Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In Communion with Forgiven Saints.

Philip. 1:1-11 (ESV)
Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the overseers and deacons:
[2] Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
[3] I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, [4] always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, [5] because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. [6] And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. [7] 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 and confirmation of the gospel. [8] For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. [9] And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, [10] so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, [11] filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
I like the way Paul refers always addresses his fellow Christians as saints, holy people. Christians are holy people. Oh, to be sure we are sinners, but we are also holy. We are holy not because of what we do, but because of the good work that the Holy Spirit has begun in us, and will bring to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
There is so much in this in the opening paragraph. But permit me once again to draw attention here to one verse. “Because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.” I get suspicious of translations at times. It sends me to the Greek and it usually bears fruit. I get suspicious of words that imply works righteousness. It is amazing how often this alerts me to faulty translation. It is also amazing how often the translation of this one word can serve to shed light on the rest of what is being said.
Now to say partnership in the Gospel, is valid enough if it is understood properly. I think the translators were trying to get across their partnership with the apostles in spreading the Gospel, and this is something all true Christian congregations do. Congregations help spread the gospel and evangelize. They do this with their mere existence, but also by supporting the larger church in missions and so on. But the word that Paul uses here is Koinonia, often translated common, and also communion. The Greek the N.T. was written in is Koine Greek, not classic or attic, Koine meaning common. The other meaning of communion comes from that being shared as common to all sharing it. And I think this is closer to the meaning of what Paul is expressing here. He is thanking and praising God, not that the Philippians partnered with him to spread the Gospel, but that they are in communion with him in the Gospel. This isn’t a mere business partnership it is much more than that. It is a sense of community and identity they have. It is a joy in the communion of saints confessed in the creed. Paul is rejoicing in their salvation, in their holiness on account of Christ, not just in their work and support. It is right for us to feel this way for all the saints wherever they be found because they are fellow partakers of Grace with us, fellow communicants of the Gospel. So we stand with each other as one in good times and in bad, as forgiven saints and the body of Christ.


Brigitte said...

I like that.

My Luther Bible says: "Gemeinschaft". "Gemein" is everything common, together.

Bror Erickson said...

Luther may just have been the best Bible Translator ever. I am always humbled by his translation when I compare it to the English. He was such a good translator, because he actually took the word of God seriously and did not want to put words into God's mouth, or twist them for his view of what Religion was supposed to be about.