Inductive Bible Studies on the Letter to the Philippians

The Letter to Philippians
Inductive Bible Studies
Leader’s Guide
Greg Chao
July 4, 2014
Version 1.1
Inductive Bible Studies on the Letter to the Philippians
Table of Contents
Purpose .................................................................................3
Guidelines and Tips ................................................................3
Background to the Letter to Philippians ..................................6
Philippians 1:1-11 – Thanksgiving & Prayer.............................7
Philippians 1:12-26 – Paul’s Hope ...........................................8
Philippians 1:27-2:13 – Selfless Living .....................................9
Philippians 2:14-30 – Life without Grumbling ........................ 10
Philippians 3:1-14 – Real Faith versus “Religiousness” ........... 11
Philippians 3:15-4:1 – Real Faith versus “Worldliness”........... 12
Philippians 4:2-9 – Rejoicing in the Lord ................................ 13
Philippians 4:10-23 – On being Content................................. 14
Appendix – Insights & Comments for Leaders........................ 15
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Purpose: What should motivate Christians? These studies were
created to help the seeker and the believer alike answer that
question. The Apostle Paul shares how “hope” in Christ affects
our perspectives on life and gives some practical tips on “joyful”
The recommended format provides a low commitment, low
pressure environment where questions can be freely explored.
This guide provides material and tips to help you assist others to
go directly to the source, the Bible, and draw their own
conclusions. The studies use the method of “inductive”
questioning utilizing questions to bring out observations,
meanings, and applications from the text itself.
In any growing church, the Bible should be read and studied and
held in the highest esteem. Those who have been touched by
God will be excited to share their faith with others characterized
by being:
“Organic or spontaneous, outside of church’s organized
Relational, in the context of informal personal relationships
Word deployed, bringing the Bible and gospel into
connection with people’s lives
Active, not passive where each person assumes personal
responsibility for being a producer rather than being a
consumer of ministry”1
Guidelines and Tips: Here are some tips as you prepare and
conduct the Bible study. The inductive questions for each
passage in Philippians are versatile enough to work within a
one-on-one or group format. They can be used for Bible studies
for Christians, seekers, or a mixture of the two.
Place – Find a quiet place where you can talk without being
interrupted or distracted.
Keller, Timothy, Center Church, p. 280
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Bible/Material – Make sure there is a Bible for each of you.
Try to get the same version if possible. Print out the
questions for each of you beforehand. (Do not print out the
answers in the Appendix since you are trying to encourage
Number of meetings – There are 8 studies provided
intended for 8 weeks. Agree on the amount of time
together (1-1 ½ hours should be sufficient).
Set Expectations – The time you spend together will be
informal where all questions are welcome. You may not
have the answers to them on the spot but you can research
and try to provide answers during the next meeting. No
homework should be required.
Read the Passage First – Make sure and read the passage
entirely. For flow and clarity, it is better for one person to
read the entire passage.
Sharing Question (for small groups only) - A sharing
question is provided for each study that is related to the
passage. Go around in a circle and share (make sure you
give the option of “passing” if someone does not want to
Work through the Study Questions –The study questions
are meant to bring out the meaning of the passage through
discussion. Although you will find some answers/insights to
the questions in the appendix, don’t just blurt out the
answers. Allow the group/individual to get at the answers
through observing the passage. There is usually an
application question at the end.
Conversation – Don’t do all the talking. Listen a lot. Be
interested in what the other person has to say. Allowing
the conversation to drift for a time can be beneficial. Bring
it back by using the questions. Don’t feel obligated to
correct; each individual in the group can decide for
themselves whether they agree. You can bring in other
opinions by saying, “what do the rest of you think?” or
“here is another way to look at it.” Always be gracious.
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Becoming a Christian – After each study, determine if you
would like to invite the seeker to become a Christian. If so,
here are two examples of a simple prayer of invitation.
Either could be used.
“Father, I’ve always believed in you and Jesus Christ, but my
heart’s most fundamental trust was elsewhere---in my own
competency and decency. This has only gotten me into
trouble. As far as I know my own heart, today I give it to
you, I transfer my trust to you, and ask that you would
receive and accept me not for anything I have done but
because of everything Christ has done for me.”2
“Dear Lord Jesus, I know that I am a sinner, and I ask for
Your forgiveness. I believe You died for my sins and rose
from the dead. I turn from my sins and invite You to come
into my heart and life. I want to trust and follow You as my
Lord and Savior. In Your Name. Amen.”3
Note that each prayer had an element of acknowledgement
of one’s personal sins and a desire to change, asking for
forgiveness from God, acknowledging the work of Christ as
Savior and transferring trust in God (giving over control of
one's life).
The Reason for God, Timothy Keller, p. 245
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Background to the Letter to Philippians
Philippians was written at the end of Paul’s ministry while he
was in prison. It is the loveliest letter he wrote that soars with
hope revealing his inner motivations.
1. Paul’s first encounter with the Philippians before the
writing of this letter
a. Paul’s first visit to Philippi is recorded in Acts 16 (~52 AD)
during his second missionary journey. He receives a dream
to come to the district of Macedonia. It is described as a
“Roman colony and the leading city in that district.”
b. Meets Lydia, a dealer in purple, who immediately converts
and Paul stays at her home.
c. Meets a fortune-telling slave girl who declares, “These men
are servants of the Most High God.” Paul casts out the evil
spirit which angers her master who could no longer profit
from her.
d. Paul is thrown in prison, miraculously released, and brings
salvation to his terrified prison guards.
e. He is released by revealing his Roman citizenship.
2. The Occasion of the Letter
a. Letter of thanks. Years have passed (~63-64 AD) and
the church sent gifts (4:10, 11) while he was in prison.
b. Epaphroditus was sent to him by the church as a
personal servant. Epaphroditus became ill and
homesick so Paul sent him back (Phil. 2:29-30) with this
c. Encouragement in trials (Phil. 1:28-30)
d. Appeal for unity - Attitude (Phil. 2:1-11), overcoming
quarreling (Phil. 4:2), and warning against false teachers
(Phil. 3:2)
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Philippians 1:1-11 – Thanksgiving and Prayer
Study 1
Sharing Question: Have you ever experienced peace in the
midst of trouble? Explain.
1. Why are the believers called ‘saints?’ What is significant of
“God” as father? What is significant about the title “Lord
Jesus Christ?”
2. From verses 3-6, how does Paul view the Philippians? What
is Paul referring to about ‘the first day until now?’ Why
would Paul be confident that God would carry his good
work to completion? What is the ‘day of Christ Jesus?’
3. Why does Paul feel such affection? What does it mean that
he is in chains? How do they share in God’s grace with him?
4. Why does Paul pray that their love may abound? How does
love abound in knowledge and depth of insight? How does
this lead to being pure and blameless? What is the fruit of
righteousness? How does this all come from Jesus Christ?
5. What attitude is Paul conveying to the Philippians in this
opening passage? How can he be so positive while he is in
prison? How can we learn to have this same attitude?
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Philippians 1:12-26 – Paul’s Hope
Study 2
Sharing Question: How has your hope in Christ helped you get
through difficult times?
1. Why does Paul see a normally tragic circumstance
(imprisonment, possible execution) as a positive event? In
order to have this viewpoint, how must he see himself?
How must he see God?
2. Why is Paul not concerned about the motives of those
3. How can Paul rejoice in his circumstances in verse 18?
What does ‘rejoicing’ mean?
4. How does Paul receive help through ‘prayer and the Spirit’
in verse 19? How will Paul be delivered in verse 19? What
does he need courage for?
5. What is the meaning of ‘for to me to live is Christ, to die
gain’? For Paul, what are the positives of living on earth?
What are the positives of departing from the earth?
6. What has made Paul so certain that he will be with Christ?
In your opinion, is this certainty available to us? Explain.
How would a certainty that we will be with Christ change
the way we view life?
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Philippians 1:27-2:13 – Selfless Living
Study 3
Sharing Question: Share a time where you put aside your own
self-interest for the good of the group?
1. What does Paul mean when he says ‘conduct yourselves in
a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ?’ How would this
take away their fear from those opposing them? What does
it mean to suffer for Christ?
2. What are the qualities of a unified church (verses 1 & 2)?
What is the role of the Holy Spirit? What does it mean to do
‘nothing out of vain conceit?’ (proper view of ourselves)
How do you consider others ‘better than yourself?’ (proper
view of others) How do you look out for the interest of
others? (kindness)
3. What does it mean ‘being in very nature God?’ Why would
not ‘grasping equality with God’ be noteworthy? (second
Adam) How did Christ take the ‘nature of a servant, being
made in human likeness?’ How did He become obedient to
death? How did God exalt Jesus? Why is it significant that
‘every knee will bow to Christ?’
4. What is Paul encouraging the Philippians to be obedient in?
(verse 12 - fear and trembling has a meaning toward each
other, salvation as a group. Fear has the meaning of awe).
Why does Paul repeat the idea that it is God who works in
them to will and to act according to his good purpose (1:6)?
5. What motivations should we have to live out our life
according to this passage? How does remembering Christ’s
example help?
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Philippians 2:14-30 – Life without Grumbling
Study 4
Sharing Question: Share about a person who you know that has
been a good example to you?
1. Why is it not good to be a ‘complainer?’ Why does Paul
want things to be done without complaining?
2. What does it mean to have things done without arguing? Is
this a restriction from all disagreements? Explain.
3. Why would this lead to being blameless and pure? How is
this generation ‘crooked and depraved?’ Why would this
make them ‘shine like stars?’
4. What is so special about Timothy? How has he proven
himself? How is his service like a ‘son to a father?’
5. Why does Paul value Epaphroditus? Why is he sending him
back? How does Paul describe his recovery? Why does
Paul request that they honor him?
6. How are Timothy and Epaphroditus different? How are
they similar? How are these two people examples of “noncomplainers and non-arguers?”
7. How is Paul setting an example of not “complaining?” How
is he “looking out for the interest of others” here?
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Philippians 3:1-14 – Real Faith versus “Religiousness”
Study 5
Sharing Question: Share a time where you overcame your
initial reluctance to help and then found it rewarding
1. How is rejoicing in the Lord a safeguard?
2. Who are the ‘dogs’ that Paul is referring to and how are
they mutilators of the flesh? How do they put “confidence
in the flesh” and why is this so bad?
3. In verses 5-6, what three things did Paul put his confidence
in? Why does Paul consider these things ‘a loss’ or
‘rubbish’? What does it mean ‘righteousness of my own’
versus ‘righteousness through faith’?
4. What does it mean to ‘know Christ?’ Why is “knowing
Christ” so great? What does it mean to ‘know the power of
the resurrection of Christ?’ What does it mean to know the
‘fellowship of sharing in his suffering?’
5. By saying ‘I have not already attained it,’ what is Paul saying
about the Christian life on earth? What does it mean to
“press on to the prize?”
6. In today’s society, who are the people who put “confidence
in the flesh?” Why is focusing on “knowing Christ” so
radically different?
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Philippians 3:15-4:1 – Real Faith versus “Worldliness”
Study 6
Sharing Question: Share a time where you were able to see a
sharp contrast between the values of this world and your
Christian values.
1. Why does Paul allow other views in verse 15? What other
views might there be? What does it mean “God will make it
clear?” What does it means to “live up to what we have
already attained?”
2. What does it mean that the “enemies of God” make their
god “their stomach?” What does mean that their “glory is
in their shame?” What does it mean that their “minds are
on earthly things?”
3. What does it mean our “citizenship is in heaven?” Why do
we “eagerly await” the Lord Jesus Christ? How will Jesus
bring everything under his control? How will understanding
this help them to stand firm?
4. What is different about these two perspectives that Paul
presents here? How does this understanding change the
way you will view our society’s values? How will this
perspective help you to face problems in life? How will this
perspective help you face death?
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Philippians 4:2-9 – Rejoicing in the Lord
Study 7
Sharing Question: Share a time where God gave you peace
about something even though it was not fully resolved.
1. Why does Paul plead with Euodia and Syntyche to agree
with each other? Why does he appeal to the ‘brothers’ to
help? Why does he mention that they have “contended at
my side in the cause of the gospel” and their “names are in
the book of life?”
2. What does it mean to ‘rejoice in the Lord?” (note the
double emphasis in verse 4) How can we rejoice always?
How does rejoicing lead to ‘gentleness?’ Why would the
Lord being near cause us to rejoice?
3. What does being anxious (worry) mean? Without God, is
worry understandable? Explain. What are the ‘prayers and
petitions’ or ‘requests’ that Paul is talking about? Why does
he add ‘in everything?’ Why does Paul add ‘with
4. How do these ‘prayers’ counteract worry? How will prayer
bring about peace? How does this peace ‘transcend
understanding?’ How does this peace ‘guard our hearts and
5. What is the meaning of true? Noble? Right and pure?
Lovely and admirable? Excellent or praiseworthy? How do
we ‘think (dwell) about such things?’ Why must we put it
into practice?
6. Why is prayer such an important aspect of living a joyful
life? Why is dwelling on good thing so helpful?
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Philippians 4:10-23 – On being Content
Study 8
Sharing Question: How have you learned to be content ‘in
plenty or in want?’
1. What does Paul mean when he says that he has learned to
be content in whatever the circumstances? What is Paul
referring to when he says “well fed or hungry, … living in
plenty or in want?” What does it mean, ‘I can do everything
through him who gives me strength?’
2. What was the giving pattern of the church to help the
ministry of Paul? How were they generous over the years?
How is it a fragrant offering to God?
3. What is Paul’s attitude toward their support of the ministry
and him? How does he strike the balance between his
gratefulness to them and to God for the gifts?
4. Do you think that Paul is teaching that we should not be
ambitious? Explain. What can we learn from Paul about
being content in our circumstances?
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Appendix – Insights & Comments for Leaders
Philippians 1:1-11 – Thanksgiving and Prayer
The believers were called “saints” because the work of Christ is
complete and they are “righteous” positionally even though it is
not fully reflected in their behavior.
God is now their father because of what Jesus Christ has done.
“Lord” implies divine.
Paul views the Philippian church with great affection since they
have been so faithful in supporting him throughout the years.
He believes that God will carry out his work with or without
him. The” day of Christ Jesus” is a reference to the return of
Love has the meaning of selfless giving that is deepened by
knowledge of their faith. Paul is speaking of a process of Christ
through the Holy Spirit transforming our thoughts and attitudes
so that we live our lives with greater ethics, generosity, and
purpose. This is the result or “fruit of righteousness” of the
work of Christ that has made us children of God permanently.
Paul is expressing great affection and gratitude to both the
Philippians and to God.
Philippians 1:12-26 – Paul’s Hope
Paul is very grateful that he has the honor of being a part of
sharing the gospel with others. He is mindful that God
especially chose him to do this. He even sees his imprisonment
as part of God’s plan. He is supremely confident that God is in
control and will ultimately prevail. This allows him to
understand that the work of God is not personality driven and
that God is working in spite of envy and rivalries.
Rejoicing is a big theme in this letter and is repeated again and
again. From the context of this passage, we know that it is
independent of negative circumstances (imprisonment, etc.)
and is characterized by confidence in God. We will learn more
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about rejoicing later in the letter (Philippians 3:1, 4:4) but it
seems to be an inner peace and hope through difficult
God is personally ministering to him through the Holy Spirit in
the form of comfort and courage to stand up and speak the
truth. Paul believes that the prayers of the Philippians on his
behalf are actively beneficial.
Paul is so confident that he will be with Christ after death that
he looks forward to it. He is torn by his love for the people and
his longing to see Christ face to face. This certainty that Paul
has is available to us when we realized that our salvation is not
based on our own work but on what Christ has done for us.
Because of that, it is secure. We are in right standing or
“righteous” before God for all eternity. That fact, when
internalized, is life changing. We live in continuous gratefulness
and do not fear death.
Philippians 1:27-2:13 – Selfless Living
Our conduct is shaped by the fact that because of Christ, we
have entered a new relationship with God. We become his
children and we begin to emulate Jesus as a natural part of that
relationship. This includes not being afraid of opposition and
This relationship with God will also affect our relationship with
other people as well. We will begin to do things less and less
out of selfish motives or “vain conceit” and more and more out
of “thinking of others as better than ourselves.” This attitude
will bring unity. Note that it does not say we do not look out for
our interest.
Christ is our example of selflessness. Note that Christ did not
“grasp equality” with God which is the direct opposite of Adam
and Eve. Christ made right what was broken in the Fall
described in Genesis 2-3. Christ died on the cross and
resurrected paying the penalty of our sins and making us right
with God. Because of Christ’s love for us and his work on the
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cross, everyone will worship him someday signified with the
phrase “every knee shall bow.”
Fear has the idea of awe rather than terror. It is to be
overwhelmed by God’s greatness and be in wonder at the
selfless act of love He endured for you. Paul is reiterating his
faith that God is in control and will prevail.
Philippians 2:14-30 – Life without Grumbling
We are to refrain from complaining and being argumentative.
We can respectfully disagree with others. In doing so, we will
act differently and will be distinctly different. Paul implies that
complaining and arguing are normal for our society.
Timothy is commended for being an individual who is selfless
and can be trusted to look out for their interest. He is an
example of a leader who takes the Paul’s teaching seriously.
Paul is giving his highest commendation of Timothy likening him
a “son.”
Paul commends Epaphroditus as a brother, fellow worker, and
fellow soldier, another example of one who “looks out for the
interest of others.” He served Paul while he was in prison and
Paul says that “he almost died for the work of Christ” though his
In this section you see teaching on selflessness and three
examples of it when you include Paul himself.
Philippians 3:1-14 – Real Faith versus “Religiousness”
Rejoicing requires a perspective on reality that is based on faith
in God and gratefulness. In this way, it is a reminder for us and
keeps us close to Him (safeguard).
The “dogs” that Paul is referring to are those who put their faith
in the Jewish standards or laws to justify themselves before
God. They believe if they follow right behavior and practices
(like circumcision), this will get them right before God.
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Paul argues that he has tried this path and even excelled in it
beyond most but it is a dead end. He believes that getting
“right” with God is not about following right practices but
resting on the work of Christ on our behalf. It requires faith in
the sense that we accept God’s gift of righteousness.
When we enter into a relationship with God, we get an
opportunity to “know” Him up close. This opportunity is what
Paul is so excited about. Nothing else compares with being
right with God and getting an opportunity to “know” Him. This
“knowing” is dynamic and never ending continuing beyond
In today’s society, the people that put their “confidence in the
flesh” are the religious, who try to follow God through
conforming to a set of rules. They are never assured of their
ultimate salvation because it is dependent on them. They fall
into the trap of being judgmental and self-righteous.
Philippians 3:15-4:1 – Real Faith versus “Worldliness”
Paul realizes that it will take time to be so utterly focused on
Christ and is very gracious about it. He encourages the reader
to take action on what we know.
The “enemies of God” hold to the values of the world which
ultimately value self in the form of pleasures (“stomach”) and
status (self -“glory”). They are focused on “earthly” things or
near term benefits. This leads to multiple destructive
This is contrasted with Christians who are “citizens of heaven”
who are focused long term confidently believing that God will
prevail and that we will be resurrected with Christ free from the
limits of our current physical bodies.
Philippians 4:2-9 – Rejoicing in the Lord
Apparently Euodia and Syntyche were leaders of the church and
were fighting. Paul realized how harmful this is to the church
and calls on others to help. He tries to ease the blow by
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mentioning that they have “contended at my side in the cause
of the gospel” and their “names are in the book of life.”
Paul returns to the theme of rejoicing mentioning it twice for
emphasis. He gives further insight into how to rejoice through
prayer and dwelling on good things.
Worry is a natural feeling because it acknowledges that there
are things in our lives that are not in our control. Without God,
worry is real and understandable. However, if we pray and tell
God all our requests and desires and begin to see God answer
our prayers, we will be changed. God will always answer our
prayers (but not always “yes,” sometimes “no” or “wait”). Our
understanding that God is in control begins to grow. Our trust
in Him grows and we experience a “peace that goes beyond
[societal] understanding.” This is the essence of the joy that
Paul was talking about earlier.
Paul gives us another key to joyful living and that is to “dwell”
on good things; that is, things that are true, noble, excellent,
praiseworthy, etc. Both these teaching are very practical and he
wants the reader to put it into practice.
Philippians 4:10-23 – On being Content
Paul has learned to be content with his material circumstances
because he realized that that is not the focus of his life. He
believes that God will give him strength to be satisfied with less.
Paul is very grateful to the Philippians for their generosity again
and again to the ministry. He is grateful for them sending
Epaphroditus to serve him. And he says that it is a fragrant
offering, pleasing to God. This explains why he feels so much
affection for them. Paul is also very grateful to God and it is not
a conflict to acknowledge both God and the Philippians for the
gifts he has received.
Paul is actually very ambitious; that is, ambitious in “knowing”
Christ. His focus allows him to be content with whatever
material comforts he may or may not have.
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