May 24, 2009

Philippians #21

Philippians 4:13-23

All things and All needs

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

I have heard this verse misused about as much as any verse in Scripture. V. 13 basically says that there is no excuse for not doing all the things required of us by God's word.

As we consider v. 13, we must keep in mind the context.

First, Paul is writing to first generation Christians. Unlike today, there was no New Testament spiritual foundation upon which to draw. The only Scriptures available to them were the Old Testament Scriptures. Though the indwelling Spirit was prophesied, the prophecies were unclear, e.g., Jeremiah 31:3ff.

Second, though the requirements upon the new Christians were not new, they had not been clearly revealed in the Law, Prophets nor the Psalms. Hence, the Christian requirements Paul had presented probably seemed not only new, but out of reach. Thus, he teaches of the indwelling Spirit of Christ which would empower them to live according to the rules he gave from God.

V. 13 is Paul's assurance that through Christ they can do the seemingly impossible requirements he laid out for them. As Paul instructs them in the new doctrine of the indwelling power, he assures them that the Spirit will enable them to do all those things expected of them as believers. He assures them that they can do what he has required of them through the new doctrine of Christ in them, who is their strength.

Paul uses himself as an example of how the new doctrine of the indwelling strength of Christ works. It is likely that he taught the new power of Christ while he was among them; now he reemphasizes the doctrine in writing. God preserved his writings for the benefit of the church unto the end.

Everywhere-Everything

Hank Snow had a song out some years ago, named I'VE BEEN EVERYWHERE. Johnny Cash also recorded it, but Hank Snow's is better.

Paul had been everywhere and in every circumstance. There were very few things that Paul did not experience, yet Christ strengthened him. The list is in 2 Cor. 11:21-33.

He wrote Romans 8:35-39 from personal experience.

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Paul could preach the new doctrine of the strengthening power of Christ, as found in v. 13, from experience — he had done all things and had been through all things for the cause of Christ by the strengthening power of the indwelling Christ. He had been in every financial and physical situation one can imagine. He had suffered and abounded. He had feasted and fasted. Everything he had been through had been for the cause of Christ.

He makes it clear that he did not survive all of the situations in his service of the Lord that he went through by any abilities nor strength of his own. It was all by the grace of God through Christ, the very same grace that is available to all of God's people.

Thus the historical context of v. 13, is I can do all things for the cause of Christ through the power of Christ which strengtheneth me.

Though I am not sticking strictly to the context of the verse, here are a few practical applications for us:

1. We can not expect to have the preserving grace that will see us through all things, until we get there. The temptation is extremely strong to try to live through the prospective trials before they get here. Many times they never do.

We live in a day of great uncertainty.

Muhammadans

The followers of Muhammad are intent on taking over the world. They are doing so, not by the sword, but by large birth numbers, which Christians are not doing. Europe will fall to the Muhammadans within the next 20 years. The only thing that is preventing the USA from such a fall is the great influx of Mexicans, who also normally have large families. The Christians are "breeding" themselves out of existence. I told you of a couple we met at Bettie's college reunion who were proud they had no children.

Furthermore, many Christians who might have large families are sacrificing their children to the world, flesh and the devil through the education system.

Sodomites

The Sodomites are making great inroads as they work to destroy God's definitions of good and evil and marriage.

Education

The education establishment is in a full-court press against Christianity, and Christianity is yielding to the siren's song.

Howard Phillips sends an e-mail paper. A recent issue had "Higher" education is big business. He tells how all the modern emphasis on "higher" education is a fraud, and only to raise money from those who fall for the fraud.

Anti-family

The anti-family mood even in the churches is astounding, as large families are at the least looked down upon, if not openly ridiculed.

The trials of our faith are adding up. The promised preserving grace that will see us through all things evils will be there when it is needed.

There is no need to fear trials. That the trial of your faith being much more precious than that of gold... 1 Peter 1:7.

The grace of God is available to see us through anything He allows to come our way. In 1 Corinthians 10:13, He promised not to allow more to come against us than what He has equipped us to handle.

1 Corinthians 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.

Others go through just as difficult of situations as we do. Whatever our difficulty, others have already faced it. We need to pray that God will provide a way of escape for them also. We should see our temptation as a call to pray for those in authority over us.

2. There is no reason to try to flee from trials. Trials contain something that God has decided we need to learn, and the grace to get through them is promised by God to His faithful people. If we do not learn His lesson where we are, He will have it somewhere else for us to learn.

3. There is no need to yield to the temptations and trials. His grace is sufficient.

4. There is no excuse for an out-of-control thought life. The grace of God is available to handle even that, as Paul commands to think on these things.

5. It is so tempting to withdraw from society, believing it is someone else's responsibility.

V. 13 must be understood in the context of this book, although it applies in other things. Thus, the strength of Christ was promised to these people to assure then that they COULD DO what Paul urged upon them. Some of the more obvious requirements Paul gives:

1. He had called them to sincerity, unity and love one for another for the cause of the gospel.

2. He had called them to faithfulness to the gospel of Christ whether Paul was able to return to them or not, 2:12.

3. He had called them to humility and caring toward one another, 2:3,4.

4. He had told them to let the mind of Christ be in them, 2:5.

5. He had told them to do all things without murmurings and disputings, 2:14.

6. He had warned them of false teachers and of suffering. He had told them to identify with the death and resurrection of Christ. He had told them to leave the past behind, including the old works of the flesh, and press on to prize which the Lord had set before them.

7. He had told them to unite together with him in the mind of Christ for the furtherance of the gospel, and that if they were not united in any area, the Lord would show even this to them. 3:15.

8. Notice the very difficult command of vv. 6-9, which is probably the most difficult of all the requirements of the law of God – the requirement to bring every thought under control to the word of God.

9. 2:13 is the basis of 4:13, telling the Philippians, and us, that the desire and power to do all things that fulfill His good pleasure is from the indwelling Spirit of Christ. Paul had given them a lengthy list of things that needed to be done to please the Lord. To folks who knew only the Old Testament, the list may have seemed impossible. So he assures them that they can do the requirements he has laid out for them, for they can do all those things expected of them as new believers through Christ, who is their strength.

Such an idea of the power of Christ in them would have been a new idea to the new church. Paul is teaching them of the power of the indwelling Christ, to which we have become accustom.

Paul was not encouraging them nor us to claim the strength of Christ to do anything other than those things that God according to His word. V. 13 is clearly a promise of the strength of Christ to fulfill the requirements Paul had laid out in this letter. V. 13 was the promise of the power of God to please God, and to do what is required of believers by God. It was not a promise to provide the power of God to pursue one's own desires.

The Bible has only two messages;

1. Man's sinful condition, and the how to solve that problem.

2. What is expected of us once the sin problem is settled, and how to solve that problem of expectation.

4:13 removes every excuse for not doing all things required of us by God's word.

V. 14. Paul learned contentment the hard way, and he was content in every situation where the Lord placed him. He was confident that whatever the Lord had for him to do, he could do it. With all of this in consideration, he complements this church for their love and concern shown to him by sending to him the gift which they did in his affliction.

V. 15. Evidently their support started to him as soon as he preached to them about 12 years previously, and had followed him every since. Getting support to him would not be as easily accomplished in his day as it is in ours. Today we go to the bank, get a check, stick it in the mail and it is delivered. In his day, they would probably have had to send it with someone and pay their expenses while they tracked him down. And Paul would not have been the easiest man to keep track of.

He reminds them of and complements them on their past faithfulness in the support sent to him that started when he first preached to them. They had been the only church to do this. He does not condemn the other churches for not supporting him, he is only stating the facts, to their favor.

It is sad that of all the churches he started or had an influence in, only one supported him faithfully. It is so easy to profess our love to someone, even to the Lord, but our Lord made it clear – where our money is invested is where our heart is, Matthew 6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

It is so easy to forget the good done for us by others. How easily we forget!

And let me make this point while we are this close. The tithe is not an investment; rather, it is a dept to be paid. The tithe cannot be considered our treasure to invest – it is the Lord's from the time we earn it. It is never our's to invest, although it is our responsibility to see that it is used properly in the kingdom work.

V. 16. Paul went to Thessalonica from Phillipi, where encountered opposition and persecution; therefore, he had to depend on the Lord for his support, Acts 17. The Lord supplied that through the Christians at Philippi. Not once, but twice they sent support to him.

Comment:

It is interesting to me that when Paul went into the city he did not go to the leaders of the city to get permission to preach, Acts 17: 6-8. He just went into the religious assembly hall and started preaching. His doctrine caused quit an uproar, as he clearly presented another king, one Jesus, v. 7. He was accused of presenting this another king, and he never denied that he did present this King, Jesus. Obviously there was more to the message than what we are told in v.3. 16:21 shows us that Paul preached loyalty to another law system, and that law system contrary to the civil customs.

We see that the church at Philippi which Paul is complementing for supporting him, did not make sure that Paul had permission from the rulers of the city before they sent him support.

Things are sure different today. I do not know of a college that does not teach their young men that the very first thing they must do when starting a work, is go to the civil authorities, and get their permission to preach. Mission boards make this their major selling point; their aid in getting the civil authorities' permission to preach in the nation where the candidate wants to go.

Here is a thorny question: Can Jesus be presented as King if His message is subject to the will and whim of the civil authority? Is the gospel presented as Paul presented it when it is subject to the civil ruler?

Today the church would have helped Paul contact the rulers of the city and work out a deal with them for him to preach before they would have supported him.

V. 17 Paul rejoices that they had been faithful in supporting him since he had been with them some time ago. It would be quit easy to misunderstand that rejoicing for covetousness on Paul's part.

When God provides us with material support from someone else, we rejoice because we can use it. But Paul clearly tells them that he is rejoicing because of their willingness to give to his needs. Their willingness proved that they were growing in the knowledge of the Lord. It showed that they were not controlled by covetousness, but by the fruit of the Spirit. He found his joy in their growth in the Lord, not in the fact that they were giving to his needs.

V. 17 lessons:

1. No matter who is on the receiving end of the giving, those who are genuinely concerned about the spiritual growth of those giving will rejoice that those giving are growing in the Lord.

2. Paul identifies spiritual growth with the willingness to give to the work of the Lord. The increasing of spiritual fruit is connected with, but not restricted to, giving. Some folks find excuses as to why they cannot give to the Lord. V. 17 tells us that actually the ones giving the excuses are actually justifying why they have not or are not growing in the Lord.

Our Lord knew whereof he spoke when he said, For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. Matthew 6:21.

3. to your account, indicates that the funds are not wasted, nor was the goodness shown to him, forgotten. It has all been credited to their account, to be withdrawn some day. We have already talked about the treasures laid up in heaven.

Mark 10:21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

He certainly was not saying that only those who sell everything can follow him. He is exposing the heart.

V. 18. What or how much they sent to him is entirely unknown. We do see from here that what they sent by the hands of Epaphroditus was sufficient to make his situation as comfortable as could be in the circumstances that he was in, prison. There is nothing lacking.

an odour of a sweet smell... This is an obvious reference to the old temple offering of incense which produced a pleasant fragrance, which had nothing to do with the atonement, blood sacrifice, or even obedience to a command.

In v. 18, Paul compares their gift to the sweet smelling incense mentioned in Exodus 35:5, 8, 15. That offering was given by those with a willing heart. It was over and above the tithe, which belonged to God. The more the worshiper loved the Lord, the more he gave in the sweet smelling offering. Hebrews 13:6. Hebrews 13:16 says that with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

These people did not have to send the gift to him. Rather, they did it because they loved him. He tells them that their love for him was not their only motive. It was their love for the Lord.

V. 18 lessons:

1. The kindness done for ministers of the gospel is regarded as a sweet smelling offering before the Lord, just as were the OT temple spices.

2. Kindness done to servants of God in distress and need are wellpleasing to God as a direct act of worship to Him.

3. wellpleasing to God cannot be more obvious. The sweet smelling gifts to God's servants are seen as a mark of true Christianity.

4. This offering that was so wellpleasing to God, was over and above the tithe which was commanded by the law.

V. 19. Here is another well-worn yet misused verse. However, it will not stand on its own. It will stand only in its context. It is tying up all the loose ends that Paul has presented to the people at Philippi.

It is given as a promise to a group of people who had remembered a servant of God in their giving over many years. Their supply for him followed him all over the known world, and went to him as he remained faithful and true to the Lord. Paul's faithfulness to the Lord got him into some very hot water with the civil authorities many times, especially as he went in and preached the message of King Jesus without their permission.

In v. 18, we see that they had taken care of him well, especially in this last gift. We also see that though they loved him, they had given to him primarily out of love for the Lord. The giving was not a command of God. It had been a freewill offering.

In v. 17 Paul tells them that they had been and were laying up for themselves treasures in heaven as they did this toward him.

With all of the book of Philippians in mind, we see that v. 19 could be compared to a withdrawal from the account that they had been depositing into over the years by their faithfulness to God in their supply to him, v. 17.

"YOU HAVE SHOWN YOUR LOVE FOR THE LORD IN SUPPLYING MY NEEDS; THEREFORE, I AM CONFIDENT THAT MY GOD WILL SUPPLY ALL OF YOUR NEEDS WHEN YOU FIND YOURSELF IN CIRCUMSTANCES OF NECESSITY!"

according to his riches in glory. According to the exalted position of the Lord far above every name that can be named. Also, he could be referring to the supply in a glorious manner.

in Christ Jesus. Paul is always aware that any good we might receive is because of Christ, not because of anything we have done. All we receive from the Father is because of His Son, and His atoning work.

V. 19 lessons.

1. Only as we follow the example of the people here at Philippi can we expect God to fulfill v. 19 toward us.

2. The supply is more inclusive than just material supply. It includes God's supernatural supply of every need that we have. The supply is so we might be able to do His will for our lives.

3. As we supply the needs for His work in this context, we can fully expect Him to supply our needs when we have them.

4. The people at Philippi went over and above what was required of them, and Paul promises them the supernatural provision of God through Christ Jesus when they need it. Many of us only do what is required of us, then expect the Lord to do for us in a supernatural way.

How many of God's people try to claim this passage apart from the context? Most of us do just enough to stay out of trouble with the Lord. Then we try to claim Ephesians 3:20, Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think... Note, however, that it says he is able to do..., not that he will do. Do we try to claim Ephesians 3:20 and Philippians 4:19 apart from the established the conditions?

V. 20. This is a common closing for Paul. He praises God at the close of all his epistles.

V. 21. Usually he names various members of the churches to which he wrote. He does not name anyone here. They may have been fellow ministers or saints in general.

V. 22. Again, there are no specific individuals mentioned, so we can assume that all the saints in Rome would have had an interest in this church at Phillipi, just as all saints everywhere should have an interest in all gospel preaching churches.

Caesar's household.. Caesar would have been a generic name as would have been Pharaoh. Nero was the Caesar at this time. Paul probably refers to various officers in Nero's court. Today, it would be like people in the President's cabinet who help him govern.

Paul's imprisonment that had been meant for his harm, had been turned into good. God used this seemingly bad circumstance in Paul's life to spread the gospel even into the highest offices of the land.

V. 23. Grace.. The desire to stand and the power to stand for the Lord and change things for the better.

Philippians contains some promises that are commonly floated among the Christian world. Let us not try to claim the promises apart from their context.

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