As a leader of the early church, the apostle Paul demonstrated, through his life and through his writings, what it means to be a good Christian leader. In the first chapter of his letter to the church in Philippi, Paul modeled four things that good Christian leaders do, things that reveal that they care about fellow Christians and want God’s best for them.
In Philippians 1:3-5, Paul told the Christians in Philippi that he thanked God for them. He stated that he did this, not once in a while, but every time he thought about them. He expressed his gratitude for their partnership in sharing and living out the gospel. The word partnership used in these verses is from the Greek word, koinonia. This word indicates a strong bond of fellowship. It is the kind of bond that comes from praying, giving, and serving together as the body of Christ. Just as Paul thanked God for the believers in Philippi, we all should give thanks for our fellow believers in Christ.
Paul knew that God was working in the lives of the believers in Philippi. He expressed confidence that God would complete the good work that He had begun in those believers (Philippians 1:6). Paul’s confidence in the believers came from his confidence in God. He knew that, just as he had his own weaknesses, the Philippian believers had weaknesses as well. But, he knew that God would complete the work He planned for them, despite their weaknesses. Paul knew that God’s power is made perfect in us (2 Corinthians 12:9). We should express this same confidence to our fellow believers.
The next thing that Paul did in his letter to the Philippians was to let them know how much he cared for them. Paul let these believers know that they were in his heart and that he longed for all of them with the affection of Jesus (Philippians 1:7-8). The Greek word translated as affection here is splanchnon. This word literally refers to the intestines or bowels, the area of the body from which the Greeks thought emotions of compassion and love originated. But this word is also used to refer to deep inner feelings. Christ loves us deeply. Paul was letting these believers know that he loved them with that same deep love. As followers of Christ, we should feel that same kind of affection toward each other.
After expressing gratitude, confidence, and affection toward the Philippians, Paul prayed for their spiritual well-being (Phillipians 1:9-11). The prayers that Paul offered were very specific. He prayed first for their love for each other and for the Lord, something that is not just critical, but required in the life of a believer. As believers, we must love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and we must love one another (Matthew 22:36-40). Paul also prayed that the love of the Philippian believers would grow both in knowledge and in depth of insight. The Greek word for knowledge here is epignosis, a word which indicates a deep, personal knowledge of the Lord. The Greek word translated as depth of insight is aisthesi, which means being spiritually wise and discerning. These are things that we all need as believers. We should pray these things for our fellow Christians.
All of the things that Paul modeled in this passage are good things for all of us, as believers, to remember and put into practice, whether we are leaders or just fellow partners in service to Christ.