1. Summarize Paul’s situation. What stands out to you about people’s reaction to his imprisonment? Is it what you would expect?
It is surprising both that his chains would make some bolder and that others would try to take advantage of Paul's situation to harm him further.
2. What sorts of things are people typically concerned with in Paul’s situation? What do we learn about Paul’s priorities in this passage? What does he rejoice over?
Typically when a person goes to prison, their concern is to get out. Paul seems more urgently concerned about the status of the spread of the gospel than about the particulars of his future. He is ready to rejoice as long as the gospel is advancing regardless of his situation.
3. Paul says he was “put here” in prison. Who put him there and why? What do we learn about God’s priorities or character that he would “put” Paul in this situation?
Paul implies that God put him in prison for the sake of the gospel. We learn from this that God’s priority is also the spread of the gospel and not necessarily the worldly comfort of his people.
4. Why have you been “put” at your university, in your dorm, in your family? (Go beyond the generic, “To share the gospel”. Like Paul shared specifically with the Imperial Guard, God has put you into certain people’s lives. Who are they? Why does it make sense that you would be the person to share? Are there cases where there is no one else but you to share?)
5. Paul is confident he will be delivered from Prison. He implies there are two ways this might happen. What are they? (Hint: Besides escaping, there are only two ways people get out of prison.)
Paul will be delivered from prison by death into Jesus’s arms, or by acquittal into continued fruitful ministry.
6. What might it look like for Paul to honor Christ in life? In death? What does he mean by, “to live is Christ, to die is gain?
Paul honors Christ in life by living to spread the gospel, valuing the gospel and therefore valuing Christ above all things. He honors Christ in death by joyfully dying, knowing that he is going to be with Christ. This honors Christ that Christ is supremely satisfying and even more desirable than any pleasure this world has to offer.
7. Why might Paul have referred to the Holy Spirit as the “Spirit of Jesus Christ”? Why would Paul need the help of the Spirit of Christ in his current situation? (if they have trouble answering, ask them “In what ways was Christ personally familiar with situations like Paul’s?)
Christ also suffered for the gospel. He knows what it is like to be abandoned by people you thought were your brothers, he knows what it is like to lay down his life for others. He knows what it is like to pursue the honor of another, the Father in Jesus case, even at the cost of your own.
8. What about Paul’s experience of Christ allows him to prioritize the Gospel and Christ's honor above his own wellbeing? What guarantees does he have from Christ?
The promise that if he dies he will go to be with Christ. The experience of Jesus using him to advance the gospel. The help of the Spirit of Christ, who sympathizes with those suffering and strengthens them to persevere. The confidence that God answers the prayers of his people.
9. The same word translated “advance” in 12 is translated “progress” in 25 (prokoph). In 12 Paul is describing how his imprisonment has advanced the gospel, in 25 how his freedom will advance the Philippians. Do you expect, like Paul, that God can use you in any situation? Are there times when you have been surprised to see God use you? Are there times you don’t expect God to use you?
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