Philippians 4:18

Monday, 6 March 2017

Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. Philippians 4:18

This abounding which Paul speaks of concerns the gift which he has received from them. He was in distress as is noted in verse 14. They understood this and sent along the gift to help him in his plight. From that gift, he was not only brought out of distress, but he was full, even to over-flowing, as is seen in the words, “I have all and abound.” And then again he says, “I am full.” There was no lack, but instead he was fully satisfied, as he says, “having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you.”

As a congregation, they came together and decided upon a gift for him. After that, they chose Epaphroditus to be the one to carry the gift to him. When he came to Paul, the gift was received by him as a gift not to himself, but as an offering to God of which he was the benefactor.

In Israel, certain offerings were taken to the temple. These were received by the priests and then offered to God. However, in many of the offerings, only a portion was presented on the altar, and the rest became the priest’s portion. However, the entire offering was one which was truly considered as given to the Lord. Paul had received this gift in this manner, noting that it was “a sweet-smelling aroma.” This is Old Testament terminology for a sacrifice which was acceptable to God. It is not that God has a nose, but that what was offered was considered as if He did.

In fact, certain offerings came with a measure of frankincense added to them. This was taken, along with the portion of meat to be burned, and both were then burned on the altar. The word used to describe this burning (Heb: qatar) specifically meant “incense,” and it indicated “to make sacrifices smoke.” This is what Paul is referring to here. It was thus “an acceptable sacrifice.” God was pleased with their offering which was given to Paul as if it was made directly to Him, and it was deemed as such. Therefore, it was “well pleasing to God.”

It was as if the smoke of the sacrifice offered by them burned as incense and rose into the heavens to Him as a pleasing aroma.

Life application: When we make an offering with a true heart, and in a manner which is Christian and Christ-like, that offering is considered by God as an acceptable offering to Him. Because of this, let our hearts and intents be pure in our giving. Just because an offering is made, it does not automatically follow through that it is pleasing to God. Only when such an offering is done in faith is it truly considered as well pleasing to Him.

Lord God, help us to make offerings which are acceptable to You. Help us to give in faith, and faithfully, without attaching strings to what we offer. Your words shows us that offerings which are not in faith are actually displeasing to You. And so Lord, remind us when we give that we are to do so with the right heart and attitude towards You. May our offerings, given in the name of Christ Jesus our Lord, be acceptable to You as if they actually rose to Your throne as a sweet fragrance. Amen.

Philippians 3:8

Friday, 3 February 2017

Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ… Philippians 3:8

Paul’s amazing statement here is an explanation and expansion of the previous verse. Taken together they read –

“But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ…”

The words “what things” of the previous verse was speaking of his great personal qualities of lineage and heritage, along with his special status within Israelite society. However, setting those things aside was not all that Paul considered “loss for Christ.” Rather, he continues on with “Yet indeed I also count all things loss.”

There was nothing that he had worked for or accomplished in his life that was of any value to him in relation to true satisfaction or boasting he now made in his Lord. When he met Christ, the most precious memory, and the most hoped-for goal, were alike considered as loss. His very being was converted from that which is earthly and carnal to that which is heavenly and spiritual. Nothing of this world mattered and was “loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.”

The word for “excellence” here is actually a verb. It indicates “the excelling knowledge.” In other words, whatever is of note is vastly outshined by knowing Christ. If one carries a dab of perfume into a perfume factory, what was considered a sweet and powerful smell will be lost in the overwhelming amount of fragrance which fills the building. If one were to have a flashlight on a path while walking in full sunshine, the light of the flashlight would not even be noticeable. If one were to be in a dry desert with but a drop of water left in the canteen, it would be forgotten if that person were to come upon a large flowing river of the purest water.

Paul is trying to describe that which cannot be fully described. The superlative nature of Christ and what He offers simply overwhelms anything that we could hold up as of value. In comparison to Him, it is nothing. For this reason, he continues with words of strength by saying, “for whom I have suffered the loss of all things.”

One would think of loss as a weakness, but when that loss is compared to what has been obtained in its place, it is the greatest Source of strength of all. No thing, and no accumulation of things – even to an exceedingly enormous amount of stuff – could ever compare to the infinite gain which is experienced in knowing Christ.

Understanding this, he then describes what all of his “gain” actually means in relation to knowing Christ Jesus his Lord. He says he counts “them as rubbish.” The word is skýbalon. It is only found here in the Bible, and it is believed to be a combination of the word “dog” and the word “throw.” In other words, all of his gain is that which is only worth throwing to the dogs, such as filthy refuse, table scraps, and the like. It is good for nothing and it simply discarded. Considering that he has called the Judaizers of verse 2 “dogs,” he is indicating that their teachings and the things they boast in are just that, refuse.

Instead of being pleased with these things and trusting in them, he has cast them away so that he “may gain Christ.” The play on words seems evident. He says the loss that he suffered from his supposed “gains” is a gain in and of itself. The treasure and honor of knowing Christ is of infinite value because it stems from the infinite Creator. Nothing else could compare to this, and so any loss is – by default – gain.

Life application: We live in this world and we can and should enjoy what this world provides, but we should never allow those things to have us. Rather, we are to have them, but only with a loose grasp of them. When the time is right, Christ will come and those things which we now possess will seem as the most useless and unimportant things imaginable. Let us not hold fast to this world as we pass through it.

Lord God, we are surrounded by our possessions which we have accumulated throughout our lives. But in the end, they are just temporary things which will all be gone at some point. And not the finest thing we possess is even a close comparison to our having and knowing Christ Jesus. If everything we had was represented by a single drop of perfume, what good would it be in the largest, most magnificent perfume factory? We would not even notice what we had thought was so wonderful. Help us to delight in the surpassing greatness of Christ, and not be consumed by the transitory world in which we live. Amen.



Philippians 2:22

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel.  Philippians 2:22

Paul now issues a hearty commendation, and a heartfelt note of approval, upon his son in the faith. Still speaking of Timothy, he says, “But you know his proven character.” Those at Philippi were already aware of him and his faithfulness to the gospel message. The verse proves that Timothy did, in fact, travel with Paul to Philippi. While there, they saw his conduct, both towards the gospel itself, and towards Paul. Thus Paul says, “…that as a son with his father.”

This is the close relationship that he had with Timothy, one which permeates his writings. As noted above, he considered him a “true son in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2). The word he uses is an endearing one, teknon. It emphasizes a childlike (but not childish) approach towards his father, and especially towards his heavenly Father. For this reason, Paul then makes an apparent break in the sentence by saying, “he served with me in the gospel.”

First he equates him “as a son with his father.” Then he diminishes his own position and says that “he served with me.” The words for serve, douleuó, is a verb which indicates serving as a slave where all personal rights and possessions belong to the owner. Together, even in a father-son relationship, they were slaves as they worked for the gospel.

Paul’s words are truly of the heart, both for Timothy and with Timothy as they served under their true Master from heaven.

Life application: We can have a person we mentor who is wholly devoted to us, following our lead and carrying out our every direction, but that may not be glorifying of God. Unless the one we mentor is also serving the Lord with us, we have our priorities out of whack. We are not to be served, but to serve. Let us be careful to not assume that someone we are leading is serving us while we serve Christ. Rather, let us ensure that all are serving only the Lord.

Lord God, help each of us to direct those around us to You. This is especially so with those we may be tutoring or guiding along life’s path. We may be a spiritual parent to them, but that doesn’t mean they are to serve us so that we can serve You. Instead, we should make sure they serve along with us under You. In the end, we are Yours. Help us to be obedient to You in all ways, leading others to You alone. Amen.



Philippians 2:18

Saturday, 14 January 2017

For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me. Philippians 2:18

Paul had just said, “Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.”

Now, building upon that, he says, “For the same reason.” The “same reason” is being tied to his being poured out, or made a sacrifice as if a drink offering, which is based on the sacrifice and service of their faith. In that, he rejoiced. His death, if it was to come, would have meaning and purpose. Because of this, there was no need to be sad or mourn for  him. Rather, he tells them, “you also be glad and rejoice with me.”

The word translated here as “glad” is probably better translated as “joy.” He instructs them to have joy at such a prospect. The whole epistle stresses possessing this state of joy as more than some type of privilege, but even as a Christian obligation. We are to have joy in the accomplishment of the work of the Lord, even if it ends in a way which would otherwise seem heartbreaking to the world at large.

The words “rejoice with me” are correct, but they also carry the sense of “congratulate me.” He had run his race well and had not failed in his duties. And more than that, he had high expectations that his ministry would continue to be fruitful from their obedience to the Lord. With this, he noted that congratulations were due. It is reminiscent of the words he surely anticipated – “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’” Matthew 25:23

Life application: If you have stayed the course and faithfully heeded the word and lived your utmost to the Lord, you are to be congratulated for your efforts. There should be no sense of loss at the possibility of your demise. Instead, there should be joy in understanding that the Lord is pleased with the life you have lived.

Lord God, all people have an end, and none of us are exempt. We live as if we will go on and on, but each of us will eventually come to that end. What will be our thoughts on that day? “I wish I had made a bit more money.” “It would have been great to travel to one more country.” Is this what our lives are about? In another moment we will be standing before You. Will we then say any such thing, or will we realize how greatly we have wasted our one life? We will see that each moment not directed to You was one of futility. Help us to consider the eternal now, while we have the chance. Amen.


Philippians 1:1


Monday, 28 November 2016

Paul and Timothy, bondservants of Jesus Christ,
To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, with the bishops and deacons: Philippians 1:1

Welcome to the book of Philippians! It is comprised of 104 verses, or 51 verses shorter than the book of Ephesians. Therefore, it will take us (one day at a time, just as the sun rises) about three and one half months to analyze it. Please be blessed each day with wonderful insights into this beautiful epistle which comes from the mind of God and through the hand of Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Paul begins by greeting his audience on behalf of himself and Timothy. Timothy is jointly named here as he is in quite a few other letters. In fact, he is mentioned in this way along with Paul in every single epistle in which another name is given, with the exception of 1 Corinthians. There, only Sosthenes is mentioned. The naming of Timothy is for a couple of reasons. First, he was very well known to the saints at Philippi. Paul will be sending him there shortly as well. This is noted in Philippians 2:9. Although unstated, Timothy may have been Paul’s scribe in the writing of the letter. This is merely speculation though.

Together, they are listed as “bondservants of Jesus Christ.” Unlike all of his other letters except Philemon and 1 & 2 Thessalonians, he does not claim his official title of “Apostle” here. The churches of Philippi and Thessalonica were Macedonian churches. The leaving off of the title “Apostle” probably indicates a special intimacy between them. They knew his qualifications and there was no need to state them because of this deeply rooted fraternal bond. Instead, he says that he and Timothy are “bondservants of Jesus Christ.”

Though free men in the world, they were bound to their true Master. Paul felt that such a title to his close friends in Macedonia was right and appropriate to note. Another reason for not stating his title could be the personal nature of the letter itself. This is seen in the next words. They are directed “To all the saints.” The words “saints” here applies to any and all who have received Jesus Christ, believing in His work, and being saved by it. This is in complete contrast to the idea of “saints” which is found in the Roman Catholic Church. Their idea of being a “saint” has nothing to do with biblical reality.

For the true saint, it is those who are “in Christ Jesus.” All believers are saints. This means that they are set apart as holy and declared righteous before God the Father because of the work of Christ. It is to this group of people “who are in Philippi” that this letter is written. It is further noted to include “the bishops and deacons.” This doesn’t mean these categories are not saints. What it means is that all are saints, and these categories are specifically chosen for ministering within the body. Again, this is in complete contrast to the idea of “saints” as defined by the RCC.

The “bishops” are from the Greek word episkopos; literally “overseer.” In the letters of the apostles, it is a term which is synonymous with a presbyter or elder. The “deacons” are from the Greek word diakonos. It signifies a servant in his duties, coming from two words which indicate “through” and “dust.” It is a distinct class of officers who carry out duties assigned by those above them.

As a note to consider, the term “all,” as in “all the saints,” is used frequently in this letter, and so it may be that there was an underlying sense that some thought they were more or less favored than the others. There is a noted dissension between two ladies in Chapter 4, and so Paul may be carefully using the term to show that all are one in the Lord; saints saved by His work. It also may be that he is simply noting everyone as being on an equal footing, regardless of how much they individually contributed to his needs and the needs of the church.

Life application: If you have received Jesus Christ as your Savior, you are a saint of God and set apart as holy. Be sure to act as if this is so. Continue to pursue Him, reading His word and being formed more and more into His image each day. Let nothing hinder you from your steady walk in faith and holiness each and every day.

Lord God, You have called out people from every land, culture, race, and family to be a part of the church You are building. As believers in Christ, we are all saints, equally saved and equally loved by You. Help us to put aside the petty divisions which exist or arise, and to focus our eyes, our hearts, and our affections on You, and also to remain at peace with those who are in You. Guide us in this, and help us to be faithful followers of You. To Your glory we pray. Amen.