We’re studying Philippians 1:12-21 for Sunday, January 20. Here are a few questions for the text that we might want to consider before or during class:
What do we think Paul means when he says “the brothers and sisters [have been] made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment” (v12)? Can we think of a situation in which we would be made more confident after a member of our group ended up in jail than we were before? What light does that shed on this passage? Or on the kind of “fearlessness” Paul is talking about?
Paul specifically mentions that the gospel is being made known to the Praetorian guard (v13) – an elite group of the Roman military somewhat analogous to the Secret Service, with a reputation for intrigue and an arrogant disregard for ordinary people. Does this sound like a promising “target audience” for the gospel? Why or why not? When we think of the “target audience” for the gospel, who do we think of? Why is that, do we think? Who do we not think of? Again, why is that? What do we notice about that?
In verses 15-18, Paul mentions people’s motives for Christian preaching, noting that some are “sincere” or “loving,” while others include “envy,” “rivalry,” or “ambition.” Paul seems to be separating the motives behind preaching from the content of preaching here – how possible is that, do we think? How possible is it for us? Why is that? How close do we feel to Paul’s attitude about this kind of preaching? Why is that? What would we like to explain to Paul about this? What would Paul explain to us, do we think?
Does Paul feel sincere to us when he says he “rejoices” at the proclamation of Christ? Why, or why not? Would we have Paul’s attitude in his position (or, what we suppose is his position)? Why, or why not? What difference does this make to the way we read this text?
When Paul says “For to me, living is Christ …” (v21), what does that seem to mean? How does the earlier part of the text help us understand that? [More personal] How would we, ourselves, complete the sentence, “For to me, living is __________” ? How do we feel about that? Why is that?
Since Philippians is a letter written from prison, we may want to recall that people continue to be put in prison for matters of conscience in today’s world. Here are a handful of links:
A freedom of religion rationale in the case of aid to immigrants (Background on the case of Dr. Scott Warren is here, among other places.)
From The Guardian, possibly an example of imprisonment making people bolder, in this case the imprisonment of anti-fracking protestors in the UK.