Partnership in the Gospel (Philippians 1:1-11)
There are few things that resonate in the human heart more than experiencing a relationship that is deeply affectionate, overflowing with joy, and filled with purpose. Do you have relationships that you would characterize this way? Many immediately think of their spouse; and that is wonderful. Marriage should be that way. But, what about with others? Who are you really close to? Take a minute and think about why you are so close.
So often we think of the deepest relationships being formed by two people who focus on one another. However, potentially the deepest bonds develop between people who are pursuing a mutual interest.Consider some examples of this: the undying brotherhood of a band of soldiers in war, the unbeatable unity of a team pursuing a championship, and the unbreakable bond of a family going through a crisis. These groups finds the depth of their bond not so much in themselves, as in the object they pursue and the experience of pursuing it... surviving the battle, winning the championship, weathering the storm.
God means for us to experience these kinds of relationships... relationships that are deeply affectionate, overflowing with joy, and filled with purpose; and God means to BE the object that brings us together.
What I have just described was the relationship between Paul and the church at Philippi. As we begin a study of the letter that Paul wrote to this church, we will study the first eleven verses and learn four challenging and encouraging lessons from their relationship.
Partnership in the Gospel
1. Study the background of Biblical literature so that you can understand it well. (1-2)
The people who received this letter knew why they were receiving it. They lived in the context. They knew the author well. Before you can ever really understand the content of a letter, you have to understand the author, the recipients, the background of their relationship, and the reason for the letter. A good study Bible, like the ESV Study Bible, or user-friendly commentary, like the NIV Compact Bible Commentary by John Sailhamer, will give you this perspective in a concise but helpful manner.
2. Praise God for deep and meaningful relationships. (1-11)
It is obvious from the text that Paul and the saints at Philippi enjoyed a deeply meaningful relationship. Listen to how he speaks of them: V3 Paul thanks God for them, V3 Paul remembers them often, V4 Paul prays for the often and does so “with joy”, V7 Paul “holds them in his heart,” V8 Paul “yearns for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus,” V26 Paul hopes to come to them again, 4:1 Paul calls them “brothers whom I love and long for, my joy and crown.”
Listen, I hope you have some of these kinds of relationships. They are a source of joy. God made us for these kinds of relationships, community. Family, Church, Friends. It takes effort and most likely you will have to be the one to initiate. But when you do, you will find relationships for which you will praise God.
3. Learn what made the relationship between Paul and the church at Philippi so deeply affectionate, overflowing with joy, and filled with purpose. (3-11)
a. They are partners in the same gospel. (3-5)
i. They were partners in sharing the gospel. (1:7, 27-28)
ii. They were partners in suffering for the gospel. (1:7; 4:14)
iii. They were partners in praying for the gospel. (1:19)
iv. They were partners in giving to further the gospel. (4:15-18 and 2 Cor 8:1-5)
That’s what partnership in gospel looks like: sharing, suffering, praying, giving. My friends, we must partner together for the gospel! This is our mission as a Church here in Winchester. We need to pray for, look for, work for opportunities to share the gospel in our neighborhoods. This is why we partner with other churches here in Winchester. This is why we praise God for churches like Guilford and Timberlake and individuals who partner with us in the gospel. This is why we partner with the Southern Baptist Convention and individual missionaries. We are NOT ALONE in this! God is on a mission and He calls us join Him.
b. They are partakers of the same grace. (6-8)
Paul and the saints at Philippi have experienced the same grace of God. God started the work by His grace and God will complete the work by His grace. The Philippian saints are NOT dependent on Paul to finish the work, “for it is God who works in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” (2:12-13). The Philippian Christians could rest assured that God will finish what he started!
c. They are passionate about the same God. (9-11)
i. A love that is growing.
ii. A love that is characterized by knowledge and discernment.
iii. A love that enables them to test, determine, choose, and prove what is excellent in life.
iv. A love that results in them being:
1. Pure and blameless for the day of Christ
2. Filled with the fruits of righteousness that come from Christ.
3. A source of glory and praise to God
4. Rejoice over progress in your Christian experience, not perfection. (1-11)
We make note that everything that Paul talks about here is a work in progress. God is gracious and the apostle is gracious. But all too often we are not very gracious and patient with ourselves and others. We look for perfection instead of progress. But this text speaks of an ON-GOING mission, a PROGRESSIVE sanctification, and a GROWING love. Let’s rejoice in the on-going, progressive, growth that the Spirit is doing in our lives, our church, and our families!