Philippians :Maturing in the Christian Life
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by Woodrow Kroll
Description: In his joyful letter to the Philippians, Paul provides valuable instructions for godly living and maturing in Christ. In this Back to the Bible Study Guide, seasoned Bible teacher Woodrow Kroll walks readers through Paul's powerful epistle. The ten lessons are designed for personal, family, and small group study.
eBook Publisher: Crossway Books, 2009
eBookwise Release Date: June 2009
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [86 KB]
Reading time: 47-66 min.
Lesson 1 The Perfect Church?
Have you noticed that the longer a person is part of a local church the less enthusiastic they are about describing what a great church it is and inviting others to join? Why is that? How did a congregation that we once thought was perfect turn out to be such a disappointment? Whose problem is that?
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer
3I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Key Verse
"And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ" (Phil. 1:6).
The word "love" crowds the pages of the Pauline epistles. Use the following to review the central effect of Paul's focus on love. Romans 12:10 tells us, "Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." A chapter later, Paul echoed Jesus' words about the great commandment (Mark 12:28-) with his own comment, "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 13:10).
Paul wrote the great love chapter (1 Cor. 13) which ends with his declaration that "the greatest of these is love" (v.13). He was describing the central roles of faith, hope and love while emphasizing the greater importance of love. In eternity, both faith and hope will be remembered as essential parts of our experience while we lived our lives, but love will be ongoing and constant in the presence of Love Himself.
To the Galatians, Paul expressed the unique concept of serving one another in love. (See Gal. 5:13.) The Ephesians got their challenging walking orders from Paul when he wrote, "And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God" (Eph. 5:2). He reminded the Colossians that part of his deepest hopes for them and their Laodicean brethren involved their experience of love, "that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God's mystery, which is Christ" (Col. 2:2).
Paul prayed for the Thessalonians that their love would demonstrate its source: "And may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you" (1 Thess. 3:12). The apostle asked Titus to respond to those who had demonstrated love for Paul, "Greet those who love us in the faith. Grace be with you all" (Titus 3:15-). Paul understood that our relationship with God and one another must be surrounded and permeated with love.
ost Christians would like to be a part of a perfect church. Unfortunately, since we're not perfect, as soon as we join, any church ceases to be perfect. Actually there is no such thing as a perfect church. Only Jesus as the Head of the Church is perfect. But that doesn't mean we can't find examples of what the church ought to be, model churches that point us toward perfection. In this study we are calling these grown-up churches. In the Bible we find a church as close to the perfect church as any that the apostle Paul ever founded--the church at Philippi.
Even though the Philippian church was not perfect, it displayed at least one of the traits that characterize a mature church. A church on the right track is a church that is growing. Now, when we define the perfect church as one that is growing, our minds immediately think of numerical growth. We associate growing churches with growing attendance, but does that mean that those churches are becoming grown-up churches?
Here in the twenty-first century, we tend to think the good churches are the big churches. And the not-so-good ones, the less-than-perfect ones, are the ones that aren't big or getting bigger. When we go back to the first century, however, we discover that numerical increase was not the sole or central measurement for a growing church. (See Acts 2:41, 47; 5:14; 6:1, 7.) "How are you progressing spiritually today? Are you growing up in the Lord, daily growing in your love for others? Are you growing in your knowledge of the Lord Jesus? Growing in your discernment? Growing in your purity? Growing in your blamelessness?" * * * *
The Philippian church, while it grew in numbers, also grew in other ways that are more important than numbers. Paul mentioned the first when he wrote, "And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment" (Phil.1:9). Growing numbers don't mean much without growing "love." Paul gave love a major emphasis in all his letters; and, therefore, we understand that it was a key factor in Paul's thinking about how a church grows up.
If you're attending a church today and you don't see any love there, they're not walking in love; they're not serving one another in love--if that love is absent, if their hearts are not knit together in love--then it's likely that your church is not a grown-up church. A standing-room-only church is not a truly growing church unless love is growing among its members as well. Paul wanted the Philippians to have a fully developed love. If a church is going to be a grownup church, the cornerstone of that maturity will be its love for one another.
A church that is committed to growing up as well as growing out will increase not only in love but also in "knowledge." That was Paul's second growth criteria in Philippians 1:9, "that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment." If love means practicing what we understand about God, then "knowledge" means expanding what we understand about God. Growth in our knowledge of Jesus Christ always comes as a result of consistent exposure to God's Word. Warren Wiersbe claims, "Christian living depends on Christian learning; duty is always founded on doctrine. If Satan can keep a Christian ignorant, he can keep him impotent."[*]
[Footnote *: Warren Wiersbe, Be Right (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1977), 61. ]
Further, a grown-up church increases not only in love and knowledge; but also in "discernment," knowing what it ought to love and what it ought to hate. Love without knowledge and discernment is not God's kind of love. God doesn't love blindly. God doesn't love sin. God loves but also corrects, rebukes and even disciplines believers engaged in sin. Paul reminded the Philippians (and us) that growth in real love is characterized by our knowledge of the Word and also characterized by discernment. This is love guided by truth.
But Paul wasn't finished praying for the Philippians to grow up as a church. In the next verse he wrote, "So that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ" (1:10).
The word "approve" means that we grow in our preferences as well. Growing up spiritually involves not only the ability to discern but the actual exercise of that ability: discerning the better and choosing the better every time. The word pure means "sincere," a church with no need to make excuses when it stands before Christ. The term is used of precious metals from which all the waste, or impurities, has been extracted. Paul is praying that the Philippians would not exhibit mixed messages to the world but demonstrate "the fruit of righteousness" (v. 11)--grown-up spiritual behavior.
The church in the twenty-first century is in danger of allowing what is good to rob us of what is best. We're attending church and enjoying entertainment and biblical teaching. Those add up to good experiences in church--but not the best experiences. Why? Because that's not growing up. We're not growing the way we need to grow, the way Paul prayed the Philippian church would continue to grow.
How are you progressing spiritually today? Are you growing up in the Lord, daily growing in your love for others? Are you growing in your knowledge of the Lord Jesus? Growing in your discernment? Growing in your purity? Growing in your blamelessness? Developing these traits allows you to have a part in making your local church a grown-up church.
As you pray, consider what the Lord might want to do through you to bring about the traits of a grown-up church in your church. If your church "lacks something," it may be an indication that God wants to supply love, discernment and the fruit of righteousness through you.
As you read Philippians 1:1-11, consider these questions:
1) To whom did Paul address this letter? What can we say about
this group based on Paul's greeting? * * * *
2) What would it mean to you to be offered "grace and peace from
God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" as a greeting? * * * *
3) What does Paul say is the cause of his joy when he prays
for the Philippians (vv. 4-5)? * * * *
4) How do you apply verse 6 to your own life and relationship with Christ? * * * *
5) How did Paul describe his relationship with the Philippians (vv. 7-8)? * * * *
6) In what ways would Paul's prayer help you pray more effectively
for other Christians? * * * *
7) How is "the day of Christ" (v. 10) an accountability point for you? * * * *
8) Describe what you consider as some of the "fruit of righteousness" (v. 11). * * * *