Bound in a Common Purpose
Real love does not stop when difficulties arise. Despite Paul's pain at being separated from the church that had supported him the most, the first beacon of gospel light in Europe, he did not forget them. They were not just yesterday's ministry, or a convenient means of support for the apostle and his missionary team. They were bound to his heart like blood brothers or comrades in arms.
Paul understood Christian love because he practised it. It was etched onto his heart and fuelled his prayer. He knew that they had given sacrificially, not just because they liked Paul, but because the gospel message he brought had transformed their lives. They wanted to be all-out for Jesus. So they expressed their gratitude by supporting the team who brought the gospel to them. That was not charity, nor pity, but a full-hearted expression for their love and thanks for all that the Lord had done for them through the apostolic team.
Paul understood love for fellow Christians because he had personally experienced God’s gracious love (1 Corinthians 15:9-10). Real love is based on righteously giving what is needed. That is how God has loved us, by giving His only Son (John 3:16). In the same way that we show that we value God’s mercy by forgiving others (Matthew 6:14-15) - we show that we value God’s grace by giving to others (1 Peter 4:10). The Philippian gifts were evidence that they had received God’s grace. Their giving confirmed their devotion to Christ and was such a comfort to Paul. But more than that, it was a sign that they were personally committed to gospel work in their city and would support other mission workers such as Timothy (Philippians 2:19), even if Paul were martyred.
Passing on the gospel baton really mattered to Paul. He knew that the gospel was God's special tool to bring salvation to the world. He was confident that the church at Philippi would carry on as a gospel church, even if he was killed. Have you ever thought that whatever you have received of God's grace has involved faithful people who told the gospel to you, led you to Christ and discipled you? A good question might be, how have you shown your love to them? Has it been all 'take' and no 'give'? They may have sacrificed much for the Lord's sake and the gospel's. What encouragement will you bring to help them continue in ministry until their work is done? And will you vindicate their gospel ministry by being a gospel witness where you live and work?
© Dr Paul Adams