Having delivered his final exhortations, Paul closes his letter to the Philippian Christians by thanking them for the gifts which they’d sent to him, both now and in the past. Although he makes it clear that he doesn’t expect more gifts, he rejoices over the Philippians’ concern and gifts because their giving pleased God. He also gives final greetings to the Philippians from himself, his co-workers, and the Christians in Rome.
10 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. 11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 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. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. (ESV; all Biblical quotations are from the ESV.)
Paul expresses joy over the Philippians’ renewed concern for him as shown by their sending him a gift during his imprisonment. He makes it clear that he isn’t in need, having learned to be content whatever his outward circumstances are—in particular to be content whether he is living in prosperity or in need, and so isn’t asking for more gifts. He says that Christ gives him strength so that he is able to cope with all circumstances. Paul’s sharing this with the Philippians is a good follow-up to what he had just suggested to them about presenting their requests to God and receiving His peace (4:5-6).
I’ve taken verse 13 as meaning that Christ gave Paul the strength to be content living in the circumstances referred to in verses 11-12. However, Paul may have intended a broader meaning. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones takes Paul as meaning that Christ didn’t leave him to live the Christian life on his own but gave him strength so that he could do everything related to it. He observes, “The Christian life is not a life that I live myself and by my own power; neither is it a life in which I am obliterated and Christ does all. No, ‘I can do all things through Christ'” (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Life of Peace (Great Britain, 1990; reprint, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1993), 223). Whether or not Paul meant that by verse 13, he certainly believed it; see, for example, 2:12-13.
14 Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble. 15 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. 16 Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that increases to your credit. 18 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. 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 To our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.
In thanking the Philippians for the gift, Paul mentions their having sent him aid in the period after his first visit to Philippi, while he was in Thessalonica (4:16) and Corinth (2 Corinthians 11:9). Although Paul recognized his right to be supported by the churches that he ministered to, he generally refused to accept such support so that he wouldn’t be a burden to anyone (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9) and so that nobody could accuse him of preaching the gospel for money (1 Corinthians 9:1-18). However, here he rejoices over the Philippians’ helping him because their giving gifts to him pleased God and would be rewarded by Him (the implication of “may abound to your account”), to whom the gifts constituted “an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable,” by His meeting all their needs.
Paul tells the Philippians that just as they had met his needs, so God would meet theirs. In view of the context and of the Philippians’ poverty (2 Corinthians 8:2), “all your needs” would certainly include the Philippians’ material needs. However, it would also include their spiritual needs, especially (in view of what Paul said about his “need” in verses 11-13) the ability to be content in all circumstances. No need was too big because God would meet their needs out of His infinite riches in glory. The sole condition was that His supplying of their needs would be channelled through Christ Jesus and so only Christians could benefit.
21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Paul closes the letter with greetings and a brief benediction, as most New Testament letters end. The greetings are to all the saints and is from his companions and the church in Rome as well as from him. The benediction, like Paul’s opening greeting, focuses on God’s grace. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you.
Yesterday evening the Life group which my wife, Leonora, and I host discussed Philippians 4:10-23 guided by the questions given in “The NIV Serendipity Bible for Study Groups.”
One of the questions which we had a particularly fruitful discussion of was: “How do you think Paul discovered ‘the secret of contentment’ while in prison: By reading the OT? By writing a lot of the NT? By going to the temple every day? By getting what he wanted? By graduating from the ‘School of Hard Knocks’?” Participants in the discussion argued plausibly for the first, second, and last of the five choices, after which I read what D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones says on the matter in “The Life of Peace” (see above). He suggests three causes—experience of the type referred to in the last of the five choices (he refers to 2 Corinthians 12:9-10), a logical argument worked out by Paul why he should find his pleasure and his satisfaction in Christ and always in Christ (”The Life of Peace,” pages 212-14), and the example of Jesus Christ (he refers to Hebrews 12:2).
The last question was, “What one thing from this book do you especially want to apply in your life? In your church?” I answered, “One thing from Philippians that I especially want to apply to my life and in my church is to always rejoice in the Lord,” echoing Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice.”