Good Work in the Good News
Philippians 1:1-6 – Philippians: Life Together
First Sunday after Epiphany | The Baptism of Our Lord – January 7, 2018 (am)
God is doing a good work in you, and that involves your partnership in the good news of the Gospel.
One absolutely essential characteristic of human nature is our inherent need for fellowship with other humans, we naturally desire to establish close & strong relationships with other people. God has created us with this desire for friendship & fellowship as an indispensable part of our thriving as human beings. Ex > solitary confinement, babies looking for eyes, Tom Hanks & Wilson, Bob Newhart, etc. Think about the clubs that people join > sports, chess, motorcycle, book, raising show chickens or rabbits, car, model train, bird-watching, hunting & fishing, etc. What is a prime motivating force behind this desire to join a club? Fellowship, partnership, comraderie, being together.
So a major aspect of pursuing your hobbies is the people that it brings you into contact with, you’re seeking friendships by identifying some common interest, and then you build your relationships around that shared interest. And it is these relationships which are strong & close that will bring you much of the joy and fulfillment that God has promised to His people. Therefore, I believe that this crucial aspect of humanity – this pursuit of togetherness – should be more evident among God’s people (the Church) than in any other human organization.
We’re going to spend the next 4 months studying Paul’s letter to the Philippian church – and our main focus will be “Life Together.” We’ll be asking ourselves questions like; what has God revealed to us about human relationships in the Gospel? What principles and activities should govern our Christian fellowship? How are we to put these principles into practice? And how can Grace Church best display the love that Jesus Himself commanded us to practice?
John 13:34,35; A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."
This morning we’re going to examine Phil 1:1-6.
- Attitude: Thankful Joy; vv 3,4
- Action: Partnership in the Gospel; v 5
- Assurance: God’s Good Work; v 6
Now, before we dive into the outline – let’s make some brief observations from Paul’s greeting. #1. Paul & Timothy are described only as servants, or bondservants/slaves of Christ Jesus. We’re all aware that Paul had been a church leader in Antioch (Acts 13:1); chosen by the Holy Spirit as one of the first missionaries (Acts 13:2); received direct revelation from God (Gal 1:11-17); and for some brief time he had been caught up into the third heaven (2Cor 12:1-5) – and yet right here in speaking to this church filled with brothers & sisters in Christ, Paul describes himself & Timothy as only bondservants. Seems like Paul here is a model of humility.
And in addressing this church – notice that he is specifically writing to all the saints who are there – not leaving anyone out, and making a special note to ensure that those men in church leadership – the overseers and deacons, are included. Point being; The church is one body, and everyone is a saint – everyone is on the same plain, all in God’s Church are equal before Him. And I think that right here, Paul is indicating the unity of God’s people – every Christian, at whatever level of Christian discipleship, at whatever level of service, at whatever level of maturity in Christ; every believer is a saint, a “holy one” belonging to God. So, from these indications of humility & unity, let’s move on to examine the body of this letter:
I. Attitude: thankful joy, vv3,4
A. In vv3,4 – whenever Paul remembers the people who are the church in Philippi, he is thankful to God for those people. ‘Cuz other than God’s direct work in their hearts, how else can you explain the fact that this church even exists (Acts 16)? Paul had been travelling around Asia Minor (modern-day Turkey), and then he crosses over the Aegean Sea to Philippi, because he had a dream where a man from Europe said, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” In Philippi, Paul speaks to women gathered for prayer at a riverside. At that riverside, Lydia, a woman from Asia Minor who was now living in Europe, is paying attention to Paul because “The Lord opened her heart” – and she comes to saving faith and gets baptized. Then a slave girl is following Paul & his buddies around town for days saying, “These men are bondservants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” Now, even though she was only saying about Paul what he said about himself and what he knew was true about his mission, yet he became greatly annoyed and he cast the demon out of her. Well, that just gets him & Silas arrested and beaten and thrown into the inner prison, and put in stocks.
Then as Paul & Silas are praying & singing hymns that night, God sends an earthquake that opens all the jail cells & frees all the prisoners from their shackles, and with the jailer just about to kill himself, Paul cries out, “Do not harm yourself, for we are all here.” The jailer runs in, and with fear & trembling he falls down before these bond-servants of God and says, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” They reply, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved…” Then this jailer takes them to his own house and treats their wounds and prepares a meal for them. The jailer and his family put their faith in Jesus Christ, they get baptized, and rejoiced in their new salvation.
This is miraculous way in which God had planted the church in Philippi – and so, every time Paul thought about these believers & every time he prayed for these folks, he thanked God for them from a heart of joy. Whenever Paul offered up prayers on their behalf, it was from a heart attitude of joy. Paul’s prayer for them was not a burden, it was with joy that Paul prayed for them – and WHY? What was the reason for Paul’s joy in this Philippian church? Paul states the reason for his thankfulness & joy in the next verse.
II. Action: Partnership in the Gospel, v5
A. v5 > “because of your partnership in the Gospel” - these folks in Philippi were partners together with Paul in Gospel ministry, from the very beginning of their existence as a church, and this partnership continued on even after Paul’s departure. This partnership that Paul mentions is that familiar Greek word – koinonia. Also translated as participation, sharing, fellowship – these folks had a togetherness with Paul; they shared and participated together with Paul in the common cause of the Gospel.
B. As was stated earlier, this aspect of sharing a common cause or interest is a huge aspect of our relationships with one another, it’s the rallying point around which gather. Within Christianity, our common cause is the Lord Jesus Christ and His Kingdom. And so we preach & speak & live the Gospel; then we watch God deliver people out of the kingdom of darkness and transfer them into the Kingdom of His beloved Son. Then we work with them in discipleship, training them in Christlikeness & godly living. And as we’re all engaged in this eternal plan of God to build His Kingdom, we’re drawn closer and closer to one another, committed to each other’s welfare in Christian love – being thankful & appreciative of one another, being patient and forgiving of one another.
C. Now - what are some specific ways in which this church partnered with Paul in the Gospel?
1. Their prayers for Paul – look at vv19-25, Paul noted that their prayers for him would work for his deliverance. Paul is writing this letter from a Roman prison, you can see that Paul is convinced that he’s going to be delivered to continue on with his Gospel ministry for the sake of the church – even though he himself would rather depart and be with Christ. So, part of Paul’s confidence for his continuing in the Gospel is based upon their prayers for his deliverance from prison and execution. Therefore, you and I need to take note of the fact that prayer for one another, in thankful joy, is a major means of our partnering together in the Gospel.
2. Their financial support for Paul – 4:14-18. READ. Look at what Paul says here; they shared with him in his trouble, they partnered with him in regarding his practical needs. And how exactly did they do that? By sending financial gifts to pay for his living expenses. And how does Paul describe their gifts? Those gifts are “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. – v18 ” This same truth applies to you – when you offer up the sacrifice of your financial support, you also are partnering together with our church family, and you partner with our missionaries through your financial support of Grace Church.
D. In fact, this is how we primarily partner with our missionaries; by our regular prayers and financial support for them – which also includes sending teams to assist them in their ministries. [John speaks to this truth in 3John 5-8.] And we also partner together as a church family when we contribute financially to support of the staff & ministries & physical plant & the campus here at Grace Church. Your offerings support our Sunday morning worship & Bible classes and nursery; our children’s ministry AWANA; youth ministry, sports ministry, Special Needs ministry, Men’s & Women’s ministries, Biblical counseling ministry, missions ministry, hosting Quest, etc. All these Gospel ministries happen in this place, in this building, on this property – all of which requires joyful prayers of the saints, along with our faithful giving and service. As we all faithfully & thankfully & joyfully pray and give and serve – we’re partnering together in the Gospel at Grace Church and around the globe.
E. Now, Gospel ministry entails constant involvement and it’s difficult work, because it’s a ministry of warring kingdoms, and ministry will takes its toll on your psyche, your body, your emotions, your energy, your prayers, your finances, your entire being & life – and like in any war, there will be casualties – some people will drop out. BUT how can you persevere in your partnership in this Gospel? That question is answered by Paul – look at v6.
III. Assurance: God’s good work; v6
A. Where is Paul’s confidence, where is his assurance that this Philippian church will persevere in partnering with him in the Gospel? Notice what Paul says – he is sure that God Himself, He who began this good work in the Philippian believers, God Himself will continue to bring it. God’s good work in you is your partnership in the Gospel. God will continue to work in these folks, ultimately bringing their Good Work in the Good News to its final completion until the return of the Lord Jesus Christ.
B. So, Paul directs you to look to God, because it is God who will initiate and fulfill all the good work that He has for you. As Paul says later on in this letter; “for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (2:13; Eph 2:10)
C. So, if and when you grow tired & weary in your Gospel ministry, take heart – God will continue to work in you so that you will persevere in the Gospel ministry.
D. That’s the assurance & the surety & the confidence that you have in Gospel ministry – God works in you, for His glory and on your behalf – until Jesus returns to establish His Millennial Kingdom.
A. We’ve already touched on applications that you can take away from this passage – (1) thankful prayer for one another offered in joy; (2) your partnering in Gospel ministry through your prayers & giving, and (3) full dependence on God’s work in you until the day Jesus returns.
B. Specifics – how can you be in partnership in the Gospel? (1) Praying with thankful joy; missions > use the Global outreach prayer sheet and/or the missionary prayer cards. For Grace Church – as you pray, start in this sanctuary (worship, singing, preaching, communion); and work your way west > CE wing (ABFs, youth & AWANA & children’s ministries, nurseries); gym (sports, Special Needs, Quest), grounds (Sunday night tailgates, picnics, sports). (2) Giving? Give generously & joyfully as you partner together with your brothers & sisters to support Grace Church ministries & missions . (3) Persevere? Walk by faith, not by sight. Ask God to fill you with His Spirit and grant you a heart of love as you serve in ministry – then serve faithfully in the Spirit and in love.