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 4:17

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. Philippians 4:17

Paul now speaks of “the gift” from the Philippians to him. He is being delicate in order to make it clear that he is not seeking anything more from them. There is no insinuation that he would do so. Rather, he says, “but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” Fruit in the Bible is that which results from something else. If something positive is done, then good fruit is the result. If something evil is done, then the result will be bad fruit.

Therefore, he is saying that he looks for them to have a positive result added to their account. If it be because of a gift to him, then that is a blessing indeed. He will expand on this in verse 19. His words show that it is as if there is an account set up from which the church draws blessings for their efforts. In the case of the gift to him, their account was growing. This is similar to the thought of Proverbs 19:17 –

“He who has pity on the poor lends to the Lord,
And He will pay back what he has given.”

Though a poor person cannot pay back a debt, it is considered as a payment to the Lord who can repay it, and He can do so with abundance added in. Such is the general idea of the words of Paul to the Philippians.

Life application: Jesus told Israel to “Give to everyone who asks of you.” The idea is that when someone is in need, we should not withhold our hand from helping them. He also tells us elsewhere to be wise and discerning. Therefore, His words are to be taken in the sense of true needs. Let us be willing to help those who are truly in need, not withholding what will help them out.

Lord God, help us to be faithful in taking care of the needs of others who are truly in need. And yet, help us to be wise and discerning in what is asked of us. There are many who would take advantage of our generosity, even though they are fully capable of taking care of their own needs. Often, it is hard for us to know the truth, so lead us to use what You have given us wisely, and in a way which will always glorify you. Amen.

Philippians 4:16

Saturday, 4 March 2017

For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. Philippians 4:16

Philippi was an extremely poor church as far as worldly wealth is concerned. On the other hand, Thessalonica was much richer. And yet, it was the Philippians who supported Paul while he was in Thessalonica. The Greek reads, “both once and twice” they sent aid to him. It is a way of saying that they helped him, and then sent more again later.

Paul even notes in both 1 & 2 Thessalonians that he worked with his own hands in order to support himself. This is something he could not have written to them unless it was true. Along with his own work, he received from Philippi, but not from the Thessalonians –

For you remember, brethren, our labor and toil; for laboring night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you, we preached to you the gospel of God.” 1 Thessalonians 2:9


“…nor did we eat anyone’s bread free of charge, but worked with labor and toil night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you,” 2 Thessalonians 3:8

What this verse then shows us is that those in Philippi helped him not only when he departed Macedonia (verse 15), but even while still in Macedonia and attending to a sister church. It may seem curious that he would accept help from one church that was so poor, and not from other churches which were wealthy, but Paul was teaching each a lesson. The poor were exalted through their giving, while the rich were humbled through his example of working with his own hands.

Neither was inappropriate, but perfect for the circumstances of the church. He wisely instructed others about how to conduct themselves in both spiritual matters, and in life’s daily matters which were connected to the spiritual.

Life application: Let us remember those who are in the field and in need, helping them with their necessities. Let us also tend to them with an additional blessing so that they can be filled.

Heavenly Father, thank You for the care You have for each of us. We may have abundant life, good things, blue skies, and the ability to work with our hands – each a blessing from You. Or, we may have trials and troubles and gray skies. And yet, these also are blessings from You. They show us that we are ultimately dependent on You for true fulfillment. Help us to realize that the low spots are just as important as the high mountain peaks. And give us the wisdom to thank You for both. Amen.

Philippians 4:15

Friday, 3 March 2017

Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. Philippians 4:15

Up to now, Paul has spoken of the church at Philippi as having shared in his time of distress, meaning the time he was writing. In this verse, he looks back over the past years and commends them for having done so previously as well. What is believed to be a full twelve years earlier, he says, “Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel…” The proper name “Philippians” is in the emphatic position here. He is highlighting what they have done.

The term Paul uses indicates the beginning of their hearing and receiving the gospel. The first time Paul came to preach it among them, and when they received his words, was the “beginning of the gospel” for them. It was during this period, and as he notes, “when I departed from Macedonia.” This is recorded in Acts 17.

When first in Philippi (Acts 16) he moved on to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1). From there he moved on again to Berea (Acts 17:10). Due to trouble there, he decided to leave Macedonia and head into Greece (Acts 17:14). It was probably at this time that he received assistance from them. Or, it could be shortly after in Acts 18:5 when Silas and Timothy met up with him in Corinth that they brought a gift from Philippi.

As he notes, “no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.” Those in Philippi heard of his fleeing from Macedonia, and they determined to not only pray for him, but to send along a gift to help with the expenses of his travels. This was obviously unsolicited, and he is reminding them of their generosity these many years later.

The idea of “giving and receiving” that he speaks of is a metaphor connected to a commercial transaction where one pays for something and there is then an exchange with the goods which were paid for. Charles Ellicott notes that they “‘…opened (so to speak) an account with me,’ not of debit and credit, but ‘of free giving and receiving.’” Paul was the recipient of their gracious giving. It would be like having a monthly charge taken out of one’s credit card to pay the expenses of a missionary.

Some even think of it as an allusion to 1 Corinthians 9:11 where the sowing of spiritual things by Paul would, in return, find them giving of their earthly wealth to support him. However, Paul never asked for this, and so it is an unlikely stretch of his words. He is simply grateful that someone saw fit to send him a gift as he continued to minister to others. They, a young and poor church, saw the need for Paul’s mission not only among them, but also among any to whom he would be led to.

Life application: How willing are we to give of our worldly possessions in order to ensure that the message of Christ Jesus will continue to be proclaimed. This includes both missionary work being funded in order for the word to go out for the first time, and also for the maintenance of the church where the word is explained and fellowship is found. The amount you give may be directly connected to the value your heart places on the message which is being conveyed.

Heavenly Father, how grateful we are for those who are in the ministry and tending to the needs of others. Missionaries go out to proclaim Your word, there are churches which faithfully explain Your word, and there are scholars and translators who carefully maintain Your word. Each has his place, and each is a necessary part of Your body. Help us to be faithful in tending to the needs of those who do these things – to Your glory. Amen.

Philippians 4:14

Thursday, 2 March 2017

Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. Philippians 4:14

The words of the previous verses spoke of Paul’s ability to be content in any and every situation without the need of external help. His reliance was on the Lord, and he therefore was satisfied in whatever state he was in. However, this was not intended to mean that he was not grateful for the gift which was sent to him.

It is for this reason that he states what he does now. “Nevertheless” is given to show that despite his ability to handle any situation, no matter how negative, it didn’t mean that he wanted to have such situations. Nor did it mean that a helping hand in one of them was unappreciated. Because of their help, he says, “you have done well.” It was no small thing to him that they had tended to his needs. Rather, it was of great blessing to him. This then goes back to his words of verse 1:7 –

“…just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.” Philippians 1:7

Their gift made them partakers with him in the grace of defending and confirming the gospel. Though he was the one in chains, they “shared in” his distress. Together, they were workers for Christ. Each had their assigned role, and their help was a part of the process. As he noted, he could have done without the gift, but because of it they were a help to him, and it was also a proof of their love for him.

In Acts 20, he had told the Ephesian church the words of the Lord, that “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (20:35). Without saying that to the church at Philippi directly, he still conveys the thought. They are the more blessed because they have given. He is the recipient of their gift, and he is also blessed because of it.

Life application: Do you help support any missionaries? They may have struggles that we don’t even know about, and yet they continue to do their jobs. Most are entirely dependent on funding from others. In sending something to them, you will certainly be blessed. And they will be blessed as well. Be sure to remember to send something along to them so that they know they are not out in the world all alone.

Lord God, Your word tells us that it is more blessed to give than to receive. There are many needs out there that we can help with and thus obtain such a blessing. Help us to remember our missionaries, the ministries which tend to others, and friends who are in need. And then prompt us on to giving for those needs. Help us to not withhold a blessing from them and thus deprive ourselves of an even greater blessing. Amen.