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 2:1-11 Inductive Bible Study

I. Paul’s exhortation to unity and unselfishness (1-5)

A. If God has blessed you in any of these areas, and He has then…

B. Be unified in love and purpose (2)

C. Do nothing out of selfishness (3)

D. Put others first (4)

E. Follow Christ’s ultimate example (5)

II. Christological doctrinal passage on the incarnation of Christ (6-8)

A. Christ was/is the same essence as the Father in every way (6a)

B. Christ did not hold onto all of the privileges that this honored position provides (6b)

C. Christ chose to set aside for a time some of these privileges (7a)

D. Christ became the essence of a true servant (7b)

E. Christ became a man (7c)

F. As a man, Christ submitted Himself to the Father (8)

G. This resulted in the most shameful kind of death, death on a cross (8b)

III. Christological doctrinal passage on the exaltation of Christ (9-11)

A. God exalted Him and gave Him the highest name (9)

B. Every single being will bow to Christ one day (10)

C. Every single tongue will confess that Christ is Lord one day (11)

I. Paul’s exhortation to unity and unselfishness (1-5)


Why does Paul ask so many “if” questions in verse 1? What does each phrase mean? Are these things true or real? Knowing that these things are true, what response does Paul hope they will invoke in the Phps?

Paul basically is saying, ‘If any of these things are truth, then respond in the right way by unifying together.” You have all received this grace, so don’t be divided, serve the Lord together. In simpler way, you could say “If Christ has done anything for you, if you have received His love, if you have benefited from the Spirit, if you have received any compassion from Christ, then make my joy full by being unified.”

Certainly all of these things were truth. Christ had done so much for them, they should respond by realizing that they were all equal recipients of God’s grace and decide to work together for the Lord.


What gave Paul joy? What gives you joy?

What is a summary of his goal for them in verse 2? Unity. Why does Paul hit on unity so often? How do divisions affect a church? Its effectiveness? Its testimony? Its growth? Think again of athletic teams as an example?

3 John 1:4 – I have no greater joy than to hear of my children walking in the truth.

Romans 12:10 – Give preference to one another in brotherly love.

Firstly, we see again where Paul’s heart is. His joy does not come from materials, achievements, awards, or compliments. His joy is to see believers growing to be more Christlike. We should examine ourselves and see what makes us joyful/happy.

Also we see here again another exhortation to unity. It seems almost every epistle by Paul stresses unity. To be honest, unity is not something I often think of as being so important or fundamental. Maybe my mind has more of a logical bent and I tend to focus more on other aspects of the Christian faith. After thinking about it, I think that unity is important because the church can accomplish a lot more as a team working together than a bunch of individuals doing their own things and disagreeing while they are at it. Thinking of a sports team, imagine that it is full of divisions and arguments. The forwards like one style of play and argue with the midfielders who in turn are arguing with both the forwards and the defenders who are blaming the goalie. Even in the middle of the game and before and after the game they are voicing their loud disagreements. What will the result be? They won’t have any cohesion or teamwork. They won’t be in the right places and their team will probably be destroyed even by a much inferior one. They will have the most success if they all put aside their own preferences for how to play the game and follow who? The coach. Arguments among believers wastes time on meaningless quibbles instead of actually getting work done. Besides that, it hurts the testimony of the church so that others don’t want to listen as much to what we say.

What purpose should we be intent on? Convincing others we are right?


Carol, how often are we allowed to be selfish? How would you define selfishness? On a scale from one to ten how selfish are people? What does the term “empty conceit” mean? Why empty (all conceit is empty because all of us have nothing to be prideful about in and of ourselves)?

Why should we consider others are more important than ourselves? Doesn’t the world teach that “I” am most important and I should take care of myself and my needs at all or almost all costs? Why is this theory of “I am number one” wrong? Go around the table and ask everyone to give one way that they are selfish. Then go around and ask everyone to give one way they can put someone else before them in the next week. Write these down. Do it some time during the next week.

Galatians 5:20 – Many of the results of selfishness. Some of the works of the flesh.

1 Peter 5:5 – God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.

Galatians 5:13 –Do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another.

If people would just follow this verse, the world would be a much better place, in fact almost a perfect utopia. I’m not sure that I can prove it, but I tend to think that selfishness is the root of virtually all sin. Everybody mention one sin that stems from selfishness. Greed, envy, murder, adultery, stealing, and gluttony are just a few. We could go on and on. If even believers would follow this principle the world would be a much better place. The problem is that we all love ourselves. We all have the selfish tendency to put our wants and desires above others. While it is difficult to immediately eradicate all selfishness from our lives, how can we start to achieve this goal? Firstly, we can make it a habit to examine our actions. Stop to think about why we are doing what we are doing. If we realize that the motivation is a selfish one, we should think what is the humble and unselfish way and choose that route instead. Secondly, we can think of specific areas where we tend to be selfish. Repent to the necessary people and actively work on these areas. Thirdly, we can come to the Word to see ourselves as we really are and pray to the Lord for strength to be more like Him. Fourth, (from verse four) we can actively look for ways to serve others. These things will not just happen naturally. We can keep our eyes open and be observant to watch for opportunities to serve. This is exactly the opposite of our tendency, which is to try to remain in ignorance about what we can do to help others out. Examples? Pretend to sleep on the bus when we saw an elderly person out the corner of our eye, look the other way when we see a beggar, not pay attention to the needs of our house and hope that our spouse or roommate will take care of the needs such as laundry, dishes, etc.


What does the phrase “do not merely” imply? (That everyone will look out for their own interests by nature.) What does the phrase :”look out” imply? (We need to be looking, keep your eyes open and be observant.)

What are the true needs of others? What is their biggest need? How about for believers?

Mark 12:30-31 – Love your neighbor as yourself.

Do not merely tells us that in fact everyone will look out for their own interests. This is natural. Some will teach we should make sure to love ourselves, but this is not a problem for anyone. The problem is that we love ourselves to the exclusion of others or more than others. We are commanded in Mark to love others as we love ourselves. This also implies that everyone does love himself. Follow the word “JOY” to put ourselves last in the equation. This will lead to much more joy in our lives anyway.


What does verse five transition to from the point “Don’t be selfish.”?

Jesus went from what state (highest) to what state (lowest human state)

Matthew 11:29 – Jesus’ humility.

John 13:12-17 – Jesus washed the disciples’ feet.

Isaiah 53:7 – He didn’t open His mouth.

Jesus is our ultimate example. Of all people who ever lived, He gave up the most in service of others. He actually was more important than others (whereas we are equal to others in God’s sight). He had a much higher rank than others. He actually had inherent rights and privileges whereas we only think we have rights, but have one right, to go to hell for our sins. Yet of all people, He was the one who was truly humble, who actually did consider others more important than Himself, and who did give up His own privileges in order to serve others.

II. Christological doctrinal passage on the incarnation of Christ (6-8)

6. What does it mean “he existed in the form of God”? Was Jesus equal with God? How do you know (specific verses)? Was He still equal with God when He came to earth and became a man? Then what does it mean that he didn’t regard equality with God a thing to be grasped?

Col 1:15-17 – Another important Christological passage.

Hebrews 1:2-3 – Another important Christological passage.

This passage is one of the most important foundational doctrines in the Bible. It tells us the nature of Jesus, both His divine and His human nature. It tells us the details about the incarnation. These are the foundations of the theology answering the question “Who is Christ?” Who is Jesus is a very important question since the whole crux of the gospel is to believe in Him. Who are we believing in? This passage gives us not only the answer to this question, but also some very practical points as to how we need to model this humility in our own lives.

The word existed denotes Jesus’ continuous state both then and now. The form of God doesn’t just mean looks like Him or the same shape, but rather teaches that Jesus’ very essence is the same as God’s. See cross-references. In other words, Jesus is eternally God. There was never a point in time when He wasn’t God and become God, neither is their a point in time when He was God and then ceased to be God. How is this possible? God is a Trinity with three distinct, but unified and equal beings. Although Jesus is eternally God, He didn’t hold on to His rights as God. See verse 7.

7. Explain the phrase “emptied himself”. Did Christ empty Himself of deity? Did He exchange deity for humanity?

Did Jesus truly become a man? What doctrine does this verse teach? Why is it important? What are some heresies in this area?

John 5:18, 10:33,38 – Jesus did claim equality to God.

Matthew 20:28 – Came to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.

1 Timothy 2:5 – One mediator between… the man Christ Jesus.

1 Tim 3:16

Jesus emptied Himself. These three words are very important to the doctrine of the incarnation. First of all, there was no outside power at work that overcame Jesus and weakened Him. Its not like superman and kryptonite for example. It was a voluntary decision to set aside certain aspects of His deity for a time. It doesn’t mean He didn’t have them or He could not use them, or the logical conclusion of that was that He ceased to be God for a period of time. Rather, He chose not to make use of certain aspects of His deity. For example? His glory. The glory that Isaiah caught a glimpse of in the throne room and His disciples also caught a glimpse of. His own authority, on earth He submitted Himself fully to the Father’s will. Extreme riches. He was poor on earth. Perhaps being physically present everywhere all the time, although we know He still knew everything everywhere and could heal over distance. Finally, on the cross, He gave up His intimate relationship with God to become sin for us seen especially clearly when He asked God why He had forsaken Him. There may be more examples. In any case, while Jesus was on earth and living with humans, He set aside certain divine rights. It might be something like a prince leaving the castle to become a commoner for a period of time to better understand their problems. During that time, he doesn’t have the army at his disposal, he might be poor, he might need to work for food, he is subject to all the laws of the kingdom, etc. He doesn’t cease to be a prince, he just sets aside those privileges for a while.

Became a bond-servant. Discuss.

Being made in the likeness of men. Jesus literally became a man. This is the essence of the incarnation. He became the God man, 100% man, 100% God. This is one of those doctrines in the Bible that are difficult to comprehend because of our limitations and God’s infiniteness. It is hard for us to understand how Jesus could be fully God and man at the same time. Yet it is true. We see that Jesus had both a human nature (how do we know? Grew tired, ate, slept, walked, talked, etc.) and a divine (healed over distance, healed outside of time, wine, power over nature, power over sickness, power over death, etc.)

In fact, this is one of the first places to look if you are unsure if a certain fellowship has right teaching, is a cult, etc. It is one of the first places cults tend to go off. Some of the common heresies about Christ include:

1. He is only a god. Arianism, JW.

2. He was created by God and is the highest of all God’s creation.

3. He was only a man that was somehow indwelt by the Spirit of God. Kind of like a shell taken over by something else.

4. He was not actually a man, his body was a kind of apparition.

5. He somehow became God later in His life when he reached a certain spiritual level, perhaps at His baptism.

All of these are heresies taught by people who deny the Word of God and we should watch out for them or any other variation that denies either Jesus’; deity or His humanity..


What does the phrase found in appearance as a man imply? (There was something more, not less, to His humanity. That is, He was also deity at the same time.)

Why do you think it says “even death on a cross”? How does this kind of death require humility?

Go around the table and ask every person to give either one personal observation of what they learned from this passage or one application of how they can imitate Christ’s example in their own lives.

Heb 4:15 – He experienced all things as we did, yet without sin.

Romans 5:12-21 – Sin came into the world through one man, and sin was taken away through one man, the man Christ Jesus.

This incarnation was culminated in Jesus’ death on the cross. This was the whole purpose for Jesus to become a man. It wasn’t because He wanted to see what it was like or experience something new. It was to save us from our sins. Becoming a man was a necessary part of God’s plan by which Christ could act as our representatives as Adam did in the garden. His death was not just a normal death, but the most shameful and torturous kind. This is where His obedience and humility led Him. Are you willing to obey God even if it leads to personal sacrifice?

III. Christological doctrinal passage on the exaltation of Christ (9-11)

Is there any relationship between Jesus’ humiliation and His exultation? What general Biblical principle does this teach? What is the name that Paul refers to here?

Will atheists bow the knee to Christ? When? How about Buddhists, Muslims, agnostics, demons, Satan? What does bowing the knee signify? What will happen to unbelievers after they bow the knee and confess? What happens if we confess now instead of later? What then should our response be to these truths? (Examine yourselves and preach more earnestly.)

The Great White Throne Judgment – Rev 20:11-15

Romans 10:9-10 – Confess with your mouth and believe in your heart.

Php 2:12- Examine yourselves with fear and trembling (I was looking up this verse because I thought it applied here, but didn’t notice that it was the very next verse!!)

James 4:10,. 1 Peter 5:6 – God will exalt the humble.

Discuss phrase by phrase together. Discuss implications for us. Discuss the principle of God lifting up the humble.

Study Philippians 2:12-20