A Call to Celebration

Grounded in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians

Session Five

  • Invite members of the group to share something good that has happened to them of late, something that has made them smile, laugh or feel happy.
  • Talk about the things that make you really happy.
  • Write letters of appreciation to people who do things in your church; for example : people who clean the church, mow the grounds, arrange flowers; serve as welcomers, stewards, or elders; musicians; people who serve on committees or who work with handicapped people or visit the sick or the aged; the Minister.
  • Read Philippians 2: 1-11 and the accompanying comment.

Philippians 2: 1 – 11

vv. 1-2: Paul knew Christ as an on-going companion, encouraging and helping him along the way. He drew great strength from his knowledge of the love of Christ and from the action of the Holy Spirit in his life. He lived within the compassion and mercy of Christ. But these were not experiences which he alone had; he shared them with other disciples of Christ, like the Christians he was writing to in Philippi. They can still be the Christian’s experience today.However, he says, there is one thing preventing him from feeling completely happy in all of this, and that is the disunity that has crept into the Philippian church. He appeals to their own experience of these things in his plea for unity. Being in a close, warm, trusting, responsive, obedient relationship with Christ (being ‘in Christ’), knowing the love which Christ has for them, having the presence and power of the Holy Spirit with them, and being part of a community held together by fellow-feeling with each other, he asks them to work harmoniously together sharing the same approach and attitude, moved always by love and consistently giving themselves to one agreed objective.Life with Christ is a life of joy, but there are sadneses which cloud that joy. Not the sadness which arises our of our self-centredness – grief, loss, hurt, disappointment; but the sadness which arises out of our love for others – other people’s loss or hurt, the sinfulness which spoils human life and separates people from God, the disunity and disruption which tears people, families, nations apart.

vv. 3 – 4: What is it that wrecks Christian unity? What is it that wrecks a spirit of unity in families, nations, the international community, anywhere ? It is selfishness – selfish ambition, selfish pride, selfish behaviour. So Paul tells his readers to get rid of this selfishness, and the only way to do that is to replace it with something else. He suggests replacing it with that sort of humility which appreciates the achievements of other people. That really is another way of putting in practice the commands which Jesus highlighted : love God and love your neighbour.

vv. 5 – 11: The great example is Jesus Christ himself. We could take many examples from his life as recorded in the Gospels, but Paul chose to focus on what is called the doctrine of the incarnation. The Son of God has always shared divinity with God the Father, yet he did not stand on his dignity and refuse to lower himself, but, in fact, emptied himself, as it were, of his divinity to become a human being. Far from being gods, human beings are meant to serve God, but no one has done that more completely than Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He lived in complete submission to his heavenly Father. He took upon himself the life-style of a slave. Now that demonstrates a love-prompted humility. But he went even further than that. He gave up immortality to experience death, but not only did he die, he died the shameful death of crucifixion.(Session 5 continued)You might think that the most important people are those who get the headlines, who have the biggest investment portfolios, who are listed among the most glamorous people in the world, who control the biggest armies or who govern the most powerful nations, but the most important person to have ever lived was this man who gave up any semblance of selfishness in complete submission to the will of God. His name stands higher than any other name in history, he ranks higher than anyone else whether on earth or in heaven and all people are invited to recognize his pre-eminence.

Discuss the following

1. Paul gives expression to the joy that he finds in Christ.  (a) What do you think is the greatest joy to be found in Christ? (b) In your experience, what sadness limits this joy?

2. Paul made an appeal for unity within the congregation.  (a) How should that unity be expressed?  (b) How can we improve the spirit of unity in our congregation?

3. We are exhorted to have the same mind that was in Christ Jesus. (a) How does this differ from the attitude that most people have? (b) Describe how Christ-like humility looks in practice.

4. This passage has something to say about true greatness.  (a) Why can Jesus be called the most important person to have ever lived? (b) How does this teaching on true greatness affect you?

  • Pray for the gift of Christ-like humility in your own life.
  • Give thanks for the contributions made by others to the life of your congregation.
  • Give thanks for each person in your group individually.