A Call to Celebration
Grounded in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians
- Each person in the group could be invited to share either a funny or inspiring story which they have heard provided its not too long.
- Invite each person in the group to say one thing which they appreciate about the person who sits on their right.
- Have a discussion about responsibility.; e.g.: Do people today take their responsibilities seriously enough? What’s the relationship between freedom and responsibility?
- To what organisations do members of the group belong? Make a list of church, work, social, recreational, educational, political or other organisations in which they hold membership.
- Read Philippians 2: 12 – 18 and the accompanying comment
Philippians 2:12 – 18
vv 12-13: Paul is in the process of chiding people in the Philippian church, but by addressing them as “My Beloved” he puts his criticism within the context of love. And the love that he speaks of is that unconditional, sacrificial, generous love (agape), which Jesus displayed. Correction should always take place within the atmosphere of genuine, caring love. This is true in family life and it needs to be seen in the life of the Church. People will accept reproof or correction if it is seen to come out of love. Without love it produces a hostile, defensive reaction.The Philippian Christians have been dependent upon Paul, but he points out that now they have to stand on their own feet. They have to take responsibility for their own discipleship. By the grace of God they have been given the gift of salvation. It is up to them now to work out what that means in daily life. Paul is not here lapsing into some doctrine of salvation by works, but rather is saying, “You have been healed or set free, now go and work out how to live daily as whole and free people.”But we are not left entirely to our own resources in this. God, in his Spirit, is at work in us giving us both a desire for God’s way and the ability to live that way. It is a cooperative enterprise. We have to put effort into living the way of Jesus, but we can do it only as we are empowered by the Holy Spirit within.Through Paul we are advised here to work out the implications of our salvation with fear and trembling. Don’t trade on the grace of God. Yes, if you offend God you can ask for and receive forgiveness, but don’t set out on any course of action with that escape clause uppermost in your mind any more than a young couple should be encouraged to enter marriage with the possibility of a divorce uppermost in their minds. You are called to obey, to live God’s way as revealed in Jesus. If you have a genuine desire to live God’s way, you will be most anxious not to depart from it.
vv. 14-15: Obedience to the will and way of God must come from the heart. There must be no grumbling or complaining but a willingness to do what God wants. But this is not easy. It runs counter to much of what we have been taught and to the ways of people generally. Yet, in so far as people do live this way they stand out as different, they have a purity which others do not have, they shine like stars in the darkness of the world.
vv.16-18: Looking forward to the return of Christ, when he will complete all that has been begun through his life, death and resurrection, Paul tells his readers that he wants to look back then and know that the work he put in with the Philippians and others has not been wasted. Sometimes Christians see results for their efforts, but often they do not know what effect they have had on the lives of other people.It is by holding fast to the word of life, living it out in practice, that his readers will prove that he did not work in vain. It’s not what we preach so much as the way we conduct our church affairs that shows the way of Christ. It is not so much the doctrine we believe as the generous, considerate, compassionate, grace-filled life which we live as individuals which shows the influence of Christ upon us.Athletic training proves its worth in results at the competition. Only then will the athlete be able to look back and say that it was all worth while. Paul uses this image in relation to his work with the Philippian Christians. At the return of Christ, he wants to be able to look back on his work at Philippi and know that it was not in vain.He uses another image as well. It is of the priest who pours a libation over the sacrifice. He likens his work among them to a drink offering and the Philippians to the sacrificial animal itself. This might seem to dwell on the difficulties and hardship encountered in the living of the Christian life, but he counters this with his theme of rejoicing. He rejoices in their faith as he also calls on them to rejoice with him in his faith even if it is being lived out in prison.
1. Paul seeks to correct something wrong in the life of the Philippian church. (a) What was it? (b) What can we learn from the way he went about it?
2. The Philippian Christians were told to accept responsibility for working out the implications of their salvation. (a) What is meant by salvation? (b) Give examples of what it means to work out the implications of one’s salvation in daily life.
3. Christians are called to live lives which are noticeably different from those around them. (a) Have you met people whose faith made them noticeably different from others? Perhaps you could share. (b) Why isn’t the difference more generally recognizable?
4. Paul was concerned about having wasted his efforts if the people of faith did not live out their faith in practice. (a) Does our church do enough to help people live out their faith in daily life? What more could be done?(b) When we are saved by the grace of God received in faith, why put such emphasis on the way we live?
- Pray for people who feel weighed down and in need of recharging, for people who pour themselves out in service to others, for the service activities of your own church.
- List things in the life of the church for which you can rejoice and then give expression to them in prayer.