Farewell Discourse

Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only; for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid more than once when I was in need. Not that I desire your gifts; what I desire is that more be credited to your account. I have received full payment and have more than enough. I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Greet all God’s people in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me send greetings. All God’s people here send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen. Philippians 4:15-23

The Blessing In Giving To The Others

Paul begins the closing section of chapter 4, with a commendation to the Philippians for being the only church that supported him financially during his pioneering missionary efforts in Europe, as recorded in Acts 16 and following. “The Philippians were the only ones to support Paul during this particular period. Paul especially remembered how they supported him when he was in Thessalonica.” He recalls how the Thessalonians offered little to no support to him while laboring to plant a church in that city. While in Thessalonica, he was supported partly by working with his hands and by the Philippians' generosity. Though Paul was self-sufficient while laboring in Thessalonica, he cherished the gifts from the Philippians. That is the point he makes in verse 17. He admits that his gratitude for the Philippians' gifts was not on his own behalf, but in the fruit that abounds to their account. That is, their sacrificial gifts to Paul are credited to them as righteousness in God's sight. The text does not tell us the extent of the largess of the Philippians to Paul. We do know that Paul was overjoyed with their gifts because it represented their affection for him. It is clear to Paul that the giving of the Philippians was better for them as it was a true expression of agape love, which is central to the Christian message.

The idea of their giving ‘be credited to their account’ represent one of the biblical principles that it is more a blessing to give than to receive. In God’s kingdom economy, the giver is enriched by his or her generosity. God rewards those who are generous, and we can never out-give God. In verse 18, “Paul described the gift of the Philippians in terms that remind us of sacrifices in the Old Testament (Genesis 8:21, Exodus 29:18, 29:25, and 29:41).” Our giving to God’s work is similar to Old Testament sacrifices, which also cost the person bringing the sacrifice a lot. Bulls and rams did not come cheaply in that day. He says, “They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” Paul is intentional in using the Old Testament language of sacrificial offering. He uses the same terminology about Jesus’ sacrifice for humanity in Ephesians 5:2. This emphasizes the importance of the gifts to Paul and the theological significance of the Philippian church's example through their giving.

The Philippian church was not wealthy. Like the widow with the two mites (Luke 21:1-4), the Philippians did not give to Paul out of their abundance. Verse 19, suggests they gave despite their meager resources. Thus, their giving was as a sweet-smelling sacrifice to the Lord. Indeed, they willingly gave out of their own need, and they gave in response to their commitment to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul is confident that God will supply all their needs because of their faithfulness and generosity to others in need. Paul goes a step further to the prophecy that God will supply all their needs in a staggering and awe-inspiring matter: according to his riches in glory. Since God’s riches in glory is limitless in its breath, the Philippians can expect abundant blessings from the Lord. Paul concludes the letter with a doxology and an expression of a heartfelt communal greeting from believers in Rome to the Philippians. In verse 20, he emphasizes that God is to be glorified for everything in his life and the church of Jesus Christ. Even in his suffering and imprisonment, Paul wanted God to be glorified.

In verse 21, Paul shares the greetings of the saints who are with him in Rome with the Philippians. There was a growing Christian community in Rome, of which Paul was quite fond. Among that Roman Christian community were the functionaries, servants, and slaves of the Emperor’s household with whom Paul came in contact as a prisoner for several years. Some scholars suggest some imperial guards and possibly members of the royal family were Christians (v. 22). Verse 23, is a consistent language Paul uses throughout his letters (see Romans 16:20, 24; 1 Corinthians 16:23; 1 Thessalonians 3:18; Galatians 6:18). The language of grace is paramount to Paul in his discourse with believers (Jews and Gentiles). To Paul, the Christian life begins and ends with the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, so it was appropriate that his letters began and ended with grace.

Application

Despite the anguish of unjust imprisonment, Paul expresses a joyful optimism throughout the epistle of Philippians. The language Paul uses throughout Philippians is as unique and affable as his relationship with the Philippians. He thinks very highly of the brothers and sisters in Philippi and is very appreciative of their consistent support.

Even someone like Paul needed the encouragement and support of others. No one can make it through the Christian journey with the support and fellowship of other believers. There is no shame in receiving help from others in the body of Christ. Yet Paul makes it clear that he did not depend on the gifts of Philippians. He was confident that God would provide for all his needs and the Philippians' needs according to his riches in glory.

Though Paul suffered much, he maintained that God’s grace was lavished upon him even in prison. Thus, he lived with contentment despite his circumstance. He celebrates the gifts of the Philippians precisely because of the sacrificial nature of those gifts. Moreover, he was encouraged to experience the benevolence of the Philippians as a by-product of his efforts to spread the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We do not know how much the Philippians contributed to Paul. They indeed were consistent in their love and support of his ministry. Believers must support each other. That support can take on a variety of forms. Our benevolence to others is an investment in our heavenly account. Therefore, we should give cheerfully and not grudgingly.

Prayer

Blessed Lord, please soften our hearts so we can be liberal in sharing our gifts to one another.

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