Lesson 124: Philippians 1–3

“Lesson 124: Philippians 1–3,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual (2016)

“Lesson 124,” New Testament Seminary Teacher Manual

Lesson 124

Philippians 1–3


Paul encouraged the Saints in Philippi to work together in living the gospel. He counseled them to follow the Savior’s example of humility and selflessness and taught that God was working within them to bring about their salvation. Paul described sacrifices he had made to follow Jesus Christ.

Suggestions for Teaching

Philippians 1

Paul describes blessings that come from opposition

Before class, write on the board the following statement by President Brigham Young. (This statement is found in Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe [1954], 351.) Replace the underlined words with blank lines:

“Every time you kick ‘Mormonism’ you kick it upstairs; you never kick it downstairs. The Lord Almighty so orders it” (President Brigham Young).

Begin the lesson by asking:

  • What are some examples, either from history or from our day, of people kicking, or opposing, the Savior’s Church and His followers?

Invite students as they study Philippians 1 to look for a truth that can help them understand how opposition can affect the Lord’s work.

Consider inviting students to locate Philippi on Bible Maps, no. 13, “The Missionary Journeys of the Apostle Paul,” which is located in the Bible appendix. Explain that Paul established a branch of the Church in Philippi during his second missionary journey (see Acts 16). He later wrote his epistle to the Philippians while he was imprisoned, likely in Rome. Summarize Philippians 1:1–11 by explaining that Paul expressed gratitude and love for the Philippian Saints.

Invite a student to read Philippians 1:12–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what resulted from the opposition Paul experienced during his missionary efforts.

  • According to verse 12, what was the result of the opposition Paul experienced? (“The furtherance [advancement] of the gospel.”)

  • According to verses 13–14, how did this opposition help advance the gospel? (People throughout the “palace” [verse 13], or military headquarters, knew that Paul was imprisoned for preaching about Jesus Christ. Paul’s imprisonment also inspired other Church members to become bolder in preaching the gospel.)

  • What truth can we learn from these verses about what can result when we experience opposition in following Jesus Christ? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following truth: Opposition we experience in following Jesus Christ can help further His work.)

Refer to President Young’s statement on the board. Ask students what words they would use to fill in the blanks. Fill in the blanks with the correct words. You may need to explain that upstairs in this context means forward.

  • What are examples of how opposition has helped further the Savior’s work?

Summarize Philippians 1:15–26 by explaining that Paul expressed that the Savior would be magnified through whatever happened to Paul.

Invite a student to read Philippians 1:27–30 aloud. Ask this student to also read Joseph Smith Translation, Philippians 1:28 (in Philippians 1:28, footnote a). Invite the class to follow along, looking for what Paul encouraged the Saints to do. Explain that conversation (verse 27) refers to conduct.

  • What did Paul encourage the Saints to do?

  • According to verses 29–30, what would Church members experience on behalf of the Savior?

Remind students of the truth they previously identified.

  • How do you think the Philippian Saints would have been blessed by remembering that opposition they experienced in following Jesus Christ could help further His work?

Philippians 2

Paul teaches about the Savior’s condescension and instructs the Saints concerning their salvation

Invite students to read Philippians 2:2 silently, looking for Paul’s counsel to the Philippian Saints.

  • How would you summarize Paul’s counsel?

Divide students into pairs. Instruct each pair to read Philippians 2:3–8 aloud together, looking for what Paul instructed the Saints to do to become unified. Ask a student from each pair to write on the board one item of counsel they found.

  • According to Paul’s teachings, how was Jesus Christ an example of humility and selflessness?

  • What principle can we learn from Paul’s teachings that can help us become more unified? (Students may use different words but should identify the following principle: If we follow Jesus Christ’s example of humility and selfless concern for others, then we can become more unified.)

  • What are some ways in which we can follow the Savior’s example of humility and selflessness in our families, schools, or wards or branches?

  • When have you seen people consider others’ needs before their own? How did these efforts increase unity?

Explain that as recorded in Philippians 2:9–11, Paul taught that ultimately everyone will bow and “confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (verse 11). Invite students to ponder what they hope this experience will be like for them.

Invite a student to read Philippians 2:12–13 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul counseled the Philippians to do that could enable their experience of bowing before the Lord to be joyful. You may need to explain that “fear and trembling” (verse 12) refers to reverential awe and rejoicing (see Psalm 2:11; Guide to the Scriptures, “Fear,”

Point out that some people misunderstand Paul’s words in Philippians 2:12 to mean that we are saved by our own works.

  • Who has made salvation possible for us? How?

  • According to Philippians 2:13, what are two ways in which God helps those who are trying to do what is required for salvation? (God helps them to “will,” or desire, and to obey “his good pleasure,” or His commandments. After students respond, write the following truth on the board: God helps us desire and do what is required of us for salvation, which is made possible through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.)

  • What are the requirements for salvation, which God has provided and helps us fulfill? (You might invite students to refer to the third and fourth articles of faith.)

Point out that through the influence of the Holy Ghost, God can help us change and purify our desires so that we want to obey Him (see Mosiah 5:2). Invite students to ponder how God has helped change their hearts so that they want to obey Him and how He has helped them to more faithfully keep His commandments.

Summarize Philippians 2:14–30 by explaining that Paul reminded the Saints that they “shine as lights in the world” (verse 15) and told them he would send messengers to learn of their well-being.

Philippians 3

Paul describes sacrifices he made to follow Jesus Christ

Invite students to think of something they value that the world would also consider valuable (such as family, friends, education, food, technology, or money) and, if possible, to display an item that represents what they thought of. Ask them to consider what they would be willing to give up these valued possessions for.

Invite students as they study Philippians 3 to look for what Paul gave up in order to gain a prize that is also available to us.

Summarize Philippians 3:1–3 by explaining that Paul warned the Philippians of corrupt teachers who claimed that Church converts should conform to certain Jewish practices, including circumcision (see New Testament Student Manual [Church Educational System manual, 2014], 436).

Invite a student to read Philippians 3:4–6 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul said about his Jewish heritage.

  • What social and religious advantages in Jewish society did Paul once possess? (His Israelite pedigree, position as a Pharisee, zeal for Judaism, and strict obedience to the law.)

Invite a student to read Philippians 3:7–11 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for how Paul viewed the advantages he once had in Jewish society.

  • How did Paul view what he had given up to follow Jesus Christ?

  • Why was Paul willing to “[suffer] the loss of all things”? (verse 8). (So he could know Jesus Christ; “be found in him” [verse 9], or be in a faithful covenant relationship with Him; be justified through faith in Him; suffer for His sake; and be part of the Resurrection of the “just,” or the righteous [Joseph Smith Translation, Philippians 3:11 (in Philippians 3:11, footnote a)].)

Invite a student to read Philippians 3:12–14 aloud. Ask the class to follow along, looking for what Paul recognized about his spiritual progression. Explain that apprehend means to obtain.

  • Rather than focusing on what he had left behind, what was Paul pressing forward to obtain? (Explain that “the prize of the high calling of God” [verse 14] is eternal life.)

  • What principle can we learn from Paul’s example about what we must do to come to know Jesus Christ and obtain eternal life? (Students may use different words, but make sure they identify the following principle: If we give up all that is necessary to follow Jesus Christ and press forward in faith, we can come to know Him and obtain eternal life.)

Invite a student to read aloud the following account by President Gordon B. Hinckley, which tells of his meeting a naval officer who had come from another nation to the United States for advanced training and who had joined the Church during his stay. Ask the class to listen for what the young man was willing to give up to follow Jesus Christ.

Hinckley, Gordon B.

“He was introduced to me just before he was to return to his native land. … I said: ‘Your people are not Christians. What will happen when you return home a Christian, and, more particularly, a Mormon Christian?’

“His face clouded, and he replied, ‘My family will be disappointed. They may cast me out and regard me as dead. As for my future and my career, all opportunity may be foreclosed against me.’

“I asked, ‘Are you willing to pay so great a price for the gospel?’

“His dark eyes, moistened by tears, shone from his handsome brown face as he answered, ‘It’s true, isn’t it?’

“Ashamed at having asked the question, I responded, ‘Yes, it’s true.’

“To which he replied, ‘Then what else matters?’” (“It’s True, Isn’t It?” Ensign, July 1993, 2).

  • What was this young man willing to give up to follow the Savior?

  • What have you (or someone you know) given up to follow the Savior?

  • Why are the prizes of knowing Jesus Christ and progressing toward eternal life worth the sacrifices you have made?

Ask students to ponder whether there is something they need to give up to more fully follow Jesus Christ. Invite them to write down a goal to do so.

Summarize Philippians 3:15–21 by explaining that Paul warned of the destruction awaiting those who focus solely on earthly pleasures. He also taught that Jesus Christ will change our imperfect physical bodies into immortal bodies like His.

Conclude by testifying of the truths identified in this lesson.

Commentary and Background Information

Philippians 2:3–8. Selflessness

Elder H. Burke Peterson of the Seventy explained what it means to be selfless:

“There are those among us today who are completely selfless—as was [Jesus Christ].

“A selfless person is one who is more concerned about the happiness and well-being of another than about his or her own convenience or comfort, one who is willing to serve another when it is neither sought for nor appreciated, or one who is willing to serve even those whom he or she dislikes. A selfless person displays a willingness to sacrifice, a willingness to purge from his or her mind and heart personal wants, and needs, and feelings. Instead of reaching for and requiring praise and recognition for himself, or gratification of his or her own wants, the selfless person will meet these very human needs for others” (“Selflessness: A Pattern for Happiness,” Ensign, May 1985, 66).

Philippians 2:5–8. The Savior “made himself of no reputation”

The phrase translated as “of no reputation” (Philippians 2:7) comes from the Greek word kenoō, which means “to empty.” Elder Tad R. Callister, who served in the Presidency of the Seventy, taught about the divine privileges and status Jesus “emptied” Himself of to come to earth:

“God the Son traded his heavenly home with all its celestial adornments for a mortal abode with all its primitive trappings. He, ‘the King of heaven’ (Alma 5:50), ‘the Lord Omnipotent who reigneth’ (Mosiah 3:5), left a throne to inherit a manger. He exchanged the dominion of a god for the dependence of a babe. He gave up wealth, power, dominion, and the fulness of his glory—for what?—for taunting, mocking, humiliation, and subjection. It was a trade of unparalleled dimension, a condescension of incredible proportions, a descent of incalculable depth” (The Infinite Atonement [2000], 64).

Philippians 2:12–13. “Work out your own salvation. … For it is God which worketh in you”

President Joseph Fielding Smith taught how members of the Church can “work out [their] own salvation” (Philippians 2:12):

“I plead with the members of the Church to do the works of righteousness to keep the commandments, to seek the Spirit, to love the Lord, to put first in their lives the things of God’s kingdom, and thereby work out their salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1970, 8).

Such works, which God enables us to perform, are necessary to satisfy the requirements He has established for receiving all of the blessings made possible by the Atonement.

Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that it is because of the Savior’s Atonement that we are saved:

“Man unquestionably has impressive powers and can bring to pass great things by tireless efforts and indomitable will. But after all our obedience and good works, we cannot be saved from the effect of our sins without the grace extended by the atonement of Jesus Christ.

“… Man cannot earn his own salvation” (“What Think Ye of Christ?” Ensign, Nov. 1988, 67).