Monday, March 28, 2011

I Can Do All Things Through Christ (Phil. 4:10-20)

"...but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account."

10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

14 Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.

St. Paul concludes by thanking the Philippians again for their financial gift. In so doing, he compares the gift to a flower that has just begun to bloom and flourish again. He is careful to make it not sound like he is criticizing them for taking so long to send the gift (which they seem to have done). He acknowledges that they did care about him and had wanted to send a gift before, but that they just didn’t have the chance.

He also wants to make it clear that he is not complaining about not having enough. In all of his missionary journeys, he has learned much. Above all else, he has learned to be content in whatever circumstances he is in. He has been both a “have” and a “have not.” He has been “abased” or lowly, and he has abounded. He has learned (the root verb here is the Gk. mueo, a word used for being initiated into the secret mysteries of a religion) to be full and to be hungry.

In other words, St. Paul had learned the secret of contentment in all circumstances. And what is this secret? He gives it in verse 13 in an oft-quoted verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” FF elaborates on this verse: “As [St. Paul] relies upon Christ, Christ enables him to have peace in everything and in all things, every circumstance and in all ways. His contentment no longer depends upon outward circumstances and outward conditions, but upon the lord. This is the secret of his invincible peace” (63).

And we can have this peace too, if we only keep in mind that God loves us and is with us all the time. Remembering God’s presence can and will get us through bad and good times. Unfortunately, we tend to forget about God both in times of plenty and times of want. When we are in plenty, we forget that all that we have comes from God. When we are in want, we focus on the circumstances and our own misery. The key to peace, joy, and contentment is what the Fathers call the remembrance of God. This is an essential discipline for the Christian life.

St. Paul again commends the Philippian Christians, thanking them for co-sharing in his tribulation. That is, they sacrificed and suffered financially so as to ease his physical suffering. And they were the only church to help him when he was on his second missionary journey. They gave generously to him not just once, but twice.

He then points out that it is not so much the money that he wants, but rather their spiritual progress. He has the heart of a pastor and spiritual father, wanting the best for his spiritual children. He then assures them that he has all he needs, saying “I have all” (literally, “I have received all in full”, a technical term for the receipt of payment or goods in full) and “I abound.”

Finally, using OT language, he compares calls their offering a “sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God”. Their offering is not only pleasing to him, but also to God. They had fulfilled all his needs, and in turn God would fulfill all their needs. As FF writes, “all the heavenly blessings of Christ will be showered upon them in return” (64).


charlene said...

Father James,
Our Phillipians study has been so inspiring, but I think today's passages are the most beautiful of all.
St. Paul must have loved God so very much, for us to be able to feel the love and peace of God coming through his words. I think it was not so much that the Phillipians sent Paul the money, but that they showed him their love for him through that gift. I do not mean we do notneed to sacrifice to feed the poor and help the helpless, but that the love outshines the gift. For myself, I would rather be hungry and loved and able to give love, than be full and unloved and without anyone to love. I think true love always involves putting the other person first, and its source is God. Thank you Father, for blessing us with your commentaries.

Elizabeth said...

I was teaching an adult in a one-on-one Bible study. We also read James 2, including "Faith without works is dead." The "things" we can do are the fruits of the Spirit, those things which are evidence of our faith, and not "I me mine" wishes.