Paul’s Gratitude for the Philippians
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”- Philippians 1:3–5
From the very start of his ministry in Philippi, it seems that Paul’s special relationship with the church there was inevitable. After all, the apostle and Silas first went to Philippi, a city in Macedonia, as the result of a supernatural vision, an occurrence that did not always precede their evangelization of a new area (Acts 16:6–12). Moreover, Paul and Silas both received extraordinarily attentive care from the Philippian jailer after his conversion (vv. 25–34). This care from one who would become part of the Philippian church foreshadowed the later support the apostle would receive from the believers in Philippi (Phil. 4:10–20).
Today’s passage reflects the close bond between Paul and the Philippians. Paul begins his letter with words thanking God for the Philippians’ “partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:3–5). Such expressions of gratitude were common in first-century letters, and, indeed, Paul regularly began his epistles in this manner (for example, 1 Cor. 1:4–9; Eph. 1:15–23; Col. 1:3–14). Yet the apostle’s opening words are somewhat unusual in that they focus on God’s work in the Philippian Christians (Phil. 1:6) rather than emphasizing the Philippians themselves.
Paul’s custom, Philippians 1:3–5 reveals, was to remember the Philippians in prayer during his daily times of intercession (“always in every prayer of mine”). His love for this congregation was exemplified in his regular prayers for them. One of the chief grounds of this affection was the Philippians’ eagerness to work with the apostle in gospel ministry (v. 5). This partnership was multifaceted. The believers in Philippi took part in the proclamation of the truth of Christ in word and in deed (vv. 27–28). They also suffered for their faith alongside Paul (vv. 29–30) and continually pleaded with the Father in the apostle’s behalf (vv. 18b–20). And, of course, we cannot forget the Philippians’ financial support of Paul’s ministry (4:10–20).
Today we can still partner with others to send forth the gospel when we teach alongside them, suffer the shame of the cross by supporting them when they are persecuted or harassed, pray for them, and support them financially. May we be willing to do any and all of these when we are called to work together with others in spreading the gospel.
God does not save us to be lone ranger Christians, but He expects us to partner with other believers in order to send forth the gospel. There are a multitude of ways in which we can support our churches, parachurch organizations, local ministries, and so forth to help advance the kingdom. What are some of the ways you can partner with others to proclaim the gospel? Are you fulfilling this call to gospel partnership?
Passages for Further Study
1 Samuel 18:1–5
2 Corinthians 9