The book of Philippians is a familiar book for many of us. If you’ve been a digital subscriber for a while now you’ve studied less familiar passages – like the book of Jonah in January and February and the genealogy of Christ during Advent season. But many of us, if we’ve been in the church for some time, feel rather familiar with the book of Philippians. We grew up in Sunday school classes that taught us to “consider others interests ahead of your own” and to “let your manner be worthy of the gospel.” But even as these words ring familiar to us (and to me personally), my study of this book in preparation for this digital study has reminded me: this book is about so much more.
I used to think that Philippians was about practical instructions on living the Christian life. And, while it does have great one-liners about obedience and sanctification, it also holds out before us a robust theology of spiritual friendships. Embedded in the very structure of the book (which we’ll be looking at this week) and throughout the grammatical choices of the author we see a portrait of what partnership in the Gospel can and should look like.
This has been surprising to me, if I’m honest. In these studies I’m fairly intentional not to share too much about how I am applying these passages to my own life because, well, the study just isn’t about me. This isn’t my blog, it’s a Bible study. And, as such, I want to let each of us personalize and apply as the Spirit leads. But in the outset of my study the Lord has unearthed a struggle in my own heart that I think many of us can relate to: Christian friendships puzzle me. Though in different seasons of my life I have had deeply meaningful Christian friendships – friends who hold me accountable to being in the Word and repenting of my sin – I find that new Christian friendships can be difficult to make. Particularly in adulthood, spiritual friendships haven’t come terribly naturally to me. They confuse me, intimidate me, and frazzle me.
But the honest truth is this: I need them. I crave them. I want them.
We all need spiritual friendships. We need friends who point us to Christ when we stray, draw us to worship through their own sacrifice, and preach the Gospel us to us when we’re discouraged. Christians need other Christians – not just as co-church members, but as friends.
And that is part of what the book of Philippians is about. The book offers us a glorious look at a few friendships that honor the Lord and further His Kingdom. And, I don’t know about you, but I desperately want to learn from them.
Over the next nine weeks we will be looking at the book of Philippians. Our first week (this week) will be spent doing a book overview study so that we do the hard work of proper exegesis before we dive into the content and application. Every Monday through Friday you’ll see a new day of study posted here in your member portal, and there’s just a few things you’ll want to keep close by throughout the study: a double-spaced, printed copy of the book of Philippians (download here) unless you have a Bible you’re really comfortable marking up, this Book Overview outline (you will want a printed copy for this week’s study – starting tomorrow), and a notebook or some scrap paper to capture your thoughts and reflections. Everything else you need for the study – Greek tutorials, book overview worksheets, commentary, and questions for reflection – will be available here.
I’m so thrilled to have you join us for this study, and I can’t thank you enough for being a part of it. As we launch off on this new study, I’m praying that the Lord would meet you in your time, that His Spirit would illuminate the Text to you, and that you would embrace with joy the spiritual friendships He draws into your life.
FOR TODAY’S STUDY
I want to encourage you on this first day of study to read the entire book of Philippians. It’s only four chapters and it shouldn’t take too long. As you read, consider the various references to spiritual friendships. Close your time in prayer, asking God to prepare your heart to study this book and this topic. Ask Him to bring spiritual friends into your life, nurture the spiritual friendships you already have, and give you an open heart for His Spirit to be at work throughout the next nine weeks.