The Philippian Letter: Chapter 3

philippians

This is our third lesson from the book of Philippians, and we’re going to be looking at goals in the context of chapter 3. What aims do you have? Where do you want to go in this life? What plan do you have to meet those goals; how do you measure success; what steps will you follow? What feelings and motivations drive you to those goals? When we set goals, we can either set ourselves up for failure or success based on the answers to these questions.

In our spiritual lives, we must have goals that are measurable and actionable. We have to be prepared for the challenges and pitfalls we might face. We must be motivated to reach for those goals, or we might let them slip away from us. We might lose sight and begin to drift. What are your goals for spiritual growth? For church attendance? For benevolence? For encouragement? For teaching?

A Goal of Christ

Already in this letter to the Philippians, Paul has spoken of a goal to walk worthy of Christ. What does that look like? This chapter begins with rejoicing. Walking with Christ is a glad thing, even when we face challenges for our faith, as Paul points out in the next couple of verses. He is aware, and wants us to be aware, of the obstacles in the way of running toward Christ. If we know what obstacles lie ahead, we can be all the more prepared to avoid them.

Paul begins by pointing out where he came from and how proud his heritage had been — a Pharisee among Pharisees, flawless by the law of Moses, zealous to protect his faith. This is a man who had goals and pursued them with energy and enthusiasm, but then his whole life perspective changed. He started pursuing new goals, but he did so with the same zeal with which he pursued his former passions. His new goal is to know his Savior and the power of the resurrection, so that he too can be resurrected one day.

Looking Forward, Not Back

Starting in verse 12, Paul acknowledges that he had not yet reached his goal, but he keeps it in his sight at all times. He has laid aside his former life in favor of his new goal. He has forgotten his past failures so they may not weigh him down and drain his endurance. Reaching forward is hard to do when the past is holding us back. Therefore, what do you and I need to let go so we can move forward? What steps do we have to take to move forward with direction and purpose?

Nothing in this world will survive to the next, so we should not be too eager to hold on to the things of this life. Paul tells us our citizenship is in Heaven. This world is but a journey, so we should keep home in our sights, guiding us in the right direction. Where we place our focus is where we will run, either toward God or away from Him. Let us follow Paul’s example, leave our past behind us, identify and overcome the obstacles of this world, actively live like Christ, and press forward toward our home.

lesson by Mike Mahoney

The Philippian Letter: Chapter 1

philippians

We’re beginning a series of studies from the book of Philippians. We so often read letters like this (and rightfully so) from the viewpoint of those the letter was written to. Imaging, though, that Paul was writing this letter to us while he was imprisoned in Rome. This is in his later years, and Paul has fewer freedoms than he had when he was first taken into captivity in Rome. Yet he takes the time to write a letter to encourage Christians. He is still concerned about those churches he helped found, and his letter is preserved to still give instruction and encouragement to us.

A Thankful Letter

Paul talks about rejoicing several times in this letter. He gives thanks. He puts the needs of other Christians before his own. In verses 3 – 11, he thanks them for the support they’ve leant him, and he prays that Christian love will continue to grow alongside spiritual wisdom. He wants us to continually work together to grow the love we have one for another. In this way, we remain pure and blameless, filled with righteous, and filled with an excellence that can only come through love. If we love another properly, we glorify God in how we spread that love.

Spread the Word

Paul then writes, in verses 12 – 20, that his imprisonment has served to advance the gospel. His boldness in chains has encouraged others to speak the words of Christ. He credits Christ in his imprisonment. We should be so willing to stand up for Christ when and how we can so that we may increase others’ courage in the Lord. He spread the word so that others might take up the refrain. We can be that way, preaching from goodwill to defend the gospel.

Paul contrasts preaching in love with preaching for self-centered reasons, and Paul had some of that going on around him. Rather than becoming confrontational or seeking to debate and argue, Paul acknowledged that they still, despite themselves, testified of Christ. The core gospel message remained intact. That is not permission to tolerate false doctrine, but it should give us pause before we are quick to argue where Christ is being shared.

To Live Is Christ

As chapter 1 begins to wrap up, Paul speaks of his personal situation as a benefit to Christ. Rather than dwelling on how bad he has things, he recognizes that he can do God’s work without shame — even from prison. He knows that his life can be one of fruitful work, and he has faith that death will bring him greater joy in Christ. Verses 21 – 24 even show that Paul is torn between which is better. If we are convinced in our relationship with Christ and we have a real faith in something better beyond this life, we should be able to understand this.

To live is to do Christ’s work. To dies is to live with Him forever.  Therefore Paul’s call to action is this: live worthy of the gospel. This means we continue to grow in love. This means we encourage each other and build each other up. This means we spread Christ’s message with joy and enthusiasm, and it means we keep the troubles of this life in perspective of eternity.

Live the Gospel

Paul exhorts us not to let this world frighten us. Rather we should always live a life that shows Christ in us. For him as well as for us, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. For the ending of this life means we are going home. Like Paul, we will face suffering in this life, but our true home is elsewhere. Our citizenship is elsewhere, and it is a gift that no one can take from us. That should give us joy. That should give us confident hope, and we should be wanting to share that hope and joy with others, doing Christ’s work while we still have time in this world.

lesson by Kent Ward