Philippians 4:14-23 | "14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word[g] without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better."
Today we will be considering Philippians chapter 4, verses 14 through 23, Together in the Gospel Ministry. Hear the word of the Lord from Philippians chapter 4, verse 14 through the end of the chapter, “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.”
When you think of the word fellowship -- the Greek word is Koinonia and oftentimes in Christian circles we use the word fellowship -- what do you think about? Many people think about spending time with other Christians, enjoying company and conversation and that’s very good and that is what it means in part, but think about the way the apostle Paul uses it here. In verse 14 he said, “Yet it was kind of you to fellowship in my trouble.” That’s what it means. And there’s an application of the word fellowship in which we fellowship, we share in the trouble of others, but that isn’t the meaning of the word that is often focused on. But we need to think about that again. To have fellowship with other Christians includes sharing with them in their trouble and that’s what the Philippians are doing here. As we will see, Paul’s trouble was largely financial, though not exclusively financial, but that was a big part of it and they met a very pressing need that this apostle had. So think about fellowshipping with other Christians in their trouble, enter into their difficult circumstances, their difficult situation. It means more than just talking with them and socializing with them.
The first main point is that we enter into the difficult circumstances of other people we are in ministry with. As I just mentioned verse 14, “Yet it was kind of you to share in my trouble.” Now, this means we have to be very sincere and genuine as Christians. We have to love our brothers and sisters in Christ as Jesus did. Wasn’t Jesus and isn’t He still incredible at entering into, at sharing in our trouble? He says that He will never leave us, that He loves us with an everlasting love. And think of the challenges that we face in life: relational, material, psychological, social. He’s always with us. He’s fellowshipping with us, sharing in our troubles with us. So we have to be sincere, even as Jesus was, if we’re going to fellowship or share in the difficulties that other Christians face. Their struggle becomes our struggle. This is a difficult concept, even for Christians. I want to ask you this. Do you really want to be more like Jesus? Oftentimes that kind of saying ‘be more like Jesus,’ ‘I want to be like Jesus,’ is used and we might use it probably without understanding fully what that means. Part of what it means is this: the struggles of other people become our struggles. Now, you may have to exercise discernment and you may have to have insight to determine how often you can do this and how many lives you can be involved in but be assured that to be like Jesus is to make the struggles of other believers your own. But also, we have to see it through to the end. Isn’t it easy at times to share in someone’s struggle briefly? Oh it, it gets long. It takes days or week or even months. We want to help but we may not want to help all that we can help or we may not want to give all that we can give to somebody to see a problem through. But the Philippians did that here with Paul, as he will say. So it requires this stick-to-itiveness, this patience, this endurance. If we want to be like Jesus, we share in the struggles of believers until those struggles are worked through. We see it to the end, see it through to the end, and, of course, this includes sacrifice. Jesus sacrificed for us. We sacrifice for others in order to help them in their time of need.
Secondly, in this relationship of giving and receiving, it’s a partnership. This partnership, the one who gives is blessed more, even than the one who receives. Verse 15, “And you Philippians know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.” Now, of course, in this passage, the one who received apparently was blessed more. Paul talks about how the Philippians met his need and he was blessed by that -- he absolutely was blessed -- but listen what Paul says in the book of Acts, chapter 20 in verse 35 about giving and receiving. He’s quoting Jesus and he says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” In todays passage, Paul has received yet, of course, he’s undoubtedly blessed. Were the Philippians blessed by giving to Paul? According to Acts 25, they would’ve been blessed more. “It’s more blessed to give than to receive.” Well, how would’ve the Philippians have been blessed? It doesn’t say anything about that here in this passage. Paul is mentioning how much he was blessed by the gift of the Philippians. Well, it would’ve built the Philippians up. When we give and meet the needs of others, we are doing something that’s Christ-like. He has given in a multitude of ways to meet our needs and we bless and we praise God because of the opportunity to give. Again, we are thankful to God for all that He has done and so, we’re generous to others. I want you to think about that again. It’s more blessed to give than to receive and that’s required in this partnership, this fellowshipping in ministry. It’s a giving and it’s a receiving. So do you feel that you are blessed when you give to others? Give of your time, give of your energy, give of your money,give of your insight? Do you feel that it’s more blessed to give than to receive? If that’s the case, you are being Christ-like in your experience of blessedness when you give to others.
Thirdly, it is the church’s or the believer’s responsibility to make sure that those we support financially are well supplied or, think of it this way, those we are partners in ministry with need to be well supplied, financially and materially. In verse 18, Paul says, “I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” Paul says, he’s well supplied. I think we need a change in thinking with respect to how we support financially missionaries and pastors and people who are in full-time Christian work. Oftentimes, we refer to a salary and while that may not be a bad thing in and of itself I want to encourage us and challenge us to think differently. Of course, there should be a salary; monetary provision and a monetary gift for the work given. But let’s move from salary to making sure those we’re in partners with are well supplied. Not so much a set salary, but is he or is she well supplied in ministry? Now why, why am I laboring this point? Because situations change. Oftentimes in the business non-Christian world, salaries are re-visited maybe once a year. There’s a two to three percent cost of living increase that’s given and that’s it. But Paul is saying, given my situation here, I’m well supplied. I’ve received full payment. This is ongoing. His need was great here and the church at Philippi rose up and met that need. But how many churches, or how many mission’s boards will do this with their Christian workers, their pastors, or their missionaries? Is it just a two to three cost of living increase at the end of the year or is this leadership board, whether it’s elders or whether the board of directors, are they initiating and accessing the financial situation of their Christian worker? Are they adjusting on the fly as needed? This is what Paul says here, “I receive full payment. I’m well supplied.” I want to encourage you if you are an elder or a leader in a church or on a mission board or any other Christian board, take the initiative to see if those you are supporting and partnering with are well supplied. Don’t just wait until the end of the year to visit. Their situation, their need, may be acute as Paul’s is here, so be proactive. Engage. This is what distinguishes the church from the world. It’s not just a two to three percent cost of living increase. It’s a partnership. So you’re initiating, you’re assessing, you’re adjusting, you’re giving more, you’re taking the initiative, you know, as you’re able to give more, but that’s your goal to give more. Okay. Now, it’s true Paul was in prison. He was traveling light. He had no family. But I want you to think about the tone here: assess needs along the way and meet those needs.
Fourthly, every gift we give in support of fellow believers in ministry is a sacrifice acceptable to God. Verse 18, “I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” Once Jesus offered His sacrifice for our sins any attempt that human beings have made to sacrifice something in order to pay for their own sins ceases. We don’t offer any sacrifice to pay for our sins. Jesus sacrificed Himself once and for all to pay for our sins. But we still sacrifice in ministry how? How do we do this? We give something to others that costs us something. That’s what a sacrifice is. Whether it’s time or energy, attention, encouragement, words, a listening ear, that’s our service to God and it’s a response to Christs’ saving sacrifice. He sacrificed Himself to pay for our sins to reconcile us to God. That need is taken care of. So we sacrifice of ourselves in response to that to meet the needs of other people. That is how the Gospel goes forth.
Now, fifthly, we need to hear about the fruit of the ministry of those we support. Those we partner with have to have the opportunity to share the fruit of their ministry with us. Look at verse 22 -- 21 and 22, Paul says, “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers and sisters who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those who are of Caesar's household.” I want you to think about that. This is an incredible moment in the apostle Paul’s life and ministry. He’s in a Roman prison. He’s chained to soldiers in four-hour increments. And one of the things Paul did was he shared the good news of Jesus Christ with those soldiers. Some of them became believers. That’s what he is talking about here. All the saints greet you, especially those who are of Caesar’s household. Some of those who are of Caesar’s household were soldiers who are now greeting the Christians in Philippi as saints. They’ve gone from soldiers to saint. Remember a saint is a holy one. Someone who is set apart by God. Taken from the world, set apart by God in Christ, and sent back out into the world to live for Him. They’ve gone from soldiers, to saints, to those who are now sending their greetings to the fellow brothers and sisters at the church in Philippi. This is an amazing work of God in Christ by the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. This is the kind of transformation that happens. A hard-boiled harsh Roman soldier becomes a saint and now is greeting his fellow brothers and sisters in the church in Philippi. So we need to hear about the fruit of the ministry of those we’re laboring and fellowshipping with in order to be encouraged and see the radical transformation that occurs in every life that is converted from darkness to light, from death to life, from the kingdom of Satan to the kingdom of Jesus Christ. Let’s pray.
Father, we thank you for your word. We thank you for this marvelous epistle and for how Paul’s very pressing need was met by the church in Philippi. He received full payment, he was well supplied, and help us to remember that those we are partnering with in ministry have needs that oftentimes go above and beyond a yearly salary. They require the initiative, the attentiveness, the assessment of those who are responsible for their salaries, so help those of us who are responsible for their salaries to pay attention, to be engaged. And help us Lord as well to remember the fruit of the ministry that results from the Gospel being shared and to rejoice in it. In Christ’s name, amen.