Summary: What does the word “fellowship” bring to your mind? Do you think of coffee or fried chicken or church socials? Paul had a wonderful fellowship with the Philippian church that didn’t have anything to do with any of those.
I love our times of fellowship, don’t you? We joke all the time about how much Baptists love to eat, but I think that one of the reasons we like to eat so much is because of the fellowship that goes along with it. Those times are wonderful and I wouldn’t trade anything in the world for them. But is that all that fellowship is? Is fellowship just limited to the times when we have picnics and dinners together? Is fellowship just limited to the times when we love on each other before and after our services together? No it’s not. Because those things are really just expressions of our true fellowship. True fellowship goes much deeper than handshakes and hugs. True fellowship is the kind of fellowship that Paul shared with the church at Philippi. The kind of fellowship that endured even when they were apart. The kind of fellowship that continually increased, despite prison and persecution. In many of Paul’s letters, he begins with a prayer of thanksgiving. He thanks God for the people he’s writing to. But in this letter to the church at Philippi, that thankfulness seems to overflow. Paul had a very special relationship with the church at Philippi. They weren’t a perfect church. There were some issues going on that he would address later on. There were two ladies who weren’t getting along with each other. Sometimes they were self-centered. At times, they grumbled and complained. They weren’t always unified. They had trouble discerning false teaching. They weren’t always focused on what they were supposed to be doing and weren’t all heading in the same direction. They weren’t a perfect church. But you know what they say about a perfect church. Actually, Spurgeon is credited with saying it first. Spurgeon was pastor of the huge Metropolitan Tabernacle in London and wonderful things were happening there. Thousands would come each Sunday to hear him preach. During the week, they would give out tickets to get in because there wasn’t enough room for everyone that wanted to, to come in. But all of these great things were happening and a lady came up to Spurgeon one Sunday morning after the service. She said, “Mr. Spurgeon, I don’t believe that I will be joining your church.” Spurgeon said, “Why is that?” She said, “Because some things are lacking. It is not quite a perfect church.” Spurgeon looked at her and said, “Ma’am, when you finally find the perfect church, please do not join it. Because if you join it, you will only ruin it.” That’s funny, but it’s true. There are no perfect churches. There never have been and there never will be. And the reason that there are no perfect churches is because churches are made up of imperfect people. And Philippi was the same way. But in spite of that, they were still very special to Paul. Maybe that’s because he knew that he wasn’t perfect either. Later on in this letter, he reminds them of that. In Philippians 3:8-9, he wrote, “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.” Paul knew that any righteousness in him wasn’t his. He knew it was Christ’s. And he knew that the same Jesus that saved him was the same Jesus that saved the people in the church at Philippi. And because of that, he was able to see them, not for their imperfections… but he was able to see them for who they were in Christ. And because of who they were together in Christ, they were able to have true, real fellowship. In this passage, we see how that fellowship played itself out in two parts. Their fellowship was a gospel fellowship and it was a grace fellowship. First, it was a gospel fellowship. Look back at verse 5-6: