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Reviews | Philippians Study Guide

Philippians Study Guide

Michael Owen

Paperback

56 pages

Philippians Study Guide

The Christadelphian review (from January 1989)

Philippians Study Guide

THE Letter to the Philippians provides a marvellous start to this series of Study Guides. Through the inspired pen of the Apostle Paul the love of Christ overflows onto the believers at Philippi in an expression of warmth and spiritual vitality which must have moved them then as it moves us now. Within its four chapters the epistle captures the essence of discipleship. The believer begins by laying a foundation of total commitment to the first principles of truth and then matures to reflect the love of Christ in a life of warmth, joy and enduring concern for fellow believers.

It is in order to foster this spiritual growth and dedication to the truth amongst brethren and sisters that the series of Study Guides has been commenced. Designed to help those who are new to Bible study or find it difficult, they set out to overcome the barriers that may hinder a brother or sister from seeking for themselves spiritual nourishment in the Word of Life. If the Guides are used prayerfully and diligently they will undoubtedly achieve this aim, particularly if subsequent productions come up to the standard set by Brother Michael Owen in this, the first.

Foundation Principles

Following a general introduction there is a section giving useful background information on the Roman colony of Philippi and its influence on the Ecclesia. The epistle is then divided into sections and the study proper begins with an overview of these in paraphrase form to enable the reader to grasp the Letter as a whole. Each section then becomes the subject of verse by verse analysis. Finally, the closing section entitled “Moving On” introduces the reader to a concordance and suggests ways of continuing unaided.

The emphasis throughout is on leading readers to the Bible. We are constantly encouraged to read, think, and apply. Indeed, the opening paragraph reminds us that it is only “through knowledge and understanding of the Word of God a person may become ‘wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus’”.

No opportunity is lost to bring out the need for firm foundations based on first principles. From the example of Lydia we are reminded that conversion is purely a response to the Word of God. From the Philippian jailor we discover that whatever the circumstances, instruction is essential before baptism. From Paul’s expression of joy in the disciples’ fellowship we are reminded that emotion follows conversion rather than causes it. The very meaning of fellowship is examined in connection with the Greek word koinonia and its implications for believers. There can be no question that the followers of Christ are of one mind in their common beliefs, and our attention is drawn to the vigour with which the Spirit through Paul urges the Philippians to deal with the Judaizers. Other examples of first principle teaching abound.

Fellowship in Action

But fellowship also means “a common life together, showing forth the qualities of Christ’s character”. What this way of life means in reality is the subject of a number of sections examining what it meant for the Philippians and then seeking to apply it to ourselves. The full extent of the Ecclesia’s concern for Paul comes to light when we realise that, despite their poverty, the brethren and sisters sent Epaphroditus on a six-week journey bearing gifts for the imprisoned Apostle. His response was no less in both word and deed. In the light of these and other examples of faithful service, Brother Michael suggests that we may wish to re-examine our own lives with a view to emulating our first-century brethren.

There are lessons for the family in Christ as a family; different ways of preaching are considered; the need for unity through submission to one another, as Euodias and Syntyche are exhorted, is brought out, and so on. The epistle’s many references to practical living in Christ are used to the full in reminding us of what is meant by the Way of Life.

While the basic approach is explanation and commentary, other methods of teaching are also adopted. Each section ends with a series of questions headed “Test yourself”, which means precisely that. Some questions are factual, referring to the section just completed and to which answers are provided at the end of the Guide. Others are more personal, of the kind which involve an element of heart-searching. Key themes are picked out from the text and become the subject of a discourse in their own right. An example of this is “Understanding Prayer”, based on chapter 1:9–11. Throughout the text there are frequent illustrations and maps which enhance the modern and attractive presentation.

Who then will benefit from this (and future) Study Guides? It needs to be borne in mind that the intention is to help those who are new to the Scriptures rather than provide detailed exposition for more experienced Bible students. The fact that words such as “Gentile” and “Apostle” are explained is an indication of the overall approach; clearly then, an ideal opportunity for those who have always wanted to undertake Bible study but were unsure as to how to make the first step. Used for private study, group discussion or simply to accompany the readings, the Guide provides a valuable source of information on the Letter to the Philippians. At the same time it introduces a number of Scriptural principles in a brief and concise manner that is particularly refreshing.

But it should not be seen to have a limited readership. Most brethren and sisters will enjoy it; and the practical applications drawn from the studies should be relevant and appealing, particularly to the young. The present writer found it a pleasure and an exhortation and can only endorse the comment that it should be helpful to “those of all ages and experience who enjoy straight-forward, uncomplicated study of the Bible”.

MICHAEL LEWIS

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