Having finished the Overview, we know a few things about Paul’s situation, including that he is in prison and even some “brothers” have turned against him. Yet, Paul opens his letter expressing thanksgiving, joy and confidence for the Philippians. His positive perspective is so dissonant with his situation, he feels he has to justify himself: “It is right for me to feel this way about you...” In this study, we will try to surface this dissonance and discover what about Paul’s experience of Christ enabled him to suffer so well. We will then apply this passage by looking at our own lives and thinking about our own perspective on our current situation and where we are experiencing God’s grace through Jesus.
Describe a time when you were in a difficult or painful situation. How did your perspective on the situation affect your experience, your attitude, or how you responded?
1. How would you describe Paul’s perspective? What emotions does he express towards them?
2. Paul says the Philippians are his partners in the gospel. What might he mean?
3. What does Paul mean when he says God will complete the good work he began in them?
4. Paul insists his “feelings” toward the Philippians are right or appropriate. Why does he have to clarify this? Why might someone consider his perspective inappropriate? (If they are having trouble with this question, ask what feelings people usually have in Paul’s situation. See Summary.)
5. How does Paul explain or defend his positive perspective toward them?
6. How might God’s grace help someone suffer for, defend and confirm the gospel?
7. A) What are you trying to communicate when you tell someone you “yearn” for them? What nuances does this communicate beyond just telling them you love them? B) Paul says he yearns for the Philippians “with the affection of Christ Jesus”. What does this reveal about Christ’s heart? How is this an explanation for Paul’s confidence God will complete his work in them?
8. If you were in a situation like the Philippians, how would hearing Paul’s positive perspective affect you?
9. Paul desires the Philippians’ love to abound more and more with knowledge and discernment. How might a lack of the hinder them from abounding in love?
10. What do we learn about Paul’s perspective on life from his prayer?
11. From this whole passage, 1:1-11, How has Paul’s experience of Christ shaped his perspective on life?
12. Think of the Christians that know you best. What in your life would cause them to thank God, rejoice, and have confidence that God is at work in your life?
13. In what ways do you see a lack of good perspective keeping you from abounding in love for God, or for others? Where do suspect you will be tempted to have a bad perspective this fall?
14. What does it look like for you to partake in God’s grace? Where or how do you experience God’s grace? In what ways can your small group point you to God’s grace?
What aspects God’s grace help you most to have a good perspective? What aspects of God’s grace most encourage you to suffer for, defend and confirm the gospel?
15. If Paul’s prayer was answered in your life, how might your perspective on suffering for the gospel be transformed or how would your personal life or ministry be impacted?
16. Even though you may have only just met your small group members, what about their lives cause you to give thanks, rejoice over and have confidence for them? Tell them. What would it take to be able to say about each other, “We are partners in the gospel”?
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