Partakers of Grace (Part 2)
While in prison, Paul wrote a letter to a group of Christians in the city of Philippi, whom he called “partakers with me of grace”. Both Paul and the Philippian Christians had received grace (lavish and undeserved kindness) from God, and their lives showed it. Consider some further evidences of grace in Paul’s life.
Evidence of Grace #3: Paul is confident in the Spirit’s continuing power to change God’s people.
Paul tells the Philippians, “I am confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will be completing it until the day of Jesus Christ” (1:6, my translation). Paul is saying several things here. First, he is saying that since God is the one who began this work of grace in the Philippian believers—enabling them to repent of their sins and trust in Christ for salvation, to reject the idols that they had been worshipping and worship Jesus instead, to contribute generously to Paul’s ministry by sending him money time and time again (in short, by giving them a new heart with which to love God and love their neighbors)—since God is the one who began this work of grace, he can be trusted to finish what he has started. Second, Paul is saying that this work of God to finish what he started in the Philippians will be ongoing and progressive as the Spirit changes them little by little, day by day, to be more devoted to Jesus and more obedient to his will for their lives. How can Paul be so sure that God will do these things? Because God, by his work of grace in Paul’s own heart, has convinced the apostle that He can be trusted and that He is able, by his Holy Spirit, to bring about the change that is needed for his people to glorify him on this earth. Paul’s confidence that God will continue to change the Philippian believers is evidence that Paul himself has been changed by God’s grace.
Evidence of Grace #4: Paul has great affection for God’s people.
Paul writes, “God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus” (1:8). Lest anyone suppose that Paul is just naturally an emotional and affectionate guy, he makes sure to explain why he has such strong affections for the Philippian church: it is because he is overtaken by “the affection of Christ.” Now, when Paul says he is filled with the affection “of Christ,” there are at least two ways we can take this. One option is that Paul’s affection for the church belongs to Jesus, meaning that Jesus has filled Paul with the affection He himself feels for the Philippian church. (This would be similar to using the expression “the house of my parents” to mean “my parents’ house”.) A second option is that the affection is actually Paul’s affection for Jesus, meaning that Paul’s love for the Philippians is an extension of his love for the One who bled and died to make them His own. Either way, Paul’s affection for them is a work of God’s grace in his heart. If Jesus has given Paul the love He has for his own people (option 1), then this is a work of God’s power and not something Paul has conjured up on his own. If Paul loves the Philippians as an extension of his love for Jesus (option 2), this too is a work of God and not a result of Paul’s efforts, since no one can love the Son unless the Father draws him (Jn. 6:44, 65) and opens his eyes to see the beauty of Jesus (2 Cor. 4:3-6). Paul’s great affection for the Philippians is evidence that he has been profoundly affected by God’s grace!