2 August 2021Philippians 1: 1-11
I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ. (v. 6)
Here begins a letter from Saint Paul – the foremost missionary and church planter of the early days of the Christian movement – to one of his churches. It was written while he was in prison – he had been arrested for his persistent proclamation of King Jesus over and above the ‘powers that be’.
In this letter, some of Paul’s words are aimed at the people of that church, whom he knew well. Some – because they are about God and what God has done in Jesus Christ – will be useful for the whole Church, for all time. Some will be helpful for us to reflect on.
Of all of Paul’s letters, this one is perhaps the most joyful, despite being written from prison. It is written with help from his mission-partner and protégé, Timothy. And ‘partnership’ is one of the themes expressed in this first chapter (sharing, fellowship, ‘koinonia’). Philippi (in northern Greece) was probably the first church that Paul planted in Europe (see Acts 16), and this group of Christians clearly has a special place in his heart. He writes with great warmth, fondness and thankfulness throughout.
The letter is essentially a ‘thank you’ letter for the financial help the Philippians sent him, at great cost, when news of his imprisonment reached them. Often, when people are in prison, support for them stops and people become wary of association. Not so in this case. The people who knew Paul and had received his ministry clearly loved, supported, and believed God was working through him. Typically, Paul also takes the opportunity to encourage them in their faith, to keep going, and to believe that what God has started, God will bring to completion.
Throughout this letter, Paul is saying that the Christian life is a growing experience of God. “We are a work in progress”, we might say. So often we say this in a negative sense that we’re not quite where we want to be. Paul says it so much more beautifully. He affirms what God is already doing among them, with genuine joy, but he knows that with the love of Christ there is always more to be given, and he prays that their love may ‘overflow more and more’, with wisdom, to a final day when the ‘harvest’ is complete, to the glory of God.
- Can you see ‘growth’ in your journey as a disciple of Christ? Do you feel you’re making progress?
- You may be aware of your deficiencies as a Christian. Pause and reflect on the many good things in your life. How is God working with you to bring Christ’s love to the world? Give thanks for these things. Try to rebalance your perspective.
- Paul wrote this as a thank you letter. Is there anyone you could write to today, to offer thanks and encouragement?