COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“19But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen. 21Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. 22All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.” (Philippians 4:19-22)
There is a uniqueness in spiritual life that is both refreshing and edifying. This is particularly true in the area of human relationships. In the flesh, there is a marked tendency to restrict our relationships with others. This is due to the conflict that often exists in the area of interests, preferences, etc. In Jesus, however, we are brought into the body of Christ where spirits are kindred, and interests are the same. Wherever the saints are found, they are united together by virtue of their union with Christ. They are drawn to each other, and realize great mutual benefits. This reality is confirmed in our text.
GOD SUPPLIES ALL OF OUR NEED
“19But my God shall supply all your need.” (KJV) Here is one of the great statements of Scripture. Throughout the centuries it has nourished believers, clarifying God’s love for them. Notice the personal nature of the text: “MYGod . . . YOUR need.” At first, the reading may seem peculiar. Why not say, “Your God will supply your need?” First, Paul is speaking from his own experience, as well as from inspiration. It is as though he said, “God has supplied all of my need, and He will also supply all of yours.” In other words, this is the manner of the Kingdom, for God to provide what we need. He doesnot say “My God CAN supply all of your need,” but that He “shall.”
This is language addressed to faith. Paul is in prison, Epaphroditus has been sick, and the Philippians were opposed by adversaries (Phil 1:28-29). From a fleshly viewpoint, it appeared as though resources were drying up, andNEED was growing in an exponential way. However, the child of God does not entertain such a view of things, even though tempted to do so. That is why Paul speaks to their faith, confirming that earthly circumstances have had no effect whatsoever on the great salvation they are enjoying.
Notice, “need” is in the singular, not the plural. Although the NASB and NIV translate this “needs,” it is actually in the singular. The word “need”refers more to a condition than to specific requirements or needs; i.e., they are in need. The words “lack” and “want” describe what is meant–without the necessities of life. For example, Paul has already testified that he had learned HOW to “suffer need” (Phil 4:12). There are times when, according to appearance, the necessities of life run out, and no hope or supply is evident.
Such occasions are seen in the accounts of Elijah in the time of famine, and Jacob and his sons during grievous famine (1 Kings 17:1-6; Gen 42:1-5). Our fathers Abraham and Isaac also endured in the time of famine (Gen 12:10; 26:1). In these cases, the people of God experienced “need,” a lack of life’s necessities. It is God’s manner to provide for His people in such times.
When the Spirit says “God shall SUPPLY,” He does not speak of meager provision. The text itself confirms this, for the supply comes from “His RICHES.” The word “supply” means to make replete, to cram, level up a hollow, or satisfy, and fill upStrongs. It is pictured in words of our Lord Jesus to those who expended their resources for Him. “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom” (Lk 6:38). This is exactly the sense in which our text is written. The Philippians had “given” to Paul, and now God would give back to them in abundant measure. Paul had given to them, and God had supplied his need through the Philippians. This is the manner of the Kingdom!
Our text confirms this is not something exceptional, intended only for Apostles or certain churches. Sometimes God allows His people to be reduced to a state of “need,” in order that He might lavish an abundance upon them. It is no wonder Jesus said, “And seek not ye what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink, neither be ye of doubtful mind. For all these things do the nations of the world seek after: and your Father knoweth that ye have need of these things” (Lk 12:29-30). Let us frequently remind one another of the goodness of our God–that he WILL supply ALL of our need!
ACCORDING TO HIS RICHES IN GLORY
“ . . . according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus” KJV. From the dawn of human history, Satan has sought to convince men God is withholding from them. To Eve he said, “For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5), as though God was taking something precious from her. To this very day, there are those who imagine coming into Christ begins a life of restriction, where enjoyable things are withheld, and we must live in misery. But this is a gross misrepresentation of the case. In Christ, we come into the realm of “riches,” “abundance,” and exceeding greatness.
“His riches in glory” refer to the Divine repository from which the supplies are dispensed. Romans 9:23 affirms that “the riches of His glory” are reserved for the “vessels of mercy.” Ephesians 3:16 reminds us we are strengthened within by those very “riches.” The idea is that when the Living God fastens His attention upon an individual, it is not possible for that person to suffer need. Just as it is not possible for the sun to rise to its zenith and darkness still prevail, so it is not possible for God to surround us with His Presence and need remain. That is why the Psalmist cried, “Lookupon mine affliction and my pain” (Psa 25:18), and “Look Thou upon me, and be merciful unto me, as Thou usest to do unto those that love Thy name”(Psa 119:132). A penitent Israel cried, “Return, we beseech Thee, O God of hosts: look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine” (Psa 80:14).
While there is a sense in which the eyes of the Lord are always upon His people (Psa 45:15; 1 Pet 3:12), there is also a sense in which He focuses upon them, to do them good. There is a time when, as John, we are brought even higher into the presence of the Lord–a time when the Lord is so dominant nothing else matters. David called it “a day in Thy courts” (Psa 84:10). John referred to it as being “in the Spirit on the Lord’s day” (Rev 1:10). It is out of the glory of such times that God richly supplies our need. As He is seen more clearly, the need experienced in this world is gloriously met. There will be no sense of lack or want during such occasions.
But these riches are not simply conferred upon us. They are “by (or inNASB,NIV) Christ Jesus.” The word “by” means they are administered by Jesus. The word “in” emphasizes that Jesus is the Environment in which they are supplied. The point is that God always deals with His people “by Christ Jesus.” The more extensive our fellowship with Christ (1 Cor 1:9), the more abundant is God’s supply. In my judgment, the persuasion of this is what taught Paul to be content in any condition, be it one of abundance or of need. Once our hearts are persuaded that we are “complete in Him” (Col 2:10), we will look for supplies ONLY from our God.
In teaching us to pray, Jesus expressed our reliance upon the Lord for daily need. “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matt 6:11). And how will He do this? Not infrequently, it will be when there appears there is no bread at all. Yet, in such times, if the heart still seeks first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, the need will be met. Thus Paul has shared with the Philippians the complete adequacy of salvation at all times and under all circumstances.
GLORY TO GOD, SALUTATIONS TO SAINTS
“20Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.21Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. 22All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar's household.23The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” In this benediction, the Apostle joins heaven and earth. How appropriate, since that is God’s revealed objective (Eph 1:10). Paul has written in such a manner as glorified God and edified His people. He brought attention to both the Lord and to His saints. Such versatility is not always apparent in the professed church. Without laboring the point, the Spirit consistently moved believers to focus their attention on the Lord and His brethren, God and the flock of God, Christ and His body.
The perspective of these words is marvelous! “NOW unto God be glory for ever and ever.” It is refreshing to contemplate something that brings glory to God now and throughout eternity. Suffice it to say, things that are said and done with eternity in view, will bring glory to Him even now. Conversely, we should not expect anything that will be forgotten in eternity, to bring glory to the Lord now. Paul began this Epistle referring to “fruits of righteousness which are by Christ Jesus, unto the glory and praise of God” (1:11). God was being glorified by the responses and initiatives of the Philippians, and Paul was not hesitant to affirm it! He knew that God is receiving “glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end” (Eph 3:21), and thus adds his “AMEN,” thereby confirming his hearty agreement with that arrangement. Although not generally known, the primary role of the church is not to influence the world, but to bring glory to God. In meeting that objective, its influence will be blessed by God, and thereby effective for Him.
The imprisoned Apostle does not close by drawing attention to himself. He rather mentions “every saint” and “all the saints.” He is family-oriented–acutely conscious of “the whole family in heaven and earth” (Eph 3:15). He does not say, “Greet the strong saints,” or “Greet the saints who know me well,” but “Salute EVERY saint.” The word “salute” means enfold in the arms, embrace, welcome, and greet. It is more than a verbal salutation, it is personal and spiritually affectionate. The brethren with him greeted them. All the saints in that area greeted them. There were even saints in “Caesar's(Nero’s) household” who sent their greetings. No division, but perfect unity and harmony in the body–from the palace to the dungeon! Such marvelous unity and preferences are only realized in Christ Jesus.
“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” This phrase is mentioned 10 times in Scripture, also being in the very last words of the Bible (Rom 16:20,24; 1 Cor 16:23; 2 Cor 8:9; Gal 6:18; Phil 4:23; 1 Thess 5:28; Phile 25; Rev 22:21). Faith will never take us where grace becomes obscure. The grace of Christ involves His desire to lavish goodness upon His people, caring for, leading, and feeding them as a “Good Shepherd.” All of the saints need this, so the Apostle bequeaths it to them all. He knows Christ’s grace is for all the saints. It is called His because He is the One through Whom it comes–He is the appointed Administrator of grace, and His throne is a “throne of grace” (Heb 4:16). To this we also say, “AMEN!”