Week 19: Letters to the Churches at Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica

Progress After This Week
Bible Foundations Plan 79%

Reading & Summaries


Background on Philippians: On his second missionary journey, Paul planted a church in Philippi; the church likely met in the house of Lydia (Acts 16:12-40). Paul wrote to encourage them to live Christ-centered lives while passing through this world as citizens of heaven.

Ch. 1-2: Paul shares his thanks and prayer for the Philippians. Paul assures them that although he is in prison for his faith, the gospel continues to advance. He calls the Philippians to likewise “let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel” (1:27). Specifically, Paul urges them to walk in love, humility, and unity, taking Christ as their example; God’s children shine as lights in the crooked and corrupt world. Paul shares his intentions to send Timothy and Epaphroditus, examples of the life that Paul wants the Philippians to live.

Ch. 3-4: Paul warns the Philippians to look out for false teachers who deny that righteousness is through faith in Christ. He urges them to stand firm and press on to spiritual maturity, then concludes with various exhortations and encouragements.

Key Passage — The Christ Hymn, Philippians 2:5-11: Jesus’ incarnation and death on the cross is the supreme example of humility for the believer. Instead of taking advantage of his divine attributes, Jesus suffered to save the world from sin. Because of his humiliation, “God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow…and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2:9-11). Highlight verses 6-11 in BLUE.

Inductive Bible study: Track every appearance and variation of the words “joy” and “rejoice.” Highlight each occurrence in GREEN.


Recommended video: Read Scripture: Colossians.

Background on Colossians: The church at Colossae was started by one of Paul’s fellow workers, Epaphras (1:7-8; 4:12-13). Epaphras reported to Paul about the church’s progress, and Paul wrote to encourage the church. Paul’s letter centers on the Lordship of Christ over all things and calls Christians to a life of holiness.

Ch. 1-2: Paul shares his thanks and prayer for the Colossians. Paul praises the preeminent Christ, who reconciles us to God and is the central hope of the gospel. In Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (2:3) which Paul declares as a gospel minister; although absent from the churches in body, he is with them in spirit and longs for them to be faithful to Christ. He warns the Colossians to resist false teachers who enforce human traditions and the ceremonial aspects of the law.

Ch. 3-4: Since the Colossians have been united to Christ, Paul urges them to put to death what is earthly and sensual in them, and to put on Christlike character. Paul explains in detail what it means to live as “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved” (3:12). Paul teaches about Christian households, then shares final instructions and greetings.

Inductive Bible study: As you read, track the words “knowledge” and “wisdom.” Highlight each occurrence in GREEN.


Background on 1 & 2 Thessalonians: On Paul’s second missionary journey, Paul and Silas planted the church in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9). Timothy later reported to Paul about the church; Paul wrote to address their questions and urge them to live a holy life.

Summary of Ch. 1-3: Paul thanks God for the Thessalonians, who received God’s Word despite persecution, “turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God” (1:9), and “became an example to all the believers” (1:7) in the surrounding regions. Paul reminds them of his faithful ministry among them and expresses his longing to see them again. After Timothy’s good report, which comforted Paul in his own afflictions, Paul’s main concern for the Thessalonians was “that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints” (3:13). Note: In chapter 4-5, Paul goes on to explore these two themes: holiness and the second coming of Jesus.

Inductive Bible study: As you read, track every appearance and variation of the word “brother.” This is Paul’s primary term for the Christians in Thessalonica. Highlight each occurrence in GREEN.


Summary of Ch. 4-5: Paul tells the Thessalonians to live a life pleasing to God. God’s will for Christians is sanctification, a life of holiness: abstaining from sexual immorality, controlling the body with its passions, loving others, and living properly among unbelievers in the world. Paul writes about the Second Coming of Jesus and ensuing day of God’s judgment, which should encourage Christians, who are destined to life, to press on in faith in love. Paul concludes with various instructions, greetings, and his crowning prayer that the Thessalonians would be entirely sanctified.

Key concept — Entire Sanctification. In 1 Thess. 1:9, Paul identified the Thessalonians as true believers. Paul makes it clear that every believer is initially sanctified when he is born again (1 Cor. 1:2); however, those who are born again are not entirely sanctified. Paul identifies a deeper need in the heart of the Thessalonians and prays for them to be sanctified entirely, made holy through-and-through (1 Thess. 5:23). Paul assures them, “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it” (5:24). We must claim God’s promise for our heart to be fully cleansed from sin. For more information, read questions 147-150 in the “Catechism of Systematic Theology” by Mark Bird.

Inductive Bible study: Continue to track the word “brother,” highlighting each occurrence in GREEN.


Summary: Paul thanks God for the Thessalonians’ faithfulness, and assures them that Jesus will return to judge the ungodly who had persecuted them. But before Christ’s coming, the Antichrist will lead a great apostasy and deceive “those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved” (2:10). Therefore, Christians must stand firm. Paul requests prayer, then rebukes idleness.

Key Concept – The Second Coming of Jesus: Paul’s teaching “concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thess. 2:1) is a prominent theme in both of his epistles to the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 1:10; 2:19; 3:13; 4:14-15; 5:2; 5:23). When Jesus returns, the dead in Christ will rise with the living to meet Jesus in the air (1 Thess. 4:15-17); unbelievers will face God’s wrath, but Christians will inherit salvation (1 Thess. 1:10). Christ’s coming is “our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). We trust in the promise that “Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him” (Heb. 9:28). Jesus himself taught that no one knows the day or hour of his return (Mt. 24:36), but Christians are to be alert and ready at every moment, since his coming will be “like a thief in the night” (2 Pet. 3:10; cf. Mt. 24:42-44). Christ’s coming should motivate holiness.

Inductive Bible study: Continue to track the word “brother,” highlighting each occurrence in GREEN.

Study Exercises

When exercises require a written response, record your answers in a journal or email them to a pastor or class leader who will provide you with feedback.

  1. Read the article, “What’s Wrong With It? vs. What Would Please Jesus The Most? (Philippians 1:10).” Have you excused anything that is less than excellent in your life?
  2. What was Paul’s supreme goal in life or in death (Php. 1:20)?
  3. How should the Christian evaluate death (Php. 1:21)? Why (Php. 1:23)?
  4. Look up Philippians 3:8 in at least four Bible translations (e.g. KJV, ESV, NASB, NIV). How should we regard anything that hinders us from knowing Christ?
  5. Compare the things that you watch and listen to with the standard set in Philippians 4:8. What changes do you need to make?
  6. Use Paul’s prayer in Colossians 1:9-12 as a model for praying for a fellow Christian, especially one who is young in the faith. For example: “Father, I pray that you would fill Jacob with the knowledge of your will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that he may walk in a manner that is worthy of you, fully pleasing to you: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of you. Strengthen him with all power, according to your glorious might. Give him all endurance and patience with joy. I ask it in Jesus’ name, Amen.” Highlight this prayer in your Bible in GREEN and use it to pray for other Christians on a regular basis.
  7. What do Colossians 1:15, 1:19, and 2:9 say about Jesus? Highlight these verses in BLUE.
  8. Write down 8-10 marks of “the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (Col. 3:10-17). Which area of your life in Christ do you need to cultivate the most?
  9. What is God’s will for every believer (1 Thess. 4:3)? Highlight 1 Thess. 4:3 in GREEN.
  10. If someone is indifferent about holiness of life, who are they actually disregarding (1 Thess. 4:8)? Highlight 1 Thess. 4:7-8 in GREEN.
  11. What encouraging promise does Paul attach to entire sanctification (1 Thess. 5:24)? Highlight 1 Thess. 5:23-24 in GREEN.
  12. What will happen to those who do not know God or obey the gospel (2 Thess. 1:8-9)?
  13. Why will the Antichrist be able to deceive so many (2 Thess. 2:10-12)?
  14. What encouragement are we given concerning Satan, “the evil one” (2 Thess. 3:3)? 

Coming soon.