Scripture Text – Philippians 1:1-11
That word fellowship seems to mean many things to many different people. Perhaps, like a worn coin, it may be losing its true impression. If so, we had better take some steps to rescue it. After all, a good Bible word like fellowship needs to stay in circulation as long as possible.
In spite of his difficult circumstances as a prisoner in Rome, Paul is rejoicing. The secret of his joy is in having one mind; he lives for Christ and the Gospel. (Christ is named eighteen times in Philippians 1, and the Gospel is mentioned six times.) “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” – Philippians 1:21. But what really does it mean to have “one mind”? It is the attitude that says, “It makes no difference what happens to me, just as long as Christ is glorified and the Gospel shared with others.” Paul rejoiced in spite of his circumstances, because his circumstances strengthened the fellowship in the Gospel (Philippians 1:1–11), promoted the furtherance of the Gospel (Philippians 1:12–26), and guarded the faith of the Gospel (Philippians 1:27–30).
The word fellowship simply means “to have in common.” But true Christian fellowship is really much deeper than sharing coffee and pie, or even enjoying watching a football game together. Too often what we think of as “fellowship” is really only acquaintanceship or friendship. You cannot have fellowship with someone unless you have something in common; and for Christian fellowship, this means the possessing of eternal life within the heart. Unless a person has trusted Christ as his Savior, he knows nothing of “the fellowship of the Gospel.” In Philippians 2:1, Paul writes about “the fellowship of the Spirit,” because when a person is born again he receives the gift of the Spirit (Romans 8:9). There is also “the fellowship of His suffering.” – Philippians 3:10. When we share what we have materially with others, this is also fellowship (Philippians 4:15).
So, true Christian fellowship is much more than having a name on a church roll or being present at a meeting. It is possible to be close to people physically and miles away from them spiritually. One of the sources of Christian joy is this fellowship that believers have abiding in Jesus Christ. Paul was in Rome, his friends were miles away in Philippi, but their spiritual fellowship was real and satisfying. When you have the single mind that Paul describes, you will not complain about circumstances because you know that difficult circumstances will result in the strengthening of the fellowship of the Gospel.
Paul uses three thoughts in Philippians 1:1–11 that describe true Christian fellowship and those three thoughts are what we will discuss next.
I Have You In My Mind
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. – Philippians 1:3-6.
Isn’t it remarkable that Paul is thinking of others and not of himself? As he awaits his trial in Rome, Paul’s mind goes back to the believers in Philippi, and every recollection he has brings him joy. Read Acts 16 and you will discover that some things happened to Paul at Philippi, the memory of which could produce sorrow. He was illegally arrested and beaten, was placed in the stocks, and was humiliated before the people. But even those memories brought joy to Paul, because it was through this suffering that the jailer found Christ! Paul recalled Lydia and her household, the poor slave girl who had been demon-possessed, and the other dear Christians at Philippi; and each recollection was a source of joy. (It is worth asking oneself, “Am I the kind of Christian who brings joy to my pastor’s mind or even my brothers and sisters when they think of me?”)
It is possible that Philippians 1:5 is talking about their financial fellowship with Paul, a topic he picks up again in Philippians 4:14–19. The church at Philippi was the only church that entered into fellowship with Paul to help support his ministry. The “good work” of Philippians 1:6 may refer to the sharing of their means; it was started by the Lord and Paul was sure the Lord would continue it and complete it.
But we will not go astray if we apply these verses to the work of salvation and Christian living. We are not saved by our good works (Ephesians 2:8–9). Salvation is the good work God does in us when we trust His Son. In Philippians 2:12–13 we are told that God continues to work in us through His Spirit. In other words, salvation includes a threefold work:
- the work God does for us—salvation;
- the work God does in us—sanctification;
- the work God does through us—service.
This work will continue until we see Christ, and then the work will be fulfilled. “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” – 1 John 3:2.
It was a source of joy to Paul to know that God was still working in the lives of his fellow-believers at Philippi. After all, this is the real basis for joyful Christian fellowship, to have God at work in our lives day by day.
To Be Continued