Grace Bible Church
Rejoicing in Glorifying God – Philippians 4:14-23
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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 verse 21-23.
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 gift received.
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 umōn) 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 / perisseuō, means to “abound, overflow; excel, exceed; have plenty, have more than enough.” Paul also said that he was “amply supplied,” (plhrow / plaroō), 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 others.
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 not.
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 Christ.
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.
Sermon Study Sheets
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
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