Philippians 4:19-23 March 18, 2018
5 pages. If you were to type out this letter of Paul to the Philippians, it would be about five pages long. And after today’s sermon, we’ll have spent about 25 hours together, studying this letter. I’ve prepared 25 sermons, and together, we’ve read and thought deeply about this book. We could have spent twice that time, because it takes a lot of work to not only understand God’s Word, but then to apply his Word; to spread its truth over every inch of our lives.
So it’s good that we’ve done this together. In this church, we believe this is God’s book; it’s God’s Word, and it is essential for life. In Deuteronomy 8:3, Moses wrote “Man does not live on bread alone, but [man lives] on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” By God’s grace, for 25 weeks. we’ve been able to live on Paul’s words from the mouth of the Lord; these words of Paul in this great letter to a great church.
By now, we’ve been well schooled and shepherded by Paul. He’s knocked us down, more than once; he’s flattened us in our pride, but he’s also been the one to give us very hopeful places to fall. We’ve been humbled and helped; challenged and encouraged.
Well this morning, we come to the end; the last five verses. And with these final words Paul will finish his letter, hand it off to Epaphroditus, who will put it in in a sealed envelope or roll it up (I’m not sure which), and then place it in his bag and begin his three-week-or-so journey back to Philippi.
There are four parts to this conclusion. Lord willing, we’ll get to each of them today. They are: 1) an encouragement, 2) a purpose (really, the purpose), 3) a greeting, and 4) a benediction.
But before I preach this sermon, we should pray together. Please bow your heads with me.
Please open your Bibles to Philippians 4. If you’re using one of our church Bibles, (which you’re free to take with you if you don’t have a Bible of your own), you’ll find today’s text on page 637. Let me read this passage, in its entirety, one more time, before we begin. Philippians 4:19-23. This is the Word of God:
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.
23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.
There are four parts to these final five verses: 1) an encouragement, 2) a purpose, 3) a greeting, and 4) a benediction. We’ll spend the most time on 1 and 2, and wrap up, (as Paul does) with 3 and 4.
First, in verse 19 there is an encouragement. Let’s read it together:
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
An encouragement does more than make someone feel better. An encouragement gives someone courage. Real encouragement offers objective truth that gives a person the confidence to do something; to start something; to finish something. And v19 is an encouragement that encourages us to do the imperatives of this letter.
This encouragement (look with me) begins with the word “and,” which means that this is not a stand-alone sentence; it doesn’t stand by itself. The word “and” is like a bridge that connects this sentence with the sentences before; which are the verses we read last week. Let me condense and read them again:
(4v14-18) 14 … it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, …, 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… 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.
Those verses are a description of the costly generosity of the Philippians. They had been exceptionally generous with Paul. Let me read you a text from Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians which is probably referring to the Philippians, and gives context to their kindness. It’s found in 2 Corinthians 8:1-4:
We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, [Philippi was one of those churches] 2 for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. 3 For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, 4 begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints.
I think that’s a description of the Philippians specifically (though written 5 years earlier), and it’s consistent with what Paul just said about them in 4v14-18. These were people who wanted to relieve suffering Christians in Jerusalem, and who wanted to relieve Paul’s suffering as he writes from prison, and they gave (what did Paul say?) “beyond their means.”
Well, what happens when you give “beyond your means?” You run out of means. The Philippians may have been so generous that they impoverished themselves, which means they have worked so hard to supply someone else’s needs, that they may now need their needs supplied. So what is the connection between the verses before and v19? It’s this: “You have supplied my needs. God will supply yours.”
This is big encouragement and I want us to make sure we understand what this verse is saying. Let’s read it slowly, paying attention to each word. V19…
“My God…” That’s the source. That’s the fountainhead. “Will supply” – The word “supply” here is the same word used earlier in the chapter, in 4v18, when Paul said “I have received full payment [from you], and more. I am well supplied.” It means made full, finished, filled up.
“My God will supply every need of yours.” What will be filled? What will be supplied? “Every need of yours.” The word “need” here means “a necessary thing,” or “something you lack.” It is the same word used earlier in the chapter, in 4v16 when Paul said “Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.” It’s also in 2v25, which says “I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother …, and your messenger and minister to my need.”
Put those explanations together and this verse means exactly what it sounds like – God will supply every need of yours. God will meet your every need. That’s an exhaustive declaration. Every need.
So let’s think for a minute. What were the Philippian’s needs? If this verse is true for you as a Christian, (and it is), what are your needs? Do you know? Do I know? I’m not sure I know what your specific needs are. I’m not sure I know what my specific needs are!
If a child’s misunderstanding of his own needs before his parents is any indication of our own misunderstanding of our needs before God, than we may not know, for certain, what our needs are.
“Daddy, I need that dress.” “Daddy, I need ice cream.” I was out late with my 11-year-old son Jackson Friday night. It was 11pm and he had just finished jumping on trampolines for two hours while glowing in the dark and drinking a massive slurpee, and on the way out to the car he looked at me wild-eyed and said earnestly “I need French fries.”
“I need a new job.” “I need more money.” “I need a husband.” “I need a wife.” Have you ever thought you needed something, had it withheld, and later thanked God for withholding it?
But who knows what you need? Jesus said in Matthew 6:7-8 “7 “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” God knows what you need.
He knows your past and he knows your future. He knows your failures and he knows your fears. He knows your hurts and your hopes. According to Psalm 139:1-6 he knows your thoughts and your plans and your words before you even say them. And he knows what must yet be supplied, and he will supply it.
Get that, and you’ll be encouraged. You’ll be encouraged to love God and others. Get that, and you’ll be freed to live the way Paul calls you to live.
Our self-preserving tendency is to withhold love because of our fear that we will lose something we need. We’ll impoverish ourselves physically, emotionally, or even spiritually. There’s fear that if we empty ourselves we’ll be left empty. Some of you, sadly, have been taught (or learned) that if you don’t take care of yourself no one will; if you don’t look out for yourself, no one will; as if God didn’t exist or wasn’t interested in you.
But the truth is; the encouraging truth is; God will supply every need of yours. Not “may.” Not “can.” Will!
And now what does the second part of v19 say? And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. God’s got a lot of needs to supply, so he better be rich, and He is. “His riches in glory.” God has riches; he has wealth and abundance; where? “In glory.” The Greek word for glory is doxa and it refers here to the intrinsic splendor of God; to the superlative beauty of God; the godness of God; the radiating sum total of who God is.
That is the storehouse from which God supplies the needs of his people. There’s more here, but let that sink in. The glory of God – the radiating sum total of who God is – is the storehouse from which God supplies the needs of his people.
But there is one more important thing to see here. It is this phrase “according to.”
Now “According to” is different than “out of.” Paul does not say “My God will supply every need of yours [out of] his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. No, Paul says “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
Paul is saying more than “out of.” Paul is saying more than “God will meet all your needs, and he will meet those needs from his riches in glory.” Paul is saying God will meet all your needs (here’s what ‘according to’ means) in proportion to his riches in glory.
Let me put it this way – Pretend you have a monetary need and imagine a billionaire has agreed to meet your needs. Do you hear the difference between him saying “I’m going to meet your need out of my riches” and “I’m going to meet your need in proportion to my riches.”?
Listen to Ralph Martin: We may notice, …, that the measure of God’s provision as expressed in the preposition according to, …, makes it clear that ‘the rewarding will not be merely from His wealth, but also in a manner that befits His wealth—on a scale worthy of His wealth’. Who can estimate the range and depth of this richness? Every conceivable human need is more than adequately supplied from such a source.[i]
At the end of the day, God does not barely meet needs. He lavishly meets needs. He is not a miser. He is a prodigal God, giving extravagantly to his children in need, not just out of his riches in glory, but according to his riches in glory. And so Paul says things like this and things like Ephesians 3:20: “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us…”
That’s the encouragement. Let’s move on to the purpose.
In verse 20 there is a purpose.
This is the last thing Paul writes, but for a final greeting and benediction. The real substance of his letter ends here, as made clear by the closing word “amen,” which means “let it be so.”
Everything Paul has called the Philippians to do; everything Paul has called us to do is bottom-lined in this purpose. This is the sum total of every imperative. This is the aim and ultimate purpose of everything we do as Christians. Here it is: 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
The word glory is here again, but it’s used differently. In v19 the word referred to the intrinsic glory of God, but this refers to ascribed glory to God. We do not give God the glory of v19, but we give God the glory of v20.
This is the last thing Paul says, and he says it last because it is the aim of everything Paul has called the Philippians, (and us), to do…
“Let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Paul has called us to do that. And “be of the same mind,” and “count others more significant than yourselves,” and “look to the interests of others,” and “work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” and “do all things without grumbling,” and “stand firm,” to the glory of God the Father forever and ever.
This is the ultimate purpose of life – to bring glory to God forever. The Westminster Catechism asks in its first question “What is the chief end of man?” and the answer rightly is “To glorify Him and enjoy Him forever.” We live to reflect God. We live to make God look as glorious as he is! This was one of the slogans of the Reformation – “Soli Deo Gloria” which means “the glory of God alone.”
We live to (Matt 5:16) “let [our] light shine before others, so that they may see [our] good works and give glory to [our] Father who is in heaven.” We live (1 Cor 10:31) to “whether [we] eat or drink, or whatever [we] do, do all to the glory of God.”
We’re not here for ourselves. We’re here for the glory of God. Psalm 115:1 says “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!”
Victoria Osteen said this: “I just want to encourage every one of us to realize when we obey God, we’re not doing it for God—I mean, that’s one way to look at it—we’re doing it for ourselves, because God takes pleasure when we’re happy. That’s the thing that gives Him the greatest joy. So, I want you to know this morning: Just do good for your own self. Do good because God wants you to be happy. When you come to church, when you worship Him, you’re not doing it for God really. You’re doing it for yourself, because that’s what makes God happy. Amen?”
And again, Psalm 115:1 says “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!”
Paul ends the substance of his letter with the purpose. All that we do is for the glory of God.
And now briefly, Paul wraps up with a greeting and a benediction.
In verses 21-22 there is a greeting.
This was a typical thing for Paul to do at the end of his letters.
21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, [and then Paul says this] especially those of Caesar’s household.
Paul said in 1v12-14 “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel…” And someone might ask – “How far has the gospel advanced?” Paul answers here. The gospel had advanced all the way into Nero’s household, so that there are believers in Caesar’s household who send greetings now to the believers in Philippi, which is astonishing.
And finally, in verse 23 there is a benediction.
Paul ends his letter the way he began his letter – with an expression of his desire that the grace of Jesus Christ would be poured out on the Philippians. In 1v2 he said “2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” And here he says: 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
A benediction is formal prayer for blessing over a people. We end every worship service with a benediction.
What is the blessing Paul prays for here? Grace. Deep grace. Grace that would be poured out by God over these people.
In conclusion of this sermon and of this series.
I would pray for the same thing – that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ would be with your spirit.
For those of you who are not in Christ. You’re here this morning and you’re not a Christian yet. I would pray for grace this morning. The undeserved blessing of God. That he would give you grace to see; grace to see your sin and your Savior. Grace to know; to believe; to trust; to turn from sin.
Charles Spurgeon said “Suppose that God saved men on account of their merits. Where would you drunkards be? Where would you swearers be? You who have been unclean and unchaste, and you whose hearts have cursed God, and who even now do not love him, where would you be? But when it is all of grace, then all your past life, however black and filthy it may be, need not keep you from coming to Jesus.—12.431, 432
For those of you who are in Christ. You’re here this morning and you’re a Christian. And you’re a Christian by the grace of God. I would pray for more grace this morning. You didn’t just need grace to be saved, you need grace from beginning to end. The undeserved blessing of God. That you would persevere. That you would endure. That you would face the trial. That you would enjoy God.
 C. H. Spurgeon and Tom Carter, 2,200 Quotations : From the Writings of Charles H. Spurgeon : Arranged Topically or Textually and Indexed by Subject, Scripture, and People, Trade pbk. ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1995), 87.