“Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.”—Philippians 4:15–16 (NKJV)
Here, when Paul mentions the beginning of the gospel, he is specifically referring to the birth of the church in Philippi and their sister churches in Macedonia. The time period the apostle is referencing here are found in Acts 17:14, when Paul and his companions left Macedonia to head to Athens and Corinth. We know that the last place Paul visited while in Macedonia at this time was Berea. There, an intense situation arose with the Jews and the apostle had to leave quickly so as to escape persecution.
And when he found himself in a time of need (Acts 17:1–10), no church helped him other than the Philippians. We don’t know precisely why none of the other churches failed to send aid to the apostle, and Paul doesn’t address it. Please don’t misunderstand Paul’s statements here as an indictment of any other church. The verbiage and tone in which Paul is writing does not imply blame or judgment. It is very possible that the other churches may not have been aware of his need. The only thing that is clear from the text is that the Philippians went out of their way to ensure Paul was taken care of, and he wanted them to know he appreciated their care for him. Not only did they help him after he left Macedonia for Corinth and Athens, but we learn that even before this, when he had gone from Philippi to Thessalonica, he received aid.
Did you know that during his time in both Thessalonica and Corinth, two rich and luxurious communities, the apostle Paul worked in order to pull his weight—in addition to his work as a missionary, minister, and apostle? But even as he sought to not be a burden to anyone, it’s clear that, more than once, this loyal and loving church took care of their spiritual dad. They sought to supply his need, to help supplement the work he was doing.
There are two powerful lessons here for believers. The first is that we should always seek to take care of our brothers and sisters. We should always strive to ensure that those who are working to advance the gospel and share the love and grace of Jesus have their basic needs taken care of. The second is that we should try our very best to never be a burden to anyone, to work and live (1 Thessalonians 2:9).
1. How much does it matter that those in the family of God are cared for by one another? Why do you think this is important?
2. This week, who can you bless and support in some tangible way? What will you do?