Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote: “Philippians … is a sweet and refined statement into which a number of gospel doctrines are woven. And our Bible is greatly enriched by its presence there” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 2:525). Paul taught the people of Philippi to live a vigilant Christian life by humbling themselves (see Philippians 2:1–4), working out their own salvation (see Philippians 2:12), and pressing toward the goal of eternal life (see Philippians 3:13–14). He encouraged them with the truth that they could “do all things through Christ” (see Philippians 4:13).
Prayerfully study Philippians 1–4and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.
Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For
No earthly reward compares with the blessing of knowing and serving Jesus Christ (see Philippians 3:7–14).
The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 358–61.
Suggestions for Teaching
Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for Philippians 1–4.
Philippians 1:12–26; 3:8–14; 4:4–13. The gospel can bring us joy in adversity if we realize that no earthly reward compares to knowing and serving Jesus Christ.
Have students imagine being imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit. Ask:
What kind of attitude do you think you would have in that circumstance?
Have you ever been accused of a wrong you didn’t commit?
How did you feel about being falsely accused?
Write students’ answers on the board. Have the students read Philippians 1:7, 13, 16looking for key words that describe Paul’s situation. List what they find on the board. Explain that Paul was imprisoned in Rome because of his belief in the gospel. Have the students read Philippians 1:12–26looking for words that describe Paul’s attitude while in prison, and write these beside the first list. Discuss the similarities and differences between the two lists. Ask: Why do you think Paul felt the way he did?
Have students read Philippians 3:7–14looking for some of the reasons Paul’s faith was so strong. Ask:
What did Paul give up to follow Christ?
What did he gain?
Why are some people willing to suffer “the loss of all things” for Christ?
How can we develop that same faith?
The following activity will help students understand what Paul learned from his adversities. Give students a handout with a chart like the one here but with the answers out of order.
Correct the handout and discuss how these principles can help students as they face their own difficulties.
Read Philippians 4:4–10 looking for how we can stay at peace in the midst of trials and tribulations. Consider sharing the following statement by Elder Milton R. Hunter, who was a member of the First Council of the Seventy:
“Our Savior declared to a modern prophet: ‘… he who doeth works of righteousness shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come.’ (D&C 59:23.)
“The peace spoken of in this modern revelation is the peace that results from a clear conscience. It is that peace which comes when one stands void of offense against God and man” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1966, 40; see also Mosiah 2:15; 4:3; D&C 135:4).
Encourage students to live by Paul’s example. Testify that we, like Paul, can rejoice in our trials and be blessed with peace in this life through the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Explain to students that there are roadblocks to obtaining this peace. Elder James E. Faust, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, explained:
“One reason for the spiritual sickness of our society is that so many do not know or care about what is morally right and wrong. So many things are justified on the basis of expediency and the acquiring of money and goods. In recent times, those individuals and institutions that have had the courage to stand up and speak out against adultery, dishonesty, violence, gambling, and other forms of evil are often held up to ridicule. Many things are just plain and simply wrong, whether they are illegal or not. Those who persist in following after the evil things of the world cannot know the ‘peace of God, which passeth all understanding’ (Philippians 4:7)” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1992, 5; or Ensign, May 1992, 6).
Philippians 2:2–16. We must do our part in working out our own salvation, relying upon the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Show students a desk, couch, or other object too heavy for one person to lift. Ask a student to move it to the back of the room. Invite another student to help. Ask:
How can this object be compared to gaining salvation?
Can we save ourselves?
Who do we need to help us?
Have students read Philippians 2:12. Ask: If Jesus Christ plays the crucial role in our salvation, what do you think Paul meant when he counseled the Saints to “work out your own salvation”?
Write two headings on the board: Our work and Christ’s work. Have students read Philippians 2:5–11and Moses 1:39looking for words that describe Christ’s work, and list their answers under Christ’s work on the board. Ask:
What is Christ’s work?
What part of His work has been completed? (The Atonement.)
Testify that Jesus Christ has made our salvation possible through His Atonement and that now we must do those things that are necessary to be saved.
Have students read Philippians 2:13–16; Mormon 9:27–29; and Doctrine and Covenants 11:20looking for words that describe our work, and list their answers under Our work on the board. Discuss ways we can implement these works in our lives.
Explain that Paul taught that Christ had already performed the Atonement, and all that was left for us to do was to worship Him and keep His commandments (see Philippians 2:5–13). Concerning the work that we must do, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“To claim for ourselves the cleansing power of his blood, we must believe in him and in his Father, repent of our sins, covenant in the waters of baptism to love and serve them all our days, and then receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
“Thereafter … we must walk in the light, keep the commandments, and overcome the world. Such is the plan of salvation for all men in all ages. Such is the plan that has been revealed from age to age so that fallen man might work out his salvation with fear and trembling before the Lord (see Philip. 2:12)” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1979, 81; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, 54).
Testify of the truthfulness of this teaching.