To Live Is Christ
1. Read Philippians 1:19-30 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. The tail end of verse 18 is part of this lesson’s text. Why does Paul say he will rejoice? What two things in verse 19 does Paul say will produce this positive outcome? What key principle do you discern from the interdependent relationship between those two things Paul mentions? What impact should that principle have on your life?
3. According to verse 20, Paul writes that he eagerly expects and hopes not to be ashamed or embarrassed to faithfully proclaim the Gospel while on trial. Read Acts 25 and 26 to see Paul’s bold faithfulness before other rulers. What are some of the highlights from these two chapters?
Each of us is called to faithfully represent (i.e., not be ashamed or embarrassed of) Christ before a watching world. Read Romans 1:16-17. Why does Paul say he is not ashamed of the Gospel? Why would that give him courage? Read Luke 9:23-26 and Luke 12:8-9. What sobering words does Jesus give on this topic of being ashamed or embarrassed about the outward expression of our faith in Christ?
Read Luke 22:54-62. Describe Peter’s experience. Would you say he was “ashamed or embarrassed” of Christ in this situation? As we saw in the question above, Jesus offers serious words for those who are ashamed of Christ and deny him. But such shame and denial do not have the last word in our lives. Read John 21:1-19. What is the good news found in these verses for those who have been ashamed of the Gospel and denied Christ? What are some other key principles you find in this scene? What encouragement does this give you?
4. In verse 20 Paul describes the courage he hopes to have so that he can honor Christ in his body. His reference to “his body” points out the fact that he will probably be beaten, perhaps to the point of death, but desires to remain faithful to Christ, even in the midst of that. What does Paul point to in verse 21 that gives him confidence, regardless of what happens to him?
5. If it turns out that God spares Paul’s life in this situation, what would that mean for Paul, according to verses 22-26? Why do you think he found deciding which two outcomes (life or death) he preferred, to be a hard choice?
What reason(s) does Paul give for believing he would live (vv. 24-25)? Who do you know who makes that same sort of impact in your life? Who in your life do you influence in such a way?
6. Yet, while Paul is away from the Philippians, he calls them to let their “manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ” (v. 27). What does he mean by that phrase? Describe what that sort of life looks like (include Scriptures to support your answer).
Why is important for Christians to live lives that faithfully represent the gospel of Christ? What can happen when Christians don’t live such lives?
7. According to verses 27-28, what four things did Paul want to hear about regarding the Christians in Philippi? Describe what each of those things might look like in a Christian’s life and why they are desirable characteristics of a Christian community?
8. What does Paul say has been granted to the Philippians in verses 29-30? How are these two things gifts from God? Read Matthew 5:12; Acts 5:17-42; 1 Peter 4:12-19. How do these supporting texts teach and illustrate what Paul is talking about?
Should Christians go out their way to suffer? Explain. Paul and the other writers are not saying Christians should rejoice in every kind of suffering. What is the context and the kind of suffering being described in these texts? Why does this matter?
9. What does Paul mean when he says, “to live is Christ, and to die is gain?” Read two or three other translations (including a paraphrase) to help you better understand what Paul is saying here. In what ways does this verse encourage you, for this life and the life to follow?
10. Have you ever caught yourself saying, “Lord, I desire to be with you, but not yet?” Why do you suppose we say things like that? What are we not understanding? If Paul’s life was spared, what (and Whose) work do you think he would be seeking to accomplish? What reasons do we typically give for not quite being ready to die and be with Christ? What do some of these reasons possibly reveal about our greatest desires?
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.