Paul then shows the church what that “mind” looks like—Christ not insisting on His rights but lowering Himself for others to be exalted (Phil. 2:6–8). Have this Christ-shaped mind in you, which is not solely a way of thinking (important as that is) but also of feeling and acting toward one another. In other words, Paul wants Christ to be heard and seen in us.
1. Philippians provides a helpful theological framework for Christian fellowship.
The term koinōnia, often translated “fellowship,” “partnership,” or “solidarity,” bookends Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul and believers have koinōnia in the advance of the “gospel” (Phil. 1:5, 7), in “suffering” (Phil. 4:14), and in “giving and receiving” (Phil. 4:15). But this horizontal koinōnia is rooted in a vertical koinōnia in gospel advancement with the Father (Phil. 1:3, 5), a “koinōnia in the Spirit” (Phil. 2:1), and a “koinōnia in the sufferings” of Christ (Phil. 3:10). This koinōnia is thoroughly Trinitarian. God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—is the One who completes the work He began (Phil. 1:6) and who wills and works in and through His people (Phil. 2:12–13).
God advances the gospel through Paul in prison, so Paul highlights his essential role by employing a passive verb when describing “what has happened” through his incarceration (Phil. 1:12). God advances the gospel Paul proclaims (Phil. 1:12, 25). God also functions as the primary Giver in their giving and receiving, so Paul rejoices in the Lord for the gift that the Philippians sent to Paul in prison, a gift that caused him to abound: “I received full payment, and more [literally, ‘abound’]” (Phil. 4:18). But Paul just noted that he experiences abundance and knows how to abound because of the One who strengthens him (Phil. 4:12–13). God gives through human givers. These gifts are likened to “a fragrant offering” and “acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18). A gift to Paul is a gift to God, “for all things are from him, through him, and to him. To him be glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36).
Lastly, God grants believers suffering to make them more dependent on Him and other believers; or, we could say, dependent on Him through other believers, like Epaphroditus. He nearly died to alleviate Paul’s suffering with his presence in prison and his gift from God through the Philippian church (Phil. 1:29; 2:25–30; 4:14). The next time you think of missions, preaching, suffering, and all your relationships, remember God’s divine involvement and enablement. It changes everything, especially our understanding of Christian fellowship.