It is right for me to feel thus 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. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.. - Philippians 1:7-11
Paul expresses great personal affection for those in Philippi. Such affection is totally appropriate, Paul asserts, because they are partakers of God’s grace, just as he is.
Paul’s emphasis here is that there is no distinction among those in Christ in any ultimate or eternal sense. The only distinctions Paul makes have to do with functionality. In other letters, such as Romans and 1 Corinthians, Paul emphasizes that the differences among followers of Christ are akin to the differences between the eye and the ear. They serve different functions, but they are both part of the same body, both dependent on bodily functions to survive. Each has something to contribute; neither is able to survive on its own. So too, Paul asserts, the only distinctions among those in Christ is the function each serves. When it comes to status in the kingdom of God, we are all simply partakers of God’s grace.
Paul’s word is as important to those in Christ today as it was when it was first penned twenty centuries ago. None of us is able to claim a righteousness on our own. None is without sin. Some sins are more difficult to hide than others. Some sins have greater consequences than others. Some are sins of weakness; others are sins of malice. There are clear differences in the sins we commit, but God’s grace is sufficient in every case. We are all sinners by nature and by choice. We are all dependent on God’s grace. If we are in Christ, we are fellow “partakers…of grace” with the Apostle Paul and all others.
Over in Romans, Paul writes, “none is righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). That statement can sound condemning and it can sound freeing. We can hear judgment in it, and we can hear acceptance in it. So it is with grace. Our attempts to earn righteous status on our own merit are as fruitless as trying to fish the moon’s reflection out of a pond. However, when we allow God to have his way with us, our sinful nature is crucified and we are made new. God’s grace floods our lives, love abounds, and we are ”filled with the fruits of righteousness which come through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.”
Let us partake gladly with Paul of the grace of God.
Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come.
‘Twas grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home. Amen.
A Bible study devotional by Gorman Houston