Monday, August 22, 2011


Our journey through the Pauline epistles, in an effort to understand the Gospel as it was presented by the Apostle, has brought us to his letter to the Philippians. As I glanced over the verses containing the word "Gospel," my first impression is that Paul was not alone; he had co-laborers, supporters, and even some opposition in the Church at Philippi. Just as in the case of missionaries today, Paul needed help. This church, more than any other, was faithful in doing their part to help make Paul's ministry possible.

Paul does not always mention how they helped him. He mentioned their "fellowship in the Gospel" (1:5), that they were "partakers of (his) grace" (1:7), and that there were "women (who) laboured with (him) in the Gospel" (4:3). And while there were obviously many individuals who had helped Paul in spreading the Gospel, he mentioned only a few of his co-laborers by name: Timothy (2:19), Epaphroditus (2:25), and Clement (4:3).

However, Paul did mention their financial support, which they had apparently sent throughout his ministry. He wrote:
"But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity....Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity....I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God" (4:10-19).

But while Paul had co-laborers and support from the majority of the members of the Philippian Church, there were those who resented him and his authority. His reaction to them is a clear indication that God had been transforming Paul into the image of Christ (1:6). He wrote:
"And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: but the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice" (1:14-18).

Though Paul does not mention the "Body of Christ," it is clear that without the rest of His Church, Paul would not have been able to take the Gospel to the far reaches of the Roman Empire. To be continued.

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