5 For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now.
The “fellowship in the gospel” that the Philippians extended to Paul has given him great reasons for being thankful and rejoicing in God’s presence. So he wrote, “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:3-5). The fellowship which Paul had with the Philippians did not fizzle out even though he was locked away in a prison in a faraway city. Geographical separation did not sever their fellowship. If anything, separation and his incarceration fortified the Philippians to express their camaraderie with greater sincerity and fervour. Their renewed efforts to maintain and strengthen fellowship with Paul had brought boundless joy to his heart.
The word “fellowship” simply means “to have in common”, “to share in” or “to communicate”. True Christian fellowship is deeper and firmer than acquaintanceship or friendship. Fellowship with someone is the fruit of having something in common; for Paul and the Philippians, this was the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They shared a deep relationship on the basis of the Gospel work. The Philippian church was one of the churches of Macedonia which showed great liberality towards the apostle Paul in his Gospel work. Despite their severe economic struggles, they had been very generous towards Paul and his Gospel work. In 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, Paul wrote, “Moreover, brethren, we do you to wit of the grace of God bestowed on the churches of Macedonia; how that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality. For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.”
Paul further wrote of their continued generous spirit in Philippians 4:15 – “Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.” From the great hospitality and love shown by the first Philippian converts, Lydia and the jailor, to the sacrificial ministering by Epaphroditus sent from them (Philippians 4:18), Paul enjoyed their lasting fellowship, literally “from the first day until now”!