lesson
14

Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

Because we are not perfect 
Philippians 3:15-4:1

warm up
 

   1. Have you ever met anyone who was "perfect?" Even on our best day, are we truly perfect in the eyes of God? What does our imperfection imply that we need?
   2. Should our imperfection cause us to give up or to press on with greater resolve? How do we maintain a sense of unity among us as believers when none of us are perfect? 

wise up

In verse 15, Paul makes a small transition in his discussion. He has previously stated that he is not perfect or complete (3:12) but he uses the word perfect in this verse to refer to "maturity." He said that those who are mature (although not yet complete) should be "thus minded." What attitudes has Paul been discussing up until this point that we all should possess? (Cf., 2:2-4, 5-8, 3:8, 13). If we do not possess the attitude of mind that Paul is discussing, he indicates that sooner or later God will reveal it to us. If we don't catch on now, we will understand at judgment. As the old song says, "Farther along we'll understand why." (Of course, by then it may be too late when it comes to understanding these matters. Perhaps we should try to understand it better now.)

I. We may not be perfect but we can march together
Vs. 16 

   1. As noted in the last lesson, Paul had not yet "attained" and did not consider himself to be "perfect" (3:12). Still he reached forth, pressed ahead and sought the prize that could be his "in Christ." But just because individual Christians are not perfect does not mean that they cannot walk together. We may not have attained all that can be attained (we are all at different spiritual levels), but in those things we have in common and in those things we understand alike, let us walk together. Read verse 16 (KJV) again and discuss how we can walk together.
   2. Picture a group of soldiers marching in unison. Each one in step. Some are stronger, some taller, some braver than the others. Yet, they march in unison to the same cadence or rhythm. They are each different but they march together as one. They know the basic marching orders or rules. They each maintain their focus on that they are doing. They each follow the same leader. What is our rule or marching orders? How important is it that we discipline ourselves and keep our focus on our Christian walk? Who is our main leader that we follow?

II. We may not be perfect but we can follow the good example of others Vs. 17, 20-21 
   1. Paul knew that he was not perfect (3:12), but he could still serve as a good example for others to follow. This was not a boast when you understand that in other passages Paul qualified what he meant. Read I Corinthians 11:1 and I Thessalonians 1:6. Who was Paul following?  
   2. An old tombstone once read something like this: "Where you are now, I once was. Where I am now, you someday will be." Underneath this epitaph someone wrote: "To follow you, I am not content. Until I know, which way you went."  We should not be willing to follow just anyone. We need to know first if they are following Christ. And even then only follow them "as they follow Christ." If they get off the old paths and not longer follow Christ, what should we do?
   3. Going back to the illustration of soldiers marching. Picture yourself in a long marching line. The leader in front sets the pace but what happens when someone in front of you gets out of step? What happens when someone we are following no longer follows Christ? Discuss the importance of all Christians walking together and following the same rule and leader.

III. We may not be perfect but we can refuse to follow the poor example of others Vs. 18-19 
   1. Paul stated that many in the congregation at Philippi or elsewhere were walking to a different beat than that of the apostle Paul. The friends of Christ had their affections set on those things above and looking for the return of the Savior and the glory yet to come. But the "enemies of the cross" caused Paul to weep as he wrote this epistle.
   2. What do we associate the cross with? If these enemies are the same ones that Paul previously wrote about in chapter 3:2ff, explain and discuss how Judaizing teachers, who insisted that Christians be bound to the works of the old law of Moses for their salvation, would make the cross meaningless. 
   3. Discuss each of these four descriptions of the enemies of the cross and why Christians should beware of them as evil workers in the Kingdom. Consider their walk and the direction that they are headed. We should ask, "Is that where I want to go?"

a. Their end (or goal) is destruction.
b. Their god (highest value) is their belly (perishable flesh.)
c. Their glory (boast in heritage and attainment Cf. 3:4) is their shame.
d. Their mind (mindset or affection) in on earthly things.

    4. If destruction, decaying flesh, shame and this earth is all there is, what is there to look forward to? Where is the prize mentioned in 3:14? It should be self evident that self attainment in this world is not the final goal of Christians. Our lives and lifestyles should reflect that fact. No we are not perfect, but neither are those who rely on the flesh. We recognize that we need the Savior.

wrap up

   1. In 3:21 - 4:1, Paul reminds us that Christ is coming, our vile bodies will be changed to be like his glorious body, Christ will subdue or conquer all (even his enemies) therefore "stand fast in the Lord." In Christ there is certainty and hope. 

Assignment

 Please read Philippians 4:2-7 for next week   copyright 2001