by Mike Ratliff
12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. Philippians 4:12-14 (NASB)
The enemy of our souls, Satan, does not attack believers in such a way that we should recognize him as being who he is. Instead, he comes disguised as the voice behind the theologian from the best seminary who may be the leader with a huge church empire and also be the author of many best-selling books. How does he attack what we call the Orthodox Christian faith? You know, the preaching of the gospel, the weekly opening of the Word of God, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper, et cetera. He attacks that by putting people in place that both insist on and promise to deliver “more.” You know, taking emphasis away from all that stuff above and giving people “what they really want!” Sometimes the leaders doing this think this is what the people really want, but it is not. That is when the sheep go to their pastors and ask to be fed rather than be entertained. What happens most of the time nowadays when that takes place?
In this post, we will look at the last chapter of Philippians in which the Apostle Paul continues to encourage the Philippians while seeking reconciliation between two women in disagreement. He also calls for them to pursue joyful faith and disciplined thinking.
1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9 The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:1-9 (NASB)
It is obvious that Paul had a close and intimate relationship with the believers at Philippi. Here he calls them the joy and his crown. They were not so just because they believed the gospel, but because of their perseverance and growing into maturity in Christ. Here, he exhorts them to continue to stand firm and makes sure that everyone understands that true perseverance is always “in the Lord.” Not one of us can do it through sheer will power. No, we do so as we abide in Christ (John 15).
In vv2,3 Paul mentions Euodia and Syntyche whom he appeals to live in harmony in the Lord. What an exhortation! Paul knows what the conflict is, but does not mention it. Notice that it is not a doctrinal issue and simply appeals that they reconcile in the Lord. How often do believers hold petty differences that are simply held in the bitter parts of our hearts as trophies of pride? Paul’s answer is to forget that and agree in the Lord. Peace in the Body of Christ is worth far more than petty differences like what color to paint the walls. He also calls on all those hearing this letter or reading it to assist these women in making up.
What is the next step? Rejoice in the Lord. I promise you, those two women were not doing that while in conflict. Christians must start here and then let their reasonableness be known to all men. This disposition seeks what is best for everyone not just for oneself. What is the admonition? The Lord is near! When he returns, it is as judge. I for one do not want things like this to be outstanding when I stand before him to give an account.
In vv 8,9 Paul gives us a list of things to fill our minds with that will inspire worship of God and service of others. If we will do this, what will be the result? The God of peace will be with us.
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 opportunity. 11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.
15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but 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 for the profit which increases to your account. 18 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. 19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren 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. Philippians 4:10-23 (NASB)
In vv10-13 Paul talks about the gift the Philippians sent to him via Epaphroditus. He uses this to talk about contentment and the need for believers to be generous for spiritual reasons. The contentment Paul talks about here is an alien thing to this flesh bound world. Paul told them that he had learned to be content when hungry or when full, when he had nothing or when had plenty. From where did he say this ability came? In v13 he said, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. ” What this means is that God empowers believers to obey Him in service to Him and to others. God used the fires of tribulation, thorns in the flesh, et cetera, to train Paul in growing in Grace to this level of maturity.
Notice that the Philippians were special to Paul because they not only prayed for his ministry, but they helped fund it through financial support. They contributed to his work long after he left Macedonia.
Paul used the metaphor of an offering at the Temple in reference to the gift given to Paul’s ministry by the Philippians. He called it a fragrant odor, an acceptable and well-pleasing sacrifice to God. The principle remains for us today. If we are generous toward God, we will find that he is generous toward us and will supply all our needs in Christ Jesus. What more do we need?
Soli Deo Gloria!