Summary: This sermon deals with the joy of fellowship that comes between those who love God. This sermon is #2 in my series on the Book of Philippians.
Think about this for just a minute. Here was Paul, in chains because he had preached and defended the message of the Gospel, and here in this letter to the Philippians he begins it with some words of praise and joy.
Did you know that nowhere else in the religious writings of the world, outside of the Bible is there any evidence found of inner peace and praise for someone under circumstances similar to what Paul was in. The reason wasn’t that Paul was some kind of naturally happy individual. No, the reason why Paul could be joyful in these circumstances, and other religions are not, is because there is no religion outside of Christianity that can produce a transformation of one’s life equal to what Jesus Christ does in the heart of a saved individual. No one but a child of God can “count it all joy” when we are facing the trials of a troublesome life.
16 times here in this book of Philippians do we find joy mentioned. Christ is mentioned 50 times, because this is where true joy is found!
Paul was full of joy because of what God had done in his heart and life, but he was also full of joy because he was experiencing a bond with these Christians at Philippi which is unequalled by anything in this world. The Bible calls this sacred tie a “fellowship.”
Today’s pop quiz: how many of you remember what I preached about two weeks ago? I preached about koinonia – fellowship. Here in these first few chapters we see this koinonia taking place. You see, the word koinonia means fellowship or communion. It carries with it the idea of a partnership, a sharing in common. Paul and these saints at Philippi were partakers of, and partners in, a common gospel, and together they made up this holy fellowship. Again, this word koinonia was used of the marriage bond, and it suggested a powerful common interest that could hold two or more people together. Paul used this word koinonia three times in this book (v. 5, 2:1, 3:10).
This evening I want to take a closer look at this passage of Scripture. It has been suggested that this word “fellowship” is a key to a better understanding of this Book. Paul said, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you (v. 3)…for your fellowship in the Gospel.” (v. 5) Paul praises them for their fellowship, let’s take a closer look.
I. Paul praises them for a Controlled Fellowship.
This “fellowship” is “in the gospel.” This fellowship is not controlled or dependent on someone’s age, financial status or social standing. This fellowship which Paul enjoyed and we enjoy is a fellowship in the Gospel and controlled by the Spirit. In chapter 2:1 Paul mentions the “fellowship of the Spirit.”
Paul wrote to the Corinthian church in 1 Corinthians 12:12-13, “For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.”
When the Holy Spirit is in control of the body, the fellowship among members of the body is unequaled on earth, for then there is “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” (Galatians 5:22-23) This is the “fruit of the Spirit” that makes so wonderful the “fellowship of the Spirit.” This is not a forced, regimented fellowship, but a divinely-controlled fellowship. A fellowship controlled by the Spirit!
Because this church was a Spirit filled church, the Apostle Paul could write, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.’ (v. 3) Paul wasn’t thankful for them because of their possession of this world’s goods or because of their position in this world, or because of their power in this world’s system, but because of “you.” How precious it is to enjoy fellowship with other Christians who are in Christ. God made you who you are by His grace, and I thank Him for “you!” Praise God for a Spirit-controlled fellowship.
Paul praised them for a Controlled Fellowship, but notice also…
II. Paul was thankful for a Continuing Fellowship.
“Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, 5 for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.” (v. 4-5)
Approximately 10 years had passed since this church had started. From that very first day until “now” it had continued.
What was the secret of this fellowship between Paul and this church?
1. Thanksgiving – verse 3, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.”
2. Prayer – verse 4, “Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy.”