A on-line Bible study group … you are welcome to join us


Today is the first Sunday in Advent.  Michael W. Smith shares this song about the Promise as delivered by the Prophet Isaiah.



“Be warned, my son, of anything in addition to them.Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body.”

-Ecclesiastes 12:2

    There was a time, at least at some point in college, later in seminary, and towards the end of my doctoral project that I could have empathized with the curmudgeonly  comments of Solomon.  But that has never been true when it came to studying the Bible (except when I was required to memorize the kings of Israel and Judah in order and with the dates).  Over and over I find joy in the Bible.  Even when it is sharp and cuts deeply into my soul, there is a joy that emerges because U have been blessed by an encounter with the Word of God.  Only my encounters with the Living Word, Jesus, surpass it.

quote-of-making-many-books-there-is-no-end-and-much-study-is-a-weariness-of-the-flesh-bible-281331  When I started Biblical Joy it was for a pastoral purpose.  I had people in my church in Landisville PA who were unable to participate in the Bible studies at the church, but wanted to live with it deeply.

So we started with on on-line inductive study (which cn read in the first two years of the archives).  I personally loved the dialogue although it was electronic and stretched over several days.  I particularly like the inductive portion, where we studied questions together about the text in order to come to an understanding of the text’s meaning.

Since the group has disbanded and I have moved on from that church, I have struggled with recapturing its inductive nature.  People (in fact more than 900 of you) read MY thoughts and comments but rarely answer the questions and share theirs.  So it remains largely one way.

But the Lord has convicted me that this still has value, and so I will continue in a slightly different format.  But remember–feel free to comment and ask questions.  It will make the study richer and the joy more full for all of us.



As I looked at chapter 1 with my congregation I summed it up by saying, “If you want joy, you chose Jesus–because Jesus IS our joy.”   As we proceed into chapter 2 we see Paul drafting his scriptural ship in the wind created by that joy.  Listen to these words:  Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” – 2.1-4

images  Note that the word “therefore” and “if” when understood together is not describing something conditional and yet to occur.  Paul is describing a reality already experienced when the Philippians received Christ.  He is saying “having experienced” encouragement, comfort, and sharing (i.e., fellowship), tenderness and compassion” you should be motivated to ……

Before proceeding, let’s look at those things that the joy of Jesus brings.

1. What brings encouragement?

2. What is the source of our comfort (consolation)?

3. What does fellowship do for the believer?  How does this contribute to tenderness and compassion?

4.  Have these benefits true for you?  Describe an experience.


“27 Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit,[ striving together as one for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved—and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.”

Paul was no stranger to opposition.  Some of those who opposed him did it out of envy, others because they did not like his emphasis on grace and the Gentiles.  It is clear from the last post that Paul took a BIG picture look about those opponents, one that borders on magnanimous.  His ultimate concern was that the gospel was preached–regardless of the motives or who got the credit.  Here he encourages the Philippians (one supposes the ones who considered themselves pro-Paul) to adopt the same stance.

Here the sense of those who oppose not Paul, but the Gospel.  What two things does Paul call them to do in the face of this opposition?  How does he reassure them that this is the best counsel for this situation?



Philippians is known as a “prison letter” for that is the location from which Paul is writing.  Paul is a prisoner in Rome, currently in the limbo of the legal system of Caesar.  Ultimately this imprisonment lasted two years.  We do not know if he ever actually appeared before Caesar at this time.

12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guardand to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.  Wayne Jackson writes: “We know from the material in 1 Timothy, Titus, and 2 Timothy, that Paul was released. He preached several years more, perhaps going all the way to Spain (cf. Romans 15:24), before being imprisoned again, finally departing to be with the Lord in his “heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).”  I would encourage you to go to Wayne’s web site CHRISTIAN COURIER and read a more detailed background explanation of Paul’s imprisonment here in Philippians 1.


Let’s look at the text:

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Here are some questions for exploration before we comment:

1. What is the situation that prompts Paul’s comments?

2. What is Paul’s attitude towards this situation?

3. Have you been in situations that seem unfair or out of your control?

4. Were you able to rejoice?

5. Why?


“God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ.” – 1:8b


Have you ever cared so much for someone that you thought of them all the time when you were apart? What would be the nature of a relationship characterized by such a longing?


As we looked at the opening verses of chapter one we heard these things about the Philippians:


1. They have been partners in the Gospel


2. That partnership has been from the very beginning of their relationship


3. A good work has begun in them


4. It is a work that God intends to bring to completion.


5. The Philippians have shared in God’s grace with Paul


6. He thinks of them in every situation


What does Paul mean here by affection, particularly the affection of Christ? The NIV Study Bible describes it quite well. “The deep yearning and intense compassionate love exhibited by Jesus himself and now fostered in Paul by his union with Christ. This affection reaches out to all impartially and without exception.”


This is what we aspire to-to be so transformed by God’s love that we love people in the same way Christ has loved us.


What are your thoughts on these observations?



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Haven’t gotten a lot of feedback on my questions for Philippians 1.1-9.  We would all benefit from your input.  In any case, let me highlight my observations and those of others you might find helpful.


That testimony as the letter opens reveals a deep, deep affection for the Philippians on the part of the Apostle Paul.  It also tells us why he has such feelings for them.  Because they are partners in the Gospel. They literally share His calling which is to declare the Good News, particularly to the Gentiles.

This affirmation of their calling is reflected in how we greets them in verse 1.

“To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi,

together with the overseers and deacons” vs. 1

The word translated “holy people” means “ones who are set apart.”  Its etymological heritage comes from the terms and ideas that were used to describe the Israelites in the Old Testament.  They were the ones “set apart” from the other nations through a Covenant offered to them  by God.  They were the people intended to personify what it means to live under the rule and reign of God.

Christ’s followers were the ones whose lives were set apart to announce the Good News of the Kingdom and to demonstrate that new reality by their faithful obedience to Him. They were participants in a New Covenant.  The Philppians had embraced that calling  by becoming sacrificial servants working for the good of all of God’s people throughout the church–and in particular, by being a persistent and intentional support of the work of Paul himself.

No wonder they brought Paul joy.

But more than that–this unity with one another in obedience to their calling was a source of joy for the Philippians. For Jesus made it clearly in the High Priestly Prayer that unity of the Body was a non-negotiable,  It was essential. (See John 17)

1. What would be different about the church of which you are a part if it saw itself as an entire body as having a calling?

2. Do you understand what your personal calling is within that body?

3. Why would knowing and living through a calling add to our joy?

joy in life


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4. I will ANSWER my questions in a subsequent blog so our general readers can have that input.

– Steve1148945_10200487253319673_382910398_n


As we begin our examination of these opening verses in Philippians, chapter 1, think about someone that you might “thank God for every time (you) remember them.”  For me it was a man named Larry White, one of my early mentors, who helped embed me the importance of living by grace and living without apology or regret because of Grace.

I have often said that the Church of God at Philippi was perhaps Paul’s favorite church.  The reason can be found in verse 5 “because of your partnership in the Gospel” from the beginning and until now

1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,

To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons[a]:

2 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving and Prayer

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

7 It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.

9 And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10 so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.


This is a letter, sometimes also referred to as an epistle, written by Paul to the Church at Philippi. We are accustomed to letters that begin “Dear ….” and signed at the end by the writer; but in the 1st century letters began with identifying the letter writer. The Editors of the New American Standard Bible tell us:

The virtually standard form found in these documents, though with some variation, is dependent upon the conventions of letter writing common in the ancient world, but these were modified to suit the purposes of Christian writers. The New Testament letters usually begin with a greeting including an identification of the sender or senders and of the recipients. Next comes a prayer, usually in the form of a thanksgiving. The body of the letter provides an exposition of Christian teaching, usually provoked by concrete circumstances, and generally also draws conclusions regarding ethical behavior. There often follows a discussion of practical matters, such as the writer’s travel plans, and the letter concludes with further advice and a formula of farewell.

1. Read chapter one, verses 1-2. Who is this letter from?

2. Note that Timothy is identified with this letter’s comments as an associate of Paul. He is not understood as one of the actual authors. Paul usually refers to himself as an “apostle,” but here he calls himself something else. What is it?

3. To whom is the letter addressed? How do people today tend to define “saints?”  How do you think Paul is using it here?

4. Who is the second group to which this letter is addressed? Note that this is the only time in Paul’s letters where the church’s officers are singled out as recipients of a letter.

5. What does he want them to receive? Who is the source of that?

6. If you were writing to someone and wanted to bestow a blessing upon them, what would you offer?

7. Read verses 7-11.  What does Paul tell us about his feelings towards the Philippians?

8. What, in particular, is he praying for them to experience?