The Church: A Loving Community

Philippians  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented
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Paul expresses his thanksgiving for the church at Philippi and prays they will abound in love, discernment of truth, and gospel proclamation in the face of adversity.

TITLE/MAIN IDEA: The Church: A Loving Community
Prayer of Thanksgiving!
What comes to your mind when you think of your church family?
If we are not careful, we can easily find ourselves from week to week not really considering one another at all. We live busy lives, and sometimes it is all we can do to get here on Sunday morning.
If we do consider one another during the week, how often do we find ourselves focusing on something negative instead
Maybe someone has done or said something that has frustrated or angered you. Maybe you are discontent with how something has been going the past few months.
From these verses in Philippians, I want us to see what Paul thought when considering his brothers and sisters in Christ at Philippi. I want us to see his love for their partnership together in the gospel and his desire for their sanctification in the Truth.
Last Week: The Joy of Jesus
Introduction and Greeting of Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (1:1-2)
Philippians 1:1–2 ESV
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: 2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Paul was writing from prison in Rome under the Emperor Nero.
This is known as the “Epistle of Joy” and was written as a letter of encouragement and thankfulness for the Philippians believers and their bravery in gospel proclamation.
1. Jesus Gives us Purpose (v.1a)
The Purpose of Basic Christianity is found in dying to self, taking up your cross, and following Jesus daily.
2. Jesus Gives us Community (v.1b)
The saints are a set apart people in Christ.
The saints are the temple, the dwelling place of the Spirit of God.
The saints are a global community that join together in the greatest mission in all of history.
3. Jesus Gives us Grace and Peace (v.2)
“Both grace and peace find their source in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” - Bible Knowledge Commentary, Robert P Lightner
This Week: The Church: A Loving Community
Philippians 1:3–11 ESV
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 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. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11 filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
PRAYER for the Spirit’s guidance.

1. A Joyful Partnership in the Gospel (v.3-5)

Paul opens by telling the Philippian saints how he thanks God when he remembers them all and the time they have spent together. What a joy it must have been to read such an opening sentence. Your brother in Christ takes time “always in every prayer” (v.3) to thank God for you!
This is a natural outflow of Paul’s heart for his brothers and sisters in Philippi. Paul is writing this letter while in Roman chains some 800+ miles away from this church body, and every time he thinks of them he thanks God for his friends in Philippi that bring great joy to his prayer.
Paul follows this pattern (thanking God for his readers) in all of his letters to churches except the Galatians, which we know from Community Groups is because a serious discussion follows.
Paul’s Greeting to the Church in Rome
Romans 1:8–9 ESV
8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. 9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I mention you
Paul’s Greeting to the Church in Corinth
1 Corinthians 1:4 ESV
4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,
Paul’s Greeting to the Church in Ephesus
Ephesians 1:16 ESV
16 I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers,
Even though is this a pattern for Paul in his letters, his warmth for the Philippian church and the joy they bring him is somewhat unique.
With JOY (v.4) he lifted his prayer constantly for the Philippians church. We saw last week that this is the Epistle of Joy, so we must ask: What is bringing Paul such great joy, even through difficult circumstances?
“because of your partnership in the gospel” (v.5)
Paul is overjoyed in knowing that he is not laboring alone on this mission! He considers them his partners in this mission.
The Greek word “koinonia” (CUE-NO-NIA) is translated here as partnership.
The basic idea of New Testament koinonia is participation in what is held in common, being conscious of belonging to one another as those who form a unique community and consequently sharing with one another.” - Logos Bible Word Study
STORY: Jeremy, my partner in painting a 2-mile long fence by hand. A very unique bond we share from this time.
Of the 19 times used across the NT, this is the only time it is translated as partnership. Other uses of this Greek word across the NT give us a better picture of Paul’s meaning here in Philippians 1.
FELLOWSHIP (9 of 19)
Acts 2:42 (ESV)
42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.
Philippians 2:1–2 (ESV)
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
SHARE (3 of 19)
Philippians 3:10 (ESV)
10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,
This sense of fellowship, participation, and sharing with one another is all driven by their devotion to Christ and proclaiming His gospel. The use of this term by Paul shows a family relationship among believers.
Paul sees that both He and the Philippians have a shared sense of identity and purpose in Christ. We talked about this last week! Jesus had given them all new life and new purpose as a member of God’s family and as a slave to Christ and His will.
“...from the first day until now.” (v.5)
This partnership was not something that took some time to develop.
Paul declares that their were in fellowship with him and the mission of God from the very first day! This began back in Acts 16 at Lydia’s conversion.
From this point forward, the Philippian church was devoted to the missions given to them and they were not ashamed to make much of Christ, regardless what it cost them.
Fellowship in Christ
1 John 1:3 ESV
3 that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.
Do we view our brothers and sisters in Christ like this?
Do we pray for them with joy, thanking God for their place in our lives?
Are we thankful that God has given us each other so that we are not alone in this mission?
Quick Thought: Who is your ride or die? Storm the gates of hell with a water pistol.

2. A Blessed Assurance of Salvation (v.6)

This is a great reality for all Christians, but is one that believers have historically struggled with. In fact, some denominations or churches actively teach that you can never be fully sure of your salvation. This is not what we see from Paul’s words in v.6.
What gives Paul such assurance of the Philippians’ salvation?
1. Salvation begins with God (v.6a)
We know since the Fall in Genesis 3, mankind has been dead in their sin (Ephesians 2:1-3) who seeks only evil continually (Genesis 6.5 / Genesis 8.21) with knowledge of God (Romans 1.18) but no capacity to do good, seek God, or earn favor before God (Romans 3.10-12).
We know that a person cannot come to Christ in repentance unless God the Father draws him or her (John 6:44), so we see that Paul’s words here in Philippians 1 are merely reflecting the words of our Savior. It is HE who began the great work of salvation in the hearts of the Philippians.
This is not merely a NT teaching , but the picture of God’s sovereignty in salvation is reflected all throughout the scriptures.
With Abraham we see that God initiated the covenant promise (Genesis 12, Genesis 15) and the gospel was preached to Abraham (Galatians 3.8) who received it by faith before circumcision and the Law
We also see from the prophet Ezekiel the Lord declared the work He would do in bringing His people out of exile and back to Himself. He would transform them from the inside out so that they may keep His commandments.
A New Heart and Spirit
Ezekiel 11:19–20 ESV
19 And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20 that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
Praise God for His great work in salvation!
2. Salvation will be completed by God (v.6b)
In Acts 16, the Lord opened Lydia’s heart and others to the truth, and God was sovereignly continuing this work in them. Later in Philippians 2, we see Paul exhort the church to work our their own salvation.
Does this mean the Philippians were saving themselves? Certainly not.
Philippians 2:12–13 ESV
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
The work of God is on display, not us! Day by day, our salvation is being preserved and brought towards completion at the day of Jesus Christ (v.6b) and we will be brought home to be with our God.
God does not work chaotically, but in perfect union with His character and according to his great plan of salvation that He established in His people before the foundation of the universe (Ephesians 1).
God’s people have sang about and declared this great reality throughout the scriptures, so why do we sometimes find ourselves doubting God’s word and work?
Psalm 57:1–3 ESV
1 Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in you my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by. 2 I cry out to God Most High, to God who fulfills his purpose for me. 3 He will send from heaven and save me; he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!
We serve a great, merciful God who fulfills his purposes for His people. We take refuge in Him knowing that He will sustain us through all things until He brings us home.
Psalm 138:8 ESV
8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.
The love of God is steadfast. It is unshakable and endures forever. The perfect love of God displayed at the cross is the same love that sustains you day by day.
God will not and does not forsake the work of His hands. It was His work that brought us from death to life and He will bring the work of refining us to completion fully when Christ returns.
1 Thessalonians 5:23–24 ESV
23 Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.
He who calls you is faithful!!
Sometimes we are faithful, and sometimes we are not. Faithfulness is a defining characteristic of the Triune God. He was faithful, He is faithful, and He will be Faithful to his word.
John 6:38–40 ESV
38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
If your faith is in Christ alone for your salvation, then your salvation is secure. The assurance of salvation for a follower of Christ is never in question according to God.

3. A Loving Connection Among Those in Christ (v.7-8)

Paul defends his expressed joy and love for the Philippians.
It was right for him to remember them constantly in his prayers.
It was right for him to be joyful at their partnership in the gospel at all times.
It was right for him to be joyful knowing God would complete His work in them.
Paul greatly cherished his relationship with them as brothers and sisters in Christ, and also as friends! This was not just sentiment expressed in a letter, but Paul loved the Philippian Church.
For Paul to say they were in his “heart” was not a just a term used to express emotion, but “HEART” among both Greeks and Hebrews “included both mind and will, referring to a person’s innermost being” (EBC).
Proverbs 4:23 ESV
23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.
Paul declares that they have fellowship together because of they are both “partakers of grace” (paraphrased, v.7). They have both received God’s grace through salvation, and they are bonded by their love for God and one another.
Paul says they partake with him in his imprisonment. What does that mean? It simply means they had treated Paul’s misfortunes as their own and had come to his assistance with gifts multiple times.
Philippians 4.15-18, There partnership with Paul in the gospel and through financial support followed Paul from Macedonia to Thessalonica. And now in prison, Paul is well supplied because of what they provided through sending Epaphroditus.
“and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel” (v.7b)
These are judicial terms, likely used by Paul in light of his upcoming trial in Rome. But then again, this was nothing new across Paul’s ministry. Since Acts 21, Paul had been defending the truth of the gospel before Jewish councils, governors, Kings, and now was heading before the Emperor.
Paul knows that through all of this, he has felt the love of the Philippian church wherever has has been.
Paul concludes in v.8 with a strong expression of His love and care for the Philippians.
Philippians 1:8 ESV
8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Homer A. Kent Jr.)
“Only God could truly vouch for Paul’s feelings about his Philippian friends, because they ran so deep. This was not an oath but a statement of fact. Paul’s yearnings for this church were not merely the human longing to be with friends but were prompted by the very “affection of Christ Jesus,” with whom Paul was in vital union. It was the indwelling Christ who was producing the fruit of love in Paul by the Holy Spirit and who thus enabled him to yearn for their welfare with the compassion of his Lord.”
As a Loving Community, are we meeting the needs of our brothers and sisters in Christ both inside and outside this church body?
I do not mean are we meeting every need of everyone, but we are looking to serve one another and love another another like Christ loves His church and gave himself up for her. This is the love shown from Paul to the Philippian church and vice versa.
I believe that Christ would be much more glorified through His church if we adopted this same affection for one another and worked to build one another up in love as Paul is doing here.

4. A Prayerful Exhortation to Holiness (v.9-11)

Paul bookends this section of scripture by returning to his focus in prayer for the Philippians. We can conclude from this section that concern for others should be expressed in prayer.
Spiritual growth comes from the Spirit of God working in the life of the believer, so let’s follow Paul in interceding for this reality in the lives of our brothers and sisters in Christ.
The focus here is growth and progress in holiness. Let’s break down these sections together.
“that your love may abound more and more” (v.9a)
Paul opens his prayer calling for the Philippians love to abound. Not just abound, but more and more continually.
We will be there soon in our community groups, but the work of the Spirit in the believer’s life produces evidence that transformation has occurred (Galatians 5). The Bible calls this the fruits of the Spirit.
The first fruit is LOVE. This enables all other spiritual virtues to be exercised properly.
The Importance of Love (Paul)
1 Corinthians 13:1–3 ESV
1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
Without love, the life of a believer is lacking in a major way. Love for God, love for each other, love for the lost, love for the needy, love for the broken…
The list goes on and on. Paul offers no limitation here for the Philippians because Christlike, biblical love never reaches a saturation point., meaning you can never love like Christ too much.
Living as New Creations in Christ
Colossians 3:12–14 ESV
12 Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, 13 bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. 14 And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
“with knowledge and all discernment” (v.9b)
What does love have to do with knowledge or discernment?
For those in Christ, knowledge and discernment are keys tools in our arsenal for loving what God loves according to the scriptures.
The loving community of the church must be loving in a way that is intelligent and morally discerning. Knowledge of God and His word cannot become just a distraction, but must be put into practice in the ministry of the church both local and around the world.
We too easily pass off the reality of being somewhat unlearned in the scriptures. We think it is not that big of a deal, but if we are going to be effective in living as Christ has called us to live (Matthew 16.24) we must know the Word.
In an age of all kinds of deception and false teaching, we can only discern the truth by filtering things through the inerrant Word of God.
“so that you may approve what is excellent , and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ” (v.10)
The goal of being knowledgeable and discerning is not just to be smartest in our friend group or to stump our co-worker who thinks they know the truth, but the focus is on the day of Christ!
Look at it in this way: God’s Word and its truth certainly prepares us for today and tomorrow, but ultimately the scriptures are preparing us for eternity.
“filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (v.11)
Paul final exhortation was for them to be filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Christ. So being in Christ yields righteousness in our lives, growing us in holiness and Christlikeness.
It’s almost as if the Lord is working through it all!
God’s Will, Your Sanctification
1 Thessalonians 4:1–3 (ESV)
1 Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification…”
Abide in Christ
John 15:4–5 ESV
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.
Paul finishes by quickly highlighting that such things among the Philippian church brings God the glory He deserves.
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