When Paul writes warmly to the Christians in the Greek city of Phillippi, it is clear that he feels they are close. Part of that is shown in Philippians 1:6 ( we are reading Philippians 1:3-11 ), which talks about the “day of Christ Jesus” – the day Jesus will return, with judgement. You might think that this is not a positive message, but think again. One of the attractive things about Christian faith is the sense that nobody gets away with anything, and even better because it is not our job to bring injustice to light and administer judgement. I don’t mean that we shouldn’t report criminals and uphold the law – of course we should. But all human investigation and punishment is partial and flawed, all verdicts conditional. The final justice, administered with mercy and full understanding, is up to God. And that’s good news, for all will be fair, and we needn’t worry about those who appear to be getting away with things.
Final judgement is an Advent theme, appropriate for the time leading up to Christmas. Another “Christmassy” part of this text is fellowship, the experience of Christians who don’t just try to live the same faith, but find a deep unity of purpose and values in the life they share. Paul talks here of the “partnership in the gospel” v5 which he shares with these people, who are more than friends. His prayer for them is love, knowledge and depth of insight (v9) – things that will help them live and work together, and get things right as they prepare for what is to come. It may not have happened yet, but it is an important perspective for us too! It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t happen for another ten thousand years after our death, but we should be ready for it one afternoon next week!
There is one more encouragement in v 6. However much we may find life difficult, or make a mess of it, God is not giving up on us! People who have begun to welcome the love God offers should know it will not be withdrawn. This is the basis of “assurance”, not a foolish carelessness with the important consequences of life choices, but a confidence that the God who has called us and given us love and forgiveness will not lose interest or change character.
Judgement, fellowship, assurance: three more reasons to be thankful for the gospel good news, and three things to share.