In the army there is a thing called a “battle buddy,” or at least at Basic Combat Training, there is. A “battle buddy” is someone that is always around you; someone you’re always helping and receiving help from.
At Basic Training you do everything with your battle buddy, and if you don’t you get in trouble. You do pushups together, you make sure your uniform is right, you… do everything together. My first battle body could do like 170 pushups in two minutes, he was a beast. He did MMA previously. However, there was still stuff he needed help with. And there was certainly a lot he could teach me.
We all need a “battle buddy.” They drill this into new recruits heads because you can’t fight a war on your own. You have to have people cover your back. You have to have people around to help you. And this is no less the case when it comes to our lives. We have an enemy that is out to get us. We need gospel friendships to help us in the fight.
There are a lot of things that we can rally around. People can become friends because they like Pokémon or for any number of reasons. We could become friends because…
There is something that makes us friends that goes beyond hanging out and beyond Pokémon. So, what makes us friends ultimately?
The Gospel Makes Us Friends
Paul [with Timothy] writes “to all the saints in Christ Jesus…” (Phil. 1:1). Paul is writing to “the saints” and they are the ones who are his friends. The gospel makes us saints and gives us friendships that Pokémon, sports, and where we live cannot. What does it mean to be saints?
Saint means “holy one.” So how can you be a saint, a holy one, set apart from sin? Are you holy by yourself? No! We are sinful by ourselves. Left to ourselves, we are stuck in sin. We do not receive grace from God; we receive punishment. We do not receive peace from God; we receive war and wrath. Look at the verse, it says “saints in Christ Jesus.” It doesn’t say, “We’re saints in ourselves.”
We are made saints, holy, and receive peace with God through placing our faith in Jesus. Jesus was holy and never did anything wrong and yet He died in our place. The gospel is the “great exchange”: Jesus takes our sin upon Himself and dies the death we deserved and He gives us His righteousness and we get eternal life as we don’t deserve, and this all comes through faith in Jesus. That’s the gospel. And the gospel unites us. It makes us friends. Paul wrote to “the saints.”
Saints, those who believe in the gospel and treasure Jesus Christ, have something beyond this world that unites them.
Christ befriends us and because Christ befriends us we are all friends through Him. We, through Christ’s work, have God as our Father. We’re family! We all have the Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit connects us.
The gospel makes us friends.
And notice who Paul wrote to: people at Philippi; a lot of different people. Some of whom were not considered “cool.” Maybe Paul was a book nerd, we know he read and wrote a lot; or maybe he was into sports, he does talk quite a bit about them. Whatever the case, there were people in Philippi that he would not naturally get along with. There were Gentiles in Philippi and Paul was a Jew.
But, it was the gospel that made them friends. It is the gospel that makes us friends. So, let’s be friends because of the gospel. Jesus has shown us love and reached down to us so let’s show each other love, no matter how hard it may seem.
So, we’ve talked about what makes us friends so now let’s talk about characteristics of gospel friendships.
Gospel Friends Are…
Thankful (Phil. 1:3-4)
Paul thanks God for his friends. That is, Paul does not take his friends for granted. He appreciates them. And we see he thanks not just them for being his friends but he knows whom it is that gave them to him, God; and so Paul thanks God for his friends.
So, we as gospel friends should be thankful for each other. We should thank God for each other. And through that, we see that we should also appreciate each other. We shouldn’t take each other for granted.
Partners (Phi. 1:5)
We see here that Paul is not just thankful for his friends but thankful for them because they are partners together. And not just partners for anything, but “partners in the gospel.” So, a huge characteristic of gospel friendships is that they care about the gospel and the gospel going forward. They don’t just have a partnership or friendship formed around Pokémon or whatever but formed around the gospel.
Later on, Paul talks about “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel” (v. 27). Gospel friends are intentional and even “strive” together for the advance of the gospel. Our friendships are not to be shallow. They are to be about the life changing and eternal truth of the gospel.
Encouraging (Phil. 1:6)
Gospel friends have a healthy and encouraging outlook with each other that’s grounded in the gospel. Gospel friends realize that the world is fallen and we will hurt each other and sometimes friends will sadly talk behind your back but gospel friends realize that God is working on His saints. So gospel friends are realistic but hopeful.
So gospel friends don’t give up on each other… they encourage.
Faithful (Phil. 1:7)
Paul’s friends were with him and for him even through his imprisonment.
Jesus, our Savior and also our ultimate example, is reliable. He is with us through thick and thin. All other friends will finally fail but Jesus never does. However, we are called to be like Jesus. We want to be a reliable friend even when it is hard for us or unpopular.
It was popular for the Philippians to be friends with Paul and help him. It was actually likely dangerous, but they remained faithful friends. Let’s also remain reliable and faithful friends. Let’s love like Jesus loves. And be there for others, like Jesus is there for us.
Affectionate (Phil. 1:8)
Paul said, “I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” This verse is quite amazing. In what way does Paul “yearn,” in what way is Paul affectionate? Does his affection or love change depending on how cool, fun, or nice his friends are? No!
It says “with the affection of Christ.” What is the “the affection of Christ” and was it easily killed? Jesus’ affection took Him to the cross and He died before His affection did. He died because His affection would not. #truelove
That’s the kind of love and affection that we are called to. We are to love like Jesus. We are to die before our love does. Let’s love like that!
Caring (Phil. 1:9-11)
As friends, we are to care for each other and want what’s best for each other.
What can be hard, however, is actually knowing how to best care for each other. Paul helps us here. He shows us what it really means to care. It means that we don’t merely care about external issues. It is actually not even about being concerned with our friend’s physical wellbeing. It goes beyond that.
Being gospel friends means caring about each other’s spiritual well-being… That’s what we see in these verses. That is what is most important.
We’ve seen that the gospel makes us friends and we’ve seen some characteristics of what it means to be gospel friends. Now, let’s purpose to live as gospel friends by the power of the Holy Spirit in light of the gospel.
Gospel Friendship in Philippians
|1:5||“partnership in the gospel”|
|1:7||“partakers with me of grace”|
|1:14-19||“through your prayers’|
|1:27||“striving side by side for the faith”|
|2:22||“served with me in the gospel”|
|2:25||“my brother, and fellow worker, and fellow soldier”|
|3:17||“join in imitating me”|
|4:3||“labored side by side with me”|
|4:15||“partnership with me in giving and receiving”|
 “Paul’s friends were made up of a pretty diverse group of individuals—a former slave, a doctor, both Jews and Gentiles, etc.” (Adam Holland, Friendship Redeemed: How the Gospel Changes Friendships to Something Greater, 70-71).
 “The heart of true fellowship… is self-sacrificing conformity to a shared vision… Christian fellowship, then, is self-sacrificing conformity to the gospel. There may be overtones of warmth and intimacy, but the heart of the matter is this shared vision of what is of transcendent importance, a vision that calls forth our commitment” (D. A. Carson, Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians, 16).Go