Life-Study of Philippiansby Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In this message we shall consider the believers’ fellowship in the apostle’s need. In their giving, many Christians do not have fellowship. By fellowship we do not simply mean communication or mutual participation. Fellowship also involves the ministering of life. When we have fellowship with one another, we minister life to one another. When many Christians give something as a gift, they do not have the deep sense that in this transaction there is the ministry of life. But if we pray-read the verses listed above, we shall touch the ministry of life, both from the side of the apostle and also from the side of the believers who sent a gift to him. No doubt, the saints in Philippi not only sent the material supply to Paul, but also ministered life to him. Thus, between the two parties, the apostle and the believers, there was the fellowship of life and the mutual ministry of life. It is important that we learn to give in such a fellowship of life and ministry of life.
In 4:10 Paul says, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you caused your thinking for me to blossom anew.” It might have been circumstances which kept the Philippian believers from continuing to send the material supply to Paul. When they sent a gift with Epaphroditus, Paul considered this the blossoming again of their thinking for him. According to Paul’s feeling, the sending of a gift with Epaphroditus was the blossoming again of their concern for him.
The words blossom anew are a beautiful expression, rich in their implication. How can something blossom without life? Paul’s use of the word blossom implies that the believers’ thought of him was a matter of life, something that expressed life. Furthermore, “blossom anew” implies that the believers’ concern for Paul had been dormant for a time, having passed through a winter season. For a plant to blossom anew requires that it undergo a period of withering or dormancy during the winter season. This winter season, during which the saints lacked the opportunity to care for Paul, was a time of suffering for him. But this suffering afforded him the opportunity to experience Christ in a richer way.
In 4:10 Paul also says to the Philippians, “You did indeed take thought, but you lacked opportunity.” These words show Paul’s experience and maturity. There were times that he rebuked the saints. For example, in writing to the Corinthians he rebuked them and asked if they wanted him to come with a rod (1 Cor. 4:21). In writing to the Philippians, however, he speaks in a very positive way, telling them that at length they caused their thinking for him to blossom anew, that they indeed did take thought, but lacked opportunity.
As we have indicated, the words blossom anew, a literal translation of the Greek, imply that the giving of material things is a matter of life and of the ministry of life. If this were not so, Paul would not have used such an expression.
We must pay careful attention to the word blossom. This word implies that our giving of material things to any church, to any servant of the Lord, and to any of the saints must be something living that is able to blossom. This fellowship involves more than participation; it involves the circulation of the current of life. According to the Bible, fellowship always comes from life. First John 1:2 and 3 reveal that fellowship issues from life. The source of fellowship is life. For this reason, in Philippians 4:10 Paul uses the word blossom, and in verse 14, the word fellowship: “Nevertheless you did well to have fellowship with me in my affliction.” It seems as if Paul is saying, “You ministered life to me and helped to sustain me in my imprisonment. When I was suffering, you helped me by ministering life to me. Surely you will receive a supply of life in return.”
The fellowship in life can be illustrated by the circulation of blood in the human body. On the one hand, as the blood circulates, it flows out; on the other hand, it returns. In like manner, our fellowship in life always has a going out with a return. Any outflow without a corresponding inflow is not true fellowship. Fellowship always involves circulation. The life goes out, and the life also returns. The life goes with a supply to the other party, and then it comes back with a supply from this party. Whenever we give material things under the leading of the Lord, we should experience such a fellowship in life. There should be the blossoming and the mutual supply of life.
The fellowship the believers in Philippi had with Paul was for the furtherance of the gospel (1:5). Their sending of the supply of material things was for the furtherance of the gospel. As we have pointed out, the gospel here equals God’s move on earth for His economy. The gospel includes not only the good news of salvation, redemption, forgiveness, justification, and eternal life. Especially in a book like Philippians, the gospel signifies the move of God in His economy. Therefore, fellowship, even in the sending of a material supply, is for the furtherance of God’s move in His economy.
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