Paul's Prison Epistles

Study at Home Series

Investigate Paul's letters from prison and consider his responses to many of the difficulties we face as Christians.

For other Study at Home Series, click here

For the Group Leader

Instructor: Dr. Reggie Kidd

Thank you for leading a small group study! At Thirdmill we produce teaching materials to help church leaders study and teach the Bible more deeply. We are grateful you have chosen to let us accompany you as you grow in your knowledge and application of the Scriptures.

With this 10-week study, you will lead participants through the series Paul’s Prison Epistles. Together you will explore the background to Paul’s imprisonment and the theological unity of the letters he wrote from prison to the Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon. Our hope is that along the way, you find encouragement in Paul’s perseverance in the face of injustice and suffering and delight in the rich theology preserved for us in these letters.

This study is designed to build community and foster learning in a group setting like a Bible study or adult Sunday school. It can be done online or in person.

Each session is expected to take about 60 minutes. The lesson includes approximate times for each section to help you guide your group through the material within that time frame. However, feel free to adapt the timing to your circumstances and the needs of your group.

Read – Each session includes several chapters of recommended reading from Paul’s writings and the story of his life and ministry as recorded in the book of Acts. We encourage you to ground the lesson in this primary source material by reading these chapters yourself and by encouraging the participants to read them as well.

Connect – Each session begins with some introductory comments and a reflection question (or questions). These questions help participants get to know each other as they share about non-threatening areas of their lives. Once a person speaks in a small group setting, they are much more likely to participate in a more personal discussion later. We recommend that you give participants a short time to write an answer to the question on their handout, and then invite each participant to briefly answer the question out loud. If your group is large, you can have them answer in one sentence without an explanation, or you can divide the group into pairs or threes. If your group is online, participants can write their answers in the chat box.

Watch – Each session includes a 15-20-minute video. To help participants get the most out of the video, please print and distribute copies of the handout for them to fill in as they watch the video. A link to the handout can be found at the end of each session. We recommend that you, as the group leader, watch the video and fill in the answers before the session. You do not need to review the answers with the group; however, be prepared to provide any answers participants may have missed. (Note: To keep the videos under 20 minutes, some content from the original videos has been removed. If anyone wants to experience the full-length videos, they can find them along with other resources, including manuscripts and a forum where experts answer questions raised by the lesson, on the series page Paul’s Prison Epistles.)

Discuss – Each session includes a series of questions related to the content of the video. While facilitating this section, you should make it a priority to rein in participants who might try to dominate the time, as well as to draw out participants who are quieter and slower to respond.

Apply – Each session invites participants to engage more deeply with themes from the lesson, often drawn from parts of the video not included in the “Watch” section. Please give equal, if not more, time to this section than to the “Discuss” section.

Challenge – Each session finishes with questions to prompt personal application of the content. Give time for participants to consider their answers and write them on the handout. Then give time for several people to share what they have written for one or two of the questions. We recommend that you always hear several brief answers about what has encouraged and what has challenged the group. Do not require people to share answers that require vulnerability, but model transparency yourself. Hopefully, as the study progresses, trust will grow among the participants, and they will become a community of true fellowship.

May God use your investment in this study to help you and your community grow in your appreciation of Jesus’ redemptive work and in your participation in his kingdom.

Session 1

Persecution and Injustice Meet God’s Plans

READ

Acts 21:1–28:16

CONNECT (10 minutes)

Paul’s words to the church, “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts … Be thankful” (Colossians 3:15), and “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4), take on a deeper meaning when we remember that he wrote those words from prison. So, before we study Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians, and Philemon, we will look at the circumstances around Paul when he wrote them.

REFLECTION

What advice would you give to a friend who is choosing to walk into a highly charged situation where they may face persecution for their faith in Jesus?

WATCH (20 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. What is something new you learned about Paul and his ministry from the video?
  2. Many people warned Paul about the suffering that awaited him in Jerusalem. Why did these warnings prepare Paul for the future instead of making him change his plans?
  3. How did Paul’s past experience of trusting the Holy Spirit guide him?
  4. Describe Paul’s posture towards his suffering and the injustice he received.
  5. When Jesus was accused, he was silent like a sheep at the slaughterhouse. However, Paul defended himself eloquently. What role did God’s specific plans for Jesus and for Paul play in their decision to speak or not?
  6. How did Paul’s confinement in Rome fulfill a greater purpose in God's plan to get the gospel to everybody?

APPLY (15 minutes)

Paul’s unjust imprisonment restricted his body but not his ministry. Dr. Reggie Kidd explains in Lesson 1 of Paul’s Prison Epistles:

Paul was an apostle. Jesus had personally called and trained Paul and appointed him to serve as his ambassador, his covenant emissary. And as strange as it may sound to us today, Paul’s appointed tasks were not put on hold when he was imprisoned. On the contrary, in God’s providence, prison was exactly where God wanted Paul to be at this time in his life. God himself had orchestrated events so that Paul’s imprisonment in Rome would provide the opportunity for Paul to continue to spread the Gospel of Christ.

Paul’s imprisonment created fresh expressions of four things that were already well-developed in his ministry:

  • Preaching – Paul had preached boldly since Jesus met him on the road to Damascus. While in prison and under house arrest in Rome, Paul had a series of new audiences to preach to, and he asked for prayer that he could proclaim the gospel boldly (Ephesians 6:19, 20).
  • Praying – All of Paul’s letters regularly mention his prayers for the church as well as for individual believers. Paul had even more time to spend in prayer when he was in one place than when he was busy traveling, teaching in churches, and making tents. And the letters he wrote from prison contain some of the richest prayers for others in all of Scripture (Philippians 1:9-11; Colossians 1:9-12; Ephesians 1:15-23; 3:14-19).
  • Suffering – Paul had already been beaten, imprisoned, and shipwrecked but his final arrest and imprisonment added fresh suffering to his life: unjust accusations, plots against his life, corrupt politicians leaving him to rot in jail while they hoped for a bribe, physical danger and suffering, as well as the fact that it kept him from visiting the churches he loved so much.
  • Writing – Paul wrote letters to churches throughout his ministry but when he was in prison his letters became the way for him to continue his pastoral and teaching ministries.
  1. What part of Paul’s example resonates with what God calls you to do personally to advance the gospel and build up the body of Christ?
  2. What gifts and abilities of yours has God used to grow and strengthen his Kingdom?
  3. What changes in your life circumstances (recent or upcoming) could affect these gifts and abilities? Brainstorm ways that God could use your gifts and abilities in new ways in this new situation.

CHALLENGE

Think of a way that you are suffering or have suffered as a result of someone else's sinful choices. What from Paul’s example could encourage you to fix your mind on God and his purposes instead of other people’s sin.

Finish with a time of prayer. Include prayer for believers who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ.

Handout: Session 1

Word  PDF

Session 2

Theology from a Prison Cell

READ

Acts 28:16-31; 1 Corinthians 13; Philippians 2

CONNECT (10 minutes)

In the last lesson we saw wave after wave of suffering and injustice wash over Paul. In this lesson we are going to look at some of the topics that filled his prayers, letters, and conversations during these final years of his life which were marked by ongoing suffering and imprisonment.

REFLECTION

What themes would people say you come back to again and again in conversations?

WATCH (20 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. What is something you want to remember from the video?
  2. What reasons does Paul give for why Christ deserves honor?
  3. How does Paul explain the fact that although Jesus Christ rules over the entire creation with absolute power, there is still sin and suffering in the world?
  4. According to Paul, how does our union with Christ provide us comfort in the midst of suffering?

APPLY (15 minutes)

  1. In what ways are the three doctrines that unify Paul’s letters from prison (Jesus Christ as King of creation, believers’ union with Christ, and a call to ethical living) related to each other?
  2. If Jesus Christ is King over all creation, what does this mean for our ethics?
  3. Read Philippians 1:27 and Colossians 1:10. What additional reasons does Paul give for believers to obey Christ and his commands?
  4. In what ways do the three repeated doctrines in Paul’s letters from prison run counter to the cultural beliefs or practices in the community, city, or culture where you live?
  5. For most Christians, there is nothing new in these doctrines, yet we often lose sight of them in our everyday lives. Why do you think this happens?
  6. What impact does being convinced that these doctrines are true have on a person’s life?

CHALLENGE

What does it mean to you personally that Jesus is King?

Let the following quote from Dr. David B. Garner, lead you into a time of praise and thanksgiving to your King Jesus Christ:

What we now have at our disposal by virtue of our union with Jesus Christ is the power, actually, to say yes to Christ, to say yes to God’s expectations upon us. No longer is the law merely something that condemns, but by the outpouring of the Spirit and fulfillment of the new covenant, realized in the resurrected Christ, who is the life-giving Spirit, we are empowered, we are enabled, we are motivated now to respond in obedience to God in Christ. So, our union with Christ actually fleshes itself out in the way in which we walk in delighted obedience, and knowing that when we sin, oh!, we have an advocate with the Father who stands and lives ever to intercede for us. But in that reality, in that repentance, as we enjoy that forgiveness, we are compelled once again to live in the dynamic of resurrection power because Jesus Christ is raised, and we are raised with him.

Handout: Session 2

Word  PDF

Session 3

How to Get the Life You Want

READ

Colossians 1-4

CONNECT (10 minutes)

Paul wrote his letter to the church in Colossae to counteract false teachers who were mixing Christianity with other practices ranging from Greek philosophy to a misuse of Jewish traditions and even the veneration of spiritual beings. These heresies might sound unrelated to your life, but in this study, we’ll see how Paul revealed the desires behind practices and showed us how God invites us to satisfy the longings of our hearts.

REFLECTION

  • If you could have any “superpower,” what would you want?
  • What might this choice reveal about what you value or want out of life?

WATCH (20 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. What is something you want to remember from the video?
  2. Why did Paul denounce asceticism?
  3. What are some of the effects of regeneration discussed in the video?
  4. Explain what this statement means: “The spiritual or heavenly matters Paul had in mind still require our participation in the world.”

APPLY (15 minutes)

The Colossians longed for wisdom, power, and freedom from sin. Those desires aren’t bad. Christ offers all of that and more. The problem was that the Colossians were looking for those things somewhere other than in Christ and, as a result, they ended up not free, but enslaved. Author Andy Crouch says this is what always happens when we use created things to pursue a rich, full life: “Idols promise freedom and deliver slavery, offer authority and deliver vulnerability, whisper fantasies of power but end up with us completely in their grip.”

  1. Crouch writes, “Every idol is an attempt to gain an edge on the world and to have some leverage over chaos.”
    • Identify three things that the community or culture around you uses to gain an edge on the world or have some leverage over chaos.
  2. Read Colossians 3:5-9 and 12-16.
    • In what ways do the things you mentioned foster the old nature described in verses 5-9?
    • In what ways do they foster the new one (verses 12-16)?
    • What does this make you think?

CHALLENGE

What is one thing you want to remember from this study?

Let Colossians 1:9-14 guide your time of prayer.

And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

Handout: Session 3

Word  PDF

Session 4

The Greatest of All Time

READ

Colossians 1 - 4

CONNECT (10 minutes)

Have you ever thought something was white, maybe a piece of clothing or a painted wall, until you set something beside it that was really white? It can be shocking to see just how yellowed or gray something is that we thought of as white. In a similar way, the brilliant glory of Jesus Christ shows up the true condition of everything else. Some things are revealed to be just a shadow of things to come (Colossians 2:17), while others can be seen clearly as sinful—things we need to struggle against (Colossians 3:5).

In the book of Colossians, we find one of the most emotionally stirring and theologically profound descriptions of Jesus Christ in the whole Bible. Paul wrote this description to counteract the false teaching and loathsome practices that had infiltrated the church in Colossae. In this study, we will explore this vision of Jesus and how it can orient our own lives today.

REFLECTION

What is one quality of Jesus that you wish you had more of in your life?

WATCH (20 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. What is one thing you want to remember from the video?
  2. In Colossians 1:15-20 Paul mentions six ways in which Christ is superior to the rulers and authorities. He is:
    • the image of God
    • the firstborn of all creation
    • the agent of creation
    • the supreme Lord
    • God incarnate
    • the only reconciler between God and humanity
    1. Which of these are difficult for people around you to believe? Why?
    2. What has helped you or someone you know become convinced of Christ’s superiority?

APPLY (15 minutes)

  1. The false teachers claimed to be superior because of their experiences with spiritual beings and visions that gave them special knowledge. In addition to highlighting the superiority of Christ, Paul also counteracts these claims by reminding the Colossians that their own spiritual experience is far superior to that of the false teachers.

    From each of the following passages, mention what the believers in Colossae already had in Christ:
    1. Colossians 1:5
    2. Colossians 1:6
    3. Colossians 1:13
    4. Colossians 1:14
    5. Colossians 1: 21, 22
  2. Paul fills his letter to the Colossians with instructions for how they should live, individually and corporately, because of all that Christ had done for them. Pick at least two of the following things Paul mentions and discuss specific, practical things you can do in your day-to-day life to “walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him” (Colossians 1:10).
    1. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness … anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk … lie[s] (Colossians 3:5-9).
    2. Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator … compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other (Colossians 3:10-13).
    3. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts (Colossians 3:15).
    4. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs (Colossians 3:16).
    5. Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord (Colossians 3:18). / Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them (Colossians 3:18-19).
    6. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord (Colossians 3:20). / [Parents], do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged (Colossians 3:21).
    7. [Employees] … whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men (Colossians 3:22, 23). / [Employers], treat your [employees] justly and fairly, knowing that you also have a [boss] in heaven (Colossians 4:1).

CHALLENGE

Engage your head and your heart by praising Christ for his supremacy in all six areas mentioned by Paul in Colossians 1:15-20:

  • The image of God
  • The firstborn of all creation
  • The agent of creation
  • The supreme Lord
  • God incarnate
  • The only reconciler between God and humanity

Handout: Session 4

Word  PDF

Session 5

Identity and Community

READ

Ephesians 1-3

CONNECT (10 minutes)

Identity and inclusion are hot topics right now. Behind the question “Who am I?” lies the deeper one, “Whose am I?” Your answer to that question determines how you see yourself and how you relate to the people and world around you.

In the book of Ephesians, Paul gets at the heart of these issues as he teaches about life in the kingdom of God.

REFLECTION

Think of a group you belong to, maybe a club, a society, or even your country.

  1. What privileges does your membership give you?
  2. What responsibilities do you have because you are a member?

WATCH (20 minutes)

Note: If someone has questions about Paul’s authorship of Ephesians, refer them to the section Authorship (minutes 3:55–7:26) in the Thirdmill video Paul’s Prison Epistles - Lesson 3: “Paul and the Ephesians.”

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. What is one thing you want to remember from the video?
  2. According to the video and your reading of the book of Ephesians:
    1. What benefits come from being citizens of the kingdom of God?
    2. What responsibilities do we have towards our King?
  3. How can the metaphor of the Temple guide our relationships with other believers?
  4. For personal reflection:
    1. What relationship do you need to apply this to?
    2. Bring this to God in prayer.
    3. After you pray about this, what specific action can you take this week to better align that relationship with what you have seen in Ephesians?

APPLY (15 minutes)

  1. In Ephesians, Paul draws his readers’ attention to God’s kingdom in a variety of ways. For example, he refers to them as “citizens.” He associates their spiritual warfare with required military service and their inheritance as followers of Christ with God’s kingdom, and he speaks of himself as an ambassador, which was an official governmental position. Compare and contrast the political government you live under to that of a monarchy in which the monarch has full and absolute political power.
    1. In what ways is it similar?
    2. In what ways is it different?
    3. How do these similarities and differences help or hinder you from understanding what it means to be a citizen of God’s kingdom?
  2. Read Ephesians 2:1-10. What similarities do you see between your personal experience and Paul’s description of the process of a person’s citizenship being transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light?

CHALLENGE

Think of some friends, relatives, or co-workers who are still “separated from Christ… having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12).

  1. What part of your experience and relationship with God could you use as a bridge to introduce Christ into a conversation?
  2. Ask God to prepare their hearts, open their eyes, and give you the opportunity to share this with them.

Handout: Session 5

Word  PDF

Session 6

Get Strong

READ

Ephesians 4-6

CONNECT (10 minutes)

The book of Ephesians paints a comprehensive picture of the Christian life: how it begins; how it will end (“And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ--everything in heaven and on earth.” Ephesians 1:10, NLT); and what we should be doing in the meantime.

God’s expectations for the citizens of his kingdom are exacting, and he sends us to the front lines of a cosmic war. If this feels overwhelming, good. It is. Only when you feel the limits of your powers can you appreciate the power Paul talks about in Ephesians.

REFLECTION

  1. What specific activity, when you do it, makes you feel strong? (You love doing it, you feel like you do it well, and afterwards you feel that it was worthwhile.)
  2. What activity makes you feel weak or vulnerable? (You dislike doing it, it makes you feel anxious, bored, or drained.)

WATCH (20 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. What is one thing you want to remember from the video?
  2. How does knowing the challenges that Paul was addressing help you better understand this letter?
  3. Describe how your church struggles with one of the challenges that faced the original audience.
  4. From what Paul wrote in the book of Ephesians, what might help your church with this struggle?

APPLY (15 minutes)

  1. What stands out to you about the power to carry out God's expectations in the following verses:
    1. Ephesians 1:19, 20
    2. Ephesians 2:4-8
    3. Ephesians 2:14-19
    4. Ephesians 2:20-21
  2. How can you use the activity that makes you feel strong to glorify God, expand and purify his kingdom, and/or minister to his people?
  3. How can activities that make you feel weak or vulnerable contribute to glorifying God, expanding and purifying his kingdom, and/or ministering to his people?

CHALLENGE

What is something you want to remember from the two studies on the book of Ephesians?

What can you do differently this week as a result of your insight?

Pray through Ephesians 3:14-21, personalizing it with your own words of praise and mentioning specific names and concerns.

Handout: Session 6

Word  PDF

Session 7

Paul and Power Dynamics

READ

Philemon, 2 Corinthians 1:3-11; 4:1-18

CONNECT (10 minutes)

It’s easy to overlook Paul’s letter to his friend Philemon. The whole book is only 25 verses long, and it brings up the debate about what Paul and the Bible say about slavery. But this letter gives us the chance to get up close and personal with Paul and observe how he lived out the lofty truths he wrote about in his other letters in a complex interpersonal situation.

REFLECTION

  1. Who is the most famous person you have ever met?
  2. What stood out to you about them when you were actually in their presence?

WATCH (20 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. What stands out to you from the video and your reading of the book of Philemon?
  2. Drawing from both the video and your reading of Philemon:
    1. Describe Philemon and Paul’s relationship with him.
    2. Describe Paul’s relationship with Onesimus.
  3. What does Paul hope to accomplish through his letter?

APPLY (15 minutes)

  1. Describe Paul's posture as he advocates for Onesimus.
  2. Read and summarize Galatians 3:26-29.
    1. How do you see Paul living out this teaching in the book of Philemon?
    2. How does he encourage others to do the same?
  3. In the Thirdmill video Paul’s Prison Epistles - Lesson 4: “Paul and Philemon,” Dr. Steve Blakemore observes:
When he writes to Philemon, Paul is endeavoring to persuade Philemon to think about Onesimus in a different way. He doesn’t simply command Philemon to release Onesimus, even though Paul assumes that he would have that kind of spiritual authority, but instead … he is calling upon Philemon to look at Onesimus as his brother in Jesus Christ, his true spiritual equal in Jesus Christ, because that’s the way Paul can see this new creation that God had established, this manifestation of God’s new reign through his Messiah and Savior in the world. And so, he is endeavoring to help Philemon mentally or spiritually walk into a brand-new reality and begin to relate to Onesimus and others in a way that reflects the reality that God has established for our lives when we are in Jesus Christ.
  1. What can you do to live out this perspective of the relationship between fellow Christians?
  1. Read and summarize Ephesians 6:5-9:
    1. How do you see Paul living out this teaching in the book of Philemon?
    2. How does he encourage others to do the same?
  2. What habits can you incorporate into your life to relate to others in your workplace to be a good example of life lived God’s way?

CHALLENGE

“Refresh my Heart in Christ” (v. 20).

The apostle Paul has a reputation as a strong person. He had one of the greatest, most influential minds in history, and he endured physical, mental, and spiritual challenges that would have undone most people (2 Corinthians 11:24-28). Throughout Paul’s letters, we see that the source of his strength was not himself, but God’s sustaining grace, often expressed through the prayers and refreshment of other believers. As Paul writes to Philemon, “For I have derived much joy and comfort from your love, my brother, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you” (v. 7).

  1. Who has given you joy and comfort? How?
  2. Who do you know who needs to be refreshed? Pray for them now. Ask God to show you how you can refresh them this week.

Handout: Session 7

Word  PDF

Session 8

Accountability, Compassion, and Reconciliation

READ

Philemon, Colossians 1:1-14; 3:1-25; 4:1-9, 12, 13, 17

CONNECT (10 minutes)

As a young man, Paul was the star student of the foremost Old Testament scholar of his day and became infamous for his extreme measures to keep the Jewish faith pure. But after meeting Jesus face to face, Paul had a fuller picture of the God he thought he knew so well. This changed how Paul understood the way God wants his people to relate to each other.

“Compassionate and gracious” are the first words God uses to describe himself in Exodus 34:6 (NIV). He goes on to say that he is slow to anger, abounding in faithful love, and forgives all kinds of sin and rebellion. Similar to how our bodies need flexible skin and inflexible bones, these “soft” characteristics are complemented by God’s justice (“he does not leave the guilty unpunished,” v.7) and by his willingness to let the weight of consequences have an effect on people’s lives.

In Paul’s letter to Philemon, we see a model of what it looks like to live out all of these characteristics in the messiness of our relationships with other believers.

REFLECTION

Grace, compassion, patience, love, faithfulness, forgiveness, justice, willingness to apply consequences — which of these characteristics does your work or daily life require of you?

WATCH (20 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. What stands out to you from the video and your second reading of the book of Philemon?
  2. How does Paul hold Philemon accountable by offering him words of encouragement?
  3. Which of God’s characteristics, as described by him in Exodus 34:6, 7 (gracious and compassionate; slow to anger; abounding in covenant love and faithfulness; forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin; not clearing the guilty; applying consequences), do you see Paul living out in his relationship with Philemon and Onesimus?
  4. Which of God’s characteristics do you see Paul asking others to live out?

APPLY (15 minutes)

  1. This lesson describes three specific applications of the letter to Philemon: accountability through challenge and support, compassion expressed in kindness and in advocacy, and true reconciliation between fellow believers. Describe a time when you have experienced the positive effects of one of these.
  2. Read and meditate on Ephesians 5:1-21. Ask God to reveal to you where you and others in the body of Christ are reflecting God's character and where you need to be awakened.

CHALLENGE

  1. With whom do you have such transparent and regular communication that they will know where and when you need accountability and encouragement?
  2. When was the last time someone told you something that was difficult to hear? How did you respond?
  3. Onesimus and Philemon had to assume responsibility in order to restore their relationship. Is there any responsibility you need to assume in order to bring reconciliation to a fractured relationship?

Finish with a time of prayer.

Handout: Session 8

Word  PDF

Session 9

Partnership in the Gospel

READ

Philippians 1, 2; Acts 16:12-40, 20:1-6

CONNECT (10 minutes)

The book of Philippians is rich in contrasts: a call for joy in the midst of suffering and unity in the midst of division. In this lesson, we’ll delve into the special relationship between Paul and the believers in Philippi, one that he referred to as a “partnership in the gospel” (Philippians 1:5).

REFLECTION

Describe a time when you grew closer to someone because of working together towards a common goal.

WATCH (20 minutes)

DISCUSS (15 minutes)

  1. What stood out to you the most from the video?
  2. In Philippians 1:3-5, Paul expressed his gratitude for the Philippian believers. Read the following passages and summarize how the Philippians partnered with Paul in his ministry.
    1. Acts 16:13-15
    2. Acts 16:29-34
    3. Philippians 1:19
    4. Philippians 2:25
    5. Philippians 4:15-18
  3. Based on the following verses, which we recommend you read in a variety of translations, describe in your own words what it means to be partners in the gospel.
    1. Philippians 1:3-5
    2. Philippians 1:7
    3. Philippians 1:27
  4. In Philippians 1:7, Paul mentions that the believers in Philippi have a special place in his heart. Based on both the video and what you have read of the book of Philippians, in what ways does Paul express his love for the Philippian believers?

APPLY (15 minutes)

Addressing fractured relationships among the believers is one of Paul’s pastoral concerns in this letter. While some might perceive interpersonal conflict as a personal problem, it actually undermines the very purpose Paul shares with the Philippians. As Knox Chamblin states in his course on Philippians, “A fractured church violates the good news of the Gospel.”

  • Read Philippians 2:1-13 and summarize Paul’s plea to the Philippians.
  • On what basis does Paul plead for their unity in these verses?
  • What role does the example of Jesus and his humility play in Paul’s letter?
  • How does unity among believers contribute to the progress of the gospel?

CHALLENGE

  1. Do you have connections with believers from countries other than your own? If so, reach out to them and inquire about the situation and concerns of the church in their country. Ask for specific prayer needs or other ways you could support the church there. Use Philippians 1:9-11 as a foundation for your prayers.
  2. If you don't have such connections, utilize a resource like Operation World (https://operationworld.org/) or click the “languages” button on Thirdmill.org to guide your prayers for Christians around the world.

Handout: Session 9

Word  PDF

Welcome to Our Bible Study!

Sign up to receive email alerts when new series and installments are posted.