partnership in the gospel” (1:5; see 4:15–16). What does he mean by this phrase?

 

Paul isn’t just thankful for the Philippians and their gifts—he also tells them so.

In 1:6, Paul expresses his utter confidence that God will complete what he had started in these Christians—neither circumstances nor suffering can impede the work of God. What does this verse communicate about Paul’s expectations for the Philippian believers?

 

What is “the day of Jesus Christ,” and how should it inform how we treat one another?

 

When we are suffering, our thoughts typically turn to ourselves. But Paul thinks of others even while he is in jail. What can you do to focus on others instead of yourself?

 

Who do you need to thank God for?

 

Is there someone you need to share your gratitude and affection with?

 

lesson 5

JESUS HELPS US LOVE ONE ANOTHER

 

Pray that God would increase your love for others.

 

Read Philippians 1:1–11. Reflect on Philippians 1:9–11.

Unlike most of Paul’s churches, the church in Philippi had no major moral or spiritual problems that needed correcting. They were going in the right direction, and so Paul prays that they would improve what they are already doing. What does it look like for a Christian to abound more and more in love for others? What does it mean to be filled with the “fruit of righteousness”?

 

The Bible often uses “God” as shorthand for “God the Father.” Three times in Philippians Paul declares that our ultimate goal is to glorify God (1:11; 2:11; 4:20). In addition to gaining a new Father, we also gain new brothers and sisters when we begin a relationship with Jesus (1:12, 14; 2:25; 3:1, 13, 17; 4:1, 8, 21). Paul reminds us that we please our Father when we love one another. Do you treat others properly in light of Jesus’ life, death, resurrection, and return?

 

One way we love others is by praying for them. These verses capture Paul’s prayer for the Philippians. Sometimes our prayers can be selfish, focusing only on our needs. Paul shows us that praying for others glorifies God. Why does Paul tell the Philippians the contents of his prayers for them?

 

Who do you pray for regularly? Do you tell them that you’re praying for them?

 

If someone says they’re praying for you, how does it make you feel to know what they are praying for?

 

lesson 6

JESUS IS WORTHY OF OUR PROCLAMATION

 

Pray that God would help you talk about Jesus regardless of the difficult circumstances you might be facing.

 

Read Philippians 1:12–30. Reflect on Philippians 1:12–18a.

Underline the terms that signify imprisonment in this passage. According to 1:14, how did Paul’s bold proclamation of Christ in prison affect other believers?

 

Although Paul was imprisoned, he was able to share the good news with the Praetorian Guard (1:13) and some from Caesar’s household (4:22). He was somehow able to look past his immediate circumstances and rejoice that Christ was being proclaimed. Paul was courageous; other believers who heard of his boldness in prison grew more courageous themselves.

In 1:15–18 Paul describes two groups who proclaim Christ. Who are they? Why isn’t he upset that some people are not properly preaching about Jesus?

 

Was their motive or their message incorrect?

 

Paul consistently seeks to silence those who might tamper with the message of the gospel itself (see Gal 1:6–9). For that reason, we can infer that it was their motive, not their message, that was flawed.

Paul found that his suffering could actually enhance his witness—and it can do so for us as well. By demonstrating gratitude, joy, and unselfishness during our pain, our message can earn an attentive audience. We’re called to be lights in the world even when our circumstances are at their darkest. By the power of the Spirit, we can be walking contradictions during our suffering by responding with supernatural, unpredictable joy. Have you witnessed a Christian respond to hardship with Christ-centered joy? How did it impact you and those around this person?

 

Read 2 Timothy 2:9. How does this verse apply to Paul’s situation in Philippians?

 

Paul could have used his imprisonment differently. But he refused to use it as an excuse to remain silent about Jesus. Do you use your circumstances as an excuse to remain silent?

 

What steps can you take to speak about Jesus—even, and maybe especially, in dark times?

 

lesson 7

JESUS IS WORTH DYING FOR

 

Pray that God would help you overcome any fear you have about living fully for Jesus Christ.

 

Read Philippians 1:12–30. Reflect on Philippians 1:18b–26.

Did Paul think that his imprisonment would end in death or release? How do you know?

 

How did Paul respond to the prospect of dying for Christ?

 

Consider Philippians 1:21. Paul concludes that his death would take him into the eternal presence of God to “be with Christ” (1:23). Rather than responding with bitterness toward God because of his imprisonment and potential martyrdom, Paul continues to adore and honor Christ. Death is inevitable for each of us; it is our response to that prospect that sets us apart. Paul also welcomes the possibility of remaining alive longer, knowing that he could continue to enjoy fruitful labor for the Philippians’ “progress and joy in the faith” (1:25).

Fear is a common and natural response to affliction. It may manifest itself in tears, withdrawal, anger, or any number of other forms. But harboring such fear is not a biblical option for Spirit-filled Christians. Instead, we are instructed to live worthy of the gospel by responding with courage in the face of persecution, fearlessness in the face of affliction, and boldness in the face of death. The world pays particular attention when the fear they expect to see in us is replaced by supernatural, uncommon courage that comes from faith in God. How does our faith give us this courage?

 

Why is fear not a biblical option? What does our fear say about our faith in God?

 

We expect Paul, imprisoned and suffering, to exhibit bitterness, discouragement, and hopelessness. Instead, we find him filled with optimism and an eternal perspective that allows him to rejoice. How do you allow circumstances to control your mood and tone?

 

Are you willing to suffer joyfully for Jesus? Like Paul, do you see benefits in both living and dying for Jesus?

 

lesson 8

JESUS IS WORTH LIVING FOR

 

Pray that God would help you live worthy of the gospel.

 

Read Philippians 1:12–30. Reflect on Philippians 1:27–30.

What does it mean to live worthy of the gospel?

 

What do you think Paul means when he says his desire is to see the Philippian community exhibiting one spirit and mind?

 

It seems that the Philippians had responded to their suffering by turning against one another in fear. Paul contends that standing together courageously can become a sign to their persecutors of their coming destruction (1:28). What response to persecution does Paul demonstrate that he’s inviting the Philippians to imitate?

 

According to Paul, suffering for the sake of Christ is a gift that has been granted to the Philippians (1:29). Read Acts 5:40–42. The early disciples regarded suffering for Jesus a privilege. They rejoiced that God considered them worthy to endure persecution for the sake of Jesus’ name. Because Jesus suffered, suffering like him is a privilege granted by God. Do you view persecution this way?

 

Live worthy of the gospel of Christ by uniting in boldness with other believers, and see how your actions and attitude confuse those who afflict you. Ask God to give you Spirit-filled courage in the face of affliction, persecution, or death. How would your life look different if you lived worthy of the gospel?

 

In what area is your conduct, attitude, or language failing to glorify God?

 

If living worthy of the gospel would cause you to suffer, would you still do it?

 

CONCLUSION

Life doesn’t always turn out the way we hope. With every passing year we realize how much lies beyond our control. But we do have control over our attitudes when facing life’s difficulties. Living worthy of the gospel of Christ means allowing Jesus to shape even our responses to suffering. Rather than growing bitter toward God or harboring resentment for our neighbor, we should allow our eternal perspective to shape our submission to God and love for others. May we live worthy of the gospel whether we are happy or hurting, so that we are living testaments to its message.

PART II: GIVING IT UP FOR THE GOSPEL

PHILIPPIANS 2:1–3:14

Christians aren’t immune to loss. Sometimes our loss is a result of persecution or a symptom of our fallen world; other times we voluntarily go without for the sake of others. Regardless of the circumstances, loss can bring hardship and cause us to focus on our own needs: Why did this happen to me? What did I do wrong? What can I do to feel better?

The biblical authors push us to fight this instinct. They instruct Christians to focus on serving others and to consider their needs before our own—even during desperate times. We’re assured that such selflessness maintains unity in the church and helps us face hardship with joy.

This is a difficult call to answer, but the person issuing it has first-hand experience in gladly serving others during times of hardship. Paul established the church in Philippi on his second missionary journey. Around ten years later, he wrote a joyful letter to them from a prison cell. In this eight-part study of Philippians 2:1–3:14, we will be challenged to suffer voluntary loss by sacrificing our rights for those we’re called to serve joyfully.

lesson 1

A CALL TO SERVE OTHERS

 

Pray that God would help you grow in your consideration of others.

 

Read all of Philippians aloud in one sitting. Reflect on Philippians 2:1–4.

Paul’s original readers didn’t divide his letters into chapters and verses. They would have read his letter in its entirety to understand its overall message.

The word “therefore” in 2:1 suggests that this section relates to the previous chapter. In many ways, the opening chapter of Philippians addresses involuntary loss resulting from the persecution of Christians. The second chapter addresses voluntary loss for the sake of those whom Christians are called to serve joyfully.

What does it mean to be “of the same mind” (2:2)?

 

Use Biblia.com to explore how different translations render this expression. What phrases did you find?

 

Christian unity is often put to the test when believers face persecution like the Philippians did. That’s because we don’t expect those who suffer to practice selflessness. In what ways does Paul challenge this perception in his letter?

 

In 2:2 Paul speaks of the joy he felt when he saw the Philippian Christians living together in unity. Later, Paul specifically addresses two members of the church who were finding it difficult to get along with one another (4:2). He urges them and the rest of the church to be of the same mind. Why does Paul place such great stress on unity in this letter?

 

What effect does disunity have on those within a community? In what ways does disunity within the church endanger the spread of the gospel?

 

In 2:3 Paul invites the Philippians to show humility by treating others within the church community as more important than themselves. How does humility help you to serve others joyfully?

 

When you face pressure in life, do you tend to become more selfish or less selfish?

 

What steps can you take to ensure that you consistently look to others’ interests instead of your own?

 

Identify someone in your life who you can serve unselfishly this week.

 

lesson 2

JESUS SHOWS US HOW TO YIELD OUR RIGHTS

 

Pray that God would show you what privileges to give up voluntarily.

 

Read Philippians 2:1–11. Reflect on Philippians 2:5–11.

In what way does Paul instruct us to imitate Jesus (2:5)?

 

Philippians 2:6–11 was probably an early Christian hymn. What does the term “form” (μορφή, morphē) in 2:6, 7 mean?

 

Jesus existed in the very “form” of God (2:6), but he emptied himself to receive the “form” of a servant by becoming human (2:7). This is one of the New Testament’s clearest descriptions of Jesus’ incarnation—when humanity was added to Jesus’ deity, compromising neither.

What does it mean that Jesus “emptied” himself? Of what did Jesus empty himself by becoming human?

 

Some think Jesus emptied himself of deity or the exercise of certain divine attributes when he became human. Since the passage builds to Jesus’ restored exaltation, it seems best to conclude that Jesus temporarily set aside the “glory” he shared with the Father prior to his incarnation (see also John 17:5).

Jesus voluntarily set aside his rights for the sake of others. Trace the arc of the passage: Jesus existed as God, became a humble servant, died, and was exalted. Underline the occurrences of the word “every” in Philippians 2:9–11. The repetition of this term reminds us that the lordship of Jesus is not something we create. Instead, it is something everyone will acknowledge is true.

How does Jesus serve as an illustration of selflessness in 2:3–4?

 

When was the last time you voluntarily suffered loss because of your care for another?

 

Ask God to make you sensitive to the needs of others so that you will be better prepared to offer them your thoughts, your concern, your time, your resources, and your prayers. Tell others that you want to yield your rights for them because Jesus yielded his for us.

lesson 3

OBEYING WITHOUT COMPLAINING

 

Pray that God would convict you when you are tempted to complain.

 

Read Philippians 2:12–30. Reflect on Philippians 2:12–18.

What does it mean to “work out your own salvation” (2:12), and how is that different from working for your salvation?

 

Underline the word “your.” “Your salvation” means it is something you already possess—not something we need to strive to obtain. In 2:13 Paul writes that God’s work is present in us (2:13). How does God’s presence within us affect our responsibility to produce good works after salvation?

 

In 2:14, the Greek word for “grumbling” (γογγυσμός, gongysmos) is designed to sound like the action it describes. Even our right to complain is something Paul invites us voluntarily to set aside for the gospel. God wants more than our obedience; he wants our joyful obedience.

How does Paul’s tone in this letter demonstrate suffering without complaining?

 

The Bible consistently refers to complaining as a sin (see Jas 5:9; 1 Pet 4:9), and Paul is writing from prison when he instructs us to do all things without grumbling. Notice also Paul’s statement that our obeying without complaining makes us shine as lights in the world (Phil 2:15). The joy expressed by suffering people becomes attractive and contagious in a world that expects us to complain. What steps can you take to avoid filling your conversations with complaints?

 

What does it mean to be “poured out as a drink offering” (2:17)?

 

Even if Paul’s life is to be cut short because of his ministry, he refuses to complain or declare the situation unfair. Instead, he rejoices and invites the Philippians to rejoice with him (2:18).

Why do we like to be around joyful people? Do you find yourself avoiding people who constantly complain?

 

Do you disguise complaining as “constructive criticism”?

 

How is rejoicing the opposite of complaining? How does rejoicing despite our losses help us shine the light of Christ?

 

lesson 4

A REPUTATION FOR CARING

 

Pray that God would show you who you can care for.

 

Read Philippians 2:12–30. Reflect on Philippians 2:19–24.

Although Paul himself hopes to visit Philippi soon, he first sends Timothy, his loyal and trusted colleague. How does Timothy serve as another illustration of the principle of selflessness Paul described in 2:3–4?

 

What reason does Paul cite for sending Timothy?

 

How does Paul seek to convince the Philippians that he’s not just sending Timothy to check in on them or police them?

 

Paul’s reason for sending Timothy seems different from his reason for sending Epaphroditus (2:25–30). Rather than seeking merely to encourage the Philippians, Paul hopes to be encouraged himself when Timothy returns to him with a good report on the church. How might your actions serve as encouragement to others?

 

Read Acts 16:1–12. This passage informs us why Paul would send Timothy to the Philippians instead of someone else: Timothy was present at the founding of the church in Philippi, which took place shortly after Paul recruited and circumcised him. Timothy was known for having a good reputation (Acts 16:2). In addition, the Philippians had seen for themselves how unselfishly Timothy had served alongside of Paul (Phil 2:22).

What is your reputation within your community?

 

Think of someone you know who has a reputation for being thoughtful and kind; how did they come to be known that way?

 

Good reputations are usually built by caring for one person at a time. Who can you selflessly serve this week?

 

lesson 5

A CALL TO IMITATE OTHERS WHO SACRIFICE

 

Pray that God would provide a role model who serves faithfully.

 

Read Philippians 2:12–30. Reflect on Philippians 2:25–30.

How does Epaphroditus serve as another illustration of the selflessness Paul described in 2:3–4?

 

What reason does Paul give for sending Epaphroditus to the Philippians (2:28)? How does that reason differ from his reason for sending Timothy (2:19)?

 

What does the description of Epaphroditus in 2:25 suggest about Paul’s feelings about him?

 

Philippians 4:18 can help us understand the purpose of Epaphroditus’ visit to Paul. According to Philippians 4, Epaphroditus came to Paul bearing gifts from the Philippian church, for which Paul writes to thank them. While visiting Paul in Rome, Epaphroditus became gravely ill. Note the language that Paul uses to emphasize the gravity of Epaphroditus’ illness (2:27–30).

The source of Epaphroditus’ emotional distress was not his sickness; what was it (2:26)?

 

Paul returns Epaphroditus to the Philippians because they had become terribly concerned for him upon learning of his severe illness. Paul takes this opportunity to praise Epaphroditus and to invite the Philippians to hold people like him “in high regard” (2:29 nasb).

Is there someone in your life that you seek to imitate? Have you expressed your gratitude to them for being a role model?

 

Do you know of others who look to you as an example for how to serve?

 

lesson 6

RECOGNIZING MISPLACED CONFIDENCE

 

Pray that God would show you if your faith is in something other than him.

 

Read Philippians 3:1–14. Reflect on Philippians 3:1–4.

Use the search tool at Biblia.com to see how different translations render the threefold description of the false teachers in 3:2 (note: dogs were regarded as wild scavengers, not pets).

 

If the greatest internal threat to the Philippian church was disunity, their greatest external threat was false teaching. False teachers invite us to place our faith in something other than the one true God. The false teachers in this passage were likely a group known as “Judaizers.” Since the earliest followers of Jesus were Jewish, the method for allowing Gentiles entrance into the church became controversial. Judaizers were Jewish Christians who claimed that Gentiles must first become Jews through circumcision in order to become Christians.

The notion that God accepts people by faith without their compliance with the law of Moses is perhaps Paul’s greatest theological contribution. This “justification by faith” teaches that trust in Jesus rather than obedience to the law renders us justified before God. Although this doctrine is articulated best in Romans and Galatians (see especially Rom 3:26–30; 5:1; Gal 2:16; 3:24), the influence of Judaizers in Philippi forced Paul to address it here also.

Paul was a confident Christian; how does that differ from the kind of confidence he confronts in Philippians 3:3?

 

What does Paul mean by the term “flesh”?

 

Why is it wrong to have confidence in the flesh? At what point does your “confidence in the flesh” impede your confidence in God?

 

Have you found your faith placed in something other than God?

 

lesson 7

RESISTING SELF-RELIANCE

 

Pray that God would redirect your confidence toward him.

 

Read Philippians 3:1–14. Reflect on Philippians 3:4b–7.

Underline the seven assets in which Paul placed his confidence prior to knowing Christ (3:5–6). Which ones do you find most impressive?

 

Paul’s assets are steeped in his Jewish heritage. His parents, like all good Jews, circumcised him when he was 8 days old. He belonged to the tribe of Benjamin, named for one of only two sons born to Rachel—Jacob’s true love—and the only son of Jacob born in the promised land. Saul, Israel’s first king and Paul’s namesake, was a Benjaminite, and Jerusalem was originally allotted to the tribe of Benjamin (Josh 18:28). In addition, Paul was a Pharisee—a highly influential and devout Jewish leader.

According to Philippians 3:7, how has Paul’s relationship with Jesus changed the way he views these prior assets?

 

In the same way that Jesus gave up what rightfully was his (2:6–8), Paul is voluntarily counting as loss the items on his résumé that he had worked so hard to gain and had held so dear. Jesus Christ turned Paul’s ledger of assets and liabilities upside down. The very credentials that had given him confidence are now regarded to count against him. Christ Jesus remains the only asset that is important to Paul.

In Matthew 6:21, Jesus taught us that our hearts follow what we treasure. What do you treasure above all else? What would you put on a life résumé as your most prized accomplishments or characteristics?

 

Do these assets compete with God in forming your identity? In what have you placed your confidence?

 

If Jesus Christ remained your only asset, would that be enough for you?

 

lesson 8

CONFIDENCE IN CHRIST

 

Pray that God would increase your faith and confidence in him.

 

Read Philippians 3:1–14. Reflect on Philippians 3:8–14.

When our confidence is in Christ, we’re willing to suffer both voluntary and involuntary loss. Paul claims that he has suffered the loss of all things for Christ Jesus (3:8). What specifically has Paul lost—both voluntarily and involuntarily?

 

Why does he refer to what he has lost as “rubbish” (or “excrement”)?

 

In 3:9 Paul describes how the righteousness he enjoys because of Jesus differs from what he pursued before he knew Christ: Instead of attaining righteousness by obeying the law, Christians enjoy righteousness through faith in Christ. This passage is about how confidence in Christ elicits the pursuit of Christ. Those who love Jesus want to know him more, which includes sharing in his sufferings (3:10).

What is the “it” that Paul has not yet attained (3:12) or laid hold of (3:13)?

 

What are the things “behind” Paul that he refuses to let impede him in his pursuit of Jesus (3:13)?

 

Use Biblia.com to see how other translations render 3:14. What it is that Paul is pressing toward?

 

Does Paul’s passionate pursuit of Christ sound like yours?

 

What things in your past are holding you back from putting your full confidence and hope in Jesus?

 

How does righteousness from God, based on faith, render you free to pursue the upward call of God in Christ Jesus?

 

This week, tell someone why Christ has your confidence.

CONCLUSION

The gospel invites us to give up our rights and points of pride in order to serve others. That’s what Jesus did when he became human and obediently went to the cross for us. We know Jesus better when we suffer voluntary loss and serve others like he did. As we follow his pattern of self-emptying, we enjoy the fellowship of his sufferings and experience the power of his resurrection. God wants more than our obedience; he wants our joyful obedience. And the reward is great.

PART III: CITIZENS OF HEAVEN

PHILIPPIANS 3:15–4:23

Jesus taught that his kingdom and his followers were not of this world (John 17:14–19; 18:36). Paul’s remarks in Philippians 3 reflect a similar idea: because Christians are citizens of heaven, their thoughts, language, priorities, and behavior will follow heavenly standards instead of worldly ones. The value we place on earthly things will be comparatively limited as we store up eternal treasures in heaven—our true home in God’s presence.

During Paul’s second missionary journey, he visited Philippi, a Roman colony located far from the center of the empire. His Letter to the Philippians was written from prison, probably many years after he planted the church. In this eight-part study of Philippians 3:15–4:23, we will be challenged to see ourselves as citizens of heaven—and to live accordingly.

lesson 1

IMITATING THE MATURE

 

Pray that God would keep your eyes on spiritually mature people.

 

Read all of Philippians aloud in one sitting. Reflect on Philippians 3:15–17.

Paul’s original audience wouldn’t have divided his letters into chapters and verses; they would have read the entire letter at the same time to understand and respond to the overall message.

 

Is Paul arrogant to consider himself “mature”?

 

Compare verse 15 with verse 12. Both verses draw on the same Greek root, which can mean “perfect,” “mature,” or “complete.” What kind of thinking and behavior marks a person as mature?

 

In keeping with 3:15, ask God to reveal anything that might reflect Christian immaturity.

Is Paul arrogant to encourage the Philippians to imitate him in 3:17 (compare 4:9)?

 

Paul was not perfect, but he considered himself worthy of emulation. He invited people to imitate him as he sought to imitate Jesus (1 Cor 11:1).

We’re inundated with bad examples as our controversy-loving culture showcases people’s failures. We may need to look harder for Christlike role models. Can you name people in your life who are worthy of imitation? Do you follow the example of those who live like Jesus and Paul?

 

What kind of example are you setting for others? Can you humbly claim that you exhibit Christian attitudes and behaviors? Do you imitate Christ in such a way that others would honor God by imitating you?

 

lesson 2

SETTING OUR MINDS ON HEAVENLY THINGS

 

Pray that God would help you avoid worldly indulgence.

 

Read Philippians 3:15–21. Reflect on Philippians 3:18–19.

What do Paul’s tears suggest about these “enemies”? How does their conduct reflect opposition to Christ and his cross?

 

Every person provides us with an example, either a positive one to follow (like Paul; see 3:17) or a negative one to avoid (like these enemies). Sadly, the people Paul describes here once might have been examples of godliness. We have to use caution when choosing our role models.

How would you summarize Paul’s descriptions in 3:19?

 

What does it mean that “their god is their belly” and that “they glory in their shame”? How do these portrayals relate to having their “minds set on earthly things”?

 

Read what Paul says in Colossians 3:1–4. How does this teaching correspond with Paul’s remarks in Philippians 3:17–21?

 

How do both of these passages compare to Philippians 2:5–11?

 

The world lures us to indulge in a variety of enticing excesses. If we’re not careful, we can prioritize temporary, earthly pleasures at the expense of eternal, heavenly treasures. We can become influenced by this world far more than we’re allowing our lives to be transformed in Christ.

When our physical or economic comfort declines, we may awaken to the reality that we’ve put too much stock in temporary benefits. Have you grown deep roots in this world by squeezing as much comfort and pleasure as possible out of this life?

 

How difficult would it be for you to pull up those roots and pursue a life of humility? Is your mind set on earthly things or heavenly things?

 

lesson 3

LIVING AS CITIZENS OF HEAVEN

 

Pray that God would enable you to represent his kingdom in your daily life.

 

Read Philippians 3:15–21. Reflect on Philippians 3:20–21.

Why does 3:20 begin with “but”? What does it mean to be a citizen of a town or nation?

 

How would you describe the relationship between a community’s citizens and its values, law, and government?

 

What is the relationship of citizens to each other?

 

In Acts 16:12, Philippi is described as a leading city and a colony of the Roman Empire. Although the community had a strongly Roman flavor, few of its residents had ever visited Rome (a journey of roughly 1,200 miles by land). This background likely influenced Paul’s statement in Philippians 3:20 that believers are citizens of heaven. The Philippian Christians would have understood that citizenship came with privileges and expectations—even for citizens who had never visited the homeland.

Read Philippians 3:7–11 and compare these verses to Philippians 3:20–21. What basis allows Paul to identify Christians as citizens of heaven?

 

What are the privileges and expectations of heavenly citizenship?

 

Reread verses 10–11 and verse 21. How does Jesus’ death and resurrection shape the identity of his followers?

 

Our conduct should reveal our true citizenship. Do you act more like an earthly or heavenly citizen? As a citizen of heaven, do you value what God values?

 

Do you honor God as your governing authority?

 

Do you love your fellow citizens? This week, look for opportunities to bear witness to your heavenly citizenship through your words and actions.

 

lesson 4

REJOICING TOGETHER IN ANTICIPATION OF JESUS’ RETURN

 

Ask God to help you stay united with heaven’s other citizens.

 

Read Philippians 4:1–9. Reflect on Philippians 4:1–5.

Notice Paul’s language of pride and affection for the Philippians in 4:1. What does he mean by referring to them as his “crown”? How might this make them feel?

 

What problem does Paul seem to be addressing in Philippians 4:2–3, and how might this passage be related to 2:1–4?

 

Unity can be a powerful testimony to the truth of the gospel. Disunity can just as easily distract outsiders from the gospel.

This is the only passage in the Bible that mentions Euodia and Syntyche. Paul decided not to address the details of their apparent conflict, preferring instead to ask them to work it out. We can only speculate about the circumstances; however, since Paul does not choose sides, we can reasonably surmise that their dispute was personal and not doctrinal. Resolving conflict may require the help of others in the faith community, as Paul suggests in 4:3. How might Paul’s earlier remarks in Philippians 3:15–21 encourage these women to live in harmony?

 

Use Biblia.com or another digital resource to count the number of times the words “rejoice” or “joy” appear in Philippians.

 

Instead of arguing or splitting into factions, believers are to rejoice together in the Lord. Such a hopeful attitude can be a compelling instrument for the gospel. In light of the nearness of Jesus’ return (4:5), Paul invites us to set aside our differences and demonstrate joy to the watching world.

Personal conflicts and difficult circumstances can be discouraging. What threatens to steal your joy today?

 

Is there a relationship you need to mend or hardships you need to entrust to God?

 

In light of Jesus’ return, can you find a way to rejoice?

 

lesson 5

REPLACING EARTHLY THOUGHTS WITH ETERNAL TRUTHS

 

Pray that God would supply you with his peace.

 

Read Philippians 4:1–9. Reflect on Philippians 4:6–9.

What does it mean to be anxious?

 

Why do believers sometimes experience anxiety about their circumstances despite having knowledge of God’s promises (compare Matt 6:25–34)?

 

What does Paul suggest as the proper response to anxiety, and what promise does he offer?

 

What kind of peace does Paul describe, and how does it differ from the peace between God and humanity that was accomplished through the cross (see Rom 5:1)?

 

In Philippians 4:7, the Greek word for “guard” is phroureō (φρουρέω). The noun form phrouros (φρουρός) can describe a sentinel in the military—someone who watches in advance. The verb phroureō appears three other times in the New Testament: 2 Corinthians 11:32; Galatians 3:23; and 1 Peter 1:5. How do these passages shape your understanding of Philippians 4:7?

 

After praying about what worries us, we’re instructed to think about things that will encourage us. Read the list in Philippians 4:8, and identify something from each category that can bring encouragement in your own life.

 

When we follow Paul’s guidance, we will encounter both the peace of God (4:7) and the God of peace (4:9).

Commit Philippians 4:6–7 to memory. Do you pray about everything, as Paul recommends?

 

Which characterizes your experience more—anxiety, or the peace of God?

 

This week, ask the God of peace to replace your anxious, earthly thoughts with reminders of his eternal truths.

lesson 6

RECEIVING STRENGTH FOR EARTHLY CONTENTMENT

 

Pray that God would help you discover contentment.

 

Read Philippians 4:10–23. Reflect on Philippians 4:10–13.

What does Paul mean when he says that the Philippians have revived their concern for him?

 

Why does Paul quickly clarify that he did not, in fact, need the generous gift the Philippians sent?

 

From what you know about Paul, can you think of times when he had plenty and other times when he had very little?

 

Paul claims that he has learned the secret to contentment. What is that secret?

 

Paul’s eternal perspective prevented him from relying on the fleeting comforts of this world. He is not saying here that poverty holds some inherent virtue; he claims that, even during times of abundance, he experienced contentment. Paul is talking about a deep stability that doesn’t depend on circumstances and instead draws strength from Christ (4:13). Because he was sustained by Christ, he was able to joyfully endure any situation life threw at him.

Read 4:12–13 aloud and ask yourself whether it’s true for you. Make an effort this week to memorize these verses. Paul had learned the secret of unconditional contentment, which allowed him to be joyful even in suffering. Do you know that secret? Does your sense of sufficiency come from Christ alone?

 

As you find peace and strength in knowing Christ, be prepared for some puzzled reactions. Such inexplicable contentment is countercultural, and your assurance will draw attention from the people around you.

lesson 7

PUTTING OTHERS AHEAD OF OURSELVES

 

Ask God to show you how to give sacrificially.

 

Read Philippians 4:10–23. Reflect on Philippians 4:14–20.

What does Paul say about the Philippians’ material support for the gospel?

 

In Philippians 4:17, what does Paul mean when he refers to profit (“fruit”) being added to the Philippians’ account (“credit”)?

 

After Paul left Philippi, the believers there sent financial support for his ongoing missionary work (see Phil 1:5). Recently, they had sent Epaphroditus to assist Paul in prison, and he apparently brought a sizeable donation from the church. While serving Paul, Epaphroditus became sick, and the Christians in Philippi were concerned about him (2:26–27). Paul wrote this letter to thank the Philippians for their gift and to return Epaphroditus to them in good health.

Why does Paul characterize the believers’ gift as a sacrifice that pleases God (Phil 4:18)?

 

The Philippians were suffering for the gospel, much like Paul was (Phil 1:28–30). When Christians distanced themselves from their community’s pagan religious traditions—especially worship of the Roman emperor—they naturally fell under suspicion and came to be regarded as troublemakers and outsiders. Consequently, many merchants and patrons would have cut ties with believers, leading to severe financial hardship for the church. Nevertheless, the Philippians prioritized generous giving—even when others might have stopped giving and started hoarding. Their giving was sacrificial.

What does Paul mean when he says that God will supply the believers’ every need (4:19)?

 

How could this verse be misunderstood?

 

God promises to meet our needs, not our wants; reflect on this difference.

Paul expresses gratitude for the believers’ practice of giving sacrificially. Does your giving record warrant similar gratitude from those who benefit?

 

Take time this week to reflect on God’s provision and return thanks to him. Consider whether God is calling you to change your giving practices, and invite him to bring you more opportunities for sacrificial giving.

lesson 8

WELCOMING PEOPLE AS MEMBERS OF GOD’S FAMILY

 

Pray that God would use you to help bring others into his kingdom.

 

Read Philippians 4:10–23. Reflect on Philippians 4:21–23.

Paul concludes his letter by referring to his readers as “saints,” the same designation he used for them at the beginning of the letter (1:1). What does the term “saint” mean (see 1 Cor 1:2)?

 

How can it be misunderstood?

 

Paul himself sends his greetings to the Christians in Philippi, but he also sends along greetings from others who accompany him. How do shared greetings like this help unite Christians who are separated by distance? Reflect on how it feels when someone warmly greets you by name.

 

What is meant by the reference to Caesar’s household, and why is it significant that some of them were “saints”? How would this news make the Philippian church feel?

 

Do you greet other saints appropriately?

 

Send someone a note—or even just a text message—to let them know you are thinking of them. At worship this week, greet people by name, and extend Christ’s peace to them. Kindness shown to our fellow saints is a clear mark of our faith and one of the most attractive features of Christianity to outsiders (see John 13:35). What is your role in bringing others into God’s kingdom?

 

CONCLUSION

In Philippians, Paul encourages the church to experience joy even in the midst of suffering and hardship. He invites us to imitate his maturity, practices, and contentment. He reminds us of our heavenly citizenship while instructing us to overcome earthly anxieties by praying. He promises that we can abound in joy when we rely on the strength that only the God of peace can supply.