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Bailey Sadler Class



Study Theme:  Thrive: Living in Real Joy

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The 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.


Jan. 22

Praying with Joy


Jan. 29

Sharing with Joy


Feb. 05

Following with Joy


Feb. 12

Growing with Joy


Feb. 19

Practicing Joy


Feb. 26

Giving with Joy



Philippians 4:10-20


Join God in His work of giving for the benefit of others.





Joy of Contentment  (Phil. 4:10-14)

Joy of Giving  (Phil. 4:15-18)

Joy of Receiving  (Phil. 4:19-20)


  Paul 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!

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


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.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.


Joy 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.








1.   When have you had a blast giving something away?  How did it make you feel?  Why did it make you feel that way?

2.   How would you describe what it means to be content?  (See Digging Deeper.)

3.   How do you feel about God’s call to join him in giving and helping others?

4.   Based on our study of the believers in Philippi, how had they supported Paul’s ministry?

5.   What does 2 Corinthians 8:2-3 add to the discussion about support of Paul? 

6.   How would you summarize what 2 Corinthians:8 teaches us about giving?

7.   Based on this passage, what was Paul most joyful about (v. 10)?

8.   What did Paul mean when he said he had learned to be content in whatever circumstances he found himself (v. 11)?

9.   Does it mean that to be content is a learned behavior (v. 11)?  If so, what is it one must learn?

10.   What does verse 12 add to the discussion?  How do you think a person can be content in times of little or times of trouble?

11.   How would you describe a “content” mindset? 

12.   How do you think Paul was able to be blessed with a “content”  mindset (v. 13)?

13.    How have you heard verse 13 used and how should we understand it in light of verses 10-12?

14.   Do you think a person can be content in all circumstances? 

15.   IF so, what are some things you think would help a believer to become “content” in all circumstances? 

16.   What do you think are some enemies of contentment in today’s culture?

Lasting Lessons in Phil. 4:10-14:

1.  Showing care to those who are in difficult circumstances is a great encouragement to them.

2.  All believers should learn to be content in whatever circumstances they find themselves.

3.  Believers need to remember that their sufficiency is in God, not themselves; it is His who strengthens them.

4.  Even if one cannot go as a missionary, by helping support the ministry of missionaries one can become a partner in their work for the Lord.



Joy 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.

1.   What does verse 15 tell us about the generosity of the Philippian believers?

2.   Based on this passage, how would you describe the generosity of the Philippian believers (v. 16)?

3.   What do you think Paul meant when he said he “seek the profit the is increasing to your account” in verse 17?

4.   How were the Philippians profit because of their giving? 

5.   What are the two qualities of the Philippians’ giving to Paul as described in this passage (v. 18)?

6.   Why do you think Paul described the Philippian offerings as a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God?

7.   What do you think makes an offering a fragrant, acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God?

8.   What is familiar about Paul’s description of the Philippian offering in verse 18?

9.   Do you think Paul’s abundance was due to the generosity of the Philippians or Paul’s own contentment with what he had?

10.   Do you think the act of giving is a blessing for the giver?  If so, what makes it so?

11.   Based on this passage, do you think Paul was as joyful in receiving as the Philippians were in giving?  Why, or why not?

12.   How would you describe the proper motive for joyful giving?

13.   How does giving to help others increase the joy of a believer?

14.   Do you think you can experience joy when giving with a less that desirable attitude?  Why, or why not?

15.   How would you describe the joy that comes from giving with a proper motive?

16.   How does giving financially make us partners in ministry, not just contributors?

17.   When have you felt inspired to give above and beyond?  What motivated you to do so?


Lasting Lessons in Phil. 4:15-18:

1.  When believers give to the Lord’s work with proper motives, it adds to their spiritual accounts.

2.  Believers’ gifts to the Lord’s work are fragrant offerings, acceptable sacrifices, and pleasing to God.



Joy 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.

1.   What does it mean for God to supply all our needs?

2.   Is there a difference between wants and needs?  If so, what is it? 

3.   When giving, is it necessary to make this distinction?  Why, or why not?

4.   What does this statement mean to you: God gives to you even as you give to others?

5.   What is the role of faith when it comes to God supplying our needs and our giving to others (v. 19)? 

6.   What does this statement mean to you: God will not allow your supply for giving to run low?

7.   Based on the entire focal passage, how would you describe God’s provision for those who supported Paul’s work?

8.   For whom are God’s promises meant? 

9.   What does verse 20 mean to you?

10.   Do you think “praise” and “thanksgiving” should be a priority in the prayer life of a believer?  Why, or why not?

11.   Do you think bringing God glory is a priority in the life of most believers?  Why, or why not?

12.   What are some ways we can bring God glory through giving?


Lasting Lessons in Phil. 4:19-20:

1.  God is the One who supplies believers’ needs, not their wants.

2.  God’s riches are inexhaustible, and He blesses those in Christ with them.

3.  God 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 will! 

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word:

King James Version:  Philippians 4:10-20:

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:

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 ever. Amen.


New Living Translation:   Philippians 4:10-20:

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! Amen.


 (NOTE:  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 4:10-20




Joy of Contentment  (Phil. 4:10-14)

Joy of Giving  (Phil. 4:15-18)

Joy of Receiving  (Phil. 4:19-20)


The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament:  Philippians 4:10-20:

The Philippians’ Gifts to Paul (4:10-20)

The Recent Gift (4:10-14)

4:10.  As 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.

4:11.  The 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 mankind.

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.

4:12.  Paul 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).

4:13.  His 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 about it.

The 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 Thessalonica.

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 situation.

4:16.  Not 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 3:7, 8).

4:17.  Paul’s 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).

4:19.  In 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 .

4:20.  Small 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


Believer's Bible Commentary: Philippians 4:10-20:

Paul's Thanks for Financial Gifts From the Saints (4:10-20)

4:10. In 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."

4:11. In 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."

4:13. Then 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 Christ.

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.

Jowett exclaims:

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.

4:19. Now 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:

My God—the name of the Banker.

Shall supply—the promise to pay.

All your need—the value of the note.

According to His riches—the capital of the bank.

In glory—the address of the bank.

By Christ Jesus—the signature at the foot, without which the note is worthless.

4:20. 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.

Believer's Bible Commentary: A Thorough, Yet Easy-to-Read Bible Commentary That Turns Complicated Theology Into Practical Understanding.

SOURCE: Believer's Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990, 1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.


The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Philippians 4:10-20:

4:10. In 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 teachers.

4:11. Paul 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.

4:12. The 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.

4:14. One 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.

4:15. The 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 still followed.

4:16. 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.

4:17. Paul 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.

4:18. At 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.

4:19. The 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."

4:20. In 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.

SOURCE:  The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Galatians-Philemon.  Copyright © 1998 by World Library Press Inc. Database © 2010 WORDsearch Corp.


The Moody Bible Commentary: Philippians 4:10-20:

Concluding Matters: Paul's Thankfulness for the Philippians' Partnership

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).

Theological Interpretation (4:18-20)

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 (v. 20).

SOURCE: The Moody Bible Commentary; by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Database © 2015 WORDsearch.



Contentment—(v. 11)  An 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, Tennessee.

Content; 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.





The Churches of Macedonia

By D. Larry Gregg, Sr.

D. 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.

BY 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.

Outposts Along the Egnatian Way

In 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.

The 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.

Five Distinguishing Characteristics

A 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.

First, 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.

Second, 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).

This 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).

Fourth, 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).

Finally, 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.

A Continuing Example

Paul 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 of today.

1.F.F. Bruce, “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.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator, LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Summer 2005.


The Early Church in Macedonia

By Julie Nall Knowles

Julie Knowles is associate professor of English, Troy State University, Phenix City, AL.


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  (Roman peace).

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 Judaism.

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 Son.

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.   Bi

1.   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.

2.   Homer, The Iliad,  tr. William Benjamin Smith and Walter Miller (New York: Macmillan, 1945), 81.

3.   Marcus Tullius Cicero, The Verrine Orations,  tr. L. H. G. Greenwood (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1935), 2:631.

4.   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.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 1991.


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 missionary journey.

Paul’s Journey to Thessalonica

From the 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).

Paul’s 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 16:19-40).  Paul 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

According to 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).

Paul’s 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).

In 1 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 16:13-15,40).

Paul’s Departure

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 city.7  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

Leaving 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 the gospel.

Paul expressed 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).

Presumably 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

Both 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 Thessalonica.   Bi

1.   For 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.

2.   Silvanus 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).

3.   We 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.

4.   “God-fearers” 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.

5.   The Greek text calls those whom the Jews stirred up “market people”; that is, lazy riff-raff who loitered around the marketplace.

6.   Luke 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.

7.   The incident took place in AD 49 and is mentioned in the Roman historian Suetonius’s Life of Claudius, 25.4.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 1997..


Philippi  A Historical and Archaeological Study

Steve Booth

Steve Booth is academic dean and professor of Greek and New Testament at Canadian Southern Baptist Seminary, Cochrane, Alberta, Canada.


 CONTRAST 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.

Location, Location, Location

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  

Another 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.

The 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 Philippensium.4  They also resettled veterans there granting them generous sections of farmland.

The 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

In 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 Roman citizens.”8

Paul’s Arrival

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 visit.

After 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).

Evidence 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 hardship.

A 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!

Although 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

The 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

After 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       

1.  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), 25.

2.  McDonald, “Philippi” in Dictionary of New Testament Background, ed. Evans and Porter (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2000), 787.

3.  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, 1991), 284.

4.  Bruce, Paul: Apostle of the Heart Set Free  (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1977), 219.

5.  Ibid.

6.  McDonald, 788.

7.  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.

8.  Hawthorne, xxxiii-xxxiv. O’Brien, 4.

9.  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.

10. Koukouli-Chrysantaki and Bakirtzis, Philippi, (Athens: Hellenic Ministry of Culture, 2006 ), 60.

11. Ibid., 38-41.

12. Koukouli-Chrysantaki, PTPD, 16.

13. Koukouli-Chrysantaki and Bakirtzis, 25-28.

14. Bakirtzis, “Paul and Philippi: The Archaeological Evidence” in PTPD, 41-42.

15. Koukouli-Chrysantaki and Bakirtzis, 35.

16. Hendrix, 314.

17. McDonald, 788.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 2011.




396.  (41.139) 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 Next Week:

Last Week’s Question:  Who had a vision of the high priest Joshua standing beside Satan? Answer: Zechariah; Zech. 3:1.