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Three Features of Healthy Gospel Partnership

March 24, 2019 Speaker: Brian Wilbur Series: Philippians

Topic: Gospel Partnership Passage: Philippians 4:14–18


An Exposition of Philippians 4:14-18

By Pastor Brian Wilbur

Date:   March 24, 2019

Series: Philippians: Gospel Partnership on Mission in the World

Note:   Scripture quotations are from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard   Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Paul told the Philippians near the beginning of his letter to them, “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.” (Philippians 1:3-5) Paul was grateful and joyful over the Philippians because they were partners with him in the life and mission of the gospel. They weren’t merely friends, they were friends in Christ – and they were committed to the proclamation and success of gospel ministry.

Further, in Philippians 2 Paul told the Philippians that his joy would fly off the charts if they displayed humble, sacrificial, Christ-like love for one another: “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” (Philippians 2:1-2, italics added) The life together of a unified church family, which grows out of a congregation-wide attitude of humility and love (Philippians 2:3-4), is a key part of that “manner of life [that is] worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). As Paul beholds Christ-like character and conduct, which lead to Christ-honoring cohesion in the body of Christ, Paul is overjoyed!

What we see in these passages is that Paul doesn’t rejoice in Christ’s church simply because a sanctuary has warm bodies in the pews. If you had a group of people who gathered together and called themselves a church, if they conducted their services in a majestic cathedral, and if this group had impressive worship services and well-organized programs, but they were immoral or mean-spirited people who propagated false teachings and whose hearts were far from God, guess what? Paul would not rejoice in them! Paul rejoices in the Philippians precisely because they are spiritually alive to God and God is at work in their lives and their lives are reflecting the truth and excellence of the gospel.

In the gospel, God forgives our sins through the sacrifice of Christ. How should we reflect this excellent gospel truth in our lives? “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) 

In the gospel, Christ “laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:16), and He did this in order to meet our deepest need. How should we reflect this excellent gospel truth in our lives? “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John 3:16-17)

With respect to the Philippians, God’s love most certainly did abide in them. The Philippians saw their brother Paul in need, and they did not close their hearts against him. Instead, with hearts made generous by the transforming power of the gospel, the Philippians took some of their material resources and sent them to Paul. As faithful partners with Paul in the work of the gospel, they stood with their brother in his time of need. And this brings us to yet another expression of joy in Paul. In Philippians 4:10, one of the verses that we pondered last week, Paul said, “I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity.” (Philippians 4:10) As I said last week, Paul was not rejoicing in the Lord because he got his need met: “Not that I am speaking of being in need” (Philippians 4:11), Paul immediately adds in Philippians 4:11. Instead, Paul was rejoicing in exactly the same terms that we have seen in Philippians 1–2: Paul was rejoicing and rejoicing greatly because the Philippians were demonstrating Christ-like concern for someone else; they were expressing gospel-shaped generosity; and they were showing yet again that the living God was powerfully at work in their lives. And that reality brought a beaming smile on the face of the suffering apostle – a beaming smile that went all the way down into the depths of his soul.


Although the focus of this sermon is verses 14-18, let me read Philippians 4:10-20 in order to keep the larger context in front of us. Holy Scripture says, through the apostle Paul:

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

“Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only. Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen." (Philippians 4:10-20)


Before we dig into the details of this passage, I want to show you that verses 14-18 are a window into healthy gospel partnership. Do you remember that word koinonia? It is an important word in Philippians. It means ‘fellowship’ or ‘partnership’, and it involves sharing together in gospel-generated life. Koinonia-related words occur throughout this letter. Partnership in Philippians 1:5 – “because of your partnership in the gospel.” Partakers in Philippians 1:7 – “for you are all partakers with me of grace” (Philippians 1:7). Participation in Philippians 2:1 – “So if there is… any participation in the Spirit.” Share in Philippians 3:10 – “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10). Share a second time in Philippians 4:14 – “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” And partnership a second time in Philippians 4:15 – “no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.” So koinonia is a prominent concept throughout Philippians.

Koinonia highlights the relational reality of what it means for Christians to be “in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:1) and, pointedly, what it means for Christians to be in Christ together as a closely-knit fellowship of believers. It describes the relationship that the Philippian congregation has with the apostle Paul, and thus applies to the relationships that we have with various missionaries that we support. But koinonia also applies to the relationships that we have with one another within the church family. Here is the koinonia reality: God calls us to be spiritual co-participants with one another in Christ. God weaves our lives together in Christ, around Christ, and for Christ. We share together in fellowship with Christ; we share together in the enjoyment of the riches of God’s grace; we share together in God’s transforming work in us; we share together in the call to live humble, sacrificial, obedient, Christ-like lives; we share together as partners in the life and mission of the church; we share together in the call to suffer and live sacrificially for the advancing of the gospel and the building up of Christ’s church. This is normal Christianity – Christianity 101. Anyone who thinks that someone can be deeply rooted in Christ without being deeply rooted in Christ’s people, is thinking in a manner worthy of la-la land. Koinonia in the church family is not an optional add-on to koinonia in Christ or koinonia in the gospel. All this hangs together as one thing. When Paul instructs us as a congregation to “[stand] firm in one spirit” (Philippians 1:27) and to be same-minded with one another (Philippians 2:2, 4:2), he is simply telling us to live according to the Spirit-generated, Christ-centered koinonia in which God has placed us together as a church family.

Now in verses 14-15 Paul highlights two particular aspects of koinonia. The koinonia reality that shines so brightly here is the relationship that the Philippian congregation has with the apostle Paul. The apostle Paul had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel. To be imprisoned is to face trouble, affliction, vulnerability, and need. But he was not left to face this trouble alone, because the Philippians shared his trouble (v. 14). The Philippians counted Paul’s trouble as their own, and they did something about it. But this wasn’t an isolated, momentary act of service. Instead, their love for Paul was a matter of settled disposition and consistent practice. As we learned at the outset, the Philippians were Paul’s “[partner] in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:5), and this same idea is restated in Philippians 4:15-16 where Paul indicates that the Philippians “entered into partnership with [him] in giving and receiving” and that they had done so “in the beginning of the gospel,” by which Paul is referring to the beginning of the gospel’s work in Philippi. In other words, the Philippian congregation began to partner with Paul at the very beginning of their Christian life and they supported his missionary work on multiple occasions.

So Philippians 4:14-18 gives us a window into true gospel partnership. The lessons that we learn from this passage ought to be applied both in our missionary partnerships and in our relationships with one another as co-participants in the mission of the church.


Let me set forth three features of healthy gospel partnership.

1) Healthy Gospel Partnership is Gospel-Driven (Philippians 4:15-16)

First, healthy gospel partnership is driven by a desire to advance the gospel. In other words, healthy gospel partnership has a missional character: we want to advance the gospel, make disciples, and build the church.

It is true, of course, that before we can desire to advance the gospel, we must first receive the gospel as the glorious message of salvation that it is. As Paul wrote to the church in Corinth,

“Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)

To be a Christian is to receive this gospel, believe this gospel, stand in this gospel, continue to be saved by this gospel, and hold fast to this gospel as that which rescues us from our sins and brings us into fellowship with the living God. When this precious and life-giving gospel is truly received, those who receive it want others to receive it; those who have been rescued from darkness want others to be rescued from darkness; those who have tasted the steadfast love of the Lord want others to taste His steadfast and saving love. Which leads straightaway to this: those who receive the gospel enter into partnership with those who are seeking to advance the gospel – which in one sense means every fellow believer, for we are all to be involved in propagating the good news; but in another sense has special reference to missionaries and preachers and church planters, who are on the front lines of gospel advance.

Paul reminds us of the gospel-driven nature of healthy gospel partnership when he tells the Philippians: “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” (v. 15, italics added). The Philippians’ partnership with Paul was a partnership with Paul the gospel preacher, Paul the missionary, Paul the traveling church planter. As a missionary, Paul had brought the gospel to Philippi; and as he left Philippi, he was leaving in order to bring the gospel to others. And the Philippians were ‘all in’ to supporting Paul and his gospel work, whether in Thessalonica (v. 16) or in other places. True Christian partnership isn’t about helping our partners survive so that they can continue to breathe; instead, true Christian partnership is about helping our partners thrive so that they can continue to proclaim the gospel, disciple new believers, and grow the church.

We probably understand this truth reasonably well when it comes to the missionaries that we support, but we probably do not sufficiently understand this truth when it comes to our relationships with one another. And yet, Paul’s instruction to the Philippians makes it clear that we are to see each other as gospel partners whose partnership is aimed at advancing the gospel in the Oxford Hills. Paul tells the Philippians that they are “engaged in the same conflict” that he is (Philippians 1:30). Paul tells the Philippians that “with one mind [they are to strive] side by side for the faith of the gospel” (Philippians 1:27). Paul tells the Philippians that they “shine as lights in the [crooked and twisted] world” in which they live (Philippians 2:15). Paul tells the Philippians that “[their] reasonableness” [ought to] be known to everyone.” (Philippians 4:5) So I ask you: why should we help and support one another? Not so that each one of us can merely survive and breathe, but so that each one of us can thrive and do our part in a church community that is called to advance the gospel.

Brothers and sisters, you are co-participants in gospel work. You are co-combatants in the cause of Christ. You are brothers and sisters in missionary arms. You are “side by side” in the conflict, and you must help those who are at your side, so that each one will be faithful and strong in his or her part of the battle. This is our high and holy calling! This reference to being co-combatants in the cause of Christ may sound like high drama, but in reality it touches the ordinary things: a Christian wife seeking to live a godly life in the presence of her unbelieving husband; Christian parents seeking to impart the gospel to their children; a youth group leader or Sunday School teacher fielding a tough question from one of the kids; faithful Christians in the workplace seeking to maintain their integrity and stay away from complaining, gossiping, and backstabbing; a preacher or teacher taking care to explain the gospel in the sermon or in the lesson, for the dual purpose of edifying the saints and evangelizing the lost; pastors and elders working diligently to nurture the Christ-centered unity of the church, which is an important part of our witness to the world; all Christians resisting the madness of the world and staying true to the teaching of God’s world, even amid opposition; and all this, with a willingness to suffer and lay down our lives for the cause of Christ.

Now as we are going about the ordinary but glorious work of advancing the gospel, any one of us – or many of us – may have a need, a struggle, a trouble. We rightly want to step in and help, which anticipates the second point. But this first point should remind us of why we are stepping in to help. Why should we want to help each other? Because we are dear to each other in Christ? Of course! But also for this gospel-driven reason: that each one might have strength to continue serving the Lord, serving the Lord’s church, and serving the Lord’s missionary enterprise. We want our missionaries to be well-supplied so that their gospel work will go forward and their light will shine brightly in Argentina, Uruguay, Nigeria, Turkey, England, France, and Canada. Likewise, we want each other to be well-supplied so that our gospel work will go forward and our light will shine brightly in Paris, South Paris, West Paris, Greenwood City, Harrison, Hebron, Norway, and Oxford. To see, for example, Derrick and Amber on a merely social level is to see them as human beings who happen to live in Hebron. But to see Derrick and Amber as gospel partners is to see them as a brother and sister in arms who are called to shine light over in Hebron and who must be furnished with necessary supplies so that they can help South Paris Baptist Church advance the gospel throughout the Oxford Hills. Healthy gospel partnership is driven by a desire to advance the gospel. Therefore we must see our gospel partners – our missionaries and one another – as advancers of gospel truth, and we must consciously support them for the express purpose of furthering God’s work of advancing the gospel through them.

2) Healthy Gospel Partnership is Others-Oriented (Philippians 4:10, 14-17)

Second, healthy gospel partnership is others-oriented. A faithful Christian is someone who is truly and deeply and consistently concerned about his or her partners in the gospel. Now this is obvious, right? As we have seen throughout Philippians, to live Christianly is to live with a Christ-centered concern for others, especially our fellow Christians.

In Philippians 4:10-18, Paul is responding to the most recent gift that he has received from the Philippians. The Philippians were “concerned for [Paul]” (v. 10). They shared his trouble (v. 14) – they made his trouble their own, and entered into it with a view to help. Paul says that “it was kind of [them]” to do this. Strong’s Concordance indicates that the word translated “kind” can have the sense of ‘well, nobly, honorably, rightly’.[1] The Philippians did well and acted honorably. Indeed, by looking out for Paul’s interests, they did that which is “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Philippians 1:27). They didn’t close their heart, but they opened their heart in love.

This most recent expression of care for Paul emerged out of their well-established partnership with Paul (v. 15). While this well-established partnership was profoundly relational, centered on Christ, and profoundly missional, driven by a concern to advance the gospel, it was also intensely practical. This partnership was a “partnership… in giving and receiving” (v. 15), that is, in the giving and receiving of material assistance and practical support. We have not truly given our heart to the cause of gospel partnership, if we are withholding our checkbook! We are not truly giving ourselves to our gospel partners, if our bank account is off limits! We are not ‘all in’, if our money and possessions are not part of the all that is in! If you were to show me all of your financial transactions over the past year, I would have great insight into your priorities and values. You may be relieved to know that you don’t have to show me your financial records, but God knows! God knows all about our individual and household and church finances!

When we receive the gospel and the gospel becomes our everything, then everything we are and have becomes subject to the priorities and values of the gospel. Do you understand? As for the Philippians, “[they] sent [Paul] help for [his] needs once and again” (v. 16). And now, most recently, they had shared Paul’s trouble by sending more gifts to Paul – and they sent these gifts by the hand of Epaphroditus (v. 18). We learned about Epaphroditus back in Philippians 2:25-30 – we learned about how he had become ill on his short-term missionary assignment and how he was returning home to Philippi. What we need to understand is that a key part of his short-term missionary assignment was hand-delivering the gifts that the Philippian congregation were giving to Paul. On behalf of the Philippian congregation, Epaphroditus ministered to Paul’s need (Philippians 2:25, 30).

By way of application, we ought to continue to be faithful in support of the missionaries with whom we have entered into partnership. We do well to continue writing the regular support of our missionaries into the church’s annual budget. We act honorably to continue giving special gifts to our missionaries at Christmastime. We exhibit gospel-worthy love for our missionaries when we give generously to special love offerings for them when they visit us here in South Paris. In fact, we are expecting to have some of our missionaries with us this coming August 4 and 7, August 23-27 and September 29. Moreover, when our missionaries face unexpected troubles, it would be kind of us to share those unexpected troubles and, as soon as we are able, to send help their way. In the same vein, we ought to have the same kind of love and show the same know of practical support for one another within our church family as people within our church family face various kinds of troubles and needs. True Christian partnership is others-oriented and, as opportunities come (v. 10), this concern for others expresses itself in practical help.

Contentment and Love

Of course, it isn’t just that the Philippians are concerned for Paul; equally, Paul is concerned for the Philippians. Even as the Philippians seek Paul’s good by sending him material support, so Paul seeks the Philippians’ good by pursuing their spiritual encouragement and growth. This leads us into Paul’s statement in verse 17. Paul has been a recipient of financial gifts from the Philippians, but Paul’s joy isn’t found in the money that he has received: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.” (Philippians 4:17) This is a remarkable statement, and it goes back to Paul’s attitude of godly contentment in Philippians 4:11-13.

What we learned last week, and what I reminded us of earlier in this sermon, is that Paul’s joy over the Philippians’ generosity to him wasn’t the joy of having his needs met. Paul’s excitement over the Philippians’ financial support to him wasn’t the excitement of having more money in his account. Instead, what got Paul excited was that the Philippians’ financial support to him meant that the Philippians had more treasure in their spiritual and heavenly account. And Paul wouldn’t have been able to have this outlook if he was discontent in the face of unmet needs.

In Philippians 4:11-13, Paul told us that he had learned “to be content” in any and all situations, including situations in which he faced poverty, hunger, and need. Think about the consequences of not learning this lesson: if Paul was discontent in the face of difficulty and trouble, then like anyone else in that situation he would have been fixated on relief from that difficulty and trouble, and he would have become remarkably self-absorbed, and when a gift showed up from his friends in Philippi, what he would have been really excited about is the gift itself and how the gift would lift him out of his discontentment and difficulty. And he wouldn’t have been able to say: “Not that I seek the gift.”

Listen, this world is full of people who are seeking gifts from men, and the reason they are seeking these gifts is because they are discontented people who refuse to be content until they have their needs met, according to their definition of needs. Such people don’t give a rip about the gospel-worthy character of the people giving the gift, they just want the gift to be given so that they can get a temporary buzz and pick-me-up and relief from the gift. People who are deep-down discontent in the face of difficulty don’t need to be delivered from their difficulty so much as they need to be delivered from their discontent, and that will only happen through Christ: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13)

As we learn godly contentment, we are no longer self-absorbed people who are preoccupied with getting our needs met. Instead, we are preoccupied with following Christ and serving others in His name. Which means that we are always thinking about the good of others, especially our fellow Christians: “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit.”

The Philippians, of course, were right to seek Paul’s good by sending help. But it would not have been right for Paul to make their generous gift-giving all about him and his relief. So even as he received gifts from them, he was continuing to “seek the fruit that increases to [their] credit.” What does that phrase mean? Though it may point to the general idea of growing and prospering spiritually as you pour yourself out in love, it is helpful to remember Scripture’s instruction to lay up treasure in heaven.

Jesus said, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20) If you read on in Matthew 6, it becomes clear that laying up treasure in heaven is related to not worshiping money and not being anxious about things like food and clothing (Matthew 6:24-33). So, one way that we lay up treasure in heaven is by not holding onto money as a source of security but instead by gladly releasing money into the service of God and God’s kingdom (Matthew 6:24, 33), which of course includes gladly giving money to our missionary partners who are seeking to advance God’s kingdom by preaching the gospel.  

Paul says something very similar when he instructs Timothy to charge wealthy Christians to be generous sharers of their wealth: “They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 Timothy 6:18-19)

Christians who are “generous and ready to share” in order to “do good” to their fellow Christians are “storing up treasure” that will endure forever! So back in Philippians 4, Paul is telling us that he is so joyful over the Philippians’ generosity to him – not because it is good for him, but because it is good for them! Yes, it is good for them: it means that Christ is producing contentment and joy and peace in them so that they are increasingly free to part with their possessions and devote their resources to the cause of the gospel. They are demonstrating true faith in Jesus, they are laying up treasure in heaven, they are participating in gospel work, they are “[pressing] on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:14).

Healthy gospel partners walk in love toward each other and think about what is best for the other! And when this happens, something even bigger is happening – which brings us to a third feature of healthy gospel partnership.

3) The Love Displayed to our Gospel Partners is God-Glorifying Worship (Philippians 4:18)

The third feature of true gospel partnership is that the love displayed to our gospel partners is God-glorifying worship. Gospel partners are worship partners, and the love displayed to our gospel partners is God-glorifying worship; the love shown to our missionary partners is God-glorifying worship; the practical support given to one another as Christian co-laborers is God-glorifying worship.

We know that what we have gathered together this morning for a service of worship unto the Lord. We want the songs that we sing and the prayers that we pray and the contributions that we put into the offering plate and our devotion to hearing God’s Word read and proclaimed – we want all this to be true worship that pleases God and glorifies His worth. But do we know that concrete acts of Christian love are also part of the daylong, weeklong, lifelong service of worship that we offer up to our God?

The author of Hebrews put it this way: “Through him [Jesus] then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.” (Hebrews 13:15-16) “[Doing] good” and “[sharing] what you have” are sacrifices, not in the sense that they are costly (though they may be), but in the sense that God receives it as a sacrifice, which is biblical language – temple language – for indicating an act of worship.[2]

So here in Philippians 4: “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.” (Philippians 4:18) While Paul certainly appreciates the tangible blessing of being “well supplied” with necessary provisions for his daily life, he cannot and will not reduce the exchange of gifts to a mere charitable transaction among men. In this particular exchange, the Philippians are the giver and Paul is the beneficiary of their gift, but the ultimate audience is Almighty God. And although a practical gift is changing hands, as Epaphroditus takes the gift from Philippi and puts it into Paul’s hand, something much bigger is happening: “a fragrant offering” is rising up in the very presence of God. Christian love is like sweet incense in the heavenly temple! This act of love is a pleasing sacrifice in the presence of the Holy One, this generous sharing of resources is an act of worship that is acceptable in the courts of heaven.

Brothers and sisters, when – as a result of our faith in Jesus – we give generously to support our missionaries and one another for the sake of the gospel, we demonstrate that Jesus is more valuable to us than our money, we demonstrate that the advance of Jesus’ gospel is more important to us than our self-advancement, we demonstrate that the comfort of our gospel partners is more significant to us than our self-comfort, we demonstrate that the building up of Christ’s church matters more to us than the building up of our own little economic kingdoms. And when we lay down our lives and our resources in order to serve the interests of our fellow Christians, we are demonstrating that the gospel of Christ’s costly love for us has so captivated our hearts that it is transforming us into people who gladly bear the cost of Christ-like love for others. And when that happens, God is pleased!

Let me tell you, God was supremely pleased with the perfect love displayed by His Son: “And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2) God was so pleased with the humble, self-denying, cross-bearing obedience of His Son (Philippians 2:6-8), that God was eager to honor His Son for it – to “highly [exalt] him and [bestow] on him the name that is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). When sinners receive the gospel and through the gospel come to know and treasure Jesus as their beloved Savior, they begin to do two things: first, they praise Him as the most precious person in the universe (Philippians 2:10-11); and second, they begin to resemble His humble, self-denying, cross-bearing love (Philippians 2:1-5). Jesus’ love was “a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2) When – as a result of our faith in Jesus – we follow Jesus on this path of love, our love is also “a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18) What a high calling!


To drive home what we have learned in Philippians 4:10-18, let me engage you in a little exercise of imagination. Suppose that our brother Tom faces an unexpected trouble, a real difficulty and need, and he needs help. And suppose that our brother Matt learns of Tom’s need and has an earnest desire to help. Matt looks over his finances and he realizes that there is only a small portion of available monies – it doesn’t seem like much, he thinks – but he is encouraged and strengthened when he reads what Paul wrote elsewhere about the generous giving of the Macedonian churches, which would have included the church in Philippi. Paul wrote: “We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, 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. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own free will.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-3) Matt ponders this, and God’s grace is at work in Matt’s heart, and the very thought of making a generous gift fills Matt with joy. He looks at his finances again and then again, and actually finds more available money the third time around. With an other-worldly joy in the Lord, he writes a sizable check, brings it with him to South Paris Baptist Church on the Lord’s Day, and puts it in Tom’s hand before the service begins. Eventually Tom takes a peak, and after the service he goes over to Matt. Now this is where things get interesting.

In the first scenario, let’s suppose that Tom is one of those self-absorbed discontents I was talking about earlier. He has been foaming with discontent over his troubles, not trusting in the Lord, not waiting patiently on the Lord, but only running on anxiety. Now he sees this significant gift, and a rush of energy fills his heart: Tom is excited for Tom. He says, ‘Matt, thank you so much for this gift. I am so happy to have this gift. This is going to make my week so much better. I have been really unstable in the face of my need, and now your gift is going to put some stability under me. What a relief! You shouldn’t have, Matt, but I’m glad you did, because I really needed this.’ What has Tom done? He has taken a gift of love, and made it all about Tom. In fact, he has taken someone else’s act of worship, and made it all about Tom. In this scenario, Tom’s joy is having his need met, and it shows. Of course, most of us – even if we felt this way – would try to put some religious jargon into our ‘thank you’ in order to come off sounding like humble God-centered folks, but be assured that we cannot hide our true self from God.

But let’s rewind, and go to a second scenario. Now let’s suppose that Tom is actually living in the goodness of God’s peace. Even though he has been hit by a whirlwind of trouble, he is trusting in the Lord, rejoicing in the Lord, and experiencing the Lord’s peace. Though his outward circumstances are uncomfortable, he really is content in the Lord. Christ is strong – and in Christ, and because of Christ, Tom is strong, too. When he sees this significant gift, a rush of energy fills his heart: Tom is excited for Matt. He says, ‘Matt, your gift is meeting a real need, and Mary and I are truly grateful. But what really fills my heart with joy here, is to see you showing Christ-like love. The generous, large-hearted self-giving love of Christ is getting expressed in and through you, brother, and in that I rejoice. Great is your reward in heaven! Further, your reflection of Christ’s love is nothing less than an act of worship to our God! He is honored by your obedience, and His worth is magnified because you put the interests of His kingdom and His people ahead of your own. God bless you, brother! And as I am sure that this gift was costly to give, I want you to hear this promise: “… my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19) And as we are here together in this sacred moment in the presence of God, let me add my worship to yours: “To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:20)’ At that, the two brothers embrace, full of affection for one another, their hearts full of grace, and they go on their way glorifying God.

True gospel partners wouldn’t trade this for anything in the world. 

Let us pray.



[1] See Strong’s Concordance via online Bible Hub for entry “2573. kalós.” Available online:

[2] For the meaning of the worship/offering/sacrifice language of Philippians 4:18, see G. Walter Hansen, The Letter to the Philippians (Pillar New Testament Commentary). Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2009: p. 323-324.

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