In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.
Sunday, 8 December 2013
Paul and the church in Philippi (Phil. 1:3)
I wonder what comes into your mind as you think of other churches. Perhaps you think of them according to their size (big or small) or by their programmes (all-age activities or evangelistic strategies) or by their history (their prominence over the years in a town or city). This, of course, raises the other question: what do people think about when they think about our church? It is a challenging thought to reflect on.
We know what Paul thought about when the church in Philippi came into his mind. In this thanksgiving section of his prayer he mentions three things about the church that are worth emulating by every other church: (a) it was a church about which he could pray joyfully; (b) it was a church that had fellowship with him in the gospel; and (c) it was a church that was making progress in holiness.
Before we think about those aspects that Paul thought about, we can remind ourselves of something even more basic in Paul’s life. This feature was the cause of all his joy, not only the joy that he had in the Philippian church. What is this aspect of life that was so crucial to Paul? It is found in the words, ‘My God.’
These words reveal a personal relationship. When did it begin? It commenced when Paul met the Lord Jesus on the Damascus Road and was brought into the family of God. His sins were forgiven on that day and he began a relationship in which he discovered repeatedly the grace of his God. Without this relationship we cannot know spiritual joy.
Paul writes in verse 3: ‘I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy.’ What could Paul recall about them? He could remember the way the church began. No doubt, he often thought about his coming to Philippi in response to the vision in which a man of Macedonia appealed to him to come and help them. Paul would have remembered with great joy the conversions of Lydia, of the demon-possessed girl, and the Philippian jailor and his family. No doubt, many others were converted at that time, and the memory of each was a great joy to the apostle. So their commencement with the gospel gladdened the heart of Paul.
There was another aspect of the church that gave Paul great joy and that was its concern to spread the gospel. The members of this church did not merely begin well, but had continued its efforts to spread the faith, whether locally or by sending help to Paul to spread the gospel elsewhere. Paul even states that they were the only church to do this at one stage in his ministry. ‘And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only’ (Phil. 4:15). Regarding this church, it was easy for Paul to pray about its activities because he knew that it gave a high priority to evangelism. We could say that their consecration to the gospel gladdened the heart of Paul.
Tomorrow we will think about the fellowship Paul enjoyed with the church there.