Friday, January 18, 2008

Outline of Philippians

In the spirit of the letter itself, Steve over at Morning Meditations has invited me to blog through Philippians with him on Fridays. This being the first day of posting on this magnificent letter, we start with some introductory comments on the letter as a whole, before moving through its parts in later weeks. I want to pitch in by giving an outline of the letter in this post, and pointing out the occasion(s) of the letter in the next one.

CAVEAT LECTOR ("let the reader beware"): if you don't believe the words "section" or "exegetical" should be used in discussion of the Bible you will find the following vexingly dry! Maybe skip down to the part that says" Wiersbe's Outline".

Exegetical Outline
Introduction (1.1-11)
Greeting (1.1-2)
Thanksgiving (1.3-8)
Prayer (1.9-11)

Report on how Paul is doing (1.12-26)
With regards to the past and present (1.13-18a)
With regards to the future (1.18b-26)

Exhortation to steadfastness and unity in light of Rome (1.27-2.18)
Contend for the gospel against the outside in unity (1.27-30)
Live out the gospel on the inside in humility (2.1-4)
The most exalted example of humility (2.5-11)
Christ’s stooping (2.5-8)
Christ’s soaring (2.9-11)
Summary injunction: Work out the gospel (1.12-18)

What next: two exemplar examples are on the way (2.19-30)
Timothy coming soon (2.19-24)
Epaphroditus coming now (2.25-30)

Exhortation to steadfastness and unity in light of Judaism (3.1-4.3)
Beware of dogs (3.1-3)
Paul as an example (3.4-21)
Paul tells his story (3.4-13)
His past (3.4-6)
His present (3.7-11)
His future (3.12-13)
Paul applies his story (3.14-4.3)
Think like me (3.15-16)
Imitate me (3.17-20)
Final appeal: stand, agree, rejoice (4.1-3)

Wrapping up (4:4-23)
Closing exhortations (4.4-9)
Exhortation to Christian piety (4.4-7)
Exhortation to wisdom (4.8-9)
Acknowledgement of their gift (4.10-19)
Their gift – Paul’s “need” (4.10-13)
Their gift as partnership in the gospel (4.14-17)
Their gift as an offering (4.18-20)
Closing Greetings (4.21-23)

As you'll notice, the outline is not very catchy, heart-warming, or alliterated. My apologies! What I'm giving is a more or less exegetical outline that started to evolve into a preaching outline but was quickly cut short. And I'm glad it was cut short, for it is more helpful the way it is now. It is best that we all come up with our own preaching outlines. I cannot imagine how horrid it would be to have to preach through someone else's!

This is not to say I won't tweak it at all and re-post it; I'm not entirely happy with it as is. For instance, I don't think the juxtaposition of "Rome" and "Judaism" will bear all the weight it's holding now.

You might ask why some of the sections ignore chapter divisions. Well, while I am sometimes tempted to treat all of chapter three as its own section (as opposed to seeing it go on to 4:3), I am totally convinced that 1.27 to 2.18 is a unit in its own right.

I didn't always think that mind you. When I first outlined this letter on my own several years ago I had Paul starting a new section at 2.1. But then I checked my work against the commentaries (a very wise thing to do—for me at least!) and it didn't take Gordon Fee long to convince me otherwise. Turns out I was in good company, though, as most Bible versions tend to start the major section at chapter 2 (the TNIV and the ISV being happy exceptions).

Fee has influenced much of the rest of the outline as well. The breakdown of the Philippians' gift in 4.10-19 is taken almost verbatim.

For those who do want a preaching outline, Wiersbe has one of the best. Apart from its rigidly adhering to chapter-by-chapter divisions, his outline manages to stay remarkably faithful to the text despite being smartly alliterated and catchy to boot.

Wiersbe's Outline
Joy in spite of circumstances
Key Verse—1.21
1. The fellowship of the Gospel—1.1-11
2. The furtherance of the Gospel—1.12-26
3. The faith of the gospel—1.27-30

Joy in spite of people
Key Verse—2.3
1. The example of Christ—2.1-11
2. The example of Paul—2.12-18
3. The example of Timothy—2.19-24
4. The example of Epaphroditus—2.25-30

Joy in spite of things
Key Verses—3.19-20
1. Paul’s past—3.1-11 (the accountant—“I count”)
2. Paul’s present—3.12-16 (the athlete—“I press”)
3. Paul’s future—3.17-21 (the alien—“I look”)

Joy that defeats worry
Key Verses—4.6-7
1. God’s peace—4.1-9
2. God’s power—4.10-13
3. God’s provision—4.14-23

Well, now that Wiersbe and I have both had a crack at outlining this letter, now it's your turn. Do you have any suggestions for improvements? If so I'd sure like to hear from you in the comments below.
See Steve's first post.

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