Study 3: A Settled Perspective
Sermon Date: January 15, 2017
Reading: Philippians 1: 21-30
Paul is in prison, unsure of his future. Life in a Roman prison would have been hard. In the darkness of these times, the light of Christ shines brightly through him. In this passage, Paul helps us to understand why and encourages other disciples to live in a similar way.
Try to put yourselves in Paul’ situation. Take a few minutes to share together what his situation was like and how he, as a Roman citizen, and other prisoners may have been feeling.
With this in mind, please read Philippians 1: 21-30.
Questions: (see Helpful Hints at the end of this section)
What does Paul mean when he writes, “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain” (verse 21)?
Why may some people tend to think the other way round?
According to verses 27-28, what three characteristics does Paul encourage the Philippian church to exhibit?
How do/may these characteristics be evident in the church in Ashtead today?
According to verses 29-30, what is Paul’ attitude to the sufferings that the Philippian church is experiencing?
Take a few minutes to consider your current circumstances and identify the most difficult situation.
Recalling Pauls’ testimony and advice how can Christ be exalted in this situation?
If you wish, share your experience to seek support and prayer and/or to encourage others in your home group.
Conclude by praying that Christ will be honoured in the situations that you face and that your faith will be deepened and strengthened.
Helpful Hints for discussion questions:
1a)Verse 21 is one of the greatest verses in the bible. The only life that Paul is concerned about is the life that he has in Christ. Christ was the source of Paul’s continual joy (even in prison), for Paul’s life found all meaning through his personal relationship with Christ. Verse 23 specifies the gain brought by death.
Paul explains how this prime concern that Christ is proclaimed works out in his own life as he thinks forward to the possible outcomes of his imprisonment. He’s torn. On the one hand, if his imprisonment were to end with martyrdom, he would be glad as he would be with Christ forever in the fullness of that relationship. On the other hand, Paul acknowledges that the Lord has work for him to do on His behalf, the fruitful labour of continuing Christian ministry amongst his flock (including the Philippians). So for Paul, dying is clearly gain but continuing alive would provide the opportunity for more Christ-proclaiming, advancing the gospel (verse 21).
1b) Some people may tend to think the other way round to Paul: life is gain (‘… wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could live longer? see our [grand]children grow up’; travel etc), whereas death is where Christ applies. The more we may think about this, the more challenging Paul’s statement becomes. For example, if my life was focused on knowing Christ and being
available to share in His work, how would my perspective on today, tomorrow and the future be different?
2 These two verses are a summary of the whole letter. Paul writes to the church in Philippi to teach them how to do what he describes in verses 21-28.
Whether Paul manages to visit the church again or remains in prison, the most important thing for the Philippian church is that they live as citizens worthy of the gospel by:
Remaining united – standing firm in one Spirit, contending as one man, serving one another
(Note: * in greek, Paul writes “contending as one soul/mind”)
Remaining focused on the gospel of Christ – proclaiming the good news of Christ through how they live as an ambassador and witness for the kingdom of God in every aspect of daily life
Remaining confident in Christ. They are not to be frightened by opposition but to be secure in their faith and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit.
Paul believes that the fact that Christians stand together without fear of the present and future and experience the joy and peace of God, despite opposition, reveals the truth of the gospel.
In Acts 16, we read that Paul experienced intense opposition. The Philippian church was experiencing similar opposition. Instead of complaining about this, Paul chooses to see the situation as a divine privilege.
Recalling that Christ invites all to come and follow him and His journey led Him to the cross before the glory of His resurrection and ascension, Paul reminds us that when we are allowed to walk the way of the cross with Him in the power of the Holy Spirit, we find that our relationship with Christ deepens. This is a wonderful privilege.