Scripture

Philippians 1:27-2:4

Open your mind and heart as you read the passage of Scripture aloud and then again quietly to yourself. Listen for God’s word to you.


Spend some time in worship.

 

 

Observation

The Philippian congregation comprised people from different religions and of different races with a variety of ideas as to how they should live out their new faith. Paul expressed the wish that they would work together to promote the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He wanted them to show others they were loyal citizens of the Kingdom of God by the way they lived. Their unity would draw others to come to trust and believe that Jesus Christ was indeed good news. He warned them he would hear how they were doing!

He knew they would face opposition. Their different personalities would often determine whether they would be bold or whether they would be afraid. However Paul encouraged them never to abandon hope but to be courageous for in this way they showed their adversaries that those who opposed them were on the path to defeat. The Greek word for perdition (apolia) used to describe their antagonists meant destruction or damnation. The believers, on the other hand, were assured of their own salvation as Christ gave them the courage they needed. The trials they were facing did not mean God had abandoned them. Rather any persecution could be understood as a tool in God’s hand which He gave only to those who could withstand it. Paul too was suffering in the same way – and he was filled with joy at the privilege. They could be serene and yet joyful in their difficulties as Paul urged them to live in a way that was appropriate to the Gospel.

Paul has been speaking about opposition from other people towards the Philippian believers. He asks a rhetorical question here when he speaks about consolation. The Philippian believers need to know that Christ Himself is the consolation of Israel (Luke 2:25; 2 Corinthians 1:5; 2 Thessalonians 2:16). Now he moves on to speak about any internal conflict they may experience. Paul wants them to live in unity with one another, in humility and in love.

Paul affirms the comfort of love. The Greek word for comfort here is paraklesis which implies strengthening, helping. Implying such comfort provides courage to those who need it. Paul continues by speaking about having fellowship (kononia) with the Holy Spirit in   that they should share things in common. This way of life is possible through Jesus Christ. It they lived in such unity they would make Paul happy. So they were not to do anything through selfish ambition, or with a sense of superiority but rather to practice true humility. This did not mean to kowtow to others. True humility is a noble way of life and it involves putting the concerns and needs of others before our own.

Icebreaker:

Were you always surrounded by friends when you were a child, or were you a loner? How has that impacted your adult life? Are you happy to spend time alone, or do you always need to be in a crowd? Can you feel lonely in a crowd? Why/why not?

Application

  • Paul says the enemies of unity are selfish ambition and self-interest. What ambitions do you have? How would you describe them? What is their motive? Are you able to set aside your own interests for the benefit of others? How big a part do these two ‘enemies’ play in your life?
  • Think of a project you are involved with – at work, in the family, at church. Are your goals and your methods of achieving them the same as those with whom you work? Is there conflict as you strive to achieve your goal? What makes you respond in this way? Would you describe yourself and those who work with you as ‘like-minded’? What difference would it make if you agreed to differ but still worked to achieve your goal?
  • How would a point of conflict in your life be eased if you were to deal with it in love rather than dissension or aggression? How can you love when you do not agree with one another?
  • Do you put the needs and opinions of others before your own? Why/why not? Does your answer vary according to the situation and the people you are dealing with? Are you concerned that you may be side-lined or ignored if you do not stand up for your own opinions and needs? What role does God play for you in such situations?
  • Four things were listed as well-springs in our dealings with other people:
    o Encouragement as we are united with Christ;
    o Comfort from His love;
    o Common sharing as the Holy Spirit works in our lives;
    o Tenderness of Christ’s compassion.
    How can we mirror such characteristics as we work with other people? Which aspect do you find to be the greatest struggle for you? Are you willing to invite Jesus to enter any situation of conflict and ask Him to show you how to respond that healing may take place in broken relationships? What concerns you about doing so? What encourages you to do so?
  • How can the group help you with the struggles you have mentioned during this session?

Prayer
Lord we have often failed to live in unity with one another. We squabble and argue and put ourselves and our desires first. Forgive us, Lord We need You to heal us so You can heal our damaged relationships. Then we can live in harmony with You and others. Bring a miracle of healing, Lord, that there may be reconciliation. Pray for one another in regard to specific issues that have been raised during your discussion time, and in regard to other needs of the group.

Service
Ask God to make you aware of conversations and actions that may result in conflict this week and to give you the means to respond with encouragement of one another, with love, with a willingness to listen and share with one another and with a tender heart. What difference does that make to your relationships during the week and the results of such incidents? How do your potential antagonists/partners respond? Be prepared to share with one another next week.

Bibliography

Hargreaves, John, A Guide to Philippians, SPCK, London 2001

Philippians Chapter 1

Philippians Chapter 2

https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dsb/philippians-1.html
https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dsb/philippians-2.html

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