Partnership in Christian Giving
Text: Philippians 4:14-17
Last week we commenced the final section of this letter considering, The Joy of Christian Giving.
I. PAUL’S DECLARATION OF JOY IN THEIR GIFT – v10 Source, Sphere, Sympathy of His Joy.
II. PAUL’S DISCLAIMER OF JOY IN THEIR GIFT v11
III. PAUL’S DISCOVERY OF JOY IN GOD’S GIFTS v12-13 Contrast and Claim.
How do we understand fellowship? Paul is going to show that it wasn’t just a matter of the Philippians getting in touch and saying I hope you’re getting on okay. No doubt that’s included, but we’re going to see that it goes much deeper than that.
We’re going to see how the Philippians fulfilled 1 Jn 3:16-18, “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.” It’s not just about feeling compassion, but showing compassion.
For the Philippians, knowing Paul was in need was like receiving a commandment to meet that need.
I. PAUL HONOURS THEIR PARTNERSHIP – v14
“Notwithstanding” indicates Paul getting back to the subject commenced in v10.
v11-13 he had taken a side road to reveal his disclaimer and discovery.
1. He honours the moral nature of it “ye have done well”
It was a praiseworthy act. A commendable act. A God glorifying act. It was particularly praiseworthy because they did it without being provoked. Many passages show the importance of this to God.
“Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.” (Rom 12:13).
“That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor 12:25-26).
2. He honours the supportive nature of it “ye did communicate with my affliction”
“communicate” i.e fellowship or partake.
“affliction” – i.e. tribulation. Note how Paul has no problem identifying his experience as an affliction. In spite of the fact that he was quite content with whatever the providence of God brought him through, he wasn’t afraid to call it for what it was.
Sometimes we don’t want to identify our afflictions. We don’t want to be seen as unthankful or discontent. But afflictions are what they are, and we should be able to honest about their existence without reflecting discontentment.
It’s a fine balance, but disregarding our afflictions could lead to not praying about them, and that’s not what the Lord wants.
But what Paul says here is that the Philippians entered into his affliction. They shared in his hardship.
Remember the words of Matt 25:38-40, “When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
II. PAUL’S HISTORY OF THEIR PARTNERSHIP v15-16
As he thinks of their generosity, he is naturally reminded of their previous provision to him, and naturally he wants to let them know that he hasn’t forgotten that this isn’t the first time they have helped him.
1. In their partnership they gave eagerly – v15
“ye Philippians know…” – clearly they knew the details of what he’s referring to, much more so than we can. But it appears that this support he received from them after he left Macedonia, likely refers to when he was in Corinth – 2 Cor 11:9.
So even when he was long gone away from them, they eagerly sought to support the apostle.
2. In their partnership they gave exclusively – v15
“no church communicated with me…but ye only” i.e. you were the only ones. As an infant church they learned early to help the servant of God.
And it wasn’t that they were rich, because when the churches were collecting for Jerusalem we read of the brethren in Macedonia, “How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality.” (2 Cor 8:2).
3. In their partnership they gave early – v16
This verse seems to back track. Having given to him when he entered Corinth, Paul notes that even before he left Macedonia, they sent practical aid to help him on more than one occasion.
Why is he recording all this? One commentator writes, “By transcribing this history of their partnership, he lets them know that every one of their gifts over the entire history of their relationship remains permanently etched in his memory.”
III. PAUL’S HONESTY ABOUT THEIR PARTNERSHIP v17
Here Paul gives his honest clarification about why he rejoices in their giving. I believe here that he is indicating to them that God is answering his prayer concerning them, 1:11.
We are by nature self-centred, and what we see in these passages is a sense of self-sacrifice that reflects the power of the gospel of Christ.
What was their concern? Was it to have Paul’s friendship? It was the gospel. Paul preached the gospel, and they wanted to support the preaching of the gospel.
They existed in the midst of an increasingly cruel Roman empire, and Paul was preaching Christ to high and low, rich and poor, religious and irreligious, and that mattered to them. Tell me, does it matter to you? Does the gospel matter to you?
You know what a good church leader is looking for? He’s looking for fruit. Yes, fruit. Evidence of life and evidence of growth. I wonder are you growing? Look at the state of our world. Christian complacency is not an option.