I Thank My God When I Remember You
Of all of Paul’s letters, his Letter to the Church at Philippi might have the most personal and warmest feel to it. These Macedonians loved their Apostle. Acts 16 relates the account of Paul and Silas’ time in that city after Paul’s vision of a Macedonian crying out for help: the conversion of Lydia, their incarceration and miraculous jail break, the conversion of the Jailer, and apology of the magistrates. We might say Paul left Philippi in triumph. But that didn’t matter to Paul. What did matter to him was the welfare of the churches, and when one considers the problems which plagued Corinth and Galatia, the church at Philippi was a breath of fresh air—not that they didn’t have their problems (every church does)—but theirs were small by comparison.
As always, Paul addresses the “saints” at Philippi, by which he means believers in Christ Jesus. It is the inexpressible privilege that sinners such as we are deemed by God as His saints, but then we know that we are so considered only because of the shed blood of Jesus Christ which covers those sins and makes us clean in the Father’s sight. The mention of “overseers and deacons” suggests that the churches were becoming more organized around offices—men called of God and set aside by the church to lead, teach, and administer the sacraments. And Paul closes his greeting as usual pronouncing the blessing, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,” for grace can only come to us from the Father through His Son which is the only way to experience peace in this life.
Scholars call the next part of the letter, “Thanksgiving and Prayer,” and Paul often includes this just after his greeting. But one senses that there is something special in this “thanksgiving.” The Philippians had recently sent Paul a “gift” to help him in his ministry (4:10-20), so Paul is writing this “Thank you” letter in response. He cannot but bless God for this church, thanking God every time he remembers them, constantly breathing prayers to heaven on their behalf. This had been a faithful church, sharing in Paul’s ministry from the beginning. The word translated “sharing” is κοινωνια, which can also mean, “partnership” or “fellowship.” But it goes way beyond meals after worship and includes missional support both financial and “boots on the ground.” And this work which God was doing in the Philippians, this daily sanctifying work in them proven by their partnership in the ministry, God would being to completion at the coming of His Son. Imagine—one day we shall be complete in Him, fully redeemed, and without sin.