An Enduring Partnership

This morning we will look at the verses 3-11 of Philippians. Paul begins his letter to the Philippians with a prayer that sets the table for the rest of what he has to say. He begins by encouraging the Philippians and has them fix their eyes on their partnership in the gospel. As we look at ways we can partner in the gospel, we also need to understand and appreciate the glorious fuel for this partnership. Please pray with me that this would be clear to us.

Father, author of life, thank you for the blessings of children. Thank you for the Opsahls and their desire to disciple their children in the fear of you. May we as a church support not only Luke and Courtney but all of the families at Grace to make disciples. We pray for Pastor Dave and Gerri as they continue their sabbatical. Please give them rest this week as they have time to rest, focus on their marriage and in all things that they would seek to bring you glory during this time.

We also pray for Dick and Jean Thompson and Jean continues to honor her mother by caring for her. Please help mother Joan to get the help she needs, speak to her as you know her more intimately than anyone else. Cut through confusion and fog to remind her of your promises and truth. Strengthen Jean. Let Dick be a continued source of comfort and encouragement. Help us as a body to love and support the Thompson’s during this time. Thank you for their humble example of honoring an aging parent. Thank you for that gift to our body.

Lord you are present with us. You are faithful to all of your promises and you don’t change. On our own we are flimsy and weak. We ask that your Holy Spirit would give us greater faith to trust you. The promise you make in this text is glorious, I ask that it would provide hope and assurance this morning. I pray that your certainty would bring us greater drive in ministry. Give us greater focus as a church to make disciples and bring you glory. Speak to us through your living word now. Please let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sigh, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.

Imagine you and a friend decide to go into business together. Some of you have already done this. Others might hear this and vigorously shake your head ‘no way’. Hang with me a second. Maybe it was to purchase a rental home or a fixer-upper. Maybe it’s opening a restaurant or a shop or offering a service of some kind. You and your friend become partners. It’s a partnership that has a point. You aren’t just becoming partners for hanging out or having fun together. That might be a byproduct, but you have a clear purpose: to run a successful business. You have risks: financial. Relational. What happens if things go wrong? It could harm your finances, but it could also harm your friendship.

What if there was a guarantee that the business would succeed? Maybe there is an investor in your business or a super successful business mogul that is backing you. The promise is that the business won’t be an overnight success, but it will succeed long term. You would still experience the ups and downs of business: growing pains, financial downturns, lean years, hirings, and firings, but through it all you had assurance that the business would outlast your competitors, it would turn a profit someday and would still stand even after you were gone. How would this assurance change things? Would you be more willing to stick with it during the hard times? Would you be more willing to charge ahead with greater focus? Would you be willing to take greater risks?

This morning we are going to look at two interrelated partnerships that are both fueled by a glorious promise that results in joy and greater motivation to continue and persevere in these partnerships; both the vertical and the horizontal.

There are three pieces to this enduring partnership in verses 3-11: first it is a Joyful Partnership. Second it is a Lasting Partnership and finally it is a Prayerful Partnership.

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;

Paul is filled with thanksgiving and joy to God about the Philippians. God is working through and in the Philippians. The way he speaks it sounds redundant. There are a few times in this passage where Paul does this. He’s using redundant language to emphasize how thankful he is. Remembrance of the Philippians filled Paul with joy. Maybe you can relate to this. Maybe it’s a family member or a dear friend who lives far away. You remember the sweet times you had when they lived closer and it causes joyful memories. It brings you joy and as you remember them.

Look at how many times Paul uses warm, affectionate language in this passage: Thanks, joy, he holds them in his heart, he yearns for them with affection. This opening prayer is filled with emotion.

I mentioned last week how Paul frequently expresses joy over many things in Philippians. Joy is not an emotion tied to circumstances, but is rather a feeling that rises above circumstances because it’s tied to something eternal. Paul’s immediate setting is prison. Paul’s emotions run beyond his chains.

And Paul’s joy makes him thankful to God, and turns it to prayer. Why does he feel this way? Look at verse 5

Joyful partnership

5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

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.

The reason for Paul’s thanksgiving and joy is that there is evidence that the Philippians believe in the gospel. From the time that the Philippians heard the gospel when Paul first preached at Philippi, they entered into partnership with Paul.

Paul has joy because he sees God’s work in the Philippians. Their outward actions line up with what they profess to believe. This is seen through what Paul calls their partnership in the gospel. Paul uses two words-partnership in verse 5 and partakers in verse 7 to describe the concept of fellowship. We hear the word ‘fellowship’ in the church but what does it actually mean?

A basic definition means to share a common life. But there is more to the definition for Christians. Christians are not merely sharing a common life because we enjoy one another. And before we have a horizontal partnership with one another, we are called into a fellowship between God and us in a vertical partnership. We share a common life based on our status with Jesus.

As a result of this vertical, salvific partnership, we are partners in ministry. And the main purpose of our partnership in the gospel is to complete the mission God has given the church.

working together to make disciples of all nations. There are multiple ways to do that, but our main question to ask is, “how will this help make disciples?”

What are the ways the Philippians partner with Paul? And How do these play out for us here at Grace?

Verse 7 mentions two ways that the Philippians partnered with Paul: first in Paul’s imprisonment.

The church had recently sent a financial gift to Paul for his ministry. The gift sent from Philippi to Paul was not ultimately for Paul. It was not a personal gift but rather for the work of the gospel.

The same is true for any of our missionaries whom you support financially. It’s not a personal gift; it’s much more about, can you joyfully support the work of the gospel?

The second way they partnered with Paul was in the defense and confirmation of the gospel- As we will see at other times in the letter, false teachings and false motives about the gospel have threatened the church. Paul is grateful for their boldness in believing and defending the gospel. The Philippians worked to protect the truth of the gospel.

We as elders work to defend and confirm the gospel for Grace church at a higher level. We work to feed the flock well. Whether it’s preaching, teaching, worship, counseling, or simply recommending good books, we try to feed you with good things that confirm the gospel.

What about on an individual level? How can you defend and confirm the gospel yourselves?

Know the gospel. Share the gospel with those around you. When people have questions, defend the truth of the gospel. Opposition will come. Prepare yourself and be bold enough to defend the truths of scripture. Study the Bible by yourself or with others at Grace. Attend Berea so you know how better to defend the truth of the gospel. Work 1 on 1 with someone for the purpose of discipleship.

Lasting Partnership

Paul’s thankfulness and encouragement at the Philippians’ proof of their faith moves into Paul’s next point-A Lasting Partnership. The reason he can be filled with joy is rooted in an eternal, trustworthy promise:

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

The horizontal partnership that Paul just commended is tied to a vertical partnership between God and his people. God started the work of salvation and God will finish it. Don’t ever lose sight of the fact that it is God who started this partnership. In our sin we are unable to choose God. It must be the work of God, because we are so inconsistent. Left to our own devices, we would choose something lesser than salvation.

Have you ever sinned in a spectacular way? Have you ever been stuck in your sin and began to question whether you were saved? This is the promise to cling to.

How can Paul make this promise that God will keep the saints until the end? It’s a trinitarian answer: God the father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit all work to keep the saints until the end.

The Father. Paul mentions the beginning of God’s work. From our perspective this begins when we respond in faith to the gospel, but God the Father’s work goes much further back.

(Eph 1:4) even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

From eternity past, the Father chose people who would be saved. Maybe in another sermon, I’d explain and establish this doctrine more, but I’m just going to have to assert it here. The Bible teaches that God chose people before the world was made. And Paul says that those in whom God began a good work, will be completed. The father sustains us for what reason? That we may be holy and blameless. It’s the same reason Paul gives here in verse 10.

The Father also made eternal promises through his covenants. When God makes a promise, he keeps it. In the Old Testament he promised a New covenant that brought hope.

Jer 31:34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

The Son accomplished salvation on the cross, paying for our sins. Kids, How many sins did he die for? All of them. Not all sins to a certain point. Not some select sins. All the sins of all of his people for all time.

Hebrews 10:14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Anyone and everyone who is in Christ, has all of his or her sins paid for. We say it every week in the Assurance of Pardon. Know that your sins are already forgiven. If our sins are forgiven, how could there be a sin that would be so debilitating that we could fall away?

The Spirit. Upon conversion, the Holy Spirit takes residence in the heart of the believer. God dwells in us! In the Upper Room before Jesus was arrested and crucified, he explained what would happen to his disciples after he went away.

John 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

This was an astounding statement. Jesus had promised a day when the Holy Spirit would dwell permanently in the lives of believers. For us who live on the other side of Pentecost, that day has come. Maybe you’ve read stories in the Old Testament where people would be filled with the Holy Spirit, but it was not permanent. King Saul was one example of this. This can cause people to question if they can fall away and lose the Holy Spirit.

But now Jesus promises a permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit for believers. A lasting vertical partnership that ensures we will be kept until the end. It is also the Spirit’s job to sanctify us. As he dwells in us, he works to remove the remaining sin in our hearts and replaces it with good fruit.

Ephesians 1:13 In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.

The Spirit is our guarantee.

Because of the Father, Son and spirit, we can have assurance that we will not ultimately blow it, because it’s not ultimately up to us.

This should fuel our lives. In those moments where we doubt our salvation, remember this promise in verse 6. When your faith feels weak and you waver, lean hard into this promise. God is willing and completely able to cover us, and give us the power to endure for our entire lives. Verse 6 says God will compete the work until when? Until the day of Jesus Christ. As we wait for this hopeful day, we have the power to persevere. However difficult our circumstances get; we will successfully make it to that day.

So we drive ahead: To grow in personal holiness, but also to move forward with others in gospel partnership. This brings us to the final point: prayerful partnership.

Prayerful Partnership

As a result of this partnership and the encouraging promise to endure, Paul resumes his prayer for the Philippians and moves from thanksgiving to intercession. Because they will certainly persevere, Paul prays for the Philippians to do their part. It’s a tension Paul writes about throughout the book.

There is no hint of the idea that because we are saved, it doesn’t matter what we do. Paul is clear to encourage the saints to follow the example we have in Jesus. We are images of God and how we live shows the world a picture of God, either good or bad. Paul instructs the Philippians to live for God’s glory in the form of loving, discerning lives that lead to holiness.

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.

First, Paul prays for increasing love and knowledge. From this text Paul’s love for the Philippians is clear. Now he prays for their love to match his. We again see his repetition to emphasize his desires. Abound more and more. Again, this love begins in the vertical. God first loved us before we loved him. But now that he has begun a good work in us, we are called to love God and one another.

Here’s a simple way to grow in love for one another. Pray like Paul does, pray for the things Paul prays for. Use this passage as a guide. Pray for yourself and others’ love to abound.

This desire for love to grow is tightly connected to their growth in knowledge. We again see the connection between tying emotions to truth. As we grow in our knowledge of God, our affections grow as well.

Again, Paul is setting the table for the Philippians to combat some of their opponents. He prays that God will grow their love and knowledge, so that when opponents rise up with false teachings, they will have discernment to defend and confirm the gospel. And their love will strengthen their unity as well.

As the Philippians grow in love and discernment, Paul mentions the goal in verse 10. The goal is that we would be pure and blameless. While God will complete the good work started in us, our job is for our lives to match what God has declared true about us. We don’t live pure and blameless lives to be accepted by God. We live pure and blameless lives because we’ve been accepted.

The signs of God’s work that Paul sees in the Philippians he now connects to a day of completion, when they will be filled with the fruit of righteousness. As our lives are more and more marked with holiness and righteousness, the more we look like Jesus. When we see him on that day, we will be made perfectly righteous.

The ultimate reason for all of these partnerships is seen in verse 11: for God’s glory. Salvation belongs to the LORD, which means God gets the glory for anyone being saved. The saints will persevere through God’s powerful work. God gets the glory. When our love abounds with knowledge and discernment, God gets the glory. When we defend and confirm the gospel, we show that the gospel is more important than opposing views. God gets the glory. We live lives that are pure and blameless. When others see this, God gets the glory. We partner with others inside and beyond Grace Church. So that God would get the glory.

Conclusion

The promise of verse 6 should give us great confidence that following Jesus is not a waste. It’s not a venture that will fail. We won’t get to the end and have the rug pulled out from under us. At the day of Jesus Christ we will be filled with the fruit of righteousness.

Do you see yourself as a partner in the gospel? Look for the ways that your life is testifying to your belief in the gospel. If you see evidences of grace, take heart that God will continue that work until the end. If there are not evidences, repent and believe the gospel. Recognize this partnership that is moving towards the day of Jesus Christ. And join the partnership.

God has made us partners in salvation, so we have a horizontal partnership with others in Christ. And we have absolute certainty that the partnership will succeed because we have absolute certainty that God will keep us until the end. It doesn’t mean that Grace church will always exist or always be successful by the world’s standards, but it does mean that Jesus’ Great commission will succeed. As long as Grace church does exist, we partner in that work. We can experience joy now as we partner to carry out the great commission for future glory.

Let me close with the same promise from First Thessalonians:   Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.