The Fellowship of the Gospel Philippians 1b
Stephen Caswell © 2003
During World War II, the enemy conducted experiments to find the most effective type of punishment for eliciting information from prisoners. They found that solitary confinement was the most effective. After a few days of solitary confinement, most men would tell all. This is but one reason why we need fellowship - without it we too become easy prey for temptation and abandonment of our values.
Last Sunday morning we looked at the Philippian Church and how it started. We saw why Paul was so joyful even in difficult circumstances. Jesus Christ had first place in his life. This morning we will see how Paul and the Philippians shared Christian fellowship. The word fellowship koinwnia means contribution, participation, partnership, communion. Basically it means to have something in common with another. Unless a person has trusted Christ as his Saviour, he knows nothing of the fellowship of the Gospel. In Ch 1 we see the fellowship of the Gospel; In ch 2 the fellowship of the Spirit; Ch 3 discusses the fellowship of His sufferings whilst ch 4 talks of the fellowship of giving where the same word is translated communicate in verse 14 and shared in verse 15. Paul and the Philippians shared wonderful fellowship. Paul emphasizes 3 points: He Had Them In His Mind, He Had Them In His Heart, He Had Them In His Prayers
I. He Had Them In His Mind
Philippians 1:3-6 I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;
After Paul's customary greeting he praised the Philippians for their faith. He thanked God for every remembrance of them. Paul kept the Philippian Church on his mind. He often thought of them even though they were 800 miles away. Then he expressed his gratitude to God for these beloved saints. This phrase is in the present tense. Paul's remembrance of them gave Him reason to continually thank God. Whenever he prayed for them he did so joyfully. What made these saints so dear to Paul that he should have such fond memories? It was their fellowship in the Gospel. I would like to suggest that their fellowship centered around four things.
a. Their Conversion
To start with Paul had planted the Church there. He preached the Gospel to them and they in turn believed. They received Jesus Christ as their Savior. Even though Paul suffered a great deal at Philippi he looked beyond this to the changed lives. In Hebrews 12:2 we find that Jesus looked beyond the cross to the joy that was set before Him. Christ had started a good work in them and Paul rejoiced to see it. Their conversion was genuine. It glorified God and brought joy to Paul. The Philippian Church and Thessalonian Church were two Churches that received very little rebuke. They received the Lord Jesus Christ and were growing in Him.
b. Their Conviction
The Philippians had the same concerns that Paul had. They were committed to the proclamation of the Gospel. They shared the Gospel with others right from the start. Paul says that their fellowship in the Gospel started from the first day and had continued until then. The best way to grow in our faith is to share in the ministry of the Gospel. The Philippians started well and continued on. They didn’t grow tired of sharing the Good News. When believers do this they avoid selfishness that can otherwise creep in. They weren't discouraged by suffering because they had strong convictions. This resulted in Church growth as many others came to know the Lord. It has been estimated that probably 95% of all church members have never led anyone to Christ.
One Could Become Many
Andrew brought Simon—just one. But that one was many, for under God, Simon brought three thousand in one day. Joel Stratton, a waiter in a restaurant, brought John Gough to Christ. Just one. And Gough brought many to Christ. Ezra Kimball, a Sunday school teacher, brought Moody to Christ—just one. But that one was many, for Moody rocked two continents for God. But why say more? Just as one digit is valuable in the multiplication table, and one letter in the alphabet, far more valuable is just one soul in God’s sight. Let’s pray God will use us to reach the one’s.
c. Their Concern They were concerned about Paul and assisted him. How did they do this?
They prayed for Paul and his defense before Caesar in Rome. Paul was suffering on their behalf in Rome as he stood on trial for his faith. He was the apostle to the Gentiles. Although the Philippians couldn't stand with Paul in Rome they did the best thing that they could. They prayed for him. Paul wrote this in Philippians 1:19 For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
The Philippian Church was the only one to give financial assistance to Paul. Philippians 4:15-16 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. This assistance would have been a great help to Paul, who was under house arrest in his own rented house. Galatians 6:6 commands this very thing. Let him who is taught the word share in all good things with him who teaches. The word share koinwnew is the verb form of the word fellowship.
Phil 4:3: I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.
Paul named some of the Philippians who had been co workers with Paul in the Gospel. He appreciated them and assured them the Lord knew about their service. Epaphroditus carried a gift from the Philippians to Paul in Rome. He assisted Paul by serving him in Rome. Paul appreciated his service and cited him as a good example to follow in ch 2. The Philippians showed their concern for Paul in practical ways, by praying, giving and serving.
d. Their Completion
Paul rejoiced that they had been sharing in the ministry of the Gospel from the first day until then. He was also confident that God would complete His good work in them. They had started well and Paul knew that the Lord would complete their faith too. The word complete ejpitelew means to perfect, finish, accomplish or perform something. When would God finish His good work? At the return of Jesus Christ. The day when Jesus comes for His own. 1 John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
• The work God does for us—salvation; • The work God does in us—sanctification;
• The work God does through us—service; • The work God will does in us—glorification;
Florence Nightingale At 30
Florence Nightingale wrote this in her diary, I am thirty years of age, the age when Christ began His mission. Now no more childish things, no more vain things. Now, Lord, let me think only of Thy will. Years later, near the end of her illustrious, heroic life she was asked for her life’s secret, and she replied, Well, I can only give one explanation. I have kept nothing back from God.
Paul had the Philippian believers on his mind. He had Christian fellowship with them. Fellowship centered around serving Jesus Christ. I thank God for people in this Church who share in the fellowship of the Gospel. Do you share the Gospel with those who don't know Christ? Do you pray for the ministry of the Gospel here each Sunday? Do you support the Church and missions financially? Are you using your spiritual gifts? How are you serving in the church? Our Church needs helpers with Awana, Youth Group, RE Ministry, Music ministry and others. Have you been involved in the fellowship of the Gospel from the first day until now? Or have you stopped along the way? You were saved because someone shared the Gospel with you. Are you doing the same for others? Are you being faithful like the generation who came before us? God will be faithful to finish His good work in you. Are you being faithful to Him?
II. He Had Them In His Heart
Philippians 1:7-8 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.
Paul now defends why he thought so highly of the Philippians. It was because he loved them deeply. Paul had the Philippians in his heart. They were very dear to him. The word partakers sugkoinwnos in verse 7 comes from the same Greek word for fellowship koinwnia. They shared the same concerns as he did. They served the same Lord. They had so much in common because of their faith. Therefore Paul loved them and told them so. But how could Paul love them so much? They were far from perfect? These brethren had some problems with disunity. How could Paul overlook these glaring faults? Because He loved them. God loves imperfect people and asks us to do the same. In fact the fellowship of the Gospel encourages this. We can set aside our differences for the advancement of Christ's kingdom. This should be our attitude to grey areas or personal conflicts. God calls us to unity. Christian fellowship requires it.
Paul said that God was his witness how he loved them with the affection of Jesus Christ. The word affection splagcnon means tender mercies, tender affection, the heart. How did Paul demonstrate his love for the Philippians? by suffering on their behalf. Because of Paul's trial Christianity, was going to get a fair hearing. Since Philippi was a Roman colony, the decision would affect the believers there. This is why Paul said that they were partakers of his defense and confirmation of the Gospel in Rome. Paul's courageous stand helped believers everywhere.
The Philippians also loved Paul. They appreciated the sacrifices he made for them. How do we practice this kind of love when people rub us up the wrong way? By allowing Christ's love to flow through us. Romans 5:5: Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. God fills our hearts with Christ's love when we ask by faith for His grace.
How Do You Know You Love God
In a boiler room, it is impossible to look into the boiler to see how much water it contains. But running up beside it is a tiny glass tube, that serves as a gauge. As the water stands in the little tube, so it stands in the great boiler. When the tube is half full, the boiler is half full; if empty, so is the boiler. How do you know you love God? You believe you love him, but you want to know. Look at the gauge. Your love for your brother is the measure of your love for God.
How do you get on with your brothers and sisters? Are you willing to suffer for the brethren? Do you have them in your heart or on your nerves? When the fellowship of the Gospel is our primary concern God enables us to love the unlovely. He fills our hearts with love and we can overlook each others shortcomings. Paul had the Philippians on his heart. They were partakers of his grace. Do you love your brothers and sisters? Do you have them in your heart? Thirdly he:
III. He Had Them In His Prayers
Philippians 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.
It is good to remember people and think about them. It is even better to love them dearly. But there is still one more thing that we must do. Pray!!! Paul prayed for the Philippians. In these 8 verses this morning we find prayer mentioned 4 times. Prayer was very important to Paul. It should be important to us too. Paul’s prayers comprised praise, thanksgiving and intercession. He practiced Philippians 4:6-7: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
The words and this I pray are in the present continuous tense. Paul didn't pray for them occasionally or when he felt like it. He prayed for them without ceasing. The deepest form of Christian fellowship involves prayer. No progress can be made in the Christian life without prayer. The amazing thing is that we can have fellowship with people on the other side of the world through prayer. The Philippians were 800 miles away from Paul, but they were not out of sight and out of mind. He remembered them praying for them constantly. He also prayed for them specifically. He prayed for their spiritual growth.
a. He Prayed For Abounding Love
Philippians 1:9a And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more
Paul begins with love because it is of primary importance. If Christian love is what it ought to be everything else will fall into place. There is always room for growth in Christian love. Usually when a couple starts dating they already like each other as friends. As time goes on they become more emotionally involved with each other. After they marry their love continues to grow as they live together and serve one another. The same is true of the Christian life. We love one another more and more as we serve one another and develop our relationships.
b. He Prayed For Discerning Love
Philippians 1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment
Christian love is not blind. Paul certainly didn't think it was. He prayed that the Philippians might have discerning love. He wanted their hearts and minds to work together so that they would become mature. Love should overlook faults and forgive sins. But it doesn't condone what is wrong. There is a big difference. The Philippians were to be understanding of one another, yet be careful of their personal choices. They were to judge their actions wisely.
c. He Prayed For A Faultless Life
Philippians 1:10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ,
The reason Paul wanted them to have a discerning love was so that they could make good choices. So that they would be able to approve things that are excellent. The word approve dokimazw means to prove something by testing. This test was used to determine the value of metals. Today we say the acid test. The word excellent describes the choice of the best that resulted from weighing up a number of alternatives. Paul wanted the Philippians to carefully examine their activities so that they could choose the best over the good. Mary and Martha both served Jesus when He stayed with them at Bethany. Martha served in the kitchen while Mary sat at Jesus feet and had fellowship with her Lord. Mary made the best choice Jesus commended her.
If the Philippians exercised this discerning love they would become sincere and without fault. The word sincere eijlkrines means to judge by sunlight. It described a genuine piece of pottery. A shopper would hold the piece of pottery to be purchased up to the light. If the vessel was cracked and filled with wax the light exposed the cracks. A genuine work could stand in the light and be proven flawless. This was Paul's desire for the Philippians. Such a life would be faultless ajproskopos. They wouldn't stumble themselves or cause others to stumble either. When Christ returns they would be faultless.
d. He Prayed For A Fruitful Life
Philippians 1:11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
The bottom line is a fruitful life. Truth and love working together produces good fruit. Both are necessary or we run into error. People who love others sincerely always serve them. Love is a verb, it's active. When people serve others out of love the world notices it and God gets the glory. Matthew 5:16: Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven. Christians sharing in the fellowship of the Gospel glorify God. This was Paul's desire. He was praying for their Christian maturity. We may be far away from those we pray for, but prayer is still very personal. It's costly, yet it shows how much we care.
The Purpose Of Bible Study
There is a story about a teenage boy who was deeply interested in scientific subjects, especially astronomy. So his father bought him a very expensive telescope. Since the young fellow had studied the principles of optics, he found the instrument to be most intriguing. He took it apart, examined the lenses, and made detailed calculations on the distance of its point of focus. The youth became so absorbed in gaining a technical knowledge of the telescope itself that he never got around to looking at the stars. He knew a lot about that fine instrument, but he missed seeing the wonders of the heavens.
As Christians, to know all the facts and figures contained in the Bible is not the end for which God has given us this Book. The purpose is that we might see God and know him. That we might be conformed to the image of His Son. Paul prayed that the Philippians might be loving, discerning, sincere and fruitful.
How important is prayer to you? Do you pray for your family, and the brethren in our fellowship? Do you pray for the Lord’s servants further a field? Often this is the only way we can share with them. Do you pray specifically? Do you pray for their spiritual growth? Paul prayed for the Philippians spiritual growth. Paul prayed for abounding love, discerning love, faultless living and fruitful living! Paul gives us a good example here of how to pray. Will you follow this in the fellowship of the Gospel?
Today we have seen how Paul and the Philippians shared in the fellowship of the Gospel. They had each other on their minds, hearts and prayers. Do you do this? Do you think of your brethren? Do you appreciate them and hold them dear in your hearts? Do you serve them through giving and practical ministries? Do you pray for them?
2 Corinthians 13:14: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.