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  • Writer's pictureZack DeBruyne

Made Perfect in Weakness: Philippians

Made Perfect in Weakness: Paul’s Letter to the Philippians

Twenty centuries ago, a ruckus bringing tentmaker was tossed into prison for creation a public disturbance. In prison awaiting possible execution, he spent considerate time writing a letter that might have been take up a dozen sheets of stiff paper. It was written from prison to a small, persecuted group of believers in Philippi.

Where and What the Heck is Phillippi?

  • Eastern Greece, south of Bulgaria

  • It was a Roman colony

  • Built along the main highway - the Egnatian Way - in the world at that time, leading from the Eastern Provinces of Rome to the rest of Rome

    • This made Phillippi a bustling, prosperous city.

  • The city functioned like a miniature Rome, outside the capital. In such a setting, loyalty to Caesar and his empire would have been intense.

  • In a city such as Philippi, all kinds of events—including public festivals and meetings of private associations, and even social events such as birthday parties—provided occasions to give honor to the emperor and the local gods that stood behind Caesar.

  • Those who dared to worship a Lord other than Caesar likely would have been considered a threat to Rome and Rome’s colony.

Who is this letter to?

  • Paul, the missionary who founded the Philippian church, is writing this letter to those who have supported him and his ministry. A city where he planted a church!

  • He is writing to believers to encourage them, to thank them for their support, and to move them toward unity and joy in every circumstance.

Why Did Paul Write it?

  • He wrote it for three reasons:

  1. To address and teach the church about the importance of Christian Unity

  2. To describe the Christian perspective on the experience of suffering and encourage the suffering Philippians

  3. To define the relationship between God’s grace and human works.

Read Chapter 1

Key Verses + Discussion

  • “That your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you might be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ - to the glory and praise of God,” (v 9 -11).

    • Is it difficult to discern what the best, right, or pure thing to do is?

    • What does it mean to be righteous and how does Jesus make us righteous?

  • “But what does it matter [how the name of Christ is shared]? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this, I rejoice,” (v 18).

    • What do you think Paul is saying here?

    • When Christ is preached, the Spirit moves in the heart of those hearing – it does not matter if it is imperfect or bumbling.

  • “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain,” (v. 21).

    • What do you think Paul means, to live is Christ and to die is gain?

  • For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him,” (v. 29).

    • Why would suffering possibly be something that is granted to us by Christ? Shouldn’t it be the opposite?

Suffering in Philippians

  • 1:28-29 - We don’t suffer in the Western world as Paul or the Philippians did for their faith.

    • Suffering for the ‘Gospel faith’ (v. 27) instead of just suffering in general.

  • We may not suffer, but we can stand with our brother’s and sisters across the globe who do.

    • Paul, writing from a Roman prison, is standing with his faithful Philippian brother’s and sisters who are undergoing suffering!

    • This then, I believe, is a call to justice for all of those who suffer as a result of the Gospel.

  • This also speaks of the opposition that Christian’s in the West may experience for their faith-based convictions - the existence of God, abortion, human sexuality, et cetera.

    • The material world we live in, trivializes the Spiritual.

  • No matter our situation, Paul is telling us that the courage and joy that God supplies us, sustains us -- even when we find ourselves living contrarily to the ideologies of the world around us.

The Positivity of Suffering?

  • “Suffering is a gift” does not mean that suffering itself is good.

    • We are not to seek out suffering, or inflict it on ourselves!

    • Paul can describe this suffering as a gift from God because God in his sovereignty used this suffering to serve his own good purposes. In the words of Joseph to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20)

  • Suffering for Christ can have two positive effects:

  1. It gives assurance of salvation

  2. It identifies the believer with the suffering of Christ.

  3. In this passage Paul dwells on the assurance of future salvation that comes to the believer who suffers for the faith.

  • Suffering for Christ provides clarity about who stands with God and who does not - those whose commitment to the Gospel is inauthentic, will most likely, not endure the trials of pain and discomfort.

  • “We … rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us (Rom. 5:3b–5).”

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