Part One: An Introduction to Philippians
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Philippians is a personal letter. Paul is writing to a group of friends; he loves and respects them deeply. He addresses the letter to “my brethren” and “my beloved.” Over and over again Paul uses the first person pronoun. “I thank…” “I know…” “I yearn…” “I hope…” And personal matters are addressed, especially the key themes of joy, care for others and humility.
Even though the apostle writes his letter from prison, he knows that he and his friends live under God’s umbrella. As for himself, Paul says, “Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (3:8), and “I can do all things in Him who strengthens me” (4:13).
With regard to his Philippian friends in Christ, he says, “for God is at work in you” (2:3), “and the peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7).
In these four studies, we discover in Philippians what it means to live under God’s umbrella of grace. Now, let us turn to God’s care and our stress.
Part Two: Open and Closed Umbrellas
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Paul says to his Philippian friends that brokenness exists in life–“envy and rivalry”…”to afflict me”…”the same conflict”…”grumbling or questioning”…”near to death”…”maybe less anxious”…”look out for the dogs”…”I have suffered the loss of all things.” Paul does not deny the shattered pieces of life. Nor does he pretend that it does not hurt. Brokenness is there–and inevitable; Paul is realistic about sin’s power.
A kind of crude example gets the point across in a definition of a friend: “A friend is someone who tells you that you have bad breath.” When people deal personally with each other, the pains, the hurts and the broken pieces can be shared.
But friends also speak of healing. The apostle greets his friends with, “Grace to you and peace,” and rejoices that they have revived their concern for him. Healing is a gift God passes through our friends’ hands.
Let’s live under God’s umbrella through brokenness to the time of wholeness, as friends.
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Everyone has a place within a group. Each has a role. Some roles are headlines; others are “supporting cast” or “make-up crews.” But all count. Timothy and Epaphroditus were co-workers with Paul. The whole congregation at Philippi “entered into partnership” with Paul. No wonder Paul underlines his message with the words, “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others,” citing the model of Christ humbling Himself “in the form of a servant.”
Now let us discover how each of us, “in the form of a servant,” always has a place in the community of Christ. That servant role has a place whether singing or serving, whether listening to a friend’s problem or leading a group in decision-making. Paul could not do his service (MINISTRY) without the partnership of others. In ministry, everyone belongs. Every baptized person has a role.
Download a PDF of Philippians Part Four to use with your group.
“One person’s gain,” we say, “is another’s loss.” How can we be successful and still remain servants? Some achieve great things while others struggle to get along. While some have their pictures in the newspapers, others deliver newspapers. How can we share the sunlight when only some have the limelight?
In Philippians Paul agonizes over a few “partisan” preachers who lack good will. They exalt over Paul’s imprisonment as they make names for themselves. Still others live “as enemies of the cross,” overly concerned with their bellies. And, two women–Euodia and Syntyche–have an argument going on between them.
We will examine how servants in Christ live together, despite degrees of difference in fame or disparity in success or levels of authority.