7 just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace. 8 For God is my witness, how greatly I long for you all with the affection of Jesus Christ.Do you see? It is “right” for him to feel this way. It is “right” for him to have “affection” toward them. It is “right” for them to hold a special place in his “heart.”
And the reason? When he was in the deepest need, they stood with him. Both in his imprisonment when they financially supported him, and in his “defense and confirmation of the gospel,” they stood with him.
“Defense” and “confirmation” are legal terms referring to the verbal defense an attorney would give in a trial. That’s how the Philippians defended Paul. When people were verbally attacking him, they came to his defense. They argued on his behalf.
Let me tell you that sounds so refreshing. People who preach and teach the word are always attacked – they have a target painted on their chest. They are attacked repeatedly by Satan and by his henchmen. And most people, even those who love their pastor, hurry to get out of the line of fire. When they assure you, “We’re right behind you, pastor. You know we are,” what they really mean is that they are hiding behind you, not propping you up.
Pastors are the front line soldiers in the spiritual war, and it is often a lonely spot. We can take all the fiery darts of the wicked one while others hide and say, “Just don’t let them think I’m standing beside you in this.” That’s all too common.
But, that wasn’t the way it was with the Philippians. They stood with Paul through thick and thin, just as many have stood beside me. Those few who stand alongside you faithfully are so appreciated because every pastor has his Diotrephes or his Demas – those who oppose him. Sometimes we have several.
John dealt with Diotrephes in: 3rd John 9-10:
9 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to have the preeminence among them, does not receive us. 10 Therefore, if I come, I will call to mind his deeds which he does, prating against us with malicious words. And not content with that, he himself does not receive the brethren, and forbids those who wish to, putting them out of the church.
That’s how John, the Apostle of love, was treated.
Paul dealt with Demas in 2nd Timothy 4:9-11:
9Be diligent to come to me quickly; 10 for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, . . . (11) Only Luke is with me.
Where is everyone else? Down in verse 16, it says, “At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.”
Can you see why the Philippians are so special to Paul? When the Philippians heard about his imprisonment, they came to his defense, sending money even. And that touched Paul’s heart.
As a result, Paul says in Philippians 1:8 that they are, “Partakers with me of grace.” That word” partakers” brings us back to that word koinonia, in Greek, often rendered fellowship – but this time, it has a prefix, suq, in front of it, which intensifies it. Standing together through the struggles has so intertwined their lives together that they are bound together irrevocably by love. That’s why some churches become so close – why they can be such intimate places. Like combat troops who fight together, the camaraderie is unshakeable. We become that band of brothers - brothers and sisters in Christ.
Just think, someday, with the hate crime legislation coming to pass, like it has in Europe and Canada, it might become illegal for me to preach the Bible, especially parts that call homosexuality a sin. So I might get arrested for preaching the word of God. I might end up sitting in prison doing my time. Will you stand with me? Or turn against me? Will you stand with me in the “defense and confirmation of the gospel” as the Philippians did? Or will you be like Demas who abandoned Paul in his hour of need?
But then, this applies even before they come with their arrest warrant. When people complain that the sermons are to convicting, that we don’t need to be so literal with the Bible, will you stand with me? Will you stay neutral? Or will you join them in their complaints. “Ah, Pastor, why do you have to be so controversial? Why can’t you just tone it down? You are the one causing dissension in the church. You don’t have to preach so hard.”
Won’t you stand with me in the “defense and confirmation of the gospel?” The Philippians did with Paul, and that forged a bond of love that was unshakeable.