Paul closes his letter with an appreciation of gifts received from the church and with greetings to all the membership.
4:10–20 The gifts from Philippi
Paul thanks the church for their concern towards him and their generosity in sending gifts. From verse 10 it appears
that they had not lost their concern for Paul in his absence but had had no opportunity of showing it. Paul’s
reluctance to admit real need (verses 11–12) is not due to a lack of appreciation for what the Philippians had sent
to him. Rather it was due to his desire to maintain his independence (he labored as a tentmaker even when preaching the gospel,
Acts 18:3) and his chosen role of poverty. He had learnt to maintain a spirit of contentment regardless of his circumstances.
His almost Stoical attitude did not derive from mere self-discipline and strength of character. It was due to
the fact that he knew Christ, and he could rely on him for strength in his weakness and in all his labors as an apostle.
The phrase “in the beginning of the gospel” (verse 15) is most probably a reference to the new direction of the
Christian missionary enterprise westwards once it entered Greece through
Macedonia (see Acts 16 and a map of Paul’s
missionary journeys). The gifts from Philippi certainly gave Paul pleasure, but the
greater satisfaction came from knowing that the gifts brought credit to the Philippians’ church itself. In fact
the Philippians sent more than he required. The terms used to describe their gifts are all taken from the sacrificial
ideas of the Old Testament (Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18; Leviticus 1:9, 13; Ezekiel 20:41). Therefore to make gifts in
the service of Christ is like an act of worship.
God does not leave those who at self-denying cost give to the work of the kingdom without
their basic needs being satisfied. In fact Paul claims that God rewards them not in the way they deserve but in the
way that reflects his own riches and glory. In this context it is fitting that Paul ends by ascribing praise to our
God and Father, the Father who knows how to give good gifts to his children (Matthew 7:11).
Here Paul is careful, as he has been throughout the letter, to include the whole community within his pastoral care. He
is concerned about every saint – every Christian in whom the Holy Spirit dwells.
From Rome Paul sends the greetings of the church, but he singles out for special mention “those of Caesar’s household”.
It probably means those slaves and servants of Caesar’s bodyguard who had been converted through meeting Paul
in his imprisonment. As Philippi was a military colony it is possible that some of these people were known by members of the
church in Philippi.
In his benediction (verse 23) Paul prays that the grace of Christ, who is the centre
and theme of his own life (1:21), will be deeply effective in the lives of the people.
1. Does the affluence of modern life prevent Christians from ever being able to make the claim that Paul makes in
2. What part should gifts to Christian workers play in our planned giving today? How can they become “a
fragrant offering . . .”?
3. What kinds of needs are those which God ought to meet (or will meet) in your church?
4. What do you think is the major lesson which the modern churches can learn from this
whole letter to the Philippians?