“Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God” (Philippians 4:14-18).
This study continues with the same theme of financial assistance for those in the ministry or experiencing problems due to hardship. Here the apostle Paul expresses his joy because of the Philippian church’s faithful support of his work. Their support did not come cheaply, for they had their own hardships to contend with, therefore they were truly sacrificial in their giving. The Lord gave Paul the strength to continue in his ministry, but it was not accomplished without the faithful support of other believers.
The Philippian fellowship was committed to assisting those who were engaged in spreading the gospel throughout the world. They were one of the few churches that gave consistently and, as it seems, beyond the normal tithe. We know that they had sent gifts to Paul while he was on his missionary trips to Thessalonica (Acts 17). The gifts that the apostle received, not only supplied his needs, but also encouraged him with the knowledge that he was not forgotten in his afflictions. Here is a church that made a difference both in Paul’s mission and the spiritual lives of those they would never meet on this side of eternity. Let us never underestimate what God can do with a missionary-minded church.
They “communicated” with Paul, which means, as the Greek word ‘koinoneo’ implies, they ‘shared’ what they had with him. The word ‘fellowship’ is derived from ‘koinonia’ and is used to reveal that the early church willingly shared their possessions with others. “And all that believed were together, and had all things common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need” (Acts 2:44-45). There is no English word that can adequately describe ‘koinonia’, but it is best defined as ‘communion by intimate participation’, and partly explains the Philippian’s approach to giving.
Paul did not need to coerce them into giving to his ministry. He offered them no incentives. He did not send them little pieces of stone from his prison cell if they sent a hundred denarii or more. “I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel” (Acts 20:33). They gave because the Holy Spirit prompted them to and beside this, they wanted to support Paul. “Therefore I thought it necessary to exhort the brethren, that they would go before unto you, and make up beforehand your bounty, whereof ye had notice before, that the same might be ready, as a matter of bounty, and not as of covetousness. But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver” (2 Corinthians 9:5-7).
“And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work: (As it is written, He hath dispersed abroad; he hath given to the poor: his righteousness remaineth for ever. Now he that ministereth seed to the sower both minister bread for your food, and multiply your seed sown, and increase the fruits of your righteousness;) Being enriched in every thing to all bountifulness, which causeth through us thanksgiving to God. For the administration of this service not only supplieth the want of the saints, but is abundant also by many thanksgivings unto God; Whiles by the experiment of this ministration they glorify God for your professed subjection unto the gospel of Christ, and for your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men; And by their prayer for you, which long after you for the exceeding grace of God in you. Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift” (2 Corinthians 9:8-15).
We see from the above text that God blesses those who give to others in the right spirit. When we give to those who are in need, we not only bless them, but we are blessed in the giving too. “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). Note: We have no written record of Jesus saying this, but it must be presumed that Paul was quoting from a saying that did not reach the canon of Scripture. Also, we must keep in mind the fact that not every thing Jesus said and said was recorded (John 21:25). Therefore this is likely to be an oral saying passed on to Paul by one of the disciples. It was not the gift but the spirit that it was given in that delighted Paul.
Paul says that the gift that was sent to him by the hands of Epaphroditus was like sweet smelling perfume that deodorised his dank prison cell. Though the offering was for him, he said that it was truly like an acceptable sacrifice to God. Maybe he was referring to the ‘thank offerings’ of Leviticus 7:12-15. Though Gentile Christians were under no obligation to offer the sacrifices of the Old Testament, they were well acquainted with the customs and traditions of the Jews. This was a spiritual sacrifice that God was well-pleased with, and He would reward them bountifully. Those who do not give will never have enough, but those who give out of a pure heart, rather than expecting a reward, will receive all that God has for them.
We have all met ‘Christians’ who do not believe in tithing, giving or supporting those engaged in preaching the word, but they still expect to be blessed by God. We can see that the stance they take does not fit with the teaching of Scripture on any level. Anyhow, the church does not need the offerings of those who are too miserly to put their hands in their pockets. The bottom line is that spreading the gospel of Christ, though empowered by the strength of God, is still requires the sacrificial sharing of those who are grateful that the Lord saved them and are eager to see over souls coming to Christ. There is an “account” of our lives held in Heaven by the Lord. “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Romans 14:12) … “Who shall give account to him that is ready to judge the quick and the dead” (1 Peter 4:5). One day our accounts are going to be opened, and what is read from them is dependent upon what we do here on earth. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5:10). It is a joy to know that God is the “rewarder” of the faithful, “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Hebrews 11:6). The fruits of our faith will be recorded and remembered by the Lord. “For God is not unrighteous to forget your work and labour of love, which ye have shewed toward his name, in that ye have ministered to the saints, and do minister” (Hebrews 6:10).