Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Lesson - Philippians - A Letter From Prison

VERSES:  Philippians 1-4

MEMORY VERSE:  Philippians 4:4  "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice."

BOOK TO REMEMBER:  Romans.  Write "Romans" on small slips of paper and hand out to the students to take home and memorize one more New Testament book. By adding one more book to their Bible book list, the students will ultimately memorize all the Bible books.

PRAYER:  Pray that we will all be content with what we have in this world and share  with others, including the Gospel.

SPECIAL SONG:  Be Patient And Kind (see April 2014 - Lesson - Joseph Meets His Brothers Who Hated Him)

VISUAL AID:  Using the whiteboard or chalkboard, write "Philippians" on the board. Draw a large square and draw four or five line vertically in the square. This is a prison window. While we do not know what Paul's prison looked like, we know that he was required to stay under Rome's constant eye. We know that he had certain privileges by reading Acts 28:30, 31. As the Bible teacher tells this lesson that they have studied so much that they know it by heart, write words like "Grace and peace," "prayed for the Philippian Christians," "Jesus was preached," "be like-minded," "press on the  toward the mark," "rejoice in the Lord," "true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good report," etc. all around the prison window.

  • When we think of someone in prison, we usually think of that person being very sad and gloomy. This was not the case with Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome. Paul could have been sad and gloomy, but he knew that God knew that he had done nothing worthy of prison. The only reason Paul was in prison in the first place was because he had been preaching about Jesus. Paul's accusers, the Jews, did not want Paul preaching and teaching about Jesus and persuaded the Roman government to put him in prison. Paul had appealed to Caesar, the head of the Roman government, and waited for an answer in prison.
  • As we look at the book of Philippians, one of Paul's letters that he wrote while he was in prison, we can see that Paul was definitely NOT sad and gloomy. In his letter, he addressed the elders and deacons in the city of Philippi. Just as we might say, "Dear Someone...", Paul greeted the elders and deacons with, "Grace be unto you, and peace from God, our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:1, 2). Paul always remembered the Philippian Christians in his prayers. He was thankful for their fellowship and friendship from the time he first met them until the time he wrote his letter. Paul loved the Christians in Philippi and said many good things about them in his letter. He encouraged them to do good deeds. He wanted the Christians in Philippi to not be sad because he was in prison, but, just like when Joseph was in prison in Old Testament times, there were good results that came from his imprisonment: Jesus was being preached. Some people were preaching out of envy and strife and were not sincere, but some were preaching of good will and love. He said that either way, Jesus' message was being preached to the people. Paul said he was not ashamed to speak about Jesus, but he was proud and bold in preaching the gospel of Jesus. He said that while he was alive, it would be helpful to the Gospel because he would be preaching, but if Paul died, it would be gain for him, personally, because of the hope he had in a heavenly home.
  • Paul also gave instructions to the Christians in Philippi. He said that they should all be like-minded or be preaching and teaching the same things in love, not in strife or fussing. He told them not to complain and disagree with each other, but to shine as lights in a wicked world (Philippians 2:15).Paul said he continued to press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of Jesus. Paul knew he was in a race while he lived on this earth and he wanted to race hard, keeping his eyes of Jesus, and win the prize which was a home in heaven. He told the Philippians to live as he did (Philippians 3:25, 27). 
  • Finally, Paul said to his friends who were Christians in Philippi to be happy or rejoice in the Lord. In fact, he said it two times! (Philippians 4:4). He reminded them to pray to God and let their requests be known to Him. By praying and telling God everything on their hearts, then they would have peace--the kind of peace that people of the world do not understand (Philippians 4:5, 6). 
  • Paul left these lasting words with the church:  Control your thinking. Think about things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of good report. He said that if there was any virtue or praise about anything to think about those good things. Christians not only act differently than the world, they THINK differently than the world. They think about good, wholesome things and not bad. They dwell on true and honest thoughts. Christians, like those in Philippi, know that they can do anything because Christ is the One who gives them strength (Philippians 4:13). Today, Christians can gain comfort and encouragement through this short four-chapter letter just as the Philippians did! 
"Older Student" Tips:
  • Philippians is not the only letter that Paul wrote from prison. He wrote three other letters in prison which are Galatians, Ephesians, and Colossians.
  • A theme of the book of Philippians is "Joy and Rejoice." There is much good encouragement for the Christian in this book. Interesting to note again that Paul is in prison when he writes this upbeat letter.
  • We remember Lydia, the woman who sold purple fabric and was converted to Christ. She lived in Philippi (see June 2015 - Lesson - The Macedonian Call).  Also, the jailer who was watching and listening to Paul and Silas while they were in chains during an earthquake lived in Philippi. Like Lydia, he and his family were also baptized into Christ (see June 2015 - Lesson - Paul and Silas in Prison). These, and others, were part of the church in this city.
  • Read Philippians 4:22. From this verse, we know that there were some of Caesar's household or family that were Christians as well.
ACTIVITY:   "What Should I Think About?"
Materials:  9" x 18" black construction paper, one 2" x 9" strip of colorful scrapbooking paper, one 2" x 5" strip of colorful scrapbooking paper, six 2" x 7" strips of colorful scrapbooking paper, 18" of thin ribbon or yarn, holepunch, glue stick, scissors, marker. (Construction paper works just as well as scrapbooking paper in case you do not have scrapbooking paper.

  1. Hand out black construction paper.
  2. Fold paper in half, then in half again, then in half one more time. When the paper is opened, there should be eight rectangles.
  3. Set aside.
  4. Hand out the 2" x 9" paper.
  5. Write "What Should I Think About?" on the the 2" x 9" strip of paper.
  6. With black paper in a portrait position on the table, glue strip in top black rectangle.
  7. Hand out 2" x 5" strip of paper.
  8. Write "Philippians 4:8" on small strip.
  9. Glue in the bottom rectangle on black paper.
  10. Hand out six 2" x 7" strips of paper.
  11. On each strip of paper, write one word:  "whatever is true." "whatever is honest," "whatever is just," "whatever is pure," "whatever is lovely," "whatever is of good report." 
  12. In the order found in Philippians 4:8, glue the appropriate strip in each rectangle on the black construction paper.
  13. Hole punch one hole at the top of each side of the paper.
  14. Hand out ribbon or yarn. (Ribbon is pictured in top photo.)
  15. Thread each end through a hole and tie.