Summary: For two years, the church in Philippi had lost touch with Paul. They did not know where he was after he had been arrested in Jerusalem and then put in prison for two years. The next time they heard about him, he had been transferred to a prison in Rome.
The Philippian Letter
Page | 183
Title: Paul rejoiced when they were able to care for him again (Phl. 4:10)
"Special Notes" and "Scripture" are shown as endnotes.
NIV Bible is used throughout unless noted otherwise.
Scripture: (Philippians 4:10, NIV)
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last, you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.
For two years, the church in Philippi had lost touch with Paul. They did not know where he was after he had been arrested in Jerusalem and then put in prison for two years. The next time they heard about him, he had been transferred to a prison in Rome. They apologized to him for not having contact with him and for not communicating their gifts to him during those years. Paul rejoices to see their growth in the Lord, to the point of focusing their thinking away from themselves?and in this case, upon Paul's needs. He notes their progress but is also aware of their lack of opportunity to express it.
Paul is excusing them most graciously. He says, "I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now, at last, your care of me has flourished again; wherein you were also careful, but you lacked opportunity." In other words, you had lost contact with me so that you didn't have the opportunity to be helpful to me." How gracious Paul was.
[Phil. 4:10] I rejoiced greatly in the Lord [=in union with Christ or Yahweh] that, at last, you renewed your concern for me. [To continuously have my concerns intently in mind; to consistently take thought on my behalf.] Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it [you were continually concerned about me, but you kept on lacking opportunity].
Paul voices his joy over the Philippians' recent contribution to him. This is probably not his first note of thanks to them, for a considerable time had elapsed since Epaphroditis2 had brought the gift, and several contacts with the church at Philippi had already been made. Furthermore, it is doubtful that his expression of gratitude would have been left to the end of the letter. Paul retained a vivid memory of their generous act. "At last" should not be regarded as a criticism, but merely as showing that communication had again occurred after a period of no contact. [The usage is similar to that in Rom. 1:10] Paul makes it clear that the fault was not theirs but came from a lack of opportunity. Perhaps no messenger had been available. Besides, the apostle's circumstances had been highly irregular in recent years, in part, at least, because of imprisonment and shipwreck. Now the demonstration of concern had bloomed again, like plants in the spring.
The apostle showed an exuberant expression of joy that the Philippians have once again demonstrated their concern for him. The Philippians had generously supplemented the income Paul earned in the workshop during his attempts to establish other churches both in Macedonia (4:15-164) and Achaia [2 Cor. 11:7-9].1 It was in this area that the Philippian church had been a special blessing to Paul, having ministered to his physical needs through their gifts and having facilitated his fellowship with them through their messenger, Epaphroditus. This had brought Joy to the apostle, and it gives him an occasion to comment on the Christian's attitude toward circumstances.
The Word of God teaches the providential workings of God in nature and the lives of His people. God's providence means that God sees to it beforehand. It does not mean that God knows beforehand because providence involves much more. It is the working of God in advance to arrange circumstances and situations for the fulfillment of His purposes.
Paul experienced this divine providence in his life and ministry, and he was able to write, "And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them that are the called according to His purpose" [Rom. 8:283]. God in His providence had caused the church at Philippi to become concerned about Paul's needs, and it came at the very time Paul needed their love most! They were concerned, but they had lacked the opportunity to help. Many Christians today have opportunities, but they lack concern.
Life is not a series of accidents; it is a series of appointments. "I will guide thee with Mine eye" [Ps. 32:8]. Abraham called God Jehovah-Jireh, meaning "the Lord will see to it" [Gen. 22:14]. "And when He putteth forth His own sheep, He goeth before them" [John 10:4]. This is the providence of God, a wonderful source of contentment.
Scripture and Special Notes
This statement assumes that "the brothers that came from Macedonia" in 2 Cor. 11:9 included Philippians. However, the mention of churches who supported Paul in 2 Cor. 11:8, may mean that other churches in Macedonia, such as the Thessalonian and Berean churches, sent Paul support also. Perhaps because of their poverty [2 Cor. 8:1-2], however, they had not been able to help Paul in this way recently. Thus Paul rejoices "greatly" that the opportunity to show their concern had returned.