Summary: Paul prays for his partners in the Gospel, the Philippian church.
Someone has said that in Paul’s other letters, he is an “attack dog;” but in the letter to the Philippians, he is more like a “lap dog.” There is quite a difference in his letter to the Philippians and many of his other letters. When he wrote to the Galatians, he was combating heresy. When he wrote to the Corinthians, he was dealing with problems in the church. But when he wrote to the Philippians, though he did deal with some issues facing the church, he mainly wrote to express his love and appreciation for them. Paul had great appreciation for the Philippians because of their wonderful support of his ministry.
1. Paul’s partnership with the Philippians - vs. 7-8
A. It was persistent - v. 7a
They supported Paul whether he . . .
A. Was detained for the gospel - “whether I am in chains”
B. Was defending the gospel - “defending . . . the gospel”
C. Was declaring the gospel - “confirming the gospel”
Whether he made great progress or faced great persecution, they steadfastly supported Paul’s work. Why? Because they were convinced they had to obey the Great Commission. They were motivated by the responsibility they felt, not the results they saw; they were motivated by their love for God, not because things were looking good.
“If we take our Lord seriously, we must dedicate ourselves fully - time, talent and treasure - to the fulfillment of the Great Commission, not out of a sense of legalistic duty, but out of love and gratitude for what Christ has done for us. If we want to obey Him, He says, ‘Go,’ and that is sufficient reason for going.” - Bill Bright
Out of love for God and a desire to obey Him, we must persistently seek to share the gospel and support ministries that spread the gospel, even if the consequences are rejection, resistance, or results.
“Successful witnessing is sharing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit, and leaving the results to God.” - Bill Bright
When it comes to sharing the Gospel, our focus is to be on faithfulness; God will bring about the fruitfulness. Even though Paul was behind bars, he declared that because he and the Philippians had remained faithful, God was making them fruitful.
“Now I want you to know and continue to rest assured, brethren, that what [has happened] to me [this imprisonment] has actually only served to advance and give a renewed impetus to the [spreading of the] good news (the Gospel).” - Philippians 1:12 (Amplified)
B. It was personal - vs. 7b-8
In verse 7, the word “share,” is a form of “koinonia,” the word often translated “fellowship.” True Christian fellowship is found in working together to obey the Great Commission. Paul mentions an example of how personal their support was in Philippians 2:25:
“But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs.”
- Philippians 2:25 (NIV)
Paul was blessed by this personal support, as were the Philippians. We also can bless missionaries when we send individuals to visit them, and we, in turn, can be blessed. It is no wonder then, that Paul says he “had them in his heart” and that he “longed for all of them with the affections of Christ Jesus.” Paul expressed his love by his prayer.
2. Paul’s prayer for the Philippians - vs. 9-11
As they faithfully partnered with him, he faithfully prayed for them. He prayed for their:
A. Relationship with the people around them - v. 9
Paul prays that they might continue to be effective in their love for one another as well as for an unbelieving world. For that two happen, two things are required - knowledge and insight.
A man told his wife he never wanted to live in a vegetative state dependant upon a machine. He said, “If I ever get in that shape, I want you to pull the plug.” She got up and unplugged the television.
Not a bad illustration of how to love someone with knowledge and insight! But seriously, let’s think about how we are to love others.
1) Knowledge - One of the most foolish statements ever made is, “Love is blind.” What a horrible thing it would be if love were blind. Love has its eyes wide open to how things are and to how things ought to be. Christian love must operate according to truth (Ephesians 4:15).
2) Insight - Love makes choices that are based on discernment. Love does not always do what the other person wants us to do. Love does not always do what our culture thinks is best. Love acts wisely to achieve what is in the best interest of the one we care about.