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 1:19-30 Inductive Bible Study – Commentary and Discussion Questions for Small Groups

Outline:

I. Paul expected to be delivered one way or another from his bondage (19-20)
II. To live is Christ and to die is gain (21-26)
III. Live worthily of the gospel and of suffering (27-30)

I. Paul expected to be delivered one way or another from his bondage (19-20)

Discussion Questions

  • What is Paul referring to in verse 19?
  • What possible way or ways could he be delivered? Was he delivered?
  • What do the words “earnest expectation” indicate about Paul’s attitude toward the future?
  • What might our attitude be in a similar position?
  • Was Paul bold? How? How could Paul’s death glorify God?
  • Can you truthfully say Christ is always exalted in your body?
  • What is one thing you can do with your body to exalt Christ?

Cross-References

Romans 12:12 – Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Galatians 4:6 – Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

Acts 28:30 – For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.

1 Timothy, 2nd Timothy, Titus – The events in the letters can’t be harmonized with the book of Acts, leading scholars to believe Paul was released the first time (as he expected) from Rome and did further ministry before being imprisoned again several years later.
Matthew 10:32 – Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.

Titus 2:8 – And soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

1 Peter 3:16-17 – Keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. For it is better, if it is God’s will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

Colossians 3:17 – And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Teaching Points

1. Philippians is a book filled with practical points on Christian living. Many of these practical applications on Christian living come directly from the life of Paul. He shares many of his own experiences with the Philippians as well as what God is doing in the middle of these experiences, how God is using them in His life and for the kingdom.

The church was doing very well so apparently didn’t have a lot of need to have the foundation of the gospel or basic doctrines taught again. Unlike the Galatian church, they were not being infiltrated with heretical teachers. But they did have a close connection to Paul and would have wanted to know how his imprisonment could be part of God’s plan and what Paul thought of it.

Below are the main themes of the chapter and we will discuss many of these below.

  • Paul’s expectation of deliverance.
  • Paul’s desire to be a good testimony in the middle of this trial.
  • Paul’s resolution to live for the Lord while he could.
  • Paul’s hope for being with Christ.
  • Paul’s realization that staying on earth to share the gospel for a while was still necessary.
  • Paul’s exhortation to live worthily of the gospel.
  • Paul’s declaration that they would also face suffering for the sake of the gospel.

2. Paul’s expectation of deliverance (verses 19-25)

Paul was at a crossroads. It is evident that he expected some kind of decision regarding his imprisonment in the near future. He realized it could be a death sentence (he talks of death several times), yet he expressed the belief and the hope that he would be delivered soon. This was not stated as a prophecy or a revelation from the Lord.

Rather it would have been Paul examining the facts of the case and the disposition of whoever was the judge, combined with the fact that he believed his ministry was not yet over. We can see from verse 19 that he placed his faith on God, recognizing the importance of the prayers of the Philippians and the provision of the Spirit. If God wanted him to be delivered, then he would be delivered.

We should make a note here that the book of Acts ends with Paul under house arrest in Rome and tells us that he was there for two years (Acts 28:17-31.) There is no further narrative account as to what happened to Paul after that. This has led to several theories. We can only glean some historical data from this book and others.

The main consensus among scholars is that Paul was in fact freed for a period of several years after this two year house arrest period. The main reasons for this are found in the books of 1 Timothy, 2nd Timothy, and Titus. In these books, Paul describes some of his travels, yet these travels are not described in to the book of Acts.

The conclusion is that Paul went on more journeys in addition to the three recorded in Acts. For this to happen, Paul would have to have been released and then later arrested and beheaded as tradition teaches us. This would also fit with these verses which show that Paul fully expected to be released soon.

Whether or not he was finally released for a period of time, we can see Paul’s dependence on the Lord as well as his optimistic attitude even in the middle of very difficult circumstances.

2. Paul desired to be a good testimony in the middle of this trial (20) –

We do see Paul show some concern in his imprisonment. What is his concern? It is not fear or worry for his future, or his physical well-being. He is instead concerned that his testimony will suffer and he will not bring glory to Christ. The very fact that this is Paul’s concern shows us his inner priorities.

Are most prisoners primarily concerned with being a good testimony to their fellow prisoners? Of course not! They are focused on getting out!

If Paul did have to face death, and in fear for his life renounced Christ, made excuses for his behavior, or tried to backpedal, this would put him to shame and not exalt Christ. He wanted to be bold. Whatever would happen, he was resolved to exalting Christ first and foremost with his actions and words. To him, this was far more important than even life or death.

Application: We should look at our own lives and the trials that we go through. Then we should consider our own attitudes. Are we scared of making a stand for God? Are we more worried with money or materials than of exalting the Lord? If Christ were sitting next to us, would He be ashamed of us? Would we be ashamed knowing He is watching?

3. Following is the story of Felix Manz, a martyr who boldly stood for Christ and showed no shame, but testified to the Lord up until their deaths.

In 1525 Zwingli and Manz split over the issue of infant baptism. Felix felt it was a compromise with the papists (the Roman Catholics). The city council sided with Ulrich Zwingli. Felix Manz and his friends (among them Conrad Grebel and Georg Blaurock) were ordered to recant and have their infants baptized.

Not only did Manz and friends refuse, but they immediately held a meeting and conducted adult baptisms, a crime the Zurich city council made punishable by drowning within two months.

Felix Manz would prove the first victim of the wrath of the city council and Ulrich Zwingli. On January 5, 1527 Felix was led from prison to a boat. On the way he gave praises to God and preached to the people gathered to watch him die.

One of Zwingli’s priests went along, still trying to convert him. Manz’s brother and mother were there as well, urging him to stand fast.

He was put into a boat on the river Lammat. His hands were tied, and he was made to squat down. A stick was stuck behind his knees and above his elbows to immoblize him, and he was taken to the middle of the river.

There, with his mother, brother, and his fellow “rebaptizers” (Anabaptists) shouting encouragement, he was tipped into the lake, a final death by baptism.

He was not horrified nor afraid. His last words were, “Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.”

II. To live is Christ and to die is gain (21-26)

Discussion Questions

  • What does it mean “to live is Christ”?
  • Where does the world find meaning in life?
  • What were the advantages of each of the possible roads (death and life) in front of him?
  • Is verse 25 a supernatural revelation or just a firm belief on Paul’s part?
  • Is there anything in this world holding you back from wanting to be with Christ in heaven?
  • Is there anything in this world that makes you hope Jesus will come back later to give you more time on earth?
  • Are you scared of dying or do you have the same calm assurance that Paul had that to die is immensely beneficial?
  • If you were in Paul’s position being wrongfully imprisoned, what kind of things would you write to your family/friends/brothers/sisters in Christ?

Cross-References

2 Corinthians 5:8 – We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Galatians 2:18-20 – If I rebuild what I destroyed, then I really would be a lawbreaker.
“For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

1 Peter 5:10 – And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.

Romans 8:18 – For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

1 Thessalonians 2:11-12 – For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

Teaching Points

1. Paul’s resolved to live for the Lord while he could. 21-24

John 9:4 – As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work.

Paul didn’t know when the end of his life would be. It could be very soon. This made him all the more resolved to make use of every minute, to serve the Lord with every last remaining opportunity. He would not be one of the saints who on his death bed regretted spending too little time sharing the Word and too much time engrossed in the world. Galatians 2:18-20

He was so focused on Christ that he even said “to live is Christ”. It was in effect Christ living in and through Him since he was subordinating his own sinful desires to the will of God.

Application: Are we about “me” or are we about “Christ”? Are we taking advantage of the opportunities that we have? None of us seem to be approaching that stretch of the end of our life like Paul appeared to be. This could make us put off whole heartedly serving the Lord until some unknown future point. How many of us have thought to ourselves we will do this or that for the Lord later when we have more time?

I know I have thought this myself. Perhaps sometime later when I can be in full time ministry I will have more energy or time for sharing the Word. Perhaps later when the time is just right I will share with some of my co-workers I haven’t shared with yet. Well, that future time may never arrive. One of Satan’s most effective temptations is to tell believers, “Yes, you should do that good work for God. Just do it… later.”

So what should we do? Resolve to live for the Lord while we can. This starts with your own walk with the Lord, then extends to your family, and to church, and to ministry.

2. Paul’s hope for being with Christ –

As much as Paul did take advantage of every opportunity for serving the Lord, he had an even greater desire. What was that? His desire was to be with Christ. Going home to be with the Lord was Paul’s greatest hope, his greatest joy. His death would finally mark the finish line of his race on earth, but the beginning of a brand new life, in heaven with the Lord.

Paul wasn’t attached to this world. He didn’t want to hold off death for any selfish motivations. He didn’t have any more worldly goals he wanted to achieve first before he was ready. He was ready then and there. But although he was ready, that didn’t mean he wasted his time until actually going to be with Christ. He didn’t sit around dreaming of heaven and doing nothing on earth. His hope to be with Christ motivated him further still to spread the gospel. Why? He wanted others to also have this same chance and this same hope to be with Christ themselves.

Notice also the text doesn’t say he wanted to depart to go to heaven. In fact, it doesn’t even mention heaven or paradise. Sometimes when sharing the gospel, a preacher will ask, do you want to go to heaven? Someone may eagerly respond yes. But a better question is “do you want to be with Christ?” Paul is excited not about heaven but about the opportunity to be with Christ!

Bringing it home: Would you want to go to heaven if Christ wasn’t there? Would you be happy that you could still leave the pain and turmoil of this earth behind and not have God always “looking over your shoulder”? Or would you arrive in heaven and feel disappointed/crushed to discover that although there was so much gold, heavenly food, perfect music, no crying, no tears, and perfect health, etc God was not there?

Hopefully we do hope to be with the Lord and hopefully this is centered on wanting to be with Him.

III. Live worthily of the gospel and of suffering (27-30)

Discussion Questions

  • Does verse 27 teach that we can ever be worthy of salvation? Then what does it mean?
  • Are you living worthy of the gospel?
  • What word sums up Paul’s desire for them in the second part of verse 17?
  • What does verse 28 mean?
  • How would their calm/bold response to their opponents signal their opponents destruction?
  • What does the word “granted” mean?
  • Do you think of suffering for Christ as a gift? Is it a gift? Why?
  • In what way might the Philippians have suffered for Christ?
  • Share about a time you have suffered for Christ. How was your response? How should you respond?

Teaching Points

1. Paul’s realized that staying on earth to share the gospel for a while was still necessary.

Although Paul wanted to be with Christ, he realized his job was not quite finished yet. This shows again Paul’s unselfish nature (which in fact he teaches about in the very next chapter). Although he personally would want to be with God sooner, there was more to consider than only himself. A lot of people could still benefit greatly from his teaching and to some extent needed him.

2. Paul’s exhortation to live worthily of the gospel.

Similar exhortations can be found throughout Paul’s epistles. In no way does this mean that we can ever earn or deserve salvation. Of course that is impossible. Instead Paul is teaching that the gospel should motivate us to Godly living. It should invoke a response where we desire to live our lives up to God’s standards, not to earn salvation, but simply to please God who gave so much for us.

1 John 4:19 – We love because He first loved us.

This is yet another reminder that the gospel is not just to give us head knowledge. It is supposed to change our behavior.

Beyond this, we see Paul exhorting the Philippians to be unified.

Philippians 1:27b – I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.

His absence would leave a void where it would be easier for false leaders to enter or divisions to rise up. This is generally the case when a strong and mature authority leaves a church. Paul did not want this to happen to them. He desired unity. This is reminiscent of Jesus’ high priestly prayer in John where he prays for unity for the disciples after his absence. Seeing it taught so much should remind us that unity is important. We should stand firm together with one spirit and one mind pushing each forward towards God and to spread the Word.

3. Paul’s declaration that they would also face suffering for the sake of the gospel.

Sometimes before I have been guilty of taking this verse out of context (because I memorized it from a card) and concluding that all believers are guaranteed to face suffering/persecution. Actually Paul is teaching that the Philippians will face suffering, not necessarily everyone.

However, it is a reasonable assumption that since the world is still anti-Christ that many believers today who make a stand for Christ will still face varying degrees of suffering and persecution, though likely not to the degree of the early New Testament saints.

Paul uses the word “granted” which is similar to the word “given”. It is almost as if it is a favor, a privilege. In fact, it is a privilege to suffer for Christ. Do you think so? Why?

The verse shows that believers should expect suffering. If we expect it, it will help us to prepare mentally and spiritually and also commit ahead of time to standing firm in the face of pressure. When we do face troubles for Christ, we should thank God that we are worthy to suffer for Him. And make sure that the reason you are suffering is the right reason and that we respond to it correctly, being a good testimony for Him.

1 Peter 3:17 – For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.

Philippians E-book: If this study guide is helpful you can get our whole Philippians study in one convenient e-book to view on any device.

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