Some thoughts from Philippians 1:1-11:
- Paul is writing a thank you letter to the church in Philippi for their partnership in the gospel (1:5, 4:14-19) - they've partnered by supporting him financially in hardship (4:14-19, 2 Cor 8:1-3) so that he can continue his gospel work. It's a thank you for being a partner, and he encourages them to carry on in the way they're going, living and speaking the gospel. It's often said that Philippians is an unusual letter in that it's not written with a specific rebuke, it's more 'carry on as you are, keep growing'. Would the same be said of my church?
- So he thanks them for what they've done... but really the one he is thanking is God. It's more a thank you letter to God than them. Why's that? Their love for the gospel, their desire to give financially to gospel work, any change that has taken place in them is all because of how God has worked in them. And so yes, they gave... but they gave because God who is gracious and powerful had worked a miracle in their hearts to change them into the people they are now. And so God is the one to thank! When I look at my life, at some of the things I've done, how often does that lead to pride? Do I, when seeing a generous/selfless/compassionate/gracious act of another Christian, dwell enough on what that says about the glorious God who's made them like that, and let that lead me to praise and thank Him?
- Apparently the word for partnership (1:4, 4:15) is the same word that's used for fellowship elsewhere in the New Testament. It's a brilliant word, giving the feeling of people working and striving together to a common end. It describes the effort of the England rugby world cup team working together to win the world cup, it describes the driven, united team spending countless hours tirelessly canvassing the streets for Barack Obama, it describes the brotherhood of soldiers as they huddle in the trench preparing to face the common enemy. How often is this what fellowship is in our churches? Is it more often having a chat about the weather or the football over a cup of tea at the end of the service? Do we have the feeling of a united group of people who have a shared passion and drive to do the work together...
...more to come