- What is said here or can be inferred about the character and career of Epaphroditus? Notice carefully how the two workers mentioned here personally exemplified the virtues considered under the previous study, i.e., they had the mind of Christ. Compare verses 20, 21 with 4, 5; and verses 29, 30 with 5-8. Examine your own life in relation to these standards.
- What phrase occurs three times in this passage and several other times in the letter? What clue does 4:2 give as to one reason for this repeated emphasis? Are our hopes for the future and our relationships under the same sway as Paul’s?
Paul now turns to another subject – possibly, as some think, resuming his writing after a break. His subject now is the essential character of the Christian life from its beginning in justification by faith to its glories consummation at the coming of the Lord; and how illustrates the theme from his own life.
- What three characteristics of the true people of God are given in verse 3? How far are they true of me?
- Examine carefully the reasons for ‘confidence in the flesh’ which Paul enumerates in verses 4-6. Are there not many churchgoers today who are relying for salvation on just such grounds as these? What, in contrast to all this, is the position of the true Christians? What choice does Paul show needs to be made in order to become one?
- Faith in Christ as the sole ground for acceptance with God led, in Paul’s case, to intense desire to know Christ; nothing else seemed to him of any value (verses 8, 9). Along what two lines in particular did he want a deeper knowledge (verse 10), and to what end (verse 11)?
- Verse 2. Note the emphatic ‘Look out’, repeated three times. A word meaning ‘incision’ or ‘mutilation’ is used here instead of ‘circumcision’, because the circumcision on which they insisted was harmful rather than helpful to spiritual well-being. Cf. Gal. 5:2-4; 6:12-15.
- Verses 3, 4. ‘Confidence in the flesh’:i.e., reliance on outward privilege and personal merit. ‘We are the true circumcision’: i.e., the true people of God. Cf. Rom. 2:17, 23, 28, 29
- Make a list of the things: (a) to be desired, and (b) to be avoided in one’s life as a member of a company of Christians. Then pray, and by God’s grace determine, that these things shall be: (a) realized and (b) avoided in your own Christian fellowship. Note especially the direct connection between these things and witness to those who are not Christians.
- What two qualities of personal character and conduct are shown here to be supremely exemplified in the incarnation and the redemptive work of the Son of God? What ground have we for hoping to be able to have and to express the same qualities? How ought we to act in consequence?
- Why does disunity amongst Christians discredit the gospel? What does Paul teach here about: (a) the motive for unity, and (b) the power by which it may be achieved?
2:6-11. It is generally thought that these verses are quoted here by Paul from an early Christian creedal hymn. It is worth committing this section to memory and exploring it in depth.