A Call to Celebration
Grounded in Paul’s Letter to the Philippians
- Have everyone wear a name tag on which the name is preceded by the word Saint; e.g. : Saint Jill or Saint Jack. In that way everyone will be reminded of Paul’s way of speaking to ordinary believers as saints.
- Paul wrote a letter of thanks to the Philippian church. If you were to write a letter of thanks to this group what would you put in it?
- Make a list of the topics you have talked about in this group during the past five weeks. Which of these meant the most to you?
- Read Philippians 4: 14 – 23 and the accompanying comment.
Philippians 4: 14 – 23
vv. 14-16: The gift which Paul received from the Philippian Christians through Epaphroditus was not the first gift he had received from them. They had, more than once, sent gifts to support him in his work. His relationship with them was warm and supportive.We often use the word fellowship in the Church, but sometimes we drain it of its real meaning. We are content with a shallow or superficial fellowship. At the heart of Christian fellowship lies a sense of sharing, costly sharing. We start to experience something of the depth of Christian fellowship when we share with others our more secret doubts and fears, hopes and dreams, ideas and feelings. Or when we share together in hardship, opposition or struggle. It involves risk. The one with whom we share may use the information against us. The common enemy we face may overwhelm us.The Philippian Christians shared with Paul in his need by sending him gifts. That’s another way in which we can experience Christian fellowship.
v.17: The giver gains more out of giving than the recipient. Paul used an image from book-keeping to express this. In book-keeping you have an income section and an expenditure section. The cost of the gift might be written down as an expenditure item, but Paul says that their giving of this gift had brought a far more valuable entry into the income section of their accounts, so that they were showing a considerable profit on the transaction.
v.18: Paul, as it were, writes his receipt for the goods received by the hand of Epaphroditus, and in doing so says that he has been repaid in full for anything they might have owed him as the founder of their church and the pioneer missionary in their city.Then he changes the metaphor and speaks of their gift as being like a sacrifice made in the temple or like the burning of incense to God. The gift is not simply a gift to him: it is a gift to God. It is an act of worship.Our giving can also be an act of worship. When we give to help others, it can also be a gift given to God : “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40)
v.19 : Giving is in itself an act of faith. It is a demonstration of trust, trust that we will not run short. Without this trust, we cling to every cent that we have. We try to make ourselves secure by amassing and holding onto as much as we possible can. But when we trust God we can give sacrificially confident that God will fully satisfy our every need. Maybe not satisfy every want, but satisfy every genuine need.There is the idea here that God has an enormous treasury and out of his wealth he will continue to give gifts to the Philippian Christians, both material and spiritual. The basis for our faith and confidence in God is grace – God’s grace.
v.20-23 : The letter concludes with a doxology and a benediction together with greetings. A doxology is addressed to God – an expression of praise to God : “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” A benediction or blessing is addressed to the people : “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” The greetings are from one group of Christians to another. In these three forms of address then we have the essence of Christian worship : our words addressed to God, God’s words addressed to us, and the words we speak to one another. Praise to God, grace from God and shared discipleship, that’s what makes a church service an act of worship.
1. Christian fellowship. (a) Have you experienced Christian fellowship through sharing? (b) How can Christian fellowship be strengthened and deepenedin the Church today?
2. There is great gain in giving.(a) Give examples, if you can, of the truth in the saying that it ismore blessed to give than to receive. (b) Giving involves receiving. Discuss what it takes to be a good receiver of gifts.
3. Your freewill offering will be received. (a) What should guide our giving to the Church? (b) Apart from giving an offering during a worship service, how can we worship God through our giving?
4. To reach the deeper levels of fellowship we have to share risk (a) Do you agree with this statement? (b) Does it throw more light on your relationship with Christ?
- Pray for the people of your congregation that they may live up totheir title as saints.
- Write your own doxology.
- Take each person in turn by the hand and say this benediction: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”