December 12, 2017

“A Missionary Church

By Garreth L. Clair

Paul himself tells us of the devotion and zeal of the Philippian church. While Paul was in Thessalonica shortly after leaving Philippi (Acts 17:1-9), the church in Philippi at least twice had sent gifts for his needs (Phil. 4:16). They kept up this good work when the apostle went to Corinth and was "in want," for it was not Corinth but Philippi alone at first that supplied his wants above what he could supply with his own hands (2 Cor. 11:9; Phil. 4:15). The example set by the Philippian church was later followed by some other congregations, though never by all. Concerning Corinth, Paul states, "I robbed other churches, taking wages of them that I might minister unto you" (2 Cor. 11: 8). "In the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church had fellowship (ekoinonesen - "had partnership") with me in the matter of giving and receiving but ye only" (Phil. 4:15). It is inferred that Thessalonica and Berea (perhaps) soon joined with Philippi and helped Paul at Corinth. Certainly Thessalonica became "an example to all that believe in Macedonia and Achaia" (I Thess. 1: 7). From them "has echoed forth the word of the Lord" (I Thess. 1: 8).

None of the churches with which Paul worked was as thoroughly missionary in spirit and in deed as the church in Philippi. The church in Philippi rallied heartily and steadily to the support of Paul's missionary work throughout the vast Roman Empire. They set the example for all time for the church that has a desire to show its love for the lost souls of fallen humanity.

The church at Philippi probably did far more for Paul than he has revealed in his letters. The last instance of their "fellowship," after an interval when they lacked "opportunity" (Phil. 4: 10), was while, Paul was in Rome the first time, when they sent Epaphroditus, "your messenger and minister, to my need" (Phil. 2:25). Paul referred to this gift as "an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God" (Phil. 4:18).

Paul depended on the church in Philippi greatly in raising the collection for the poor Saints in Jerusalem from the churches in Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia. The churches in Achaia were quick to promise and slow to pay, like some congregations today. Under the prodding of Titus they promised a whole year ahead (2 Cor. 8: 10), and Paul used their prompt pledge to stir the Macedonian churches (9:2). And now he has to spur the Achaian churches on to actual response by the liberality and prompt response of the Macedonian churches (8:1-15; 9:1-5). Paul does not wish to be ashamed of the Achaian churches if he comes with some of the Macedonian brethren to whom he has boasted of the Achaian liberal promises. It is all a very modern situation drawn from everyday life. But it is clearly the congregation at Philippi i poor and generous, which has long had the habit of giving, that set the mood for the other Macedonian churches and for the Achaian churches as well.

The church no longer exists in Philippi, but the example which the church left for us to follow is very clear. We must not ignore the need in other places. If the local congregation is able, it should support all the preaching and teaching that it can, anywhere the need arises. Yes, our responsibility begins at home but it does not end at home.

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 32, pp. 9-10
June 17, 1971

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