So, you’re a minister and you’re up to you’re neck in Corinthian pride; Galatian foreskins and Ephesian wolves. You have busted your guts for the saints and now you’re in prison with Nero breathing down your neck. Who is likely to care enough to risk life and limb to provide for your needs in your hour of need?
The Church at Philippi! Just thinking about that church filled Paul with gratitude and thankfulness toward God.
I thank my God every time I remember you. In every prayer for all of you, I always pray with joy… (Philippians 1:3-4)
Why does Paul feel this way about this little church?
because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:5)
From the day that Lydia took him and gave him breakfast till now, the Christians at Philippi had partnered with Paul in the life of grace and in his defense of the gospel.
In supporting Paul they had defended the gospel and confirmed the reality of Jesus Christ in their lives.
There are many bonds of love and friendship in life but for Paul, this was the sweetest of them all.
The communion they enjoyed was not held together by getting together, but by serving and suffering side by side, one for the other, just as Christ had done. It was not common participation in morning tea that constituted this fellowship, it was in identifying with one another in everyday life.
It was in the sharing in the trials and labour of the Gospel through sacrificial love for one another. A love Paul prays and hopes will increase and mature and overflow in praise to God.
This is the kind of fellowship that can only occur when there is genuine love for Jesus first, expressed in the way we love one another – deeply.
Paul rejoices because this partnership was evidence that the righteousness of Jesus Christ was bearing fruit in their lives.
It was a fellowship that was gospel-focused, not “me-focused”. The church in Philippi was working from the same to-do list that Paul was using.
It was a fellowship that was enduring over time, “From the first day until now…” It was a fellowship that was material and personal (Philippians 1:7)
It was a fellowship that was not diminished by distance. Paul’s prayers for them and their prayers for him were just one of the many ways they continued to enjoy their bond (Philippians 1:8-9).
The same joy in fellowship is available to us. It is open to us when we partner with other believers in providing food for the needy and when we gather together to pray.
It is a joy in fellowship when you visited those in hospital, the widow and the lonely.
It is a joy for those around you, when, in fellowship, you confess with tears your struggle and your desire to grow in Christ, and again when you were offended by a brother, but you kept on serving him anyway.
And it was for your joy, when, in partnership with those who serve the gospel, you saw or heard them falter in what they said or did – and you knew it, and they knew it – yet you bore it patiently.
Why would such things cause someone like the Apostle Paul to rejoice? Because these things are a mark of our participation in the grace and love of Christ.
Because shoulder to shoulder service for the gospel is the way God gets things done.