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.
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.
We will continue with a discussion of the thoughts in Philippians 1:1–11 that Paul uses to describe true Christian fellowship.
I Have You In My Heart
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. – Philippians 1:7-8.
Now we move a bit deeper, for it is possible to have others in our minds without really having them in our hearts. Paul’s sincere love for his friends was something that could not be disguised or hidden.
Christian love is truly “the tie that binds.” Love is the evidence of salvation: “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.” – 1 John 3:14. It is the “spiritual lubrication” that keeps the machinery of life running smoothly. Have you noticed how often Paul uses the phrase “you all” as he writes? There are at least nine instances in this letter. He does not want to leave anyone out! (Some translations read, “You have me in your heart” in Philippians 1:7, but the basic truth is the same.)
How did Paul evidence his love for them? For one thing, he was suffering on their behalf. His bonds were proof of his love. He was “the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you Gentiles.” – Ephesians 3:1. Because of Paul’s trial, Christianity was going to get a fair hearing before the officials of Rome. Since Philippi was a Roman colony, the decision would affect the believers there. Paul’s love was not something he merely talked about; it was something he practiced. He considered his difficult circumstances an opportunity for defending and confirming the Gospel, and this would help his brethren everywhere.
But how can Christians learn to practice this kind of love today? “I get along better with my unsaved neighbors than I do my saved relatives!” is a statement many a person has confided to their pastor. “Maybe it takes a diamond to cut a diamond, but I’ve just about had it!” or, “I’ve just about had enough with brother sandpaper!” Christian love is not something we work up; it is something that God does in us and through us and then we fulfill that love by actions. Paul longed for his friends “with the affection of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:8. In the King James Version it states, “in the bowels of Jesus Christ.” The word in the original for bowels means “a love that is deep within, such as the seat of the feelings.” It was not Paul’s love channeled through Christ; it was Christ’s love channeled through Paul. “The love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” – Romans 5:5. When we permit God to perform His “good work” in us, then we grow in our love for one another.
How can we tell that we are truly bound in love to other Christians? For one thing, we are concerned about them, we have compassion for them. The believers at Philippi were concerned about Paul and sent Epaphroditus to minister to him. Paul was also greatly concerned about his friends at Philippi, especially when Epaphroditus became ill and could not return right away (Philippians 2:25–28). “My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.” – 1 John 3:18.
Another evidence of Christian love is a willingness to forgive one another. “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for “love will cover a multitude of sins.”” – 1 Peter 4:8.
It (love) does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. – 1 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV).
Christians who practice love always experience joy; both come as a result of the presence of the same Holy Spirit. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy.” – Galatians 5:22.
To Be Continued