Learning to thrive in the new life Jesus offers us – 2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Paul’s Thanks – Philippians 1:3-6

Philippians Bible Study, Week 3

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 (koinonia) in the Gospel from the first day until now. 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. Philippians 1:3-6 (NASB)

Things to Think About

Paul’s letter to the Phillipian saints contains no reprimands. How does this compare with Paul’s other letters?

In what way(s) have the Philippians been partnering/sharing/contributing in the Gospel (Phil. 1:5)?

What is Paul saying in verse 6?  What is the “good work”?

What will happen on “The Day of Christ” (Phil. 1:6 & 10)?


Paul’s Prayer of Thanks (Philippians 1:3-4)

Paul continues to follow the letter writing conventions of the day by following his greeting and blessing with a word of thanks.[1] Paul enthusiastically thanks God for the Philippians and uses the word “all” four times in the verses 3-4. His warm remembrances and joyful prayers are for every member of the entire church. This effusive prayer of thanks is similar to that in a few of Paul’s other letters (1 Thess. 1:2 cf. 1 Cor. 1:4; Col. 1:3).

Koinonia (Philippians 1:3)

The Greek word, koinonia, was a fashionable word in church life in the 70s and was used mainly in the context of Christian social events.[2] However, koinonia has a richer range of meanings; it did just refer to social gatherings in New Testament times. Koinonia can be translated as partnership, communion[3], participation, and fellowship. It can even mean generosity. The real sense of this word is: “sharing something in common”. Koinonia and its cognates are often used in the New Testament in the context of sharing a common faith, sharing a ministry, or sharing material possessions. Paul uses this word several times in this letter (Phil. 1:5, 7; 2:1; 3:10; 4:14); and in others. Koinonia is occasionally prefixed (with syn) to further emphasise the meaning of reciprocal sharing (Phil. 1:7; 4:14).

Partnering in Mission

God wants us to partner and share with him in his mission to bring the gospel of hope, mercy, justice, and salvation to others. By partnering with God in his work, we also become partakers of his blessing and rewards.

God also wants us to partner and join with other believers so that together we can minister with shared strength, support, and encouragement. This collaboration of Christians working together for the progress of the Gospel should be one of the church’s main activities.

The Philippian church had been involved in the work of the Gospel from its earliest days (Phil. 1:5; 4:2-3,15). One way that they were doing this was by financially supporting Paul in his ministry. Because of their financial support, Paul regarded the Philippians as co-partners in his ministry. As such, they were also co-partakers with him of God’s grace (Phil. 1:5, 1:7; 3:10).

The Grace of Giving

The singer Keith Green has famously said that “God can’t cash out-of-state cheques.” By saying this, he was encouraging people to go and actively minister on the front lines of evangelistic missions and not just financially support others who were actually involved. This encouragement is commendable; however, in the letter to the Philippians, we can see that Paul regards financial support as real participation and partnership in the Gospel.

The city of Philippi was situated near gold and silver mines and was not a poor city; and yet it seems that the church was not at all wealthy. Despite their “depths of poverty”, the churches of Macedonia, which included Philippi, were often very generous in supporting Paul’s ministry (2 Cor. 8:1-6). [4]

The Philippians were also supporting Paul’s ministry in other ways also.  An important help to Paul was their prayers. (More on prayer later.)  Is there a ministry that you can actively partner with in prayer and finances?

Confidence and Trust

Another word which Paul uses a few times in this letter is pepoithōs (Phil. 1:6, 14, 25; 2:24; 3:3-4).  This word is the perfect tense of peithō (persuade) and it means having been persuaded, or having become convinced. (Paul is fond of this word and he used it in many of his other letters too, especially 2 Corinthians.)

What is the “good work” that Paul was referring to in verse 6?  The “good work” may be the generous gift that Paul received through Epaphroditus. (Compare the language of Philippians 1:6 to 2 Corinthians 8:6-8 which is also about giving.) On the other hand, the “good work” is more likely to mean God’s initial gift of saving faith (Eph. 2:8-10 cf. 1 Cor. 1:4). Paul was convinced that God, who began the good work in the Philippian church, would continue to work within the church and the lives of its members (Phil. 2:13), to bring the good work of faith to maturity and perfection.

Paul's Thanks, Philippians 1

Perfection

Many Christians have seen Christian conversion as the end goal. But conversion is really just the beginning. The Christian life is a journey of discoveries, decisions, and determination towards the destination of spiritual maturity and perfection.

What does Christian maturity look like? It looks like Jesus! Jesus is our example of perfect compassion and wisdom, of perfect obedience to the Father and the Holy Spirit, of perfect ethical and moral behaviour

Our aim should be to become completely Christ-like. Our end goal is perfection! While the common slogan: “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven” is certainly true, God wants us to intentionally aim for perfection. Paul knew this, so one of his main aims in ministry was to help Christians become spiritually mature and Christ-like (Rom. 8:29; Gal. 4:19)

Paul writes:

“…our prayer is for your perfection… Aim for perfection…” 2 Corinthians 13:9 & 11
We proclaim [Jesus], admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. Colossians 1:28

At the same time, Paul knew that he himself had not yet reached spiritual maturity and perfection. Paul did not let personal setbacks, disappointments, and failures stop him. He kept striving for this goal!  See Philippians 3:11-15.

The Day of Christ

Paul is the only New Testament author to use the term “the day of Christ”. In Philippians, he used this term three times (Phil. 1:6,10; 2:16). The Day of Christ is when Jesus returns to earth and his true identity and kingship is revealed to the whole earth (1 Cor. 1:8; 13:10; 15:48-54; 2 Cor. 1:14; Phil. 3:20; Col. 3:4; 1 Pet. 1:5). Our full redemption and perfection will be finally accomplished on that day. We need to persevere and progress in our Christian faith until then so that we will receive this final culmination of our salvation. On the Day of Christ, believers will meet Jesus face to face and be powerfully transformed into his likeness (Col. 3:4; 1 John 3:2).

The Day of Christ is not to be confused with the Day of the Lord. The Day of the Lord is a time of wrath, retribution. and judgement upon the earth. There is a lot of confusion about end times’ (eschatological) events; however, it seems that the Day of Christ occurs at the conclusion of the Day of the Lord, and there may even be some overlap. Taken from Week 18: The Day of Christ – Philippians 3:20-4:1. The Day of Christ will be a wonderful day for those who have faithfully followed Jesus.

Our citizenship is in heaven from which we also are eagerly waiting for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the  body of his glory by the exertion of the power that he has, even to subject everything to himself.  Philippians 3:21


Endnotes

[1] Letters in Paul’s day typically began with a statement announcing the letter’s author, a statement announcing the letter’s recipient, then a blessing (usually a pagan blessing), followed by a prayer of thanks to some deity. Paul followed the customs of his society but adapted them for godly use. Many modern churches have borrowed conventions and innovations from contemporary society and culture, and adapted them for godly use. Paul showed that this can be done to further the gospel, without necessarily compromising it.

[2] Church social events, (i.e. meetings other than Sunday worship services), were seen by many as Christian fellowship.

[3] Koinonia is translated as “communion” in many translations of 1 Corinthians 10:16-17.

[4] 2 Corinthians 8:1-5 (NEB):

We must tell you friends, about the grace of generosity which God has imparted to our congregations in Macedonia. The troubles they have been through have tried them hard, yet in all this they have been so exuberantly happy that from the depths of their poverty they have shown themselves lavishly open-handed.  Going to the limit of their resources, as I can testify, and even going beyond that limit, they begged us most insistently, and so on their own initiative, to be allowed to share in this generous service to their fellow Christians.

© 27th of May, 2010; Margaret Mowczko


< < < Week Two: Paul’s Greeting – Philippians 1:1-2

> > > Week Four: Paul’s Affection – Philippians 1:7-11

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Posted May 1st, 2010 . Categories/Tags: Bible Study Notes, Lessons from Philippians, , , , , , , , ,

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