Of the prison epistles Paul writes, Philippians has the most references to “gospel.” It is one of the central themes that hold this letter together.
1:3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in
my heart; for whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the
gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8 God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
What does Paul mean by “partnership in the gospel”? It translates koinonia and refers, as Gordon Fee says in his commentary on Philippians
, to a “partnership in the furtherance of the gospel.” Paul’s preaching, in other words, was aided and buttressed by his (economic and any other way) partners.
This gospel work — partnered — is the work of God. In my own works on gospel, including Embracing Grace and A Community called Atonement, I have steadfastly fought for defining gospel in this way: “it is the work of God to restore cracked Eikons, in the context of the community of faith, through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and the gift of the Spirit, and this restoration is to both union with God and communion with others for the good of others and the world.” Too many define gospel today too reductionistically: is tis more than forgiveness and more than propitiation.
And Paul suffers, defends and confirms the gospel in his work.