Philippians 1:7 says, “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense 30 heartand confirmation of the gospel.” The phrase that captured my attention in this verse is “partakers with me of grace.” The commentators see this in many different ways. What is it exactly that Paul shared with the Philippians? There are three particular possibilities that seem to hold true for me. The first is the one advanced by Boice. He argues that it’s the fact that all believers are recipients of God’s grace. He says, “…from the great apostle to the most humble believer, are participants in the grace of God. No truth will more quickly overcome divisions among Christians than the truth that we are all equally sinners and all equally recipients of grace.” He then goes on to talk about how there are so many divisions in Christianity as a whole and even among individual believers but when we begin to see each other as “a participant together with you in God’s grace” it builds a bond of love and affection.

Although very true, this interpretation ignores the context. The partnership “of grace” is specifically identified as being “in my imprisonment.” It seems to me what drives Christians together more than anything else in this life is the sufferings that we might share for our faith. When I first became a Christian, I was recruiting for the Navy Officer programs in Detroit, Michigan. Most of my fellow recruiters and staff workers were not Christians, but there was one Nuclear Power recruiter who was a believer. I didn’t like that guy. He was a real nerd! Then I became a Christian. All of a sudden I found myself seeking him out. Among the ostracism and negative attitudes and outright rejection I felt I found comfort and fellowship with him. I would go out of my way to eat lunch with him. When he bought a coke from the machine, he’d always offer me one. He became special to me and I to him and we didn’t have the kind of persecution that the Philippians shared with Paul at all. It was nearly nothing but still drove us together. It seems this idea is a rather what Paul has in mind.

But he also says that the partnership of “grace” was also in the “defense and confirmation of the gospel.” They had the same mission! As Paul ministered in Philippi and shared the good news the converts worked alongside of him in many different ways. You can see Lydia in the marketplace. You can see the slave girl in the ghetto and you can see the soldier in the army, each sharing Christ in their own way. From these three converts there was a church organized with elders, deacons and a whole congregation of believers. It is to this group that Paul writes his letter ten years after his first visit there. As each believer was added to that small fellowship, each one became a “partner” with Paul. We too who have shared in the Grace of God shown to us through the Cross of Jesus are partakers together with Paul as well as the first converts at Philippi. We suffer with them and we have embraced the same mission. In marriage we have “life partners.” In the Faith we have “eternal life partners.” No wonder Paul says, “I hold you in my heart.”