Provision for Worry
Tim Temple

Introduction

Our text is Philippians, chapter 4, verses 10-23:

Philippians 4

10But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.
11Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
14Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.
15Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
16For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.
17Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.
18But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.
19But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
20Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
21Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you.
22All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.
23The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

The day in which we live is a day that could readily be characterized as a day of conflict. There are bitter, vocal conflicts in the political realm. There are also conflicts in the international realm. We hear daily problems in the Middle East. In other parts of the world there are conflicts and troubles. In the economic realm, there is a division of opinion, not only of trouble, but a confusion about what the trouble is and what to do about it. The social realm is torn with new ideas and activities. Isaiah summed it up very well when he said in chapter 57 of his book.

Isaiah 57

20But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.
21There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.

It is not an over-simplification to say that the answer to all of these problems is found in the Word of God. That is not to say that all of these problems will be solved and not to say if we can just get everybody to become a Christian, all these things will be taken care of. One of the basic principles of the Scripture is that peace on any level is based on peace on a personal level. James makes this point. Paul makes this point in a number of places, and we are going to see in our lesson that he is dealing with that very subject.

Philippians, chapter 4, is one of the passages which deals with having peace on a personal level. In the verses at which we have already looked in this chapter, Paul has dealt with the subject of peace in general. He has talked about having peace under any circumstances, the peace that passeth understanding, as we worry to the Lord. He has talked about having peace in our relationships with other people, even other Christians.

In the passage before us, Paul is going to do three things. First, he deals with the problems that deal with circumstances. Secondly, he talks about the problems that come from material things; and thirdly, he gives a conclusion to the letter.

Problems Dealing With Circumstances

We want to think now about the problems that are solved by the presence of God's power in our lives in verses 10-13. This is the section which deals with the problems that are caused by changing circumstances of life. It is an interesting thing, you know, to see how the Word of God brings subjects from theory to practicality. It's one thing to talk about the power of God as demonstrated in the universe and creation and in the intricate details of the human body. Of course, those are all legitimate examples of God power, and they are amazing examples of God's power, but when it comes right down to an example of God's power in our own lives, God brings us to the circumstances of life.

If you want to talk about a real demonstration of God's power, you need to think about God's power over the circumstances of your own life, and that is exactly what the Apostle Paul is doing. I heard recently of a man whose ministry is dealing with finances for Christians. This man said–and based on the many other things he said, I believe he demonstrated careful thought to this whole situation–that it was his studied opinion that God had created money and had put the substance of money into our lives to enable us to demonstrate how much we trust Him. By the withholding of money or by the supplying of money, God can very visibly demonstrate His power in our lives.

We are not talking just about money; we are talking about that and many other kinds of circumstances. God's power is demonstrated in a most realistic way in His control and His working in the area of the circumstances of our lives.

Paul's Circumstances In Rome

Paul's circumstanceS, as he writes Philippians, chapter 4, were that he was in need. He was in prison. His public ministry had been brought to a close. His fellowship on a personal basis with his disciples, with his followers, had been cut off, and he was even in physical need, evidently. Even though he was in prison at the expense of the Roman government and was getting room and board evidently for free, perhaps the provisions were really not adequate. We won't take the time to turn there, but you are probably familiar with the closing words of Paul's second letter to Timothy. Most Bible scholars believe that II Timothy was the last letter that Paul wrote. You will remember in the closing words of chapter 4, of II Timothy, in verse 13, Paul wrote to Timothy:

II Timothy 4

13The cloke that I left at Troas with Carpus, when thou comest, bring with thee, and the books, but especially the parchments.

One of the major emphases in that verse is Paul's love for the Word of God, “the parchments” being a reference to the Word of God, and perhaps the books also. But it is also significant that Paul even had to ask for a provision for something like a coat. History tells us that in the Roman prison system the provisions and the accommodations were bare minimum. So Paul was in need emotionally and even physically.

God had been using the Philippians to meet Paul's needs, and that is really the situation out of which this letter arises. The Philippians had sent him an offering of some sort. If you will notice down in verse 18, getting ahead of ourselves a bit:

Philippians 4

18But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.

What Paul is dealing with here is the fact that God is powerful for the provision of substance. God's power is great enough to provide for our physical needs when we are suffering physical need. Paul was in need, and he is saying that God has met his need through the Philippians. And as I say, this is evidently the specific reason that caused Paul to write the letter. Really the book of Philippians is a thank-you note to the Philippians for the way that God had used them to meet his need.

God's Provision for Physical Needs

Now this gift that he received from them may have been material things–food or books or things like that. It may have been money. Nevertheless God had used the Philippians to provide for the substance Paul needed.

Incidentally, it is very interesting to notice, and it is part of a different study in the New Testament, but it is a very well established fact in the Scripture that the Philippians gave when they were in need themselves. They had given out of their own poverty. If you will notice back in verse 10:

Philippians 4

10But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, [notice] but ye lacked opportunity.

Now those words mean that they were anxious, they were full of care to contribute to Paul, they wanted to contribute to him, but they simply did not have the means to do so at certain points in their lives.

In II Corinthians, Paul had written, in chapter 8, about the churches of Macedonia which had given to him out of their deep poverty. And as we saw when we began to survey this material, the church at Philippi was one of the churches of Macedonia. So the Philippians were used of God to meet Paul's need when they themselves were in deep need.

I think that has a very important lesson for us as believers, and that is that sometimes God may direct us to share with someone else materially when we ourselves are in need. We live in a dispensation in which God is dealing in grace. God has always dealt in grace. I think a better name for this dispensation is the Church Age; but as a part of the Church Age, God does not set up specific guidelines, specific rules and regulations for giving. He says, “Let every man give as God has prospered him. And let every man give as he has purposed in his heart.” It is to be a personal thing between us and God. What I am saying is, God may in fact direct us to give; He may cause us to purpose in our hearts to give, whether we have much money for ourselves or not. Now, that doesn't mean that you are not the kind of Christian you should be if you don't give, even when you are poor; but it does mean that God may direct you to do that. We should not be surprised if He does so. The Philippians had contributed to Paul's need, and this demonstrated God's power for provision of substance.

God's Provision of Satisfaction

Paul goes on in verses 11 and 12 to say that not only could God provide physical substance, but He also has power for provision of satisfaction. You will notice in verses 11 and 12:

Philippians 4

11Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.
12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

As we come to verse 11, it is almost as if Paul was afraid that somebody would get the wrong idea about his mention of money. We preachers are that way, you know. We hate to have the image of always asking for money. It seems that in the scheme of things, the way God has organized the local church, it falls our lot usually to be the one to talk about money. We just happen to be the ones that are up in front most. It would be convenient if we could hire somebody to just do all the talking about money and just let us do all the talking about everything else in the Word, but usually that is not the way it is. So it may be that Paul had the same kind of reticence that we do as preachers. He just didn't really like to get into this subject, and yet we should never apologize for that because it is a legitimate aspect of the Christian life. But Paul wants to be sure that nobody gets the wrong idea, and so he says in verse 11, “Not that I speak in respect of want. I don't want you to misunderstand what I'm saying here.” But he says, going on in verse 11, “I'm not saying thanks for the money; please send me some more.”, or “Thanks for the money; you should have done it sooner:”

Philippians 4

11Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

Now this well known statement is amplified in verse 12:

Philippians 4

12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

Notice what he is saying here. He has learned to be content. He has learned to be satisfied in whatever state he finds himself. This verse does not say Paul was content with the situation. Paul was not saying that we should be content with a situation that is less than perfect if we have not achieved all that we feel God would have us to achieve, if we have not reached a level that we think would be an honorable level. The Scripture isn't saying that we should be content with that. Paul has already established that we should be pressing toward the high calling of God, forgetting those things that are behind, so he is not talking about a complacency and a satisfaction with less than God's best, but he is talking about being satisfied in God's provision in whatever situation we are.

Paul's Reaction to Circumstances

In fact, it is very important for us to notice all through this passage the context in which the various statements are made. Remember the context here is the supply of physical needs. The context here is the circumstances of life. So Paul is not saying, “Let's just be complacent; let's just roll along from day to day; whatever comes will come.” No, he is not saying that. As we have already pointed out, he has taken quite a different approach here in the book. What he is saying is, “Let's don't get all hot and bothered; let's don't get all bent out of shape about the circumstances that God may allow us to enter into.” Paul says, “God has taught me to be satisfied in whatever material circumstances He may lead me into.” Notice he says in verse 12:

Philippians 4

12I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound…

It is an interesting thing to me–and I don't mean to be critical of anybody–to notice that there are many Christians who seem to feel that there is something particularly spiritual about being poor and that if you are very godly, then you will have holes in your shoes and you will wear the oldest possible clothes and, in fact, you will actually try and not buy new clothes, because that might give a hint of some distance from the Lord or something.

Notice what Paul says. “I know how to be abased.” Now that would sound like he would go along with that, doesn't it? “I know how to be poor like Christians ought to be.” But notice what else he says. “I know how to abound.” It may be God's will for you as a Christian, right now, or somewhere in the future, or perhaps some time in the past, to be in a situation of abounding, of great material prosperity. It may even be God's will for a Christian to be wealthy. It may even be God's will for a Christian to be extremely wealthy. Let's just go all the way. Certainly every Christian in the United States today, even the poorest among us, lives better than kings of past history. So if we carry that idea of Christian poverty to its limits, we are going to be in trouble, you see, because all of us live better than most of the rest of the world, no matter how poor we may be.

It may be God's will for you to be poor as a Christian. Some of you say, “Amen to that. Evidently it is. I have spent a lot of years being poor.” But it also may be God's will for you, now or sometime in the future, to be in a position of abounding.

Paul evidently puts them both in the same category spiritually. Don't ever look down your nose spiritually at a believer who is doing well financially. It is probably God's will for that believer to abound. If you are a believer who is doing well financially, don't be nervous about that and don't feel that there is something wrong with you and that you need to hide that. Certainly God doesn't want you to flaunt that. He has given it to you for a purpose. But you don't need to be embarrassed about it or you don't need to try to hide it, as though it were something unspiritual.

The Apostle Paul, on the best historical information we can find, was evidently from an extremely wealthy family. When he is saying here in verse 12, “I know how to abound,” he may very well be speaking from his own childhood and youth. He evidently grew to at least his teenage years in a wealthy home, and he may have inherited some wealth and lived his life as a young man as a wealthy young man. We know that Paul had the trade of being a tent maker, that probably being a very useful trade in the day in which he lived, and he had a good income. It may even be possible, and we don't want to get too far afield here, but it may be possible that Paul spent a much greater percentage of his time abounding than he did being abased. But you see, the point is, Paul says, “I know how to do both. God has made it so that I can praise Him when I am being abased. I can praise Him when I don't have anything, which is true now when I am writing this letter, and I can praise Him and be close to Him even when I have a lot. I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound.” That is the context in which he said, “I have learned to be content with the abounding as well as to be content with being abased.”

Now, this same truth is exemplified in the other phrases in verse 12. He goes on to say:

Philippians 4

12…I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.

He is just emphasizing the same point again. But notice the key phrase. We have not yet looked at the thing that is really central to these verses. Notice he says, in verse 12:

Philippians 4

12…every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry…

Do you see that phrase, “I am instructed.”? Back in verse 11, he says, “I have learned.” That is the very same phrase, the very same construction. “I have learned. I am instructed.” What he is saying here is, “I have learned the secret.” In the New American Standard Version, that is the way that verse is translated. “I have learned the secret of being abased, not having much, and of abounding, having excess. I have learned the secret.”

Adjusting to Changing Circumstances

The next verse tells us how he learned that secret, and that may be a secret that many of us would like to learn. You may say, “Tell me how to do that. That's what I need to know, because I just paid my taxes last month, and right now is when I need to know how to learn to be abased.” Notice in verse 13, he talks about God's power for provision of strength, another very well known verse.

Philippians 4

13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Incidentally, I should point out, in the King James Text, that should be translated “who strengtheneth me.” The Lord Jesus Christ is a person. Obviously, He is not a thing, so even though that was proper English in 1611, it is not proper any more. He is talking about the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Here is one of the most quoted verses in the entire New Testament. But again the context plays a very important part. I don't want to take away from you anything that you hold dear as a Christian, and I certainly don't want to disagree with the many godly people who have used this verse. So what I am saying, even though it may sound so at first, is not in disagreement with the standard use of this verse, but again I want to call your attention to the context in which this famous verse occurred.

You see, some people take Philippians, chapter 4, verse 13, and they say that it means you can do all the push-ups you need to do. In fact, I heard a person use this specifically that way, in the course of teaching a lesson. That means that you can wash all the laundry that you can wash on any given day.

Philippians 4

13I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

Now, before you get upset with me for being a liberal and changing everything around, let me say that the Scripture does point out that because of the strength and the discipline and the peace that Jesus Christ provides, we can do things that we would not be able to do, did we not have Christ in our hearts. So I am not dispelling any of the promises that we have claimed, but what I am calling attention to is the fact that that is not exactly what this verse is talking about. That is true, in a general principle, and there are many Scriptures that would say, “We can do anything we are called on to do because of Christ.”

Notice the context here. What he is talking about here is being able to adjust to changing circumstances. That, of course, is a broad category. He is saying, “I can do all things–that is, I can go through poverty through Christ who strengtheneth me. I can go through wealth through Christ who strengthens me. I can face the embarrassment that may come as a Christian to have my Christian friends know that I have lost my job or my income has dropped drastically. I can do that, because Christ strengthens me for that. He strengthens me for many other things, too, but I can face all kinds of circumstances,” Paul says. “Why should I worry? I don't need to worry about circumstances. I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.”

Empowered By God

The word “strengtheneth” here, is a form of the Greek word dunamis . You remember that the Greek word dunamis is the word from which we get our English word “dynamite.” Basically it means “to empower.” Sometimes when we see the word “authority” or the word “do” or the word “accomplish” in the New Testament, it is a translation of the Greek word that means “to give the authority.” Jesus said:

Matthew 28

18…All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.

When He said that, He was saying, “All authority is given unto Me.”

Jesus said to His disciples, just before He ascended into Heaven:

Acts 1

8But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Jesus said first, “I have received all authority. I am King of kings and Lord of lords. All authority is mine.” And of course, as His disciples, his followers, as His representatives, that power is ours. That authority is ours. We represent the King of kings and Lord of lords. But it is wonderful to recognize that Jesus also said, “You shall receive dunamis . You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit is come upon you.”

Of course we have received the Holy Spirit when we accept Jesus Christ as Savior, so we have not only the authority, but we also have the power to face any circumstance in life. That is what Paul is saying when he says, “I can do dunamis . I can do all things through Christ who empowers me, who strengthens me.” We have not only the authority, not only the promises of the Word of God, but we have the enabling power to face any circumstance. You see, the real power over circumstances in our lives as Christians is not based on the circumstances themselves. Our relationship to worry about circumstances is not based on the circumstances themselves; it is based on our relationship to Jesus Christ and the ability that He can give to adjust to the changing circumstances.

It is interesting and significant that Paul includes both being abased and abounding in one verse of Scripture in one sentence. Some of us know personally, either by experience or by example that we have seen of others, that circumstances can change very quickly. Almost in a sentence, circumstances can change. We don't need to worry about changing circumstances, Paul says, because Christ can empower us to learn satisfaction because of the strength that He provides in any situation.

In verses 14-23, Paul comes back to the subject from a little different standpoint. Notice in verse 14, he goes on to say:

Philippians 4

14Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.

Now, you see, Paul has been teaching a lesson about their provision. He has backed away, and he wants to make a clarification that he is not just talking about his desire for money, but now he comes back, having made that lesson, to the subject of money again. He says, “Notwithstanding ye have done well; even though I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me, even though I can adjust to any kind of circumstances, that does not mean that you should not have sent me the gift that you sent.” Again, you see, he is emphasizing that it may be God's will temporarily, for us–for Paul or any other Christian–to be temporarily abased. Then it may also be God's will for someone to send a gift, as the Philippians did, and for Paul then to not be quite so abased. I doubt that their gift enabled him to be abounding financially, but you see, the circumstances may continue to change as we follow God's will. We may be abased for a time, and then God may provide some more. And we can be just as much in God's will as our circumstances change for the better as we were when we were in poverty.

Servants In God's Provision

And so, in these verses, he is going to talk about God's provision. Notice first in verses 14-18, he talks about the servants in the provision. Their history is given in verses 14-16. He says:

Philippians 4

14Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.
15Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.
16For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity.

These verses pretty well speak for themselves. What Paul is saying here is that the Philippians had given to Paul several times in the past, not just while he was there in prison in Rome, but several times. They had sent gifts–probably money–offerings of some kind to him. In fact, in some cases they were the only ones that did. Notice in verse 15:

Philippians 4

15Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

It is easy to give when everybody is giving, when there is a fund-raising campaign going on, when there is a big appeal for funds, and we may even get some recognition for giving. But these godly Philippians gave to Paul when nobody else remembered to do it. “You were the only church,” Paul says, “that communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving.” So this is their history. This is the kind of thing that they had done.

Participating In the Needs of Others

Incidentally, there is an important key to this kind of giving in verse 14. Notice the word “communicate” in verse 14. The word “communicate” is a translation of a word that we have dealt with here, the very well known Greek word koinoneo, which means “to have things in common.” This is a translation of one of the words in that family of words. This is the word sunkoinoneo , which specifically means “to participate in something with someone.” So when Paul says, in verse 14, that “you communicated with me; you Philippians communicated with me in my need,” what he is saying is, “You Philippians considered my suffering your suffering. When you saw that I was in need, you considered that as though it were your own need, and you communicated with me. You sunkoinoneo with me–you considered my need your need.” That is a beautiful picture of what the Scripture says ought to be true of the whole Body of Christ.

Paul wrote in I Corinthians, chapter 12, verse 26:

I Corinthians 12

26And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it…

That is true in the human body, isn't it? When we have a hangnail on our right thumb, there are times when it bothers the left leg. When you have something wrong with one of the parts of your body, you become aware as never before of the presence of that part of your body. You might not have even thought about your middle toe on your right foot in years, but you get an ingrown toenail on that middle toe of your right foot, and you can hardly think about anything else. It is very true in the human body that when one member suffers, all the members suffer with it.

I wonder how true that is of the Christian Body? We should strive, we should ask God to make true in our hearts and our lives what was true with the Philippians. They suffered with Paul, and they did something about it. They shared with him, even though they didn't have much themselves. They communicated with him, and for this reason they were the servants that God used in providing for Paul's need.

You may have the opportunity to be a servant of God by communicating with the need of some other Christian brother. Now it may be a financial need, or it may be some other kind of need. There are people in this church who desperately need your prayers, your fellowship with them in prayer. There are families in this church who consider this their church home who are at their wits' end in problems that they have in their lives and in their families. You could be a servant of God by simply praying with them, because in some of those situations that is all that can be done. I don't say that as if that is not much. You can serve God by communicating, by having problems in common, by considering their needs your need. Paul said they were the servants of God. This is their history.

The Reward of Stewardship

Then in verses 17 and 18 their honor is also mentioned. Notice he says:

Philippians 4

17Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

Now again Paul comes back to the subject, “Keep in mind, we are not just talking about money for the sake of money. I'm not saying all these things just because I desire a gift, but another reason that I was so glad to receive your gift was that I knew it would give you honor before the Lord.”

Notice the last part of verse 17:

Philippians 4

17…but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

It's dangerous, I suppose, to read in more than is in the Scripture, but as I think about what Paul was writing here, I think he may have almost been thinking, “I wish I could be talking about your gift to somebody else, and then you would get my point without thinking about the money you sent me. I'm not talking about this because I desire a gift,” Paul says. “It just happens that the gift came to me. But the principle is, I am delighted to see you giving, because when you give, fruit abounds to your account.”

Did you know that God keeps track of what you give? One of the wonderful things about Abilene Bible Church and about most Bible-teaching churches is that we don't keep track of what people give. We don't send you a bill, as you know, and we don't estimate what you should be giving, and we don't make a pledge or anything like that. One of the many reasons that we don't is that it would be a duplication of effort because God is keeping those records. There is no need for us to do that. It would be poor stewardship of what money He does bring in, because He keeps those records.

Paul says, “When you communicate with another believer, materially or otherwise, it credits fruit to your account.” God keeps those accounts. And that, too, may be encouraging because so often when we do give to someone in need, the very circumstances of their need will keep us or them from saying anything about it. Sometimes it is embarrassing to let people know that we have helped another believer. Maybe it is embarrassing for the one we have helped, or maybe for some reason it is embarrassing to us. So I think people have a tendency not to get involved like they should because we are all human and we like a little recognition. Remember, God credits that to your account. God keeps track of that, and God knows and God rewards. In fact, Jesus said the same thing when He was on the earth. In Matthew, chapter 6, He said, “Give in secret, and God will reward you.” He was talking about the Pharisees who gave publicly so everybody could see what they were giving. He said, “Don't do that. Give secretly and remember God will reward you.” God keeps track of what we do for other believers. God keeps track of what we give, materially or emotionally or in whatever way it may be.

An Acceptable Sacrifice

Then in verse 18, Paul elaborates a little bit more. He describes–I think this is beautiful–God's reaction when you and I communicate with each other as believers in helping each other. He says, in verse 18:

Philippians 4

18But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.

“I have received this gift from you, and I want you Philippians to know that this smells good to God.” I wonder what it is that smells good to God. It is an interesting thing to me and is beside the point, but one of the things that I have noticed here at Abilene Bible Church, and it is true in almost any church that I have been in, that you can come in on Monday morning and the place smells like perfume–a mixture of perfume and shaving lotion. There is a smell in this place. When I first read this verse, I thought that must be what that is talking about–I was pretty young when I read the verse. Having grown up under the drippings of the sanctuary, literally, I have always known that there was a smell associated with the things of God. It is not a bad smell; it is a sweet smell.

That is really not what he is talking about in this verse, not the way perfume stays in the air after everyone leaves. He is talking about an Old Testament picture. Paul's background was an Old Testament background. Remember, he was a Hebrew of the Hebrews, he tells us. In the Old Testament economy, remember, there were some of the offerings that were burned and some of the offerings that were poured out–a drink offering before God. What he is saying is that when that offering burns it smells good to God, not because of the meat itself, but because of the intentions. When we give a gift to other believers, we are giving it to God. When we take the needs of another believer in prayer or in concern, or in some physical action, or in monetary gifts or whatever form it is, that is an odor of a sweet-smelling savor to God. It smells as good to him as the burning sacrifices in the Old Testament smelled to Him. It smells good to God. It is acceptable to God. And so to give to the needs of others, either materially or in whatever way it is, is acceptable. It is well-pleasing to God.

The Source of Provision

Now, in spite of all this, Paul recognizes the real source of provision in verse 19. Notice he says:

Philippians 4

19But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Again notice the context of this verse. He is not saying, “Christian, you can do anything that you want to do financially and God will take care of you. No Christian ever starved to death. Go ahead and run up all the bills you want to. Spend your money on foolish things, and God will take care of you.”

Notice who the “you” is in this verse. It is those Philippians who had communicated with him out of their poverty. So what verse 19 is saying is, “You don't need to be afraid of ministering to some other Christian.” One of our hesitancies when we see a need of another believer financiallly or otherwise, is to say, “Well, I barely have enough for myself.” One of our problems is to say, “I'm not spiritual enough to help him spiritually. I'm barely strong enough to get by myself.” Or to say more realistically, “I don't have enough money to help him.” God says, “You go ahead and help him. I put it on your heart. You are the one I want to use. You go ahead and do it, and I'll take care of the price.”

Paul is saying to the Philippians, “Because you have allowed yourselves to be the servants of God, because you have a history of meeting the needs of other believers, my God will supply all of your needs.” And notice quickly:

Philippians 4

19…according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Not “out of His riches.” Out of His riches would imply that eventually, sooner or later, His riches would run out. But it is “according to His riches.” Now again, to use a human illustration, and it really is kind of a reverse illustration: We pay our taxes in the United States according to our riches, and out of our riches too, but we have a sliding scale for income taxes and other kinds of taxes, particularly income tax. The more you make, the more you have to pay, etc. I won't get into that. Sometimes help services have a sliding fee. Sometimes help for the poor is on the basis of a sliding fee. The more income you have, the more the fee is.

From a very limited human standpoint, that is what Paul is saying. “God will supply your needs according to His riches.” And why is that so significant? Because His riches are limitless. What does that mean? That means that there is no need that you will ever have that God will have to say, “Now wait, that is beyond your category. You are not in that income bracket; you just happened to give a little bit more than I can make up.” No, He will supply the need according to His riches, and His riches are limitless.

Finally, notice in verses 20-23, the salute because of provision. In verse 20, there is a salute to the Savior:

Philippians 4

20Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.

That is a very common statement that we find many places in the New Testament, but I think that we need to notice it very carefully because remember we believe in the plenary, verbal inspiration of the Scriptures. God doesn't just tack these verses on the end of these letters just because it is a convenient way to close a book of the Bible. He had a purpose in that.

Why do you suppose he salutes the Savior here? I think it is to remind us that in the midst of all these principles Paul has been talking about, in the midst of the principles of this chapter and all the great things he has brought out in this letter, the Lord Jesus Christ is at the center of all of it. God is the author of all the things that Paul has been saying, and He deserves a salute certainly more than the Philippians do.

In verses 21 and 22, there is also a salute to the saints. Isn't that great? God is gracious enough that He can inspire Paul to give God a salute, but He also inspires the Apostle Paul to salute the saints also. Notice he says, in verses 21 and 22:

Philippians 4

21Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you.
22All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.

This is a wonderful thing. Many of the guards that we talked about before had become saints in Christ Jesus as they dealt with and worked with the Apostle Paul through his testimony.

Conclusion

The final note is a good one on which to close our study. Notice he says, in verse 23:

Philippians 4

23The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.

As we leave the Philippian letter, and as we move on to other areas of study, isn't it a wonderful thing to know that the grace of God, which involves all of the things that Paul has been talking about, is with us all?


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