Ordinary Time Bible Study
Philippians: Friends in the Gospel
Study Seventeen (conclusion): The Last Thing to Say to Friends
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Philippians 4:10-23, JB Phillips NT
It has been a great joy to me that after all this time you have shown such interest in my welfare. I don’t mean that you had forgotten me, but up till now you had no opportunity of expressing your concern. Nor do I mean that I have been in actual need, for I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances may be. I know now how to live when things are difficult and I know how to live when things are prosperous. In general and in particular I have learned the secret of facing either poverty or plenty. I am ready for anything through the strength of the one who lives within me.
Nevertheless I am not disparaging the way in which you were willing to share my troubles. You Philippians will remember that in the early days of the Gospel when I left Macedonia, you were the only church who shared with me the fellowship of giving and receiving. Even in Thessalonica you twice sent me help when I was in need. It isn’t the value of the gift that I am keen on, it is the reward that will come to you because of these gifts that you have made.
Now I have everything I want—in fact I am rich. Yes, I am quite content, thanks to your gifts received through Epaphroditus. Your generosity is like a lovely fragrance, a sacrifice that pleases the very heart of God. My God will supply all that you need from his glorious resources in Christ Jesus. And may glory be to our God and our Father for ever and ever, amen!
Greetings to every true Christian, from me and all the brothers here with me. All the Christians here would like to send their best wishes, particularly those who belong to the emperor’s household.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
• Philippians (WBC), p. 177
The last passage in Paul’s friendship letter to the Philippians contains the final words you always want to say to your friends: Thank you.
For those who understand grace, as Paul did, — whether the incomparable Gift of God through Jesus Christ or the generous gifts of friends like the Philippians — the appropriate response to receiving grace is always gratitude.
It is only here at the end that we find out a main reason Paul wrote this letter in the first place. He had sent the church’s minister Epaphroditus back from his mission of mercy to Paul in prison to say “thank you” to the congregation for their love and benevolence toward the apostle.
I love the way J.B. Phillips renders the climactic expression of gratitude and doxology in this letter:
Your generosity is like a lovely fragrance, a sacrifice that pleases the very heart of God. My God will supply all that you need from his glorious resources in Christ Jesus. And may glory be to our God and our Father for ever and ever, amen! (4:18-20)
The Philippian’s liberality toward Paul is deemed an act of worship. When we love one another by giving selflessly and sacrificially to support each other, it is a fragrant offering before God.
Also, Paul assures them that their generosity will always be done in the context of a lavishly beneficent God. This is not a tit-for-tat arrangement as the prosperity preachers would have us believe. God is not bound to give to us because we give. Paul is not promoting “seed faith” and promoting some spiritual “law” of blessing. Rather, he is simply reminding them that all our giving is done within a relationship with the Divine in which we are always receiving. The blessed bless others and keep on being blessed.
After that, all that is left to say is:
- All glory be to our God!
- Greetings and all grace be to you, my friends!
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Ordinary Time Bible Study
Philippians – Friends in the Gospel
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Photo by Ricardo at Flickr. Creative Commons License