“How about coming over to the house for some fellowship?”
“What a golf game! Man, did we have great fellowship!”
“The fellowship at the retreat was just terrific!”
That word fellowship seems to mean many things to many different people. Perhaps, like a worn coin, it may be losing its true impression. If so, we had better take some steps to rescue it. After all, a good Bible word like fellowship needs to stay in circulation as long as possible.
True Christian fellowship is really much deeper than sharing coffee and pie, or even enjoying a golf game together. It is possible to be close to people physically and miles away from them spiritually. One of the sources of Christian joy is this fellowship that believers have in Jesus Christ. Paul was in Rome, his friends were miles away in Philippi, but their spiritual fellowship was real and satisfying. In Philippians 1:1-11, Paul used three thoughts that describe true Christian fellowship: I have you in my mind (Phil. 1:3-6), I have you in my heart (Phil. 1:7-8), and I have you in my prayers (Phil. 1:9-11).
I HAVE YOU IN MY MIND (1:3-6)
“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (Philippians 1:3-4)
Isn’t it remarkable that Paul was thinking of others and not of himself? As he awaited his trial in Rome, Paul’s mind went back to the believers in Philippi, and every recollection he had brought him joy.
Am I the kind of Christian who brings joy to my fellow Christians when they think of me?
I HAVE YOU IN MY HEART (1:7-8)
“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart” (Philippians 1:7)
Now we move a bit deeper, for it is possible to have others in our minds without really having them in our hearts. (Someone has observed that many people today would have to confess, “I have you on my nerves!”) Paul’s sincere love for his friends was something that could not be disguised or hidden.
How did Paul evidence his love for them? For one thing, he was suffering on their behalf. His bonds were proof of his love.
Paul’s love was not something he merely talked about; it was something he practiced.
He considered his difficult circumstances an opportunity for defending and confirming the gospel, and this would help his brethren everywhere.
I HAVE YOU IN MY PRAYERS (1:9-11)
“And it is my prayer…” (Philippians 1:9)
And what did Paul pray for the Philippine believers?
He prayed that they might experience abounding love and discerning love. Christian love is not blind! The heart and mind work together so that we have discerning love and loving discernment. Paul wanted his friends to grow in discernment, in being able to “distinguish the things that differ.”
Paul also prayed that they might have mature Christian character, “sincere and without offense.”
This means that our lives do not cause others to stumble, and that they are ready for the judgment seat of Christ when He returns.
Paul also prayed that they might have mature Christian service. He wanted them filled and fruitful (Phil. 1:11).
He was not interested simply in church activities, but in the kind of spiritual fruit that is produced when we are in fellowship with Christ.
The difference between spiritual fruit and human religious activity is that the fruit brings glory to Jesus Christ.
“I have you in my mind … in my heart … in my prayers.”
This is the kind of fellowship that produces joy, and it is the single mind that produces this kind of fellowship.