1. What does Paul want the Philippians to do?
He wants them to rejoice, to experience deep joy within that can’t be kept inside and must be expressed to others.
2. Is this the first time Paul had written this instruction to the Philippians?
Probably not, based on the phrase “write the same things to you again.”
3. Why is rejoicing in the Lord a safeguard?
To rejoice in the Lord means that our desire and focus must be on God. This is the surest protection from the lies of the evil one.
1. Who is Paul describing in verse 2?
He is probably describing a group called the Judaizers. They were Jewish Christians who believed that to become a Christian it was necessary to become a Jew first.
2. What is the significance of circumcision?
Circumcision was unusual at this time in history. It was a physical sign of the special covenant between the Jews and God. It uniquely identified Jewish men.
3. Why should followers of Jesus be confident of their salvation?
We should be confident because of what Jesus did on the cross and our trust in what He has done for us. The presence of the Holy Spirit in us confirms our faith.
4. Where else might followers of Jesus place their confidence? Why would that be a concern to Paul?
The list here is long. In principle, anything we place confidence in that relates to something we do reduces our reliance on Jesus. When our confidence is in our own religious activity division begins as we argue over which religious activities are the most significant.
5. Paul provides us with a series of religious credentials. Which one do you find the most impressive?
“as for righteousness based on the law, faultless.” At least for a period of time Paul achieved the pinnacle of success for a Pharisee and was able to keep all the ritual law that they had created. Only when Paul met Jesus did he discover that this accomplishment was worthless as he had missed the point. We can see in Romans 7 that he discovered that sin was a very real part of his life.
1. What does Paul think of his worldly achievements and possessions?
They are of no value.
2. What does Paul want?
He wants to be in Christ and to know Christ. Paul wants Jesus more than anything else.
3. Where is he going to find these things?
He is going to find Christ by trusting Jesus and living his life for Jesus regardless of where it takes him.
4. What does it mean to participate in Christ’s sufferings?
Jesus was the best person who ever lived, yet He was rejected by His people and put to death by them. Living out God’s love for people will often result in rejection and even physical persecution. God’s desires are not people’s desires.
5. Why is suffering so important to Paul?
Paul wants to remain faithful until death. Paul believes that following Jesus will involve suffering and he wants to follow Jesus into eternity more than anything.
1. What should be a constant in the life of a follower of Jesus?
This is a challenging portion of scripture. I’m confident that Paul was confident of his salvation based on his faith in Jesus. He does not see his relationship with God and salvation tied to a one-time event or experience. Instead, he sees all of life as striving to know Jesus and become more like Jesus. Paul’s expectation is that every follower of Jesus continues growing to be more like Jesus until death takes us to be with Him.
2. What does it look like to finish well?
Growing old is hard. It requires deep trust to get out of bed everyday seeking to find what God has in store in the day ahead. Finishing well means never giving up.
3. What is Paul’s perspective on the past?
It is past. It cannot be changed, and it is unimportant. What is important is the next decision we make toward the future that is ahead of us.
4. What keeps Paul going despite his circumstances?
Paul is convinced that there is something valuable in store for those who finish the race.
5. What does Paul want?
He wants the prize. The value of the prize far outweighs the cost of whatever Paul is experiencing.
1. Is Paul talking about Christians or non-Christians in verses 18 and 19?
A case could be made for either. I think that Paul is talking about people who claim to be Christians and are not. They are so confident of their salvation that they think their behavior doesn’t matter. There were several forms of this heresy in the early church. Look up antinomianism and Gnosticism for two examples of belief systems which were used to justify immoral behavior while maintaining the name Christian.
2. What is Paul’s expectation for those who call themselves Christians or followers of Jesus?
His expectation is that Christians would look and act like Christ.
3. If our citizenship is in heaven, how are we to live on earth?
We are aliens on a mission. We want as many people as possible to become like us. This means we care about the people around us and get to know them and understand them so we can introduce them to Jesus. We do not pursue the things that are valuable to the residents of earth, but we also don’t isolate ourselves from the people we are trying to reach. Love requires contact.
4. What is your new body going to be like?
It will be like the post-resurrection body of Jesus.
1. If my goal is to be a better Christian than anyone else, how will I live?
I will live focused on me while watching other Christians closely. I will be joyful when others fail. This is not a good way to live.
2. If my goal is to be as much like Christ as I can be, how will I live?
I will be striving to live as much like Jesus as I can. Every action will be an expression of love toward God or others.
3. Paul compares life to a race, but in this race, there are two courses and two finish lines. Describe the two courses and the two finish lines.
One course is the selfish course. The perceived finish line is the achievement of all I desire. “The one with the most toys wins.” The sad part is that Paul tells us that the actual finish line is destruction because we’ve been continually running away from God.
The other course is the Jesus course. The finish line is an eternal relationship with Jesus and the course is unique to each person as we follow Jesus every day.
Material for this and the other lessons from Philippians are drawn from two primary sources and my own observations: