In the Book of Philippians Paul uses more terms of personal endearment than any other of his letters to the young churches. As you read it, you can see the intimacy and the informality of his words to them. Look at these expressions of heart written by Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit. There are several in his opening words to the Church at Philippi that are not found in any other letter.
He starts out his letter with a gush of love and appreciation for them:
3–4My prayers for you are full of praise to God as I give him thanks for you with great joy! I’m so grateful for our union
5 and our enduring partnership that began the first time I presented to you the gospel.
6 I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ!
7 It is no wonder I pray with such confidence since you have a permanent place in my heart! You have remained partners with me in the wonderful grace of God even though I’m here in chains for standing up for the truth of the gospel 8 Only God knows how much I dearly love you with the tender affection of Jesus, the Anointed One.
It appears that he pauses at verse 9 and 10 to emphasize an even more important point of reference:
9 I continue to pray for your love to grow and increase beyond measure, bringing you into the rich revelation of spiritual insight in all things.
10 This will enable you to choose the most excellent way of all [—becoming pure and without offense until the unveiling of Christ.
[11 And you will be filled completely with the fruits of righteousness that are found in Jesus, the Anointed One—bringing great praise and glory to God!
His relationship with the Church at Philippi was sealed the first time he met them. It was like love at first sight.
What drew Paul there was the Macedonian vision of a man saying, “Come over and help us.” There is a detailed record of it in the Book of Acts chapter 16. As he entered the city, he inquired to find out if there were in worshippers of God in the city. He was told that he could find some women down on the riverbank that gathered there on the Sabbath. A total stranger, with a companion, showed up at their prayer meeting; and everything changes. Paul introduced them to the one who could offer the forgiveness and His atoning love. God opened the heart of Lydia, who was a businesswoman; she and her entire family were baptized and followed the Lord. This is the scenario that follows: Python was cast out of a young virgin slave girl who was being used to make money for her owners. Paul and Silas end up being beaten and imprisoned in the Philippian jail. The jailer was converted, as well as his whole family. All of this happened in a 24-hour period; not to mention the earthquake. Yet, they still call this the joy book of The New Testament. It is amazing Paul and Silas were able to sing praises at midnight; and as the scripture says, “The Prisoners Heard them.”
I am God smacked when I read Chapter 1:9, in The Message Translation.
9-11 So, this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.
My sentiments are the same in Valentine's Week as I write to the Sweetheart Church. Jesus “loved the church and gave himself for it.” This has been my feeling and conviction in regard to the privilege we have to serve Heritage. As Paul used to love to express his deepest regard for the body of Christ, we borrow from him these words: “Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, making Christ attractive to all.”
Happy Valentines Week to all of you, and thank you for your love for Heritage and the church staff.
I believe in you,
Pastor Cleddie Keith