I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3–5 Revised Edition) “because of your sharing in the gospel” – (NRSV) Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi […]
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (Philippians 1:3–5 Revised Edition) “because of your sharing in the gospel” – (NRSV)
Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is a letter that celebrates partnership. Let me give few observations about this theme based on Philippians 1:3–5.
- Paul remembers the believers in Philippi. The phrase “In all my prayers for all of you” is an indication that Paul thinks of the Philippian believers all the time. We learn from Paul that a healthy partnership is a heart-to-heart connection which is deeply spiritual and affectionate. Partnership in the gospel is not just a passing experience, devoid of long-lasting impact on our lives. A healthy partnership has “relational power” deeply rooted in the love of Christ.” This encourages us to define partnership not only by what is accomplished (although that is important), but more significantly by relationship—the people we come to know and love and work with toward a common goal?
- Paul prays for the believers in Philippi—a lot! One evidence of healthy and strong partnership is the quantity of prayer. Prayer is a powerful tool for Christians. Paul indicates that he prays for the Philippian church all the time; he is thinking about them and cannot help himself. It seems he prays for them night and day. This indicates a very strong relationship between him and the Philippian believers. This is way beyond just human friendship. This is a human relationship, a community, a fellowship which has its beginning and life in Jesus Christ. Paul prays for them, and, according to chapter 1:19, they also pray for Paul: “for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my freedom.” Prayer keeps the relationship alive, active, full of love and energy of the Holy Spirit, even though they are separated by time and space.
- Paul’s affection is joy. Paul describes his prayer for them as “I always pray with joy.” There is a great joy in his memories when he remembers them. Paul writes from prison in Rome, so the fond memories of the saints in Philippi is a source of encouragement to him. A healthy partnership has positive feelings: feelings of joy, affection, and hope. An unhealthy partnership can create feelings of disappointment and distrust.
- Paul’s partnership has divine purpose—“the gospel.” This is a “partnership in the gospel.” The gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. The gospel carries with it the divine revelation of God, namely, that the blessing of salvation in Jesus Christ, which will be extended by his church to all nations, all peoples, everywhere. The gospel is not just a set of beliefs or norms, it is so much more than that. The gospel is a dynamic, global, divine mission and blessing—rooted in Jesus Christ—and extended through his body, the church—to all peoples. Paul identifies himself in Romans 1:1 as “a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” The gospel of God is thoroughly infused in the work of Church in mission; Paul is sent on mission as an apostle; Paul’s life gives testimony to the fact that the gospel requires sacrifice, adventurous journeys, joys and suffering.
The fact that Paul’s life has a divine purpose because of the gospel. This in itself is an aspect of the glorious goodness of the gospel. Yes, Paul must sacrifice. Yes, there is pain. Yes, there are times of despair and feelings of hopelessness. But knowing Jesus Christ and his love exceeds all the negatives. The gospel is so strong, so powerful, so glorious, so loving. In Philippians 3:8, Paul writes, “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” With the Lord Jesus Christ at the centre of everything, our partnership is a mission of blessing.
Let me conclude by asking myself this questions:
- To what extent am I remembering the brothers and sisters in Christ with whom I am partnering?
- Do I pray for them like Paul did – “in all of my prayers”?
- Is there joy in my memory of the ones in distant lands who are witnesses and advocates of the Gospel
- Can that joy be enhanced and rekindled through my prayer for them?
- Am I wholly committed to our partnership in the gospel?
What a challenge, and what a joy. What blessing and delight we can have being engaged in “a partnership in the gospel.” The rebuilding of the Museum House or Wantok Place today is an indication that our partnership in the gospel is very strong. You and I are wantok because we believe in Jesus Christ and bound together by his love therefore we are partners in the gospel for His sake. Amen.
This homily was shared by Pastor Kinim Siloi, director of inter church relations/ecumenism and partnership program for the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Papua New Guinea, at the grand opening of Wantok Place.