What does Paul mean in Phil 1:7

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Puritan Board Sophomore
It is right for me to feel this way 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.
Phil 1:7

What does Paul mean here by the statement partakers of grace in his imprisonment. Is Paul trying to get at that God is showing him favor by sustaining him, giving him opportunities to share the gospel, strengthening his faith etc. And that God is doing this for Paul even though he is in prison. And because the Philippians were supporting Paul through prayers and financial means that they too were partners in this. I guess my question is how is the word grace being used here, especially in regards to the Philippians.

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Paul's imprisonment could have caused the Philippians to disassociate with him, either to avoid shame or out of fear. But they held fast, continuing to count themselves one with Paul in Christ, sharing the same blessings of grace and striving for the same mission.


Staff member

Paul was in a special 'fellowship'/koinonos with the Philippians. In Latin, these fellowships were called 'societas', which is where we get the word 'societies'. In the Hellenistic world societies were common. They were a legally binding society made up of like minded individuals with common goals and common means to reach those goals. Each participant contributed to the cause according to their gifts and abilities. This idea was carried over into the church. Paul served the function of one of the missionaries and he received support from others in the Philippian society. The missionaries were expected to provide an accounting of their support (Phi 4:10-12). And the group as a whole was regulated by agreed upon behaviors (Phi 2:1-5). And in the end, the entire fellowship shared in the fruits of the labors of the society as a whole. This is probably what Paul is referring to in 1:7 as well as in 4:17 which says, "I desire fruit that may abound to your account." Even though Paul was the missionary, the entire fellowship could take ownership of the fruits of their labors.

Also, in Hellenistic culture, a society was legally binding until the incapacitation of one of the founders, unless previous arrangements were made. Paul is probably trying to encourage them that their fellowship is eternal and not bound in Paul as an individual, even though he was the one who planted their church in the beginning. The strife mentioned in 1:15-17 might give a hint at how Paul's imprisonment was already starting to unravel the fellowship among them.
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