Philippians - Lesson 13
By Curt Niccum
- The class will worship God as one.
- The class will identify the most important "needs” it has.
- Bibles for every student.
- If devotional period is desired, you may need songbooks and to designate people for singing, praying, and scripture reading.
Giving is worship.
Lesson Plan for Conducting the Class
Devotional Period (5 minutes)
- Read Philippians 4:18
- Sing up to two songs. (The following are suggested tunes.)
- O Lord Prepare Me
- My Heart, My Mind
- Jesus Paid it All
- He Paid a Debt
- Prayer (some appropriate subjects for prayer are listed below)
- For our lives to be acceptable sacrifices, well-pleasing to God
- For generous hearts
Introduction (5 minutes)
- Call the roll or have someone check it. (It is very important to know who is present so someone can check on those who are absent.) Introduce and welcome visitors, take prayer requests, and make any necessary announcements.
- Review last week's lesson or the entire series. [The teacher has an option as how best to finish this series. One can use this class period for examining a case study or to study the last part of Chapter Four. If the former, briefly review the message of Philippians and then skip to "Learning Experiences.”]
- Remind the class that 4:10-23 serves as the post script (P.S.) of the letter. Paul only now addresses the financial gift sent to him by the Philippian church. He does so to emphasize the fact that, though the church currently experiences inner turmoil over two ladies who have spilled their disagreements into the life of the congregation, they have still managed to practice "the mind of Christ” in their sacrifice on his behalf. He therefore suggests they can do the same for each other.
- In the first part of this post script, examined in the last lesson, verse 13 was examined in context. Q: How has this verse typically been used? A: As an encouragement, especially to youth, that no goal is unattainable to those who are in Christ. Q: This, though, is not the intent of the passage. To what does Paul refer? What are the things he can do through the strength which God supplies? A: He can live in poverty, hunger, and affliction with joy. What Christ suffered on the cross for others is now Paul's model for living. (See also Colossians 1:24; written about the same time as Philippians.)
Learning Experiences (20 minutes)
- [It would be possible to combine this class with that of the previous week and to choose instead to apply the study of Philippians to a real-life scenario through the use of a case study. Case studies are actual situations reduced to a brief story intended to get students engaged with practical applications of spiritual lessons. Should you choose to go this route, you can find appropriate case studies at caseteaching.org and home.snu.edu/~hculbert/cases.htm. I recommend the following: http://home.snu.edu/~hculbert/japan.htm or caseteaching.org/archives/ 13-2002/13-04PlightofDonars_Oak.doc. You could hand out the case study to the students at the end of the previous lesson. They could then come to class prepared to talk about how they might apply the mind of Christ in that particular situation. This might help move this topic away from a purely academic or "Sunday School” exercise into the lives of the students. For information on how to use case studies, see home.snu.edu/~hculbert/case.htm. The rest of this lesson presumes that a case study will not be employed.]
- In the last part of the letter, Paul goes on to discuss the Philippians' gift. Have the class read 4:14-20 and look for the ways Paul describes their contribution. Q: How does Paul describe their gift? A: (Allow the class to indicate what they have found. The teacher may want to make a list on a blackboard or with the use of an overhead projector. At least three of these should include a) sharing in Paul's affliction [vs. 14] b) giving and receiving [vv. 15-17], and c) sacrifice of praise [v. 18].)
- This lesson will examine three of these.
- Sharing in Paul's affliction (4:14).
- The money sent by this congregation meant so much more than just a special offering for a missionary. Q: Where is Paul located when he writes this letter? And what are his circumstances? A: He is in Rome under house arrest. He is chained to guards.
- Q: How do you think the congregation would respond to a missionary imprisoned? A: (Allow this to be discussed. Do not rush the lesson based on the first answer given. The initial response will probably be, "We wouldn't give.” Many, though, after some thought, would probably respond generously. A number of years ago several missionaries and native Christians were imprisoned in Laos for their beliefs. Many congregations responded liberally.)
- The Philippian Christians not only shared from their own poverty, an act praiseworthy in itself, they also considered Paul's sufferings of real value. Paul uses this language to help the Philippians recognize that they already recognize the inherent value of suffering for the sake of others.
- Q: How might this help the Philippian church deal with the problem at home? A: (Allow the class to discuss this. The teacher should attempt to get the class to focus on specifics related to the quarrel between Euodia and Syntyche rather than generalities. In other words, what specific actions might we suggest Euodia and/or Syntyche should take.)
- Giving and receiving (4:15-17).
- For Paul, every gift given from the heart receives something in return.
- Q: According to the text, what have the Philippians received for their gift to Paul? A: Profit to their account (verse 17). Some might also note God's supplying their needs (verse 19).
- The Philippians have used their worldly goods to store up treasures in heaven. Q: Numerous teachings of Jesus touch on this very point. Can you name some of them? A: Two of the more notable passages would be the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:19-34) and the Parable of the Unjust Steward (Luke 16:1-18). Q: So what profit have the Philippians gained through this gift? A: A firmer standing in heaven. "They have been faithful with little, so they will be entrusted with much.” See Matt. 25:14-30. Paul's emphasis on their continued giving indicates their consistency of heart in this one aspect of their Christian life. Q: If they have been so rewarded through their financial efforts, what do they stand to gain with any effort to fix the strife in Philippi? A: Even more. Peace from God (4:7 & 9).
- Q: What needs do the Philippians have? A: (You may need the class to go back to the very beginning of the series and the book. Paul recognizes their need in his prayer.) He prays that their love might abound and that they might be able to discern what the more important things are (1:9-10). Q: So Paul is not promising health and wealth here. What is he promising? A: God can empower them to do the right thing, no matter how painful it might be (2:12-13 & 4:13).
- Sacrifice of praise (4:18). Paul indicates their giving truly is a sacrifice in the best sense of the word. It is important to remember that the most common sacrifice of Old Testament times was not the sin sacrifice, but those sacrifices of praise and worship offered to God in thanks. Paul employs this language here. The Philippians have offered true spiritual worship in praise to God. If this is a pleasing aroma (= the Greek word "euodia,” the name of one of the women involved) to God, imagine the reconciliation of these two dear ladies (4:2-3).
- Sharing in Paul's affliction (4:14).
- As one last reminder, Paul ends where he began. In the first chapter he noted how his unpleasant circumstances were a source of joy. Though some would view Paul's being chained to an elite Roman guard a hindrance, Paul has made it an opportunity. Here he reminds us not only that the entire Praetorian Guard has heard the gospel (1:13), but even members of Caesar's own household have converted (4:22). God truly does supply what is needed, even if those things or people are not welcomed immediately by us.
Application (15 minutes)
- Obviously as the series comes to an end, the most important application is the fixing of any broken relationships. This has been urged throughout the series, but now it is an imperative. Those who wish to follow Christ must make a strenuous effort to repair the broken walls that exist in the church, in families, and with others.
- It is not just this Bible class that summons us to action. The church's worship embodies these principles.
- The ability to approach God's throne in prayer comes only through Christ's willingness to empty himself, even to death on a cross in order to reconcile us to God. Prayer reminds us of our own need to bring about reconciliation.
- The church sings "with one voice.” Our vocal music itself calls us to be unified.
- The Gospel message rehearses for us weekly that we are to take up our crosses daily and follow Christ. Our life is his life; our ministry is his ministry.
- Giving also provides a means for us to practice the Gospel story. Many congregations have the collection of funds immediately after the Lord's Supper. It is unfortunate that often statements are made from the pulpit separating the giving from communion. Our contribution is perhaps the most proper element to follow the Lord's Supper. We give precisely because God gave. Our sacrifice has meaning only in the light of His sacrifice. Our giving to God also reminds us that we worship God by giving to others.
- It is significant that Paul includes a public prayer in this letter. He forces the Philippians to worship as one as they recite the "Amen” at the end of the doxology in verse 20. It is only fitting, therefore, that this series end the same way. "To God, our Father, be glory forever and ever.” Let the class respond, "Amen!”
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