The Bonds of the Gospel
Commitment to each other is a nonnegotiable in the Christian life.
We see this again and again in the life and writing of the apostle Paul. As he wrote to the church in Philippi, he was unashamed of sharing with them just how he felt about them, because he was so appreciative of the fellowship he enjoyed with them. Indeed, the word “partakers” in this verse actually comes from the Greek word koinonia, a word Paul frequently used to describe a sharing partnership.
Paul described the Philippian church as his “joy and crown” (Philippians 4:1). His heart was filled with love for all the churches who were under his care, but he regarded these brothers and sisters in a special way. They stood out, for they had stuck with Paul through thick and thin. Separated as the Philippians were from Paul when he wrote to them while under arrest in Rome, they could quite possibly have been swept away by other teachers with more impressive personalities, more striking characters, or more eloquent language. But they continued to stand with Paul. Their depth of fellowship was strengthened by their constancy, which filled the apostle with joy and stimulated his outburst of affection.
The example of this early church is a challenging call to contemporary Christianity, which, if we’re honest, is all too often marked by fickleness. Many Christians tend to be uncommitted when times are good and unreliable when times are bad. We so easily treat the opportunities of fellowship, worship, and the hearing of God’s word with an arm’s-length approach. If a teacher or a book appeals to our sense of need, scratches where we itch, or tickles our fancy, then we engage with them for a while—but if things go awry, or if we find our way of life challenged, or if being alongside another Christian becomes costly rather than easy, then the temptation for many of us is to head for new pastures.
Paul shows us a better way—a more Christlike way. We are called to choose commitment to one another through the ups and downs of life. The binding element between Paul and the Philippians is the same element which can bind our hearts.
In seeing one another endure difficulties, in running to one another in the experience of loss, and in receiving from one another the enjoyment of restoration, we will discover that our hearts are actually being molded together in the bonds of the gospel. Through such constancy, we will find God strengthening our fellowship and increasing our joy with other believers.
So, does commitment describe your attitude to those the Lord has placed in fellowship around you? Do they know that you are there for them in the downs as well as the ups? To whom could you write an encouragement, and for whom will you say a prayer, right now?
How is God calling me to think differently?
How is God reordering my heart’s affections — what I love?
What is God calling me to do as I go about my day today?
21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
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