The Apostle Paul extends his love to this church by writing them a letter. He expresses how much he cares for them, and he seeks to bring them comfort by encouraging them to stand firm and to keep the faith. This small church that was started in the house of Lydia was under the hand of persecution. In the midst of their struggles, their love was so great for Paul; they sent one of their ministers to console him. In the middle of trying times, you never want to see one of your leaders leave, but they set their problems aside to serve the Apostle while he was imprisoned in Rome. This church was demonstrating a real work of grace by supporting his ministry from the very outset of their conversion. A faith that is not active, according to the book of James, is considered dead. With their support, Paul was empowered to take the Gospel throughout the hostile land of Rome. His mission was to convert all who are lost and under the impending judgment of God. Paul loved this church with the affection of Jesus Christ. He often reflected upon it when he observed the marks upon his own body, recalling the suffering he endured while being locked in stocks and chains. Paul’s heart was moved deeply when Epaphroditus, their local minister, brought him a care packet; he risked his life to make up what was deficient in his. What love and fellowship that is truly found in a body of believers who are yoked in fellowship with Christ. Such love as this will tear down the dividing walls of hostility raised from hearts that become calloused and hardened.
Paul looked at their generosity from a redemptive standpoint. The Apostles greatest joy was not because of the love the church had for him, but it was the evidence of saving faith that was springing forth from their hearts. So he sought to comfort them by expressing his love back to them, encouraging them to stand firm in the Lord. He told them, “Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.” Notice the language the Apostle uses in this one verse, “My beloved brethren,” “Whom I long to see,” “My joy and my crown,” and he closes it with,” My beloved.” This is the language of a man whose heart has been changed by the grace bestowed upon him by an Infinite Creator. We must not forget, this man who speaks these words of love, once persecuted the church unto death, even holding the cloaks of those who stoned the first Christian martyr, Stephen. Yet now, we see the effects of saving grace in Paul’s heart by confessing his true love and gratitude toward them in Christ Jesus. Paul was willing to give up his life for the believers at Philippi just as the church was willing to send one of their leaders to strengthen Paul in a time of persecution.
May the grace of God do such a work upon our hearts that we have a self-sacrificing relationship toward one another as demonstrated between the Philippian church and the Apostle Paul. As Paul had written previously in this letter, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your interests, but also the interests of others.” Those of us who cling to the grace of God through the work of Jesus Christ on the cross must have this attitude toward one another. I am not talking about everyone who walks into church Sunday morning or those with denominational differences on secondary matters; I am talking about those who are truly trusting in the sufficiency of Christ’s death and resurrection and are walking in obedience to His word. If you were to stand before the Lord in all of His glory today, did you fulfill the royal law of love, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself?”
“Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.”
Philippians 4:1 NASBS