Scripture

Philippians 3:1-9

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

3:1-6
With the word ‘finally’ Paul indicates he is moving on to another topic. He encourages the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord all the time for He is trustworthy and works all things out for good. Nothing can destroy the joy that is found in Jesus Christ. It seems as if he had written to them before but it was no trouble to him that he was now repeating himself. These other letters have been lost.

Suddenly Paul’s tone changed. He uses a scathing term to warn the Philippians about legalistic people who were trying to deceive them. Such people taught that a man had to earn salvation by keeping to the law; that salvation only belonged to the Jews and that anyone who wanted to be used by God had to be circumcised and so become a Jew first. The Jews often used the term ‘dogs’ to refer to the Gentiles. Packs of homeless dogs roamed the streets, fighting for whatever they could find to eat. It was a term used in the Bible to describe the lowest of the low.

Paul did not agree. He thought the people who taught this were evil and declared that true righteousness only came from the grace of God. Physical circumcision was not enough for real circumcision came from a devotion of heart, mind and life to God so it was only Christians who are truly circumcised. This would have been a shocking idea to a purist Jew. Paul emphasised that Jesus alone is their joy and they could have confidence in Him. Even so he himself was more qualified to be justified by keeping of the law than any who opposed him.

Paul goes on to explain his credentials for saying this.

  • He was circumcised when he was eight days old;
  • He was a Jew by descent from the elite tribe of Benjamin. This was an important tribe for it provided Israel with their first king (Saul), sided with Judah when Israel was divided into two nations and contained Jerusalem in its territory.
  • He was a true Hebrew, born of Hebrew parents, able to speak the language
    o He was a Pharisee who was devoted to the law of God
    o He had been actively involved in persecuting the Church
    o He was considered righteous by his contemporaries (although not by God)

3:7-9
But none of this mattered now Jesus was at the centre of his life. He had no doubt that, even in the 20 years since he encountered Jesus, none of his earlier qualifications which made people think he was a good man were important. He had suffered often in his walk of faith but even this did not matter. His spiritual life was built on Christ’s righteousness through faith.

Icebreaker:

Other than your decision to follow Jesus, what is the best decision you have ever made? What persuaded you to make it? How has it impacted your life?

Application

  • Do you know you are forgiven – whatever you may have done in your life? Do you feel forgiven? How do you know/feel this? What struggles do you have in regard to your answers to these questions?
  • Do you know your God-given purpose? If you have discussed this before, what progress are you making in fulfilling that purpose? Has doing so filled you with joy? Why/why not? If you don’t yet know it, have you asked God what it is? How do you feel about doing that? How can the group help you to identify your purpose?
  • The Holy Habits:

o How much time have you spent in the last week in prayer and studying the Gospels? On a scale of 1-10 (with 1 being a little and 10 being a great deal) how eager are you to deepen your personal relationship with Jesus? Is the time you spend in prayer and study of the Scriptures helping you to do this? Why/why not?
o Are you following Jesus where He leads you? What is happening in your life that is a result of your response to this question? Are you being led to new adventures – or waiting for His guidance? Jesus calls us to ‘get up and go’ out of our comfort zones.
What does that mean for you? If you have responded yes to His call, how do you feel about following Him in such a way?
o Are you committed to authentic community? How has this group helped you to grow since you first joined it? How does your congregation help you? What would you say to someone who said they do not need to worship in church with other people? Who do you know who has struggled to return to church since the covid pandemic? What can you do to encourage them to return to authentic community with you?

  • How can the group help you with the struggles you have mentioned during this session?

 

Prayer
Pray for all places where there is war – that Christ’s love may bring answers and His peace in every war-torn area. May God’s will be done.
Pray too for one another in regard to the issues that have been raised during your discussion time, and in regard to other needs of the group.

Service
How can you invite others to share in the gift that is authentic community with you? Consider asking others to meet with you (perhaps in a larger venue if necessary) and share with them the joy of community. Be prepared to have them join you. Groups are not holy huddles but places to celebrate the joy and love of Christ with one another. How does this idea make you feel? What can you do about it?

FYI : Here are the observations for the rest of Philippians 3

All he wanted was to know Jesus and have a personal relationship with Him. He wanted to know His power, share His suffering, be changed by His death and so receive resurrection life. Paul was prepared to suffer anything to attain this. He knew he had not attained this yet so he only had one option – to ‘press on’ until he reached his goal. He was in Jesus’ hands and he had been called by God. He would not allow himself to be distracted by anything that had happened in his life beyond this call and would do whatever it took for him to fulfil Jesus’ plan for him.
Paul encouraged the Philippians who were already mature in the faith to do the same. For those who were not yet mature enough he assured them God would show them how to accomplish what He was calling them to do. There was no excuse for any of them not to do God’s will. They were to be united in this and not allow it to drive them apart.
Paul knew he was not perfect but he also knew that he was one of several who were good examples for the Philippians to follow. Yet there were many who had got it wrong. Paul makes the strong statement that these people were the enemies of the cross. They may follow Jesus, but now they were saved they felt they could do what they wanted to do. They made no attempt at self-denial – thus giving the legalists ammunition against true followers of Christ.
Paul was distressed by such people because they were guilty of misleading people; they gave true followers a bad reputation; and they would be damned. They were self-indulgent and sought their own success.
The Philippians would have greatly valued their Roman citizenship, but now Paul tells them they are citizens of heaven. As such they should be noticeable by their differences to those who lived secular lives. Just as the Philippians would be excited about a visit from the Roman Emperor, who held the title of Saviour, so the Philippian believers should be excited about the coming of their Saviour, Jesus Christ.
Their Saviour, Jesus, could do something no Caesar could – He would give them resurrection of the body n the same way He Himself had been resurrected. As a result, Paul urged them to stand fast in their faith. They were Paul’s joy and reward as they did this in the Lord. Paul used the Greek word stephanos to describe his crown which was what the Philippians were to him. This was to be his reward (as opposed to diadema which a king wears) for all his work in the Lord for them.

Bibliography

Philippians Chapter 3

Philippians Chapter 4

https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dsb/philippians-3.html

https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dsb/philippians-4.html

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