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Thanks for Their Gifts September 3, 2012

Posted by flashbuzzer in Books, Christianity.
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Here are my thoughts on Philippians 4:10-20.

Summary: Paul begins by telling the Philippians that he must not forget to thank them for their gift; now he does not want to rebuke them for not sending their gift to him earlier, as they had been unable to provide it until that time. He stresses that he has learned to be content in the position in which God has placed him. Moreover, he possesses the secret of being content in all and every situation.

Paul then notes that it was good of the Philippians to make common cause with his affliction. In fact, he does not need to remind them that shortly after their acceptance of the Gospel, after he left Macedonia no other church engaged in credit and debit with him – except for their church. Not only this, but while he was still in Thessalonica, they occasionally sent him gifts. Now he does not desire their gifts per se, but he does desire that revenue be placed to their accounts – stemming from their display of their love for him. Indeed, their latest gift to him has the sweet smell of an offering; it is pleasing in God’s sight. Thus, God – on his behalf – will supply their needs by placing them in glory through their union with Christ Jesus.

Paul concludes by praying – in union with the Philippians – that God would be forever glorified.

Thoughts: In verse 11, we see that Paul had learned to be content regardless of external circumstances. Lightfoot offers some insights in his commentary:

Socrates, when asked who was the wealthiest, replied, “He that is content with least, for contentment is nature’s wealth.” The Stoics especially laid great stress on this virtue.

Thus, we see that Christian and secular worldviews agree on this point – it is good to have a deep-seated contentment in life. Of course, as believers we often fall short in this regard and live with an anxious, restless mindset. To me, this highlights a fundamental tension between our sinful and spiritual natures, as they are inherently focused on the short term and the long term, respectively. Being content in every situation requires focusing on eternal matters, yet we are naturally inclined to focus on ephemeral matters. We must constantly remind ourselves of our eternal mission, just as Christ was acutely aware of the eternal consequences of His time on this earth.

In verse 15, we see that the Philippians supported Paul in his ministry shortly after they believed the Gospel message. Lightfoot, though, provides some sobering notes in his commentary:

But though the see is said to exist even to the present day, the city itself has long been a wilderness. Of its destruction or decay no record is left; and among its ruins travelers have hitherto failed to find any Christian remains…Born into the world with the brightest promise, the church of Philippi has lived without a history and perished without a memorial.

Given the Philippians’ ecstatic response to the Gospel – as we know, “money talks” – I wonder what became of the Philippian church after Paul wrote this letter to them. Did they became spiritually complacent, causing their commitment to the Gospel to fade over time? Or did they stand firm in their faith, only succumbing to the brutality of an invading army? Regardless of the circumstances of their downfall, what we do know is that when Paul wrote to them, they had a genuine heart for missions work; this is a great example that modern believers should follow.

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