Sunday’s Sermon — Philippians 1:3-8

9 Jun

Paul’s Heart and Thanksgiving for the Philippians
Philippians 1:3-8
Sunday, June 8th, 2014 Pastor Rob Kaylor

A. INTRODUCTION:
1. Last week Pastor Scott got our study in the book of Philippians started by looking at
verses one and two of chapter one. This morning we will continue with verses three
through eight of chapter one and as is quite common with Paul’s letters he begins with
an expression of thanks following his greeting. But this particular letter is different
than any of Paul’s other letters because it is the only one of Paul’s letters that
does not express criticism or rebuke, but instead it highlights his personal affection
for the church and his exhortation toward their Christian maturity. And as a result, this
letter to the Philippians overflows with Paul’s heart of affection for them. As you
read through this wonderful book, you get a glimpse of Paul wearing his heart on his
sleeve (so to speak), and unable to stop smiling as he pens every word of this remarkable
letter. So, as we examine these verses together this morning, I want to share three
things about Paul’s heart and thanksgiving towards the Philippians, but let’s first
ask God for His guidance on our time together. 

Broughton Knox, a young pastor who was serving as a chaplain in the British Navy on a
ship preparing for D-Day and the invasion of Normandy, noted that the minds of all the
sailors on board, regardless of rank, were so fixated and focused on the mission at hand.
No one thought of his own interests, but only how he could help his shipmates in their
commonly shared task. He later shared, “I remember noting in my mind how I had never
been happier,” and as they returned to England, everyone noticed a difference in the
atmosphere on the ship. It was still friendly, but several sailors sensed the difference,
and asked the young chaplain why things had changed. Knox reflects, “The answer was
quite simple. During those months that preceded and followed D-Day, our thoughts had a
minimum of self-centeredness in them. We gave ourselves to our shared activity and
objective. Once the undertaking was over we reverted to our own purposes, as we do
normally.” Broughton Knox is reflecting on his ships experience of the fellowship that
people experience in pursuing a common goal. The friendships we have and share are
wonderful things, but fellowship goes beyond friendship. Fellowship occurs when friends
are committed to a common cause or goal and flourishes through their common pursuit of
it. This the exact type of fellowship that Paul writes about here in the verses we will
look at this morning.

Join with me in reading Philippians 1:3-8
SCRIPTURE:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you
all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first
day until now. I am sure of this that he who began a good work in you will bring it to
completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all,
because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my
imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness,
how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus

B. Paul Was Thankful for their Fellowship (3-5):
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you
all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first
day until now.
1. This church in Philippi must have been some church because Paul does not write this
letter to rebuke them or correct them. Instead he just swelled up with pride as he
thought about his remembrance of them, the impact that they had on his life and their
fellowship in the Lord. Right from the beginning we see Paul’s heart for them as he
says, “I thank my God.” Paul gives thanks for his brothers and sisters who are in
Christ, who over the years had brought him so much abundant joy and blessing. The phrase
“my God” reflects Paul’s deep intimacy and communion with the Lord, to whom he
belonged and served. It was his thankfulness for them to God, emphasizing that God is the
ultimate source of all joy and that it was the Philippians relationship through Christ
that caused Paul to “thank God.”

2. It is in his remembrance that he thought of those who had helped him form the church
and progress the church. As he wrote these words, it’s as if his heart began to over
flow with joy and excitement for Lydia, the slave girl, the jailer and others who had
been such an encouragement and blessing to him. For example, one of the things that I
learned from Paul in these verses is in order to have a genuine love for others I must
not focus on their shortcomings or weaknesses. Now, this may not sound like a big deal,
but let me explain my thought. In order to have a genuine love for others we must first
look beyond their shortcomings, their past and weaknesses. I thought about 1 Corinthians
13 and the instructions that Paul gives us on how to truly love others. Paul was patient
in love and he rejoiced with them as they gave their lives to following Christ; which is
why Paul was able to have such love and joy for them because he was seeing them as Christ
saw them.

3. Paul’s joy doesn’t stop at his remembrance of them, he takes it one step farther
when he says, “always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy.”
Paul remembered their encouragement, their love and support and so he prays for them with
joy! Think about that for a moment: These weren’t just occasional prayers he prayed
for them, it was always in every prayer and with joy! And I’m sure many of you can
relate to Paul in that there are people in your life that as soon as you begin to think
about them, your heart automatically begins to swell up with such love for them, that you
can’t help but start to smile as you think about them. It’s as if you have such love
for that person that you, in a sense, forget that you are praying for them. Also, Paul
was sitting in prison while he was writing this letter and it amazes me how he didn’t
allow his situation or circumstances to steal his joy has he thought about those dear to
his heart. Now for some of us, this may seem strange. How could Paul still have joy while
he was in prison? Simply put, the joy that Paul expresses and experiences is not joy in
the sense of an emotion, mood or feeling. For Paul, his joy was an attitude. Sitting in
prison and awaiting possible death would not evoke a feeling of pure joy, but, the source
of Paul’s joy was “in the Lord.” Pastor John MacArthur describes Paul’s joy this
way, “An infallible test of godly joy is the degree to which a believer prays more
earnestly for the benefit and blessing of others than his own.” In other words,
Paul’s joy wasn’t coming from his situation or paychecks, it was coming from being
united with the Lord Jesus Christ and that’s why his joy has not been robbed while in
prison and it was important for him to model this because he will command them to
follow in his example later on in the letter.

4. As Paul is sitting here writing these words, it’s no wonder that his soul erupts
with thanksgiving and joy because he then begins to remember their “partnership” with
him in sharing the gospel. Verse 5 really stood out to me this week as I was preparing
this sermon, even though I can’t begin to count how many times I’ve read the verse
before. This week there was just something completely different about it and let me
describe it this way. Depending on your translation, the word “partnership,”
“fellowship”, and “you have been my partners” is used. Now, the idea of
partnership and fellowship is somewhat different today than it was when Paul penned this
letter. For example, the word fellowship is one of those words like “love” that has
greatly lost its meaning and has been greatly watered down and no longer carries the
weight it once use to. You know what I’m talking about, how loosely do we use the word
“love” in our vocabulary every day? We say things like “I love you,” “I love
pizza”, “I love that outfit”, “I love that movie”, etc. The word has lost some
meaning over time. Well, the same is true with the word “fellowship”. Today, that
word refers to getting together and sharing a good time. Kind of like, let’s get
together over a cup of coffee or we’re having a “fellowship” dinner at church in
our “fellowship hall” after service. Now don’t misunderstand me, I love getting
together for coffee and meals, but Paul was speaking of a different type of fellowship,
one that meant the sharing of everything to really care for one another. Fellowship is
participating in something greater than the people involved and it’s more lasting than
any activity. Throughout the Bible the word “fellowship” means being caught up in a
communion created by God. That’s why our morning scripture came from Acts 4:32-37
because those verses give us a great picture of what true fellowship looks like. The
Christians in the first church gave us an example of what this unity and fellowship
should look like. Paul understood this, he probably knew that not everyone is going to
agree with each other and see eye to eye on things, but he was thankful for their unity
and fellowship to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. They were united by their commitment
to the truth of the gospel.

5. One of the best examples of this idea of unity and fellowship is found in J.R.R
Tolkien’s book “The Fellowship of The Ring.” The book is made up of individuals of
disparate origin and ridiculous diversity that exceed any of our social differences: four
hobbits, tiny beings with large, hairy, shoeless feet- Frodo Baggins, Merry , Sam and
Pippin; two men, warriors who are always dressed for battle- Boromir of Gondor and
Aragorn, son of Arathorn II, King of Gondor; one wizard, Gandalf the great who is full of
wisdom and supernatural power; an elf, Legolas and a short, hairy, axe-wielding dwarf,
Gimli.
These nine members of the fellowship bore few affinities. But these nine individuals were
bound together by their great mission to defeat the darkness and save Middle-Earth,
became inseparable and formed a covenant that would last all the days of their lives.
That’s why I love Tolkien’s books, “The Lord of the Rings” because we see a
fellowship that goes beyond friendship. Earlier I said that Fellowship occurs among
friends who are committed to a common cause or goal and it flourishes through their
common pursuit of it. Think about the church in Philippi, it was started by people of
different lifestyles and backgrounds, yet through Christ they came together for the
purpose and pursuit of the gospel. And this fellowship in sharing the gospel was what
Paul was thankful for. Paul will mention fellowship three time within this letter.
Pastor Kent Hughes says, “If you are looking for true fellowship, give yourself to the
gospel at home and around the world. Serve together. Do short-term missions. Join mercy
work to alleviate suffering. Take the good news to the poor. Join a band of brothers and
sisters to pray for the world. This is how you will experience genuine Christian
fellowship.”

6. I thought about our church this week as I pondered this verse and I am thankful for
the fellowship that I see within the life of our church. I’m thankful for those that
participate in the Wednesday afternoon Bible study and fellowship together. I’m
thankful for the fellowship in our Sunday school classes (and let me encourage you, if
you are not involved with a Sunday school class you are missing out!) I’m thankful for
those saints who go and fellowship with our homebound every week. I’m thankful for
those who come and help serve in our food ministry every month and help share the gospel
with our community. I’m thankful for our home groups that met this past week and for
the sweet fellowship that took place. (If you haven’t joined a home group, again I want
to encourage you to get involved with one this week.)

The second thing we see about Paul’s heart and thanksgiving is:

C. Paul Was Confident in God’s Promises (6-7):
And I am sure of this that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion
at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I
hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment
and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.

1. Paul places his confidence in the God who saves, rather than in the church or man.
See, people lack perseverance. We are great at starting things but we are horrible at
actually following through and finishing them. Let me give you a couple of examples, has
anyone here ever made a New Year’s resolution? At any time did have you ever make a
commitment that you were going to exercise and diet more or you were going to read
through the entire Bible (cover to cover)? How long did it take before you threw in the
towel and gave up on your commitment? Another brief example is that I enjoy reading and
collecting books but more times than not I end up collecting books more than reading
them. See, I enjoy starting a new book but I am horrible at actually finishing the book.
I have the greatest intentions in the world to read, but for whatever reason it may never
get finished. As people we are good at starting something but never finishing it, but God
never starts anything the he does not finish!

2. Paul’s confidence was much more than mere human hope, it was the absolute confidence
that comes from knowing and believing God’s promises. Paul’s prayer for them was
based off his confidence in knowing that God is going to finish what He started in them.
As Paul is sitting in prison he is absolutely confident that the good work of their
gospel partnership was going to succeed and here are two reasons why.
1. He was thankful for the work of God’s grace in their lives and that He was going to
complete what He started.
2. Because they had a right relationship with God, their lives evidenced Christian
maturity. Paul saw this good work in their lives, but he also saw how they responded to
God working in their lives.
3. This good work that Paul mentions is the benefits of salvation. Our justification (our
righteous standing before God), our sanctification (the daily progress from the power of
sin), our glorification (the idea of an immortal, incorruptible body). It is “good”
that it corresponds to the very nature of God, who alone is good in and of himself. We
become Christians because God has begun to do a good work in us, not because we are doing
good works for God. And it is because of this confidence in God that Paul responds with
an intensely personal declaration, “It is right for me to feel this way about you all,
because I hold you in my heart.” The idea of Paul holding them in his heart means that
he was always present with them in spirit, rejoicing and agonizing over what was taking
place in their lives. In other words Paul cherished the thought of them even while he was
in prison! I heard a pastor say one time, “my experience has taught me that it is
virtually a law of spiritual relationships that you will hold very dear to your heart
those who have come to Christ under your influence or have grown and benefited from your
ministry.” Still to this day I couldn’t agree more with that statement! It is an
amazing blessing to stay in touch with those whom God has allowed me to have a spiritual
impact on their lives and seeing them serve God as young adults now! For Paul, I think of
Lydia, one of his first converts and how she had to keep coming to his mind as he wrote
this letter but also the jailer, the slave girl and the many others that Paul cherished.
The love and affection that Paul had for them went beyond sending them a cute little
Valentine’s Day card or referring to them as his BFF. He had a deep affection
that was at the very center of his being!

4. He also says they are “partakers with me of grace”. The word partaker refers
to the same word meaning fellowship and partners that Paul used in verse 5. The idea here
is “Tolkienesque” because the partakers of grace are action based like those in the
“Fellowship of the Ring.” The idea of grace here is “saving grace”. Both had been
saved by grace and both were experiencing sustaining grace in the midst of their
respective trials.

5. At the World Congress of Evangelism held in Berlin, Germany, in the fall of 1966, many
nationalities were represented, and all had their distinctive ways and appearances. There
was one pastor who was especially distinct. He was a native of central Africa, and his
face was marked by heavy cuts and had been colored in tattoo fashion by primitive dyes.
He spoke French and his tribal language. No one could mistake him. The testimony written
in his face made him one of the most striking Christians at the Congress.
This man was present one night when two Auca Indians from Ecuador were giving their
testimony. One of the Aucas had been among a troop that had killed five missionaries. The
other was a leader in the tribe. The Aucas spoke only their own dialect and were
culturally distinct from all the other delegates to the Congress, but they gave their
testimony through a translator and it was thrilling. They told how they had been held in
superstition, how they had feared the gods of the jungle, how they had marked their lives
by the great episodes of spearing brought on by warfare between the tribes. They told how
they had killed men in their ignorance and how later they had learned the gospel of
salvation from sin through the death of Jesus Christ. They told how they had believed.
Now they said they wanted to tell that good news to other tribes scattered downriver.
That was their story.
As the Aucas spoke, the African believer jumped from his seat in the back of the
1,200-seat auditorium, ran down the aisle, and threw his arms around them with tears
streaming down his face. He did it because he recognized in the experience of the Aucas
that which had taken place in himself. He saw them not as those of another culture, not
as those who spoke another language, not as those who lived four thousand miles away. He
saw them as sinners saved by grace. He knew that they were participants with him in the
matchless grace of God.

This is what must tie Christians together is the passion for the gospel, this fellowship
in the gospel! We can talk about our favorite sports teams, our latest golf game,
political views, favorite books, favorite movies and everything else, but they will not
hold us together, as it’s only the gospel-the good news of Jesus Christ-which brings
about a wonderful God-centeredness that we desire to share with others that will bind us
together.

And the third thing that we see about Paul’s heart and thanksgiving is found in verse
8:

D. Paul Had A Deep Longing For Them (8):
For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.

1. The last thing Paul says about the Christians in Philippi is that he longs for them
greatly! Such a statement or oath was rare in Paul’s letters, be he wanted to prove his
point of the truth of his longing and affection for them by calling God as witness
because God alone knew the contours of his inner life. This is a very vivid expression.
The literal translation is: “I yearn for you all with the bowels of Jesus Christ.”
The Greek word for bowels is splagchna. The splagchna were the upper intestines, the
heart, the liver and the lungs. These the Greeks believed to be the location of the
emotions and the affections. So Paul is saying: “I long for all of you with the
compassion of Christ Jesus.” He is saying: “I love you as Jesus loves you.” The
love which Paul feels towards his Christian friends is nothing other than the love of
Christ himself.

2. Pastor Alec Motyer says it best, “It expresses a yearning that is as much physical
as mental, a longing love which moves the whole inner being. But what a remarkable
expression Paul uses! He loves them in the inner being of Christ Jesus. Certainly
this means that he patterns his love for them on that of Christ (cf. Eph. 5:1), but the
wording demands something more than the notion of imitation. Paul is saying that he
has so advanced in union with Christ that it is as if Christ were expressing His love
through Paul. Two hearts are beating as one. Indeed one heart, the greater, has taken
over and the emotional constitution of Christ Himself has taken possession of His
servant.”

E. Conclusion
I want to conclude by saying that these verses teach us that true, biblical fellowship
between God’s people should be a fellowship of joy. Despite our inevitable sorrows,
disappointments the pain of life, believers can always be joyful! True, biblical joy is
not based on our circumstances because it is a bond that is based on fellowship with the
Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Paul’s affection for the Philippians overflowed because 
He held them in his heart
They shared in the difficulties and pain of the ministry of the gospel 
Paul truly longed for them with the affection of Christ Jesus.

How’s your joy today? Better yet, in who or what is your joy found? Is there someone
that you think of that you are thankful for their fellowship in the gospel? If you are a
Christian today, aren’t you glad that Christ who has begun a good work in you isn’t
finished with you yet?
Maybe you’re here this morning and you’re still trying to do good works to earn your
way to heaven, let me just say that no matter how hard you work or how good you try to
be, aside from trusting in Jesus Christ and calling on Him you will never have peace with
God. If you want to know more about trusting in Christ and giving your life to Him,
Pastor Scott and I are ready to talk with you today.

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