The Assembly at Philippi (3)

Its Completeness

Even though there are only a small number recorded as saved in Acts 16, they were well furnished when Paul wrote to them 10 or 11 years later. They had overseers and deacons (Phil 1:1).

Overseers and deacons should be saints, but not all saints are overseers or deacons. There should always be a plurality of overseers. In Acts 14:23 we read that Paul and Barnabas “ordained (or appointed) elders in every church.” The saints are put before “bishops and deacons” because their work is done best when it is done in the best interests of the saints.

Its Activity

While Romans is Paul’s exposition of the gospel and Galatians is his defense of the gospel, Philippians is about the spread of the gospel. Another Macedonian assembly (Thessalonica) had done well in spreading the gospel but there is more about our attitude to the gospel in Philippians 1 than in any other chapter in the Word of God.

a) Fellowship in the gospel (1:5) is becoming involved physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally, and financially.

b) Confirmation of the gospel is seen in 1:7. Strengthening or assuring young believers in the gospel is like firming the ground around tender plants so that they will take root. Nothing is as assuring to young believers as hearing the foundational truths of the gospel.

c) Paul’s defense of the gospel, by opening, alleging, reasoning, and persuading his audience of the verity of the gospel (1:7, 17).

d) The furtherance of the gospel was contributed to by his imprisonment, instead of hindering its spread. Many unsaved people knew why Paul was in prison, thus being reminded of the gospel he preached. Many of the brethren grew bolder by Paul’s imprisonment. Others were preaching out of envy and strife, but Paul rejoiced, because many were hearing the gospel. His imprisonment had a part in the salvation of Caesar’s household (4:22), just as his imprisonment in Philippi had a real part in the salvation of the jailor and his household (Acts 16:27-34).

e) A life becoming the gospel aids the spread of the gospel. In contrast, a poor testimony hinders the gospel.

f) 1:27 speaks of striving together for the faith of the gospel. Wrestling in prayer for the gospel is spiritual conflict. “In nothing terrified by your adversaries” (1:28).

Its Liberality

“I rejoiced in the Lord greatly”(4:10-13). Paul was deeply grateful to the Philippians for the gift they had sent with Epaphroditus. His gratitude to them did not obscure the fact that the source and ground of his rejoicing was the Lord Himself. The Lord had put Paul’s welfare into the hearts of the Philippians. Glory and praise should go to Him.

Verse 10 says, “Now at the last your care of me hath flourished again … wherein ye were also careful but ye lacked opportunity.” Paul recognized that the Philippians would have given him even more if they had had the opportunity. Paul traveled extensively in his preaching of the gospel “in journeyings often” (2Cor 11: 26). Distances were great and communication difficult. Poverty, persecution, or the lack of someone available to take their fellowship, could have hindered their sending to him more often.

“Not that I speak in respect of want for I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content” (v11). Each child of God should learn to be content. Paul speaks not in respect of any want he felt, or feared. As to the present, he was content and satisfied with what he had. As to the future, he depended on God to provide for him day by day, and that satisfied him.

“I know how to be abased and I know how to abound” (v12). Many could say, “I know what it is to be abased” or “I know what it is to abound,” without being able to say what Paul actually said. He could accommodate himself to every situation in life, whether an abased condition of adversity without anxiety, distraction, or fretfulness, or an abounding situation of prosperity without carelessness, indifference, or pride.

“I have learned the ‘secret’ (RV) both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” We do not have far to look for the secret, for it is in the next verse (13). “I can do all things through Christ Who strengtheneth me,” or “who continually pours strength into me.”

“Notwithstanding ye have done well, in that ye did communicate with my affliction” (v14). Here we see the sympathy of the Philippians for Paul. They were doing what they could to help and he is commending them for their present liberality.

Verse 15 begins, “Now ye Philippians.” When Paul addresses his readers in this way, he does it in the fullness of his heart’s emotion, here of tender appreciation; to the Corinthians, of earnest entreaty (2Cor 6:11, 13); to the Galatians, of sorrow and anger (Gal 3:1). “Oh foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you that ye should not obey the truth.” “Know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me concerning giving and receiving, but ye only … for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity” (v16).

How important their gift was to God, “fruit to their account” (v17) and ” an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable and well pleasing to God” (v18). Never were gifts of fellowship so well repaid. Whenever the epistle of Philippians is read, so also is the record of their gift to God.

“But my God” (the One he had proven in vv12-13) “shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” In other words, he is saying, You have supplied my need according to your poverty, and my God shall supply yours according to His riches in glory.

In the late 50s, I met Clifford Hope. He told me that the overseers of his assembly taught systematic, proportionate giving to the Lord. He began laying aside a portion of his week’s pay for the Lord, out of which he gave at the regular assembly meeting. One time he had some left over and asked the Lord what he should do with it. The Lord brought into his mind a brother in the assembly who was in business. Clifford thought, “He is doing well in business, and doesn’t need it.” But the more he prayed about it, the more the Lord impressed him that he should give it to this brother. So he put the money in an envelope with the brother’s name on it, took it to his house, slipped it under the door, rang the doorbell and ran away.

Later that brother told him, “I had an unusual experience that I would like to share with you. Three weeks ago I was coming home with my week’s wages in my pocket and saw a man across the street that I hadn’t seen in years. Before I was saved, I borrowed money from as many people as I could and I never intended to pay any of them back. After I was saved, I knew that was wrong, so I’ve been trying to pay off these old debts. I crossed the street and paid him what I owed him. The man almost broke down in tears and said, ‘I gave up hope a long time ago that I’d ever see that money again’.” The brother confessed that he never would have seen it again, except that the Lord had saved him and changed his life!

The rent money was due that day. They counted up all the money they had, and found just enough to pay the rent but none left over for food for the rest of the week. It would not be easy to have their two small children crying for hunger. He told the landlady, “This is all the money we’ve got until next payday.” She said, “What will you do for food until next payday?” He said what his wife had said.”We’re saved now, our heavenly Father will take care of us.” The landlady replied, “What do you think God is going to do, open the windows of heaven and send you food straight down from heaven?” That stunned him. When he got back to his wife, he told her what the landlady had said.

They got down on their knees with their two children, thanked the Lord for saving them, for putting it into their hearts to pay off those old debts, asked the Lord to bless the testimony to the man that day, and told the Lord, “We will need money for food between now and next pay day.” They got up and the doorbell rang. He went to the door and there was no one there but he found the envelope with enough money in it for food. Clifford didn’t tell him that he was the one who had done it, but he said, “That strengthened my faith in God. If God could make me give that to him when I thought that he didn’t need it, God could take care of me in St Kitts.”