I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me…Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. (Philippians 4:10, 14-16)
Paul had a special relationship with the church in Philippi. The beginnings of the congregation were rather less than smooth. His typical practice on entering a new city was to first visit the local synagogue and make an appeal to the Jews. But there was no synagogue in Philippi. Instead, he found a group of women praying by the riverside. He spoke to them and one, a merchant named Lydia, was baptized, along with her employees.
Next, Paul encountered a slave girl possessed by an evil spirit who kept following him around. He cast out the spirit. Unfortunately, that caused him to run afoul of her owners, who lost their meal ticket. They complained to the magistrates, who had Paul and his coworker, Silas, beaten and imprisoned.
That night, they were praying and singing in their cell, when an earthquake threw open the doors. Their jailer, knowing his life was forfeit, was about to commit suicide, when Paul stopped him. Paul told him about Jesus, and he and his household were baptized that very night.
From these inauspicious beginnings – a female small business owner and her employees, a slave girl, and a jailer and his family – the church in Philippi was planted. But what a harvest the Lord reaped from those seeds!
The Philippian letter overflows with love, with joy, with thanksgiving for this church. Most of Paul’s letters are occasioned by problems that he needs to address in the congregation. But not this one; it is primarily a letter of friendship. Look at how Paul talks about them in Phil 1:3-8:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 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. 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. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Each time they came to mind he thanked God for them, his prayers bursting with joy. He was thankful for their partnership in spreading of gospel, based not only on their status as Christians, but their literal support of him: they repeatedly aided him financially. And note, Paul did not accept help from every church. This one was singled out for that status. They were dear to him.
My hope and prayer is that we can share that same sort of special relationship here in Liberty. Today there is a potluck meal scheduled after services in order to welcome Abbey and me. We have already been so warmly received by you all and are so grateful for the hospitality you have shown to us. I want you to know that we appreciate you so very much. I look forward to you getting to “meet the Perkins” and to our getting know all of you too, in the weeks, months, and years to come.
May the Lord bless us all in our time together.