In this section, Paul is concluding his stream of imperatives calling us to live a life worthy of the gospel. Paul’s final plea is for the Philippians to obey God regardless of whether Paul is with them or not. He insists that it shouldn’t matter whether he himself is at work among them or not because God always is. It doesn’t matter if Paul is there to keep tabs on their obedience but they should work out their salvation on with fear and trembling because God is in them and among them.
In other words, he is calling them to integrity. But integrity shows itself in a number of ways, so he also calls them to have attitudes which match their actions. The integrity Paul calls them to is possible because God truly is at work among those who hold fast to the word of life, the gospel.
Have you ever noticed about yourself that you are a different person in public as opposed to in private, or with your friends as opposed to with authority figures, or around Christians as opposed to around non-Christians? Or have you noticed that you present yourself to others differently than you feel on the inside?
1. In the last section, Paul talked about Christ’s “obedience” (2:8). Paul now calls us to be obedient. Think about how Christ was obedient and think about the issues that Paul has been dealing with so far in Philippians. Summarize what Paul might have in mind when he tells us to “obey”.
2. Paul insists that they should “obey”, or “work out your salvation”, not only in Paul’s presence but much more in his absence. Why did Paul have to insist on their obedience in his absence? Why might a group of people be more prone to disobedience when their leadership is away?
3. Paul says that God is at work in the Philippians. How would an understanding of this reality motivate or empower the Philippians to obey even in the absence of their leadership?
4. What is it about grumbling and questioning, that makes it impossible for a person to be “blameless and innocent”, even when they are doing “all things” they have been asked to do? Why is it so important to Paul that our attitudes match our actions?
5. In verse 2:14-15 Paul is reflecting on Deuteronomy 32:5. In what ways were the Israelites prevented from being “lights in the world” because of their grumbling and questioning? How might “obedient” Christians similarly be prevented from being “lights in the world” by their bad attitudes?
6. What is “the word of life”? How would holding fast to the word of life enable the Philippians to remain joyful as they obeyed God?
7. Paul tells the Philippians that Timothy is uniquely qualified for certain important tasks. Paul tells the Philippians to honor Epaphroditus. What caused Paul to esteem these men? What about your life would cause those in your life to conclude your concern for Jesus and others was genuine? In what ways are you “proving your worth”?
8. What does it look like to rejoice in the Lord? Evaluate these statements: 1. Joy in the Lord and grumbling are incompatible. 2. Joy in the Lord and sorrow are incompatible. 3. Joy in the Lord and suffering are incompatible.
9. Think back to the launch question. In what areas of your life do you most see a lack of integrity? When are you most tempted to act differently around different people?
10. For you what have you seen trigger grumbling or complaining? What lies are you believing about God, yourself, your situation that drive your negative attitude in these situations?
11. How does knowing that God is at work in you motivate you to obedience? What about the Lord, or “the word of life”, most causes you to rejoice? What does it look like for you to hold fast to the “word of life”?
12. What work do you need to do to “shine as lights in the world” in your dorm, houses, classes, or work?
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