BRIEF INTRO: At the beginning of this letter to the Philippians, the apostle had written about their “participation in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:5). He acknowledged that they consistently cared for, prayed for, and participated with him as much as they could over the years regarding the gospel ministry. In the verses that we will be looking at in this study, the apostle again picks up on that theme, if you will, and expresses his great joy at their “revived concern” for him.
I have broken down this section of our text into three parts: The value of giving, The importance of learning, and then conclude our study with the benediction. I will be looking at this section like a sandwich: The bread is about Christian giving from the top and bottom of verses 10-19. The filler will then be what we learn in verses 11-13. Let’s begin! Are you ready?
10 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 an opportunity to act.
14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my difficulty.
15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the [a]first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except 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 the [b]profit which increases to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am [c]amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus [d]what you have sent, [e]a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
FOCUS ONE: The value in Christian giving (4:10, 14-18)
Paul now reveals to these believers the great joy he experienced when their messenger, their “missionary” to him, arrived with all their varied gifts and supplies that Epaphroditus brought. This incredible act of benevolence towards him and subsequently to Christ (v.18) was a cause of joy to his soul.
He says that this was a “revived concern” for him. He means that those circumstances, perhaps many and varied, kept them from sharing with him what they wanted to for some time. Take notice that this lapse of support was not intentional on their part, rather than they “lacked opportunity.” Whatever hindered them from showing their concern for him has now apparently been removed, and with great joy in their hearts and renewed vigor, they send one of their own, one whom they love dearly, Epaphroditus, to minister to Paul. This is not a rebuke but a recognition of their faithful care and concern for him.
Paul reminds them of several things regarding their ministry to him: First, they were the only church that shared with him at the beginning of his preaching the gospel (v.15). Perhaps some were unable, maybe he was duly supplied and not in any immediate need, maybe some were able but didn’t meet his needs at times as 2 Corinthians 11:9 seems to suggest (The Macedonians referred to are the Philippians Acts 16:12)!
But these folks faithfully sent gifts towards the apostles’ needs (v.16). Their giving was abundant and well-pleasing to Paul and God, whom they ultimately serve (v.18). Please don’t be thinking that Paul was only in it for what he could get from these churches, not at all. He was a humble, faithful, selfless servant who thought MORE about the benefit their giving would be to them than he did of any help it would be to himself.
Paul was not looking for any more from them. He felt that he had received everything from them possible and was “made full,” or amply supplied (v.18). their generosity was above and beyond what he could have asked for, and he was delighted with their sacrificial giving as a church on his behalf as an Apostle of Jesus Christ.
“Paul looked beyond the most recent gift (vv. 10,14,18). He indicates that such gifts are spiritual investments that pay eternal dividends” (v.17). With much joy in his heart and thanksgiving on his lips, Paul encourages this church by telling them, “what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well- pleasing to God” (v.18).
Paul uses this type of OT phraseology elsewhere in His writings. In Ephesians 5:2, he used it in speaking of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We see this as well in Leviticus about an offering that pleased God. It seems that he wanted to express to them his great praise and acceptance of their gifts and sacrifices on his behalf. Our great God is ultimately the One who meets the needs of His children. He uses other people at times to be His hands and feet, but ultimately, He is “the giver of every good and perfect gift” (James 1:17). He is the One who provides for our needs “according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (James 1:19)! God indeed used this church to meet someone else’s needs, and He will do the same for them (v.19).
There is a wellspring of application here:
- Our hearts challenge us as it applies to our giving.
- Are we giving to “the cause of the gospel” as we should?
- Are we consistent at it?
- Are we sacrificially investing ourselves in those who sacrificially give of themselves in gospel work (missionaries)?
- Are we trusting God to supply all our needs as we give to other’s needs?
I admit that these questions challenge me; how about you? Perhaps we need to be in prayer over these things. Maybe it is time for “a revived concern” on our part. I will be praying with you.
We will continue with this study next week.