Partners in the Gospel
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, the Apostle gives us a glimpse into the church with whom he was closest relationally. The church at Philippi had a gospel-partnership with Paul. They laboured alongside of him because they wanted the same thing Paul wanted. For Jesus Christ to be proclaimed and magnified as the only hope for sinners.
We begin in Philippians 1:1-11 with a peek into the way Paul approaches the people, partnerships, and prayer of his ministry.
- Thanksgiving to God for the People (v. 1-3)
- Thanksgiving to God for the Philippians’ Partnership (v. 4-8)
- Prayer to God for The Philippians (v. 9-11)
Paul loved the Philippians because of the biblical “fellowship” they enjoyed. The word “partnership” is often translated as “fellowship” in the New Testament. It is joining with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ to pray, serve, and give the gospel to those who don’t know Jesus as Lord and Saviour. And when they do become believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, biblical “fellowship” according to 2 Peter 3:18 is helping brothers and sisters “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ”.
In his exposition of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, James Montgomery Boice put it this way:
One of the reasons why God has saved us is that we might be fruitful Christians. He has not saved us merely that we might be free from judgment and go to heaven when we die, but that the character of Jesus Christ might be reproduced in us while here on earth. We are to live in the flesh but not of the flesh. We are to do good works that Christ might be glorified and that many might be brought to faith in him.
Paul was thankful to the Lord for the Philippians partnership, the fellowship, the commonality that they enjoyed in seeking to spread the glory of Jesus Christ in their city and to the ends of the Earth. Paul's burden for the Philippians—and, indeed, for all Christians in all ages—is that we put the gospel first in our lives.
- Did you ever belong to a club or a gang as a child? Describe the nature of your partnership with this group and the activities you were involved with.
- Read Philippians 1:1-11
- What insight, principle, or observation from Sunday’s sermon did you find to be the most helpful, eye-opening, or troubling?
- In Philippians 1:1, Paul addresses this letter to “all the saints in Christ Jesus . . . with the overseers and deacons”. Look at the first couple of verses in other letters that Paul wrote to churches, such as Romans through 2 Thessalonians. What is unique about how he addresses the Philippians? What might be behind this?
- Paul’s language is extremely warm and personal in these verses (especially 1:3–5, 7–8). Why? Was it just courtesy? Was it based on time spent together? Or was there a still deeper connection? (Hint: notice the connecting language in Phil. 1:5, 7, which introduces his stated reasons—e.g., “because . . . ,” “It is right . . . because . . . ,” “for . . .”)
- List some of the things that Paul is thankful for in the Philippians, in 1:3–7, and the things that he prays for them, in Phil. 1:9–11. Then read Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1:15–23, Colossians 1:9–14, and 2 Thessalonians 1:3–12. What similarities do you see among these prayers?
The Heart of the Matter
- The Greek word behind “partnership” (1:5) is also translated as “fellowship.” The Philippians partnership with Paul involved praying for him, financially supporting Paul’s missionary work, and their continued evangelism efforts in their community, family and friends. What are some implications of this for you, New Life Church, our giving, etc.?
- Pastor Robert in an article he wrote titled “The Heart of Hospitality” said, ‘Hospitality is so much more than just food, its welcoming and fellowshipping with believers and non-believers out of truth and love for Jesus Christ so that they may see Christ more clearly. Hospitality is both an attitude of the heart and also a practice of the hand.’ How can we practically use hospitality to grow our Homegroup ministry and be intentional with ‘biblical fellowship’?
8. On Sunday the comment was made that at many churches there is a discontent amongst attendees and visitors who say things like “I just don't know many people”, “I just feel lonely” and “I don't feel connected”, that keep them from becoming members of a church. Do you think this is true of NLC? If yes, how can we practically serve our members and visitors better in our Care Team ministry and be intentional in building relationships?