One In The Bond Of Love


“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 you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer; that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:7-11.

That’s quite a mouthful, Paul!

Paul made some powerful statements in his greeting to the Philippian church. He obviously had great affection for these people. They were his first converts in Greece. They loved him; they supported him in every possible way; unlike the Galatian church, they were steadfast in their faith in Jesus and they brought great joy to Paul. He could not help but tell them how much they meant to him in the midst of the trials and persecution he faced. At that very moment he was in prison for the gospel of Christ.

Paul thought about them constantly, as he did the many other small groups scattered all over Europe and Asia who had come to Christ through his preaching and teaching. In spite of his apostolic role, he didn’t lord it over them. They had an equal share in God’s grace with him. He needed grace to endure the suffering and humiliation of persecution and imprisonment for preaching the gospel. They needed grace to be faithful to Jesus in the face of opposition, accusation and misunderstanding and the ever-present danger of betrayal to the authorities, even by friends or family.

God’s grace was very real to Paul. On one occasion he was so traumatised by constant persecution that he pleaded with God to remove the “thorn” of angry persecutors that dogged him wherever he went and the hardships he faced as a travelling apostle. God’s response was not to remove the thorn but to give him strength and grace to endure. The same grace that supported him was available to every Philippian child of God for their daily struggles.

Paul’s written prayers give us deep insight into true prayer. He was more concerned about forming their godly characters than he was about their outward circumstances. As long as they were in this life they would face trouble. It was not his place to pray them out of it, since God was using the very adversities they faced to mould them into the image of Christ. In his prayers he affirmed God’s purpose to grow them in righteousness and godliness as a witness to His grace and power in the face of human wickedness in the society around them.

His greeting was “grace and peace,” his prayer for the increase of love and the fruit of righteousness so that their lives would be blameless, not sinless, and pure, not mixed with the ungodly practices of the pagans all around them. Their righteousness was the outflow of Christ’s righteousness which covered them as they lived in a sinful world, surrounded by pressure and temptation to conform in order to evade the inevitable suffering for Jesus’ sake.

Why the increase of love? Love is the very essence of who God is. His love motivates and permeates His every thought and action. Everything He does is for our good and He spares nothing, not even His own Son, to ensure our rescue and our freedom from the ravages of sin. The love of God that motivates us, heals and restores us as much as it ministers to others. The more we love, the greater our resemblance to our heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus.

The more we give of ourselves and our resources to meet the needs of others, the more we grow in our understanding of what the right thing is to do in every circumstance. What better desire could Paul express for these dear people who meant so much to him? They were an oasis in the desert of idolatry and wickedness. They were a breath of fresh air in the putrid atmosphere of ungodliness. They were a fountain of living water springing up out of the barren earth.

We can learn from Paul to view life from a different perspective. God is about changing hearts, not circumstances. The very struggles we hate are the things God uses to refine our faith and purify our hearts of our fleshly and selfish appetites so that we can feast on Him and become like Him to shine in the darkness of sin and unbelief.

Scripture taken from THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.




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Luella Campbell

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