When was the last time you clapped about something? Maybe you celebrated a football play, or another sporting event that led you to cheer and clap. Perhaps it was at a recital, or a concern and you clapped in appreciation of the performance. Some people express emotions often and freely, while others seek to keep their emotions in check or avoid them altogether. But rejoicing in the Lord is less about leaning into a particular personality trait or outward expression as it is about leaning into a true understanding of who God is and what He is doing in our lives. That’s what Philippians is all about!
In Philippians chapter 1:1-11 Paul’s introductory words reveal the reason for joy that we will see in this letter. They also include a prayer that expresses what Paul hoped for the recipients of his letter would gain. We are also recipients of Paul’s letter.
Paul was thankful to God for the joyful gift of partnership with other believers. The word partnership in the Greek form means to share or to participate in, this signifies the deep relationship of mutual love and support in the case of Paul's relationship with the Philippians his partnership involved a financial gift prayer and standing firm in living out the gospel together.
The Words partnership (v5) and Partners (v7) come from the same Greek word koinonia. We tend to translate this word to “fellowship”, which brings to our minds of hanging out, eating food, drinking coffee. But that’s not how the word is used in the New Testament. It is used to denote sharing and having something in common. Paul and the Philippians shared a deep relationship of mutual love, support, and care. And Paul thanked God for that partnership. We can thank God for that kind of partnership too. When you came to faith in Christ, we became partners in the same gospel.
I’ll admit some days I don’t feel super generous with my time and resources. Some days I miss opportunities to share the gospel and fail to pray like I should. You may fail too. But we can still be thankful to God for inviting us into partnership with His church. Because God is at work in us, and He will finish that good work that He started. Salvation is a process that doesn’t lead to instant perfection. Paul was confident in that, and we can be too.
In addition to partnership with fellow believers, our ultimate partnership is with God. He will begin and finish the work He desires. He is more than able. One of the ways He works is through the partnership in the church. We can give thanks to God for the church because of our partnership in the gospel and our confidence in the Lord’s saving work among us. Through Jesus we have a shared work and a common goal to take the gospel to the ends of the earth.
In verses 9-11 of Philippians 1 Paul is praying that their love for one another will continue to grow and that they will be unified. Paul knew that they were a loving church, but he also knew the threat to unity is often personal conflicts, false teachings, and worldliness. So, Paul prayed that their love would grow more and more with knowledge and discernment. That is because love without knowledge and discernment or truth is just sentimentalism.
Christian love – both for God and others; stands in contrast to the sentimental love of the world. Growth in the knowledge of God leads to discernment and Christian maturity that presents itself through love. Christian maturity is rooted in knowledge and love. Knowledge or truth without love is not spiritual maturity at all. It often becomes proud and leads to legalism. True spiritual maturity seeks to apply the knowledge of God to every situation in love.
Life is a series of choices, and we choose what we love the most. We make life choices and relational choices based on what we love and what we know. As Christians we are to choose what is excellent. What is of more value and superior, and based on what we have learned about God, His Word, His Purposes, and His ways. This is what the Bible calls wisdom.