The Gospel Observer
"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them
to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always,
even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
March 25, 2012
1) Philippians 4:9-13 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes
by Tom Edwards
In our previous lesson, we considered a list of good things that
Paul had exhorted the Philippians to meditate upon in Philippians
4:8. He then goes on to show that we are not only to be
mindful of these things, but to also live lives that are
characterized by them. He states, "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" (v. 9).
In this command, Paul is not instructing them to do anything that he
did not do himself. For he truly did conduct his life in
harmony with the gospel. And because of that, he could
encouragingly say, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ"
(1 Cor. 11:1).
Paul shows that by practicing these things, it is not only the peace
of God that we will have; but, rather "the God of peace" Himself
(Phil. 4:9; see also Heb. 13:20 and 1 Thess. 5:23) -- and how much
greater that is! For Paul had just referred to the "peace of
God" as being that which "surpasses all comprehension" (v. 7), which
is truly great in itself; but now he is showing just how much more
the doer of God's word will also have. For to abide in the
Lord by practicing His word is to have God with us and all the
wonderful benefits that go along with that as well (cf. Jn.
14:23,24; 2 Jn. 1:9). So it does make a great deal of
difference as to what we practice (cf. Gal. 5:19-21; Matt. 7:21;
Jms. 1:22-25; 2:24).
The connection E. M. Zerr sees between verses 8 and 9 of Philippians
4 is that the things we are to meditate upon in the former verse are
not merely things of our own judgments; but rather those things that
are based on God's word, which Paul had taught and demonstrated in
his own life.
Paul then goes on to say in verse 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." In this verse, Paul is referring to the
financial support the brethren had sent to him through Epaphroditus,
which was a fellowship Paul had with them for quite some time (cf.
Phil. 4:15,16,18). For the church at Philippi was established
about A.D. 50, and Paul is now writing to them about 12 years later.
What Paul is alluding to by the phrase "you lacked opportunity" is
not expressed in the Scriptures. It has been suggested that
there was no messenger available at the time, or that they did not
have the funds at that time to send; but whatever it was, that had
now been taken care of.
Paul then gives a key for a happier life in Philippians 4:11-13:
"Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in
whatever circumstances I am. 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. I can do
all things through Him who strengthens me."
Paul mentions three pairs of contrasts in this passage, which he
personally experienced. First, he speaks of "humble means" and
"prosperity." The former phrase is from a Greek word
("tapeinoo") that means "to make low" or "bring low" and can be used
metaphorically to express being brought "into a humble condition,"
to be reduced "to meaner [or inferior] circumstances"
(Thayer). To the contrast, Paul then uses the Greek word
"perisseuo," which James Strong defines as "to superabound (in
quantity or quality), be in excess, be superfluous..." to have more
Paul secondly mentions "being filled" and "going hungry." The
Greek word for "filled" (chortazo) not only means "to fill," but
also to "satisfy," such as "with food" or to "satisfy the desire of"
(Thayer). It is the same word that is used in the accounts of
the feeding of the 5,000 (Matt. 14:20) and the feeding of the 4,000
(Matt. 15:37). Both passages say, "and they all ate, and were
satisfied...." (Some other versions also render this as
"filled" instead of "satisfied," but I have long thought of
"satisfied" as connoting more. For instance, you might be
filled from having eaten all of your least liked food, but were you
satisfied with it as much as you would have been with your most
The third pair of contrasts Paul uses is "having abundance" and
"suffering need." Here, the word "abundance" comes from the
same Greek word as we saw earlier for "prosperity," the Greek word
"perisseuo," meaning "to superabound." And "suffering need,"
from "hustere," which James Strong shows can mean "be destitute" or
"be in want."
Regardless of these different situations in life, Paul could still
maintain the right attitude; but that outlook or ability wasn't
something he had always had. For he declares in verse 11, "for
I have learned to be content...." So Paul acquired it.
The Greek word for "content" ("autarkes") is defined as "1)
sufficient for one's self, strong enough or processing enough to
need no aid or support 2) independent of external
circumstances 3) contented with one's lot, with one's means,
though the slenderest" (Thayer).
To face each day with faith in God, a love for Him, and a faithful
commitment toward doing His will can help see us through any
circumstance -- and help us to learn to be content. For true
contentment comes not through materialism; but, rather, through
spirituality. Consider, for instance, what Paul shows about
this to Timothy: "But godliness actually is a means of great gain,
when accompanied by contentment. For we have brought nothing
into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either.
And if we have food and covering, with these we shall be
content. But those who want to get rich fall into temptation
and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men
into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of
all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away
from the faith, and pierced themselves with many a pang. But
flee from these things, you man of God; and pursue righteousness,
godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness. Fight the
good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were
called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many
witnesses" (1 Tim. 6:6-12). Material things can wear away with
time, breakdown, or be stolen; but this can never happen to
spiritual treasures in heaven. The Lord, therefore, instructs
His people to "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth,
where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and
steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where
neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or
steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also"
As we give thought to these things, notice the contrasts Solomon
speaks of: "All the days of the afflicted are bad, But a cheerful
heart has a continual feast. Better is a little with the fear
of the LORD, Than great treasure and turmoil with it. Better
is a dish of vegetables where love is, Than a fattened ox and hatred
with it" (Prov. 15:15-17). Similarly, David writes, "Better is
the little of the righteous Than the abundance of many wicked" (Psa.
Paul had learned to be content in any circumstance, and that would
be a most good thing for each one of us to also fully know. He
declares that he had "learned the secret of being filled and going
hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need..." (Phil.
4:12). The Bible shows of some of the circumstances Paul
endured: hunger, thirst, being poorly clothed, roughly treated,
homeless, reviled, persecuted, slandered, "we have become the scum
of the world, the dregs of all things" (1 Cor. 4:9-13); "in
afflictions, in hardships, in distresses, in beatings, in
imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in hunger"
(2 Cor. 6:3,4). When defending his apostleship, Paul cited
some unusual "credentials" to verify that: "in far more labors, in
far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger
of death. Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine
lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned,
three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the
deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from
rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers
from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness,
dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in
labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and
thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from
such external things, there is the daily pressure upon me of concern
for all the churches. Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led
into sin without my intense concern? If I have to boast, I will
boast of what pertains to my weakness" (2 Cor. 11:23-30).
I once read a humorous ad of a fellow who was trying to find his
missing dog. He said that it was blind in one eye, was missing a
leg, had a broken tail, its left ear was torn, and answered to the
name "Lucky." We might find that humorous, but think about
Paul's life. When Paul was unjustly suffering, or experiencing
hunger, undergoing dangers, or whatever the adversity for the Lord's
cause, rather than complain about it, Paul would be one who would
acknowledge that he is blessed by the Lord -- and he was. For
even in spite of adverse circumstances, Paul still had all spiritual
blessings that were made available to him through Jesus
Christ. Think, for instance, of the forgiveness of sins.
Is it not, by far, the most important blessing one can have -- even
more so than money to pay our bills, good health for a sick body,
and even physical life itself? In Romans 8:16-18, Paul
declares: "The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we
are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and
fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that
we may also be glorified with Him. For I consider that the
sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with
the glory that is to be revealed to us." And look what Paul
goes on to say, just several verses later, in Roman 8:28: "And we
know that God causes all things to work together for good to those
who love God, to those who are called according to His
purpose." This is why Paul, as well as any Christian, can have
a very positive outlook when undergoing even what would appear to be
very negative circumstances, such as tribulations. Paul then
follows through with the glorious triumph God's people have over all
the adversities of life: "What then shall we say to these things? If
God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own
Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him
freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against
God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who
condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised,
who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or
distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or
sword? Just as it is written, 'FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT
TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE
SLAUGHTERED.' But in all these things we overwhelmingly
conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither
death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present,
nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other
created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God,
which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (vv. 31-39).
So Paul not only could be content in whatever circumstance he was
in, but he also knew that even the worst of difficulties could be
used for his good: "And because of the surpassing greatness of the
revelations, for this reason, to keep me from exalting myself, there
was given me a thorn in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to buffet
me--to keep me from exalting myself! Concerning this I
entreated the Lord three times that it might depart from me.
And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is
perfected in weakness.' Most gladly, therefore, I will rather
boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in
me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults,
with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's
sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Cor. 12:7-10).
When Paul says in Philippians 4:13 that he "can do all things
through Him who strengthens me," he is not really talking about
anything in general; but, rather, whatever life would throw at him,
as he had been mentioning -- whether when abounding or going
without. With God's strength, Paul knew he could face any
circumstance -- and no matter how widely differing. For Paul
truly did have the faith that his Lord would help him through any
situation -- even the most trying. And we who are Christians,
like little children, should also have that kind of faith toward our
Father in heaven, realizing that He loves us and wants to do good
for us, more than we can fully realize. If, though, we ever
doubt that, let us remind ourselves of Calvary and the reason why
God sent His Son Jesus to this earth. For in view of that,
could the Lord ever express more love and concern for humanity than
in what He has already done? "For God so loved the world, that
He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should
not perish, but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16). "For while we were
still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For
one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good
man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His
own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died
for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we
shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while
we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His
Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His
life" (Rom. 5:6-10).
What are the things we have learned from the apostle Paul and have
seen demonstrated in his life? May we each be encouraged by
his life to do likewise in our service to God, those things that are
a part of the gospel; and that we will then, too, continually have
the God of peace with us for doing so; and through that spirituality
be able to be content, as Paul was, in every circumstance and
realize that we also can "do all things through Him who strengthens"
us (Phil. 4:9-13).
News & Notes
Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following
* Gyndell Henry (Lea Hall's
grandmother) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.
* Mike Dubose
who has been told that he must receive cancer treatment for the rest
of his life. Right now he has it every other week and has
continued with his preaching.
* The following is an update on R.
J. Stevens (from Rebecca Stevens Helvey, his granddaughter,
4/3/12, via Steve Wolfgang's facebook wall), who recently had
by-pass surgery for his heart, which was followed by a mini stroke:
"Just spoke with my dad who spent 5 hours today at the
rehabilitation center with my Papa J. Some progress is being made
and we are encouraged. Still a long way to go. My dad sent me a
picture text with Papa J. sitting upright in a wheel chair with
brighter eyes and the slight hint of a smile (what a drastic
turnabout from his time in ICU). All of your prayers have saved his
life to this day. Please keep praying that he may be able to get
back on the road and do what he loves -- singing, preaching and
praising God with his brethren."
* Let us also
continue praying for my landlord's two-year old grandson, Joseph John Koczrowski IV.
His upcoming surgery will probably be in the next several weeks,
which will then be followed by a second surgery a couple months
later. And, actually, even in the first surgery, different
surgeons will be performing two different
* Here's the last update (3/29/12) I have on Roy Fenner (from his wife
Michelle): "Roy went to the eye doctor this week, there is damage to
his MACULAR. Good news is that the shots are working and some of the
swelling to the Retina has gone down. Down side besides the damage
to the macular is that he must continue to get shots in his eye
indefinitely but not every month. His eye with the damaged macular,
will ALWAYS be distorted. He says he is unable to read words no
matter how big they are even though it is clear. Remember I
described before it is like looking through a fish bowl that is
bowed out and then in.
"Roy's neck has healed where they cut out the cancer, but has a
small legion next to the scar (unsure if this is more cancer
starting up, but it is not going away) and we still need to get a
plastic surgeon to remove the Basal Cell wound behind his ear that
has been there for over 2 years now. He is not looking forward to it
and of course makes lots of excuses why he can't get it
done.... Please continue to keep Roy in your prayers. I will
send updates as we get them. Love to all!" * Members who have been sick, with poor health, and/or
physically weak: Geneva Wilson,
Jean Calloway, Shirley
Young, and Cheryl Crews.
* Also, Mozelle Robertson
(Ken's mother) who at 91 years of age is still healing from wrist
surgery; and Clifton Trimble
whose health has been poor.
* Let us also pray that Anthony
Webb and Andrew Robertson will be able to find new
The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation
1) Hear the gospel,
for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17; John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the
deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins
(Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in
Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water
for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4;
Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith;
for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet.
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Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
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