Paul begins by telling us one reason he wrote, “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.” Here Paul reveals his top priority is not himself, but the gospel. He is unconcerned for himself because he knows he will, without a doubt, be delivered from prison, either by death into Jesus’ arms, or by acquittal into continued service to Christ. In either way Jesus will be honored, and Paul will be satisfied.
In this study we will identify Paul’s priority, and try to show that it flowed from his trust in and satisfaction with Jesus. We will then examine our own priorities and think through whether our self-concern is a result of failing to experience Christ’s concern for us.
Have you ever stopped to think about your priorities in life? If so how have you seen your priorities shaping the way you live? Is there a time when you thought to yourself, “I really have my priorities mixed up here”?
1. Summarize Paul’s situation. What stands out to you about people’s reaction to his imprisonment? Is it what you would expect?
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?
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?
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.)
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?
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?)
8. What about Paul’s experience of Christ allows him prioritize the Gospel and Christ's honor above his own wellbeing? What guarantees does he have from Christ?
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?
10. How do your priorities in life affect those around you? Do others see the gospel as a priority in your life and become more confident in the Lord?
11. Think again about the situations God has “put” you in. Where do you find yourself afraid to speak the word? What does this reveal about your priorities in the situation?
12. What about your experiences of Christ convinces you that to die and be with him is gain? In what ways has Christ captured your heart with the prospect of fruitful labor?
13. How does it affect you to know that Christ understands, by personal experience, what you are going through when you suffer for the gospel? Has serving Christ in the gospel ever caused you to experience Jesus more intimately?
14. What changes do you need to make to your lifestyle to demonstrate that the gospel and Christ’s honor are your top priorities?
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