Free to be God's people

First in a series on Philippians. Phil Barber, Potters Longton

Philippi was a city on the edge of Europe, controlling a pass between Europe and Asia. Colonised by Roman soldiers when they retired.

‘So, setting sail from Troas, we made a direct voyage to Samothrace, and the following day to Neapolis, and from there to Philippi, which is a leading city of the district of Macedonia and a Roman colony. We remained in this city some days. And on the Sabbath day we went outside the gate to the riverside, where we supposed there was a place of prayer, and we sat down and spoke to the women who had come together. One who heard us was a woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple goods, who was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to pay attention to what was said by Paul. And after she was baptized, and her household as well, she urged us, saying, “If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.” And she prevailed upon us.’

Acts 16:11-15 ESV

The church at Philippi was probably the first church in Europe. Founded around Lydia, a wealthy businesswoman. Strict religious Jews (as Paul had been) would not associate with women outside their family. This church, led by Lydia, became close friends of Paul.

Paul normally starts his letters with credentials, authority. Philippians does not:

Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.

Philippians 1:1‭-‬5 ESV

Much more informal, friendly tone.

Love and affection should be the hallmark of any Christian gathering. We fall out and disagree too often – and this is sin, failing to live as God instructs us to. Having love affection for each other displays God’s love to outsiders.

Love and affection make a big difference when we are struggling – and we all go through times with struggle and difficulty.

“A person with friends is never poor”

Friendship forms the heart of this letter.

Friendship is at the core of building the church.

The only successful way to build to church. Other forms of evangelism are only effective if there is a befriending process along with it. It is difficult to enter a church on your own as an outsider, so very few people do.
Revival comes from people being enthusiastic and sharing with their friends. The church in Lydia’s home became a group of friends that spanned classes and ages. They cared and provided for Paul, and almost certainly did for each other.

Friendship takes time and sacrificial investment to build.

Shared experiences are necessary and take time. We are slaves of Jesus Christ – we don’t have the right to quit where God has placed us. Stay in the place of service and sacrifice.

Friendships should be open.

No exclusive cliques or cold shoulders. Worshipping alongside her servants and slaves would have been strange and counter-cultural to Lydia. There is no status in the church. We are one, and all here because Jesus loves us – equally.

Treasure your friendships, make new ones, build them up. Use them for the kingdom. Thank God for them.

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