The Good Work God Has for Us to Complete

Notes for Sept. 10, 2017
Philippians 1:3-11

Biblical Background

  • Paul: the Apostle Paul first visited Philippi on his 1st Missionary journey when in a vision he saw a “man from Macedonia” calling him to come in Acts 16. Thus, he knew the people there and had a close relationship with them. He is writing from prison – we’re not sure which prison as he was imprisoned on several occasions.

  • Philippi: We read in Acts 16 that Philippi is a Roman Colony and a leading city in Macedonia – at a crossroads between Asia and Europe. Today it is located in Northeastern Greece. Philippi was a wealthy town in Paul’s day as there were gold and silver mines nearby. Many retired Roman soldiers lived there. Philippi is named after “Philip” the father of Alexander the Great (Philip the Second).

  • First Baptism in Europe: Philippi was the site of the first Christian baptisms in Europe (Acts 16) and so is really the beginning of the church on the European continent.

  • Lydia: this now famous business woman who sold purple dyed cloth in Philippi was a financial supporter of Paul’s ministry and one of the first European converts to Christianity. Her business was well placed to take advantage of the wealth of the area by making a luxury item – the beautiful purple cloth.

  • Letter writing: Paul follows the letter writing conventions of his day in this epistle.

  • Grace & Peace: Grace is the Greek greeting and Peace (Shalom) the Hebrew greeting and so Paul often combines these two powerful words and thus unites Jew and Gentile in the Christian church.

  • Timothy: He is Paul’s “son in the faith” and while not writing the letter, is with Paul serving as a “servant of Christ Jesus.”

  • Overseers and deacons: Two of the leadership designations given in the early church were that of Overseer (Elder) and Deacon (one who serves). The overseers were given authority to govern and teach in the early church. The deacons were given authority to serve and care for the physical and spiritual welfare of those in the local church.

  • Thanksgiving: Paul expresses his thanksgiving to God for the Philippians. A common part of ancient letters.

  • Remembrances: This was another term for prayer in Jewish worship. Paul is thanking the Lord for the Philippians and remembering before God all of the ways that they had blessed and encouraged him.

  • Partnership in the Gospel from the first day until now: Paul saw the Philippian Christians as partners in the spread of the good news of Jesus. They had been there from the first day of his ministry in Europe and had remained faithful through the years to the mission. This was high praise coming from the apostle Paul and also shows that Paul didn’t consider himself superior, but rather a fellow servant of Jesus Christ.

  • Financial supporters of Paul: Partnership also connotes the sharing of time, talent and treasure (financial gifts) in the work of the mission. The word for partnership is a business term and Paul certainly was blessed by the financial help of the Philippian church.

  • Day of Christ: Throughout the New Testament, this refers to the Day of the Lord when Jesus will return to judge the living and the dead.

  • Assurance that God will complete His work: Paul encouraged the Philippian believers by letting them know that God will not be stopped in completing the good work that He had begun in them. This is a word of hope! Paul has confidence that God will enable them to persevere in the faith as He already has over the years.

Discussion Questions

  1. What do you know about Paul? Timothy?

  2. Why does Paul call himself and Timothy, “servants of Christ Jesus”?

  3. How does Paul’s view of a servant compare to the popular view of a servant today?

  4. Do you consider yourself a servant of Christ Jesus? Why or why not?

  5. Who are the “overseers” and “deacons” in our church? What are their roles? Have you ever been served or helped by the “overseers” and “deacons” in our church? Share examples.

  6. How does Paul’s greeting, “Grace and Peace,” reflect the message of the Gospel?

  7. How can we communicate the grace and peace of Christ to others?

  8. What would be the opposite of grace and peace? How do Christians sometimes exhibit these negative traits instead of allowing the grace and peace of the Lord to be the forces that bring about change?

  9. What can you tell from this passage about Paul’s relationship with the Christians at Philippi? When have you felt that depth of relationship in the Lord with others? Share examples.

  10. Why is it important to remember people in our prayers and thank God for them?

  11. What does it mean for Paul to call the Philippian Christians “partners in the Gospel”?

  12. How can we better partner with others to share the good news of Jesus?

  13. How does Paul encourage the Christians in Philippi? What kind of leader is Paul?

  14. What does it mean that God will complete the good work that He has done in your life?

  15. What is the “day of Christ Jesus”? Why would that be the day of final completion in our lives?

  16. Write a letter to some other follower of Jesus using language similar to Paul to encourage them and let them know that you are praying for them.