By Brooke Holt
“It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” – Philippians 1:7-8
Paul wrote a love letter to his beloved church in Philippi. Throughout the letter, he reminded them of his great love for them as well as his gratitude for their ongoing love and support for him. More importantly, Paul reminded them of God’s great love for them. God’s love would never end. In fact, as we read yesterday, God’s love was so committed and true that it would make the way for their salvation today and into eternity.
How did Paul love these people so well? Surely, he had church members who could be cantankerous and just difficult to love. Have you ever experienced that in your church or community? You know the people that just get under your skin, trigger you, or frustrate you. These are the people that you do everything in your power to avoid. Is it just you, or did Paul have people like that too and if so, how can he speak on and on about the joy of their fellowship?
I believe Paul addresses those questions here, “I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace.” Remember Paul’s former life? He was the zealous Pharisee who was intent upon eliminating the Christians and their spreading faith. That was until Paul encountered the Lord on the road to Damascus. The Lord began a great work in Paul that day, and Paul became the great zealot for Jesus Christ.
Paul’s conversion was radical! He had not just spoken against Christians and persecuted them, but Paul stood by while Stephen was stoned to death for his faith. Paul’s resume for Judaism may have been quite noteworthy, but he was an absolute mess before Jesus Christ. Grace was poured out abundantly upon Paul. He was deeply humbled and then transformed. When one receives so abundantly of God’s grace, how can he or she not then pour out that grace on others?
Maybe you remember the interaction between Jesus and the woman who anointed his feet and washed them with her tears. Jesus spoke of her to his questioning dinner hosts, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven – for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47). Those who abundantly partake of grace are then those who abundantly love the Lord and are more likely to administer grace.
Does that describe you? Are you quick to receive God’s forgiveness and quick to then extend that forgiveness to others? A mutual partaking of grace evens the playing field. No one person is better than the other; both are humble recipients of the grace they could never earn or deserve. Humility followed by gratitude empowers true Christian fellowship. We are united together in love by God’s grace. That is how Paul saw his beloved church and how God invites you to see your church, his beloved church today.
Maybe today is the day for you to partake of God’s grace richly and deeply. As you do, ask the Lord how he wants to fill you, cleanse you, and heal you through that grace then to allow it to flow from you onto others, even those that are a bit challenging. They are just like you—a man or a woman desperately in need of God’s grace! We would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Let's face it, the Christian life is hard. Relationships take work. Christians forget. Sometimes it is tempting to go back to the days when God was not the center of our lives - to backslide. We are all faced with tremendous pressures to drift away from intimacy with Jesus and the community of the Church. However, the Lord invites us to pay attention, to move forward, to draw near, and to live lives of worship. Draw Near: Hebrews on Christian Worship is a small group Bible study on the Book of Hebrews intended to lead participants into a deeper intimacy with the living God in the context of New Testament worship. Draw nearer to God in authentic worship today!
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