Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
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, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
- Philippians 1:1-8
For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
- Philippians 1:21
“The gospel absolutely drove Paul.
“A missionary church planter, Paul’s primary ﬁeld of ministry was major metropolitan areas. If Paul were around today, he would be going to places like New York, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Chicago, and he would be planting churches. After developing a community of believers in these places, establishing leaders, and grounding them in the gospel, he would then move on to begin the work again in another area. Bur, a good shepherd, Paul tried to stay in contact with the churches he had planted. The churches would write to him with questions they had or about difﬁculties they faced, and Paul would write back with instruction and encouragement. The New Testament book we call Philippians is one of these encouraging missives, but it’s fairly unique among Paul’s letters.
“Philippians is the only letter that we have in the Scriptures in which Paul is not trying to correct bad teaching or rebuke bad behavior. Instead, the letter highlights Paul’s personal affection for the Philippian church and his commendation of (and exhortation toward) their Christian maturity. We see in this little letter what it looks like to be a mature man or woman in Jesus Christ.
“That last sentence [in Philippians 1:1-8 above] may give the more stoic among us a bit of concern: ‘I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.’ Of course, from what we know of Paul, he’s a pretty tough guy. A man’s man, perhaps. But he is moved enough by his connections with these friends of his to say that he ‘yearns’ to be with them again, and this yearning is characterized by deep affection. How deep is his affection? It is affection sourced in the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.
“This is the affection that took Jesus Christ to the cross. It is the affection that led Jesus to submit to arrest, to torture, to death. This is obviously a deep and abiding affection. And Paul is telling his friends that all this affection that is in Christ Jesus is in his own heart, which yearns for them.”
- Matt Chandler, To Live is Christ, To Die is Gain
Again, as mentioned last week, Rev. Chandler has stepped down due to people thinking he texted/e-mailed things that were inappropriate while counseling a woman. I know nothing further, whether this actually happened or people misunderstood his intent.
But look at what Paul said about his love for the Philippians. The translation that Rev. Chandler used says “yearn for.” The NIV says “long for.” Could a third party get this letter and say that the Apostle Paul had an inappropriate relationship with the church at Philippi?
To answer that question, the LGBTQ+ community argues that David and Jonathan had a homosexual affair with each other. The Bible says that they loved each other. In the minds of those making the argument, you cannot have love without making love. Thus…
I have not gotten to the relationship of David and Jonathan in my relationship study, but it is coming soon. David and Jonathan loved each other like brothers. Paul loved the church in Philippi like a father. After all, he planted the church. While preaching there, he was imprisoned and beaten publicly – even though he was a Roman citizen. Paul had reason to provide a safe distance between himself and Philippi, but it was not the church that put him in prison.
Rev. Chandler starts the quote above with how Paul planted churches in the big cities. These big cities were usually locations of Jewish settlers, but Philippi was the exception. They had no synagogue in Philippi and Paul preached “down by the riverside,” to borrow a line from an old Gospel song. Maybe the fact that the crowd was his first largely Gentile crowd and the setting was different, Paul had a special affection for these people, but I feel he had the same feeling for all the other churches that he planted.
Why the big cities? Because people traded in the big cities. Philippi was a Roman city, just like Paul’s hometown of Tarsus. The great network of Roman roads connected in such cities. Note that he wrote the letter of Romans long before he went there. The Gospel had been carried there along those Roman roads from churches that Paul had planted (most likely) to the other major cities and then the church grew so that those in the surrounding villages heard the Gospel also.
Was this method of spreading the Gospel Paul’s ingenious plan or was God guiding him? Or did God pick Paul because He knew Paul would think in such a manner?
But I know that affection. My wife and I were fed up with the church we were attending many years ago, but we stayed because we loved our Sunday school class. Now, we would love to move to Tennessee to be with our grandchildren, but a few things remain in Pennsylvania. We have our junk here and not enough money to throw the junk away. I was sick much of the time during our recent visit to Tennessee because of the oppressive heat. Our doctors are all in PA and we have worked hard to find doctors that we trust. And the Sunday school class that I teach is here, even though I still consider myself the substitute for a man who passed away over two years ago. He told me just before he died that I was not allowed to take over his class, just fill in until he returned.
Yes, we find a group of Christian friends and we yearn for them when we are not with them.
Maybe a word from C. S. Lewis might help.
“The sacrifice of selfish privacy which is daily demanded of us is daily repaid a hundredfold in the true growth of personality which the life of the body encourages. …Obedience is the road to freedom, humility the road to pleasure, unity the road to personality.”
- C. S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory
As an introvert, I would love to spend my days in my basement, writing, but God then makes me stir crazy. I long for those people with whom I have Christian community. I need that contact for obedience, for humility, for unity.
Paul will get around to talking about Christian growth, but part of that growth has to start with loving the other members of our church group.
Lord, guide me. Help me to grow as a Christian, to be stronger, able to withstand the enemy’s attacks. But also help me to love as Jesus loved and show that love to my church family. In Thy Name I pray. Amen
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.