Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians

In this summer study, we read through Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. Paul’s theme is our rejoicing in Christ Jesus and our calling is to “live as citizens worthy of the good news of Christ.” As background for this study, I have used N.T. Wright’s Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon and Ben Witherington’s Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary. This study covers seven weeks.
(Summer 2024)

Philippians – Background

In one of the last letters Paul wrote before his execution, he rejoices with his first partners in his ministry and reminds them of the person they both work for.
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Philippians 1:1-11, The Introduction

As you read this introduction, think about how your own life is characterized by this great work of Jesus and how that work is accomplished in partnership with others. Think about what this work looks like presently in your life.
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Philippians 1:12-26, Paul’s Circumstances

In these verses Paul tells us about the three adversities that he faces – Imprisonment, Rivalries, and Death – and how each of these adversities leads to the advancemnet of the Gospel and ultimate rejoicing.
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Philippians 2:1-4, Unity through Humility

The secret to achieving unity is humility. If we count others better than ourselves and put the interests of others above our own, then unity and fellowship will naturally result.
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Philippians 2:5-11, The Christological Hymn

Paul’s use of this hymn is not simply theological or metaphysical, but social. If Jesus relinquished his divine privileges, then we should give up our social privileges. If Jesus became the servant of all and suffered death, then we also should become the servant of others and put to death whatever stands in the way.
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Philippians 2:12-18, Salvation and Joy

Salvation is God’s work within the body of the church from start to finish. The Philippians (and us) are to work out what this God-given salvation looks like in practice within the body of Christ and in imitation of Christ’s own humility and obedience.
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Philippians 2:19-30, Timothy and Epaphroditus

Paul gives the Philippians two more familiar and immediate examples of what a life worthy of having citizenship in Christ Jesus resembles – Timothy and Epaphroditus. These two men provide the Philippians with living examples of what unity and self-sacrifice look like in practice.
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Philippians 3:1-7, Confidence in the Flesh

For our next gathering, think about those things of this world that give you confidence and rejoicing – your family heritage, your religious upbringing, or your current religious practices. We will share our confidences as Paul just did.
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Philippians 3:8-11, Gaining Christ

It is in this kenosis of his privileges, that Paul discovers that the true meaning of being a perfect member of God’s covenant people lies with being in Christ and thereby participating in his suffering, death, and resurrection.
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Philippians 3:12-16, Pursuing Christ

In his endevour to seize Christ, Paul writes that he has forgotten everything behind him (his worldly identity, his blamelessness before the law, etc.) so that he can strain and stretch forward with everything he has towards what lies ahead.
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Philippians 3:17-4:1, Paul’s Summation

Therefore, because we are keeping our eye on the prize, because we are Christ’s own forever, and because we have the hope of the transformation in the Resurrection, we can stand firm in the love and the joy of the Lord. These five verses are one of the greatest expressions of the Christian gospel.
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Philippians 4:2-9, “Again, I say Rejoice”

Paul is telling them (and us) that God’s peace stands on duty like a watchman calming the hearts of the faithful and protecting them from spiritual harm. Rejoicing not only leads to peace, but peace protects and allows for the rejoicing.
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Philippians 4:10-23, Giving and Receiving

Paul ends his discussion of monetary support that it is God who ultimately supplies all of our needs. In other words, in these verses, Paul is saying “Thank you for the gift, but there is no reciprocity between us because we are both patronage clients of God above.”
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