Philippians 1:7-8, “7 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. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”
The Meaning and Purpose of Fellowship
In a previous article in this series, we discussed the idea of gospel partnership. In that article, we discussed the importance of prayer and joy in gospel partnership. In Philippians 1:7, the Apostle Paul expounds on what gospel partnership looks like. He says, “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.” The word used for partner (v.5) and partaker (v.7) is the same Greek word koinonia. Typically this word is translated as “fellowship.” Yet, it denotes a deeper meaning than is assumed in modern Christianity. Today, in the church, the word fellowship is used to mean eating a meal, or a Bible study with coffee and refreshments. The biblical meaning of fellowship, however, denotes the idea of walking together, and participation in a shared experience. To be in fellowship means that two people share the same experience and can relate on a deeper level than others who not had the same experience. The shared experience (koinonia) that Paul discusses in his letter to the Philippians is the experience of grace.
Paul reminds the Philippian church of two ways that they are partakers with him in the grace of God. First, they were partakers in his imprisonment. They continued to support and encourage him in a time when they could have distanced themselves from him.
Partakers of the Gospel
Second, they were partakers in his defense and confirmation of the gospel. These are legal terms that denote arguing one’s case before a judge. Paul had done this several times and was in prison because of defense and confirmation of the gospel. The Philippian church had stood by Paul through his difficult times. Their continued support of him was an apologetic to Paul of the truth of the gospel. The fellowship that he had with the Philippian believers was supported by a deep affection that was made possible only through the shared experience of the grace of Jesus.
Paul’s relationship with the Philippians, as demonstrated in his letter to them, reminds the modern church of how we are to relate to one another. Gospel fellowship must be rooted in a deep affection that comes through the grace of Jesus, which will consist of more than once a week Bible studies and worship gatherings. In this life, we need others in the body of Christ to walk with us through good and bad seasons, reminding us of the truths of the gospel. We need brothers and sisters in Christ who will fellowship with us in our suffering. While this may not consist of imprisonment like Paul, it will mean seasons of suffering will come for every follower of Christ. It is in times of difficulty that we need Christ and the church the most.
The Importance of Christians One Anothering Each other
In our present cultural moment in America, we need fellow Christians who will walk with us through life and help us defend and contend for the gospel.
It is crucial in our day to commend the gospel to one another, and this is accomplished by “striving side by side,” as Paul puts it later in the letter (Philippians 1:27). Seeing other believers live out the gospel is the best defense and confirmation of it in our own lives. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is just as much an encouragement today as it was to its original readers. We need each other and must work together to advance the gospel. What a joy it is to live life together with others who have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. In the words of the hymn writer, “what a fellowship, what a joy divine, leaning on the everlasting arms.” The letter to the Philippians reminds us that we must lean on Him together.