Note: John Walvoord comments, “The final chapter of the epistle to the Philippians is one of the great discourses on the doctrine of peace, such as Psalm 23 in the Old Testament and John 14 in the New Testament.” And indeed we see Paul’s concern in Philippians 4 that the Philippian saints experience …
• peace in the church (4:1-3)
• peace in the heart (4:4-7)
• peace in the mind (4:8-9)
• peace in regard to things (4:10-13)
• peace in regard to care for others (4:14-19)
Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. (4:1)
Paul begins chapter 4 with the word, “Therefore.” This word connects the last verses of chapter 3 with the first verse of chapter 4. Paul is saying, in essence, “In view of your heavenly citizenship and the glorious hope of a coming Savior, stand firm in the Lord.” Paul also uses the tender phrase “my beloved” (see Philippians 2:12) which reminds us of his affection for the Philippian saints. Walvoord notes, “The expression ‘dearly beloved’ is the translation of the Greek word ‘agapetoi’, the most emphatic word for deep and abiding love.”
Paul also tells the Philippians that he longs to see them. Erdman comments, “They are in his heart and mind, and his separation from them causes him pain and distress.” Paul further refers to his dear Philippians friends as “my joy and crown.” Barclay comments, “Those whom he had brought to Christ are his greatest joy when the shadows are closing about him. Any teacher knows what a thrill it is to point to some person who has done well and to be able to say: ‘That was one of my boys.’” The Philippians were indeed a source of joy and gladness to the Apostle Paul (see Philippians 1:3). Paul also refers to them as his “crown.” The Greek word for “crown” is the word “stephanos”, the crown or garland that was awarded to a victorious athlete at the Greek games. Vos comments, “As Paul’s crown, they would be proof that ‘he did not run or work in vain’ (Philippians 2:6) and at Christ’s coming would be the reward for his faithful service.”
Paul exhorts his beloved Philippian friends to “stand firm in the Lord.” This is an important exhortation, especially in light of chapter 3 where Paul warned the Philippians about the Judaizers, the perfectionists, and the antinomians (whom Paul referred to as “enemies of the cross of Christ”). Paul uses a word for “stand firm” (Greek = “stekete”) which means to stand fast in the heat of battle when the enemy is coming upon you. Paul wanted for the Philippians to maintain their spiritual position as citizens of heaven, especially in the face of persecution from without and error from within. They were to stand firm “in the Lord.” Barclay writes, “Only with Jesus Christ can a man resist the seductions of temptation and the weakness of cowardice … We know very well that there are some people in whose company it is easy to do the wrong thing and there are some in whose company it is easy to resist the wrong thing … Our only safety against temptation is to be “in the Lord,” always feeling His presence around us and about us.”
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. Indeed, true comrade, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. (4:2-3)
James Dyet observes, “The Philippian church was Paul’s ‘crown’ but, as J. Dwight Pentecost observes, “ … when Paul puts on this crown, he finds a thorn in it. The thorn hurts and gives pain and discomfort; it grieves the heart and soul of the apostle. Two women in the church have been carrying on a longstanding feud.” Ogilvie writes, “Everything he has written in the letter about unity is now specifically applied to these two leading women in the church.” Paul wanted for these women to live in harmony (be of the same mind) in the Lord. Paul probably had in mind the exhortation of Philippians 2:2 when he wrote this.
Let’s consider the following questions:
First, who were these women? Euodia and Syntyche. Euodia means “prosperous or successful journey,” or according to some texts, “sweet savor” or “fragrance.” Syntyche means “pleasant acquaintance,” “good fortune,” “fortunate,” or “affable.” Dyet points out, “Some Bible teachers have been known to add a little tongue-in-cheek humor to these names by referring to them as “Odious” and “Soon Touchy.” According to Erdman, they must have been women of high standing who had been of great service in furthering the establishment of the Philippian church. Paul writes in verse 3 that these women shared his “struggle in the cause of the gospel.”
Second, what was their problem? The Bible doesn’t say! Walvoord comments, “The Scriptures do not tell us what the difficulty was.” Vos writes, “What this dispute was we are only left to guess.” Erdman writes, “The cause of their dissension is unknown.”
Third, how long had they been at odds with one another? Ogilvie writes, “Think of how long these women must have been at odds. The news of their separation had reached Paul in Rome. It took a long time for a messenger to travel to Rome from Philippi and an equally long time for this letter to be returned by Epaphroditus. We can only imagine how their feelings festered in this long hiatus. They had kept long accounts of grievances … These women had not lived up to either their names or to their calling in Christ.”
Fourth, was it right for Paul to address this problem publicly? Erdman writes that “the matter was serious enough to require special mention and even this rather public admonition by Paul.” Vos comments, “The disagreement had by now been of long standing and evidently was public knowledge, otherwise Paul would never have addressed them publicly through a letter to the whole congregation.”
Fifth, did Paul take sides or cast blame? No! Absolutely not! Erdman points out, “The matter is handled by the apostle with marked courtesy and wisdom. ‘I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche,’ he writes, using the same word in each case and mentioning the names in alphabetical order, those showing absolute impartiality.”
Notice that Paul once again uses the phrase “in the Lord.” Erdman notes that this “indicates that the desired agreement should be sought on the highest ground and from the loftiest motives.” Barclay comments, “There can be no unity unless it is in Christ … Men can never really love each other until they love Christ. The brotherhood of man is impossible without the lordship of Christ.”
In verse 3 Paul calls upon a third party to help bring about a reconciliation between Euodia and Syntyche. This is often necessary, especially when two individuals are involved in a public disagreement as were these women. The reference to “true comrade” or “yokefellow” in verse 3 has been interpreted to mean either a proper name (Syzygus) or to some outstanding saint who Paul felt was capable of helping these two women. Some commentators believe that the “true comrade” was Epaphroditus. Erdman comments, “Evidently the person in mind was a man of rare distinction. His task was delicate, as can easily be imagined. However, it was noble and honorable. A sympathetic friend can do much to reconcile difficulties between Christians. The ministry of reconciliation is much needed and is an exalted form of service. ‘Blessed are the peacemakers.’”
Barclay offers the following observation regarding Euodia and Syntyche, challenging us to consider the witness of our lives as well. He writes, “It is a grim thought that all we know about Euodia and Syntyche is that they were two women who had quarreled! It makes us think! Suppose our life was to be summed up in one sentence, what would that sentence be? Clement goes down to history as the peacemaker; Euodia and Syntyche go down as the breakers of the peace. Suppose we were to go down to history with one thing known about us, what would that one thing be?”
Walvoord comments, “Disharmony in the church is often the by-product of internal, personal conflicts, and now Paul directs his exhortation to the inner state of peace.”
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (4:4)
Once again we come across the keynote of the epistle – “Joy!” The thought here is, “Keep on rejoicing in the Lord always. Again I will say, keep on rejoicing.” The word “always” means at all times and in all places, when circumstances are most promising and when everything is wrong (see also Habakkuk 3:17-18). Vos comments on the difference between joy and happiness: “Happiness and joy are two different emotions. Happiness is more apt to be related to circumstances and to involve a mood of gladness. Joy, at least Christian joy, is more a delight of the mind arising from assurance of a present or future rooted in God regardless of circumstances … It is not something that can be worked up on one’s own.” Barclay comments, “Christian joy is independent of all things on earth because it has its source in the continual presence of Christ.”
Let your forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. (4:5)
Paul further exhorts the Philippian saints to let their forebearing spirit be known to all men. The Greek word translated “forebearance” literally means “gentleness” or “reasonableness.” Erdman comments, “It describes that courtesy and graciousness which should characterize a Christian gentleman. The term indicates something of the ‘power of yielding,’ the ability to give way to the wishes of others, the poise of soul which enables one to sacrifice his own rights, not by necessity but out of generosity and sympathy. It is the opposite of stubbornness and thoughtlessness.” What a contrast to the attitude demonstrated by Euodia and Syntyche.
Paul exhorted the Philippians to show a gentle attitude “to all men.” Erdman writes, “This is the difficult part of the exhortation. It would be quite easy to be considerate and kind and gentle toward some persons. There are others, however, toward whom it is difficult to show such a spirit.” Vos comments that this exhortation “is apparently directed primarily toward pagan society rather than merely to characterize relationships within the church, for it is to be known “to all men.” If exercised within the church, it would, however, go a long way toward eliminating any disunity that might exist.”
Paul gives the reason and motive for this exhortation at the conclusion of the verse: “The Lord is near (at hand).” This expression was a watchword among the early Christians. Vos comments, “This could of course mean that the Lord is near and observes all that we do; such a reminder would encourage us to do His will. More likely it means that the return of the Lord is at hand, when He will reward the faithful and vindicate His oppressed people.” Surely the expectation of the Lord’s return (Philippians 3:20) should serve as an incentive to all the Christian virtues.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (4:6-7)
Paul now turns his attention to the matter of “anxiety” or “worry.” Paul “uses the present imperative to indicate that we should never be filled with anxious care, but rather should present our needs to the Lord.” (Walvoord). Wiersbe comments that the Greek word translated “anxious” means “to be pulled in different directions.” Wiersbe writes, “Our hopes pull us in one direction; our fears pull us the opposite direction; and we are pulled apart!” He further notes that the Old English root from which we get our word “worry” means “to strangle.”
The cure for anxiety, according to Paul, is prayer. Notice that Paul uses three different words for prayer.
• “prayer” – Wiersbe notes that this is the general word for making requests known to the Lord and carries with it the idea of adoration, devotion, and worship.
• “supplication” – Walvoord defines this as the act of asking for things. Erdman writes that it is a word which speaks of “the cry of conscious need.”
• “requests” – This word, writes Walvoord, refers to particular petitions. Erdman agrees, writing that it refers to the actual favors which are asked of God.
Paul stresses the fact that we are to take “everything” to God in prayer. As someone has so beautifully written, “There is nothing too great for God’s power; and nothing too small for His fatherly care.”
Paul writes that our prayers should also be accompanied “with thanksgiving,” “both for the fact that we can pray and present our petitions to the Lord, and for the assurance that God will hear and answer prayer.” (Walvoord) “Thanksgiving” is more than just the expressing of appreciation to God for what He has provided. It is also the bringing of requests to Him with an attitude of appreciation for whatever answer He may give. While we may ask for a specific outcome, more than anything we desire His perfect will. Therefore, we are able to come to Him in prayer with thanksgiving, fully confident of His goodness on our behalf.
The fruit of believing prayer is the “peace of God.” Vos points out, “This is not peace with God, which is wrought by justification, but the inward peace of the soul, the inward rest that comes from utter dependence on an omnipotent, gracious, and loving Father.” Paul writes that the peace of God shall guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. God’s peace will stand guard (like a soldier) over our hearts (feelings) and minds (thinking). Wiersbe writes that worry is wrong feeling (heart) and wrong thinking (mind) about circumstances, people, and things. Thus God’s peace is on duty to insure that our feelings and our thinking are not destroyed by things which would cause us anxiety.
God’s peace also surpasses all comprehension.” Barclay comments, “That does not mean that the peace of God is such a mystery that man’s mind cannot understand it, although that is also true. It means that the peace of God is so precious that man’s mind, with all its skill and all its knowledge, can never produce it. It can never be of man’s contriving; it is only of God’s giving. The way to peace is in prayer to entrust ourselves and all whom we hold dear to the loving hands of God.” Vos adds, “This peace is available only ‘in Christ Jesus’ who is the refuge and bulwark of our spiritual lives.”
Paul next turns his attention to the matter of peace of mind. Walvoord comments, “The peace of God realized through prayer and faith has many by-products, and one of these is that it will transform the thought life of the child of God.” Isaiah 26:3 says, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee.” Paul exhorts the Philippians to “think,” that is, to “consider, ponder, let one’s mind dwell on,” the following things:
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things. (4:8)
“whatever is true”
Wiersbe reports on a survey that indicated that only 8% of the things people worried about were legitimate matters of concern! The other 92% were either imaginary, never happened, or involved matters over which people had no control anyway. We must keep in mind that Satan is a liar (John 8:44) and wants to corrupt our minds with his lies (II Corinthians 11:3).
“whatever is honest and just”
This means “worthy of respect and right.”
“whatever is pure, lovely, and of good report”
“Pure” is a reference to moral purity. “Lovely” means “beautiful, attractive.” “Of good report” means “worth talking about, appealing.”
“whatever possesses virtue and praise”
Wiersbe comments, “If it has virtue, it will motivate us to do better; and if it has “praise,” it is worth commending to others.
We must keep in mind that right thinking does not just happen. It is the result of filling our hearts and minds with the Word of God (see Psalm 19:7-9 and Psalm 119:9-16).
The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace shall be with you. (4:9)
Paul concludes by exhorting the Philippians to follow his example once again (see also Philippians 3:17). As Erdman comments, “Right thinking is invaluable, but it must always be accompanied by resolution; it must be followed by determined action. All the high ideals that Paul has just reviewed, all the precepts for life and service which he previously has given to his readers, all the things that they have “learned and received,” they must do.” And to the obedient comes the promise: “and the God of peace shall be with you.” Beet writes, “The Giver of peace will ever be with those who keep His commands.” See Hebrews 13:5.
Note: The following illustration is by Warren Wiersbe.
“The trouble with him is that he’s a thermometer and not a thermostat!”
This statement by one of the deacons aroused the Pastor’s curiosity. They were discussing possible board members, and Jim’s name had come up.
“Pastor, it’s like this,” the deacon explained. “A thermometer doesn’t change anything around it — it just registers the temperature. It’s always going up and down. But a thermostat regulates the surroundings and changes them when they need to be changed. Jim is a thermometer — he lacks the power to change things. Instead, they change him!”
The Apostle Paul was a thermostat. Instead of having spiritual ups and downs as the situation changed, he went right on, steadily doing his work and serving Christ. His personal references at the close of the letter indicate that he was not a victim of circumstances but the victor over circumstances: I can accept all things (vs. 11); “I can do all things (vs. 13); “I have all things” (vs. 18). Paul did not have to be pampered to be content; he found his contentment in the spiritual resources provided by Christ.
But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. (4:10)
In verse 10 we learn of …
• the concern of the Philippians for Paul.
• the gratitude of Paul for the Philippians’ concern.
• the special relationship between Paul and the Philippian saints.
Notice first the concern of the Philippians for Paul. The Philippians had been interested in and supportive of Paul from the moment he founded the church in Philippi. (We will read and learn more about this in Philippians 4:14-16.) They were concerned about his welfare when they learned of his imprisonment and thus commissioned Epaphroditus with the task of going to Paul in Rome. Epaphroditus not only delivered to Paul a special love offering from the Philippian church, he also stayed to minister to Paul’s needs. He provided humble service to Paul by performing menial tasks and caring for Paul’s physical needs. (see John 13:15 and Philippians 2:3-4.) It was during this time that Epaphroditus came close to death as he faithfully cared for the Apostle (see Philippians 2:29-30).
Notice that in verse 10 Paul writes, “you have revived your concern for me; indeed you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.” It had been some time since Paul had heard from the Philippians. But now their concern was revived. The word “revived” translates a Greek word meaning “to sprout again, to shoot up, to blossom again, to put forth new shoots.” The picture here is of a tree putting out fresh shoots after the winter. One commentator (Vincent) beautifully captures the thought of this verse: “You caused your thought for me to sprout and bloom afresh like a tree putting out fresh shoots after the winter.” Erdman comments, “The winter of their long silence has ended. Their message and their gifts are fragrant blossoms, the perfume and the beauty of which gladden his heart.”
To avoid, however, any thought of being critical or that the Philippians had somehow forgotten about him, Paul writes, “indeed you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.” Thus Paul indicates that they had never lost their interest in or concern for him but merely “lacked opportunity.” As Walvoord writes, “Up to this present time they were lacking this opportunity to serve him.” Some commentators feel that perhaps they had been ignorant for some time about Paul’s imprisonment while others feel they may either have lacked a messenger or found it difficult to send one. Dyet comments, “Either their poverty or the armed security around Paul — and perhaps both — had prevented the Philippians from going to Paul earlier.” Wiersbe notes, “They had been concerned, but they had lacked opportunity to help. Many Christians today have the opportunities, but they lack the concern!”
Notice secondly, the gratitude of Paul for the Philippians’ concern: “But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly.” The word for “rejoice” in this verse is in the aorist tense in the Greek text, thus emphasizing and signifying a specific experience of rejoicing. Walvoord comments, “Although he had rejoiced many times over God’s grace in the Philippian church … here he is referring to a specific experience of joy which had come to him when they had shown their love for him by sending both an offering and Epaphroditus to minister to him.” Notice also the use of “in the Lord,” one of Paul’s favorite expressions. Paul’s joy and rejoicing were only and always “in the Lord.” Walvoord writes that this indicates that “the entire circumstance was viewed as a part of the Lord’s dealings with him.” Paul adds the adjective “greatly,” a word used only here in the New Testament.
Finally, this verse also tells us something about the special relationship between Paul and the Philippian church. Paul had, on more than one occasion, been criticized regarding the matter of financial gifts or offerings. Vos comments, “Because of the criticism leveled against him in various places to the effect that he was making the gospel a means of livelihood, he was careful about taking gifts from the churches and often supported himself by his own labor. Evidently he had no fear of slander in the Philippian church because he received their gifts.”
• 1 Thessalonians 2:5
Paul reminds the Thessalonians that he did not minister among them with a pretext for greed.
• 1 Corinthians 9:3-18 and Galatians 6:6
Paul defends his right to full pay for his preaching.
• 2 Corinthians 11:8-12
Paul ministered among the Corinthians without pay in order to silence his critics.
• 2 Corinthians 12:16-18
Paul was accused of using Titus to raise a fund for himself under pretense of getting money for the poor saints in Jerusalem.
• 1 Thessalonians 2:9 and Acts 20:33ff
Paul worked with his own hands in order to silence those who were ready to point a finger at him to accuse him of wrong motives.
Robertson comments, “He rejoiced in the church at Philippi because they trusted him and understood him. They gladly and frequently made contributions for the support of his work elsewhere.
Not that I speak from want; for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (4:11-13)
Verse 11 begins, “Not that … ” Rienecker/Rogers comment that this expression is used to avoid a misunderstanding and should be understood as saying, “My meaning is not…” Verse 11 helps us to keep from …
misunderstanding Paul … thinking his joy was rooted or dependent upon whether or not his needs were met.
misinterpreting Paul … thinking he was either complaining about his needs or hinting for future gifts.
Paul continues, “for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.” Walvoord comments, “Through many experiences he had learned that his circumstances were by God’s appointment and in them he should be content … not contentment arising from an abundance of things, but an inner adjustment to outer circumstances. In Paul’s case, this resulted from spiritual grace.” Paul had learned (notice that he learned!) to be content “in whatever circumstances I am.” This certainly included his experience in the Philippian jail some ten years earlier. This certainly included the litany of experiences recorded in 2 Corinthians 11:23-33. This certainly included his present circumstances as well as those which he discusses in verse 12.
“I know how to get along with humble means”
Paul “knew” as a result of having learned in the school of life. Erdman comments, “He has felt the humiliation of abject poverty.” Walvoord says this refers to the “humbling process of having very little.”
“and I know how to live in prosperity”
Vos comments that this means “how to be abundantly furnished, how to prosper and yet retain the spirit of humility.” Wiersbe notes that most people can learn to get along with humble means but few have learned to live in prosperity. “Prosperity,” he writes, “has done more damage to believers than adversity.” Vos agrees, writing, “It probably requires more effort to learn how to be prosperous and not be puffed up by it than to be debased and not crushed by it.”
“in any and every circumstance”
Robertson writes, “Paul uses the particular and the general in an effort to cover completely the whole of life’s varied experiences.” Erdman paraphrases this to say, “in all conditions and under all circumstances.”
“I have learned the secret”
This means “understanding” or “entering into the secret of.” Wiersbe comments, “This word (learned) was used by the pagan religions with reference to their ‘inner secrets.’ Through trial and testing Paul was ‘initiated’ into the wonderful secret of contentment in spite of poverty or prosperity.”
“of being filled”
Rienecker/Rogers comment on the meaning of the word “filled”: “The word was primarily of feeding and fattening animals in a stall (Vincent).” The reference is to being full of food.
“and going hungry”
The opposite of full.
“both of having abundance”
The same thought as “to be full.”
“and suffering need”
Refers to one who is in serious financial difficulty or in debt.
Paul had learned the secret of being joyful in the face of …
• humble means or prosperity.
• going hungry or being filled.
• suffering need or having abundance.
Paul reveals the secret of his contentment and ability to rejoice in the face of life’s extremes in verse 13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Christ is Paul’s “hidden resource.” Wiersbe writes, “All of nature depends on hidden resources. The great trees send their roots down into the earth to draw up water and minerals. Rivers have their sources in the snow-capped mountains. The most important part of a tree is the part you cannot see, the root system, and the most important part of the Christian’s life is the part that only God sees. Unless we draw upon the deep resources of God by faith, we fail against the pressures of life. Paul depended upon the power of Christ at work in his life (see 1:6; 21; 2:12-13; 3:10). ‘I can — through Christ!’ was Paul’s motto, and it can be our motto too.”
Paul’s strength for facing life was found “in Christ.” He could deal with the “all things” of verse 12 in Christ’s strength. Erdman further comments on the meaning of “all things”: “All things must refer to the purposes of Christ, the will of Christ, the service of Christ; for Paul lives ‘in Christ.’ Paul is not granted power for the gratification of his own desires or the accomplishment of any selfish plans; but whatever Christ wishes to do, He grants Paul power to do.”
Erdman points to the following as key verses in their respective chapters:
• Chapter One
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (vs. 21)
• Chapter Two
“Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus.” (vs. 5)
• Chapter Three
“I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (vs. 14)
• Chapter Four
“I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (vs. 13)
Erdman comments, “There four statements largely summarize this epistle, which has been characterized as the fullest expression of Paul’s experimental knowledge of Christ. The service of Christ (1:21), the humility of Christ (2:5), progress toward the perfection of Christ (3:14), the invincible power of Christ (4:13) — for Paul this was the sum and substance of life.”
Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction. And you yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. But I have received everything in full, and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (4:14-19)
Walvoord writes, “Although (Paul) would have been content to have remained in deprivation, even of the essentials of life, the Philippians did well in sharing with him and relieving his suffering.” Vos writes that in verse 14 Paul “wants to guard against any thought that he lightly esteems their gift.” He paraphrases verse 14 to capture Paul’s thought: “Nevertheless, do not think that just because I am content with all circumstances, I make light of your gift. You did nobly in that you became partners in my affliction.” Paul was truly thankful for their gift and for the ministry and friendship of Epaphroditus. Notice also that Paul again makes reference to their participation (see also Philippians 1:5) of the Philippians with him in the furtherance of the gospel. They had graciously cooperated with Paul in the spread of the gospel. Webster defined “cooperate” as “to act or work together with another or others for a common purpose.” The Philippians had certainly done that.
We see the extent of their cooperation in verse 15 as Paul recalls the past generosity of the Philippians. They had expressed their thankfulness for and commitment to the gospel from the very beginning, from the day Paul founded the church at Philippi some ten years earlier.
“after I departed from Macedonia”
Vos comments that this “could refer to a gift the Philippians presented him just as he left Macedonia (Acts 17:14) after ministry at Thessalonica and Berea. Or, more likely, it alludes to the gift Paul received from Macedonia while he was in Corinth, not long after leaving the northern province (II Corinthians 11:8-9).”
“no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone”
Rienecker/Rogers comment that Paul here uses a metaphor from the business world. The Philippians by their contributions had ‘opened an account’ with Paul. Wiersbe writes, “The church entered into an arrangement of “giving and receiving”; the church gave materially to Paul, and received spiritually from the Lord. The Lord keeps the books and will never fail to pay one spiritual dividend! That church is poor that fails to share materially with others.” Notice that Paul says, “but you alone.” Walvoord writes, “They had been alone in such thoughtful sharing.” Vos comments, “‘You alone’ — no one else joined in at the time and no one else immediately followed their example.”
“for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once to meet my needs”
Vos comments, “But these remarkable Philippians has sent him financial support even before he left Macedonia. It is to be remembered that Paul’s three main preaching stops in Macedonia were Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea, in that order. Thessalonica was some eighty-five miles southwest of Philippi … Certainly Paul did not remain there (Thessalonica) more than three months. Yet even during that short time the Philippians sent him two gifts (“once and again”) to help meet his needs. Dyet comments on verse 16, “This is quite remarkable, considering that the Philippian church was just an infant assembly of believers when it made these donations.” Walvoord comments, “This was all the more remarkable in view of his relatively brief time in Thessalonica … Their intimate knowledge of his needs, as well as his location in Thessalonica, reflects the abiding interest of the Philippian church in Paul’s missionary efforts.”
Once again, Paul does not want to be misunderstood regarding the matter of the assistance he had received from the Philippians. Thus in verse 17 he writes. “Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” Paul rejoices in the gift because the Philippians have benefited spiritually by their giving. They had made an investment and were consequently accruing interest in their account. Vos comments that the word “profit” is a reference to “spiritual fruit which their generosity yields to themselves.” Walvoord writes, “Ultimately Paul’s joy was not simply in the benefit received; but like a parent who receives a gift from his child, he rejoices more in the fact that the child gives it rather than in the gift itself.”
In verse 18, Paul addresses the matter of the personal benefits of the Philippians’ gift. Paul tells his Philippian friends that his needs have been more than met by their generous gift (see also Ephesians 3:20-21). Commenting on verse 18, Dyet writes, “In referring to this description of the things Paul received from the Philippians, Earl D. Radmacher writes that Paul “adds his thanks for the care package Epaphroditus delivered from the saints at Philippi (verse 18). He reports, as it were, ‘The box from home was terrific. The cookies and other things smelled good and tasted even better. I am full. Everything you sent smelled good to God, too. It was an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God.’””
Verse 19 is one of the best-known and most often quoted verses in the New Testament. “And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
“And my God”
Robertson writes, “Paul says ‘my God’ because he had tested and tried God as his own Protector and Father.” Erdman writes, “Paul can call God his God, his he has found in personal experience what God means to him.”
The word “shall” speaks of certainty. “Supply” is the same here as the word used in verse 18 to describe the Philippians supply for Paul. Erdman writes, “God’s treatment of them is sure to correspond with their treatment of Paul.” He further comments, “God has not forgotten Paul in times of distress and want. Surely He will not disappoint these Philippians but will grant them all their needs.”
“all your needs”
The word for “need” here is the same as the word used in verse 16 to refer to Paul’s need. Erdman writes, “They had met all (Paul’s) wants; so God, in His gracious recognition and approval of their sacrificial service, will supply every need of theirs. These needs are both temporal and spiritual. Both are certain to be supplied.”
“according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus”
Paul here speaks of …
the measure of the supply — The measure of the supply is infinite because it is according to His riches. Erdman writes, “The measure of (God’s) kindness will be His illimitable ‘wealth in glory,’ or ‘His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. This treasure house is inexhaustible and as boundless as his infinite love and grace.
the manner of the supply — The manner of the supply is “glorious,” that is, in such a fashion that God’s glory will be manifested. Rienecker/Rogers comment that the word “in glory” is “used here as an adverb indicating the mode or manner of the fulfillment ‘gloriously,’ i.e. in such ways that His glory will be manifested (Vincent).” Muller believes the expression “in glory” should be taken with the words “shall supply”; hence, “God will supply in glory, in a glorious manner.”
the means (source) of the supply — The source of the supply is “in Christ Jesus.” Vos comments, “In Him dwells all richness (e.g., Colossians 1:27; 2:3) and in union with Him we are linked to the source and supply of limitless divine wealth.”
Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren 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. (4:20-23)
As Paul thinks of all of the wonderful blessing of God, he breaks forth in praise: “Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Thus, writes Dyet, Paul “brings his letter to a triumphant and warmly personal conclusion.” Walvoord comments, “Ultimately the supreme test of every circumstance and every act on their part was whether it was to the glory of God. It was Paul’s earnest desire that he bring glory to the Lord, and in this he wanted the Philippians to share.”
Paul sends his greetings to “every (individual) saint.” He also sends greetings from those who were with him, “especially those of Caesar’s household.” Walvoord writes, “This refers to those who were working in Caesar’s household, whether slaves or freemen; and the implication is that Paul, through his ministry in Rome, had won many of them to Jesus Christ.” (see Philippians 1:12-14). Regarding the matter of “Caesar’s household,” Vos comments, “It is amazing to note that the spread of the gospel had spread from the hillsides of Palestine to the palace of Caesar in less than thirty years … Their mention would also have certain appeal to the Philippians who as Roman citizens would ‘sit up and take notice,’ so to speak, on learning that the gospel had penetrated the imperial government.”
Paul ends the letter, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” A simple benediction. Walvoord writes, “The Christian life, which is an expression of grace, is by grace sustained, and the final verse to some extent summarizes all of Paul’s yearnings for these Christians who had manifested their love and care for him.” Barclay comments, “The Philippians had sent their gifts to Paul. He had only one gift to send to them — his blessing. But what greater gift can we give any man than to remember him in our prayers?”