Study 5: Shining Like A Star
Sermon Date: January 29, 2017
Reading: Philippians 2: 12-30
(Note: The study will focus on verses 12-18)
Paul’s ambition for the Philippians is that they would continue to mature as disciples and enjoy the fullness of God’s presence in their lives. As they do so, they will be distinctive from the world around them and at the same time be the agents through whom God changes society to usher in His kingdom. Paul introduces the powerful metaphor of Christians being like stars shining in the universe, visibly reflecting God’s light through how they live as individuals and as a community. As we read, we are reminded that Christ taught that Christians are to be “salt and light” (Matthew 5: 13-16).
Paul cautions the Philippians that there may be a cost to shining like a star for Christ. He makes this point using a second metaphor (verse 17) that refers to the Last Supper and in the Old Testament to the practice of daily sacrifices (Exodus 29: 38-41). Christians need to be willing to step out and serve God and to depend upon and allow God to work in and through them by the Holy Spirit.
Who has influenced your Christian life and why? Spend a few minutes sharing your answers together.
How do you feel knowing that others are influenced by our life of discipleship?
Questions: (see Helpful Hints at the end of this section)
Notice the word “Therefore” that begins this section. It is a key word in all of Paul’s writing. Through the word Paul offers teaching that flows from Christ (in the preceding section). Because of Christ’s incomparable example (verses 5-11), we are to.....
Notice also that Paul refers to the members of the church in Philippi as “dear friends”. His tone is warm and encouraging. He truly cares for the church. His love for them stems from his love for Christ.
1. a) Reading verses 12-13, what do you think Paul means when he encourages the Philippians to “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling”?
b) Having understood what Paul means, share how you seek to “work out your salvation”.
2. How common is it to find people putting verse 14 into practice?
3. a) Do we normally think of complaining and arguing as a sin?
b) Why do you think Paul feels so strongly about this?
4. How can you “shine like a star” for Christ this week?
5. a) Reading verse 16, how may we “hold out the word of life” (i.e. the gospel)?
b) What does Paul mean by “boast” (verse 16)
6. Verse 17 is difficult to understand. Before you look the answer, what do you think Paul means?
7. In verses 17b & 18, Paul writes that Christian joy ought always to be mutual. How easy do we find it to share our joy with others and to share in the joy of others? Why do you think that Paul appears to stress the importance of sharing joy (and also sadness) with others?
Prayerfully consider and respond to the following question prior to concluding by encouraging each other with the final question:
How brightly are you shining as a star for Christ at the moment?
Share one way in which each person in your group shines like a star for Christ to you. Thank God for each person and their witness for Christ.
Helpful Hints for discussion questions:
Paul does not mean that Christians are to attempt to earn their salvation by works. In this phrase, Paul is encouraging Christians to continue to allow the gift of salvation to be continually expressed through daily life. As a Christian perseveres in faith over time, spiritual growth takes place that is visible outwardly (e.g. through servant acts; speech etc.) and glorifies God.
From verse 13, notice the contrast with verse 12. We work OUT the salvation of God because God is at work IN us. We demonstrate the gospel OUTWARDLY because it is a reality INWARDLY. Our outward acts flow voluntarily from our inward acceptance of God’s gift of salvation through Christ on the cross.
“fear and trembling” Through this phrase, which harks back to the Old Testament, Paul wants to ensure that his readers remember who God is (Holy; Omnipotent; Omnipresent) and who we are in comparison (human and sinful by nature). As we remember this, our joy and wonder in the receipt of God’s love in Christ (i.e. salvation) is that much deeper and reverent.
Being discontented with God’s will is an expression of unbelief that prevents us from doing what pleases God (see verse 13; 1 Corinthians 10:10). What’s more, such behaviour threatens to undermine the love and unity of the church and undermine the work of the kingdom of God.
5(b) Christians boast not out of pride or a sense of self-accomplishment but because of what God has done in and through us by the power of the Holy Spirit. In this verse, we are reminded of the return of Christ and that everyone will be subject to Christ’s judgement.
6. In this reference, which harks back to Exodus 29: 38-41 and the Old Testament practice of daily ceremonial sacrifices, Paul explains that his ministry is one continual thanksgiving sacrifice to God. However, commentators suggest a slightly different interpretation. Paul is in prison and realizes that his imprisonment may end in a martyr’s death. In which case, his life would be poured out as a drink offering accompanying the sacrificial service of the church in Philippi for Christ.