Bible Class
Discussion Guide
by Edward Thomason

IF. . .  THEN. . .
Philippians 2:1-4

warm up
  T or F The attitudes of brethren do not affect us.

T or F The disagreeable nature of some, or the conceited nature of others cannot rob us of joy.

Discuss: How do you feel when you hear that those you love and care about are not getting along with each other? Imagine that you are sick or going thru a difficult situation and then hear that those you care about are acting conceited or being disagreeable. How would this affect your situation? 

wise up

   1. In this text Paul gives his readers a "If... then" proposition to consider. Placing verses 1-4 side by side we see the comparison:

If... there be any consolation in Christ..

Then... fulfill ye my joy that ye be like-minded...

If... there be any comfort of love

Then... fulfill ye my joy that ye have the same love...

If... there be any fellowship of the Spirit...

Then... fulfill ye my joy that ye be of one accord and one mind...

If... there be any  bowels and mercies...

Then... fulfill ye my joy that ye let nothing be done through strife or vainglory.... 

   2. Paul's friendship and involvement with these brethren over the years had brought him a measure of joy (Cf., 1:4-5) but that joy could increase and overflow "if" the brethren  were to overcome some internal problems that were going on. The lack of agreement and unity, as well as a problem of selfishness and conceit among some, as implied by these verses, was a cause of serious concern for Paul. 

   3. Sometimes people will use the word "if" in order to get others to act more responsibly. Jesus said, "If you love me, keep my commandments." (John 14:15.) Paul is doing the same thing in this text. 

   4. Remember that Paul was in prison. To hear that his brethren were in disagreement or acting conceited toward one another would only add extra burden to his pain. If they wished to console him and comfort him, if there was any camaraderie or compassion within them, then they would do the right things by each other and bring completeness to Paul's joy.

   5. Look at each of these paraphrased expressions of Paul's statements and discuss them.

I. If you wish to Console... then:  
   1. Paul said, If you wish to console (encourage) me in Christ, then be like minded (in agreement) 
   2. How do Christians reach a point where they are in agreement? What can cause disagreement? Why would disagreement among brethren be a discouragement to Paul? Can disagreements discourage others today? If we are in disagreement with a brother or sister what should we try to do about that? (Mt. 5:23-26.) Do you agree that there must be internal agreement (one mind) in order for there to be "true" external unity? If so, How can brethren have "one mind?" (Cf., Phil. 1:27.)

II. If you wish to Comfort... then: 
Paul said, If you wish to lovingly comfort me, then love the same things. 
   2. What are some things that Christians should mutually love? (Cf., Matt. 22:37-39, 1 Peter 1:22, I John 2:5.) Why does the love of mutual things bring comfort to those who are hurting?

III. If you wish to share a mutual Camaraderie... then: 
Paul said, If you are truly sharing in the fellowship of the Spirit, If this is something we are participating in together, then be of one accord or one mind. 
   2. What does it mean to be of "one accord and one mind?" Does it have to do with being in agreement? Are there things that Christians must be in agreement about for there to be unity of the Spirit? Compare Eph. 4:3-6 in your discussion.

IV. If you wish to be Considerate... then: 
Paul said, if you have any "affectionate sympathy" (bowels and mercies) for me, then let nothing be done through selfishness (strife) or conceit (vainglory). Selfishness and conceit are often at the root of many conflicts. 
   2. What does Paul suggest in verses 3 and 4 as the cure for this problem among brethren? Should we stop from time to time and consider our motive for doing things? Are we considerate of others seeking what is best for others or are we arrogant and conceited? Do people always see their own true attitudes? Discuss some things that might be an indication of our true attitudes that we could learn to watch for. (Cf., 1Jn:3:17.)

wrap up

   1.  Obviously, even among the best of brethren, like the beloved congregation at Philippi, there can be disagreement and disunity among brethren. But such activity brings sadness into the hearts of old men and disgrace to the congregation. 
   2. Certainly we agree that these are admonitions that need to be seriously considered by the Lord's people today.


  Please read Philippians 2:5-8 for next week   copyright 2001