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Philippians 4:14-18                                                                                                           March 11, 2018

 

Introduction

 

We only have two weeks left in this sermon series, and we’ll be done studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians. I hope it’s been as helpful for you as it has been for me.

 

In our text today, some of Paul’s final thoughts are about the relationship he has with this church in Philippi. He gives us a clear description of their generosity. While I will offer no specific application this morning, I would encourage each of us to listen, and follow the example of the generous Philippians.

 

But before I preach this sermon, we should pray together.  Please bow your heads with me.

 

Please open your Bibles to Philippians 4, which, if you’re using one of our church Bibles, you’ll find on page 637. Let me read the text in its entirety one more time before we begin. Philippians 4:14-18. This is the Word of God:

 

14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 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. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 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. Amen.

 

We’re going to take this on in two sections; vv14-16 and vv17-18.

 

In vv14-16, we have another description of the relationship between Paul and the Philippians. Let’s begin with v14.

 

Verse 14

14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.

 

The Philippians shared in Paul’s trouble. This is more significant than mere help. This is more than prayer for Paul (which they did). This is more than sending gifts to Paul (which they did). This is more than sending people to Paul (which they did). They shared in his trouble.

 

“Share” implies an ongoing investment from the heart. “Share” implies two-way relationship. They loved Paul. They worried about Paul. They shared his trouble, so that when he was suffering, they were suffering. And here Paul reflects on that, and he calls it kind.

 

It is kind for Christians to share in other Christian’s trouble. Paul told the Romans in 12:15 to “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” And in Galatians 6:2 we’re called to “bear one another’s burdens.” Another way of putting those commands would be: share in one another’s trouble. That’s exactly what the Philippians did, and they are an example to us.

 

Now, in vv15-16 Paul gets a little more specific about how the Philippians shared his trouble. Let’s read together:

 

Verse 15-16

15 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. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.

 

There are many good things to point out here about the Philippians. There is another word here for sharing, and it’s partnership; that’s the word Paul uses in v15: “no church entered into partnership with me … except you only. He used the same word in 1:3-5 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel …”

 

Paul and the Philippians enjoyed a partnership with one another. It was a two-way relationship. He said “no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving. “Giving and receiving,” that describes this partnership. They each gave to one another; and they each received from one another. They each benefited from this relationship.

 

What did Paul give to the Philippians? He gave them truth. He game them doctrine. He gave them direction. He gave them accountability. He gave them the gospel.

 

What did the Philippians give to Paul? They presumably gave Paul food and money and clothing. They supported Paul. They prayed for Paul. And most recently, they sent Epaphroditus to Paul with a gift. And Paul said of Epaphroditus in 2:25 that he was his “brother” and “fellow worker” and “fellow soldier” and the Philippians “messenger” and “minister to [Paul’s] need.”

 

Paul says two more things, (more subtly), in vv15-16 about the Philippians. Their partnership with Paul was, as Sinclair Ferguson puts it, both “oustanding” and “long-standing.” Or exception and steadfast.

 

First, their generosity toward Paul was outstanding; it was exceptional. In other words, no one else was supporting Paul this way. Listen to v15: 15 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. So this partnership was exceptional. No one supported Paul like the Philippians.

 

But not only was their generosity toward Paul outstanding, second, it was long-standing; it was steadfast. It started sooner and lasted longer. Listen to what Paul says:

 

Verse 15: 15 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.

 

He said the same thing in 1v5: I thank my God … because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. It was ongoing support, not one time. Paul says in v16: Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.

 

The Philippians began supporting Paul in the very beginning of his ministry. In fact, we know from the book of Acts that this ongoing support began within weeks of Paul leaving Philippi. Remember… Paul had come to Philippi to preach the gospel – and he and Silas were promptly beaten up, arrested, thrown in jail, and eventually kicked out of town. They were not there for long, and yet a little church was planted.

 

After leaving Philippi they quickly passed through a couple of towns and ended up at Thessalonica, where they stayed for only a few weeks. And what does Paul say in v16? Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.

 

Paul is saying “even though I had just left you, and even though I was only 100 miles down the road, and there for only a few weeks, you began to support me. And the support has followed me everywhere I’ve gone.”

 

So there you have, in vv14-16, a description of the partnership between Paul and the Philippians. It was sweet Christian fellowship. They shared in Paul’s trouble. They gave to one another. They received from one another. The Philippians’ generosity toward Paul was exceptional and steadfast.

 

Now, if you put all these details together you gain great insight into Christian fellowship.  And if this sort of fellowship exists anywhere in the church, it must exist as it does here, between pastors and their people. I can’t speak for all of you, but I can speak for myself as a pastor, and for my family.

 

And I could write the same words as Paul about my feelings and gratitude for all of you. We know we’re prayed for. We are encouraged by people in this church. We receive gifts from people in this church. Our needs are met in this church. When we’ve gone through trouble, you have shared in our trouble.

 

Let’s move on to vv17-18 now.

 

Verse 17-18

17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 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.

 

Let’s look at v17 together. It starts with something similar to what Paul said in v11. In v11 Paul basically said that, though he was thankful for their gift, he didn’t need their gift because he was content in Christ with whatever he had. And he says the same thing here in v18: 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied.

 

He didn’t need their gift. And here in v17 Paul says he doesn’t seek their gifts. “Not that I seek the gift” he says. He doesn’t need their gift, and so he isn’t after their gift. That is not what he is after; that is not what he is seeking. No, there is something else Paul is seeking. What does he say? 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.

 

What does that mean? The KJV says “I desire fruit that may abound to your account.” The NASB says “I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” What does Paul mean here? Think about it with me.

 

These are financial terms. When the Philippians give to Paul, they are actually making an investment. Their account on earth is shrinking, but an account somewhere else is increasing. Where is that account? Heaven. Do you remember what Jesus said in Luke 12:33?

 

Luke 12:33

33 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.

 

“Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.”

 

Now, here’s where I’d like to focus the rest of our time. In these two verses, Paul will use three different words and phrases to describe the gift the Philippians had given him – “fruit,” “fragrant offering,” and “sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” Let me show you that…

 

17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit [Paul sees the gift as the fruit of something] that increases to your credit. 18 I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, [and now he has two phrases to descbribe these gifts] a fragrant offering, [that’s the first one, and here is the second one] a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

 

These gifts they sent; this generosity of the Philippians was fruit. And it was a fragrant offering. And it was a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

 

When you, out of love for God, give something to another Christian; especially when you give something to another Christian who is in trouble, it is fruit. When you give something to another Christian it is a fragrant offering. When you give something to another Christian it is a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

 

I think we can understand what each of these means pretty quickly.

 

  1. When you, out of love for God, give something to another Christian it is fruit.

 

17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.

Fruit, in the Bible, refers to a result or consequence from some effort or action. Think about fruit; think about an apple. It didn’t just show up in that basket in the grocery store. It was the result of planting a tree, and watering a tree, and caring for a tree, and then eventually there was fruit.

 

When a Christian, out of love for God, gives something to another Christian, it is the result of God’s work in them.

 

Titus 3:14 says And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. In other words – if you’re devoted to good works; if you’re helping those in urgent need, you’re being fruitful.

 

Generosity is the fruit, the evidence, of God’s work in the Philippians, which is why Paul thanks God for their generosity. Remember, that’s what he did in 1:3-5 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

 

Actually, that’s what Paul always does in his letters. All of them except Galatians, (because there wasn’t much to be thankful for in the Galatians). Here are three examples:

 

Romans 1:8 – First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world. Paul doesn’t say “Thank you Romans for having such great faith.”

 

Colossians 1:3-4 – We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you,since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints. Paul doesn’t say “Thank you Colossians for your love for all the saints.”

 

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3 (same in 1 Corinthians 1:4-5 and Ephesians 1:15-16)

We give thanks to God always for all of you, constantly mentioning you in our prayers, remembering before our God and Father your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul doesn’t say “Thank you Thessalonians for your faith, and work, and hope.”

 

Paul doesn’t thank the people who give him the gift as much as he thanks God in front of them. He does that because he understands that anything good in them is the result of God’s work in them. It’s fruit.

 

So, when a Christian, out of love for God, gives something to another Christian, it is fruit.

  1. When you give something to another Christian it is a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

 

I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

 

Their gifts were a sacrifice to God, not Paul. This was costly devotion to God, not Paul. The gifts were given to Paul, but also given to God. They gave up what they had for another’s good (Paul), and God’s glory.

 

1 Peter 2:5 says “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

 

Romans 12:1 says “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.

 

God’s people, before the coming of Christ, offered physical sacrifices. Clean and pure and costly and valuable animals were given up for God. God’s people, after the coming of Christ, offer “spiritual sacrifices” (1 Pet 2:5). They offer themselves as “living sacrifices” (Rom 12:1).

 

The Philippians were practicing Hebrews 13:16 which says “Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”

 

We offer sacrifices not primarily because it’s good for others (though it is) but because it’s pleasing to God. Out of love for others, yes, but primarily out of love for God.

 

When a Christian, out of love for God, gives something to another Christian it is a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.

 

  1. When you give something to another Christian it is a fragrant offering.

 

I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, ….

 

The gifts the Philippians sent to Paul were a fragrant offering to God which is another way, using imagery, of saying “pleasing and acceptable to God.”

 

This obviously points to a text in Genesis 8. Almost the exact same language is used. This was after Noah and his family were rescued from the great flood. When they get out, when they set foot on land, after a year in a boat, the first thing Noah does is built an alter and make a sacrifice to God – out of gratitude and thankfulness.

 

Genesis 8:20-22

20 Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar21 And when the Lord smelled the pleasing aroma, the Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done.22 While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

 

Exodus 29:18 says and burn the whole ram on the altar. It is a burnt offering to the Lord. It is a pleasing aroma, a food offering to the Lord.”

 

And Leviticus 4:31 says “And all its fat he shall remove, as the fat is removed from the peace offerings, and the priest shall burn it on the altar for a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And the priest shall make atonement for him, and he shall be forgiven.”

 

Ephesians 5:2 says “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

 

So, when you, out of love for God, give something to another Christian it is a fragrant offering to God.

 

 

Conclusion

In conclusion, Christian, when you, out of love for God, give yourself up like this. Give up your time, give up your money, give up your possessions, God is pleased, and you’re storing up for yourselves treasure in heaven.

 

Let’s pray.