Bible Study Guides

Philippians

For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power 

to do what pleases him.

Philippians 2:13 (NLT)

The church at Philippi had been founded on Paul’s second missionary journey in around 52 AD. The letter to the Philippians is a warm letter of gratitude and joy from Paul, a weary prisoner for Christ who is grateful for the support he had received from the Philippian believers.

We have provided some resources for a small group discussion. There are questions for four sessions and we encourage everyone in the group to read the book before the first session.  You can download these questions in an A5 booklet or A4 format or you can view them online by clicking on the links below. 

 

Resources provided by Bibleworld Museum & Discovery Centre, Rotorua, New Zealand

Introduction to 

the Book of Philippians

The church at Philippi was founded during Paul’s second missionary journey in about 52 AD (Acts 16:11-40). Early members of the church had included Lydia and her household, and the Philippi jailor and his household. While at Philippi, Paul had cast a demon out of a slave girl and had been thrown into prison for his efforts. Since that time he had, however, enjoyed a warm relationship with the Philippian church. They had supported him financially and had sent Epaphroditus to assist Paul in his work. Paul recognised the love the Philippians had for him and he expressed his gratitude for their help.

 

The letter to the Philippians was written while Paul was a prisoner, probably in Rome (c. 61-62 AD). Paul was sending Epaphroditus back to the Philippians after a period of ill health, and he took the opportunity to send them an encouraging, friendly letter.  In the letter Paul described with joy his own situation and encouraged the Philippians in their faith. Paul had worked hard as a servant of Christ and he was unsure as to what the future would hold for him. It was possible that he would be put to death, but it was also possible that he would be freed from prison and able to return to visit the Philippians.

 
 

Discussion Questions for the Book of Philippians

Session One: Partnering together for Christ

'In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now’ Philippians 1:4-5 (NIV).

 

In what ways does Paul describe this partnership with the Philippians throughout the book? What were some of the active ways in which Paul and the Philippians worked together?

 

Read together Philippians 2:19-30. What was it about Timothy that made him a valued partner for Paul? Who have you met that has displayed some of the same characteristics as Timothy? In what ways did Epaphroditus partner with Paul and the Philippians?

 

Can you describe a situation when others have partnered with you while you have been working to spread the good news about Christ?

 

In what ways can we partner with others in helping to spread the good news about Jesus Christ? Who do you know who could benefit from your support and encouragement this week?

Discussion Questions for the Book of Philippians

Session Two:  Becoming like Christ

Read together Philippians 2:1-15.

Paul encourages us to have the same attitude as Christ Jesus. What was does this passage tell us about Jesus’ attitude? How can we imitate Christ’s humility? What characterises the actions and speech of a humble person?

 

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (NIV).

What are some practical ways in which you can look out for the interests of others?  Is there a particular person or situation that God is encouraging you to take a greater interest in?

 

‘Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure’ Philippians 2:14-15 (NIV).

What are the destructive effects of complaining and arguing? How can we guard against these temptations to sin?

 

‘Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose’. Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV) 

We are encouraged to become like Christ in our attitudes and actions. Why does this matter? How can this help to achieve God’s purposes?

 

Discussion Questions for the Book of Philippians

Session Three: Learning about Prayer from Paul

Read Philippians 4:6-9.

How do you understand the practice of giving thanks within the context of prayer? What can be the benefits of thanksgiving or expressing your gratitude to God?

 

How do you understand the relationship between prayer and anxiety? Can you recall a time when prayer helped to reduce or remove your anxiety?

 

Paul encourages the Philippians to think about all that is good (Philippians 4:8). What are the benefits of doing so? Do you have any personal examples of making deliberate choices regarding your thinking?

Read Philippians 1:9-11. How does Paul pray for the Philippians? Is there someone that you could pray for in a similar way?

 

You may like to pray this prayer together as a group, each of you inserting your friends’ names:

I pray for . . .  that their love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that . . . may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. 

 

Discussion Questions for the Book of Philippians

Session Four:  Joy and Hope

‘I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body whether by life or by death.’ Philippians 1:18-20 (NIV).

 

What enabled Paul to write about joy and rejoicing while he was in prison, potentially facing death? What did Paul believe that made it possible for him to rejoice regardless of his circumstances?

 

Have you ever found yourself in a difficult situation where you were able to rejoice in Lord? Did you have to choose to be joyful, or did it seem to be a God given joy?  In what ways did you express that joy?

 

‘Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again ‘Rejoice.”’ Philippians 4:4. (NIV)  Paul doesn’t provide a simplistic ‘Don’t worry, Be happy’ message. He continually links hope and joy to God and his promises. What does it mean to ‘Rejoice in the Lord’? 

 

In this letter, Paul‘s hope and joy are linked to his hope for the day of Christ and citizenship in heaven. What is he eagerly anticipating (see Philippians 3:13-14; 3:20-21)? How does the assurance of citizenship in heaven affect your life now?

 

What has been the most significant encouragement for you from the book of Philippians?

 

Suggestions for leading a small group Bible study

We believe there is great value in studying a book of the Bible as a whole, within a small group setting. If you are new to this we encourage you to begin with a shorter book such as Colossians, James or Ruth. We have put together these study guides based on the following five guidelines.

 

1. Encourage everyone in the group to read the book repeatedly.

2. Trust God to help you understand and apply his Word.

3. Focus on what the book reveals about God/Jesus.

4. Focus on what it clearly reveals about how God wants us to live.

5. Don't get bogged down on minor, uncertain or controversial issues. 

 

1. Encourage everyone in the group to read the book repeatedly.

We enjoy a Bible study group when everyone has read the Biblical text and comes along ready to discuss it. It makes for a much more interesting evening than a leader providing a monologue about the Bible! For that reason, we also like to hand out questions to everyone ahead of time, so everyone can come prepared to contribute in a thoughtful way. As a leader we encourage you to try and get everyone in the group to participate if they wish to.

 

There can be a temptation to read books or commentaries about the Bible rather than reading the Bible itself. Books about the Bible can be helpful, but we encourage everyone to spend the majority of their time becoming familiar with the Bible text itself. It may sound like a huge commitment to read through a book of the Bible ten times, but for a 15 minute book like James, this only takes about 2 ½ hours in total.

 

We have used the term ‘read the Bible’ however we are increasingly becoming fans of the practice of ‘listening to the Bible’. We highly recommend that everyone tries out an audio Bible to see how they find it. We suggest checking out the Bibleis app. An audio bible on your phone provides the opportunity to listen to the Bible while waiting, doing housework, commuting or while exercising.

 

2. Trust God to help you understand and apply his Word.

We need to trust that God wants to help us understand his Word. We encourage you to pray for wisdom as individuals and to pray when you come together as a group.

 

'If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.' James 1:5.

 

3. Focus on what the book reveals about God/Jesus.

God reveals so much about himself through the Bible. We have tried to come up with questions that focus on God - his abilities, his activity in our world and his character.  How does God work in people’s lives? What is important to God? For New Testament books, we are also interested in what we can learn about Jesus? What mattered to him?

 

4. Focus on what it clearly reveals about how God wants us to live.

Try to focus on how the members of your group can apply the message of the Biblical book to their lives. What does this book clearly reveal about how God wants us to live? What can we specifically do? What are the particular challenges that people are facing? What hope does this book provide?

 

5. Don't get bogged down on minor, uncertain or controversial issues. 

Accept that there are things in the Bible that we don't understand. We can waste a lot of time in a small groups on unhelpful discussion. Paul sums this up well in his letter to Timothy: Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments because you know they produce quarrels. (2 Timothy 2:23). There is however a difference between a robust healthy discussion and petty quarrelling. We encourage you to aim for the former and seek to avoid the latter.

 

There is a sense in which the Bible is both easy to understand and hard to understand. It covers over 4000 years of history. It is set in locations on three different continents (Africa, Asia and Europe). It is written in a range of literary styles (history, poetry, wisdom, prophecy, letters, gospels and apocalyptic). Some of the customs and practices of the people are quite foreign to us. However despite these difficulties there is a sense it which the Bible is easy to understand. We have a loving God who has sent his son Jesus so that we can enjoy life to the full and spend eternity with him. If you would like some further help with Bible study, we recommend the book ‘How to Read the Bible for all its worth’ by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.