“Real Joy Demands Real Fellowship”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 1.7-8
Philippians 1. Mushy…overly affectionate. It’s the stuff kids hate when they see mama kissing daddy. It makes you want to stick your finger down your throat… kids, you know what I mean … and you secretly love it, too … it’s healthy and keeps kids secure, but it’s still mushy!
Overly affectionate, mushy. In the world, especially when boyfriends and girlfriends are mushy, it’s short lived. It’s purely emotional, superficial and not founded on anything of lasting value. It’s heightened emotion that ends up crashing and burning.
But Paul, in our text, seems overly affectionate toward the Philippians…
Philippians 1:3–8 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, 5 in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. 7 [our text, notice how overly affectionate Paul seems] For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, since both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me. 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Whoa, Paul … why so mushy?
Now, this is NOT just some heightened emotion that ends up crashing. That’s a deep abiding love for the Philippian church. He’s been deeply involved in their lives and they’ve been involved in his. He is ecstatic and exuberant over the Philippians; full of joy in jail!
And so we’ll learn today that real joy demands real fellowship. Real joy demands real fellowship. But the problem is we are too often isolationists. The world has taught us to be self sufficient; I don’t need help; I’ll deal with my own problems. I’m not good with social situations…the world has somehow taught us this.
A secular article on PsychologyToday’s website confirms that this is happening … it begins …. “The best research confirms it: [we] are now perilously isolated. In a recent comprehensive study by scientists at Duke University, researchers have observed a sharp decline in social connectedness over the past 20 years.
Remarkably, 25% of Americans have no meaningful social support at all – not a single person they can confide in. And over half of all Americans report having no close confidants or friends outside their immediate family. The situation today is much worse today than it was when similar data were gathered in 1985. (At that time, only 10% of Americans were completely alone).”
The article continues … “Even Americans of a few generations ago used to benefit from a richness of community life that has all but disappeared, as we’ve witnessed a long, slow retreat into the hermetically sealed comfort of our fortress-like homes . . . deep friendships replaced by screens, gadgets, and exhausted couch-potato stupor.
“The toll?” … asks the author. “Social isolation is a huge risk factor for the onset of major depression, which has more than doubled in prevalence over the past decade. And there’s growing evidence that isolation increases vulnerability to various forms of addiction, as well.”
The Bible confirms in this passage and even lost people recognize that people who are isolationists don’t confide in people are much more likely to experience a lack of joy in their lives.
And if we follow Paul’s example, we’ll learn that “real joy demands real fellowship.” You have to have a deep connection, participation, community with Christians in order to have real joy.
And so we need to be, in a sense, mushy over each other! Yes, even an independent Baptist church that thinks it knows how to cross all the theological “i’s” and dot it’s theological “t’s,” … ahem … you think you can … yes, we need, especially perhaps, to know how to express deep warmth of fellowship and commitment toward one another.
Jonathan Edwards, who wrote Religious Affections, said, “He that has doctrinal knowledge and speculation only, without affection, never is engaged in the business of religion.”
Real doctrinal and theological study will affect our emotions, our warmth, and thus our genuine and heartfelt fellowship, community, participation with one another.
Real joy demands real fellowship. Paul had that with the Philippians, even in jail.
His feelings about the Philippians.
Remember, Paul is in prison. Jail. This is a physically, emotionally, spiritually difficult trial. He has no freedom, chained between two soldiers all day… And on top of that, there is probably question in the Christian community about whether Paul should be put aside. Some are preaching Christ, 1:15 says … subverting his gospel, attempting to put him down, and add pressure to his imprisonment, verse 17.
But the Philippians have supported him through it all, through thick and thin. They loved him when he was doing great work and when he was in prison. They even sent him a financial gift and they sent Epaphroditus to serve him to the point of death.
Philippians 2:25 tells us, they sent Epaphroditus to Paul to minister to him as long as Paul needed him. And he got sick while serving Paul … you know, he was probably trying to keep up with Paul and got run down!
And then the Philippians hear that Epaphroditus is sick and so the Philippians are grieved over Epaphroditus. But then Epaphroditus hears that the Philippians know that he is sick and so he has becomes grieved. And so now Paul is grieved that Epaphroditus is grieved so much so that he sends Epaphroditus back to them.
Did you follow that? These folks’ fellowship is deep! Paul had an attachment to this church like no other; what other letter begins so mushy! “I long for you!” Wow! Isn’t that overkill, Paul? No … It’s not like Paul is out of line here. He says in verse seven “it is only right for me to feel this way about you all.”
Feel what way? He is thankful for them verse three he is joyful over them verse four he is confident about them in verse six. Longing with Christ’s affection in v.8.
He has every right to feel this way about them, verse 7 says. And in verses 7-8 have 3 reasons why Paul is so joyfully affectionate for them. And in these 3 reasons are more ways we can find true joy in our lives. Real joy demands real fellowship.
Why is Paul so joyfully affectionate for them?
First … from verse 7… Paul is joyfully affectionate because he has loved them.
Paul is joyfully affectionate because he has loved them.
EXP: Notice what he says, verse 7, “For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, [why?] because I have you in my heart,” which means he loves them.
Paul is so joyfully affectionate for them because he loves. He simply loves them.
He has them in his heart. The heart is the centre of of you, the core of you. It’s the real you, where your consciousness is…it’s your mind, will, emotions.
He has them right there! Why? Just think about his ministry to them, how he has actively loved them. He poured his heart and soul out for these people and spilled his own blood preaching eternal life to them.
When he came to Philippi, Lydia and her family received Christ and he baptized all of them. He was beaten and went to jail and lead the jailer and his family to Christ and he baptized them.
He has loved them; he’s poured out his life for them. He has a right to feel the way he does for them!
ILL: The degree of our love for each other is a defining factor of our Christian life. Henry Chadwick writes in his book The Early Church, “The practical application of charity [love] was probably the most potent single cause of Christian success [in other words, love was how the gospel had success in ancient Christianity]. The pagans would comment ‘see how these Christians love one another’ (as reported by Tertullian) was not irony. Christian charity expressed itself in care for the poor, for widows and orphans, in visits to brethren in prison or condemned to the living death of labour in the mines, and social action in time of calamity like famine, earthquake, pestilence, or war.”
In AD 251, a plague struck the Roman world. There was a plague a century before hand that killed one third of the population and so everyone was afraid … the rich fled, the poor had to stay. The streets were filled with the sick, whose families pushed them out the door.
Christians however, took action. They began to love the sick and dying. They nursed them, cared for them. Many people recovered who would have died, but it cost many Christians their lives.
They actively loved others! “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” That’s not just affection, but action.
APP: We need to love people, we need to have them on our hearts, not on our nerves. If someone is getting on your nerves, you need to check if the love of Christ is really in your heart!
1 John 3:14 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love abides in death.
If you are not loving the brethren, can you be saved? Answer, no!
And so if you have trusted Christ and you’ve fallen into the trap of our world that isolates you, you are going to be depressed. It’s not God’s plan for you. The Christian life is all about loving and caring, actively, for others. And so if you are always only in your own little bubble and you can’t get out because of some fear, you’re more likely to be depressed. You need someone on your heart, like Paul had! “I have you in my heart!” Actively care for others. Don’t ask yourself if you have affection for others; express love to others, do it!
Real joy demands real fellowship. Get active in other people’s lives. Call them, pray for them, send a meal, some money, give them a shoulder to cry on, the nursing home. Ask someone over you know if struggle or go meet with someone you know is hurting.
TRANS: So, why is Paul so joyfully affectionate for the Philippians? Because he has purposefully loved them; he took action to care for them. His actions of love lead to affectionate joy for them. If you want our church to be close knit, you need to take action and love those in our assembly. And I could give a multitude of examples of how that is already happening among us. Let’s continue that in some cases and let’s make some steps in this in some other cases.
You could do something as a family, even. Sometimes your feelings won’t let you but you have to do it anyway.
ILL: Last night I gave Pazliann a bath. She hates baths, especially having to wash her hair. She cries, fushes, screams, she hates it, she’s totally terrified. Doesn’t want to do it. Now, as a dad, I could let her have her way, or I could begin to train her to do things she doesn’t like to do because I know, as her dad, that it’s good for her.
That’s the same here. You might not feel like taking some extra steps in your love for others, but you know it’s good, righteous, you should. You must! Make some plans to actively love others.
TRANS: But secondly, Paul is so joyfully affectionate because they have loved him. He has loved them and now they have loved him.
Paul is joyfully affectionate for them because they have loved him.
EXP: Look at verse 7…
Philippians 1:7 7 For it is only right for me to feel this way about you all, because I have you in my heart, [and because] both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers of grace with me.
Paul is joyfully affectionate for them because they have loved him. They are partakers of grace with Paul whether he’s defending the gospel and is giving proof for the gospel … or whether he is in prison. Paul is saying … “You have supported me not only when I was active in ministry but also when I’ve been in these chains.”
So whether Paul was defending the gospel as when he gave his testimonies before officials or when he was confirming the gospel, giving proofs for the gospel when he was preaching at Mars Hill, or when in chains between two Roman soldiers, either way, the Philippians continued to partake in his ministry of grace, even when in jail.
They shared with him in the ministry. They gave to him, supported him even though he seemed to be a washed up missionary. They loved him. This gave Paul joy.
It seemed that the Philippians were unique in this …
Philippians 4:15–16 15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.
When no one else did, they stuck with Paul. It’s no wonder, Paul loved the Philippians so much! They loved him!
But how did they partake of grace with Paul? Just by trusting in Christ together? Just because both had turned from sin to the living God? Yes, but that’s not all. They also suffered together. Look at Phil. 1:29 … Philippians 1:29 29 For to you it has been granted [it has been graced upon you is the idea] for Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake.”
The suffering has been graced upon them. Paul suffers; the Philippians suffer, Paul says, this is God’s grace! “You all are partakers of grace with me!” We’re suffering together, Paul is saying.
Like the apostles in Acts 5:41 …
Acts 5:41 41 So they went on their way …rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name.
Suffering was a cause for rejoicing, a grace from God!
ILL: Someone wise said, “The pastor who like Paul, holds his people in his heart will find them holding him in theirs.”
And they did. Paul was joyful because he loved them and they loved him, even in tough times. There was something about Paul’s life and ministry that they wanted to share in.
APP: Do you live a life that people want to share in? Not only … do you care about others, but do others care about you and your service for Christ? Do you live a Christian life to the point that others want to know how you’re doing and serve with you? Paul was serving and others wanted to be a part of it. Do you have a ministry that others are thankful for?
You don’t have to be an apostle, but even as you serve Christ in your day to day, you can say, “Pray for me, I’m witnessing to so and so… Help me, how do I help so and so who is discouraged about her family…or… “So and so is struggling with his health, let me see if I can assist him” or “I’ve been doing this ‘hands on thing’ for somebody again, and another family I’ve helped like this ….” Are you serving in this way and are others coming along side?
Like Paul and the Philippians, as a pastor, my joy is made full in you to the degree you participate in the gospel like this in some way. If you respond to the word of Christ, I as a pastor feel more closely knit to you.
If you reject my ministry or my counsel, I feel less close to you. I can’t help it, it comes with the territory. If you accept me when I’m doing well as a pastor and you complain about me when I’ve failed, there is distance between us. That’s not God’s design. Paul, too, was put on the shelf it seemed, but the Philippians stuck with him! And if you encourage me when times are tough and surround me with love when I feel like quitting [which I don’t, btw], we’re tight, we’re close. It’s the same with others. Stick with others, believe in them, support them, see them through the tough times!
Like Paul had for the Philippians, I also have great affection for you: if I were to lose my voice tomorrow .. for the rest of my earthly existence, I’d think about how I used to preach to you. If I lost my ability to walk, I would think about how I would go and visit you.
You folks are dear to me. We have an active fellowship and love for each other and I wouldn’t trade that for anything! There is real joy in our real fellowship and it rejoices my heart!
TRANS: Paul is joyfully affectionate because of his active love for them, and because of their active love for him … but now he expresses the deep fellowship they share.
Paul is joyful because of his deep fellowship with the Philippians
Philippians 1:8 8 For God is my witness, how I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.
EXP: They have deep fellowship. Paul is emphasizing this … He does so by using the word all…
Verse 3, I thank my God in all my remembrance of you
verse 4, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all
verse 7 it is only right for me to feel this way about you all … At the end of the verse … You all are partakers of grace with me
verse 8, God is my witness how I long for you all
Having been in South Carolina for 10 years, I often thought this was Paul’s way of affirming the blessed deep Southern 2nd person plural: ya’ll, you all.
But what he is doing is emphasizing that he does indeed love all of them. He’s not playing favourites, he loves them! Paul seems ecstatic and exuberant over them.
He is again emphasizing his deep fellowship with the Philippians when he says in verse 8 for God is my witness. This is an oath .. No one can see his heart but God. And he wants the Philippians to know that in his conscience before God he indeed longs for them all. “God is my witness”
And that word “longs” is the same Greek word used in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in Psalm 42:1 . It’s translated pants … 1 As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God.
That’s an intense longing, a really thirsty dear running through the desert, needing water. Just like that, Paul longs for the Philippians! They were so close!
Doubling up now, Paul says longs for them with affection. That word affection in verse 8 is translated literally in the King James as bowels. It is literally the word bowels. That’s the way the Greeks understood this word for affection; it was an affection you could feel in your gut! It moved you physically…
ILL: The results of Pastor Mike’s informal survey are in: every single member of his Bayfront … Church is doing either “fine,” “good,” or “real good.” When the pastor pressed for details, members responded with some combination of, “No really, I’m doing great,” or else, “Yeah, things are good, things are good.”
The survey was conducted as the pastor faithfully stood at the doors of the church after the Sunday service, shaking the hands of each churchgoer as they left and asking how they were doing.
“It’s really quite spectacular,” the pastor told reporters Tuesday. “You would think, given the state of our fallen world, that at least one person would be going through a crisis or battling some kind of indwelling sin that they need help with. But not at this church—we’re all doing fine it seems. Praise the Lord!”
Prayer requests for the week included several reports of distant friends and family that were struggling with sin, but nobody in the church reported needing prayer for themselves. “Prayer? Me?” one congregant said to Pastor Mike, a puzzled expression on her face. “No. I mean, you can pray for me generally, but really I’m not in much need of anything right now. I’m doing awesome, really.” She was later spotted at a coffee shop, bawling her eyes out over some personal struggle, according to sources.
Reporters then asked Pastor Mike how he was doing. “Who, me? Oh yeah, I’m doing just fine,” he confirmed.
The “how are you doings” and “I’m doing well/fine/good” exchanges are cultural courtesies, but they really aren’t designed to get the bottom of things. Are you getting to the bottom of things in others’s lives? Is their anyone about whom you can even come close to saying, “I long for you all with the affection of Christ.” Have you developed a deep abiding affection for others because you have gotten all up in their stuff?
TRANS: But this isn’t just any affection that Paul has for them, it’s the affection of none other than Christ Jesus.
This is Christ’s affection that he has. Not an affection that’s sourced in human nature, but affection that’s rooted in the affection that Christ has displayed.
This is the glorious affection that Christ possessed when in eternity past, he knew our sinful condition. Great compassion and longing, even though man has sinned great sins against Him, He nevertheless had great affection for us to the point that He would leave his glorious throne, the praise of the angels, and his Father’s fellowship to be sent to the slums of earth to rescue wormlike creatures called humanity….
While on earth, His affection, His compassion was seen in how He healed … Many times He felt compassion for the multitudes and healed their sick … Or moved with compassion, he touched his eyes… or moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched the unclean and said, “Be cleansed.”
This is the affection that He had when he knew Mary and Martha’s brother Lazarus had died … and Jesus wept. And they said, “See how he loved him!”
And with this same great affection and compassion He called you, brought you into His loving arms, His strong, eternally secure hand…He brought you to repentance and faith, and gave you joy and peace… He raised you up out of the miry pit and set your feet upon a rock!
What affection from Christ! What love and what mercy!
Paul had real joy because he had real fellowship with the Philippians. He knew them; he cared for them and they cared for him. There is joy in loving others like Paul and the Philippians did.
APP: Exercise your fellowship with others. There is joy built into that. If do that, you’ll have much joy. Pray about how you can help other believers. We must know Christ’s love for us; if we do, we’ll express that same love toward others. When we know that Christ loves us so much to die for us, we’ll be empowered to do the same.
Tertullian (AD 197) said “’See,’ they [the pagans] say about us, ‘how they are ready even to die for one another, for they themselves would sooner be put to death.”
The make believe world where “I love you, you love me, we’re a happy family” and we are told to simply deny or run away from bad feelings that’s not helpful… but in the Christian life pain and suffering for Christ’s sake is actually a benefit, a joy, a grace to be embraced. It’s empowered by the Spirit. And we can have great joy in love for each other and in our deep, active fellowship with each other and truly be a joyful family.
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 1.7-8
Our joy comes from the eternal God; the world’s joy comes from a temporal cesspool.
The joys of Christ are everlasting; the pleasure of sin lasts for moment
God has His joys; the world’s its cheap counterfeit.
If your struggling with depression, your problem is that you haven’t gotten with God to pursue Him and His will to achieve His joys. There is the joy of your salvation (when you trusted Christ, and when you properly meditate on your salvation), of communion with God (when you’re in His word and prayer), and the joy of fellowship (when you’re actively involved in other Christian’s lives to make Christ and His mission central in your life).
We need to be a people that people can tell their deepest hurts and sins too and it be ok. Are you the type where someone could tell you their sin and you don’t go and spread it all over town, but you care, express concern, and disciple them to help them.
Could it be you feel like you can tell all your heart more at the town bar than at the church? May it never be! We need to be a people that can share our unique temptations, our sins, our discouragements without feeling judged. Your children going through whatever, you and your struggle with some sin … let’s have the heart of Christ and the ear of God and the compassion of the Holy Spirit. Let’s be more and more an assembly where you’ll find help, encouragement, gentleness…., counsel, a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on. And let’s never shoot our wounded.
I appreciate you all like this! I have you in my heart; thinking about you all the time. I know you’re concerned for me as well; thank you so much!
And when we exercise our fellowship and we strengthen our ties together, we’ll have increased joy…even in hard times.
Real joy demands real fellowship.
219 Blest Be the Tie that Binds. Might be new to us.