Philippians 4:10-23 Sweet-Smelling Aroma

Philippians 4:10-23      Sweet-Smelling Aroma                    WC McCarter

The letter began with Paul thanking the Philippians for their sharing in his ministry (SEE 1:3-5).  In humility, Paul comes to the close of his letter with great thanksgiving.  He elaborates on his circumstances and the Philippians’ contributions to his Gospel ministry.

READ Scripture- This is the Word of God

Need and Contentment (10-14)
In these verses, Paul expresses his joy over the recent gifts that the Philippians had sent him.  It is possible that the Philippians lacked opportunity to give because of several reasons, but maybe the foremost obstacle was Paul’s status which was likely obscured from them.  Without knowing the apostle’s whereabouts or circumstances they were unable to send resources to him.

Paul never denies that he had a need(s).  What he wants to make clear to them is that his needs did not control his mind.  He did not dwell on what he did not have.  He had learned to be content.  Many of us may never learn this significant lesson.  The contentment that Paul speaks of is not a lazy contentment, but a contentment that comes by faith in Christ (we will see v13).

When someone learns to be content, it doesn’t matter if he has much or little.  No matter the state he is in, he is content.  This word “abased” means the same thing as “humbled.”  So he says, “I know how to be humbled.”  (This is the same word used of Christ in 2:8).  For Paul, this is more than experiencing poverty, it is living a life like Christ (SEE Matt 11:29 “lowly” is same word).

In v13 we discover how/why Paul really learned these things.  It was not some self-sufficiency within him that enabled him to endure all things.  He did not “find himself” in the midst of hard times.  He found Christ: the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings (3:10).  The Apostle was not expecting the Philippians to help him in his time of need.  He was expecting Christ to empower him as He had before.  Nevertheless, (v14) the Philippians had intervened and Paul wished to thank them and encourage them because they had done well.  God uses His people to relieve sufferings.  The brethren are to bless the brethren.  When we pray to God for daily bread, it may be that God sends one of His own to supply that bread.  We will have seasons when we pray fiercely for our daily bread, and there will be seasons when we are to supply daily bread for others.  Paul recognized the giver more so than the gift.  He was grateful for the Philippians more so than the resources he had just received.  They had done well to share in his distress.  They were practicing things they had learned from Christ.

Christian Giving (15-20)
The Philippians had a special place in Paul’s memory.  When he left from the region of Macedonia, the Philippians were the only ones who financially shared in his ministry.  Specifically, even when he had just left Philippi and arrived in Thessalonica they sent contributions to him “once and again.”

A spirit of joyful giving had grown among the Philippians.  Paul had to be thrilled about such developments in the young church that he had planted.  Spiritual fruit was budding on the Philippian tree.  This activity of giving to Gospel ministry is pleasing to God, and it was surely something that Paul had in mind when he proclaimed and taught the Gospel among the people.  This was a sign of spiritual growth and solid faith.

(1) sweet-smelling aroma (2) acceptable sacrifice (3) well pleasing to God
Equivalent to: “God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7)

Technical, business/financial language is used throughout these verses:
          1) v15 “concerning giving and receiving”—account of giving and receiving
          2) v17 “abounds to your account”—interest accruing to account
          3) v18 “I am full, having received”—received full payment

A great promise is then made in v19.  The source of our supply is God’s “riches in glory.”  We will always have what we need because we belong to the one who is all-resourceful.  On that note, Paul concludes this passage with a doxology.

Closing (21-23)
There’s not much more that can be said after the great promise of v19 and the doxology of v20.  With the last three verses of the Epistle to the Philippians, the apostle sends his greetings.  This was customary for any letter of that time; so, many scholars have said that we should not read much into the final words.  Yet, as you all know after reading and studying Paul, every sentence has theological significance.  He does not waste one word.  The greetings here at the close of the letter are inspired by the Holy Spirit, just like all the content that came before, and I will show that there is one last plea for unity.

“Greet every saint” means individually.  We are all bound to one another.
“The brethren . . . greet you.”  It is not as if Timothy is the only faithful one left (2:20).  There were many Christians in the company of Paul in Rome.  We tend to lose the big picture.  There are more Christians in our area than are members of our congregation.  In fact, there are Christians all around this globe.  Some are like us: raised in the faith, fairly content with things, have a rather simple life and faith.  We are surrounded by many other Christians and often times we take the name of Christ for granted.  Other Christians in this world suffer many things for His name’s sake; they are tortured for their faith, called on to renounce Christ, forsaken by their families, and even murdered.  We are all Christians no matter our circumstances: red, yellow, black, white.
With the addition of “Caesar’s household” we run into something that is unique among the final greetings of Paul’s letters.  Why does he add, “especially those who are of Caesar’s household?” I propose a couple reasons:

1.  Through Paul’s imprisonment the Gospel had penetrated the heart of the Roman Empire. (1:12-14)
2.  There is a unifying factor: there were wealthy and underprivileged, elite and lowly, Romans and Philippians who bore the name of Christ. [Big Picture]

In some of the best manuscripts this verse reads, “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your (pl) spirit (sg)” and literally (in our southern language) it reads “be with y’all’s spirit.”  I tally this up to the unity theme as well.  Although we are individuals, we are on spirit.  May His grace be with us!

Conclusion and Christian Application
We know that this letter served as a thank-you from Paul to the Philippians who had helped him once again with much-needed resources.  Yet, we have learned that it also served as a warning against Judaizers (3:2), and it was a call for unity (2:2).  There was unrest among the Philippians.  Some of the most faithful witnesses in the church could not even get along (4:2).  If the Philippians were going to stand strong, if they were going to be a light throughout Macedonia, if they were going to fight off false teachers they would have to do it together.  Salvation is a corporate experience to be worked out with fear and trembling (2:12).

It is my opinion that JOY can help us to stand strong, united, healthy, and growing.  This is what many Christians do not understand or appreciate: God wants us to have joy/to rejoice, and He wants us to do so together.

          1.  How good it must have felt for Paul to pray with joy! (1:4)
          2.  Paul rejoiced at the preaching of Christ despite injuries (1:18; 2:17)
          3.  He willed to remain for their progress and joy of faith (1:25)
          4.  He put forward his joy as a reason for them to be like-minded (2:2)

There are several verses that utilize both “joy” and/or “rejoice.”  Why is that?

(1) If Paul could convince them to seek the satisfaction of joy in Christ, then there would be no reason for following after false teachings.

(2) If Paul could convince them to seek out the satisfaction of joy in Christ for others, then they would stand united and firm.