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).
April 1, 2012


1) Philippians 4:14-20 (Tom Edwards)    
2) News & Notes


Philippians 4:14-20
by Tom Edwards

As we continue in Paul's address to the Philippians, he next makes mention of their financial support to him, by saying: "Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.  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; 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" (Phil. 4:14-18).

The phrase "first preaching of the gospel" refers to the first time the Philippians heard that message, when Paul had brought it to them during his second missionary journey.  Philippi had been "a leading city of the district of Macedonia" (Acts 16:9-40). 

The KJV uses the term "communicate" in verse 14, which the NASB translates as "share."  Thayer defines the Greek word (sugkoinoneo) as "1) to become a partaker together with others, or to have fellowship with a thing."  A similar rendering of it in the past tense (koinoneo) is seen in verse 15, rendered as "shared."  It is also translated as "contributing" in Romans 12:13, where it speaks of "contributing to the needs of the saints...."  And "share" in 1 Peter 4:13, where Peter states, "but to the degree that you SHARE the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation."  In Philippians 4:15, the sharing has reference to the financial support the Philippians were sending Paul.  

Some folks have interpreted the phrase in this verse that speaks of "the matter of giving and receiving" as pertaining to a "sponsoring church" arrangement, such as many liberal churches engage in today.  It is where various churches will give to one sponsoring church, and the sponsoring church will then oversee those funds and use it for what they see best, such as in the work of evangelism.  Those of this belief, therefore, see these other churches as doing the "giving" and the sponsoring church doing the "receiving"; but this is all foreign to the Bible.  For, according to the Scriptures, each congregation was -- and is to be --  autonomous or, in other words, "self-governing."  In supporting an evangelist, the New Testament shows that churches sent directly to the evangelist.  There was no "sponsoring church" or "missionary society" that various churches would send to.  And in matters of benevolence to needy saints, churches would help their own needy; but if a congregation was not able to, then funds could be sent to that congregation to be given to the needy saints among them.  In the matter of "giving and receiving" that Paul is referring to in Philippians 4:15, the Philippians did the giving, and Paul did the receiving.  Interestingly, though, this phrase, "giving and receiving," as some commentators point out, is a "mercantile metaphor" (Robertson Word Pictures).  John Gill writes that this phrase "is often used by the Jews for trading and commerce...; and the allusion is to the keeping of accounts by men in business, by debtor and creditor, in a book, putting down in one column what is delivered out, and in the other what is received, whereby accounts are kept clear: the apostle's meaning is, that whereas he and his fellow ministers had delivered out spiritual things to this church, they had in return communicated their carnal things; so that there was a proper account kept, which was not observed by other churches, and which was greatly to the commendation of this."  I don't believe, however, that Paul was literally keeping some type of tally sheet, but the phrase metaphorically expresses the fellowship in the gospel Paul and the Philippians had through their financial support of his preaching.  Paul mentions that the Philippians had sent support to him when he was in Thessalonica, which is where he had gone after leaving Philippi. The Philippians had also sent support to him when he was in Corinth (2 Cor. 11:8,9), and now while he was under house arrest for two years in Rome.

Philippians 4:17 also shows something else about Paul: His concern for the spiritual well-being of others.  The verse states, with regard to this financial support sent him by the Philippians, "Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account."  As we had seen, there were times when Paul was greatly in need; but here we find him looking more to the spiritual benefit it would be to the Philippians to participate in this type of fellowship.  

Paul then says in Philippians 4:18, "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."  It is interesting that Paul refers to their financial support as "a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God."  This reminds us of the sacrifices under the Old Testament times. Thayer shows that this Greek word for "fragrant" means not only "a fragrant or sweet smelling thing, incense," but also "an odour of acquiescence, satisfaction."  It is also "a sweet odour, spoken of the smell of sacrifices and obligations, agreeably to the ancient notion that God smells and is pleased with the odour of sacrifices"; and "metaphorically a thing well pleasing to God."  And "aroma" (from "osme") also refers to a fragrance that can be either literal or figurative (James Strong).  The phrase "fragrant aroma" is also used in Ephesians 5:2, in which Paul exhorts the brethren to "...walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma." 

Our life unto God should also be a sweet fragrance, in a manner of speaking. Consider, for instance, 2 Corinthians 2:14-16: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.  For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life. And who is adequate for these things?"

Helping Paul in his support was an "acceptable sacrifice" (Phil. 4:18).  Surely that would be included with what the Hebrew writer alludes to in Hebrews 13:16, "And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased."  So Paul seems to be making an allusion to Old Testament incense offering in Philippians 4:18, where he likens that to the support the Philippians had sent him.  

As we're thinking about this, consider Genesis 8:20,21: "Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar.  The LORD smelled the soothing aroma; and the LORD said to Himself, 'I will never again curse the ground on account of man, for the intent of man's heart is evil from his youth; and I will never again destroy every living thing, as I have done.'"  I would think this is accommodating language for our benefit.  We can relate to noticing a sweet fragrance and being pleased by it.  It can be delightful.  Is this, therefore, in Genesis 8:20,21, a way in which God could express His being delighted and pleased in what Noah was doing?

Paul then tells the Philippians in Philippians 4:19, "And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus."  The Lord has promised to meet our needs if we will put His kingdom first, and all His righteousness (Matt. 6:30-34).  The word "supply" (Phil. 4:19) is from the Greek word "pleroo."  Some of the definitions that Thayer shows for this term is "to fill to the full," "to cause to abound, to furnish or supply liberally," "to fill to the top: so that nothing shall be wanting to full measure, fill to the brim," and "to make complete in every particular, to render perfect."  We should, therefore, not think of this supply merely pertaining to our physical needs, but also to those that are spiritual in nature -- which are, by far, much more important.  

One way in which the Lord supplies us of our spiritual needs is through His word: "seeing that His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence" (2 Pet. 1:3).  This spiritual food is made available through the knowledge of God's word, but it must be eaten (by studying it), and assimilated (by applying it). Then we will truly be spiritually nourished by it.  As Jesus states in Matthew 4:4, in using the "sword of the Spirit" to cut through Satan's temptation to command the stones to become bread, "...'It is written, "MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.'""  The implication being that man can, should, and must live on the word of God.  So, though, Jesus, who had been fasting for 40 days, was now probably going through a starvation process, He still realized that there was a food more important than that which could only sustain His physical life.  And Jesus is the greatest example of all when it comes to practicing what He preached: "In the meanwhile the disciples were requesting Him, saying, 'Rabbi, eat.'  But He said to them, 'I have food to eat that you do not know about.'  The disciples therefore were saying to one another, 'No one brought Him anything to eat, did he?'  Jesus said to them, 'My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to accomplish His work'" (Jn. 4:31-34).  Job, too, was of that nature: "I have not departed from the command of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my necessary food" (Job 23:12).  

Paul then next says in Philippians 4:20, "Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen."  This statement, though short, is referred to as a "doxology."  The term simply means "a hymn or form of words containing an ascription of praise to God."  The primary definition of the word "glory" is "very great praise, honor, or distinction bestowed by common consent; renown."  The use of doxology is also seen in some of Paul's other epistles.  For example: "to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, be the glory forever. Amen" (Rom. 16:27).  "For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things.  To Him be the glory forever.  Amen" (Rom. 11:36).  "Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen" (1 Tim. 1:17).  John, too, used doxology: "And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, 'To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever'' (Rev. 5:13).  And also Jude: "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen" (Jude 1:24,25).  

Concerning Philippians 4:20, Johann Bengel writes that this "...doxology flows out of the joy of the whole epistle."  A joy that is based on God, as Paul's was, is certainly something to glorify the Lord for.  In this doxology, Paul says "Now to our God and Father...."  God and Father are, of course, referring to the same person; but these different terms cause us to reflect upon different aspects of God.  Zerr, for example, points out that the term "God" refers to the "eternal, self-existent and infinite power" of Deity, while the term "Father" expresses "His affectionate relationship to the creatures of His care." We need to remind ourselves that God is not merely that great omniscient, eternal being who can awe us by his very greatness; but He is also a caring Father toward us; and one who loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son to atone for our sins (John 3:16).  

The expression "forever and ever" (Phil. 4:20) is also for emphasis.  For these conjoined terms are from the same Greek word ("aion") and, therefore, expressing the same thing.  Thayer defines that word as "1) for ever, an unbroken age, perpetuity of time, eternity."  Though it is also used in other instances to refer to, as Thayer shows, secondly, "the worlds" or "universe"; and, thirdly, as a "period of time, or age."  And for this third definition, we might think of the Passover, for instance, that is spoken of in Exodus 12:24 as an ordinance that is to be observed "forever."  Yet there, "forever" means a "period of time" -- and that period being the Mosaical Age, which came to an end at the cross of Christ, when the Lord instituted the New Covenant by His blood.  But in Philippians 4:20, in referring to God, "forever and ever" is speaking of His eternal nature.  As we also see in Psalm 90:2, "Before the mountains were born Or You gave birth to the earth and the world, Even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God."  Isn't that interesting?  And doesn't it express the eternal nature of the Lord?  For it does not say that "from everlasting to everlasting, You HAVE BEEN God" -- or "You STILL WILL BE God"; but, rather, "from everlasting to everlasting, You ARE God."  Sometimes we might think of the infinite space that surrounds us as somehow graphically illustrating the eternal nature of God.  Many years ago, when I was in my late teens or early 20's, I remember driving my grandfather from Pennsylvania to Florida.  The close of the day is often a favorite time for me, when the sun's glare begins to soften and the endless sky seems even more appealing.  I remember glancing way down the highway and above it into that sky and thinking about that space that probably stretched through infinity -- and in no matter what direction I would look.  We realize that we just don't have the ability to truly imagine all of infinity.  So, in a manner of speaking, it also illustrates for us the eternal nature of God -- who "from everlasting to everlasting" is always the same.  The eternal nature of God is one of the many amazing attributes about Him.  So let us close with Paul's doxology: "Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen" (Phil. 4:20). 


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following people who were mentioned in last's week's News & Notes:  Gyndell Henry (who has breast cancer); Mike Dubose (who must receive cancer treatment for the rest of his life); R. J. Stevens (who is undergoing therapy, following heart by-pass surgery and a mini stroke),  Roy Fenner (who has macular damage causing distortion, for which he must receive monthly shots in his eye indefinitely, and the development of a small, unpredictable legion near the scar where cancer had been recently removed, and  who requires plastic surgery to eliminate a basal cell wound that has been behind his ear for more than 2 years); and for our members who have been sick, with poor health, and/or physically weak: Geneva Wilson, Jean CallowayShirley Young, and Cheryl Crews.  Also Mozelle Robertson (who is healing from wrist surgery at 91), Clifton Trimble (whose health has been poor), and Anthony Webb and Andrew Robertson (who are seeking new employment). 

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. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)