Philippians 1:3–6 – Partnership in the Gospel

[I have started a series on Philippians for the summer for my Sunday Evening Bible Studies. We have temporarily moved the Evening Service to the Sunday School hour for the summer months. Unfortunately, these are not being recorded.]

As is typical of Paul’s letters, he begins by expressing his thanks for the church in prayer.  Most letters in the Greco-Roman world began with some sort of thanksgiving section in order to set the tone for the letter. Here Paul recalls his time with the church, probably going all the way back to his first visit to the city in Acts 16. He likely had other contacts with the church over the years.

The reason for his thanksgiving is the church’s partnership in the Gospel. A “partnership” (κοινωνία) is a close association of individuals, a fellowship. While contemporary English uses the word with the sense of a business friendship, or sometimes as a verb for a ministry asking for money (they want you to “partner” with them by giving money), the use of this word in the first century was more complex.  It can be used, for example, to describe the marriage relationship (3 Macc 4:6) although this is not found in the New Testament.  It is often used for close participation Phil 3:10, we “participate” in the suffering of Jesus; 1 Cor 10:16 the believer “participates” in the blood of Jesus; in 2 Cor 8:4 the readers are asked to “participate” in sending famine relief. The Philippian church has participated in Paul’s ministry by sending him financial support via Epaphroditus, a servant from their church.

Paul is confident God will bring their work to completion “at the day of Jesus Christ.” When the gospel was preached in Philippi God began to do something good, and Paul is absolutely confident that God will finish the good work he began.  Having been persuaded, this is a perfect participle; Paul was persuaded that the members of the church. It is not the case that Paul was unconvinced until the church sent him some money!

The Szkieletor

The Szkieletor

Modern Christians might reading something like “good work” as a reference to ministry, maybe a mission goal, etc. But a “good work” in a Greco-Roman context would refer to doing some sort of civic project for the good of a community. Imagine someone donating a great deal of money and material to begin the building of a new public building for the good of the community, a museum or library. If the money ran out before the building was finished, this would be a shameful thing for the one who began the project.

There is a tower in Poland intended to be the new regional office of the Main Technical Organization in 1975. Work was stopped in 1981 due to civil unrest, but nothing has been done since to the 92 meter tall structure since. The building known as “Skelator” is too expensive to re-purpose or demolish. This unfinished project is an embarrassment to those who originally planned it.

In the case of the Philippian church, God began the project of building up the church and he will bring the project to a glorious completion on the Day of Jesus Christ. Paul is confident there will be no shame or embarrassment from a half-completed project in the case of this church since God himself is the builder and he cannot fail.

Paul therefore opens his letter with a look back at how the Philippian have already participated in his presentation of the Gospel but also forward to the completion of that partnership when those who are in Christ meet him in glory. Paul can feel this level of confidence because he knows the church also participates in God’s grace.

 

2 thoughts on “Philippians 1:3–6 – Partnership in the Gospel

  1. I’m author of The Parable Blueprint & The Epistles, a guide that shows how the writers used a creative and structured underlying literary form to create their texts. Understanding the method of construction and how the parable works brings the reader to a new place.

    Below is Philippians Parable 1. The purpose of the five sections within a parable, which also have five identical parts within the section, are:

    Prelude- PR introduces the reader to the parable or section
    Background- BG gives background information to the parable or section
    Critical Point- CP the critical point of the parable or section…
    Critical Point’s Wisdom or Truth- WT
    Critical Point’s Wisdom or Truth Taken a Step Further-SF

    There is much more to say about how the parable works, but I’ll post this first before I write more, since it’s a long post…I do have a longer explanation on my website.

    Also, don’t get hung up on the word parable…I realize that the texts do not appear to be parables…however, they were built to be parables.

    Philippians Parable 1

    PR

    Philippians 1 1 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus,To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:

    2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now.

    6 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.

    7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.

    8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

    BG

    9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

    12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,

    14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

    15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;

    17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.

    CP

    18 What then?

    Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

    Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.

    21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.

    22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me;

    WT

    and I do not know which to choose.

    23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;

    24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.

    25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain

    and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

    SF

    27 Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you

    or remain absent,

    I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

    28 in no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but of salvation for you, and that too, from God.

    29 For to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him,

    Like

  2. Reblogged this on Bijbelvorser = Bible Researcher and commented:
    Making church we are better to get our hands dirty trying to build something up instead of waiting until shall happen. Every day we should work as hard as we can to forward the message, warning people the end is near, as if it could come tomorrow.
    Like the apostle Paul was confident we do not have to be afraid professing the truth and trying to build communities where people come together in friendship and love for each-other and for the word of God. Better to have some unfinished work at the time of Jesus return instead of nothing being done. When we do take Jesus as the cornerstone of the Church of God we shall not have to fear human people nor the one who shall judge those who did not the work they should have done, because they thought faith and salvation did not need any works.

    Like

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