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New Testament Philippians Analysis

Categories: New Testament

Lesson 7.2

Literary Strategy

(how the illocution is conveyed; IBI, 294): Study the immediate context of Philippians 2:12-18 to see how this surrounding material helps you understand the meaning of the passage (the immediate context is Phil 2).


(check IBI, 545-49):

Can you identify a specific sub-genre for Philippians 2:12-18 within the larger epistle genre? Briefly defend your choice.

[Obviously the main genre is epistolary. Now I allow some – most – of you may argue ‘my choice’ or recognition of sun-genre. But after reading and rereading several times, the message that continues to jump out at me is that we (or the Philippians) are to conduct ourselves/themselves in humility.

The message of how Christ was so holy that God Himself “exalted Him, and gave Him a name higher than any other name” Phi2:09). And “He who, though equal with God, took it upon himself the form of a servant·” (Phi2:06-07). For this reason, in my opinion – at least as I read the passage today – the ‘sub-genre’ that stands out prominently in my mind is that of Wisdom Literature.


How does knowing this sub-genre affect your interpretation of the passage?

[It certainly gave me a better understanding of the beatitude: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth”. I gives me cause to stop and remember – just because I am holy, because I am a Righteous and Sanctified Priest, that does not mean I am better than others. It means I have a greater responsibility to walk in humility and to serve others, and serve with a glad and grateful heart, for I seek to do His will.

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(the topic or subject the author is talking about): Think of a short title or headline followed by one sentence that describes the subject of each section:

Theme of preceding section, Philippians 2:1-11:

[Service in humility: The master is sent to serve God’s people.]

Theme of passage under study, Philippians 2:12-18:

[Works through Faith: For it is not works that bring us to salvation, but faith, whereby God may work in and through us.]

Theme of following section, Philippians 2:19-30:

[Powers of example: Timotheus and Epaphroditus are examples worthy of notice.]

Governing theme of immediate context (again, compose a title and a sentence or two that ties together the themes of the three sections the entirety of Phil 2):

[Joyful in The Lord: If we are joyful in all that we do and all manner that we serve, we will know that The Holy Ghost is working in and through us.]

Structural Design/Argument:

What does Paul’s structure in this section tell you about what he says about the theme(s) or subject(s) you identified in 1b? The goal here is to trace the movement of Paul’s argument. To do this, you need first to note any connectives between the sections and identify the structural relationships. Use the following questions to guide your thinking. Remember: here think structurally, not topically (that was the previous section).

How does Philippians 2:12-18 relate or connect to what precedes in 2:1-11?

[First, giving Jesus Christs’ behavior as example, Paul exhorts the Philippians to conduct themselves in like manner.]

How does Philippians 2:12-18 relate or connect to what follows in 2:19-30?

[Paul uses Timotheus and Epaphroditus as examples of men saved who walk so Christlike – his point being that it can be done by believers.]

Trace the flow or movement of Paul’s argument in the three sections of Philippians 2:1-30. Show how Paul develops the argument step-by-step among these three sections. Remember, this is not the content of what Paul says but how he structures that content to achieve the effect he wishes.

[Holding Christ as the example to follow, Paul uses Phi2:12 to segue from describing Christs’ actions to exhorting the readers obedience to follow the example set. Paul then states that he is sending Timotheus and Epaphroditus to them as teachers and ministers and goes on the describe how highly he regards them as brother Christians (T and E).]

Conclusion: How does this passage (2:12-18) contribute to or advance Paul’s argument from Philippians 2:1 to 2:30?

[This section serves to encourage the readers to take notice of Timotheus and Epaphroditus and how conscientious & persevering they are in their “walk with Christ”, pointing out their steadfastness, their willing to sacrifice and their focus upon others rather than self.]

Communicative Intent (illocutionary force):

In each of these three sections (below), what is the author trying to do to his readers with his developing argument as you have outlined above? Ask yourself what kind of impact the attentive readers might feel as they grasp the argument. For example, is Paul trying to inform, persuade, promise, exhort, warn, guide, humiliate them (this is not an exhaustive list of options)?

Communicative intent of the preceding section (2:1-11):

[Paul is trying to rouse the reader(s) to a point of motivation that drives them to willingly try to live a Christlike Life.]

Communicative intent of the passage for study (2:12-18):

[Paul is encouraging the reader(s) and exhorting them to ‘pick up the cross’ if you will – to serve, no matter how difficult the service they are called for, with gladness and with an absence of complaint or self-pity. He seems to subtly be trying to embarrass them to some point, or chastise them for not being as faithful as they could be.]

Communicative intent of the following section (2:19-30):

[He definitely begins with gentle chastisement regarding the cropping up of various rivalries amongst themselves, and then informs them that until he can be with them himself, he is sending Timotheus and returning Epaphroditus to them both as teachers/ministers and as examples for them to follow.]

What overall effect on the reader has the author attempted to achieve by organizing the material in this sequence?

Again, think structurally.

[Is to recognize Paul’s love and gratitude for the support given to him by the Philippians, and to encourage them to remain strong in the Faith. Toward that end, he will send Timotheus and Epaphroditus to remain with them and minister to their spiritual needs.]

Lesson 7.4

Historical Background of the Book

(use NT introductions, a study Bible, or a Bible dictionary/encyclopedia to help in your research):

What were the various circumstances affecting the readers at the time of writing that prompted Paul to write the letter to them?

Read through the letter to detect these.

[Overall, the letter is one of thanks and gratitude for all of the support the Church of Philippi had provided to Paul while he was imprisoned (again) – support both financial and material, delivered by Epaphroditus, who also remained aid him. More specifically “what is going on with the readers” (and we don’t learn this until Phi 4) is due to an argument between Euodia and Syntyche – the subject of which is never determined – that is causing discord and undermining overall life within the church of Philippi.]

How would you characterize Paul’s relationship with the Philippian Christians given their repeated contacts and his current absence?

Again, make sure you take into account information from the entire letter. Cite specific evidence from the letter.

[The overall impression is that Paul bears a deep and abiding love & respect for the Christians in Philippi – not in small measure due to their hard work and diligence at keeping the Church alive and thriving in spite of Paul’s continued absences. (NIV, Foundation Study Bible, Ebook)]

Historical-Cultural Analysis of the Passage:

Research background features mentioned in text.

Study the ones listed below.

What can you discover about the “day of Christ” on which Paul desires to boast (v. 16)?

[In “modern speak” this refers to the event known as “The Rapture” – the day that those dead in Christ are resurrected, then all those alive in Christ are take into Heaven. (1 Thess. 4:13-17).]

What is the background and meaning of “poured out like a drink offering” (v. 17)?

[It means the pouring of wine on an altar along with the burnt offering. “A way of giving freely back to God that which the worshipper values”. (NIV, Foundation Study Bible, Ebook)]

· IBI Workbook, Lesson 7.8.1

Lesson 7.8

For this exercise review carefully the material in IBI, 344-60. (1) Identify the important Greek grammatical elements in each of the following phrases (key words should be underlined) and (2) indicate how that helps you to understand the meaning of the verse where it occurs.

For help with this task, look up the Philippians 2 references in Cleon L. Rogers Jr. & Cleon L. Rogers III, The New Linguistic and Exegetical Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1998) and at least one commentary to discover grammatical insights that are not apparent in English translations. You will need to consult critical commentaries that deal with the original text, such as those listed immediately below. You may also wish to consult a source such as William Mounce, Interlinear For the Rest of Us (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013) to orient yourself to the Greek text (if you have not yet studied Greek). The Goodrick/Kohlenberger word numbers (word #) below will help assure that you are looking at the right Greek word where it occurs in Rogers & Rogers and Mounce. Commentaries you might consult include:

  • G. F. Hawthorne and R. P. Martin, Philippians. WBC. Rev. ed. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004.
  • M. Silva, Philippians. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005.
  • G. D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. NICNT. Rev. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.
  • J. Reumann, Philippians. AB 33B. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008.


In the following verses (Phil 2:12-13) use single underlines to identify the main or independent clause (there is only one in the verses below). Then use double underlines to identify the dependent (or subordinate) clauses. Then, for each dependent clause, identify the connecting conjunction, specify the kind or type of connection, and identify the word in the main clause that it modifies. The chart in IBI, 358 lists the types and different kinds of meaning that connections supply. Fill in the spaces below with your answers.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.


The following exercise on verb tenses will ask you to identify the verbal aspect indicated by the verb tenses. Verbal aspect refers to the kind of action of a particular verb.

Present tense: speaks of ongoing or continuous action; it is developing or unfolding. Paul says, “by this gospel you are being saved . . .” (1 Cor 15:2, italics added).

Aorist tense: simply identifies an event as an occurrence; it portrays the event holistically and undifferentiated. Thus, “Christ died for our sins . . .” (1 Cor 15:3).

Perfect tense: portrays an action as an existing state of affairs, namely the state of the subject of the verb. So “Christ was in the state of being raised” captures Paul’s point of 1 Cor 15:4 (italics added).

Common abbreviations in Rogers & Rogers and other sources:

  • Aor. = Aorist tense
  • Pres. = Present tense
  • Perf. = Perfect tense
  • Act. = Active voice
  • Pass. = Passive voice
  • Part. = Participle
  • Inf. = Infinitive
  • Indic. = Indicative
  • Imper. = Imperative

Identify the Greek tense of the underlined verbs below. Name the tense used and explain briefly the significance of the use of the verbal aspect of each, as discussed in IBI, 356-67).

  • vs. 12 “work out (word #2981) your salvation with fear and trembling . . .”
  • vs. 13 “for it is God who works (word #1919) in you to will and to act . . .”
  • vs. 15 “without fault in a warped and crooked (word #1406) generation . . .”

Mood and Voice:

Identify the mood and voice of each verb and explain their significance; in some cases you will analyze the same verbs for mood and voice as you did above for tense (see IBI, 355-56).

  • vs. 12 “work out (word #2981) your salvation with fear and trembling . . .”
  • vs. 18 “So you too should be glad (word #5897) and rejoice with me.”


Identify the kind of connective, its meaning, and how it contributes to the flow of the argument. Please note that some connectives in the chart in IBI, 358 have several possible functions make sure you choose the right one.

  • vs.12 “Therefore (word #6063), my dear friends, as you have always obeyed . . .”
  • vs. 13 “for (word #1142) it is God who works in you . . .”
  • vs. 15 “so that (word #2671) you may become blameless and pure . . .”

Antecedent of Pronouns:

Find what word the pronoun here refers to. Note that pronouns ordinarily agree with their specific antecedent in gender and number (see IBI, 359-60).

  • vs. 15 “in which (word #4005) you shine like stars . . .” (This one is tricky! Be sure you can defend your answer.)


Although we do not often think that grammar itself provides input for personal application, that is not true. Suggest a point or two of application that you believe grows out of any of the grammatical insights you discovered in this exercise. That is, discuss something you discovered when you studied the grammar that sheds light on the meaning and that might make a difference in your own life or ministry. Make it concrete and personal.

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