Last time we talked about verse six and the promise of sanctification. I have heard that verse quoted most often in an individual context. However, when you look at the context of this whole portion of Scripture, you will find what we so often minimalize, and sometimes miss entirely. In verses 3-8, Paul uses the phrase “you all” four times. Once before verse six, and three times after. What this means is that the perfecting work spoken of in verse six happens in the middle of Christian community. It is not isolated. The Christian (“you”) is perfected in the midst of Christian community (“you all”). Sanctification is a community project. In these verses, I see three key phrases that highlight how this community project takes place.
Partakers of Grace
In verse 7 Paul says these believers are “partakers of grace” with him. As believers we partake of grace together. I would like to note two things this means:
1. We are all drinking at the same well.
The world and its secular culture is deeply splintered. Every individual is running in a different direction seeking something to quench their thirst for peace and meaning. Before the unbelieving world there is set an innumerable amount of wells to drink from. Each one promises fulfillment and satisfaction. One by one, each one leaves the drinker thirstier than before. If we could look down from above we would see mass chaos. We would see people relentlessly pursuing drink from well after well, doing whatever harm necessary to get their refreshment. We would see people organizing around each well to give passionate defenses for why their water is more satisfying. We would see them wage wars with each other because of their disagreements. With heavy hearts, we would see them all returning from their wells empty and desperate. This world, with all its drinking wells, cannot offer them a solution. It can only offer them an endless array of options.
But we are not drinking from the world’s wells. We are taking in the living water of Jesus. We do not need an endless array of options because our well has an endless supply, which is endlessly satisfying. This brings unity, sure. But it also brings sanctification. As I sit at the well I observe my brothers and sisters drinking and being truly satisfied. As I peer at the world I observe their unsatisfying pursuit. This community observation reminds me why I should never pursue satisfaction from a well other than the living well of Jesus Christ.
2. None of us deserve to be there.
This thought will sober you into humility. Though we drink from the same well, us Christians can be notorious for our infighting. Most often, this is because we have begun to think of ourselves as though we are worthy of this water. Paul, in saying “partakers of grace”, is reminding us that it was freely and graciously given to us. Next time you gather with your Christian community take a good look around you and remind yourself of this. Everyone you see has lived a life worthy of condemnation. You have lived a life worthy of condemnation. Everyone you see has been snatched out of that pit by the applied blood of the Lamb, including you. We spend so much time fighting for what we “deserve” when we deserve God’s wrath. We spend so little time applying grace to others when grace is the only reason we will escape God’s wrath. None of us found this living water because we were smarter than others, or because we were better decision makers. We did not find this well because we were more religious or less depraved than others. The Lord opened our senses to taste it and our eyes to see it. He gave us our thirst that we might drink from it. Otherwise, we would all be lost in the blind pursuit of the world’s endless, unsatisfying wells.
Affection of Christ Jesus
This brings us to another point. Paul says he longs for the Philippian believers “with the affection of Christ Jesus.” If we really can wrap our minds around the fact that all of our brothers and sisters in Christ have been bought with His precious blood, this part will follow. If Christ’s affections toward our fellow Christians were such that He would endure the cross, how much more should our affections be toward one another? When dealing with a fellow Christian, think about this. The only one who could rightly deliver judgment upon that person’s head chose to take the judgment upon His own. What affections Christ has for His people! What sanctifying work could take place if we treated one another with the affection of Christ Jesus!
In Real Knowledge and All Discernment
Paul says in verse 9, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment…” Love abounds in real knowledge and all discernment. There is alot of perfecting work to be done here on this point. I take the negative version of this to be that love does not abound when there is false knowledge and no discernment. Biblical, godly, Christian love is different than the world’s love. Love from Christian to Christian finds its goal in sanctifying work. My ultimate goal for my fellow believer is that he might look more like Christ. As should be my ultimate goal for myself. As a community, we are all seeking to grow in Christlikeness, and we are seeking to produce Christlikeness in one another. If this is the goal of Christian love then the most unloving thing we could do is shrink back from real knowledge of God and His Word. If your sanctification is my goal and mine is your goal, we must be speaking Truth into one another’s lives, not just what we think the other wants to hear. True Christian love is not about making the other feel good, but about helping the other pursue godliness. And allowing others to help us pursue godliness as well.
Here is a very simple concluding statement: Go To Church! There is a dangerous mindset among many Christians today. It is the thought that one can stay home and live their Christian life by themselves. After all, the church has a lot of problems and people are hypocritical, right? So why not just avoid church? Allow me to be blunt. You have alot of problems and you are hypocritical. You can avoid the church. But can you avoid yourself? You avoid church because of their hypocrisy and problems and your solution is to worship by yourself, because obviously you are not a hypocrite and have no problems. Do you see the flaw in this thinking? Do you avoid the bowling alley? The mall? Your workplace? The movie theater? Date night with your spouse? Cookouts with your friends? If we are staying away from situations where there are hypocritical people with a lot of problems, let’s be consistent. Read the New Testament and you will see that you cannot separate individual sanctification from Christian community. Is it any wonder then that people who “do church” by themselves for an extended period of time have a real tendency to begin trying out the water at the old wells of the world? Let us instead be “partakers of grace” together.