Maintaining Relationships for Gospel Advancement

In Philippians 2:1-4, Paul discusses the necessity of maintaining relationships in Christ so a robust gospel effort can be achieved by the local church. This gospel effort is first individual, disciples of Christ making disciples.

The letters written by Paul from prison (Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon) underpin the reality that there must be strong relationships within the church before there can be an effective gospel ministry outside the church. Paul desires his relationship with each of these churches to be right. Though Paul is chained in prison, he anticipates the advancement of the gospel, the ultimate purpose of the church.

Paul addresses the relationships within the church of Ephesus, threatened with division because of different nationalities and cultural backgrounds. He requests that they pray and persevere (Ephesians 6:18-20). Paul cautions the members of the church at Colosse to guard themselves from slipping back into religious ceremony (Colossians 2) with the reminder of the ultimate goal being gospel advancement (Colossians 4:2-6). Paul desires restoration between Onesimus, who has received forgiveness of the Lord in Christ, and Philemon, the injured party (Philemon). Regardless of the degree of the conflict, relationships in Christ need to be maintained for the gospel’s sake (Philemon 1:10-16).

Grace Bible Day Camp is an example of how the people of Grace, in strong relationships, join together for gospel purpose. Working together as one, more people can be reached for Christ. The Spirit of God can do more when God’s people get along. Though getting along can be hard work, it is both necessary and critical. May the Spirit of God not be grieved because of a lack of harmony and unity among God’s people.

Philippians 2:1-4 details the function and blessed realities of the relationships among people who are gospel driven.

Gospel Recollection

Paul asks the Philippian saints to remember the moment of their salvation, to objectively consider the realities of what the gospel did to bring change to their lives. Based on their partnership in the gospel, the maturity of each who had come to know Christ, the advancement of the gospel in their region, and the gospel advancement Paul was able to see despite difficulty and hardship, they were to continue to spread the gospel by each remembering what God in Christ by the Spirit did the moment of salvation.

Part of maintaining relationships requires drawing the circle around our own self and, first and always first, remembering our conversion experience. Paul considered himself to be the chief of sinners now saved. We, too, must have this same humble mindset. Our mindset should be, ‘I am the worst sinner in the room, but Jesus saved me.’

In Philippians 2:1, the word ‘encouragement’ means that Christ came along side us the moment of our salvation. Jesus called us alongside of Himself. We are indwelt by the Holy Spirit and are called a child of God. Since this happened, we are to be encouraged in Christ. Spiritual freedom, divine security, and personal peace and joy are found when Jesus comes along side of us. Paul continues with the phrase ‘consolation of love.’ Christ’s love is unconditional and sacrificial which comforts and settles our hearts in security.

Paul next uses the phrase ‘fellowship of the Spirit.’ Three times Paul mentions fellowship in this letter, fellowship in the gospel (Phil. 1:5), fellowship in the Spirit (Phil. 2:1), and fellowship in the sufferings of Christ (Phil. 3:10). Fellowship describes the fullness of gospel work that God’s people endure together. This is not the fellowship of sharing a meal and visiting and enjoying entertainment together. It is the church’s combined sacrifice in worship and gospel advancement. The agonizing together in prayer for the lost, the enduring of conflict together that comes from one’s salvation testimony, and the striving together in the understanding and application of the Word of God are all examples of fellowship in the New Testament, the deep enjoyment of all things gospel regardless of difficulty.

The Spirit of God has conjoined His work and His presence to our gospel lives for the whole of our existence as Christians. From being drawn of Him to conversion, to the baptizing of the Spirit into Christ, to the renewing of the Spirit in taking us from spiritual death to spiritual life the moment we are born-again, this is all the fellowship of the Spirit. We have enjoyed the fullness of spiritual relationship with the Godhead because of the fellowship of the Spirit.

Paul finishes Philippians 2:1 with the ‘affection and compassion’ in Christ, a believer’s divine reality enjoyed presently while conveyed to others within the church and in Christ to others outside the church.

Gospel Orientation

Since the four conversion realities remain true for each saved person in the church, we can, therefore, orient our minds and hearts in a proper direction (Phil. 2:2). Our togetherness in Christ remains a continuing reality because of what He has done for us in our salvation past. Our togetherness aligns with the purpose of Phil. 1:27, conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ… striving together for the faith of the gospel. Paul clarifies that manner of worthiness as ‘being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose (Phil. 2:2).‘

Christ has saved us unto this one unique gospel purpose. All the activities done in the church are to underpin the singular purpose of gospel advancement as commanded by Christ to go into all the world and preach the gospel and make disciples (Mark 16:15, Matt. 28: 16-20).

The sacrificing love of Christ lived in gospel effort yields a friendship love among those who serve with gospel purpose. There is a brotherhood, a camaraderie, a togetherness among God’s people who serve with gospel purpose. Paul is speaking of a present, convictional reality to our unity of purpose.

Grace Church has an individual and collective gospel responsibility, and we are to be united in it. The kingdom of God in Christ is one of eternal purpose which is the purpose of Christ in our world, the mission of the church to fulfill.

Gospel Obligation

In this unified effort, the only thing which should stand out is our gospel prerogative (Phil. 2:3-4). Jesus must increase, and we must decrease. Since we are hidden in Christ, may others see and hear only Christ. While the world lives for the temporal, we should ‘do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,’ always counting others as more significant than ourselves. We are to serve allowing the spiritual gift of God to be seen in humility in us.

Every gospel outreach of Grace Church will go well if this is the mindset of those serving together.

Application Points

  • Have you submitted your will to the purpose of gospel intention?
  • Is your existence united in experience with the purpose of Christ in His church?
  • Are you serving the Lord with a humble heart, counting others as more significant than yourself?

Tools for Further Study

Cross References to Explore
  • Paul’s Personal Example - Philippians 1:21-26
  • Fellowship of the Spirit - 2 Cor. 12:13
A Hymn to Encourage: "O Love That Will Not Let Me Go"
  1. O Love that will not let me go,
    I rest my weary soul in thee.
    I give thee back the life I owe,
    that in thine ocean depths its flow
    may richer, fuller be.
  2. O Light that follows all my way,
    I yield my flick’ring torch to thee.
    My heart restores its borrowed ray,
    that in thy sunshine’s blaze its day
    may brighter, fairer be.
  3. O Joy that seekest me through pain,
    I cannot close my heart to thee.
    I trace the rainbow through the rain,
    and feel the promise is not vain,
    that morn shall tearless be.
  4. O Cross that liftest up my head,
    I dare not ask to fly from thee.
    I lay in dust, life’s glory dead,
    and from the ground there blossoms red,
    life that shall endless be.