Philippians 1:1-18

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These small group studies of Philippians contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

Philippians 4:10-23 Inductive Bible Study

I. Greetings (1-2)

II. Paul prays joyfully for the Philippians growth (3-11)

1. Paul is grateful for their participation in spreading the gospel (3-5)

2. Paul is confident in their continued growth (6)

3. Paul feels a close bond with them (7-8)

4. Paul prays for their spiritual growth, strengths to grow into even better strengths (9-11)

III. Paul’s imprisonment resulted in the spread of the gospel (12-18)

1. The gospel spread more because of Paul’s imprisonment (12-14)

2. Some used it as an excuse for trying to gain more popularity while Paul was in prison (15,17)

3. Some were emboldened because of Paul’s positive testimony (14,18)

Questions:

Where was Paul when he wrote this book? How do you know (1:7)

Who was the audience? Where was Philippi? (Macedonia, named after father of Alexander the Great)

Which Bible passage tells about Paul’s original journey to Philippi? (Acts 16)

What major events happened to Paul there? (Cast demon out of slave girl, was thrown into prison and an earthquake in the middle of the night opened the gates and knocked off their chains. Jailer and his family came to know Christ.)

Who is Timothy?

How would you describe the tone of Paul’s letter? (1:3-12) Compared to, say, Corinthians?

How would you describe Paul’s relationship with the Philippians?

How did Paul feel about them?

What positive things does he mention about them?

What negative things does he mention about them (none)?

Since he can’t meet them face to face, what does he do instead? Pray and write.

What two qualities can you see in Paul’s prayer (thanks and joy)? What can we learn from this?

What is the main content of Paul’s prayer? What can we learn from this?

Can you see any strength of the Phps? What does Paul pray for their strength? Grow even stronger.

How would you describe Paul’s reaction to his imprisonment? What attitude did he have? Was he imprisoned fairly or unfairly? How did this effect his demeanor?

How do you think the Phps might have felt about Paul’s imprisonment? What did Paul say to encourage them? Was this positive attitude just wishful thinking or was there real benefits to Paul being in prison? What were the concrete benefits of Paul being in prison?

Paul taught in Romans 8:28 that everything works together for good. How do we see him applying this principle to his own life?

How could have should have the Phps reacted to Paul’s imprisonment? How can we follow these principles when we face difficulties in our own lives? How can we use our own troubles to encourage other believers?

In what two ways was the gospel being spread? What possible selfishness could push someone to share the gospel? What is Paul’s thoughts about this? What reward did each group have in store? What is your motive for sharing the gospel? (Think about this on your own.)

Cross-references:

I.

Acts 16 – Paul goes on mission trip to Php.

II.

Romans 8:29-39, John 10:27,30, Eph 1:13-14 – Eternal security of believers.

1 Cor 3:10-15, 2 Cor 5:10 – Day of Christ (when we face Christ and receive rewards).

1 Peter 1:22 – Knowledge and love.

2 Cor 1:12 – Living in sincerity.

Php 2:15 – Living blamelessly.

III.

Romans 8:28 – Everything works together for good to those who love God…

Eph 4:29, James 5:9, 1 Cor 10:10 – Verses on complaining

Proverbs 15:13, 17:22 – Verses on joy.

Teaching Points:

Background –

Philippians is another of the prison epistles. These were written during Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. Numerous references are made to his imprisonment as well as the praetorian guard (1:13). Paul actually carried on an active ministry during his imprisonment. He shared with many guards and even part of Caesar’s own household. Php 4:22. It may have been house arrest. We know there was some freedom of his friends to come and go just like Onesimus in Philemon.

Paul originally visited Philippi on his second missionary journey. Lydia was one of the saints there. A demon possessed slave girl followed Paul around for several days, leading to him getting irritated and casting the slave out. This caused a big ruckus and the owners of this fortune teller got Paul and Silas thrown into prison. In the middle of the night as they were singing there was an earthquake, their chains fell off and the doors were opened. Paul later shared with the jailer who was saved along with his household. Later the leaders of the city wanted Paul to leave secretly once they realized he was a Roman and they were imprisoning him illegally. He refused. Php was a Roman colony and very proud of its Roman citizenship. Although it was in Greece, its government was modeled after Italian towns. Apparently Timothy was with Paul at the time of this writing.

Notice the tone of Php. It is perhaps the most positive of all of Paul’s epistles. He mentions very few if any negative things about the Phps. Everything he says in chapter 1 about them is very positive. They are a church that is doing well, not like the Corinthians who were rife with problems and strongly rebuked by Paul. But although they were doing well, Paul did not ignore them or just let them go on their own. He still wrote to encourage them to greater heights. For us, we should never grow complacent with our spiritual level or with those that we teach. Always push forward.

II.

Paul may not have been able to do the kind of ministry had done before with lots of traveling and church planting, but he didn’t allow this to discourage him or keep him from the work. Where there is a will, there is a way. Paul had the will to do ministry no matter what the circumstances were so he found a way. He wasn’t free to go where he may have wanted, but he could share to the people around him and he did. Besides that, he wrote letters to the people he couldn’t visit as well as praying for them.

1. If we have the desire to share the gospel, there is always an opportunity to do that. If you can’t speak, you can write. If you are blind, you can still speak. If you are on a plane, you can share with the person next to you. If you are in the park, you can share with the lonely elderly people. If your parents don’t want to see you, you can write. If we are not sharing the gospel, it is because of a lousy excuse and not a legitimate reason. Paul shared with his cellmates. We are not in prison and we can certainly share with the people around us.

2. As we see in all of the books Paul writes, he actively prays for those he ministers to. Every time we go through one of these books this fact comes out. I don’t know about you, but I still need to learn this lesson to regularly, faithfully, and lovingly pray for the people I share with. Why was Paul’s ministry so effective? Was it his method? Perhaps partly. Was it his education level? Maybe a little bit. Was it God’s blessing? Definitely. But why did God bless him? Probably because he was a man of prayer. God used his prayer to accomplish great things. So I ask, do you pray regularly for the people you share with, for your co-workers, for your family and friends and brothers and sisters in Christ? What can we see from Paul’s prayer?

A. He didn’t take God’s answers for granted. He prayed with thanksgiving. He realized it was God’s work in their lives and he was grateful for that work. See in 1:6 he realizes it was God’s work. When God blessed his ministry, he thanked Him for it. We should do the same.

B. He was joyful. This means he cared deeply for the Phps. It wasn’t just a job, a routine. He cared about them like a father or a close friend. There successes excited him. At the same time, their failures would have concerned him.

C. He prayed for spiritual growth. I mention this every time we go through these books, but take a look at the actual requests God is making to the Lord. What are they? He prays for their love to abound more and more, for their knowledge, their discernment. He prays that they will approve the things which are excellent and for their sincerity and blamelessness. You don’t see him praying for their careers or health, or long life, or exams. Not that he never prayed for these things (in James we are commanded to pray for the sick), but he realized these were not the most important things.

D. He prayed that their strengths would become even stronger. In other words he wasn’t content that they were doing well. He wanted them to reach on forward and upward. No matter how good we are at something, there is always room for growth. No one is perfect even in one area. Do not become complacent.

3. We also see in this passage Paul’s deep care and close bond to the Phps. This gives us a good example of the kind of fellowship we should have with others. The Phps learned from Paul, but they still were able to encourage Paul through their willingness to put into practice what he taught and their co-participation in the gospel. No matter if you are a new believer or a teacher of many years, you can have good fellowship with others, come alongside them, work together and strengthen each other.

4. Paul is very God focused. He is keenly aware that it is God’s grace working in them, and through him. 1:6, 7, 11. The good qualities that they had were all the result of God’s work in their lives. He also knows God is going to finish this work that He began. This shows our salvation is God’s initiative. He is the beginning and the end. He is the source of and the finisher of our spiritual life. This gives us eternal security and the confidence to know that God will never forsake or abandon us. Because sanctification is God’s work in our lives we can be confident it will be carried on to completion.

Look through and discuss each verse/quality.

III.

1. Paul practiced what he preached. See Romans 8:28, 1 Thess 5:18. He often taught to be joyful and not to complain, to trust God in every circumstance and to realize that God is sovereign over everything. He didn’t just say that because it was always others in trouble. He faced way more than an average share. Yet he never complained. He was joyful in the prison in Php and now he was still joyful in a prison in Rome. Why could he have such a positive attitude? His chief goal was for the gospel to be spread, and he realized that this situation afforded many unique opportunities to spread the gospel. We should learn from Paul and always look for the silver lining in our own circumstances. Don’t focus on the negative things or become a complainer. If you complain, who are you complaining against? If I complain about the cold and wet weather I am complaining against God. If I complain that Caleb wakes up in the middle of the night, I am also complaining against God who allowed this to happen perhaps to build up my patience and compassion. God has a reason for everything. Trust in Him and react positively to the things that happen around you.

2. What concrete benefits were there for Paul being imprisoned?

A. More time for prayer.

B. More time for writing epistles.

C. A testimony that others could look to, to become bold in their own sharing (see Jim Elliot) and strengthen their own faith. This is one reason we need to always be joyful and take advantage of the opportunities we have. Our reaction can influence others as well.

D. Opportunities to share with people who would have been very hard to share with in normal circumstances such as his prison mates, guards, and even Nero (we don’t have any direct evidence of it, but knowing Paul’s personality it is very likely he shared with Nero during his appeal).

E. More time for meditation in his own walk with the Lord.

F. More responsibility for his co-workers, ie. Timothy and Titus.

3. Some people were motivated positively by Paul’s imprisonment to share the gospel, but some others were motivated by selfish reasons? What possible selfish reasons could motivate someone to share the gospel? Quest for personal recognition, popularity (among the saints), a feeling of power, or good morals to ease one’s conscience. It would be the same motivation as the Pharisee praying on the street corner. These were not necessarily the Phps with the wrong motivations, it could have been anyone. Paul didn’t care however what their motivations were as long as the gospel was going out. God certainly looks at the heart and would not reward someone since they already have received their reward (respect of men) in full. But as long as the message was true, then people could hear it and have the opportunity to be saved. For us, we should examine ourselves and make sure we have the right reason for sharing the gospel. What is the right reason? Love. 1 Cor 13. Are you sharing the gospel? If not, why not?

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