07 October 2010

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (4:14-4:18)

As I've mentioned before, the chapter and verse divisions that we have in our bibles were not there when this letter to the Philippians was written. When Paul was dictating this letter to his scribe, he didn’t say, “OK, now we shall begin chapter 2” and so forth. This letter—and, for that matter, all of the epistles and gospels in the NT—were written in much the same way we would write a letter today. Now, these chapter/verse divisions do help in finding a particular statement. But they can also, sometimes, cause us to separate ideas that are actually one continuous thought. An example of this is 1st Corinthians 13—which probably should not end with verse 13. It should keep going into chapter 14, probably verse 5. Furthermore, some translations do break up sections of text into paragraphs. Most of the Bibles published today do this, and sometimes put headings above the different sections of text. For example, in Ephesians 1, the text in verses 3 through 14 is all one long sentence that is part of an even bigger paragraph, which probably runs to somewhere in the first part of chapter 2.

The reason I bring all this up is, sometimes these divisions—while they are helpful—sometimes we take these two verses, and sometimes we forget that there is one idea that is being expressed. Which is why, even though we may only be focusing on certain verses, I will put the verses surrounding that section in your notes—so you can see the context. Like today. We will read verses 14-19, but we will only be focusing on verses 17-18. That said, we come to today’s text.

Philippians 4:14-1914 Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Verses 10-19 are all one paragraph. And to kind of summarize what we’ve seen thus far, and to put it into a more conversational style, this is what Paul has said so far, from verse 10 through verse 17:
“In the name of my Lord Jesus Christ, I am so blessed that you have stirred up your love for me again. Not that you didn’t care about me before, but I know there was something that hindered you from sending me help. But that’s OK, because I really don’t lack anything. I have learned that, no matter my circumstances, I am happy being the man God has made me to be. I know how to be faithful in serving Him as the lowest slave, and I know how to serve Him faithfully as the leader of men. No matter where I go, no matter what I do, I have learned the secret of being happy when I am hungry, and when I am fully fed. I will not be ruled by material wealth, and I will not complain when I have nothing. I can do everything I need to do, because Christ gives me the strength to do it. Now, don’t get me wrong. I do greatly appreciate the gift you have sent. If you think about it, when I first started preaching the gospel in these here parts, you were the only people to send help my way. In fact, during all that time I was in Thessalonica, you sent me help—not just once, but twice! That was all well and good, but what really gets me excited is the fact that your account is gonna profit from your giving!”
Let’s look at verse 17. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. As we have made plainly clear, Paul wasn’t all about getting the gift—his joy came from their giving the gift. The last thing I'll say about that is this—fathers, if you wake up on Christmas morning, and your wife got you that new fishing pole you wanted, or a new watch, or whatever else. You are just so happy that she got you those things, right? And then you open up the box from your kids. And you look inside and you see some crudely drawn picture, drawn with crayons, and it’s supposed to be the family, and it's just a bunch of, kinda round, kinda oval figures with sticks for arms and legs. And your little one climbs on your lap and asks, “Do ya like it, Daddy?” And you look them in the eye and you say, “It’s beautiful!” And it is, isn't it? And even after the watch is tore up, and you don't fish anymore, that picture will still be in a frame on a wall somewhere in your house. Because that was your child that made it for you, with their own hands, from their heart!

That’s what Paul is saying here. He didn’t care if they sent him a big bag of gold or two drachmas. They gave. And that giving was going to bear fruit to their account. He didn’t send someone to say, “Hey, guys, you need to send something to Paul. I mean, how about showing a little gratitude?” They sent the gift without him even asking. That’s what he meant when he said Not that I seek the gift. That word “seek” means “to actively go out and look for or try to obtain.” He didn’t go bugging them for a gift—he didn’t want the gift, he wanted to see their account grow. That word “fruit”—the NASB translates it “profit.” There’s one other translation, and I can't remember which, but one translates it as “interest.” He’s looking for their account to gain interest from their giving.

The writer of Hebrews uses the same Greek word to describe our growth after we stumble and after we receive our chastisement from God. Hebrews 12:11Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. After we slip and trip and fall, we get a whoopin’ from God, which yields righteousness, which leads to obedience. It’s the same word Paul uses in Galatians 5:22-23But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. If a person is saved, they will have the Holy Spirit living within them, and the result of the Holy Spirit dwelling in them will be that they possess—and display—love, joy, peace, patience… Romans 6:21-22What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. In other words, when we were still our old, sinful selves, what possible good came from doing the things we are now ashamed of?

BUT!! If a person is in Christ, we are free from sin, and we produce fruit that glorifies God and separates us from the world, moves us closer to God, with the end result being eternal life. John 15:4-5“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” This was the fruit Paul wanted to see from the Philippians. The fruit that came from a life lived in Christ and for Christ and through Christ; a life that would bear fruit to righteousness and holiness and godliness. So that when they got to the Judgment Seat of Christ, they would receive reward for the deeds done in the body. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.

Now, we’re gonna spend the rest of our time looking at the next verse, because we’re going to see the difference between doing good with good motives and doing good with bad motives. And yes, there is a difference.

Verse 18. Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. We’re going to look at wrong motives first. Is it possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason? Absolutely! Of course, the poster children for this principle were the Pharisees. The Sermon on the Mount was not a warning shot; it was not a shot across the bow of their ship. It was a broadside attack against the Pharisees and their self-"righteousness." Let me dispel one myth, however—Jesus did not “rebel against authority” just for the sake of rebelling. He WAS the authority because He was God. What He did was to show these men that everything about their religion was going against the Word of God. He should know—He was the Word (John 1:1).

They were doing those things that were commanded in the OT Law. They were keeping the feasts, they were keeping the Sabbaths, they were keeping the holy days. BUT—they were not keeping them for the right reasons. And the biggest mistake of all that they were making was this: they did not understand that righteousness did not come from doing things—righteousness comes from within. In fact, Jesus makes this distinction in Matthew 15:7-11, 18-19“Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: ‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” He said to His disciples, “Hear and understand: Not what goes into the mouth defiles a man; but what comes out of the mouth, this defiles a man…those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.” They did all the right things. They did all the things they were supposed to do. In fact, just to show everybody how godly and religious they were, they took and they added many more things to the commandments of God.

But they still had a problem. They were clean on the outside--but Jesus saw through to their hearts. Jesus tells them again in Matthew 23:25-26“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.” Does it make us righteous when we do “good things?” There are plenty of lost people, ungodly people, heathens, who do things that most people would call “good.” One of the five pillars of Islam is to give alms to the poor. Does that save them?

Even in the OT, the people of Israel could offer all the right sacrifices, at all the right times, and it would have seemed to God to be an abomination. Listen to Isaiah 1:11-16“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?” Says the LORD. “I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs or goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has required this from your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more futile sacrifices; incense is an abomination to Me. The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting. Your New Moons and your appointed feasts My soul hates; they are a trouble to Me, I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.” But God told Moses that if the people brought their sacrifice, that would cover their sins. Why would God not accept these people’s offerings?

We find the answer, actually, a few verses before this, in Isaiah 1:3-5“The ox knows its owner and the donkey its master's crib; but Israel does not know, My people do not consider. Alas, sinful nation, a people laden with iniquity, a brood of evildoers, children who are corrupters! They have forsaken the LORD, they have provoked to anger The Holy One of Israel, they have turned away backward. Why should you be stricken again? You will revolt more and more. The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faints. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it, but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; they have not been closed or bound up, or soothed with ointment.” The problem was, they thought that they could buy God’s favor by bringing their lambs and bulls and goats to be sacrificed and by burning incense. But God calls all this stuff and abomination. He said, “I've had it with you people and your sacrifices. If I smell one more roasted bull or pile of burning incense I'm gonna puke!” Basically. That’s not much of an exaggeration. God had delivered them from their enemies, brought them out of Egypt, He was always ready to save them—but this generation did not know Him. So they did everything God commanded, but for the wrong reasons. They thought that because they did something God would be pleased. If our “good deeds” made us righteous, Paul would not have had to write in Ephesians 2:8-9 [NASB]By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

The Philippians sent aid to Paul when he was in Thessalonica, and they were sending him help now. They did not do it to try and make themselves righteous. They did it because they were righteous. Listen to how Paul describes this gift: A sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. In the OT Law, all of the sacrifices—the freewill offering, the grain offering, the peace offering, sin offering, etc—God referred to them as “an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD” on what condition? If it was made with a pure conscience and a true remorse and conviction over their sin. Psalm 51:17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise. The people Isaiah wrote about—they didn’t care. Their attitude was “Oops, I committed adultery again. Oh, darn! I guess I'll have to bring a ram to the priest for a sacrifice. If I do that, I'll be righteous with God!” Did the Philippians give in order to become righteous? No. What was their motivation for giving? Love! What is the first quality of the fruit of the Spirit? Love.

They gave—but if they just gave because they felt guilty, and with no love behind it, 1st Corinthians 13:3If I give away all I have…but have not love, I gain nothing. 2nd Corinthians 9:7-8 (ESV)Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. God had given these Philippians plenty. For whatever reason—maybe they didn’t have a way to get the help to him, maybe they didn’t know where he was, maybe they had had everything taken away by the Roman government because they wouldn’t worship the Caesar. Whatever the reason, they could not get help to him. But now, they have an opportunity to do good, their care for him has flourished once again, and they are giving out of a pure love for him, to see the work of Christ continue, which is why he can say at the beginning of verse 18, I have all and abound. He has the gift—and he has their love.

Jesus Christ is Lord.
Amen.

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