The Standard June 25, 2020
In Acts 16 we learn about how Philippi, named after Philip II, the father of Alexander the Great, becomes home to the first Christian community in Europe. “During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, ‘Come over to Macedonia and help us.’ After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them. From Troas we put out to sea and sailed straight for Samothrace, and the next day we went on to Neapolis. From there we traveled to Philippi, a Roman colony and the leading city in the district of Macedonia. And we stayed there several days.” (Acts 16:9-12) In Philippi, God works through Paul, Timothy, Luke, and Silas to put into action a course of history-altering events. A woman named Lydia hears the gospel message, believes, and is baptized. Paul commands a spirit to leave a fortune-telling slave woman so her owners retaliate for their financial loss. Paul and Silas are severely flogged and thrown into prison. They are praying and singing hymns when at about midnight the prison doors suddenly fly open and their chains are broken. The jailer wants to kill himself, but Paul talks him out of it. The jailer asks how to be saved. He and his household are baptized and then spend time enjoying a meal together at the jailer’s home.
In only a few days while the evangelists are there, God establishes a firm foundation for the church in Philippi. The Philippian church grows and later they send a generous gift to Paul while he is imprisoned elsewhere. Paul writes them one of his most personal letters expressing his deep joy regarding their partnership in the gospel and his gratitude for their gift. In Christ, their bond of fellowship is strong. Paul feels great affection for the Philippian Christians.
Although not in chains, many of us have been separated for months from in-person fellowship and worship as our North Carolina congregations have been unable to gather during COVID-19. As our churches begin to reopen, we can relate to Paul’s sense of joy from partnerships in the gospel and how much we have missed meeting together.
“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus. And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ– to the glory and praise of God.” (Philippians 1:3-11)