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Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Winter
Study Theme: Thrive:
Living in Real Joy
What This Lesson Is About:
final study of this study theme: Thrive:
Living in Real Joy, is focused on the spiritual contentment. Paul was
in prison, but he modeled and taught the secret of
contentment—Christ-honoring giving to help others and heartfelt
gratitude for every blessing we receive.
Praying with Joy
Sharing with Joy
Following with Joy
Growing with Joy
Giving with Joy
Join God in His work of
giving for the benefit of others.
Joy of Contentment
Joy of Giving
Joy of Receiving
concluded his personal letter to the church at Philippi.
He rejoiced over the gift they had sent to him that Epaphroditus
had carried to Rome. Paul used
the opportunity of writing back to them to teach the Philippian believers
what he had learned about rue contentment.
Contentment is not found in things but in Christ.
Thus, Paul exhorted the believers to realize that God would meet
their needs according to His glorious riches.
Hence, they should praise God!
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza,
For years, our national government leaders have
hotly debated how the government can help people—and how much to help
them. Blogs and news shows
have joined the discussion, and people often are polarized into opposing
camps. Within the body of
Christ, though, believers are called to give and to help
others—especially in their times of need.
Even as God provides for us, He calls us to be a conduit of His
generosity and provision to others.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza,
of Contentment (Phil. 4:10-14)
10 I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that once again you renewed your care
for me. You were, in fact, concerned about me but lacked the opportunity
to show it. 11 I don’t say this out of need, for I have
learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know
both how to have a little, and I know how to have a lot. In any and all
circumstances I have learned the secret of being content—whether well
fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need. 13
I am able to do all things through Him who strengthens me. 14
Still, you did well by sharing with me in my hardship.
of Giving (Phil. 4:15-18)
15 And you Philippians know that in the early days of the gospel, when I
left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and
receiving except you alone. 16 For even in Thessalonica you
sent gifts for my need several times. 17 Not that I seek
the gift, but I seek the profit that is increasing to your account. 18
But I have received everything in full, and I have an abundance. I am
fully supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you provided—a
fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.
does verse 15 tell us about the generosity of the Philippian believers?
on this passage, how would you describe the generosity of the Philippian
believers (v. 16)?
do you think Paul meant when he said he “seek the profit the is increasing to
your account” in verse 17?
were the Philippians profit because of their giving?
are the two qualities of the Philippians’ giving to Paul as described in this
passage (v. 18)?
do you think Paul described the Philippian offerings as a fragrant offering, an
acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God?
do you think makes an offering a fragrant, acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to
is familiar about Paul’s description of the Philippian offering in verse 18?
you think Paul’s abundance was due to the generosity of the Philippians or
Paul’s own contentment with what he had?
you think the act of giving is a blessing for the giver? If
so, what makes it so?
on this passage, do you think Paul was as joyful in receiving as the Philippians
were in giving? Why, or why not?
would you describe the proper motive for joyful giving?
does giving to help others increase the joy of a believer?
you think you can experience joy when giving with a less that desirable
attitude? Why, or why not?
would you describe the joy that comes from giving with a proper motive?
How does giving financially make us partners in
ministry, not just contributors?
When have you felt
inspired to give above and beyond? What
motivated you to do so?
Lessons in Phil. 4:15-18:
believers give to the Lord’s work with proper motives, it adds to their
gifts to the Lord’s work are fragrant offerings, acceptable sacrifices,
and pleasing to God.
of Receiving (Phil. 4:19-20)
19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory
in Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be glory forever
and ever. Amen.
does it mean for God to supply all our
Is there a difference between wants and needs?
If so, what is it?
When giving, is it necessary to make this
distinction? Why, or why not?
does this statement mean to you: God gives
to you even as you give to others?
is the role of faith when it comes to
God supplying our needs and our giving to others (v. 19)?
does this statement mean to you: God will
not allow your supply for giving to run low?
on the entire focal passage, how would you describe God’s provision for those
who supported Paul’s work?
whom are God’s promises meant?
does verse 20 mean to you?
you think “praise” and “thanksgiving”
should be a priority in the prayer life of a believer?
Why, or why not?
you think bringing God glory is a priority in the life of most believers?
Why, or why not?
are some ways we can bring God glory through giving?
Lessons in Phil. 4:19-20:
is the One who supplies believers’ needs, not their wants.
riches are inexhaustible, and He blesses those in Christ with them.
deserves all glory and praise, and it should be the desire of His people
to work to that end.
Paul’s message in Philippians 4:10-20 reminds us
that contentment is not a product of what
or how much we possess; it comes
through a relationship with Christ. Giving
for the benefit of others is an investment in the things of God and thus
becomes an expression of worship to Him.
We freely can give to toners because we have confidence that God
will provide for our every need according to His glorious supply.
So, when it comes to joyful giving where do you stand.
Are you content with the relationship you have with God when it
comes to giving? Just
how content are you with what you give to the Lord—in terms of you time,
money, and the gifts God has given you?
On a scale of 1 (not very content) to 10 (completely content), how
would you rate yourself on all three areas of giving?
What does your rating look like?
Are you less that completely content in any of the three?
If so, what do you need to do to improve your rating?
If you truly want to improve in any of the three, ask God’s Holy
Spirit to show you the way. He
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.
Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Focal Passage from three different translations of
King James Version: Philippians
Philippians 4:10-20 (KJV)
10 But I
rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath
flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. 11
Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever
state I am, therewith to be
content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound:
every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry,
both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through
Christ which strengtheneth me. 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done,
that ye did communicate with my affliction. 15 Now ye Philippians
know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia,
no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16
For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. 17
Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your
account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of
Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice
acceptable, wellpleasing to God. 19 But my God shall supply all your
need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now unto
God and our Father be glory for
ever and ever. Amen.
New King James Version:
Philippians 4:10-20 (NKJV)
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. 17 Not 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
New Living Translation:
Philippians 4:10-20 (NLT)
10 How I
praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always
been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. 11 Not
that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I
have. 12 I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I
have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full
stomach or empty, with plenty or little. 13 For I can do everything
through Christ, who gives me strength. 14 Even so, you have done well
to share with me in my present difficulty. 15 As you know, you
Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought
you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this.
16 Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. 17
I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to
receive a reward for your kindness. 18 At the moment I have all I
need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with
Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and
pleasing to God. 19 And this same God who takes care of me will
supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in
Christ Jesus. 20 Now all glory to God our Father forever and ever!
Commentary for the focal passage comes from four sources: “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament,” “Believer's Bible Commentary,” “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and “The Moody Bible Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
Lesson Outline — “Giving with
Joy” — Philippians
Joy of Contentment
Joy of Giving
Joy of Receiving
Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament: Philippians
The Philippians’ Gifts to
Recent Gift (4:10-14)
Paul begins to conclude his letter, he voices his joy over the Philippians’
recent contribution to him. This is probably not his first note of thanks to
them, for considerable time had elapsed since Epaphroditus had brought the gift
and several contacts with the church at Philippi had already been made (see
Introduction, 3). Furthermore, it is doubtful that his expression of gratitude
would have been left to the end of the letter (see Introduction, 4). Paul
retained a vivid memory of their generous act. “At last” (ede pote)
should not be regarded as a rebuke, but merely as showing that communication had
again occurred after a period of no contact. (The usage is similar to that in Rom
1:10.) Paul makes it clear that the fault was not theirs but came from a lack of
opportunity. Perhaps no messenger had been available. In addition, the
apostle’s own circumstances had been highly irregular in recent years, in
part, at least, because of imprisonment and shipwreck. Now the demonstration of
concern had bloomed again, like plants in the spring.
apostle hastens to make clear that though he undoubtedly had a need, it was not
relief of this need that primarily concerned him. He had learned to be content
with what God provided, irrespective of circumstances. It is significant that
Paul had to “learn” this virtue. Contentment is not natural to most of
In Stoic philosophy, autarkes
(“content”) described a person who accepted impassively whatever came.
Circumstances that he could not change were regarded as the will of God, and
fretting was useless. This philosophy fostered a self-sufficiency in which all
the resources for coping with life were located within man himself. In contrast,
Paul locates his sufficiency in Christ who provides strength for believers.
understood what it was to be in want as well as “to have plenty.” The latter
may refer to his earlier days as a rising figure in Judaism (Gal 1:14) or to the
possibility that he had received a sum of money more recently. On the other
hand, the expression may be merely relative. It may be that Paul considered the
times he was not suffering privation to be times of plenty (e.g., Acts
9:19, 28; 16:15, 33, 34; 18:3; 21:8). He had learned the secret of trusting God
“in every [particular] situation” (en panti) and in all situations as
a whole (en pasin).
was no Stoic philosophy, however. He
did not trace his resources to some inner fortitude that would enable him to
take with equanimity whatever life brought him. Instead, his strength for
“everything” lay in the One who continually empowered him.
The name “Christ,” to
which we are accustomed through the KJV translation of v. 13, does not
appear in the most reliable manuscripts, but surely Paul has Christ in mind. The
apostle was not desperately seeking a gift from the Philippians, because he knew
that Christ would give him the strength for whatever circumstances were in
God’s will for him.
4:14. Nevertheless, the
Philippians must not feel that their gift had been unnecessary They had
responded properly to his need, and Paul was truly grateful—not so much for
what the gift did for him as for the willingness of the Philippians to share
with him. They had accepted his affliction as their own and had done something
Previous Gifts (4:15-20)
4:15. In order to make it clear
that he is not minimizing the Philippians’ generosity toward him, Paul recalls
some earlier demonstrations of their love for him. When the gospel was first
preached to them—approximately ten years before (Acts 16)—they were the only
church to contribute to him when he left Macedonia. Some commentators are
influenced by the succeeding reference to Thessalonica and explain this passage
to mean that Paul received the gift in Thessalonica while on his way from
Macedonia to Achaia (Corinth), though Thessalonica is itself in Macedonia. But
this seems more awkward than to consider the gift as the one sent him by the
Philippians while he was in Corinth (2Cor 11:9). As he mentions this gift, he
also recalls two earlier instances of their generosity when he was in
Paul does not mean that no
other church ever assisted him (cf. 2Cor 11:8), but that on the specific
occasion referred to here no other church had come to his aid. He uses business
terminology, “an account of giving and receiving” (logon doseos kai
lempseos—NIV, “the matter of giving and receiving”), to depict the
only had the Philippians sent him a gift when he left Macedonia, but even when
he was in Thessalonica, shortly after his departure from Philippi (Acts 17:1),
they had made a contribution to him on more than one occasion. Presumably these
earlier gifts were small and so were in a different category from the one
mentioned in v. 15. This is also implied by references in the Thessalonian
Epistles showing that Paul earned his living there (1 Thess 2:9; 2 Thess
readers must not suppose that he is primarily concerned with their gift as such,
but rather in the development of the grace of giving among them. Continuing to
use business terminology, he says that he regards such displays as interest
accruing (NIV, “credited”) to their account. Their spiritual growth was the
fruit Paul desired, and to this end he directed his ministry.
4:18. The financial language
continues as Paul says, “I have received full payment and even more.” The
gifts brought by Epaphroditus (2:25-30) had completely met his needs, and Paul
considers this contribution a sacrificial offering to God, made to further the
Lord’s work by helping his servant (cf. Matt 25:40). “A fragrant
offering” (osmen euodias) is used in Ephesians 5:2 of Christ’s
sacrificial offering of himself to God on man’s behalf. It reflects the
Levitical ritual (e.g., Lev 1:9, 13, 17; 2:12 [LXX]). Such
offerings pleased God, because they came from obedient hearts.
The verb apecho
appears regularly in business papyri and ostraca in the sense of receiving in
full. It was a technical expression in drawing up receipts. Deissmann cites
numerous examples with several photographs and also notes that apecho
is often combined with panta (“all”) in receipts, as is done in Philippians
4:18 (Deiss LAE, pp. 110-112, 166).
words that countless Christians have relied on as one of the great Scripture
promises, Paul now reminds his benefactors that “his” God (ho theos mou,
“my God”) will do what he himself is in no position to do; namely, reimburse
his benefactors. This assurance of the divine supply of the Philippians’ needs
implies that they had given so liberally that they actually left themselves in
some real “need” (chreian). Yet it is true that those who share
generously with others, especially to advance the work of the Lord, are promised
a divine supply of anything they might lack because of their generosity (Prov
11:25; 19:17; Matt 5:7).
The preposition kata
(“according to”) conveys the thought that God’s supply of the
Philippians’ need will not be merely from or out of his wealth but in some
sense appropriate to or commensurate with it. The phrase en doxe
(“in glory”; NIV, “glorious”) is sometimes construed with plerosei
(“will fill”; NIV, “will meet”) and tr. “gloriously” (Muller), or in
a local sense, perhaps with eschatological tones, “by placing you in glory”
(Lightfoot). Word order, however, strongly favors relating it to ploutos
(“riches”), “his riches in glory,” or “glorious riches” (Martin, Philippians).
By this understanding, we are to think of the heavenly glories that Christ now
enjoys as explaining the source of our supply .
wonder that Paul closes this beautiful passage with a doxology. The glory of
God’s providential care must always be recognized by his children. Even the
eternal ages yet to come will not be sufficient to exhaust the praises that
belong to him.
SOURCE: The Expositor’s
Bible Commentary Old Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General
Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
Bible Commentary: Philippians 4:10-20:
Paul's Thanks for Financial Gifts From the Saints
verses 10-19, Paul speaks of the relationship which existed between the church
at Philippi and himself in connection with financial assistance. No one could
ever tell how meaningful these verses have been for saints of God who have been
called upon to go through times of financial pressure and reverses!
Paul rejoices that now
at last, after a period of time had elapsed, the Philippians had sent him
practical assistance in the work of the Lord. He does not blame them for the
period of time in which no help was received; he gives them credit that they
wanted to send gifts to him but that they lacked opportunity to do so.
Moffatt translates: "For what you lacked was never the care but the chance
of showing it."
handling the whole subject of finances, it is lovely to see the delicacy and
courtesy which Paul employs. He does not want them to think that he is
complaining about any shortage of funds. Rather, he would have them know that he
is quite independent of such mundane circumstances. He had learned... to be
content, no matter what his financial condition might be. Contentment is
really greater than riches, for "if contentment does not produce riches, it
achieves the same object by banishing the desire for them."
"It is a blessed
secret when the believer learns how to carry a high head with an empty stomach,
an upright look with an empty pocket, a happy heart with an unpaid salary, joy
in God when men are faithless" (Selected).
4:12. Paul knew how to be
abased, that is, by not having the bare necessities of life; and he also
knew how to abound, that is, by having more given to him at a particular
time than his immediate needs required. Everywhere and in all things he
had learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer
need. How had the apostle learned such a lesson? Simply in this way:
he was confident that he was in the will of God. He knew that wherever he was,
or in whatever circumstances he found himself, he was there by divine
appointment. If he was hungry, it was because God wanted him to be
hungry. If he was full, it was because his Lord had so planned it. Busily
and faithfully engaged in the service of his King, he could say, "Even so,
Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight."
the apostle adds the words which have been a puzzle to many: "I can do
all things through Christ who strengthens me." Could he possibly mean
this literally? Did the apostle really believe that there was nothing he could
not do? The answer is this: When the Apostle Paul said that he could do all
things, he meant all things which were God's will for him to do. He
had learned that the Lord's commands are the Lord's enablements. He knew that
God would never call on him to accomplish some task without giving the necessary
grace. All things probably applies not so much to great feats of daring
as to great privations and hungerings.
4:14. In spite of what he had
said, he wants the Philippians to know that they have done well in having
shared in his distress. This probably meant the money they sent to
supply his needs during his imprisonment.
4:15. In the past, the Philippians
had excelled in the grace of giving. During the early days of Paul's
ministry, when he departed from Macedonia, no church shared with
him financially except the Philippians.
It is remarkable how these
seemingly unimportant details are recorded forever in God's precious word. This
teaches us that what is given to the Lord's servants is given to the Lord. He is
interested in every cent. He records all that is done as to Him, and He rewards
with good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.
4:16. Even when he was in
Thessalonica, they sent aid once and again for his needs. It is
apparent that the Philippians were living so close to the Lord that He was able
to direct them in their giving. The Holy Spirit placed a burden on their hearts
for the Apostle Paul. They responded by sending money to him once and again,
that is, twice. When we remember that Paul was in Thessalonica only a short
time, it makes their care for him there all the more remarkable.
4:17. The utter unselfishness of Paul is indicated in
this verse. He was more elated by their gain than by their gift. Greater
than his desire for financial help was his longing that fruit should
abound to the account of the believers. This
is exactly what happens when money is given to the Lord. It is all recorded in
the account books and will be repaid a hundredfold in a coming day.
All that we have belongs to
the Lord, and when we give to Him, we are only giving Him what is His own.
Christians who argue as to whether or not they should tithe their money have
missed the point. A tithe or tenth part was commanded to Israelites under the
law as the minimum gift. In this age of grace, the question should not be,
"How much shall I give the Lord?" but rather, "How much dare I
keep for myself?" It should be the Christian's desire to live economically
and sacrificially in order to give an ever-increasing portion of his income to
the work of the Lord that men might not perish for want of hearing the gospel of
4:18. When Paul says I have
all he means I have all I need, and abound. It seems
strange in this day of twentieth-century commercialism to hear a servant of the
Lord who is not begging for money, but who, on the contrary, admits having
sufficient. The unrestrained begging campaigns of the present day are an
abomination in the sight of God and a reproach to the name of Christ. They are
completely unnecessary. Hudson Taylor once said, "God's work carried on in
God's way will never lack God's resources." The trouble today is that we
have failed to distinguish between working for God and the work of God. It is
possible to engage in so-called Christian service which might not be the will of
God at all. Where there is an abundance of money, there is always the greatest
danger of embarking on ventures which might not have the divine sanction. To
quote Hudson Taylor once again: "What we greatly need to fear is not
insufficient funds, but too much unconsecrated funds."
The love-gift which Epaphroditus
brought from the Philippians to Paul is described as a sweet-smelling aroma,
an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God. The only other time these
words are used, they refer to Christ Himself (Eph. 5:2). Paul dignifies the
sacrificial giving of the Philippians by describing what it meant to God. It
ascended as a fragrant sacrifice to Him. It was both acceptable
and well pleasing.
How vast, then, is the
range of an apparently local kindness! We thought we were ministering to a
pauper, and in reality we were conversing with the King. We imagined that the
fragrance would be shut up in a petty neighborhood, and lo, the sweet aroma
steals through the universe. We thought we were dealing only with Paul, and we
find that we were ministering to Paul's Savior and Lord.
Paul adds what is perhaps the best-known and best-loved verse in this entire
chapter. We should notice that this promise follows the description of their
faithful stewardship. In other words, because they had given of their material
resources to God, even to the point where their own livelihood was endangered, God
would supply their every need. How easy it is to take this verse
out of context and use it as a soft pillow for Christians who are squandering
their money on themselves with seldom a thought for the work of God!
"That's all right. God will supply all your need."
While it is true in a
general sense that God does supply the needs of His people, this
is a specific promise that those who are faithful and devoted in their giving to
Christ will never suffer lack.
It has often been remarked
that God supplies the needs of His people—not out of His riches, but
according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. If a millionaire gave a
dime to a child, he would be giving out of his riches. But if he gave a
hundred thousand dollars to some worthy cause, he would be giving according
to his riches. God's supply is according to His riches in glory by Christ
Jesus, and nothing could be richer than that!
Williams calls verse 19 a
note drawn upon the bank of faith:
name of the Banker.
promise to pay.
All your need—the
value of the note.
According to His riches—the
capital of the bank.
address of the bank.
By Christ Jesus—the
signature at the foot, without which the note is worthless.
Thinking of God's abundant provision causes the apostle to break out into
praise. This is suitable language for every child of God who daily experiences
God's gracious care, not only in providing guidance, help against temptation,
and the quickening of a languishing devotional life.
Commentary: A Thorough, Yet Easy-to-Read Bible Commentary That Turns Complicated
Theology Into Practical Understanding.
Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990,
1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.
The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Philippians
his application to the Philippian saints, Paul had one more topic to treat. He
used the immediate occasion, which was his sincere expression of appreciation
for their financial support, to teach them an extremely important lesson. The
phrase "your care of me hath flourished again" may indicate a
suspension of their financial support for a time due to the influence of false
had learned the true secret of life, and he desired to share it with them. The
verb "learned" here is an aorist verb and is a good example of what
grammarians call a resultative or culminative aorist. "The
culminative aorist views the act as having occurred but emphasizes the end of
the action or the state of being resulting from the action" (Summers, p.
67). At some particular point in his life, Paul made a commitment to serve the
Lord faithfully no matter what circumstances he had to face. The results of that
decision still were evident in his life when he wrote this short letter to the
Philippians. We know from Acts chapter 9 that shortly after Paul's conversion,
he faced persecution, and certain enemies of the gospel attempted to kill him.
God protected him though, and some believers lowered the apostle to the ground
in a basket (Acts 9:25). Perhaps it was then that he determined to serve God
faithfully no matter what happened.
idea expressed at the end of verse 11 and in verse 12 literally means "I
have learned the secret" or "I have been initiated." It is the
translation of a Greek word (memuēmai) used by the Stoic school of
philosophy to mean a man should be self-sufficient for all things, or
independent of external circumstances. The word also was used for the feeding of
animals, so a fattened or satisfied animal was described this way.
Even though Paul used the
very word Stoics used to boast about their self-sufficiency, his sufficiency was
based upon his relationship to Christ. His sufficiency came not through the kind
of mechanical self-discipline practiced by the Stoics, but because of his union
with a personal God. In addition, verse 12 also clarifies the fact that his
sufficiency was not based upon material possessions.
4:13. Paul's sufficiency did not come from
circumstances, but from Christ. Since the Greek text here contains the title
"Christ," He obviously was the One empowering Paul so that he could
accomplish "all things," or whatever God wanted him to do.
could get the impression from the writer's statements in verses 10-13 that he
did not appreciate the Philippians' help as much as he should have. To counter
this possible impression, verse 14 begins with the preposition plēn
("notwithstanding" [KJV]; "yet" [NIV];
"nevertheless" [NASB]). He truly did appreciate their faithful help
from the early stages of his ministry in Macedonia (Acts chapters 16 and 17),
about 10 years before the writing of this letter.
Even though his dependence
rested in God, Paul was wise enough to know that God works through His people.
In fact, in this verse he used a term related to the normal word for
"partnership" (koinōnia). God used the Philippians to share
in the problems the apostle faced at that time. Paul described these problems by
using the Greek term thlipsis which normally means
"tribulation." It was not an easy period of time for him, and he
wanted them to know they had done well to share with him. In fact, their
assembly seems to have been the only one that faithfully supported him over an
extended period of time.
terminology here, and again in verse 17, suggests the Philippians actually kept
records and had an account of their giving to Paul. "Giving and
receiving" comes from a general expression used in that day of "debits
and credits" and can be found in many references to business transactions
of that period. They had shared with him in his affliction or troubles. The
example of the Philippian church should serve as an incentive for contemporary
assemblies to share in the ministries of ministers like the apostle Paul. He
normally did not settle down in one place, so was dependent upon the Holy Spirit
speaking to people in local churches to help support him, a practice that is
Generally, local churches that are truly evangelistic will also be strong
missionary churches. Philippi must have been that kind of church. Even while
Paul ministered in Thessalonica (Acts 17:1-9), the Philippian believers allowed
their ministry to advance beyond their own geographic borders and assisted the
apostle in his activities among the Thessalonians. During that period of
ministry in Thessalonica Paul faced very trying circumstances. No doubt being
able to depend upon the Lord using the Philippians to help him must have meant a
lot to him.
was quick to add in this verse, however, that he was not writing in this way
because he was asking for another offering. In these statements Christians see
the attitude they should have with respect to financial help from other people.
On the one hand, they must be grateful. On the other hand, they must always
remember, as well as remind other people, that God is the One who meets their
needs. The apostle considered their offerings to him as really "unto the
Lord." Verse 17 indicates that the fruit which resulted from their joint
participation with him would be added to their account. By investing in Paul's
ministry they could expect to receive rich dividends from God.
the same time that the Philippians benefited spiritually from their acts of
kindness to Paul, he was reaping the benefit as well. Paul considered the gift
they sent via Epaphroditus as enough to make him "abound," and he
assured them he was "full." Because these people certainly were not
obligated to give to assist Paul, he looked at their gifts as if they had been
given to God. The Philippians understood the kind of language Paul used here,
because they often viewed public sacrifices of animals. Paul assured them their
sacrifice was accepted by God in the same manner a fragrant aroma would be
accepted by a human.
apostle went on to assure the Philippians that the same God who met all his
needs also would meet all their needs. Many times people quote this verse by
changing the "your" to "our" or "my." Paul wanted
his friends in Philippi to enjoy God's divine supply just as he was. In a sense,
God's treatment of the Philippians would correspond to their treatment of Paul.
Paul wrote "my God" probably because he had tested and tried Him as
his own provider. Some people interpret the King James' language here to mean
riches in a specific place (heaven), but the statement refers to the glorious
bounty of God's riches. God would recompense the Philippians because His
resources are limitless. He does everything "in glory" (en doxē)
or "in a glorious way" because of His limitless resources, and He
manifests them "by Christ Jesus."
the light of the insights Paul shared above and the wonderful promise specified
in the previous verse, one can understand Paul's sudden outburst in verse 20.
Contemplating all this, he broke forth in a beautiful doxology.
The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Galatians-Philemon.
Copyright © 1998 by World Library Press Inc. Database © 2010 WORDsearch
Moody Bible Commentary: Philippians 4:10-20:
Concluding Matters: Paul's Thankfulness for the
Earlier Paul mentioned this
church's partnership with him in the gospel (1:5). Here appears one
particular way they partnered: in financial support. Paul responded to their
gift in three ways.
Personal Reflections (4:10-13)
Paul's first response to
their gift was to be overjoyed because of the Philippians' show of concern
(v. 10). They had sent help other times (v. 16), but had recently lacked
opportunity. The lack was probably their own deep poverty (2Co 8:1-2). But
Paul's joy was not caused by feelings of relief, as if anxiety over his
situation had finally been assuaged with a gift. Instead, he had learned to
be content (v. 11; see Lk 3:14; 1 Tm 6:6-8; Heb 13:5) in all sorts of
financial circumstances. These circumstances included humble means,
prosperity, abundance and need (v. 12). The inclusion of prosperity
shows that believers need to strive for contentment, not only in times of need,
but in times abundance as well, for riches can be deceptive (Mt 13:22).
Real contentment, first, is not automatic; it must be learned over time.
Second, it is not human—not natural; it is supernatural, coming through Him
who strengthens us (v. 13).
Moral Commendation (4:14-17)
Paul's second response to
the Philippians' gift was to commend them for it: you have done well (v.
14). It was more than a mere offering; it was a demonstration of solidarity with
Paul in his affliction (lit., "co-fellowshipping with
affliction"). He further commended them by reminding them that they were
unique (v. 15): no other church shared with him in giving and
receiving (a unique expression in the NT, but see Ac 20:35). The
relationship was reciprocal: He gave the gospel and received
financial support; they received pastoral care and gave for his
material needs (v. 16). The congregation sent help while Paul was in Thessalonica,
the next stop in his mission (Ac 17:1).
In v. 17 Paul corrected a
possible misunderstanding. It was not the gift that he sought; rather his
heart was set on the spiritual gains (profit increasing to their account
or fruit, HCSB) the Philippians would make because of their obedience and
generosity (see Pr 19:17).
Paul acknowledged that all
they sent through Epaphroditus had arrived (in full, v. 18). He
then described their gift in terms reminiscent of OT sacrifice: fragrant
aroma, acceptable sacrifice (see Lv 1:9; 2:2; 19:5; Nm 15:3-7; Eph 5:2).
Their gift, even though sent to a poor imprisoned missionary, was worship well-pleasing
to God (cf. Heb 13:16). Since they supplied his needs, Paul reminded them of
the promise that God would supply their needs (v. 19; see
Mt 6:33). Both Christian obedience in giving and God's rich supply are to His glory
SOURCE: The Moody Bible
Commentary; by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago.
Database © 2015 WORDsearch.
internal satisfaction which does not demand changes in external circumstances.
The New Testament expresses this with the Greek word arkew and its
derivatives. Hebrews 13:15 summarizes the teaching in advising believers to be
free of the love of money and to depend on God’s promise not to forsake His
people. Food and lodging should be enough for the godly (1 Tim. 6:6-10; compare
Matt. 6:34; contrast Luke 12:19). The believer can be content no matter what the
outward circumstances (Phil. 4:11-13). Believers are content to know the Father
(John 14:8-9) and depend on His grace (2 Cor. 12:9-10; compare 2 Cor. 9:8-11).
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General
Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
contentment—(v. 11) (יַעַל, yaʿal; ἀπκέω, arkéō):
To be free from care because of satisfaction with what is already one's own.
The Hebrew means simply "to be pleased." The Greek brings out the full
force of the word in 1 Tim. 6:8; Hebrews 13:5. Contentment (1 Tim. 6:6) is more
inward than satisfaction; the former is a habit or permanent state of mind, the
latter has to do with some particular occurrence or object.
SOURCE: International Standard Bible Encyclopedia; James Orr, M.A., D. D.,
General Editor; Parsons Technology, Inc.; Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Churches of Macedonia
D. Larry Gregg, Sr.
Larry Gregg, Sr. is pastor, Calvary Baptist Church, Rutherfordton, North
Carolina and adjunct professor of biblical studies, philosophy, and world
religions at Isothermal Community College in Spendale, North Carolina.
THE TIME PAUL AND HIS COMPANIONS
(Luke, Timothy, and Silas) crossed the narrow body of water separating the
continent of Asia from that of Europe and made their way to Neapolis (modern
Kavalla), Macedonia already had a long and storied history.
In this mountainous region the Argead dynasty came to power about seven
hundred years before Jesus’ birth. The
dynasty endured until the time of Alexander the Great.1
Overshadowed by the towering peaks of the Olympus Range, traditional home
of the gods and goddesses of Greek mythology, Macedonia was destined to become a
fertile field for the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
From the pages of the New Testament, the names of Philippi, Thessalonica,
and Berea have become synonyms for Christian diversity and inclusiveness,
unflagging devotion under stress, gracious hospitality, and the eager desire to
learn and grow.
Along the Egnatian Way
the aftermath of the Roman conquest of Macedonia in 168 B.C., the conquerors
sought to bind the vast regions of the empire together with a system of roads
across which legions could be dispersed quickly to quell any hint of rebellion.
A by-product of this military and political policy was that travel,
commerce, and the exchange of ideas were enhanced beyond what Rome’s rulers
could hardly have imagined.
Egnatian Way (Via Egnatia) meandered through the mount passes and verdant valley
of Macedonia, connecting the Adriatic and the Aegean Seas. By
the time of Paul, this monument to Roman engineering had become the main
overland route connecting Italy with Neapolis.
Taking advantage of the opportunities the highway afforded, a small group
of courageous evangelists made their way from Neapolis to Philippi, a major
center of Roman military power (ca. 49-50 A.D.).
With the aid of Lydia of Thyatira and others, they founded the church
that was arguably the dearest to Paul’s heart.
Leaving Philippi, they made their way through Amphipolis and Apollonia to
Thessalonica, the center of the region’s civil government.
There believers founded a congregation, and to the church Paul later
addressed two of his earliest New Testament Epistles (1 and 2 Thessalonians).
Under persecution, Paul and his companions slipped away from Thessalonica
in the night and made their way to Berea, where the Jewish community received
them with great hospitality and eagerly responded to the message about Jesus.
careful study of 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philippians, and Acts 16-17, and
allusions to the church of Macedonia found in 2 Corinthians 8 and 11 and Romans
15 suggests five distinguishing characteristics of these important early
Christian congregations. Reflection
on these characteristics is instructive for contemporary Christians seeking to
live and express their faith today.
the Macedonian Christians were known widely for the authenticity and sincerity
of their faith. In 1 Thessalonians
1:7, Paul commended the Thessalonian believers for being role models for other
believers across Macedonia and Achaia. In
the next verse he assured them that their good reputation had spread beyond
their homeland to the extent that he no longer had to speak to others about the
Macedonian example. Their
positive reputation for Christian faithfulness had “spread abroad” on the
tongues of those who shared the gospel from one end of the Roman Empire to the
other. In Philippians 1:6, the
Apostle to the Gentiles declared his confidence that God would continue the work
He had begun in the Macedonian Christians until Christ returned.
the Macedonian congregations had a reputation for the diversity of their
membership and leadership. They were
mixed congregations of both Jewish and Gentile believers (Acts 16-17).
A Thyatiran business woman named Lydia played a major role in founding
the Philippian church, which had a membership that included a young slave woman
who had been delivered from demon possession and the keeper of the Roman jail at
Philippi. A simple examination of
the names in Philippians reflects the broad diversity of this congregation.
Epaphroditus is a name associated with the worship of the Greek goddess
of love, Aphrodite. One wonders if
the name suggests that he was once one of the cult prostitutes associate with
Aphrodisian fertility rites. Names
like Euodia (Prosperous Journey) and Syntyche (Good Luck) may be reflective of a
Macedonian preoccupation with fortune telling and predicting the future.2
If so, perhaps in these names we also find the roots of Paul’s concern
that Satan would undermine Paul’s earlier work with these new believers (1
Thess. 3:1-5). Perhaps Paul’s later evaluation of those new to the faith can
serve as a reminder that God can and does reach those from strong anti-Christian
backgrounds, helps them to stand firm in their faith, and uses them to build His
church (vv. 6-9).
bring us to a third characteristic of the Macedonian churches.
The biblical evidence suggests that, out of their eagerness to
understand, they were still susceptible to false teachings that could lead them
astray. So Paul cautioned the
Macedonian Christians against those who made use of deceit, guile, and flattery
for the purposes of personal economic enrichment and ego gratification (2:4-6).
In the gentlest, warmest letter in the New Testament, Paul felt it
necessary to use exceedingly strong language likewise to warn the Philippians to
“watch out for ‘dogs’, watch out for evil workers, watch out for those who
mutilate the flesh” (Phil. 3:2, HCSB)—those who insisted that Gentiles must
convert to Judaism and obey the ritual law before they could become Christians.
Fervency without a solid foundation of faith is often counterproductive
because it tends to cause believers to become preoccupied with the novel and
esoteric. Today’s believers need
to know both what they believe, and why they believe it.
Otherwise, like the Macedonians, we may also forget that we are to have
consistency between our doctrinal assertions and our daily ethics (1 Thess. 4).
and on a more positive note, repeatedly Paul commended the Macedonian Christians
for their generous response to the needs of Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.
Macedonia’s predominately Gentile congregations held back nothing in
their willingness to provide material support for their suffering brothers and
sisters in Christ. Differences in
ethnicity, cultural heritage, and theological affirmations were meaningless when
it came to relieving suffering, saving lives, and engendering hope. Thus
Paul could freely and honestly commend the generosity of Macedonian believers to
both the Romans (Rom. 15:26) and the Corinthians (2 Cor. 8:1-5; 11-9).
the Letter to the Philippians stands as an enduring document that shows the
gratitude Macedonian Christians had for Paul, their founding pastor and most
faithful friend. In this joy-filled
letter, the aged apostle reflected on how often the Philippians had prayed for
him in his times of need. He thanked
them for sending material resources to relieve this economic distress.
He commended them for sending Epaphroditus to aid him during his
imprisonment. The Macedonian
Christians appear to have been graced with the gift of expressing tangible
gratitude toward those whom God had used to bring the gospel to them.
In an age prone to disposing of the elderly, forgetting the absent,
abandoning the weak and wounded, and neglecting those who nurtured us when we
were young in the faith, contemporary Christians, as did our Macedonian
forbearers, need to seek out opportunities to care for those who, in an earlier
day, cared so much for us.
paid the churches of Macedonia the highest of compliments when, in reference to
their economic generosity, he observed, “but they gave themselves first to the
Lord” (2 Cor. 8:5, NIV). In this they were not only examples to all who
believed in their day but they continue to serve as role models for the churches
“Macedonia” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. in chief, David Noel
Freedman, vol. 4 (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 454.
2.“Greeks and Romans put
great stock on augury and divination. No
commander would set out on a major military campaign nor would an emperor make
an important decree without first consulting an oracle to see how things might
turn out.” John Polhill,
“Acts” in The New American Commentary, vol. 26 (Nashville: Broadman
Press, 1992), 351.
The Early Church in Macedonia
By Julie Nall Knowles
Knowles is associate professor of English, Troy State University, Phenix City,
FTER ANCHORING THEIR triremes (warships) in the
harbor at Neapolis, the tense Roman soldiers of Brutus and Cassius hurried up
the hill to a temple resembling the Parthenon at Athens.
It was 42 BC, and ten miles inland the legions of Antony and Octavian
(the future Augustus) waited on the Philippian plains.
In that gleaming temple overlooking the Aegean Sea, prayers were lifted
to Athena, patron of Neapolis and goddess of war.
Despite their prayers, Cassius and Brutus eventually were defeated.
By the time of Claudius, when Paul’s ship sailed
before the wind into the harbor at Neapolis, a Parthenon symbolized belief that
public homage to the ancient gods and to the emperor as a divine hero was
necessary to preserve the Pax Romana
As Paul stepped ashore with Silas, Luke, and Timothy, he likely did not
anticipate the state cult becoming a major obstacle to proclaiming the gospel
“far away to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21, NEB).1
If Luke studied at Philippi’s Greek medical academy, then he previously
had climbed the crest and walked the Via
Egnatia, the highway stretching
across the Roman province of Macedonia. He
could have directed the party past the Parthenon and over the hills to the
bustling Roman colony where victorious Augustus settled some of his veterans
after the battle of Philippi.
In no place were Romans more proud of citizenship and more intent on
keeping Roman law than in a colony. As
a result, when Claudius expelled the Jews from Rome, the Philippian officials
may have ordered Jewish rites be held outside the city gates.
After Paul preached just outside the city to those who would hear him
(Acts 16:13-14), Lydia and her household were baptized.
She then invited the apostles to stay in her home, where the first
Christian church on European soil was formed.
Women in Macedonia enjoyed exceptional autonomy.
There each early church included significant numbers of women, noticeable
from the upper class. Euodia and
Syntyche, whose disagreement Paul censored in his Philippian epistle, may have
been connected with Lydia’s trade, or one of the women could have been Lydia
herself. Lydia’s hometown,
Thyatira was famed for expensive purple dye.
It was located in the province of Lydia (classical Maeonia).
Working with purple long had been a craft of women;
In The Iliad
the poet, Homer, wrote:
Like as perchance some woman, Maeonian woman or
Carian, Staineth with purple a piece of iv’ry, for some horse a cheek-plate.
There in a storeroom it lies; and to wear it many a horseman Prays; but
it lies there, fated to be the pride of a monarch . . . . ( IV, 141-44).2
Lydia doubtless had grown quite wealthy by
dealing in royal purple fabrics.
At the opposite end of the Philippian social scale, a slave girl became
attracted to Paul’s message. Possibly
she was a skilled ventriloquist; the populace attributed her powers to the cult
headed by Apollo’s oracle at Delphi, that mysterious prophetess to whome
pilgrims for centuries had gone for advice.
Changed by God’s spirit through the words of Paul, the slave girl no
longer was able to perform for her masters, who promptly charged Paul and Silas
with spreading a treasonable heresy endangering both the worship of the gods and
Roman security. In short order the
magistrates ordered Paul and Silas beaten and thrown into jail.
(Luke and Timothy evidently were safe at Lydia’s house.)
In that dungeon the prisoners enjoyed an apostolic hymn-sing until an
earthquake swung the doors and detached their shackles.
Feasibly, their jailer had heard the story of Brutus’ suicide at
Philippi years earlier (later dramatized by Shakespeare in Julius
Caesar ), or he may have followed popular Stoic philosophy that regarded
suicide as a sign of courage. Regardless,
Roman law dictated the jailers receive the punishment scheduled for any escaped
prisoners, so the man (like Brutus) would have run on his sword had not Paul
called out that no had escaped. Then
everyone in the jailer’s house, perhaps in the entire prison, heard the
gospel, and a second household was added to the Philippian church.
According to tradition, his name was Stephanas, whose family became
devoted to Christian service (1 Cor. 16:15).
Nevertheless, Philippi’s magistrates had
condoned shameful treatment of Roman citizens.
Perhaps during the night Paul recalled the trial of Verres, who was
charged with corrupting the government of Sicily not long before the civil wars
of the first century BC: ”. . . my charge is that,” cried the prosecutor
Cicero, calling for Verres’ prison record, “after being deprived of ships
and slaves and merchandise, honest merchants were flung into prison, and in that
prison, being Roman citizens, were put to death.”3
For treating citizenship lightly the magistrates well could have suffered
Verres’ fate—exile. It is no
wonder, then, that when they realized Paul and Silas were Roman citizens they
escorted the two from prison with respect and begged them to leave town!
So for 100 miles Paul and Silas trod the broad, thick stones of the Via
Egnatia, through Amphipolis and Apollonia to Thessalonica, the capital and
largest city of Macedonia. (It seems
that Timothy came later, bringing gifts from the Philippians.)
Paul saw cosmopolitan Thessalonica as a strategic
center from which the gospel could radiate.
For supporting Antony and Octavian it had been rewarded with the status
of a free Greek city, so long as the politarchs,
or local magistrates, kept Roman law and maintained peace, the proconsul
of Macedonia never interfered with local government.
Ships from all over the Roman world sailed into Thessalonica’s splendid
harbor, a haven rivaled only by Ephesus and Corinth on the Aegean Sea.
To the south, Mount Olympus, Greece’s highest mountain, rose beyond the
hills. At its base bubbled the
Pierian Spring, the classical abode of the Muses.
Thessalonica was the home of the cults of Dionysus and Orpheus, Greek
gods of wine and music. It had a
temple for Egyptian deities Isis and Serapis, religions that questioned life,
death, and resurrection; and at the synagogue many Greeks were attracted to
In the synagogue Paul preached of a Messiah who had been resurrected
from the dead. This message appealed
to adherents of the Mediterranean mystery religions as well as to Greeks who
were disenchanted with making deals with their gods for public good rather than
personal salvation. Paul’s sermons
were received so well that several God-fearing Greeks and many upper-class women
soon became Christians.
However, in Thessalonica Paul encountered a second major obstacle to
evangelical efforts—Jewish leaders inciting Roman leaders against Christians
for “security of the state.” Declaring
Jesus as Lord (the Old Testament name for God; Adonai in the
Septuagint) and Messiah who had been crucified was blasphemy to the Jews.
Besides, the real crux to them was that these newcomers were converting their
proselytes! The riot the
jealous Jews instigated was blamed on the apostles: “They all flout the
Emperor’s laws, and assert that there is a rival king, Jesus” (Acts 17:7).
Those judicious politarchs could not allow peace to be broken in their
model city, much less suggestions of treason.
When Paul and Silas could not be located in a certain Jason’s house
(where the Thessalonican church presumably met), they apparently demanded that
Jason see to it that the apostles leave the city.
So when night fell, it was “back on the road again”—the Via
Egnatia and a side road reaching southwest to an altitude of 600 feet—until
Paul and Silas found seclusion 50 miles away in beautifully situated Beroea.
In this rural village on a ledge of Mount Bermius lived intelligent,
open-minded Jews who received the gospel gladly.
Tradition has it that the first convert there was Sopater, the Sosipater
who sent greetings to the Romans along with Jason (Rom. 16:21).
Also according to tradition, Onesimus was the first bishop of the Beroean
church, which could be a note on one position toward slavery as well as a
comment on remarkable reasoning by a Jewish and Gentile congregation.
Moreover, Beroea was the only town where its Jewish population did not
cause trouble for Paul! Instead,
when the same rabble-rousers from Thessalonica followed the apostles there, the
Beroean brethren whisked Paul away to the coast where he set sail for Athens.
That tolerant attitude in the Macedonian churches Paul hoped to use
favorably when he collected gifts for both Gentile and Jewish Christians in the
Jerusalem church. Of the party
accompanying Paul on his last journey to Jerusalem, three were Macedonians:
Sopater, a Jew, and Aristarchus and Secundus, Gentile converts from
Thessalonica. The churches in
Macedonia had “fared like the congregations in Judaea” (1 Thess. 2:14, NEB);
these men understood the Jerusalem situation.
They knew the struggles of converts to continue in the new life rather
than resort to the old worship; they, too, had lost financial resources, but
they persevered in brotherly love (1 Thess. 4:9).
Problems only increased the Macedonians’ generosity.
“We must tell you, friends,” Paul wrote the Corinthian church,
“about the grace of generosity which God has imparted to our congregations in
Macedonia” (2 Cor. 8:1, NEB). Theologically,
Paul was saying that the grace of God also is the generosity of God, for grace
means loving generosity—the grace of God that was manifest in the gift of His
The Philippians especially were generous.
They contributed to Paul’s ministry at Thessalonica (Phil. 4:16), and
when Paul was confined in Rome they sent gifts by Epaphroditus (Phil. 4:18),
whose name (not without significance) is derived from Aphrodite, the Greek
goddess of love. When Ignatius went
through Philippi on his way to martyrdom at Rome, the Philippians gave loving
encouragement to him.
Around AD 117 Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, sent to
the Philippians copies of Ignatius’ letters with a cover letter of his own.
Alluding to imprisoned Christians, Polycarp wrote, “I rejoice greatly
with you . . . that the root of your faith . . . remains firm in you to this
day, and brings forth fruit to our Lord Jesus Christ, who suffered Himself to be
brought even to the death for our sins.”4
Facing death and persecution with courage surpassing Stoics, Macedonian
Christians still were turning the Roman peace upside down.
From the New
English Bible. Copyright © The
Delegates of the Oxford University Press and the Syndics of the Cambridge
University Press, 1961, 1970. Reprinted
by permission. Subsequent quotations
are marked NEB.
Iliad, tr. William Benjamin
Smith and Walter Miller (New York: Macmillan, 1945), 81.
Marcus Tullius Cicero, The Verrine Orations, tr.
L. H. G. Greenwood (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935), 2:631.
Polycarp, “The Epistle of St. Polycarp to the
Philippians,” in The Apostolic Fathers:
the Epistles of St. Ignatius and St. Polycarp, with a History of the Christian
Church in the Second Century, ed.
Edward Burton (Edinburgh: John Grant, 1909), 2,141.
Paul and the Thessalonians
By John Polhill
John Polhill is Professor of New Testament,
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.
PAUL ESTABLISHED THE THESSALONIAN CHURCH
on his second
Paul’s Journey to Thessalonica
outset of the trip, Paul was accompanied by Silas (Acts 15:40) and later on by
Timothy (Acts 16:1-3). Paul’s
itinerary began with the churches established on his first missionary journey
(Acts 16:1-5). After that, under
strong conviction of the Spirit, he was led to the coastal town of Troas (Acts
16:6-8). There he received a vision
that called him to preach the gospel in Macedonia.
Immediately, he set sail from Troas and in two days arrived in the
Macedonian town of Philippi (Acts 16:9-12).
ministry in Philippi provides the immediate background to his work in
Thessalonica, also a Macedonian city located about 90 miles west of Philippi.
In 1 Thessalonians Paul mentioned events that took place in Philippi.
They were still fresh on his mind because the letter was written not long
after the establishment of the Philippian and Thessalonian churches.
There is also a close relationship between the Acts account of Paul’s
Thessalonian ministry and 1 Thessalonians. The
two serve to confirm and supplement each other.
Paul’s Arrival in Thessalonica
When Paul left
Philippi, he traveled west on the main Roman highway, the Via Egnatia, to
Thessalonica, a journey of four to five days on foot (Acts 17:1).1
His experience in Philippi had not been altogether happy.
He and Silas had been jailed on charges of sedition and disturbing the
peace. Though in the end they were
vindicated, the town magistrates still requested that they leaved (Acts
mentioned this “shameful treatment” in 1 Thessalonians 2:2.
He also mentioned his traveling companions, Silvanus and Timothy, in the
address of that letter (1 Thess. 1:1).2
Their arrival in Thessalonica would have been around AD 50.3
his usual missionary strategy, Paul began this Thessalonian witness in the
Jewish synagogue. Luke wrote that
Paul expounded the Scriptures there for three weeks (Acts 17:2).
He succeeded in converting some of the Jews, a large number of
God-fearing Gentiles, and some of the leading ladies of the city.4
Acts gives the impression that Paul may have spent only three weeks in
the city before Jewish opposition forced him out (Acts 17:5-10).
First Thessalonians implies a longer ministry.
The three-week reference in Acts may refer only to Paul’s period of
witness in the synagogue before his being ejected from it and turning to a
primarily Gentile ministry in another setting.
Going first to the synagogue and then turning to the Gentiles was a
common pattern for Paul, as is exemplified by his work in Corinth (Acts 18:4-7)
and Ephesus (Acts 19:8-10).
message to the Jews is summarized in Acts 17:3: he sought to demonstrate from
the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah—the usual message to the Jews.
(Compare Peter’s sermons, Acts 2:36; 3:17-20.)
Paul’s message to the Gentiles differed because they did not know the
Old Testament. Paul summarized it in
1 Thessalonians 1:9-10. It was a
three-point sermon: 1) turn from idols; 2) serve the one true God; and 3) trust
in Christ, whom God raised from the dead and who will deliver us from the coming
wrath. Paul did indeed preach this
message to the Gentiles. These are
the identical points he stressed before the Athenian philosophers on the
Areopagus (Acts 17:22-31).
Thessalonians 2:9-12 Paul told us that he supported himself by his own hands
during his Thessalonian ministry. He
was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3). He also
received support from the Philippian congregation on more than one occasion
(Phil. 4:15-16). Probably the
Thessalonian Christians also assisted him when they could, like Jason who seems
to have furnished him a place to stay (Acts 17:5).
We do not know whether Jason was a Jewish or Gentile Christian.
The name could indicate either. Judging
from 1 Thessalonian Christians were mainly Gentile, though some were Jewish
(Acts 17:4). Likely the church met
in Jason’s house, just as the Philippian church met in Lydia’s (Acts
Just as in
Philippi, Paul’s departure from Thessalonica was under duress.
Some of the Jews in the city stirred up a mob and stormed Jason’s house
looking for Paul (Acts 17:5).5
Not finding Paul, they sized Jason as a sort of proxy and dragged him to
the town magistrates.6
Three charges were leveled against the Christians in Acts 17:6: (1) they
had “turned the world upside down” (“trouble-makers”); (2) Jason had
received them (“complicity”); and (3) they were acting against Caesar’s
decrees (“sedition”). This
latter was the most serious charge. The
Christian claim of Jesus’ lordship could be misunderstood in such terms.
Indeed, about this time a riot in the Jewish community of Rome, which
seemingly involved Christ, had caused the Emperor Claudius to expel Jews from
The magistrates did not seem to have taken the charge of sedition
seriously, however. They probably
were concerned more with maintaining the peace.
This is indicated by their taking
“security” from Jason (Acts 17:9). The
security probably was a payment guaranteeing that the Christians would no longer
be involved in an incident that threatened the peace.
The Jewish antagonism toward Paul would likely lead to continued riots.
So Paul had to leave (Acts 17:10). Evidently
the situation did not improve for some time.
Paul indicated in 1 Thessalonians 2:17-18 that Satan had continued to
prevent him from returning to Thessalonica.
“Satan” likely was being identified as the cause of the continued
hostility toward him from the non-Christians.
The Writing of the Letters
Thessalonica under cover of night, Paul and Silas went inland about 50 miles to
Berea (Acts 17:10). Timothy either
accompanied them or joined them soon after (Acts 17:14).
Though well-received by the synagogue in Berea, Paul was forced to leave
town also when his old Thessalonian enemies came and incited mobs against him
there (Acts 17:13). Christian
brothers delivered him from the danger in Berea and accompanied him south to
Athens. Paul instructed them to have
Timothy and Silas join him at Athens as soon as possible (Acts 17:14-15).
At this point,
Timothy’s movements became particularly important.
He seems to have been Paul’s representative to the Thessalonian
Christians. This was a pattern Paul
regularly followed. Coworkers would
be his main link with the congregations he had established and would be
responsible for ministering to them. Timothy
seems to have had this role in Thessalonica. Although Acts does not mention that
Timothy responded to Paul’s request to join him in Athens, 1 Thessalonians
3:1-5 implies that he did and that Paul sent him from there back to
Thessalonica. After Paul had moved
on from Athens to Corinth, Timothy and Silas joined him there (Acts 18:5;1 Thess.
3:6). Timothy undoubtedly gave Paul
a full report about the Thessalonian Christians, and Paul likely wrote 1
Thessalonians at this point. The
time would have been just months after he had first arrived in that city with
a number of concerns about the young congregation and sought to deal with
questions they had raised and sent by way of Timothy.
A primary concern of the apostle was to encourage them to be steadfast in
the faith in spite of continued persecution from the non-Christian populace (1
Thess. 1:6-7; 2:14; 3:1-4). Closely
related was Paul’s effort to correct the personal slander against him that was
circulating in Thessalonica. He had
evidently been likened to an itinerant charlatan, pedaling his verbal wares for
profit (1 Thess. 2:3-12). Paul
probably did not have to be prompted to address the problem of personal chastity
in the Thessalonian letter. The
congregation was composed mainly of Gentiles, and the biblical morality Paul
sought to teach them was radically different from what they were accustomed to
and had to be repeatedly emphasized (1 Thess. 4:1-8).
Evidently they had raised the question about whether Christians who had
died would participate in Christ’s second coming.
Much of Paul’s letter addressed the question of the Lord’s return (1
Thess. 4:13—5:11). A final problem
dealt with some in the church who had become indolent and were not pulling their
load (1 Thess. 5:12-14).
Timothy was the one who delivered this first Epistle to the Thessalonians.
We know that Paul followed it soon after with a second letter.
Perhaps Timothy returned to Corinth with the news that Paul’s advice
had not wholly had its desired effect. The
second epistle deals with the same problems but somewhat more pointedly and
harshly. The Thessalonians were
still experiencing persecution. Paul
commended them for their steadfastness (2 Thess. 1:4) and strongly condemned
their persecutors (2 Thess.1:5-10a). The
believers were still confused about the Lord’s coming.
Some evidently thought it was imminent.
This has aggravated the problem of the indolent.
Paul urged the Thessalonians not to feed those who refused to do their
share of the load (2 Thess. 3:6-12), and he assured them that the Lord’s
return might not be as soon as some thought.
Certain events must take place first (2 Thess. 2:1-12).
Paul’s Continuing Relationship with Thessalonica
Thessalonian Epistles were written during Paul’s second missionary journey.
Acts does not mention Paul’s revisiting this congregation after this
period. Thessalonica, however,
should probably be included when Luke in the Book of Acts and Paul both spoke of
“Macedonia.’ Thus, the two
Macedonian congregations of Philippi and Thessalonica should perhaps both be
included when Paul spoke of the generosity of the Macedonians in the
correspondence of his third missionary journey (2 Cor. 8:1-5; 11:9; Rom. 15:26).
Paul traveled between Philippi and
Corinth by foot at the end of his third missionary journey (Acts 20:2-3).
He surely stayed with his Thessalonian way.
Two of the most trusted Thessalonians were among those who accompanied
him with his offering to the Jerusalem Christians (Acts 20:4).
After this, our sources are silent about Paul’s contacts with
a description of Thessalonica in Paul’s day, see John B. Polhill, Acts,
vol. 26 in The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 358.
is another form of the name Silas. Timothy
is not mentioned in the Acts account of Paul’s Thessalonian ministry
(17:1-10), but he must have been present since he is mentioned immediately
afterward as being with Paul and Silas at Berea (17:14).
can date Paul’s work in Thessalonica with some precision because of an
inscription found at Delphi that helps date Paul’s appearance before the
proconsul Gallio in Corinth (Acts 18:12). For
a full treatment, see Polhill, 387.
were Gentiles who attended the synagogues and believed in God but who had not
become full converts (“proselytes”) to Judaism (like Cornelius, Acts
10:1-2). Women were often
influential in Greek cities and are often mentioned in honorific inscriptions.
See Polhill, 360-61.
Greek text calls those whom the Jews stirred up “market people”; that is,
lazy riff-raff who loitered around the marketplace.
called the magistrates “politarchs” (“rulers of the city”), which is
exactly the term for the town officials found on inscriptions from first-century
Thessalonica. See F. F. Bruce, Commentary
on the Book of Acts (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1977), 314.
incident took place in AD 49 and is mentioned in the Roman historian
Suetonius’s Life of Claudius, 25.4.
Philippi A Historical
and Archaeological Study
is academic dean and professor of Greek and New Testament at Canadian Southern
Baptist Seminary, Cochrane, Alberta, Canada.
TO MANY BIBLICAL SITES, visitors to the archeological site of
Philippi today are able to visualize the lay of the land in large part as it
actually looked when Paul first visited the city around AD 49 or 50.
From the summit of the naturally fortified hill (acropolis) that was a
part of ancient Philippi, a large fertile plain stretches westward.
This locale in modern-day Greece was ideal for a settlement dating back
to 360 BC, originally called Krenides
(Greek for “springs”). Its
natural advantages included an abundant supply of water, rich agricultural land,
and a defensible location.1 In
addition rich gold and silver deposits were in the surrounding area.
Philip II of Macedon, Alexander the
Great’s father, recognized the strategic value of this town, took it over in
356 BC, and renamed it after himself. He
fortified the acropolis and built a wall around the city, some parts of which
still remain. “The wealth [he]
received here enabled him to enlarge his army and unify his kingdom.”2
In 168-167 BC Rome conquered Macedon and eventually made this region a
province, dividing it into four administrative districts.3
factor that raised Philippi to a higher level of importance was the construction
of the famous Via Egnatia (begun
approximately 145 BC and completed around 130 BC).
This “highway” connected Rome to the east and ran right through the
middle of Philippi serving as its main street.
As a major stopping place Philippi benefited from the movement of Roman
troops back and forth as well as from commerce that developed due to the
increased ease of transportation. Just
10 miles southeast of Philippi on the Via
Egnatia, the port city of Neapolis (modern Kavalla) made interaction with
the regions beyond even more accessible.
event that really put this city on the map of the Roman Empire, though, was the
Battle of Philippi in 42 BC. Just
beyond its western wall, Octavian (later known as Caesar Augustus) and Mark
Antony squared off against Brutus and Cassius, who has been instrumental in
Julius Caesar’s assassination two years earlier.
Antony and Octavian were victorious, while Brutus and Cassius both
committed suicide on the battlefield. The
victors enlarged and further fortified the city establishing it as a Roman
colony and naming it Colonia Victrix
also resettled veterans there granting them generous sections of farmland.
alliance between Antony and Octavian broke down, and the score was settled in
the Battle of Actium in 31 BC. As
victor Octavian settled many of Anthony’s soldiers in Philippi and renamed
this strategic city Colonia Iulia Augusta
Philippensis after his daughter Julia (Augusta being added in 27 BC after he
received the title from the Senate).5
The status of colony was the highest privilege granted a Roman city and
gave its citizens the same civil rights as if they lived in Italy, including
freedom from taxation. The official
language was Latin, which is verified by many of the inscriptions from the
period, although Greek continued to be the language of the marketplace.6
Paul’s day the city of Philippi was modest in size with a blended population
of descendants from the Roman veterans, Greeks that pre-dated the Romans, and
native Thracians that pre-dated the Greeks.
Also living there were immigrants from Asia Minor that were involved in
commerce like Lydia of Thyatira (Acts 16:14) and some Jews.7
Roman soldiers were stationed in Philippi to protect the Via
Egnatia. The inhabitants were
“proud to observe Roman customs and obey Roman lays, [and were] proud to be
With Paul’s landing at Neapolis,
Christianity advanced from Asia to Europe. A
Roman milestone dating to the Via
Egnatia’s original construction was uncovered in the nearby village of
Amygdaleonas, which Paul may have actually passed on his way to Philippi.9
Near the halfway point was a way station where Paul and his traveling
companions may have stopped to rest and drink from the well.
Just before the city wall they would have arrived at another spring where
a monument still seen today was later erected to C. Vibius Quartus, a Roman
veteran officer.10 Among
other remains from the period, archaeologists have uncovered part of the
“Neapolis Gate” through which Paul would have entered Philippi on his first
entering the Neapolis Gate, Paul (traveling west) would have soon passed the
impressive theatre of Philip II on his right.
Although later modified and enlarged in the second and third centuries,
its basic form would have looked similar to the one still visible today.
The same is true of the Roman forum on the city’s main street.
Various administrative buildings, shops, monuments, and temples bordered
this large public square.11 This
is the marketplace where the slave girl’s owners dragged Paul and Silas before
the magistrates and where they suffered severe beating before being thrown into
prison (Acts 16:19-23).
of the emperors’ cult—including public displays honoring Augustus and his
adopted sons Gaius and Lucius Caesar—were also in the forum.
A few years prior to Paul’s arrival, then-reigning Caesar Claudius (AD
41-54) had already introduced the cult of Livia (wife of Augustus and
Claudius’s deceased grandmother).12
Paul would have observed additional evidence of Roman power on the
coinage used in the adjacent commercial market (agora), including bronze coins
bearing Claudius’s portrait that were minted in Philippi during his reign.
The people generally appreciated and revered the Roman rulers for
maintaining peace and providing protection, justice, and relief in times of
remarkable mix of other pagan worship practices coexisted in first-century
Philippi as well. The traditional
Greek gods like Zeus, Apollo, Dionysus, and especially Artemis had their place,
though sometimes known by their Latin counterparts, including a shrine to
Silvanus. Ancient Thracian religions
persisted too, for example Artemis Bendis and devotion to the Hero-Horseman.13
Sanctuaries to gods from Egypt included those honoring Isis and Serapis
as well as the Phrygian Cybele, the great mother-goddess.
The citizens of Philippi were seemingly as religious as their Athenian
neighbors to the south!
no modern construction obscures the archaeological site at Philippi, the early
Roman city was built over extensively in the fourth to seventh Christian
centuries. From this period, seven
churches are among the most significant discoveries, reflecting the city’s
rise in prominence as an ecclesiastical center and pilgrim destination after
Christianity became the favored religion of the empire.
Underneath the ruins of the unique Octagon Church (first constructed
about AD 400 and surviving until the beginning of the seventh century)
archaeologists discovered an inscription in gold, red, and grey tiles naming the
bishop of the church. The dating of
this inscription to shortly after AD 313 makes this building, which was
dedicated to the memory of the apostle Paul, “the earliest known public
assembly hall for Christians that can be dated with some certainty.”14
earliest large basilica at Philippi (known as Basilica A) dates from the late
fifth century AD. This two-story
basilica was north of the Via Egnatia
and covered an area almost as large as the Roman forum.
In the center aisle visitors can see portions of the luxurious paved
floor and a section of the pulpit. Adjacent
to the monumental staircase in the southwest portion of the basilica was a Roman
double water cistern. After the
destruction of Basilica A this cistern was converted into a place of worship and
a chapel built about it. Discovered
in 1878, the cistern has become known as the “prison of Paul.”15
the seventh century, the fate of Philippi becomes more obscure.
Evidently, a series of devastating earthquakes initiated a decline in the
population. Archaeologists have
uncovered evidence of medieval fortifications on the acropolis and of some
Christian burials from that time.16
The city finally fell to the Ottomans in 1387, and since then travelers
to Philippi have found only the remnants of the place where Paul first responded
to the Macedonian call.17
Hendrix, “Philippi” in The
Anchor Bible Dictionary, ed. in chief Freeman (New York: Doubleday, 1992),
5:313-14; Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995),
McDonald, “Philippi” in Dictionary
of New Testament Background, ed. Evans and Porter (Downers Grove:
InterVarsity Press, 2000), 787.
O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians: A Commentary on the Greek Text
(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), 3-4. See McCray, Archaeology and the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House,
Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free (Grand
Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 219.
Hendrix 315. Hawthorne, Philippians,
vol. 43 in Word Biblical Commentary (Waco: Word Books, 1983), xxxiv.
McRay, 286-87. Meeks, The First
Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul (New Haven: Yale
Univ. Press, 1983), 28.
Hawthorne, xxxiii-xxxiv. O’Brien, 4.
Koukouli-Chrysantaki, “Colonia lulia
Augusta Philippensis” in Philippi at the
Time of Paul and After His Death (PTPD), ed. Bakirtzis and Koester
(Harrisburg: Trinity Press International, 1998), 11-12.
Koukouli-Chrysantaki and Bakirtzis, Philippi,
(Athens: Hellenic Ministry of Culture, 2006 ), 60.
Koukouli-Chrysantaki, PTPD, 16.
Koukouli-Chrysantaki and Bakirtzis,
Bakirtzis, “Paul and Philippi: The
Archaeological Evidence” in PTPD, 41-42.
Koukouli-Chrysantaki and Bakirtzis, 35.
SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay
Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234;
What is the Answer To & Where in The
Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found: What priest scolded King
Uzziah for daring to offer incense to God? Answer
Last Week’s Question: Who had a vision of the
high priest Joshua standing beside Satan? Answer:
Zechariah; Zech. 3:1.