Philippians 1:7-11 It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God..
Joy and thanksgiving drip from the pages of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It is within this book that we find Paul’s strongest expression of affection toward any of his churches. He loved these believers, and they loved him back (1:7-8; 4:1). He loved them by labouring for their spiritual growth (1:23-26; 2:16-18), and praying for them continually (1:4). They loved him by praying for him (1:19), labouring alongside of him (1:5,7; 4:3), supporting him in his times of need (4:10-20), and remaining loyal even when others did not (1:15-20).
The love between Paul and the Philippians however, was not rooted in what they did for one another. Their relationship was rooted in what the Lord Jesus Christ had done for all of them. And here we find the secret to all true Christian fellowship.
Christian fellowship is not mere social interaction. Not simply comaraderie around shared interests. In fact, much of what is called “fellowship” in Christian circles today is not fellowship at all. Genuine Christian fellowship is spiritually upbuilding fellowship which takes place in the context of Christ-centered relationships.
This type of fellowship is what Jesus Christ prayed for, died for and lives to continually make possible (John 17). According to John 17, there is a oneness which exists only among believers. This oneness was made possible through the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. Through his life, death and resurrection he brought salvation to all who would believe. After his ascension he sent the Holy Spirit which the Father had promised to his people, thus making all believers partakers of the same nature (John 14:15-21; 1 Cor 12:12-14; Eph 4:4-6; Eph 2:18-21). In other words, Christian fellowship is more than skin deep. On a spiritual level, every Christian is part of the same family and shares the same nature. God has provided everything we need to experience oneness and true Christian fellowship.
A supernatural love and unity is possible among Christians because we all share the same nature. The Holy Spirit which dwells in me, also dwells in you. He is producing the same drives and desires in me as he is in you. He is gradually molding and shaping both you and I to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ (2 Cor 3:18; Rom 8:29). This progressive work of God in which he makes us more like Christ is what we call sanctification (Eph 5:25-27; 1 Thess 5:23; Heb 10:12-14). This process of becoming more like Christ is helped when we obey God by submitting to what the Holy Spirit wants us to do. It is hindered when we choose to do our own thing, contrary to the Spirit’s influence (Eph 4:30).
What we find among Paul and the Philippians is an awesome work of God. The Apostle and these believers were growing more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ and as they did so, they loved eachother more and more. Yet, this was not their own love, but the love of Christ working through them (2:13).
The Apostle Paul was filled with an intense, compassionate, longing towards the Philippians. He loved them deeply. Yet, he is quick to acknowledge the source of this love. He said For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus (1:8).
Christian fellowship is bound together by the love and affection of Jesus Christ working through us – and toward one another. The more each of us becomes like Christ (through sanctification), the stronger our love and care for one another becomes. The relationship between Paul and the Philippians is a perfect case study on what Christian fellowship looks like practically.
The Philippians were a community of growing believers. There was abundant evidence that the Holy Spirit was working among them. They loved their fellow believers, laboured for the gospel, sacrificed to fill needs and were, in every way counted as “partners in the gospel”. All of this was the work of Jesus Christ, through them. The Apostle Paul, who himself was growing abundantly, could not help but be drawn to this church. Their desires were the same, they thought the same way, and their affections were moved by the same things. The Holy Spirit in him was drawn to the Holy Spirit in them. Such is the case within all genuine Christian fellowship.
The work of Christ in you, draws out the love of Christ in me which causes me to behave like Christ toward you, which then draws out the love of Christ in you, etc. This cycle of growth and love is what Christian fellowship is all about.
The relationship between Paul and the Philippians was amazing, but it should not be rare. This type of spiritual bond is possible for all believers. Jesus Christ has provided everything we need to have such fellowship. Why do you think such a bond is not commonplace among believers? What can be done to develop such oneness?
The above is an excerpt from Pastor Rick’s study through the book of Philippians