Philippians 4:1-9

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 4:1-9 Inductive Bible Study

Philippians 4:1-9

Outline:

  1. Stand firm (1)

  2. Encouragement to individual believers to live in harmony (2-3)

  3. Rejoice in the Lord and take everything to Him in prayer (4-7)

  4. Meditate on pure things (8-9)

I. Stand firm (1)

Discussion Questions

What is the “therefore” there for?

What is Paul’s joy and crown? What does it mean that the Philippians are his joy and crown?

In what way are they to stand firm in the Lord? Why does it say stand firm “in the Lord” and not just “stand firm”?

  1. Because of the previous section describing the onward push of the believers’ lives, the danger of false teachers, and the knowledge that our citizenship is in heaven, we are to take the action he mentions in verse 1.

  2. The two phrase “whom I long to see” and “my joy and my crown” are both acting as adjectives to describe Paul’s brethren. He already has expressed his hope to see them throughout the book. They are his joy because they are doing well and growing. The fruit Paul sees in their lives encourages him. They are his crown because they are a success of his ministry. He can and did “give them” to God as his work for God like we will give our crowns to God one day. And in a way they are a reward for his hard work (as we discussed last week, sometimes a reward is just the pleasure of seeing a job finished and done well.)

  3. They are to stand firm. This command is often given in the Word. It shows the solid foundation that we have. Because of our foundation on Christ we can stand firm. This is in stark contrast to the one without faith who is tossed about by the waves of the sea and the foolish builder who builds his house on the sand.

  4. In this way. By setting their minds on the things above, forgetting the past, and pushing forward to the future to press on for the prize of the upward call. They are to emulate Paul’s example in this. This kind of forget yesterday (its hurts, failures, sins, and achievements) and push on attitude is what allows believers to stand firm in their faith and continue growing day by day.

  5. In the Lord. We have no hope to stand firm on our own by sheer will power. The Pharisees could do it sometimes on the outside, but not truly from their hearts, which were a pile of bones. Our only hope is to rely on the Lord.

II. Encouragement to individual believers to live in harmony (2-3)

Discussion Questions

Who are Euodia and Syntyche? Why do you think Paul felt it necessary to specifically encourage them to live in harmony? Why again say “in the Lord”? What does this phrase mean?

Who is the true companion Paul refers to? What did Paul want him to do? In what way do you think he might could help E and S live in harmony?

What does this personal section show us about our own responsibility in the church?

Why did Paul often use the term “workers”? What does this show us about our responsibility as believers?

Teaching Points

  1. This is one of only a few cases where Paul singles out individual believers in his letter. It seems clear that he had heard some news (maybe from Epaphroditus) that E and S were having some issues getting along. For whatever reason some kind of a faction had developed between them and they weren’t living in unity. Such kind of factions are so dangerous to a church’s well being Paul considered it necessary to single them out to exhort them to resolve the issue before it grew any bigger.

  2. In the Lord. This phrase appears again. People have no hope to live in unity without the Lord. We have too many sins, too many differences, too many different opinions, and too different cultural backgrounds and upbringings. Yet with the Lord all things are possible and we can truly be one.

  3. True companion. John M thinks the Greek for this should be translated as a proper name. Regardless, Paul is referring to someone in the Php church, perhaps the one who the letter was being sent to in care of. It could be an elder or perhaps someone close to E and S. His job was to help these women and all the fellow believers to live in harmony.

  4. From this personal bit we should be reminded that all the principles in the Bible have practical applications. Paul realizes these principles are not just pieces of knowledge to put in our head, but they are to be applied to everyday life. He didn’t hesitate to exhort individuals to apply such principles to their own life and he even encouraged others in the church to help others put these principles into action. We should also remember in our teaching to focus both on doctrine and practical application. Whenever we can encourage individuals that we see to follow God’s Word, and not just in a general way to ask them to love others, but in a specific way (This is an issue I see. This is what God’s Word says about it. This is what you need to do about it.)

  5. Workers. Paul often uses this Word for believers. He doesn’t say fellow “waiters, watchers, sitters, or listeners. It is a subtle reminder that all of us are to be God’s workers. Each of us has specific work to do that He has prepared for us. The question is are we doing it?

III. Rejoice in the Lord and take everything to Him in prayer (4-7)

Discussion Questions 

What do you think it means to rejoice? Smile and laugh excitedly?

When are we to rejoice? Even in the middle of setbacks and failures? Is it reasonable to be happy when something seemingly very bad happens? Why or why not? We all have experienced the disappointment when something doesn’t go as we want (how about everybody share a disappointment they have had) and know it is not easy to rejoice in these times. So how is it possible?

How can we let our gentle spirit be known to all men? In what way or ways is the Lord near?

Is verse 6 a suggestion? Can we even control if we get worried about something or not? Why are we not supposed to worry? What is something you have worried about, one by one? What might be the difference between concern and worry? What is worrying good for?

In contrast, what are we to pray about? Is it realistic to pray about actually everything? Then what does it mean? If God already knows everything that we are thinking and experiencing, why is it important to take everything to Him in prayer? What is the relationship between prayer and thanksgiving? What is something you have to be thankful about? (Share one by one.) Now what is something you have to thankful about, about the situation you worried about?

What will the result be if we decide to be still and trust in God in these kinds of situations? Why does it say that this peace is beyond understanding? Have you ever experienced this kind of peace? When?

Cross-References

Worry:

Matthew 6:27-29 – Worrying accomplishes nothing.

Proverbs 12:25 – Worrying is bad for you.

Matthew 6:30 – Worry is the opposite of trusting God.

Matthew 6:25 – Our worrying generally is about unimportant things on the eternal scale.

John 14:1, Psalms 55:2, Isaiah 12:2, 2 Timothy 1:7 – Additional verses about not worrying.

Joy:

1 Peter 5:7 – Do not worry about anything…

James 1:2-4 – Be joyful in trials.

Psalms 40:16 – May those who seek you rejoice in you.

1 Thess 5:16-18 – Be joyful always…

Romans 5:1-4 – We rejoice in what we have in Christ and we rejoice in our sufferings.

Psalms 28:7 – Our hearts leap for joy at the relationship we have with Christ.

Romans 15:13 – God is the source of joy.

Thanksgiving:

Psalms 31:19 – God’s goodness which He stores up for us is great.

Psalms 107:1, Psalms 145:7, Psalms 100:4- Give thanks because He is good.

Colossians 3:17 – Whatever you do, give thanks.

Peace:

Psalms 85:8 – He promises peace to His people.

Psalms 119:16 – There is lasting peace for those who love His teachings.

Isaiah 26:3 – He protects the who trust in Him with perfect peace.

Isaiah 54:10 – The mountains may shake, but His kindness and promise of peace will never depart from us.

Rejoice:

  1. It is a command, not an optional suggestion.

  2. We can do it because we know God is a good God and has a plan for what happens to us.

  3. We are to do it all the time. That includes when we are sick or hurt or in pain.

  4. We can be joyful because we know that whatever happens now, joy comes in the morning. That means the things in this world are temporary, but we who are in Christ have eternal life.

  5. We can look to the example of believers in the Bible such as Paul and Silas who sang in prison.

  6. We need to have a habit to trust in God (we can only rejoice if we do truly trust Him), to be calm and to look for the reason God allows us to experience a difficulty.

  7. This rejoicing is not to be separated from the other qualities such as thanksgiving and prayer mentioned below.

Verse 5:

  1. We are to show out gentleness as Christ did, to be meek as He was.

  2. The Lord is near.

    1. He is near because He is omnipresent.

    2. He is near because He is omniscient.

    3. He is near because He didn’t leave the world to go its own way after creation.

    4. He is near because He cares for us.

    5. He is near because He will come again soon.

Anxiety:

1. This is also a command. It is sin to be anxious.

2. Matthew 6:27-29 – Worrying accomplishes nothing.

3. Proverbs 12:25 – Worrying is bad for you.

  1. Matthew 6:30 – Worry is the opposite of trusting God. The root problem of worry is a lack of faith.

  2. Concern shows care for something. We are thinking about something. Perhaps we are concerned for someone’s salvation or someone’s marriage or our wife’s health. This is not sin as long as the concern doesn’t reach the level of worrying? What’s the difference? Faith or fear. The one who worries will fear the future. They will allow this fear to control them in some ways or guide their action.

Thanksgiving:

  1. Also a command. Our prayers are to be filled with thanksgiving, not only when we get something we wanted, but when we get something we didn’t want. Such a child receives clothes for a gift instead of the super cool new fad toy he was hoping for. Because clothes are also necessary and someone spent their own time and money to get it.

  2. This is not a new idea. We have discussed it many times before. I know I still have a lot of improvement I need to make in this area though, and I am sure you do as well.

Peace:

  1. This peace cannot be understood by those who don’t understand God. They only know what they can see and feel, but this peace flows from the faith we have in God and the knowledge that He is sovereign and a good God who watches over us.

  2. This peace actually protects us like a soldier protects a town. It protects us from rash actions, from complaining, from fear, from anxiety, from a lack of joy, etc.

IV. Meditate on pure things (8-9)

Discussion Questions

What does it mean to dwell on these things? Why are we to dwell on these things? How might this affect our joy and thanksgiving? What kind of specific things can you think of that fit into this category? What kinds of things don’t fit into this category and what should our attitude be towards those things?

For those who didn’t attend last week, why does Paul give himself as an example to follow? Isn’t Christ our only example?

Teaching Points

  1. This passage tells believers we are to control the direction of our thoughts and not be controlled by them. You decide what you think; don’t just allow any thought to pop into your head and take over. How is this possible? What should we do when temptations, worries, negative thoughts (like gossips or judgmental attitudes, boasting or pride) pop into our head?

  2. We are to meditate on positive things that will enrich our spirit instead of pulling us down. Watch over your heart for from it flow the springs of life. Such positive things could include obvious things like Bible verses, Christian songs, or God’s character. They can include other things like testimonies of other believers, things God has done in our lives, or things to be thankful for. They could include beauty in the world that God has made, actions worthy of recognition, Christian character when it is modeled after Christ, etc. Its interesting to compare this list with the kinds of news that make headlines. The world finds sins and scandals fascinating, but deeds worthy of praise are often not nearly as popular. Which kind of thing do you prefer to read about?

Study Philippians 4:10-23

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