"I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your fellowship in the gospel (the good news of grace) from the first day until now..." (Philippians 1:3-6)
Paul, The Apostle of Grace
In these verses, we see Paul's fondness for the Philippian people, his thoughts toward the Philippian people, his prayers for the Philippian people, and his heart for the Philippian people.
The reason Paul held these people in his heart like he did was because they enjoyed the gospel of grace together from the first day he met them (AD 50) until the day he wrote this letter (AD 61).
Paul recalled the first day he met the Philippian people. It was a group of women who had gone to the river to pray on the Sabbath (Friday evening sundown to Saturday evening sundown) (Philippians 16:12-40).
One of these women was Lydia.
Paul and his companions were following the instructions of Jesus to share the good news of grace with people in cities all over the world (Acts 20:23-24).
Paul and his companions were passionate about reaching more and more people with the good news of grace (2 Corinthians 4:15; 5:18-21).
This passion led them to Philippi.
This passion led them to the river.
This passion led them to a group of women at the river.
This passion led them to Lydia.
The Lord Jesus' passion was to open people's hearts to understand the good news of grace.
Only the hearts of humble people can the Lord open to understand the good news of grace.
Lydia had a humble heart.
Humbly, she listened to Paul share the good news of grace.
As she listened, the Lord opened her heart to understand Paul's message of grace (Acts 16:14).
Then she and her household were baptized.
Lydia invited Paul and his friends to her house to stay.
And with this invitation, a grace-based church was birthed in Philippi at Lydia's house.
From this day forward, Paul met many new friends in Philippi who responded to the good news of grace.
He developed close friendships with them.
Eventually, he left Philippi.
He returned two other times, making his total number of visits to Philippi three.
Paul wrote this letter to the Philippian people around AD 61 while he was in prison.
He first visited them in around AD 50.
So he had developed an eleven-year friendship with them.
And what was the basis of this joyful friendship he had with them?
Grace...the good news of God's grace freely given to us in Jesus! (Philippians 1:7)
As Paul wrote his letter in AD 61, he looked back...
with thankfulness and joy...
remembering the first day he met Lydia and the other women at the river on a Sabbath...
remembering when he shared the good news of grace with them...
remembering how Lydia humbly listened to learn about grace...
remembering how the Lord opened her heart to respond in faith to his message...
the Lord's message of grace.
And as he remember them, he prayed for them because of the joy he had in his heart toward them...
a joy produced by grace...
a joy because they had responded to grace.
I have discovered that the best friendships are those that are rooted and grounded in grace...
just as Paul's friendships with the Philippian people.