As Paul closes out this letter this letter, he is closing as a good friend and pastor would. You make me happy. Thank you. Keep looking to Jesus for contentment. Keep being generous, for it is a sure sign of the gospel at work within you to the watching world. And when times are tough and provisions are slim, remember that God will provide all you need….and then the benediction.
Paul’s a good leader. He’s a faithful under-shepherd of the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the head pastor/shepherd of His Church. Let’s close this series by taking a deeper look at the six sub-topics that Paul intentionally tacks on to the end of his letter to the Philippian church; joy, contentment, confidence, generosity, provision and grace.
Joy: 10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.
The theme of joy is weaved throughout the entire letter as Paul uses the word chaírō in different forms. Let’s take a look at them:
3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. (1:3-5)
17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice (1:17-18)
Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith (1:25)
complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind (2:2)
17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me (2:17-18)
In regards to Epap being sent back to the Philippians Paul says: 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men (2:28-29)
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord (3:1)
Therefore, my brothers, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved (4:1)
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice (4:4)
Joy repeatedly bursts forth from the apostle’s heart. But now Paul expresses the intensity of his joy: the adverb “greatly” in v. 10 is used only here in the NT, and it serves to strengthen the verb “rejoiced” to the point that Paul’s joy surpasses the joy of his friends.
In the context of this paragraph, the past tense “rejoiced”, seems to reference the gift that the Philippian church brought to Paul while he was in prison (4:18). The gift that he received made him “happy” it seems. But notice what Paul says he “rejoiced in”: it was not the gift that Paul rejoiced in, rather it was the Lord who is the Giver of all good gifts.
Paul is always aware of the Lord’s faithfulness. Good gifts never distract Paul from the central focus of the gospel: God, the ultimate Provider of all good gifts, namely, Jesus! I believe this is why he moves right into him being content and how he has learned contentment.
Contentment: 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.
When Paul uses the word “autarkeia” (contentment; autós: self and arkéō, to be sufficient) it was meant to shock the Philippians’ and to get their attention because the word he used came straight from pagan Stoic philosophy.
The Stoics viewed contentment as the fundamental quality of all virtues. To a Stoic, contentment described the mind-set of the person who had become self-sufficent, not needing anything or anyone. Their mantra was, “man should be sufficient unto himself for all things, and able, by the power of his will, to resist the force of circumstances.”
Seneca, a well-known Stoic, put it this way: “the happy man is content with his present lot, no matter what it is, and is reconciled to his circumstances.” So the picture we get is some kind of a superman who could rise above any circumstance on his own and attain euphoria through contentment.
But like the word “gospel”, which was a secular Greek term, Paul redeems the word “contentment” and brings it into a proper understanding for the Philippians.
Because Jesus is the source of contentment, Paul knows how to share in his sufferings (I know how to be brought low), and Paul knows how to share in his glory without boasting in himself (I know how to have plenty). Paul learned (key word here) how to be content through not only intellectually learning the gospel, but through living it out day in and day out (1 Cor. 4:11-13; 2 Cor. 4:8-12; 6:4-5; 11:24-27; 12:9-10). This is called maturity through obedience (sanctification).
Contentment is a secret that only those on the inside know about. It is not until you enter into the satisfaction of the Giver, that you can know about this secret.
Most people search for happiness, and they never get it. You never find happiness when you search for it. It isn’t until you encounter and trust in the Giver, that you can be confident in your happiness, or contentment. This leads us straight into v. 13.
Confidence: 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
This has to be one of the most quoted verse in the Bible. It is pasted on posters, t-shirts, bumper stickers, slogans in the weight room or locker rooms. “I can kick your butt in cage fighting because of Jesus!” And when it doesn’t happen, we wonder if this passage is even true. We wonder because this verse is mostly used out of context.
We have turned this into an individualized passage that gives us confidence that God wants us to do anything our heart desires because He strengthens us. And because of this verse, well meaning Christian parents who are both no taller than 5’4” and together weigh less than 250 lbs, ignorantly tell their son who wants to be an NFL football player that “he can do all things through Christ!” Poor child’s dreams are gonna be shattered.
Let’s quickly bring this passage to it’s proper meaning and then move on to Paul’s next point: “As with every other line of Scripture, the assertion ‘I can do all things’ is controlled by the context. Thus what Paul says is that in whatever circumstances I find myself, in whatever extremes — whether experiencing abundance with the wealthy or fellowshipping with the poor or struggling to proclaim the gospel to people who don’t want to hear or enduring the wrath of the establishment or bringing peace to the church or languishing in prison — I can be content and ‘can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ Paul is confident that he will be divinely strengthened to do anything and everything that God calls him to do. Not only could Paul be content and confident in every circumstance, he could also be sure that he would be equipped with divine power to deal with it.” 1 And if we’re content “with” and “in” the Lord, we hold very loosely to possessions.
Generosity: 14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
In this passage, we see the thread of “partnership” (v. 14: share “sunkoinōnéō”; sún, with, and koinōnéō, to partake. To participate in something with someone) that came through being generous in all areas of life (sacrificial giving).
Do you remember when Paul began his letter? He began with this: “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:3-5). Then, 2 verses later: 1:7: “for you are all partakers with me of grace.”
Paul uses that word 6 times in this letter, and the last place we see it is right here as he is closing. This serves as somewhat of an inclusio (a literary device that creates a frame around a unit by placing similar material at the beginning and at the end) just like the language of joy and rejoicing serves as an inclusio as well. Paul begins with these words, carries them throughout the letter and closes with them as well. He is driving home some very important themes to us in this letter.
And in this passage, Paul wanted his readers to know that “giving to support his ministry was taking up fellowship with him as a partner in his present tribulations. Though the Philippians were not in prison with Paul, they participated in his afflictions by their sympathy and [financial] sacrifice.” 2 No other church did this but Philippi (15b-17).
Then in verse 17, Paul says that your financial generosity and partnership has been more of a credit to you than to me. It has served as your spiritual growth and a sign of your faith in God. And this is where we all go: “Now you are going too far. You’re saying our giving is part of our spiritual growth? Okay, maybe, but it definitely can’t be a sign of our faith in God! You’re getting to be like all the money hungry pastors who just wants to make a good living by guilting people into giving!”
Turn with me to Luke 19:6, 8-10 and let me show you something that Jesus teaches us:
6 So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully… 8 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord (and here’s the key of the whole verse), “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9 And Jesus said to him (now Jesus interprets to us and to Zach what just happened), “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. 10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
The generosity that welled up in Zach’s heart was a sign (but it isn’t always a sign just like a profession of faith isn’t always a sign that one is truly saved) of his heart being regenerated and maturity taking place (spiritual growth).
If we were to look at the kind of fellowship Paul spoke of and the context that the fellowship in this letter involves, here’s what you get, and it ain’t no venti caramel frappachino and apple fritter kind of fellowship: 1) participation in the great task of getting the gospel out; 2) the grace of participation in others’ suffering for the sake of the gospel; 3) participation in the Holy Spirit, through whom we are all baptized into one body; 4) the longing to participate in the sufferings of Christ; and 5) participation in the spread of the gospel through the generous giving of material resources.3
Giving sacrificially is a sign of partnering in the gospel. But when you add financial sacrificial giving, you are now attaching a string to our heart because we love money. You need money to live. You must eat, have a place to live, buy clothes to wear so you don’t embarrass yourself or others.
And we all struggle with the love (or finding comfort from) money. When we can freely give to God’s kingdom sacrificially, it is a sure sign that we are growing in the knowledge and grace of our Lord Jesus and His kingdom. When we get there, this next verse becomes real to us and we believe it.
The kind of fellowship Jesus is after involves the generous sharing of our material substance for the proclamation and display of the gospel.
Provision: 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
He’ll Take Care of the Rest. God loves you and will take care of you. You help him in taking care of His business, and He’ll take care of your business. Do you believe it? We have had this 12 week series to challenge us and move us to be a people who believe Jesus is who He says He is, and you really are who He says you are in Him.
This belief in the gospel is what produces, joyful, sacrificial, partnership with God and people which leads to satisfaction, contentment, and more joy knowing that you have all that you need in Christ. There is nothing anyone can do to you or take from you that can rob you of what Christ has given you. They can rob your $100 bill in your pocket, but you have billions in the savings account that no one can touch. So in light of the gospel…
Grace: 21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
About this final greeting, John Calvin notes: “it is evidence of divine mercy that the Gospel had penetrated that sink [pit] of all crimes and iniquities.” Yes! Though both the Philippians and Paul were under Roman oppression, there were brothers and sisters within Caesar’s walls who were on their side and praying for them.4
Love one another. Partner with each other for the gospel/ Resolve your differences. Model Christ’s humility. Live like children of the King. Pursue Jesus and do not fear suffering. Seek the glory that comes from God, not from man. Rejoice in the Lord. Bless one another. Give radically. Then trust that God will take care of the rest by His gracious love for His saints. For everything depends on Jesus. Consider Col. 1:15-23:
15-18 We look at this Son and see the God who cannot be seen. We look at this Son and see God’s original purpose in everything created. For everything, absolutely everything, above and below, visible and invisible, rank after rank after rank of angels—everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him. He was there before any of it came into existence and holds it all together right up to this moment. And when it comes to the church, he organizes and holds it together, like a head does a body.
18–20 He was supreme in the beginning and—leading the resurrection parade—he is supreme in the end. From beginning to end he’s there, towering far above everything, everyone. So spacious is he, so roomy, that everything of God finds its proper place in him without crowding. Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross.
21–23 You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message. (The Message)
As Christians, we believe acknowledge that Col. 1:15-23 is true, but we often struggle with believing our beliefs. Such a story such as God’s story and revelation of Jesus Christ demands we ask some honest questions of ourselves:
Am I believing that God can take care of me?
Am I believing that God loves me?
Am I believing that I am not a twig tossed about by the tides of life, but that God is actively working on my behalf precisely because is the the Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Lover of my soul?
Am I believing that God actively rewards those who honestly seek Him?
If you say yes to these truths, or desire to say yes to these truths, then your belief is deepening and it will change your life.
Because such belief assures that you are not a random thought that is thrown to and fro like a branch in the ocean, but a product of a sovereign God, who care for you, loves you and is actively blessing you right now in Christ through the power of His Holy Spirit!