The Philippian Partnership

Saturday, 04 October 2008 10:11

Philippians was written as a thank-you letter for their financial support to the ministry of Paul. He saw their support as goling way beyond financial, though. It was a multi-faceted partnership, encompassing at least 15 different aspects:

1. Partners in the Gospel

Philip. 1:3-6 – 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.

The concept of partnership is more than fellowship. It's an active participation in a higher goal that binds people together. From the first day, Lydia wanted to be involved in Paul's ministry (Acts 16:15). The gospel brought them to God, and it brought them together.

2. Partners in Grace

Philip. 1:7-8 – It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart; for 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.

The basis for our partnership is our sharing in God's grace. It's easy for divisions to develop in the body based on gifts, opinions, or events. There were some who were criticizing Paul because he was in jail. What unites us is that we all share equally in the grace of God.

In 1:12-18, Paul takes a little time to report on his ministry as well. "Don't worry about me. I'm doing fine here in prison. Don't worry about the competition, either. Let them be."


3. Partners in Prayer

Philip. 1:18-19 – Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

Paul really believed in the power of prayer. He saw God at work in everything. Prayer was an opportunity for the Philippians to be partners in Paul's ministry. The IMS prayer sheet is a wonderful tool to keep us connected to the European churches

4. Partners in Progress

Philip. 1:23-25 – I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith…

Paul was struggling with whether to be with God or to stay behind. He was determined to remain with them for their progress and joy in the faith. He wasn't there physically, but he still believed he could be a partner in their progress.

5. Partners in Evangelism

Philip. 1:27-28 – Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.

Evangelism really is a team effort. It's possible to convert someone all by yourself (the eunuch). But what people see when they come to Christ is the unity and love in his body. Paul was preaching the word in prison, and he felt a partnership with those preaching in Philippi.

6. Partners in Suffering

Philip. 1:29-30 – For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, [30] since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.

Christians share in common sufferings. Talking about persecution here; flogged and jailed in Philippi, imprisoned in Rome. We've all experienced rejection when standing up for what we believe. We also understand what it's like to be righteous in an unrighteous world; to raise children who love God rather than the world; to live for God rather than for money and career advancement

7. Partners in Purpose

Philip. 2:1-2 – If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

Having a common purpose or goal is what creates partnership and unity. WWII chaplain recalled that the men had "never been so happy." Wished they could have continued that spirit after the battles were completed.

Purposefulness can also lead to competition, but Paul spends some time exhorting them to be humble servants.

8. Partners with God

Philip. 2:12-13 – Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

This is an interesting partnership. Paul exhorts them to "work out their own salvation." He also says that God works in them to will and to act. God began a good work in us, and he'll carry it on to completion (Phil 1:6) Every act of our will is a partnership between us and God.

9. Partners in Rejoicing

Philip. 2:17-18 – But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Paul recognized that not everyone experiences victories at the same time. If he was being sacrificed and they were being lifted up, he rejoiced with them. He also encouraged them to rejoice with him. Rejoicing in one another's victories is another aspect of our partnership.
10. Partners in Ministry

Philip. 2:25-30 – But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may be glad and I may have less anxiety. Welcome him in the Lord with great joy, and honor men like him, because he almost died for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for the help you could not give me.

They sent Epaphroditus (perhaps their minister) with a gift for Paul. He was their messenger, but Paul's brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier. They became partners in Paul's ministry by sending Epaphroditus. He risked his life to make up for the help that they could not give personally.

Paul spends some time encouraging them to stand firm in the gospel. One challenge was to trust in Christ and not in their worldly gifts Also to watch out for the pull of the world, not to get too comfortable here. He wanted them to remember that they were citizens of heaven, not earth.

11. Partners in Imitation

Philip. 3:17 – Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.

In the middle of this section, Paul reminds them to be partners by imitating his faith. Much of what we learn as disciples is caught, not taught. We can either pretend that we don't imitate (when we really do), or we can understand it and talk about it openly. The latter is better, because it helps us understand what we are learning. It also ensures that we are being transformed in godly ways vs. worldly ways

12. Partners in Rehabilitation

Philip. 4:2-3 – I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

This is an interesting verse. Paul mentions Euodia and Syntyche. They are generally known as strong-willed women who weren't getting along. I never noticed that they were also Paul's fellow workers who were left behind.

Leadership is challenging. It takes its toll on people. We need to wrap our arms around those who have led and may be wounded. We can all be partners in rehabilitating one another for ministry

13. Partners in Gentleness and Peace

Philip. 4:4-7 – Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It's interesting to note the qualities that are lifted up in the Scriptures. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. He says these qualities should be evident to all. We are to be partners in them. The fruit of the spirit is what makes the body a safe, attractive place to be

14. Partners in Giving

Philip. 4:14-16 – Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.

The Philippians imitated the Macedonians:

2 Cor. 8:2-5 – Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And they did not do as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then to us in keeping with God's will.

They shared in his troubles, but also shared with him in giving and receiving. In fact, they were the only church that partnered with him in this way. Giving is more than an exercise in sacrifice, budgeting and discipline. Even after he had left Philippi, they continued to support him voluntarily. We want to be partners in giving, and not just donors of special contribution.

15. Partners in Receiving

Philip. 4:17-19 – Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. [18] I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Paul uses accounting language here, talking about debits and credits. If you know anything about accounting, you know there's a credit for every debit. As they partnered with Paul in giving, they also partnered in receiving blessings from God. They gave and he received. He was amply supplied by their many gifts. Not only that, but the Philippians themselves received God's blessing as well.

This is not a general promise, but a specific promise to those who are generous with their resources.


The Philippian partnership is an inspiring example for us today. It's a model for how we can participate in another's ministry. Let us be partners with the New England and European churches and with God's work throughout the world.