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I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
In verse 12 Paul gives various eventualities that he might face. No adversity can daunt him: "I can be rich or poor. I can be free or in prison. No matter what may come my way, I am content." Neither defeat or despair defeat him due to his financial difficulty. Although he is in jail, he is not discouraged. Although he is destitute, he is not down. Paul did not accomplish this through some super strength found in himself. He is utterly triumphant in the Lord. This was no idle boast.
This does not make Paul a superman. Paul was no independent person who did not need God. He did not make his mark on life by operation bootstraps. He rejected Stoic inner fortitude that took life with indifference. His disavowal of dependence on material things brings him to this popular verse.
I CAN DO ALL THINGS
Is this a pretentious claim? The medicine man in the former century made outlandish claims for his medicines. Does Paul make an unfounded claim here that he can "do all things"? Many Christians are skeptical of such statements like this in practice if not in theory. Most of us believe that we can do "some" things through Christ.
Obviously this verse is not license to do anything in the sphere of our will. That would place the mantle of sovereignty upon our shoulders. We are not omniscient, so why should we become omnipotent? The will of God limits the phrase "all things." "All things" refers to the will of God for the believer. This is not absolute power for the pleasure of Paul's desires or selfish plans. Whatever the Lord wishes him to do, God grants him the power to do.
The word "do" means to "have strength." This is efficacy or the power to prevail. God gives Paul the power to produce.
PRINCIPLE: Inner composure is inseparable from the sustaining power of God.
APPLICATION: The reason Paul was "content" (v.11) while in prison was due to the sustaining infused-strength from God. God delivered Paul from dependence on things. Can you depend on the Lord to meet your needs? Paul does not say, "I can do all things." That would be an empty boast. His strength was outside the inner resources of himself. "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves" (II Cor. 3:5). Do you trust the Lord for "ALL" things?
The basis for contentment is the Lord himself. We then to depend upon our own strength. We roll up our sleeves and say, "I will conquer this thing." We rely brain and brawn.
The first verb for strength in verse 13 is the word "do." That word means to prevail. Today we come to the second word for strength -- "strengthens."
The name "Christ" does not appear in the older manuscripts. He may have Christ in mind. This strength may come from multiple sources.
The Father gives strength: "And what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power" (Eph. 1:19).
The Holy Spirit gives us strength, "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Another passage that indicates the power of the Holy Spirit in us is Romans 15:13, "Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit."
The Word of God gives us strength, "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb. 4:12).
The Son also gives strength, "And He said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (II Cor 12. 9). Compare also II Peter 1:3.
The Christian, therefore, has four different sources of strength!
WHO STRENGTHENS ME
The verb "strengthens" means to surcharge with energy. The word carries the idea of "infuse strength." This is endowed power or imparted strength. Endowed power is given to us. This power is not our own. It is someone else's power. We therefore possess power that is not our own. This power comes from God.
God imparts this strength to Paul because he is "in Christ." The literal rendering of this phrase is -- "in the one that strengthens me." Not only is Paul independent from material things but he does all things through or in Christ who puts strength into his life. This word means to pour strength into something or someone. The Lord renders Paul strong by pouring his strength into him.
Paul uses the noun of the Lord's relation to him in I Tim 1:12 and II Tim 4:17. He had spiritual power for life because Christ was his life. Note Eph 6:10.
Paul did not ultimately depend on anything but the Lord who infuses strength into him. That is why he did not want to leave the impression that he was in desperate need of financial support.
PRINCIPLE: God causes us to prevail through the infusion of his own strength into our lives.
APPLICATION: Are we careful to acknowledge the Lord's strength in our lives? Are we experiencing God's infused-strength?
Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress.
"Nevertheless" has the idea in this context of "notwithstanding." Paul repeats his commendation to the Philippians for sending their gift because he just said (vv11-13) that he does not need their gift! Just because he was spiritually self-sufficient, that does not mean he lacked appreciation for their gift.
YOU HAVE DONE WELL
The word "well" carries the concepts of noble, beautiful or excellent. Their gift was an honorable act. After Paul's assertion that he could get along without support from human sources, the Philippians may have thought that he was chastising them for their gift of money. He does not want to leave the impression that he is bad rapping their gift.
THAT YOU SHARED IN MY DISTRESS
The Philippians shared jointly in Paul's distress. They sent Epaphroditus with a timely gift. The gift arrived at an opportune time. The gift was just what he needed while in jail. We do not send a refrigerator to an Eskimo. Their gift was appropriate. Some missionaries receive tea bags -- that have only been used once!!
Giving to another person is an act of fellowship. The word "my" is emphatic making their fellowship with his distress personal.
PRINCIPLE: Giving to another person is an act of fellowship. Paul is not commending the Philippians because they met his need; he is commending them because they met a need of their own -- fellowship.
APPLICATION: When we give to a church, missionary or parachurch organization, we have an eternal stake in that enterprise. The Philippians invested a stake in Paul. They had an investment in him. Giving is an investment in eternal values. What kind of investment do you have in the cause of Christ? Have you entered into the fellowship of the cause of Christ financially? If a missionary or mission cause goes without, we are accountable because they are our representatives.
The idea that those in ministry should be kept poor because it keeps them humble is not the idea in this passage. Equality or sharing in ministry is the idea here.
Other passages from Scripture make a strong point about financially supporting the cause of Christ:
"Even so the LORD has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel" (I Cor. 9:14). There is a connection between service and reward for that service. I Corinthians 9 argues for the financial support of those in ministry.
"Let him who is taught in the word share in all good things (finances) with him who teaches" (Gal. 6:6). Sharing links in this passage with giving to a teacher of the word.
"Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine. For the Scripture says, 'You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.' and 'The laborer is worthy of his wages'" (I Tim. 5:17,18). This is a unique verse in that it quotes both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Documentation from both the Old and New Testaments show financial support is crucial for the work of the Lord.
"There by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. But do not forget to do good and to share (financially), for with such sacrifices God is well pleased" (Heb. 13:15,16). Again, financial support links with support of leadership in ministry.
PRINCIPLE: Financial support of the cause of Christ is an important link in God's plan for the world.
APPLICATION: Both the local church and individuals have a very definite financial obligation to God's servants. Has God saved your wallet as well as your life?
Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only.
NOW YOU PHILIPPIANS
Paul calls the Philippians by the name of their town. This is unusual (compare II Cor. 6:11; Gal. 3:1 (province)).
There is a contrast here. First, Paul commends the Philippians for their financial support (v.14) while he was in jail. Then he acknowledges that they remember how he received their gifts of ten years ago when they first came to Christ. They know that Paul gladly received their gifts.
Paul is making it clear to the Philippians that their generosity toward him was valid. He depends upon God (vv11-13) but God sends help by people. He recalls two previous situations by which they supported him financially.
THAT IN THE BEGINNING OF THE GOSPEL
The Philippians were raw heathen when Paul came to their city with the gospel. They had never heard the gospel. This is Acts 16 and 17 historically, about 10 years before his writing. Paul had to flee Philippi for his life. He went to Thessalonica.
WHEN I DEPARTED FROM MACEDONIA
Macedonia was the province where the city of Philippi was located. He went from Philippi to Thessalonica. Paul was in Thessalonica but three Sabbath days. At the most that would be less than a month. At the least it could have been less than two weeks. Yet after such a short time there, the Philippians sent two financial gifts to Paul while he was in Thessalonica. Thessalonica was a much larger city than Philippi. The Thessalonians had more economical resources. Yet it was the Philippians who had a heart to support Paul. They gave out of gratitude to Paul for bringing the gospel to them.
PRINCIPLE: Without the principle of giving, we cannot grow as we ought.
APPLICATION: If we could preach the gospel to the world without any financial involvement, it would be a loss to both individuals and the church. We would be deprived of the spiritual growth that comes from giving to the cause of Christ. Have you checked your giving to see if it reflects spiritual growth in your life?
NO CHURCH SHARED WITH ME CONCERNING GIVING AND RECEIVING BUT YOU ONLY
Paul and his colleagues were beaten and thrown in a dungeon (Acts 16) in Philippi, "But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict" (I Thess. 2:2). Ten years have now gone by. Paul is in jail in Rome writing back to the Philippians. He recalls those early years of their financial support.
The word "shared" is a mercantile expression meaning to render to the account of. The Philippians by their contribution to Paul opened an account with God. No other church opened an account in the ministry of the apostle during this period.
"Giving and receiving" refer to a double transaction. In the first transaction, gifts moved from the Philippians to Paul. In the next transaction, the blessings of having done that flow back to the giver. "If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things?" (I Cor 9:11).
These words are business terms describing the credit and debit side of the ledger. The Philippians owned much to Paul since he led them to Christ and nurtured them in the faith. Thus Paul held credits on their ledger. It is only natural that they would honor that credit. "It pleased them indeed, and they are their debtors. For if the Gentiles have been partakers of their spiritual things, their duty is also to minister to them in material things" (Rom 15:27).
The Philippians formed a partnership with Paul in the gospel. They opened a co-account. That account holds both a debit and credit ledger. This is the giving and receiving.
No local church at this time shared their finances with Paul except the Philippians. They were in a class apart. Other churches could have shared with him but they chose not to do so. They had the opportunity. They knew of his need but they couldn't care less. There is a big difference between churches. Some care about the lost, others do not. Some churches are evangelistic oriented, others not.
Other churches helped Paul as well at other times (II Cor 9:8,9; 12:13). He refused to accept money from the Corinthians (I Cor 9:15-27; II Cor 11:9) because of their carnality. Paul may have been referring to this situation in II Corinthians 11:8,9, "I robbed other churches, taking wages from them to minister to you (the Corinthians, a wealthy church, by the way). And when I was present with you, and in need, I was a burden to no one, for what I lacked the brethren who came from Macedonia (the Philippians) supplied. And in everything I kept myself from being burdensome to you, and so I will keep myself."
PRINCIPLE: When we give financially to the cause of Christ we enter into partnership (share) with God's servants.
APPLICATION: God keeps account of both credit and debit. If God were to ask you what column, credit or debit, is the biggest, what would you say? What is the size of your appreciation for the ministry of the gospel?
Are you a financial partner in the cause of Christ? When we enter into a partnership with a servant of God by supporting him, a special bond forms between the giver and servant of Christ. We "share" the ministry of the gospel together.
For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities.
Other churches contributed to Paul's ministry while he was in their area. The Philippian church contributed after he left into other parts of the world. They had a heart for missions anywhere.
FOR EVEN IN THESSALONICA
Paul fled Philippi for his life. He traveled on the road Via Egnatia 92 miles to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9). There he received financial gifts from the Philippians.
The Philippians were prompt in their generosity. The word "even" indicates the Philippians sent the gifts shortly after he left Philippi (Acts 17:1).
Wealth does not make a giver. The Thessalonican church was wealthy but did not meet Paul's financial needs. The city of Thessalonica was larger and wealthier than Philippi. They were wealthy and active but had no vision for missions.
YOU SENT AID ONCE AND AGAIN
The words "once" and "again" emphasize repetition in the Greek. They sent money on more than one occasion. This is an acknowledgment of Paul's warm reception of their gifts.
This is remarkable since he was in Thessalonica for only a brief time. They were aggressive in their giving! They kept track of the needs of their missionary.
FOR MY NECESSITIES
The donations were earmarked for Paul's needs. Evidently the Philippian church was the only church at this time that recognized that Paul had a stomach as well as a soul. Other churches no doubt prayed for him but the Philippian church supported him financially.
Apparently the Philippian gift was not enough to meet Paul's needs. He worked for a living at tent making while in Thessalonica (I Thess 2:9; II Thess. 3:7-9).
PRINCIPLE: Giving is a matter of the heart, not capacity.
APPLICATION: Do you have a heart for those without Christ? Do you have enough heart to affect your wallet or purse? What is your capacity? Do your capacity and your heart match your giving pattern? Do you have enough heart for missions that it may cost you something?
Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.
NOT THAT I SEEK THE GIFT
Paul here defends himself against slanderous gossip.
"Seek" is the word for intense desire. It deals with motive. Paul at the point of writing this epistle is not subtly hinting for another gift. He is not in quest of further financial help. He has already said that he "can do all things through Christ who strengthens me" (v.13). "I am not dependent upon you folks. I depend on the Lord. I will talk to my Father; he will take care of me."
Instead of rebuking the Philippians for their giving (v.14), Paul enlarges the scope of his appreciation for their gift. He is not hinting for more financial support (v.11).
BUT I SEEK THE FRUIT THAT ABOUNDS TO YOUR ACCOUNT
The word "but" is strong contrast. The goal is not to receive support for himself but the growth of the giver. Giving develops Christian character.
"Fruit" is the payment that the gift will bring the donors and put to their credit. The fruit is more than the gift itself.
"Abounds" was used in the money markets in Paul's day for accumulation of interest. The word "accumulating" may be a good translation for "abounds." This word is a business or commercial term. The word is in the present tense -- this fruit currently accumulates to their account.
This is the blessing that experiences in rich development of character (John 15:16). The Philippians have interest accruing to their account. This is the result of their growth in character. Periodically their account gains interest. It accumulates dividends and will be paid at sometime in the future.
"To your account" -- God places this payment to the account of the Philippians. This account grows with each fresh demonstration of love. It is a good spiritual business investment where accumulation of interest grows.
It is not so much the gift but the giving that gave pleasure to the heart of Paul. God could have used any number of means to bring him support. He used a raven to feed Elijah. His real interest is in the spiritual fruit that comes to their lives when they exercise giving. When they give, they put an investment in the credit side of the ledger. In effect he says, "I am bent on the development of your generosity. The Divine Accountant will keep good records of your account. He will say, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant." What a difference from some methods of fund raising today! Paul says, "I am glad to get your gift, not for what it does for me, but for what it does for you. I want fruit to abound to your account."
PRINCIPLE: Every Christian has a character account. Either that account grows or decreases. It does not remain static. The capacity for grace is a great benefit for the Christian.
APPLICATION: God keeps good books. He is the Great Accountant. He never loses a figure. Our banks have our account down to the dime. We may not know how much we have in the bank but they do. God knows exactly what our account looks like. He knows how much surplus we have. He knows how much we owe. God is keeping an account of what we give to him.
Have you examined your books lately? Has the spirit of grace worked into your soul? Has your spirit gained what the Lord Jesus said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive"?
Copyright © 1995, Dr. Grant Richison. All rights reserved.
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