Study of Philippians--Lesson 18
May 20, 2001
Having directed the Philippians to mediate on the things of the Lord and to do the things they had received and heard and saw (4:8-9), Paul now offers his thanks for the Philippians’ gift to him. In a masterful way, Paul gives his thanks to the Philippian congregation and yet gives all glory to God. He gives thanks to the Philippians and yet is careful not to leave the impression that he is a "belly-server" such as those he has already condemned (3:19).
Philippians 4:10-14 [NKJV]
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.
Verses 10: But I rejoiced greatly in connection with the Lord because now at length you have caused your thoughts toward me to blossom again, toward which you were continually turning your thoughts, but had no opportunity.
- It was springtime again in the Philippians thoughts and action on behalf of the apostle Paul. Paul writes that the Philippians caused their thoughts to grow up again, blossom—the picture of plants and trees entering their growth of spring. There had been a long "Fall" and "Winter" during which the Philippians had not assisted Paul. However, Paul is quick to add that this was not because of their lack of attention, but rather because of a lack of opportunity. The lack of opportunity could have been due to a lack of resources or because they lacked a way to transport the gift to Paul.
- Paul is thanking the Philippians for their gift, but his rejoicing is still in connection with the Lord. Paul ever directs his attention, glory, and thanks to his gracious Lord. The Gospel had moved the Philippians to send aid to Paul, the Gospel was what bonded Paul and the Philippians together, therefore, keep rejoicing in HIM.
Verses 11-13: Not that I am speaking on account of need, for I, on my part, have learned how to be content in connection with whatever [circumstances] I am. I even know how to be humbled (live humbly) and I know how to be in abundance (live in prosperity). In connection with everything and in all things I have learned the secret, to be both satisfied and to be hungry; both to abound and to have need. All things I am able [to do] in connection with the One who gives me power—CHRIST!
- Consider the circumstances that Paul experienced and to which he referred when he wrote, "in whatever circumstances to be content." READ: 2 Corinthians 11:24-28
- Paul did not want to leave the impression with the Philippians that he would not have been content without their gift. He expressed that he had a great need and he expressed his thankfulness that their gift had come. However, the Philippians should not be led to the wrong conclusion that they had rescued him from something he could not have endured through the Lord’s strengthening (cf: Genesis 14:22-23) or that he would have been dissatisfied had they not given him the gift. Paul’s approach to his needs is far different from that which he described in 3:19.
- "Content" = literally, "to be self-sufficient, needing no assistance, and thus "content" in one’s current state.
- CONTENTMENT is a gift of the Spirit about which God speaks often. Contentment is the underlying solution to keeping the 7th, 9th, and 10th commandments READ: 1 Timothy 6:6-10
- The WAY to CONTENTMENT in EVERY CONDITION: Isaiah 43:1-7(TLH #427); Hebrews 13:5; 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.
- SOURCE OF STRENGTH: Notice that Paul does not suggest that Christ is merely helping him to do all things. Rather Paul’s ability and strength to do all things is completely from Christ! READ: Isaiah 40:29-31; John 15:5; 2 Timothy 4:14-18;
- GIVE practical suggestions that would lead us toward contentment.
- AGREE or DISAGREE? "It requires as much grace to keep the heart right in prosperity as it does in adversity, and perhaps more. Adversity, of itself, does something to keep the mind in a right state; prosperity does nothing." (cf: Proverbs 30:8-9)
- Why is contentment in "whatever circumstance" an attitude that is uniquely Christian?
- What other Christian virtues/gifts of the Spirit are "partners" with contentment?
- Why is covetousness/lack of contentment the root of all kinds of evil?
- Regarding our prayers for blessings…what may often be the assumption if a request goes unfulfilled? How does this relate to "contentment"?
- Paul did not wish to be misunderstood that his joy over their gift was a mere satisfaction at being relieved from present want or distress Luther picked up on this thought. Read and discuss Luther’s words below:
The impure and perverted lovers [of God], who are nothing else than parasites and who seek their own advantage in God, neither love nor praise His bare goodness but have an eye to themselves and consider only how good God is to them, that is, how deeply He makes them feel his goodness and how many good things He does to them. They esteem Him highly, are filled with joy, and sing His praises as long as this feeling continues. But just as soon as He hides His face and withdraws the rays of His goodness, leaving them bare and in misery, their love and praise are at an end. They are unable to love and praise the bare, unfelt goodness that is hidden in God. By this they prove that their spirit did not rejoice in God, their Savior, and that they had no true love and praise for His bare goodness. They delighted in their salvation much more than in the Giver, in the creature rather than in the Creator. For they are not able to preserve an even mind in plenty and in want, in wealth and in poverty, as St. Paul says (Philippians 4:12): "I know how to abound and how to suffer want…as Christ also said to those who sought Him (John 6:26): "Truly, truly, I say to you, You seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves." [What Luther Says, CPH, p. 1272f]
- How does the assurance that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us affect our approach to the work our Savior has given us to do and all the other issues of life?
A CONTENTED MIND & HEART IS AN INVALUABLE BLESSING!
Verse 14: Nevertheless, you have done well sharing with me in the pressure.
- "Pressure/Distress" = literally, the pressure of being squeezed between two sides, as in a vise.
- Yes, Paul would have been content without the gift from the Philippians, but he rejoiced in the gift’s expression of love for him and of their mutual love for Christ. Thus, the Philippians did "well" because they saw the need of the Lord’s apostle and responded as the Lord prospered them and gave them opportunity. READ: Galatians 6:9-10.