But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me has flourished again; wherein you were also careful…
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: everywhere 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. The apostle now turns his attention to a new subject, and the verses that follow to the close of the chapter seem to be a kind of postscript, acknowledging in a very graceful manner the various offerings which he had received from the Philippians by the hands of Epaphroditus. The passage before us may be regarded as presenting man in certain model aspects.
I. Here is a man represented as an OBJECT OF CHRISTIAN BENEFICENCE, "But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again."
1. He received their beneficence with religious gratitude. "I rejoiced in the Lord," etc. "There is," says Dr. Barry, "in these words an expression of some hitherto disappointed expectation, not wholly unlike the stronger expression of wounded feeling in 2 Timothy 4:9, 10, 16. At Caesarea St. Paul would have been necessarily cut off from the European Churches; at Rome, the metropolis of universal concourse, he may have expected some earlier communication. But fearing to wound the Philippians by even the semblance of reproof, in their case undeserved, he adds at once, 'in which ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.' Epaphroditus would seem to have arrived early, almost as soon as St. Paul's arrival at Rome gave them the opportunity which they previously lacked." The contributions which came from the Philippians to him he traced to the Lord. He saw the hand and felt the love of God in their gifts. There is not a man on earth who is not in some measure the object of human beneficence. We are all receiving from others, every day in our life, some kind of good - physical, intellectual, social, or spiritual. All this good we should devoutly ascribe to the Father of lights, from whom cometh "every good and perfect gift." Whether those of our fellow-men, who confer on us good, do it with their will or against their will, selfishly or disinterestedly, it matters not so far as our obligation to Heaven is concerned. From him all the good of all kinds and through all channels proceeds.
2. He received their beneficence with hearty appreciation. "Notwithstanding [howbeit] ye have well done, that ye did communicate [had fellowship] with my affliction." "Ye have well done." Your beneficence was dictated from a generous sympathy with my affliction, and it was timely withal. True beneficence is a blessed virtue. "It is more blessed to give than to receive." His appreciation seems to have been deepened by the fact that their beneficence preceded that of other Churches. "Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no Church communicated [had fellowship] with me as concerning [in the matter of] giving and receiving, but ye only." The time referred to is the period of his leaving Macedonia and Athens for Corinth (Acts 17:14). They rendered him help, not only after he had left Macedonia, but before that time, when he had just passed from Philippi to Thessalonica. "At Thessalonica, as at Corinth - both very rich and luxurious communities - he refused maintenance and lived merely by the labor of his own hands (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 2:8). But it appears from this passage that even then he received, once and again (that is, occasionally, once or twice), some aid from Philippi to supply his need, that is (as in all right exercise of liberality), to supplement, and not to supersede his own resources." In this also he acts in a model way. There are those ingrates in society who receive help from others as a matter of course, attach little or no value to the good which they are constantly receiving. Ay, and moreover, there are those, too, who, instead of becoming bound to the benefactor as friends through gratitude for the favors, not unfrequently become enemies. Ah me! this worst of human vices is, perhaps, the most common. "As there are no laws against ingratitude," says Seneca, "so it is utterly impossible to contrive any that in all circumstances shall reach it. If it were actionable, there would not be courts enough in the whole world to try the causes in. There can be no setting a day for the requiting of benefits, as for the payment of money; nor any estimate upon the benefits themselves; but the whole matter rests in the conscience of both parties; and then there are so many degrees of it, that the same rule will never serve all."
3. He received their beneficence with entire unselfishness. "Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound [increaseth] to your account." He means to say, I do not "desire a gift" for my own sake as much as for yours. I value the gift as an expression and evidence of your faith in Christ. An old writer says, "It is not with any design to draw more from you, but to encourage you to such an exercise of beneficence as will meet with a glorious reward hereafter." True men always value a gift, not simply because of its intrinsic value, or even because it will serve their temporal interest, but because of the priceless sentiments of the heart, love, disinterestedness, and friendship, which it represents. We are all objects of beneficence. Let us act as Paul did in this character, accept all human favors with religious gratitude, with hearty appreciation, and with entire unselfishness.
II. Here is a man represented as a SUBJECT OF PROVIDENTIAL VICISSITUDES. "I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith [therein] to be content." "Whatever state." How constantly changing are our states! Life is in truth a checkered scene. Every hour we pass from one condition or mood to another. We change in mind, body, and circumstances. We alternate between friendship and bereavement, prosperity and adversity, sunshine and storms. Now, the aspect in which Paul is seen in passing through these changes is that of contentment, and in this respect' he is a model to us all. His contentment does not mean insensibility, a kind of Stoicism; does not mean indifference to the condition of others, or a satisfied complacency either with his own moral condition or that of the world. It is a cordial acquiescence in the arrangements of Heaven. "Not my will, but thine, be done." This state of mind is not innate, it is attained. Paul "learnt" it. This is moral scholarship of the highest kind.
"Some murmur when their sky is clear
And wholly bright to view,
If one small speck of dark appear
In their great heaven of blue.
And some with thankful love are filled,
If but one streak of light,
One ray of God's great mercy, gild
The darkness of their night."
III. Here is a man represented as a GENUINE REFORMER. "I can do all things through Christ [in him] which strengtheneth me." Paul was a genuine reformer. The reformation he sought was not in corrupt legislation, in outward institutions - social, political, or ecclesiastical - in theological systems, or in external behavior. Such reformations are of little worth. He wrought.
1. In the realms of motive, the springs of action, to change the moral heart of the world. Every man on earth should act in this character and become a moral reformer. All should study and imitate Paul in this aspect. How did he act as a reformer?
2. In conscious dependence on Christ. "I can do all things through Christ." "All things" pertaining to this work as a reformer, not by my own talents, skill, or industry, not in my own strength, but in "Christ which strengtheneth me." Indeed, in Christ's strength what cannot a man do? He can work miracles as the apostles did, he can turn the moral world upside down, he can create men "anew in Christ Jesus," he can sound a trumpet whose blast shall penetrate the ears of slumbering souls and awake the teeming millions that are sleeping in the dust of worldliness and depravity. "Through Christ which strengtheneth me." Strengthens me by turning me away from things that are temporal to things that are spiritual, rooting my faith in eternal realities, filling and firing me with the love which he had for human souls and for the everlasting Father. Conclusion. Study well these model aspects of a man who, as an object of Christian beneficence, is always religiously grateful, heartily appreciative of the favors he receives, and entirely unselfish; as a subject of providential vicissitudes, magnanimously contented in every condition and mood of life; and, as a get, aide reformer, does his work, not in his own strength, but in the power of Christ. - D.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.