- Paul’s letter to the Philippians is very positive, without any rebuke or criticism. He appears to have a good, close personal relationship with them. How was it such a close relationship developed in so short a time?
- How too could that happen when Paul’s experience in Phiippi could not have held fond memories for him? He was in Philippi only a short time and seemingly only bad things happened to him.
You know how badly we had been treated at Philippi just before we came to you and how much we suffered there. Yet our God gave us the courage to declare His Good News to you boldly, in spite of great opposition.! Thessalonians 2:2
Acts 16:9 That night Paul had a vision: A man from Macedonia in northern Greece was standing there, pleading with him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us!”
Acts 16:10 So we decided to leave for Macedonia at once, having concluded that God was calling us to preach the Good News there.
Acts 19:29 Soon the whole city was filled with confusion. Everyone rushed to the amphitheater, dragging along Gaius and Aristarchus, who were Paul’s traveling companions from Macedonia.
Acts 20:1 When the uproar was over, Paul sent for the believers and encouraged them. Then he said good-bye and left for Macedonia.
Acts 20:3 where he stayed for three months. He was preparing to sail back to Syria when he discovered a plot by some Jews against his life, so he decided to return through Macedonia.
Acts 20:6 After the Passover ended, we boarded a ship at Philippi in Macedonia and five days later joined them in Troas, where we stayed a week.
Romans 15:26 For you see, the believers in Macedonia and Achaia have eagerly taken up an offering for the poor among the believers in Jerusalem.
2Corinthians 8:1 Now I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, what God in His kindness has done through the churches in Macedonia.
2Corinthians 9:2 For I know how eager you are to help, and I have been boasting to the churches in Macedonia that you in Greece were ready to send an offering a year ago. In fact, it was your enthusiasm that stirred up many of the Macedonian believers to begin giving.
2Corinthians 11:9 And when I was with you and didn’t have enough to live on, I did not become a financial burden to anyone. For the brothers who came from Macedonia brought me all that I needed. I have never been a burden to you, and I never will be.
Here below I have added the evidence that comes from the letter that Paul wrote to the Philippians which contain hints of the nature of their relationship together.
Philippians 1:7 So it is right that I should feel as I do about all of you, for you have a special place in my heart. You share with me the special favor of God, both in my imprisonment and in defending and confirming the truth of the Good News.
Philippians 1:8 God knows how much I love you and long for you with the tender compassion of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear.
(The reference to imprisonment here is less likely to be Paul’s imprisonment in Rome, from where he is writing the Philippian letter, and more likely to be the imprisonment he experienced in Philippi with which the Philippians have a strong personal connection.)
Philippians 1:25 Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith.
Philippians 1:26 And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what He is doing through me.
Philippians 1:30 We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of it.
Philippians 2:12 Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear.
Philippians 2:25 Meanwhile, I thought I should send Epaphroditus back to you. He is a true brother, co-worker, and fellow soldier. And he was your messenger to help me in my need.
Philippians 2:30 For he risked his life for the work of Christ, and he was at the point of death while doing for me what you couldn’t do from far away.
Philippians 4:2 Now I appeal to Euodia and Syntyche. Please, because you belong to the Lord, settle your disagreement.
Philippians 4:3 And I ask you, my true partner, to help these two women, for they worked hard with me in telling others the Good News. They worked along with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are written in the Book of Life.
Philippians 4:15 As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.
Why did Paul have such a good relationship with the Philippians?
Because the Holy Spirit initially sent him to them
When the Holy Spirit is in something and sends us to a place it is remarkable how deeply that place and its people are burned into our hearts. When Paul received the vision of the man calling him to go to Macedonia, he and Silas went without questioning. The first place they ministered in was Philippi. It is natural that Paul’s heart would go out to the people in the first place he had spiritual fruit. The Philippians were those people for Paul. It is similar to the feelings I have of bonding with people we lived with in remote rural villages or those with whom we developed a strong relationship in cities and towns.
Their initial contact was forged under difficult circumstances
When you go through hard times together, that too forges a bond which is hard to break. It is what happens to men in wartime, it is what happens to people who share experiences under intense pressure like a training course that pushed them to the limit and beyond. It is what happens to us when we experience hard times among people who took care of us during those hard times. It is a naturally human thing that happens. So it is little wonder that it would have happened to Paul, despite the fact that he was only with them a short time.
It is clear that the support Lydia gave to them, and the time they spent in her home, became the catalyst to the on-going relationship Paul had with these people from Philippi. I don’t think he necessarily felt strong bonds with the city of Philippi given what he experienced there but it is clear he had a strong relationship with Lydia and her home church and with the new believers they spent time with, encouraging them after they were released from jail and later when they came back again to strengthen the believers as they had a habit of doing.
Because of their on-going support for Paul and his ministry
It is clear throughout Paul’s letters that the believers in Macedonia were special to him as they gave so much financially to his work and were a major factor in the funds he received for the work he did. So too the poor churches throughout Macedonia were the ones who gave the most to the gift that was taken to Jerusalem for the believers in the time of persecution there. The people had a heart to give, both to the wider work and to Paul personally. That in itself creates a bond between the giver and the recipient.
But it wasn’t just in the form of money because Paul also refers to his travelling companions from Macedonia, namely Gaius, Aristarchus and Epaphroditus. Clearly, the churches back in Macedonia contributed team members to the on-going work. The most significant of which was Epaphroditus who was from Philippi. Just read what Paul had to say about him in Philippians 4.
They clearly kept in touch with the Philippian believers despite the fact he was only with them a short time (two brief visits)
There was on-going communication between Paul and the people back in Philippi, despite the fact he only visited on two short occasions, although on the second visit Paul could have spent a lot of the three-month-period in Philippi. We just don’t know the details. But we do know there was continued communication between the believers in Philippi and both Paul and Epaphroditus on the journey. Also too the church were communicating with Paul about Euodia and Syntyche and what is going on back there in Philippi.
Yes, it is very clear that the relationship Paul had with the believers in Philippi is a special one, hence the nature of the letter he writes to them. It is a very different letter for example from that which he writes to the Corinthians with whom he had more contact and to whom he wrote more about the issues they were having and less and about the way he felt in his heart about them.
Lastly before we move on I will turn my attention to the fast, punchy, frenetic pace with which Paul has written Acts 16 in contrast to other parts of the book. After which it will be time to get your pack together and for us to head off to Amphipolis and beyond.
It’s better to be alone than surrounded by the wrong people!Rick Godwin
Don’t always search for compliments; criticism is what builds character & strength!Rick Godwin
Better to lose count while naming your blessings than to lose your blessings by counting your troubles.Maltbie D. Babcock
Don’t forget to count those who are closest and dearest to you twice, when you count your blessings.Ian Vail
Those who stand with you and have your back in difficult times are your most precious resource.Ian Vail