Lesson 20: "I Can Do All Things Through Christ Which Stengtheneth Me." (Philippians 4:13)
Paul's Prison Epistles. This is lesson #20 and this lesson begins in v.10 of Phil. ch. 4, the last chapter and this is our last lesson on the book of Philippians. Let's do a quickie review. Epaphroditus came to Paul in Prison, the imperial prison at Rome. Epaphroditus was from the Philip-pian congregation. Now, after Epaphroditus delivered their gift to Paul (from the Philippian brethren), he is finally ready to leave and head back to Philippi. We don't know how long he stayed with Paul. In 2:25, Paul said: "he ministered to my wants." Paul wrote this letter, the book of Philippians, to the camp of the saints in Philippi and undoubtedly sent it by the hand of this dedicated minister named Epaphroditus. In this letter, Paul promised to, at least, send Timothy to them shortly and promised further that if the opportunity presented itself, (i.e. to say, if he was released from Prison), Paul, himself, would soon visit his brethren in Macedonia also. In the first chapter of this book, Paul said (after the usual cordialities and salutation) that he thanked God for the Philippians every time he remembered them. Paul told them a little about his circumstance there in prison and how the word was being spread even in and around Nero's palace. Paul said he was "in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ" or (#2) "to abide in the flesh." Paul was ready! The prerogative was the Lord's will. Paul, then wrote a little about his circumstance there in prison. He commended these Philippian brethren highly. They had always obeyed (2:12); they were not hypocrites. Paul instructed them to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling." Put some effort into it. Be likeminded, "let each esteem other better than themselves." Learn the mind principle and develop a mind after the fashion of Jesus. Look to Jesus as a pacesetter. Do it right! (We might say.) Then, Paul just couldn't get his pencil to stop. At the beginning of what we call ch.3, he said "Finally, my brethren..." do this: keep pressing on toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus (v.14). But, watch out for the enemies of the cross. Paul said these dogs and evil workers made him weep. He reminded them, Jesus is coming back again. Jesus is now in heaven and when he returns in his second coming, he will change our vile bodies to a new spiritual body. Down in v.8 of ch. 4, as I said, Paul just couldn't get stopped; he said again: "finally, brethren... think on these things." In other words, just keep practicing this mind principle and (4:9) just keep doing what Paul had taught them when he was with them and just keep doing the things they had seen Paul and his co- workers do.
Now, that brings us to v.10 (Phil. 4:10) and this is where our final lesson in this book begins. Let's read it! Are you ready? Please read with me. Beginning v.10, let's read! "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 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 odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable
well-pleasing to God. But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."
Alright, one might say Paul's theme in this letter was "Rejoice." At the beginning of ch. 3, he said: "rejoice in the Lord." In 4:4 he said: "Rejoice in the Lord always: and again I say, Rejoice." This is the way Paul said the Philippians should do it. Then, (as we noted before) down in v.9 he instructed them to do as Paul had taught them when he was with them and to follow the example that Paul and his co-workers had left them. This is really a repeat (from 3:17). Here in v.10, which is the next verse, the apostle gives them an example in rejoicing: "I rejoiced in. the Lord greatly..." he said. Why Paul? "Your care of me hath flourished again." He referred to this care as a "gift" (down in v.17) and according to v.18 this included some "things" also. Whether it was money or something else Paul could use possibly like quilts, blankets, writing materials or a combination of such things we have no way of knowing. This is a guess; but, they may have been helping Paul pay the rent on his "hired house" (mentioned back in Acts 28:30). How food was provided we do not know. Notice the word "again." Apparently the Philippian congregation had taken pride in helping the old apostle over the years and this was just one more occasion when they sent help to Paul. However, the point you need to see here is that Paul practiced what, he preached. He could have spent his time there in prison whining about how terrible prison life was, how cold itwas, how terrible the food was, how he was mistreated, how heavy that chain was and how it affected his arthritis, and on and on. When Epaphroditus arrived in Rome with this Philippian gift, it gave Paul a reason to rejoice. No negative, just positive. So, Paul practiced his advice "think on these things" ...how fortunate he was and how great it was to have friends like his brethren in the Philippian church. He was thinking on honest, just, pure, and lovely things, you see, "whatsoever things are of good report" (back up in v.8). These things had sustained Paul for four years in prison (two years at Caesarea and two years at Rome). He could speak from experience as well as from Godly authority. It goes to show we always have things to be thankful for and to rejoice about, if we simply look around and understand our place in life. I'm glad God gave me the life I enjoy. I'm glad I was not born in a war zone as so many people on this old planet were. Some have been involved in war all their life and lived in fear from day to day. I've never been rich nor 'on the other side of the coin) have I ever known strict poverty either. I appreciate the health I enjoy. I'm thankful and I rejoice that I have the opportunity to study these passages. I appreciate my brethren who help me share this study with others like yourself through these courses. My mother has lived near us now for about three months. Within the last 30 days she celebrated her 80th birthday. Incidentally, she received 150 birthday cards and she is just gloating- about that. I took off from my writing here a few minutes ago and drove her to the hair dresser this morning; it was only a couple miles and it took me only about 10 minutes. But, I'm glad I can do that. Earlier in her life there was a time she had things pretty rough raising six children. I'm glad she can now: get her hair done by somebody else and she can enjoy a little better life. I am blessed with a beautiful and caring wife. She has spent many many hours grading tests and corresponding with people like yourself; trying to encourage a little Bible Study. There’s so many things to be thankful for. Paul’s right, we need to think on these things.
V10 (here) down through the rest of ch. 4 might be considered what you and I would call a thank you note or a thank you card. Paul really appreciated this, their thoughtfulness and their fellowship very, very much. But, in v.l11, he wanted them to know he was not saying this to butter them up or as a way of asking for more. If you can find a definition for humility in the Bible; I believe v.11-12-13 (here) is it. Please turn the tape player off long enough to read these verses at least a half dozen more times. It's all part of that mind principle we have already discussed. Please think for a moment, how that if the attitude Paul expressed here was practiced generally in our day; it would eliminate almost every crime. Paul was not guilty of a cri.ne. Actually Paul had done nothing but teach the word of Jesus, the word of God. Yet, he was in chains for political reasons really, for simply teaching the truth. What if you were put in prison (for four years) for simply studying the Bible (as you are now doing) and your life was on the line simply because you are studying the truth. Would you become bitter and negative and wilt away? Would you think on honest, just, pure, lovely and virtuous things? As Paul recommended? Or would you spend your time in the negative realm, thinking only of your self-centered self, and trying to retaliate and lambaste those responsible for putting you there? sinking deeper and deeper into depression? Brethren, Christianity doesn't take the pain way; but, as I have said before, it's the only life worth living. It's the best life here on this old planet and the retirement system is great, beyond your imagination. Are you a Christian? Is your citizenship in heaven? (as Paul expressed back in 3:20)? Those mansions that Jesus talked about in John ch. 14 are real. Heaven is a real place! This life is a proving ground. God created this earth, life and everything associated with it. God has turned us loose. You can serve him or you can reject him. Either you have been baptized into Christ and you are serving Jesus daily, hour by hour or you are against him. There's no middle ground. For those who are against Jesus either actively or passively; their end is destruction. That's what Paul said (3:19). Just across the page. It's such a sad state, Paul weeped about it. He expressed this (3:18). Yes, but Bro. Horsley, Christianity is so hard...I don't know if I could hold out. Brethren, life is not easy as a sinner; if you stop and think about it. That negative realm of life is NOT such a pleasant place to while away your hours either. Sin doesn't take the pain away. There are pleasures in sin, yes. Moses agreed that, that is true (Heb. 11:25); but, it's fleeting...it only lasts for a season, Moses said. It is temporary. So very, very brief. Heaven is eternal. Hell is eternal... everlasting (Matt. 25:46). Jesus described hell as a furnace of fire where there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:50). If you believe anything in this book, you must believe everything in this book. Either the whole book is true or the whole book is false. You must choose. You can believe it or you can reject it. But, it is set up in such a way: you can't be half way in and half way out. Please believe it! It's true! That's the way it is...truth. God's word is truth (John 17:17). Atheist have tried to disprove it for centuries. The more they rub it, the brighter it shines. The God of heaven that created man has given this book, the Bible, as a service manual and an operators manual for his creature known as mankind. If you study the book, you'll be convinced.
In v.14, Paul commended the Philippians for "communicat[ing] with my affliction." The word "communicate" here in the KJV, as has been pointed out before (back in Gal. 6:6) means more than just conveying information. This is not the same Greek word that was translated "communicate" in Gal. 6:6; but, very much like the word back there, the word here means to co-participate, i.e. to be active in sharing material things as well as in sympathy. One translation says: "you acted nobly in sharing my troubles." In v.15-16, the apostle shares a memory of times gone by; something we did not learn back in Acts ch. 17 concerning Paul's stay in Thessalonica. This is when Paul first came to Thessalonica, just after leaving Philippi (as recorded at the end of Acts ch. 16). It's interesting here in v.15 that Paul labeled his work at Philippi "in the beginning of the gospel..." By that, he means back when the Philippians first obeyed the gospel...Lydia and the Philippian jailer...when Paul was asked to leave Philippi. He and Silas went on to Thessalonica, you will remember, we said about 100 miles westward via a Roman highway. We learn here, that back then, these same brethren had sent Paul support more than once when he was at Thessalonica. And, apparently the apostle had a hard time making it at Thessalonica; because, in writing back to them at a later time he said (I Thes. 2:9): "ye remember, brethren, our labour and travail: for labouring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God." So, undoubtedly remembering hard times; Paul appreciated the help of these same brethren. We learn also, that the Philippians were the only ones that helped. It seems from this they may have been the ones that helped Paul at Corinth also (I deduct this from II Cor. 11:8). The church at Philippi was a giving church. Paul said they gave beyond their power (do you remember II Cor. 8:3?). Paul used the example of these same Macedonian brethren to try to excite and energize the Corinthian saints also in the grace of giving (that is II Cor. 9:4?).
Here (end of 4:18), Paul called the gift he received and that gesture "an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God." This is figurative, of course, and a clear reference back to Gen. 8:21 (similar to Eph. 5:2). Remember this is a thank-you-card. Study Paul's words (in v.19-20). Then, in v.21-22, he emphasized again as he did in v.1 of ch. 1; that this letter is general, i.e. to all the saints, or every Christian at Philippi and it has (of course) been presreved by the Holy Spirit for us. Instruction to the bishops and deacons (going back to the first. verse of the book) was/and/is exactly the same as to every member. They were all fellow-laborers in the cause of Christ. Some of the members of the church(s) in Rome (what ever the case may be), again simply fellow-laborers in the cause of Christ, were apparently knowledgeable of the fact that Paul was writing this letter to his Philippian brethren. Paul concedes these consisted mostly of those Christians who worked in and around Caesar's household, i.e. Nero's palace or principally those visiting and communicating with Paul, undoubtedly. This goes back to ch. 1, v.12-13-14 and helps us see the influence of Paul and his co-workers in and around the palace. Then v.23, (here) as noted before, is very much like the last sentence or two in every letter Paul wrote. Please take a moment to re-read about the last verse in all of Paul's letters. I have an ulterior motive in this request; because, we shall mention this again in a future lesson. I'll be back in lesson #21 which is an introduction to Colossians. You might want to do a quickie reading of Colossians in the mean time. Until then, have a good day.