The Advance of the Gospel
1. Read Philippians 1:12-18 twice. Write down any key ideas or phrases that catch your attention. What are the key principles you believe we ought to draw from this text? Why did you choose those principles?
2. What is Paul talking about when he refers to “what has happened” to him in verse 12? What larger purpose does he give for his present situation?
3. What does it mean to “advance the gospel” (v. 12)? What is the “gospel” Paul is referring to (Read John 3:16; Romans 1:1-5, 16-17; 5:6-11; 1 Cor. 15:1-9; 2 Cor. 5:16-21 to help you better answer the question.)
Gospel literally means, “good news.” Based on these verses, what are the key elements of that good news you would want to share with another person to help advance it?
4. Read Genesis 50:20 and Romans 8:28. How do these texts relate to Paul’s words in verse 12?
5. According to verse 13, how was the gospel being advanced during Paul’s imprisonment? What group(s) of people did Paul single out as coming to know the gospel because of his circumstances? Using a little speculation, how do you think Paul was using his time during his imprisonment? What does that say about the Apostle? (Hint: skim through the Book of Acts to help you answer this question.)
6. It is interesting to note that these “brothers” Paul refers to are not ordained clergy; they are laypeople. How did most of these people respond to Paul’s imprisonment (v. 14)? What was it about Paul’s situation that produced that sort of “confidence in the Lord” in the lives of others? Share a time you have been emboldened in your faith because of the faithfulness of another person.
Read Ephesians 4:11-16. How are the “brothers” of Philippians 1:14 putting into practice the teaching of Ephesians 4:11-16? What are the key principles of the Ephesians text and how can today’s church more faithfully live them out?
7. Based on verses 15-18, what was the “word of God” the “brothers” (laypeople) spoke (preached and taught)? In other words, what was their central message? In what ways can the church today get distracted from that central message? How can the church regain her focus during those distractions?
8. What were the contrasting motivations of those who were preaching Christ, based on verses 15-18?
Paul does not dispute the message being preached, so we are safe in assuming both parties were preaching sound doctrine. But clearly their motivations were very different. Why would some have negative motives for preaching Christ? What would that look like in the church today? Do these different motives for preaching Christ really matter, as long as the true message is communicated? Why?
9. What was Paul’s response to those who preached Christ out of less-than-noble motives (v. 18)? How was he able to have that attitude, especially since those ungodly motives were personal attacks against him?
How do you usually respond to those who treat you poorly? Why?
10. Paul said he was imprisoned for “the defense of the gospel” (v. 16)? He was there because of the gospel and would have the opportunity to make a case for it. While we may not be imprisoned for our faith, what are some ways Christians today can faithfully make a case for the gospel when they are under scrutiny and attack?
11. Share a time when you found yourself in a bad situation but discovered later that God used it for good. At the time of the experience were you able to see how God would use it for good? If not, how long did it take? What enabled you to see how God was working in your circumstances and to trust him during that troublesome situation?
12. Paul’s circumstances did not hinder his faithful boldness. What sorts of circumstances hinder your faithful boldness in sharing the gospel with others? Why? What are three things you can start doing today to overcome those obstacles?
13. What would a Christ-honoring, eternal perspective look like when you face persecution because of your faith in Christ? Besides Paul, what other examples or teachings in Scripture support your view? Name two or three ways you can best cultivate that perspective in your life?
14. Can you share an example of how you were encouraged to be faithful because of the tough circumstances someone else was going through? What sorts of “fears” of “speaking the word” would the Christians in Paul’s world have had? Were those fears legitimate? What sorts of fears of speaking the word do Christians in our city have? Are those fears legitimate? Explain.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
1. Read Philippians 1:1-11 twice. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians is often called “The Epistle of Joy” because Paul used some form of the word “joy” around 14 times. Based on your initial reading of these 11 verses, what glimpses of Paul’s joy do you see? Now read verses 1-11 again, this time knowing Paul was in a Roman prison as he wrote this letter. How do his words now impact you?
2. Paul began his letter in the customary way for the time in which he lived. Who was Paul with and how did he describe himself and his co-worker in verse 1? Do you think it was important that he described himself in that way? Why or why not? What do you think his reason was for describing himself the way he did?
3. Who was Paul’s letter addressed to? By using the word “saints,” Paul was not describing a group of super spiritual Christians. Instead, the word “saints” describes all those who have been set apart from sin and set apart for God through Christ. In other words, it describes all Christians. Who were the other two groups he mentioned in verse 1? How did he greet them, in verse 2?
4. According to verses 3-5, why did Paul say he thanked God when he remembered them? One of the ways the church at Philippi was in partnership with Paul was financially. What other ways might a group be in “partnership in the gospel” with another person or ministry? Why is it important to be in such a partnership with other Christians and churches? What are some advantages? What message does the love and unity of church partnerships send to the watching world?
5. What did this relationship with the Philippians do for Paul’s prayer life? In this short sentence (verses 3-5), Paul beautifully described prayer. What aspects of prayer did he mention?
6. What did Paul tell the Philippians he was confident of in verse 6? Why do you think he shared this? What is the important theological truth contained in this verse? Why would it be good news to those who read it in the first century as well as those who read it today?
What does this verse tell us about God? How is this verse a hopeful one for struggling Christians? What does “the day of Christ Jesus” mean? What is Paul’s point in using that phrase?
7. The Apostle’s language in verse 7 is not figurative. He actually was in prison for his gospel ministry. Paul probably had to make a case to the governing authorities for why his ministry was not a violation of the law. What does it mean for you to “defend and confirm” the gospel in today’s world? What might that look like in your life?
Paul expressed how encouraged he was that the Philippians stuck by him through his imprisonment. Why would that be so meaningful to Paul? What message would that send to those outside the faith?
8. Verses 9-11 contain Paul’s prayer for the church. In the space below, outline Paul’s prayer.
9. In verse 9, Paul said he wanted their love to increasingly grow. How did he want it to grow?
To our way of thinking, that may sound like an odd way to describe wanting to see someone’s love grow. Why do you think Paul wanted their love to grow in “knowledge” and “depth of insight (or “all discernment)?” Meditate on that for a moment. Based on this part of the verse, what insights can we gain about the nature of love, from a biblical perspective?
10. What does Paul want the Philippians to be able to approve of? How will knowledge and discernment enable them to do so?
11. In what ways will the wisdom to discern what is “excellent” or “best” enable the Philippians to be “pure and blameless” for the day of Christ? If we are saved by grace, why is it important to pursue purity and blamelessness? Are those characteristics even attainable? Explain what you think Paul meant here and why you think that? (List other Scripture to support your view.)
12. As Christians, we are called to become increasingly conformed to the likeness of Christ. Such “Christlikeness” will bear, among other things, the fruit of righteousness. In verse 11, Paul gives us a hint regarding how we can bear this fruit. What is the key, according to Paul? And, what is the result of this fruit of righteousness? Why does it matter?
13. Paul is so grateful to God for the Philippians that he can’t seem to help himself; he immediately breaks into praise for them and intercedes in prayer on their behalf. Have you ever prayed this sort of prayer for someone you love and care about? What compelled you to pray in such a way?
14. Do you pray for the spiritual concerns and needs of others as much as you do their physical needs? How can using Paul’s prayer in these verses become a helpful template to serve you in your prayer life? How can his words expand your understanding of prayer? Write a personal prayer for someone you know using Paul’s outline in verses 9-11.
15. It’s important to remember Paul was in prison as he wrote this letter to the Philippians. What does that teach us about Paul’s attitude and faith? Later in the letter he will say more about how he was able to have such an attitude. But based on what you have read so far, what are three things these verses teach us about how to have Paul’s same joyful, others-centered attitude?
What is one thing you can do today to begin praying like Paul? Will you do it?