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Philippians - The Cross-Shaped Life

“The Cross-Shaped Life” – 4 Studies in Philippians

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Sample material from this study guide:
Leaders’ Notes  ::  Philippians 1  ::  To Live is Christ     

Key verses:
1:9 – 11 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.

1:18 The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Notes:
v 5 “Partnership” is the Greek work “koinonia.” Sometimes translated as “fellowship” but this word has become greatly weakened in English to mean little more than “spending time together.” The Greek word reflects a business arrangement; sharing in work and sharing in financial responsibilities. We know, for example, that the Philippians sent Paul a financial gift. Partnership is always “in” something; in the faith, in the gospel, etc.

v 12 “advance the gospel” – Paul’s language describes an advancement despite obstacles or dangers that would stop someone travelling along a path. Verses 12 and following sound like perhaps Paul is responding to an enquiry from the Philippians about his condition and well-being while in prison.

v 18 Note that Paul is speaking of the motives of other preachers, not the content of their message. Paul isn’t saying that the message is not important (see Galatians 5:12 for a clear example of that!). Their message is orthodox, but their motives are selfish. A trap for Christians today?!

v 19 “will turn out for my deliverance” – This could mean deliverance from prison, or Paul may mean his eternal deliverance. It’s likely that Paul has left it deliberately ambiguous to allow for both meanings, since this section 19 – 26, shows the tension between temporal and eternal salvation quite clearly. Paul is a prisoner for Christ, and at the same time, suffering on behalf of the churches!

Study 1 ::  Philippians 1  ::   To Live is Christ

1.      A friend becomes a Christian and asks you to recommend a church in their area for them to join. What characteristics of a healthy church do you look for as you consider your recommendation?

2.     If you found yourself in prison what aspect of freedom do you think you would miss the most?

3.     Finish this sentence:  “You can tell when I’m really happy because I …”

Read Philippians 1:1 – 11

4.     What do Paul’s opening words tell us about his understanding of the identity of God’s people?

5.     Why is Paul so joyful?

6.     In verse 28 Paul comments that the Philippian Christians are facing opposition for their faith. How is it that he can “pray with joy” (v 4) when they are being opposed for their faith in Jesus?

7.     Paul’s word “partnership” in verse 5 reflects a business arrangement; sharing in work and sharing in financial responsibilities. In the light of that, what do you think “partnership in the gospel” between Christian people looks like today?

8.     What does Paul’s prayer demonstrate about:

    – his goal for the Philippians?

    – the means by which they might attain that goal?

9.     Think about your prayers for Christian people. What do you most often ask for them?

10.   Why do you think our prayers are often very different from Paul’s?

11.    Write Paul’s prayer in verses 9 – 11 in your own words.

Read Philippians 1:12 – 30

12.   Imagine that verses 12 – 26 are Paul’s “Handbook for Evangelism” for instructing the Philippians and us! What are the lessons in evangelism that we are taught in this section?

13.   How does Paul respond to those who preach Christ from impure motives?

14.   How is Paul’s imprisonment and suffering good news for the Philippians?

15.   What does Paul mean when he says, “to live is Christ and to die is gain” (v 21)? How is each option good for Paul?

16.   How is the promise of suffering in verses 29 & 30 an encouragement for the Philippians?

17.   What kind of opposition do Christians in countries in the West face for their faith in Jesus?

18.   Paul’s longing is that “in every way … Christ is preached” (v 18). What part can each of us play in seeing this become a reality?

19.   In verse 12 Paul’s language “advance the gospel” draws on the imagery of a traveller advancing despite obstacles or dangers that block their path. What are some of the potential obstructions that the gospel of Jesus faces in our communities?

20.  Who are some Christians for whom you can be praying in the light of Paul’s prayer in Philippians 1?

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