Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

Philippians 1:3-8

warm up
Imagine having a relationship with someone that was so good that every time you remembered them you would thank God. How could this be possible? Is it possible because:
[  ] Those you think about are perfect in every way
[  ] You are limited in what you know about them
[  ] You have chosen to overlook their faults and shortcomings
[  ] You think only about the good and positive things
[  ] You love them and love is blind
[  ] Other
What would make praying for others a joyful thing for you? Because:
[  ] You enjoy sharing your concern for others with God
[  ] You know that such requests will be helpful to those you pray about
[  ] You really love those that you talk to God about in prayer
[  ] Other
What do you think about when you hear the word "fellowship?" 
[  ] Potluck dinners   [  ] Visiting and talking
[  ] Working together in some common cause
[  ] Sharing finances to support a mutual cause  [  ] Other
wise up
I. Does your remembrance of others make you thankful, prayerful and joyful? Vs. 3-4
We are probably most thankful for others when we realize that they have done something for us. Paul appreciated the Philippians because they had been supportive and helpful to him financially and otherwise. (Cf., Phil 4:15-16.) When you think of those in your life who have helped you  - are you grateful? Do you whisper a prayer of gratitude when you think of them? Would that be a good habit to develop? 

   2. Paul went beyond just being thankful, he was also "thoughtful" and made specific requests to God on behalf of those he was grateful for. The specifics are not mentioned in these verses but what are some things that Paul probably requested on behalf of his brethren? What things could we request today on behalf of others?

   3. Paul found joy in being able to make such requests (Vs. 4). Why would praying for others make someone happy? Paul was in prison at the time that he wrote this epistle. There were probably few things in that dreary setting that brought a smile to his face. But as he remembered others and as he prayed on their behalf he discovered joy. Why do you think that happened? (Cf., Acts 20:35). Is praying for others a good way to get our mind off our own troubles? Could that be a part of why Paul found it joyful to pray?  

II. Are you thankful for the fellowship of others? Vs. 5-8
As you probably noticed in the warm up, there are many types of fellowship. Here Paul mentions "fellowship in the gospel." Discuss what that might require of us? What are some of the different ways we have "fellowship in the gospel" today?
Notice also in verse six that this fellowship is referred to as a "good work." The Philippians had been involved in the good work of Paul's ministry from "day one" of their conversion (Vs.5, See Acts 16). There had been times when their support had not flourished (Phil 4:10). The reasons for that are not stated but it was evidently not for lack of desire. They had been very supportive of Paul on many occasions (Phil 4:14-16) even when others had not. The result of this persistent fellowship was that Paul was especially endeared to these brethren. They had been there for him and had come through on his behalf again and again. And now they were "in his heart" (Vs. 7) and he "longed after them" or missed them (Vs. 8). While it is true that we should love everyone (especially our brethren in Christ), isn't it also true that we are often endeared to certain ones because we have worked with them or shared many mutual experiences with them? There was a special "bond" that existed between these brethren and Paul. Can such a bond exist among brethren today? Discuss
Notice that the Philippians (according to Vs. 7) had shared in or been partakers of Paul's grace (1) "in his bonds" (while in prison) and (2) in the defense and confirmation of the gospel" (in his work of preaching as an apostle.)

a.  How had the Philippians shared in Paul's bonds? Cf., Phil 2:25,30. Phil 4:18. Can someone we support serve on our behalf? Can we say that we had a part in what they accomplished because of our support? Should we limit our service only to being supportive of others? 
There are many chains of affliction today such as illness or loss and sometimes persecution. How do we share in the bonds or afflictions of others today? 

. The gospel today still must be defended and shown to be true. What are some ways that we fellowship in that work today?

wrap up
1. There is no doubting that Paul loved these brethren. The intense affection he seemed to have for them was in part because of their love for him and more importantly - their love for the work.
2. Paul was also an optimist when it came to what God is able to do through our combined efforts. In verse 6 he stated his confidence that "he" (God himself) had not only begun the good work or fellowship they were involved in (namely sharing the gospel) but he would continue that good work until the coming of Christ. His confidence had merit because that good work that began in others continues today. How can we continue to share in this "fellowship" today?

  Please read Philippians 1:9-11 for next week   copyright 2001