The Letter To The Philippians, Part 17

Philippians 4:10, 14-18

Let’s begin with intentional reading.

  • Read Philippians 4:10, 14-18 and consider the following:
  1. Did you notice anything in these scriptures you have never noticed before?
  2. Are these verses familiar?
  3. Do these verses have new meaning for you today? Why?

In the interest of full disclosure, Philippians 4:10-20 is one of my favorite sets of scripture in the New Testament.  In these verses, Paul gives a powerful testimony to the effectiveness of living life content in Christ alone. Before we unpack the topic of contentment, let’s consider Paul’s relationship with the Philippian church and the lessons we can learn from it.

The church in Philippi began as a church plant approximately 10 years before Paul writes this letter to them.  As a refresher, read Acts 16: 6-40.  

  • What 2 factors contributed to Paul, Silas, Luke and others going to Philippi (see vs. 6-12)?  We know from scripture that Paul has a strong personality and is passionate about sharing the Gospel.  What human traits might Paul have had to resist in order to fully follow thew will of God?  Were Paul’s intentions of preaching in the cities mentioned in these verses wrong? How can we discern the difference between doing something good and doing God’s will?
  • How important was Paul’s sensitivity to the leading of Holy Spirit in establishing the church in Philippi? Has God ever closed a door to a plan you had only to lead you to something more fruitful for Him?
  • During his first visit to Philippi, how was Paul received by believers? By non-believers?
  • What aid did the Philippian believers give Paul during his first visit to Philippi? Given Paul’s experience in Philippi, explain why he would have a soft spot for the church there.

Moving back to Philippians 4: 10, 14-17, Paul is once again in jail and is rejoicing that the Philippian church has come to his aid.  This is a church, we learn in Philippians 4:14-16, that after helping Paul in Philippi, continued to support his ministry while he was in Thessalonica.  In fact, the church in Philippi was the ONLY church that supported Paul’s ministry efforts there. Their continued support showed a dedication to the spread of the Gospel and to Paul himself.  From a human perspective, their faithful love and support had to contribute to the close bond between Paul and the Philippian believers. However, at some point in the last 10 years, Paul had lost connection with this church.

While on his missionary journeys, Paul would have been a hard man to track down, especially given 1st century means of communication and travel.  We don’t know why Paul and the Philippians lost touch, but if I had to guess, it was most likely due to his travels and dedication to spreading the Gospel. Even so, the Philippian church never lost their agape love for Paul nor their commitment to helping him when they could.  We see here, by Paul’s reaction to the reconnection with the Philippian church the benefit of connection with God’s people.  Among other blessings, being connected to fellow believers:

  1. brings joy.
  2. brings encouragement.

JOY: At the beginning of verse 10, Paul writes that he “rejoices greatly in the Lord” that the Philippian church has renewed their care for him.  Paul’s joy is in the reconnection and the reestablishment of relationship rather than in the gift Epaphroditus brought. The material support was simply an expression of the Godly love and care that Paul shared with his brothers and sisters in Philippi. Now, what is so subtly beautiful here is that even though Paul and the Philippian church have not been in direct contact for some time, the Philippian church loved and was invested enough in Paul and his work for the Lord to be informed about his situation. Paul was part of their church family.  The Philippians loved Paul, and he belonged with them. Because of this relationship, the Philippian church was eager to support one of their own in a time of need. This support was only possible because of their connection through relationship.

In modern church culture, it’s very easy to be a believer and not be a belong-er.  Many modern-day believers have committed and meaningful relationships with the Lord but miss the joy that comes from being connected to the church body.  Jesus established the church to establish community and so his disciples could benefit from the blessings of fellowship.

  • Are you a believer or a belong-er? Are you connected to the body of Christ closely enough that it brings you joy?  
  • Read 1 Corinthians 12:27, Romans 12:9-15, Ephesians 2:19-22, Galatians 6;2, and James 5:16. Can we be obedient to these scriptures if we are not closely connected to the body of Christ?

Encouragement: Paul received encouragement from his relationship with the Philippian church.  When he writes in verse 10 that they “had no opportunity” to show their concern for him, those words literally mean “a good season.”  When Paul uses the word “renewed,” he was using the Greek word that had the connotation “to sprout or blossom.” This word was often used to describe a tree coming out of the winter season and beginning to produce fruit again.  Paul sees this gift as fruit of their faithfulness. In verse 17, he continues this idea when he writes that he wasn’t looking for a gift, but the “fruit that increases to your credit.”  The continued love and support from the Philippian church was an encouragement to Paul that even though they had lost touch for some time, their faithfulness and dedication to the Lord had not waned.  In verse 18, Paul calls the gift from the Philippians a “fragrant offering, and acceptable sacrifice,” and its no accident that he uses the same language used in Old Testament to describe offerings to the Lord.  Paul found this gift – made possible because of relationship with God’s people– to be a beautiful encouragement for him to continue in the work.

  • What encourages you to continue in discipleship? Read 1 Thessalonians 5: 11, 14. How can we encourage other believers? What role does being in community with other believers play in our ability to encourage fellow disciples?
  • Read Hebrews 10:24-25, Galatians 6:10. How did the Philippian church exemplify these principles? How can we employ this teaching in the 21st century church? What hinders us from meeting together? What “good works” can we encourage one another in? How can we encourage one another to display God’s love more fully?

I am always thankful when scripture resonates so clearly with our 21st century lives. The joy of connection and the encouragement we receive from our church family is as necessary today as it was to Paul 2000 years ago.  As connected as we are capable of being with one another, there is often a disconnect among believers in the church.  God desires for his children to have a close enough relationships to be able to bear each other’s burdens, pray for one another, show hospitality to each other, encourage each other to good works, and to display the love of the Lord. If you are closely connected to the body of Christ, celebrate the joy of your connection. If you have lost connection with the body of Christ, reconnect and receive the blessings God intended from that relationship.

Be blessed. Be a blessing.

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