Today’s Scripture Focus: Philippians 2:1-13
Do you ever get a tune “stuck” in your head? It seems the older we get, the more songs are added to our mental juke box, and memories seem to often evoke melodies. This can be a positive thing as a Christian. When we are in a challenging situation, we will recall the words to a favorite hymn from childhood long before the last Sunday’s “words of wisdom” from the pastor. Our scripture focus today contains what may be the oldest Christian hymn of which we have record. Paul used a song that would have been familiar to the Philippians to teach them about being “like minded” with Christ and with one another.
Philippians 2 is a continuation of the thought begun at the end of chapter 1. Paul’s is overjoyed that the church at Philippi has been obedient to God and remembered him in his trouble. The only thing that will give him greater joy is for them to have the same care for one another. We don’t know what was going on in the Philippian church, but there are hints throughout the letter of some sort of internal conflict (example—4:2). Paul, knowing that his death is a possibility, is concerned that this great church with which he has such a special relationship may divide after he’s gone. They must stand together, or they will fall apart.
Verses 6-11 are believed to be an early hymn. These words very likely didn’t originate with Paul, but he and the Philippians would have sung them together in worship. This early first century hymn was meant to teach new Christians. Remember that the churches Paul founded didn’t have a New Testament yet, and most early believers didn’t know much about Jesus. The hymn uses the word form to convey that Jesus went from being equal with God to becoming a man, then went as low as one could go by becoming a slave and dying on a cross, only to be exalted to the place of God again, and was crowned Lord over every creature in the universe.
It’s a very theological hymn, but Paul used it to teach a practical truth—if Jesus humbled Himself to serve others, then Christians must humble themselves to serve others. Only when we consider the needs of others as greater than our own can we have the mindset necessary for a church to thrive. In light of Jesus’ example, Paul admonished his readers to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” This isn’t talking about having to earn your own salvation from sin. Paul is saying that as Christians, we must work at loving one another, or we are lost. Putting others first and not caring if we get credit doesn’t come to us naturally—we must allow God to do that work in us and through us! (v 13)
- Go around the table and share prayer requests. Have someone lead in prayer.
- Let everyone who would like to share anything exciting from their week.
- Ask these three questions. Let as many answer each one as they would like.
What are the benefits Paul lists in Phil 2:1 of serving Christ? What does Paul say in verse 2 his readers should do if they have received these benefits?
Talk about some ways that songs have been especially meaningful to you or helped you in your walk with Christ.
“To live above with saints we love; oh that will be glory. But to live below with saints we know—well, that’s a different story.” Are there “saints” you are having trouble serving right now? As a class, pray that you will allow God to show you ways to lovingly put yourself in their shoes.