(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font.)
Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 26, 2004
Rejoicing in Glorifying God
Introduction & Review
This morning we come not only to the last Lord’s day in 2004, but also to the
conclusion of our study of Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. It has been a
wonderful study for me in prodding me to have a more godly outlook and response
to the things that go on in life. I hope it has done the same for you in helping
and prodding all of us to be able to rejoice in all circumstances.
We have been concentrating for the last month on Philippians 4:9-13 and what
Paul learned about being content in all circumstances. While the world defines
contentment as the state of being "satisfied or not-displeased," that definition
will not cover what Paul learned. He says in verses 9 & 10 that he learned "how
to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in
any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going
hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need." Paul’s
definition of contentment is the ability to be self-sufficient and not need
something from the outside because 4:13 is true.
"I can do all things through Him who strengthens me."
Jesus Christ is sufficient.
As Christians we can live our lives in such a way that regardless of
circumstances we can fulfill the purpose of our existence which is bringing
glory to God. God has made His power available to us so that we can do what
honor Him in any situation. Your life is no longer to be controlled by what
happens around you, but rather by the Holy Spirit within you. You may not like
what is happening. You might prefer something else. Your emotions might even be
extremely strong, but you are no longer to be like a thermometer fluctuating
with the changing temperature in sinful response. Instead you are to be a
thermostat that affects your environment with your demonstration of a Christ
like character in all situations. The last few weeks we have concentrated
on the practical aspects of living in contentment in all circumstances by
looking at specific situations people face and thinking through the issues to
come to a godly response. Recall the four questions to ask as you face a
situation. 1) Who is God? Remind yourself of the nature and character of God. 2)
What has God done? This regards not only what He has done in the past for other
people, but also what you have seen Him do in your own life. 3) What Biblical
principles apply? What Biblical commands, principles and precepts can be applied
to the situation you are facing. 4) How can I obey? What specific actions do you
need to take to be obedient to God in the situation.
I have had several people tell me in the last couple of weeks that they have
that thought of those questions when they faced some difficult circumstances and
that it helped them. I have also done the same. I hope they have been helpful to
you as well.
Turn again to Philippians 4:10. We are going to read through this passage
once again so that we can look at Paul’s response to the gift the Philippians
had sent him, and then conclude our study by looking at Paul’s final remarks in
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your
concern for me; indeed, you were concerned [before,] but you lacked opportunity.
11 Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever
circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also
know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the
secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering
need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless,
you have done well to share [with me] in my affliction. 15 And you yourselves
also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I
departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and
receiving but you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent [a gift] more than
once for my needs. 17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit
which increases to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full, and
have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what
you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.
19 And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in
Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen
Paul’s discussion of learning to be content in all circumstances in no way
was meant to lessen his gratitude for what they had done for him both in the
present and in the path. However, the reason for his gratefulness was changed
because he had learned to be content.
When you perceive your world in terms of what you need, when that need is
met, you are grateful for the need being met. Some of you had that experience
yesterday. There were things you thought you really needed, and when you
received it you were very grateful for the gift. Your major focus was on the
When you perceive your world in terms of having your needs met in Christ,
then there is not a quest for any particular item. When you are given a gift,
you are grateful, not for the gift itself so much as the one who has given it to
you. Your focus becomes more on people than on things. Some of you had that
experience yesterday. You were not looking to get anything and there was not
anything you really needed, but when you did receive a gift, you were grateful
to the one that was thoughtful toward you. Your focus was on the one who
gave the gift.
One of the ways you can tell which is the way you are perceiving your world
is in how you express yourself in telling others about what happened yesterday.
Is your story full of listing all the things you received, or do you list all
the people who gave you particular gifts? Paul’s focus is the latter. He is
grateful for the Philippians themselves more than the gift itself. The gift to
him is simply an extension of the Philippians love, care and co-laboring with
him in ministry. They are the hands God has used in meeting his needs.
Notice the focus of each verse in this passage as Paul expresses his
gratitude to the Philippians.
In verse 10, Paul’s great rejoicing in the Lord is in the Philippians concern
for him. The gift is simply the tangible expression of that concern. He
acknowledges that they had that concern all along, but just did not have
opportunity to express it.
In verses 11-13, Paul explains that his gratitude is not according to some
need he had, for he had learned how to be content whatever his circumstances.
In verse 14, Paul commends them for sharing in his affliction. Notice again
how the focus is on his relationship with them. He does not say that they are
alleviating his affliction, though certainly their gift was helpful. Paul’s
perception is that through their gift they were taking part in what he is going
through. They are sharing in it with him. They are in partnership together.
There is another element in this that make their sharing in Paul’s affliction
more than just theoretical or emotional. 2 Corinthians 8:1,2 indicates that
"the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, that in a
great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty
overflowed in the wealth of their liberality." They were suffering their own
afflictions, yet their desire was to share what they had with Paul.
This was not the first time they had helped Paul out, as verses 15 and 16
tells us. From the time that Paul had started the church in Philippi, the
Christians there would contribute to help Paul in his ministry in other
churches. They did this at great sacrifice to themselves, for as already noted
from 2 Corinthians 8:2, they were poor. 2 Corinthians 8:3-5 adds that they gave
"according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own
accord." Paul says they actually went so far as "begging us with much
entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints" (vs.
4). This was beyond Paul’s expectation, but they did so because they first gave
themselves to the Lord and then to them by the will of God (vs. 5).
The Philippians are a good model for all of us to follow. They did not give
because it was convenient. They did not give out of their excess funds or
spendable income. They gave sacrificially without expectation of reciprocation
for neither Paul nor the poor in Jerusalem would be able to do so except in
thanksgiving and prayers on their behalf. Too often we American Christians tend
to give out of our abundance as it is convenient. Too often there is also an
expectation to get something back as well whether it is having your name
embossed on something so others will know of your gift, or getting some kind of
gift back in return.
The Philippians gave because of their love of God and desire to be partners
in Paul’s ministry which in this case included his affliction. They did not give
to get, but they gave as an offering. Certainly they trusted God to meet their
needs according to His promises, as we shall see in a few minutes, but they did
not have any expectation of materially prospering because of their giving. That
idea comes from those who advocate the health, wealth, prosperity gospel, a
teaching which has severe conflicts with Biblical doctrine and example. Paul’s
own example in this passage is against that teaching.
Notice in verse 17 that Paul very specifically states that he did not seek
the gift itself. Paul was not after what other people might give to him. He had
learned to be content and gratefully received whatever was given to him with his
focus being on those who were giving, and not the gift itself. Paul was much
more excited about what the gift said about the godliness of the Philippians
than the gift itself. The KJV translates this well stating, "Not because I
desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account." The
word, "profit," used in the NASB or "credit" in the NIV are acceptable
translations of karpovn / karpon (fruit) they
can give wrong connotation that Paul was expecting them to receive increased
material blessings because of their generosity to him. The phrase "to your
account" (eiV logon umwn / eis logon umÃ Ân)
would be translated in a more wooden, direct manner as "into word / speech of
you." There would be increased praise given for their godliness.
This is consistent with Paul’s expressed desire for all that he worked with
that they would always be increasing in godliness. He expressed that at the
beginning of this letter in 1:9-11 saying, "And this I pray, that your love
may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that
you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and
blameless until the day of Christ; 11 having been filled with the fruit of
righteousness which [comes] through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of
God." Their gift to Paul came because of the fruit of righteousness in them.
What practical evidence is there of the fruit of righteousness in your own life?
In verse 18 Paul assures them that not only has he received from Epaphroditus
what they had sent, but that it was more than enough and was an offering to God.
He makes both of these points with three statements each.
He had "received everything in full." This phrase was common in
commercial transactions to communicate that full payment had been made. Paul had
received "an abundance" from them. The word here,
perisseuw / perisseuÃ Â,
means to "abound, overflow; excel, exceed; have plenty, have more than
enough." Paul also said that he was "amply supplied," (plhrow
/ plaroÃ Â), meaning "filled to the
full." What they gave was lacking in nothing. It was not only a full payment,
but it was up to the top and then overflowing. Paul was overwhelmed by their
gracious gift. But again we find that Paul quickly moves to something more
important. It was worship of God.
Paul said their gift was a "fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice,
well-pleasing to God." This is the language of worship in the Old Testament
in which the sacrifice would be brought to the altar, killed and then burned
with the smoke rising as a "soothing aroma" to the Lord (Leviticus 1-8). The
sacrifice had to be done correctly with a correct spirit and heart for it to be
acceptable to God. Paul uses this same language of sacrifice in Ephesians 5:2 to
describe a proper walk in Christian love as such an offering of worship. He
says, "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2 and walk in
love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and
a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma."
The gift that they gave Paul was not only the practical outworking of the
fruit of righteous in their desire to share in Paul’s ministry and affliction,
but it was also an act of worship to God. The same is true of us when we follow
their example of love, for love always has a practical response for the good of
1 John 3:16-18 puts it this way. "We know love by this, that He laid down
His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But
whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his
heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him? 18 Little children,
let us not love with word or with tongue, but in deed and truth." That is
what the Philippians did and why they did it. We need to do the same.
In verse 19 we find the comfort we need to step out in such faith and give in
such a sacrificial manner. It is normal for people to want to hold on to what
they have in their hands lest they find themselves without the resources they
think they need in order to get along in life. Remember that the Philippians
gave out of their poverty, not their wealth, and the reason that they could do
so is because they trusted God to provide for their needs even as He was using
them to minister to Paul. That is one of the key issues in giving.
The first key issue in giving is overcoming greed. Greed is the desire to
acquire and accumulate regardless of need either real or perceived. Greedy
people are never generous people because of their selfish desire to possess
instead of share. Such people need a change of heart that only God can bring.
Greed is equated with idolatry in Colossians 3:5, and it, along with immorality,
impurity, passion, and evil desire are things the believer is to mortify, or
consider as dead to us. They are not to even be named among us (Eph. 5:3), for
it is one of the many evils that are evidence of a depraved mind (Rom. 1:29).
However, it, like any other sin can be forgiven in Jesus Christ and Jesus will
change that individual into someone that is godly and therefore generous.
The second issue in giving is overcoming fear. We hold onto what we have
because we are afraid if we give it away then we will lack something we think we
need. The Christian overcomes this fear by having trust in God that He will keep
His promises to provide for us. Jesus addressed this issue in the Sermon on the
Mount and told us, His followers, not to be anxious for our lives as to what we
should eat, or drink, our bodies or what we should wear. Instead, we are to
"seek first the His kingdom and His righteousness; and all these things shall be
added to you." As we put God first in our lives, we can trust Him to provide
for the needs that we have. Paul says the same thing here.
The Philippians had been more than generous to him, and so he reminds them
that "God would supply all of their needs according to His riches in glory in
Christ Jesus." How much are the riches in glory in Christ Jesus? Infinite,
so there will never be a lack on God’s part. But note as well that Paul made
this more personal and called them to follow his own example by saying "my
God" shall do all these things. The same God that Paul had learned to trust
so that he could be content in all circumstances would enable them, and us, to
do the same. Are you learning to trust God in that manner? Again, if you
remember that the Philippians were poor and that they gave beyond their means,
it meant they had to sacrifice something of real need in order to give. It may
have meant that they had to give up what was needed to eat that day, or perhaps
that week or more, but they did so because they believed that God would also
meet their needs. You can only give in this manner if you are willing to give
what you have in your hand to someone else who has that need while trusting that
God will in turn meet your need and fill your hand again. That is why their
giving was also an act of worship, for it exhibited their faith in Him and that
brings Him glory.
But take careful note that in all of these passages what God is going to
provide is what you need and not what you selfishly desire. God will meet your
needs with abundance, but not for the purpose of feeding your lusts. The health,
wealth, prosperity gospel by plays to the natural greed of people, but God does
Now God is generous Himself and wants us to reflect that in our own lives, so
He will abundantly meet our needs so that we can be. Consider the following
passages about our being generous. Luke 6:38, Jesus said, "Give, and it will
be given to you; good measure, pressed down , shaken together, running over,
they will pour into your lap. For by your standard of measure it will be
measured to you in return." Prov. 3:9,10, "Honor the Lord from your
wealth, And from the first of all your produce; So your barns will be filled
with plenty, And your vats will overflow with new wine." Prov. 19:17, "He
who is gracious to a poor man lends to the Lord, And He will repay him for his
good deed." 2 Cor. 9:6-8 makes it clear that God gives to us so that we can
give to others."Now this [I say,] he who sows sparingly shall also reap
sparingly; and he who sows bountifully shall also reap bountifully. 7 Let each
one [do] just as he has purposed in his heart; not grudgingly or under
compulsion; for God loves a cheerful giver. 8 And God is able to make all grace
abound to you, that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have
an abundance for every good deed." God gives to you so that you can give
to others. That is also one of the reasons He desires us to work (Eph. 4:28), so
that we can share with those that have need.
James 4:2-4 makes it clear that we cannot give in order to selfishly gain for
our selves. It makes the sobering statement, "You do not have because you do
not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so
that you may spend [it] on your pleasures. 4 You adulteresses, do you not know
that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes
to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." Keep in mind as
well that prosperity is not a sign of God’s blessing. There have always been
plenty of poor Christians, and there have also been plenty of wicked people that
are wealthy (Psalm 73).
God will meet your needs if you put His kingdom and righteousness first, and
out of what He provides you, He desires you to meet the needs of others, while
trusting Him to continue to meet your own needs. What are your real needs? 1
Timothy 6:4 tells us that "if we have food and covering, with these we shall
be content." (That same passage goes on to say that "the love of money is
a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from
the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang." That is one of the
great dangers of the health, wealth, prosperity teaching).
In view of God’s marvelous provision Paul ends this passage with praise to
God saying, "now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen."
Paul refers to God with both the general term of who He is, God, but also with
the personal term of relationship that every Christian has with Him – Father. He
has adopted us as His children. Our God is worthy of all glory forever because
of His very nature and character. (Starting next week I will begin a series of
topical messages on the nature and character of God.)
Paul concludes in verses 21-23 with a salutation of three greetings and then
his wishes for them. The greetings are an expression of the love that was
between them. We do the same when we exchange "greeting" cards (whether physical
or electronic). We are expressing out care for others.
In verse 21 Paul first expresses his own greetings asking that the saints in
Philippi be greeted on his behalf. It is worth noting that Paul uses the term
"every" instead of "all" in asking this task to be done. The term "every"
expresses the importance of the individual relationships that he had with them
rather than just the collective one.
Next, Paul extends the greeting of those brethren that were with him. These
were his co-workers that were working with him much like Epaphroditus. It
certainly included Timothy, who is included in the opening salutation, and Luke
who accompanied Paul on his journey to Rome and stayed with him at least two
years (Acts 28; Col 4:14). Since Ephesians and Colossians were written at the
same period as Philippians, then also present were Tychicus, who carried news of
Paul and his letters to both the Ephesians and the Colossians (Eph. 6:21; Col.
4:7) along with Onesimus (Col. 4:9). Also listed in Colossians by name are
Aristarchus, a fellow prisoner; Barnabas’ cousin, Mark; Jesus who is called
Justus; along with Epaphras., Luke and Demas (Col. 4:10-14). Paul was
imprisoned, but through these men his ministry spread throughout Rome and back
to the places he had previously planted churches. Each of them is referred to
here by the familial term, brethren, because that is what we are as Christians.
Brothers and sisters with one another because each of us has been adopted by God
into His family.
Paul’s final greeting is from "all the saints, especially those of
Caesar’s household." Those of Caesar’s household would have included not
just family members, but all those that made Caesar’s household function
including slaves and freemen. Recall that Paul reported in 1:12-14 that his
imprisonment had "turned out for the greater progress of the gospel"
because through it Christ had "become well known throughout the whole
praetorian guard and to everyone else." The praetorian guards were Caesar’s
personal guard, and through them many in Caesar’s household were brought to
In this passage Paul refers to each of these believers as well as those in
Philippi as "saints." We talked about the importance of this word when we began
our study of this book, but just by way of quick reminder, all true Christians
are saints. While Roman Catholicism has elevated that term to refer to only
certain individuals that have been canonized by them, the Biblical term is
applied to every believer. A "saint" is someone who is "separated" or
"sanctified" unto God. Every true Christian is set apart to God. We are
sanctified, made righteous, by God’s grace when we place our faith in Jesus
Christ, and He continues to work in our lives to make us holy and conform us to
the image of His son (Rom. 6, 8). Are you a sinner who has been made a saint, or
a sinner who is still under God’s condemnation? If the latter, you don’t have to
remain that way. You too can be a saint through faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul concludes in verse 23 with his wish for them. "The grace of the Lord
Jesus Christ be with your spirit." It is by God’s grace we are saved (Eph.
2:8), and it is in His grace we are to walk. I like what MacArthur wrote
concerning this, "Believers are not only saved by grace, but also sustained
by grace. They are governed by grace guided by grace, kept by grace,
strengthened by grace, sanctified by grace and enabled by grace. They are
constantly dependent on the forgiveness, comfort, peace, joy, boldness, and
instruction that comes through God’s grace."
Though we deserve nothing, God extends His loving care upon us. His grace
comes to us through Jesus Christ, and because of that grace, we find unity with
one another and can rejoice in all circumstances. That is the theme of
Philippians, and so it is an appropriate conclusion. May the grace of the Lord
Jesus Christ be with your spirit, so that you may also live with the same
mindset as Paul, and in the same manner as he called to Philippians to live.
Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives.
Here is some help.
Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the
sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children –
Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the
sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times "gift," "give" or
"giving" "is mentioned in the sermon. Talk with your parents about who God is
and what He has done. What difference does that make in your own life.
THINK ABOUT IT!
Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.
Define "contentment" according to Phillippians 4:11-13. How could you be
content in all circumstances? Use the four general questions to find solutions
to a particular situation you are current facing? Share your solution with
someone else. How did Paul respond to the gift from the Philippians? How do you
respond to gifts given to you? How had the Philippians helped out Paul in the
past? What do we know of the condition of the Philippians from 2 Corinthians 8?
How does this magnify what they did for Paul? What does it mean that they shared
in Paul’s affliction (Vs. 14)? What is your own condition? How does that effect
your giving? What did Paul value more than the gift received? What do you value?
While Paul received more than enough from them, what did he also say their gift
was in verse 18? What is the demonstration of love for God (1 John 3:16-18).
What are the two key issues in giving? What does the Bible say about greed? How
can it be overcome? What are God’s promises concerning His providing for you?
List verses. What conditions are placed on those promises? Are you meeting those
conditions? Can you trust God to keep His promises? How will that effect your
giving? What is the major error in the health, wealth, prosperity gospel? Who
are the saints? Are you one?
Sermon Notes – December 26, 2004
Rejoicing in Glorifying God
God’s Provision – Verse 19