Tuesday, February 08, 2011
We’re looking at verses Philippians 1:7-11 for the next few days. These verses span two parts of this first chapter of this letter. If you look back to verse 3, from verse 3 to verse 8 Paul is expressing his joy in, his thanksgiving to God for, his love for, the Philippians. Repeatedly in various ways, Paul expresses gratitude to God for the Philippians, and he enumerates some of the reasons why he’s so joyful about them, why he’s rejoicing in, why he’s thankful for the Philippians. We will pick up this week right in the middle of that series of expressions of thanksgiving, Paul is speaking the way he is because of what he has just said in verse 6. So the first part of this passage, verses 7-8, continues and concludes the expression of thanksgiving that Paul has been making to God because of the Philippians. And again it reminds us of the reasons why he is thankful.
We’ll look at the second part of the passage in verses 9-11 next week, it is a Pauline prayer. We’re only half way into this chapter and we’re already finding a prayer of Paul for the Philippians.
In this great passage we have first an expression of Paul’s thankfulness, and then we have a glorious example of Paul’s prayers for God’s people.
I. Paul’s deep affection for the Philippians.
In verses 7 and 8, Paul is expressing his deep affection for the entire Philippian congregation, to give us a culmination to that section that runs from verse 3 all the way to verse 8, which is itself an expression of thankfulness and love. Allow your eyes to go back to verse 3, and follow the logic of Paul’s expression of thanksgiving. He says:
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.”
And then listen closely to verse 6:
“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
Paul wants you to understand that he has just said something that is astounding. He’s saying, ‘Philippians, I am absolutely confident that the work that God has started in you, He’s going to finish.’ Paul is so confident of this because he has already seen with his own eyes how the grace of God is transforming these Philippian Christians. When he has been in suffering, they have been right there with him. When he has been in need, even out of poverty they have given generously to him. What he cares about, they care about. He wants to see the world trusting in Jesus Christ. They want to see that too, and they have put their money where their mouths are in that regard, in supporting his missionary journeys.
They, with Paul, understand experientially and personally the sovereign grace of God, and they were united to Paul in that. So when Paul says in verse 7, “For it is only right for me to feel this way about you,” he is saying ‘I have every reason to have the confidence that I have in you, that God’s good work will be completed, because I’ve already seen what God’s grace is doing in your heart and life.
The Philippians had been knit together with Paul in Paul’s sufferings and ministry, and so Paul speaks confidently because he has already seen the change that God’s Holy Spirit has been working in their lives, he is an eye-witness of what the grace of God is already doing in them.
But not only is Paul rejoicing in what the grace of God is doing in the Philippians, in seeing what the grace of God is doing in the Philippians, it has knit Paul’s heart together with the Philippians.
Communion in the same grace and mission creates a band of brothers.
The unity that Paul experiences with the Philippians – their mutual love for one another, their deep affection for one another – grows out of the soil of their common experience of God’s sovereign grace and their common commitment to spreading the word of the gospel. Gospel love and Christian affection grow in the soil of grace and gospel service. In those things Paul has been able to perceive their heart, and they have been able to perceive Paul’s heart, which has pulled them together.
People are always talking today about ‘strategies for uniting the church.’ Paul is saying: The unity of the church is based on our common experience of and embrace of the sovereign, saving grace of God in Jesus Christ, and the mission that grows out of that. Just as Paul had been united in heart to the Philippians because they both had experienced God’s sovereign grace and they were both committed to this service of the gospel, so also gospel love and affection grow in every Christian congregation where the fundamental thing that holds us together is our awareness of having received unmerited favor from the living God, divine saving grace in Christ, which has made us brothers and sisters and given us a common purpose and mission in life to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth and to glorify God in all of life.
Even as he comes to the conclusion of his expression of thankfulness, we learn that communion in the same grace and mission creates a band of brothers and sisters that gospel love and Christian affection grow up in a congregation which has the soil of grace and of gospel service.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 4:13 PM