Summary: Paul addresses the contentment he finds in his spiritual blessings as opposed to materialism. This is a lesson of great importance to we who belong to a nation obsessed with material things.
We have been studying this letter written by the Apostle Paul to the congregation at Philippi. We find ourselves in the last chapter and, in the passage under consideration, we finally learn what led Paul to write this letter to begin with.
The Philippian brethren learned of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome. He was under house-arrest until he had the opportunity to appeal to Caesar the charges brought against him back in Jerusalem. Paul was waiting for his day in court and Caesar himself would be the judge.
The Philippian brethren probably understood that individuals under house-arrest were held financially responsible, to a great degree, for their own needs. In other words, even though he was a prisoner, Paul was responsible for paying room and board.
Its awfully hard to make a living when you are under house-arrest and chained to a Roman soldier 24/7. It is a little doubtful that Paul was still able to make tents to sell. So, Paul was having to depend upon the charity of others to have his basic needs met.
This is where the brethren in Philippi fit in. Hearing of the Apostle’s plight, they sent to Paul a financial gift. The money was delivered to Paul by one of the members of the Philippian congregation, Epaphroditus.
While visiting Paul, in Rome, Epaphroditus became very ill. Paul says, in 3:27, “For indeed he was sick to the point of death, but God had mercy on him.”
With Epaphroditus being well enough to travel again, Paul is sending Epaphroditus back to Philippi carrying this letter - 3:25-26, “But I thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus, my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messenger and minister to my need; because he was longing for you all and was distressed because you had heard that he was sick.”
Epaphroditus was homesick and Paul agreed that it was time for Epaphroditus to return to Philippi so that he might relieve the congregation’s concerns and that Paul might send this letter of instruction to the Philippians. But, this letter is not only a letter of instruction but also a letter of thanks to the Philippians for their concern and financial gift.
Philippians 4:10, 14-18, “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me;.….you have done well to share with me in my affliction. 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; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. 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.”
Let us note a few important points. In verse 18, Paul says that their financial gift of support was “an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.”
Paul is basically saying that their gift to him was also a gift to God. Anytime we financially support those who work in the Lord’s Vineyard in promoting the Gospel and enlarging the Kingdom, it is regarded by the Lord as an act of worship and service to Him. It is “well-pleasing to God.”
Secondly, every time we give to others, it is like making a deposit in our heavenly bank account. Each sacrificial act is, Paul says in Verse 17, “profit which increases to your account.” Come Judgment Day, we will be able to withdraw from that account and it will be our eternal reward. I think that is great incentive to make regular deposits each day of our lives into our personal heavenly bank account.
Thirdly, we should always remember that in giving of our resources and ourselves to others, we need never be concerned about our own needs going unmet. In verse 19, Paul makes this clear: “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
The city of Philippi was located in the Roman Province of Macedonia. Compared to other provinces, Macedonia was very poor economically and materially. The brethren in Philippi were not ‘well-to-do’ people. They were not materially comfortable or well-off. Yet, despite their own poverty, they were the most charitable and giving congregation in the Brotherhood at this time.
If you turn to 2 Corinthians 8:1-5, Paul uses the example of the generosity of the Macedonian brethren to shame the wealthy Corinthians into giving to the relief of drought-stricken Judean brethren: “Now, brethren, we wish to make known to you 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. For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability they gave of their own accord, begging us with much entreaty for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God.”