To all ages of the Church - to our own especially - this epistle reads a great lesson. While we are expending our strength on theological definitions or ecclesiastical rules, it recalls us from these distractions to the very heart and centre of the Gospel - the life of Christ and the life in Christ.
J. B. Lightfoot, St. Paul's Letter to the Philippians, 1868
Lightfoot's observation from his classic commentary gives the primary justification for choosing this letter for an online course; it provides us a great lesson. And because of its brevity, it offers us an opportunity to understand more about Paul without loosing something of the man in the theological density of his longer letters such as Romans and Corinthians.
This course is primarily an inductive reading of Paul’s letter. Each Wednesday I’ll post a new lesson with several questions as a guide for your reading. Feel free to ask your own questions of the text. This is about discovery and self-learning, not in "getting the right answers" for me.
So that we can have some sense of community, I'll ask one Comment Question each week and encourage you to add your comments for others to read.
This week there are three links under the “Preparation” heading that will help you better contextualize Paul’s letter. Just click on the link and investigate what’s there. At the conclusion of this and the remaining lessons, I’ll also give you some other resources to consult if your time permits.
Thanks for joining this week’s study.
- The Acts of the Apostles provides our only account of the founding of the church at Philippi. As preparation for today’s lesson, read Acts 16:6-40.
- Here are a couple of maps to help you visualize the geography of Paul’s missionary activity: Map 1 and Map 2
- Here is a brief look at ancient Philippi.
Let’s begin the textual portion of this week’s study by looking at the first section of the letter, the Greeting/Prayer of Thanksgiving in Philippians 1:1-11.
1. How does Paul identify himself in the greeting to the Philippians?
2. Compare how he identifies himself in the opening verses of Romans, Galatians, and both Corinthian letters and note how Philippians is different. What are some possible reasons for the difference?
3. How does Paul identify the recipients of his letter?
Prayer of Thanksgiving
4. Some scholars have noted that in other Pauline epistles, the thanksgiving section introduces the letter’s theme. If that is also true here, how would summarize the theme of Philippians?
5. What is Paul’s prayer for these Christians?
6. What does Paul mean by the “day of Christ”?
The second section that we’ll look at this week is Philippians 1:12- 26.
7. We know from several places that Paul is in prison when he writes this letter. How has his situation impacted the spread of the gospel?
8. What does Paul have to say about his rival missionaries?
9. Is Paul showing false bravado when assures the Philippians of his deliverance?
10. What is you sense of the danger that Paul is in?
In these two sections of the letter, what is Paul’ primary concern. Give several examples to support your answer.
If you have time, here is a short introduction to Philippians that provides information on dating, location, history, etc.