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A New Testament Study - Philippians 4:10-23


Thanks to the Philippians

 

10I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. 11I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.

14Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; 16for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need. 17Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account. 18I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

 

Paul now turns to personal issues with the Philippians as he thanks them for their financial support; and yet, even when speaking of personal issues, Paul through inspiration of the Holy Spirit injects great spiritual truths. Paul had greater things to say than just "Thanks"; he was writing for the ages.

He begins: "I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me" (vs. 10). By saying, "at last", Paul is not denigrating them for taking so long to give, but acknowledging to them that he knows how difficult it is for them to send a gift. Thus, he continues: "Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it" (vs. 10). Back then, giving financially was not as easy as just writing a check and putting it in the mail, or calling a toll-free number and giving out a credit card number. To support Paul, the Philippians had to send a trusted messenger with the gift. In this case, Epaphroditus was the messenger.

Paul throughout this section walks a fine line in giving his thanks. He does not want to seem overly enthusiastic and give the impression that he is asking for more. Yet, he does not want to seem unappreciative, and thus discourage the Philippians. He does not want to sound materialistic, as if his happiness depended upon his financial situation. Yet, he wants the Philippians to know that the gift was pleasing in God's sight. So, as Paul walks this fine line, he says: "I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me" (vs. 10), but then he says: "I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances" (vs. 11). Paul did not want the Philippians to get the mistaken impression that his happiness was tied to his financial situation. Clearly, in this epistle, we have seen evidence of this. This epistle is full of joy, even though Paul was writing it in captivity. If anyone had the right to be despondent, Paul did. However, Paul's joy came not from his physical situation, but from his spiritual standing in Christ. He knew that, despite his being in prison, God's purpose was being accomplished in his life. This was, for him, most important. He continues: "I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want" (vs. 12). Oh, how we can all learn from Paul's attitude! So many, even Christians, think that happiness comes from material possessions. We think that, with just a little more money, all of our problems would be solved. This is the lie of the world. Look around! Happiness is not tied to prosperity. Indeed, I dare say, happiness is rarer for the prosperous than for those who live a simple life.

Admittedly, Paul's attitude comes from maturity and experience in the Christian walk. He has seen God's grace and love through the ups and downs of his life, and so, he has learned "the secret of being content in any and every situation" (vs. 12). And what is this secret: "I can do all things through Him who gives me strength" (vs. 13). The strength of Christ can get us through all adversity. Through Him, we can accomplish the purpose of God in our lives, "do all things", even in the severest financial straits.

Paul, however, does not want to minimize the value of the gift from Philippi. He continues: "Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles" (vs. 14). God does use the prosperity of His people to support the work of His ministers. And faithful, consistent givers such as the Philippians are the most valuable to the work of the Gospel. Paul describes: "Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need" (vs . 15,16). The consistent, faithful giving was alluded to early in this epistle, in Paul's opening prayer: "In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now" (Phil. 1:4,5). Though Paul tends to downplay it, their faithfulness in giving must have been very valuable to Paul's work.

And then, continuing to walk the fine line, Paul adds: "Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account" (vs. 17). More than the financial help the Philippian's aid provided, Paul valued "what may be credited to [their] account." The aid they gave Paul, and the trouble they went through to provide it to him, demonstrated their love for God and their desire to further the purpose of God. Paul knew this would be "credited to [their] account". This verse implies that, indeed, God keeps account! Christ Himself implies the same thing when He teaches: "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal" (Matt. 6:19,20). What a good investment decision on the part of the Philippians! You can't get better interest rates! The Philippians in their giving to Paul's ministry were storing up treasures in heaven. And certainly, the treasures in heaven are worth much more than the lucre of the world. Most decidedly, in this respect, as Christ said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive" (Acts 20:35). And Christ promised: "Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap" (Luke 6:38).

As for Paul, he was well satisfied with the gift of the Philippians: "I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent" (vs. 18). How I wish that more ministries here on earth would be satisfied with the financial support that God provides them. We hear so often of "so-called" Christian ministries continually asking for more and more money, using every sort of device and manipulation to try and get more people to contribute to their coffers. Why can't we ever hear them say, as Paul did, "I am amply supplied"? Or as Moses said, when he had enough to build the tabernacle: "Then Moses gave an order and they sent this word throughout the camp: `No man or woman is to make anything else as an offering for the sanctuary.' And so the people were restrained from bringing more, because what they already had was more than enough to do all the work" (Ex. 36:6,7).

Paul then gives the ultimate compliment concerning their gifts: "They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God" (vs. 18). This is the goal of all of our giving: that it be "pleasing to God".

Paul concludes this section with one of the most beloved promises in all the Bible: "And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:19). What could be better? Note that Paul says that God will meet "all" your needs. What have we to worry about? Certainly, God has the ability to meet "all" our needs, "according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus." And why wouldn't the Creator of the universe supply the needs of His children? Note though, Paul says that God will meet all our "needs", not "desires", not "wants", not "lusts", but "needs". This is love. We so often desire what is detrimental.

 


 

Final Greetings

 

20To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

21Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings. 22All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household. 23The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.

 

And so, Paul brings this great epistle to a close. "To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen" (vs. 20). Well said. Glory belongs only to God. May this spontaneously flow out of our mouths, from time to time.

He ends the epistle with some personal greetings, most likely written in his own hand (the rest of the letter was most certainly copied down by a scribe, possibly even Epaphroditus in this case). He first says: "Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus" (vs. 21). The language he uses implies that he desires that each and every saint be greeted individually. Paul loved each and every one. He continues: "The brothers who are with me send greetings" (vs. 21). Though far away, and though many of them had never met the Philippians personally, they are brothers. Isn't it a blessing that we have brothers and sisters all over the world. I know that I am blessed greatly when I hear from my brothers and sisters all over the world who receive these studies: from all over the United States, from as far and wide as Canada, Finland, Malta, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Scotland, Madagascar, Brazil, and others. What a blessing! I, with Paul, send all of my brothers and sisters, the warmest greetings.

"All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar's household" (vs. 22). Many believe (including myself) that the phrase "those who belong to Caesar's household" refers to those who worked for the emperor, and who were converted (directly or indirectly) through Paul's witness and preaching. Certainly, Paul had ample opportunity to preach to various Roman guards (see Acts 28:16). He may even have been constantly chained to a Roman guard while he was in prison. Paul, of course, would have seen this as an opportunity: A captive audience to hear the gospel! This verse suggests that his preaching brought forth much fruit. Oh, that we could use our opportunities as Paul did! Most of us would have been moaning and despondent at being chained to a Roman guard. Paul undoubtedly saw it as an opportunity to bring a lost man to Christ.

Paul ends the epistle: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen." (vs. 23). The grace of the Lord: a great thought to end with. I will echo the thought: May the grace of God through the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. May the Spirit of God fill you and bring forth fruit in your lives. May the Word of God dwell in you and transform your outlook on life, that you may look to Him and not to the world for contentment.

As we finish this study, please take some time to reread Paul's Epistle to the Philippians and reflect on what you have studied, and refresh your mind with all the truth and beauty that this letter contains.



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