3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you,
4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy,
5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
7 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.
Recently I attended a Sunday School class that was decidedly of the “once saved always saved” persuasion and we were spending some time in the passage below. Once we arrived at verse 6, the teacher mentioned how important this passage was and how he found comfort in it. He was exulting in the good work of God, that is, to supply Christian security to believers based solely on initial faith at the moment of conversion.
But I had questions.
I don’t think Paul is addressing the eternal security of the believers in Philippi.
He is writing to one of his very favorite church groups. The context is their fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now. Lets break this down a bit.
When Paul mentions fellowship, what is he talking about? The word Paul uses for fellowship can also be translated as partnership, or participation. The Philippians were partnering with Paul in the gospel. Is it simply the fact that they were Christians like he was and therefore they had fellowship?
But why is he defining the time limits so precisely, why does he have the ending clause of “from the first day until now”. I think when Paul uses “now”, he is referring to a very specific partnering, but is being incredibly delicate.
Out of all the churches planted by Paul, the Philippians had one (of many) qualities that made it stand out from the rest.
They loved Paul.
And he was reminded of this love on numerous occasions.
Consider what we know about the first day of Paul’s experience with this group of people.
And when she (Lydia) was baptized, and her household, she besought us, saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide there. And she constrained us.
And he (the Philippian jailer) took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptized, he and all his, immediately. 34 And he brought them up into his house, and set meat before them, and rejoiced greatly, with all his house, having believed in God.
Also, the last time Paul visited with the fledgling church, after his release from the jail.
35 But when it was day, the magistrates sent the serjeants, saying, Let those men go.
36 And the jailor reported the words to Paul, saying, The magistrates have sent to let you go: now therefore come forth, and go in peace.
37 But Paul said unto them, They have beaten us publicly, uncondemned, men that are Romans, and have cast us into prison; and do they now cast us out privily? nay verily; but let them come themselves and bring us out.
38 And the serjeants reported these words unto the magistrates: and they feared, when they heard that they were Romans;
39 and they came and besought them; and when they had brought them out, they asked them to go away from the city.
40 And they went out of the prison, and entered into the house of Lydia: and when they had seen the brethren, they comforted them, and departed.
These three passages teach us a number of important characteristics of the Philippian church.
They were an inviting church. Both of the main characters of the church (Lydia and the jailer) invited this trouble maker into their homes. I did a quick review of the book of Acts and could not find another church that was as inviting to the apostle. As a matter of fact, I didn’t find any church that expressly accepted Paul into their lives as the Philippians did.
Verse 35 to 40 need a bit more background to understand what possibly happened during Paul’s final moments with the church. You see, the Philippian church was a Roman colony and as such had the Caesar’s eye on it more so than some of the other churches in the area. A government town. Paul, I think, used the injustice of the beating and imprisonment to broker a deal with the leaders of the City. I think it may have went something like this.
Paul “You realize I am a Roman citizen and the beating and imprisonment you subjected us to was highly illegal”
City Official “Please leave our City without tattling on us”
Paul “The law of the Romans strictly forbids the beating and imprisonment of a Roman citizen without trial”
City Official “Please leave our City without tattling on us”
Paul ” I have friends in the City that I care deeply for”
City Official “?”
Paul “Do we understand each other?”
In the final moments of Paul’s time with the Philippians, he may (or may not have) mentioned that he had discussed some issues with the city officials, He definitely encouraged the new believers, sharing the love of Jesus with them and saying their goodbyes.
But wait – remember in chapter 1, verse three, where the apostle state they have shared in the gospel from the first day? It is obvious that the Philippians shared with Paul and his companions their homes, their lives and their goods.
Wow – Carl – there is nothing in the previous passage that says the Philippians gave of their goods to Paul.
Granted, that may be a stretch, but they loved him and I think they gave him some moolah, you know – cash. Also, if you look at the end of the book, specifically verse 15 of the fourth chapter, you will find that this church was the only church that supported Paul when he left them behind.
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.
15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.
18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.
19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
So lets get this straight. The Philippians supported Paul at the following times
* When he left the Philippian church the first time
* Twice in Thessalonica
* At least one in Corinth
* At least once in prison (the reason for the writing of this epistle)
Wow – Carl – there is nothing in the previous passage that says the Philippians gave of their goods to Paul in Corinth. (My my my – nothing gets by you now, does it?)
2 Corinthians 11:9
and when I was present with you and was in want, I was not a burden on any man; for the brethren, when they came from Macedonia, supplied the measure of my want; and in everything I kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.
Paul could take gifts from the Philippians since they loved him. (They were not questioning Paul’s motives or reluctant in supplying his needs as some others were.
So, lets get back to the original issue.
What is the good work that Paul is referring to in the beginning of the book?
I humbly submit that he is referring to the Philippian church actively partnering in the gospel through supplying the apostles physical needs.
The “once saved always saved” teaching simply isn’t there!
Guess we will have to look somewhere else for that teaching!
Maybe a commentary?
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