We talked last time about the amazing promise that the work God has begun in us (Salvation), He will complete. Today, I want to talk more about the supernatural bi-product of salvation that is a growing “partnership in the gospel.” It’s the natural thing for saved people to grow into. It’s the normal thing. But what is it?

First of all, it’s a 3-WAY PARTNERSHIP:

Step #1 ~ God partners with us (Salvation & all that follows)

Step #2 ~ We partner with our leaders (and with God, by extension)

Step #3 ~ We partner with each other (and with God, by extension)

In Step#1 God pursues us and we open the door of our hearts to Him at salvation, and the ‘partnership in the gospel’ is initiated.  The role of Christ in this part of the partnership is ‘to bring to completion the work He began in you.’ Your role is to have confidence that He will do it, to believe God’s promise. In the sermon several weeks ago I repeated multiple versions of the ‘believe it’ encouragement.  I should have ended with this one – “He’s given His Word.” The primary role of the believer in the ‘partnership of the gospel’ is to believe. 

Today we’ll be talking about the second step, and a little later we’ll get to what it means to partner with each other. Granted, these don’t always stay rigidly in order, with clear boundary lines – it’s a fluid partnership, and although it always starts with salvation, God’s partnering with us carries through each of the subsequent steps, indeed, making them even possible. But for the sake of discussion let’s go on to Step #2, which has more to do with us as individuals, identifying with the vision and mission of those who lead us, and then taking steps to ‘get on board.’  Christ is, of course, our primary leader, our primary ‘example,’ but so are the leaders He raised up then (the disciples) and now (pastors, elders, etc.).  There are commands Jesus gave to these leaders that He expected them to carry out, and that He expects you and I to come along side with as well.  Most of us are familiar with the ‘big command,’ more commonly recognized as ‘The Great Commission:’

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."  Matt. 28:18-20

But what does partnering with our leaders look like in order to complete this grand goal? Skipping ahead to v.7, Paul says that there are two main evidences of having entered into this partnership: ‘It is right for me to think so highly of you,’ says Paul, ‘and to believe about you what I know God is doing in me, “for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel.  The evidences of having entered into this ‘partnership of the gospel’ to complete the Great Commision?

1) A sharing in suffering

2) A sharing in the defense and confirmation of the gospel

Let’s look at these evidences.

1) A sharing in suffering

The primary role of the believer in the ‘partnership of the gospel’ is to believe. But Paul later adds this- “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (1:29,30). Why is a healthy ‘partnership in the gospel’ with our leaders evidenced by suffering? Because it shows we are living how they live and teaching what they teach. It (suffering) is the necessary ‘proof’ of a consistent message.

Jesus said –

19”If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 20Remember the words I spoke to you: 'No servant is greater than his master.'[a] If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. 21They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the One who sent me.John 15:19-21

Jesus generated instant enemies wherever He went and suffered because He claimed exclusive authority and Truth as given by His Father, whom people did not know (‘…because they do not know the one who sent me’). Because Jesus suffered for who He was, Paul expected to suffer as well for following in His steps. And that’s what happened to Paul, why he’s in prison in our passage -- and by aligning themselves with Paul through financial and moral support (in addition to belief), the Philippians are knowingly aligning themselves also with Christ, and inviting that same kind of suffering upon themselves.  Are you experiencing this ‘proof of a consistent message’ in your life? Do you experience ‘persecution’ because you’re a Christian, either explicitly or implicitly? How or to whom have you aligned yourself, and what do you expect the results of this to be? We’ll deal more with the importance and ‘the power of suffering’ in a coming letter.  For now though, let’s go on to evidence #2, because the two are closely related, even inseparable.

2) A sharing in the defense and confirmation of the gospel

‘Partnering in the gospel’ with our leaders will necessarily mean we believe the gospel that they believe (salvation) and that we align ourselves with them in suffering for the gospel, whether ‘through financial and moral support’ or other experiences, but as we began hinting at just a moment ago, it also means that we are expressing the life and message of Christ in words.  Perhaps the best cross-reference verse for the one we’re looking at here is 1 Peter 3: 14-16:

14”But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed, and do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”

Another evidence that God has partnered with you and that you are partnering with your leaders to complete the great commission is your deliberate attempts to mature in your knowledge and understanding of who God is and what His purposes are for His creation.  When people ask you tough questions about what you believe, do you have an answer? It’s normal to not know how to respond to questions when you are a new believer.  But that should not stay the case forever. Could you verbally share your testimony of how God saved you?  Are you prepared to be a witness (= ‘witnessing’) before a courtroom of your peers as to what you experience God doing in your life? Can you verbalize the gospel message (1 Cor.15:1-4) to them, i.e. what God wants to do in their lives?

My basketball coach in high school used to always tell us that ‘the better our defense, the better our offense.’ A good defense produces a good offense. The more skilled we became at shutting down the attack strategies of our opponents, the more opportunities we were given to maintain or increase our lead when it was our turn to be on offense. In many cases, our ability to defend and clearly explain what we believe is itself one of the strongest confirmations of our faith. Can you share what you believe? 

If you'd like to be able to answer all these questions in a positive way, if you've struggled your way through the challenges in this post, don't give up in despair -- God will help you.  Just start by going to Him with these tough truths, tell Him you want to go deeper -- and then remind Him that He has promised to be the one to complete this work in you! After all, it's ultimately always His partnering with you that really matters.

Surrounded By Grace,


  1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  2. Wow! Such amazing timing that I would read this today! Obviously you posted this so it would be ready for me... :) What a great reminder to me that I don't have to worry about how little or how much I know, I just have to keep seeking and... YES! *punching fist in air* remind God that He promised to help me! Whew! *wiping brow*

  3. Ernie Says....

    I found this post very deep and actually had to read it several times.But once I felt like I fully got it, I absolutely loved it! And furthermore all I could think of to say in response to it is...

    Thanks Josh

  4. Candice, Ernie, thanks for the feedback, I'm grateful that God is using this study of mine to encourage and build up! Have a wonderful week my friends.



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*Grace induces faith & Grace is obligated to faith ~