A Study of the Book of
“Partakers of Grace & Partners in the Gospel”
Unity In Purpose (vv. 1-2)
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.
In that day it was very typical of letters sent to include who was sending the letter, “Paul and Timothy,” and to include their title. “Paul usually introduced himself as an apostle of Jesus Christ. But in this letter he makes no reference to his apostolic position . . . (and) he uses the same title for both himself and Timothy. Their work together was that of “slaves,” the literal meaning of the term servants.”
Paul and Timothy are not free to do what they wanted, they were servants of Jesus and they were subject to the claims of the one who owned them. Jesus’ claim was that He was God, Lord – and if that claim is true, then we are servants of God.
The poet William Ernest Henley wrote the words, “I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul.” “No matter how much you would like to think otherwise, your every plan and action is driven by a desire to avoid pain or achieve gain by pleasing or placating some ‘lord’ or other. The master you serve may be success or money, or what money can buy. Your lord may be affection or romance, or reputation and respect. You may be enslaved by other people’s opinions, terrified at the prospect of rejection or ridicule, or perhaps you are haunted by the specter of life alone.” But the truth is that we all are a servant of a lord in our lives.
Moses, Joshua, David – all the great men and women of the Bible are servants, slaves, of the Most High God. You have to submit yourself to something in this life – The rulers of this world use you, disregard you, and when they are done with you cast you away. But King Jesus gives his servants authority, considers them brothers and sisters, Mark 10:45 says, “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” The Lord honors the slave’s role by assuming it himself in his incarnation.
When believers receive the claim of Jesus, that He is Lord, then we are all on the same level as His servants – Paul and Timothy are servants, side by side, each doing what God has called them to do. Any other Christians who say they believe the claim that Jesus is Lord, then there is no hierarchy, only fellow servants serving as each has been gifted and called.
Four hundred years before Paul and Timothy shared the gospel in Philippi “the city was taken over by King Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great—hence the name Philippi.” The city of Philippi “was established in 42 BC as a colony for Roman veterans after the defeat of Brutus and Cassius by Mark Antony and Octavian (later Caesar Augustus).” And later in 31 BC there was a repopulation wave made up of Roman soldiers and Italian farmers. So, it is a retirement city for soldiers.
In the church in Philippi there had been arguing and fighting – some believers were struggling with pride, arrogance, and it had caused strong division within the church. “Paul directs his opening greetings to leaders (overseers and deacons), in the church because they were the potential solution to the problem of disunity.”
Paul refers to himself and Timothy as “servants of Jesus Christ,” then he references the saints, the church at Philippi, and then their leadership (overseers and deacons) but these leaders are not over the church, they are “with the overseers and deacons – the leaders serve the Lord, in a leadership capacity and oversee the church, but they are together, side-by-side seeking to fulfill the mission.
We will see that pride, arrogance and division was tearing the church apart – Paul, in these opening remarks, is saying, we are all (apostles, church members, pastors, deacons, etc.) everyone are all servants to the Lord. Jesus comes first in all of our lives.
“To all the saints in Christ Jesus” – There is this common bond between Christians; “the believer gives up himself, his own life, to Christ, and possesses the life of Christ in himself; he is in Christ, and Christ in him; he is dead with Christ, and Christ becomes his life.”
“the saints,” – The term saint describes a person of purity, and a person that has the privilege of standing before God. But how do sinners become pure able to stand before God? In Exodus 3:3-5 Moses sees the burning bush while he is out tending sheep, “And Moses said, “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” 4 When the LORD saw that he turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” 5 Then he said, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” It was God’s presence that made the ground holy. It is God’s presence in the believer that makes the pure, holy, a saint – not their actions or works.
When there is submission the Jesus as Lord, and we humble ourselves before Him, then we experience grace (unmerited favor) and peace that comes from our being forgiven of our sin and being make right with our Creator – “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” Paul uses this phrase in all his letters, because it is the mission of the church – God grace and peace that comes from Jesus alone. This is what gives unity and purpose to the church at Philippi and to all the churches that claim to be servants of Jesus.
Partnership In the Gospel (vv. 3-8)
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.
(v. 3) Paul is in prison and is writing the church at Philippi who (as we will see) have sent someone to help him, and supplies – so the whole letter should be read as a thank you note from Paul to this church. Paul is expressing his thankfulness and gratitude for their support. This letter was written twelve years after Acts 16.
(v. 3) Even in chains and in prison, Paul is thankful; there is joy in his times of prayer – why? “because of your partnership in the gospel” The church at Philippi, are working together with Paul, to expand the gospel. Let me ask you, “Do you have joy in your walk with the Lord?” Paul has joy – when he thinks of the church, he knows all the problems, so he prays for them. Then he is moved to thank God for them and this process fills his heart with joy. Praying for others who you are a partner with you in ministry, thanking God for them leads to joy in our spirit.
Do You Have Joy In Your Christian Walk?
Are you praying for others Christians, and thanking God for them?
Our joy, when you think about church, should be linked to other believers and their struggles as we all are seeking to expand the gospel – but many time this is not the case in churches. We too often link our joy with experiences (music performances, excitement in preaching, etc.) Paul links his joy with people and a common mission.
It can’t just be to a group of people; if it is, then the church is no different than Kiwanis, Chamber of Commerce, or a bowling league. Also, It is not just to the mission, because we are not designed to live the Christian life in isolation. Individually, we don’t have all that is needed to accomplish the mission – this is why the church exists. It is people and a common understanding that the church “exists to make disciples of Jesus Christ.”
The word for partnership (koinonia) was used in that culture in various ways; family relationships, friendships, business partnerships, common ownership of property, citizenship, and religious organizations; these “were all considered examples of koinonia in Paul’s day.” Paul uses this word partnership six times in this gospel – and begins to help us understand that those that partner in the expansion of the gospel is different than any other partnership.
Do You Have Joy In Your Christian Walk?
Are you engaged in the mission of reaching others for Christ?
The church does not exist to serve you, we exist to serve the Lord and reach others for Christ.
Our relationship with Christ over flows into relationship with others who have also placed their faith in Christ, and as we seek to all be obedient the calling upon our lives. The gospel transforms our lives, and that transformation draws us in a unique, beautiful, and powerful community. (unlike any previous partnership) Even to the point of considering each other family. Paul refers to this body of believers nine times as, “brothers and sisters.”
(v. 6) Paul sees and knows all about the issues the church is facing, but he says, “this I know for sure,” that “he who began a good work in you (the Philippian Church) will bring it to completion,” – “Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians, this koinonia was threatened by opposition from without (1:28) and conflict within (4:2). Intense suffering in a world hostile to the gospel and a bitter dispute between leaders in the church may have called into question the survival of their partnership in the gospel.” Paul is saying, “God started the Philippian church, and God would see it to its completion.”
Picture of eggs in a nest — “draw a picture of what you see”
(v. 7) “for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel,” – it is not until verse 7 that we get a hint of trouble. Paul is writing from prison (and remember that Timothy is with him). The Greek work “imprisoned” is closer to “chained.” Paul was chained as he waited for an appeal to the emperor. By this point he had previously spent two years in custody in Judea, waiting for his “case” to be resolved by officials there in Rome.
“If we are partners in the gospel, it is because we are partners in grace – because of the invincible Spirit of Christ has pulled us, in spite of our ourselves, out of the pit of our self-centered self-reliance, made us face the ugly reality of our guilt and helplessness, and drawn us to trust in Jesus.” We both know of God’s grace, and that draws us closer, and leads us to love one another.
A Church Known For Its’ Love (vv. 9-11)
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.
Paul prays out loud so that we can hear him ask God for the Philippian church so that their “love may abound more and more,” – “may keep on overflowing, a perpetual flood of love, “yet more and more,” but with necessary limitations (river banks), “in full knowledge,” “and all discernment.”
The Christian life is one of growth. Paul, because of his love for his brothers and sisters in Christ, is not content for them to stay the same – He prays that their love would grow, and the “more and more,” is ongoing, ever growing dynamic for better and purer expressions of love.
The theologian and writer K. Chesterton once said, “Love is not blind. Love is bound. And the more it is bound, the less it is blind.” Love needs to see clearly and speak truthfully. Love knows how to see and speak.
Do You Have Joy In Your Christian Walk?
How Committed Are You to Other Christians?
“with knowledge and all discernment” – the knowledge and discernment mentioned here is in reference to other believers. There is a “recognition of the will of God that is effective and in the conduct of one who knows God.” Christ knows us, in spite of our flaws, and draws us to a deeper relationship with Him. Our love for each other should cause us to push one another toward Christ, to gain knowledge and discernment of Jesus.
In Hosea 4:1, 6 we see the opposite of this, “There is no faithfulness or steadfast love, and no knowledge of God in the land; . . . My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge;”
We need knowledge (of Christ) and discernment of His Word, “so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless” – When we make a decision, we have to look at multiple options, weigh them, and then choose the best way. The way Paul says this is not choosing between good and bad, but between what is good, and what is best (excellent). Paul is wanting their love to grow for one another, so that they will know the best way to express their love one for another (with excellence).
 G. Walter Hansen, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, The Letter to the Philippians (Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009) 38.
 Dennis E. Johnson, Reformed Expository Commentary, Philippians (Phillipsburg, New Jersey; P&R Publishing, 2013) 9.
 Johnson, 4.
 Hansen, 41.
 Hansen, 42.
 W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Volume 3 (Grand Rapids; Michigan; WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967) 416.
 “as we entrust ourselves to Jesus, he gives two gifts: a love that stretches our hearts to embrace others, and a joy that places our pain into perspective, enabling us to see our suffering in the context of God’s comprehensive plan to make us like his Son.” Johnson, 22.
 “This is the first of fourteen times that the joy note sounds in this letter.” Hansen, 47.
 Hansen, 48.
 Hansen, 50.
 Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume IV, The Epistles of Paul (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1931) 437.
 Hansen, 59.
 “a firm conception of those spiritual principles which would guide them in their relations with one another and the world.” Nicoll, 421.