Supporting the Gospel

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Philippians 4:14-23

INTRODUCTION: Today is our last message in the book of Philippians, and we continue the theme we began last week of supporting the gospel. As partners in the gospel, we are called not only to share our faith with others, but to support the work of the gospel with our finances as well. Last week Paul introduced this theme, but then he jumped tracks and took a moment to talk about Christian contentment. Now he picks up on the theme again as we look at supporting the gospel with our finances. (Read Philippians 4:14-23)

As Christians we are called to support the work of the gospel with our finances. We take that call seriously here at our church. Each week here at PCC 26% of the offering goes to support missions right here in Broward Country, across the United States and indeed around the world. On top of that, a good number of our people designate additional gifts to specific missions, so the actual percentage is even higher.

We are a church that preaches the gospel. We seek to live out the gospel as a fellowship of believers. Every mission we support as a church has a gospel witness. So you can rest assured when you give to our church, you are indeed supporting the gospel.

Why is it so important to support the gospel financially? This morning I would like to look at six things from our passage that happen when you support the gospel with your finances. And I pray they will be an encouragement to you as you grow in the grace of giving to the Lord.

WHEN YOU SUPPORT THE GOSPEL WITH YOUR FINANCES:

   1) You further the spread of the gospel (14-15)

First of all, when you support the gospel with your finances, you further the spread of the gospel. Look at verses 14-15. Paul writes: “Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles. 15 Moreover, as you Philippians know, in the early days of your acquaintance with the gospel, when I set out from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, except you only.” (Philippians 4:14-15)

Paul recalls how the Philippian church supported him financially in the early days of their acquaintance with the gospel. They were just getting started as a church themselves, and yet they made it a priority to support the work of the gospel through Paul. They were partners in the gospel with him from the very beginning. This teaches us that we should begin financial support of the gospel right away. It is not something you grow into, but it is part of your basic Christian commitment. God calls you to give generously of your finances to the work of the gospel.

Paul called this fellowship of giving “sharing in his troubles.” Paul experienced the trouble of persecution and trials while spreading the gospel, and the Philippians experienced the trouble of financial sacrifice at home while supporting the spread of the gospel abroad.

The Philippians were not a wealthy church. We read the following about them in 2 Corinth. 8:

“And now, brothers, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. 2 Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. 3 For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability. Entirely on their own, 4 they urgently pleaded with us for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints.” (2 Corinthians 8:1-4)

The Philippians shared with Paul and others out of their extreme poverty. They pleaded for the privilege of sharing in this service to the saints. And Paul says this is a good thing. He says, “It was good of you to share in my troubles.” You could also translate his words as “You did well,” or even “Good job!”

Paul encourages the Philippians for their financial sacrifice, and we learn from these verses that when Paul first left Macedonia to spread the gospel to other regions, they were in fact the only church who shared with him in this matter of giving and receiving.

We also are privileged to share in this whole matter of giving and receiving with our missionaries. When we commit to their financial support, we enter into a relationship with our missionaries where we support them in the work of the gospel with our finances and with our prayers. It is a sacred fellowship. We are partners in the gospel together.

There are approximately 7,000 unreached people groups in the world today. These are groups with no discernible gospel witness. There are over 7 billion people alive in the world today. Nearly 3 billion of them live in unreached people groups with little or no access to the gospel of Jesus Christ. We have been called to go into all the world with the gospel. It takes vision; it takes strategy; it takes planning to spread the gospel to all the world. And yes, it takes money, and it takes sacrifice.

We will never fulfill the Great Commission without shared sacrifice for the furtherance of the gospel. That’s your first encouragement to give to the Lord’s work this morning. When you support the gospel with your finances, you further the spread of the gospel.

   2) You supply the needs of Christian workers (16)

Secondly, when you support the gospel with your finances, you supply the needs of Christian workers. Look at verse 16: “… for even when I was in Thessalonica, you sent me aid again and again when I was in need.” (Philippians 4:16)

What is remarkable about this is that Paul began his ministry in Thessalonica almost immediately after he left Philippi. Thessalonica was a neighboring region. Paul had not even left Macedonia yet, and the Philippians were already sending support, helping him in his time of need.

The people we support in missions are real people. Just like you they have real needs. They are not superhuman. They require food, clothing, medical attention, rest, relaxation, and support for their families. Trust me, none of them are getting rich off their work as missionaries. As partners in the gospel we have the privilege of meeting their needs and making sure they are well provided for.

As a church we are a little concerned for our missionaries right now because our weekly giving is down. And because we give our missionaries a percentage of each week’s offering, that means support for our missionaries is also down. Let me encourage you to be faithful in your giving, not only to support the work of the gospel here at PCC, but also to supply the needs of the missionaries we support. That’s our second encouragement this morning: when you support the gospel with your finances, you supply the needs of Christian workers.

   3) You store up treasure in heaven (17)

Thirdly, when you support the gospel with your finances, you store up treasure in heaven. Look at verse 17. Paul writes: “Not that I am looking for a gift, but I am looking for what may be credited to your account.” (Philippians 4:17)

Once again Paul clarifies his motives. He is grateful for their financial support, but he is not bringing it up because he is looking for money. He is not looking for what can be credited to his account but rather to their account. Paul is more interested in their spiritual benefit from giving than his material benefit from receiving.

Financial support of the gospel has a strange accounting procedure. What you give for the gospel gets credited back to your account. Your debits become credits!

When Paul speaks about “what may be credited to your account,” the original language actually says “your fruit that is increasing.” This is a phrase that referred to compound interest in New Testament times. When you give to the gospel, you are not spending; you are investing in the kingdom of God. You are storing up treasure in heaven that will never be taken away. In fact that treasure is earning compound interest!

How is your heavenly account looking these days? What does your heavenly ledger look like compared to your earthly ledger? Everything in your earthly ledger you will eventually lose, but what you give to God remains forever. That’s our third encouragement for giving this morning. When you support the gospel with your finances, you store up treasure in heaven.

   4) Your gift is an act of worship that is pleasing to God (18)

When you support the gospel with your finances: 1) you further the spread of the gospel, 2) you supply the needs of Christian workers, 3) you store up treasure in heaven, and 4) your gift is an act of worship that is pleasing to God. Look at verse 18. Paul writes: “I have received full payment and even more; I am amply supplied, now that I have received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent. They are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.” (Philippians 4:18)

First Paul tells the Philippians he has received full payment and does not need additional support. The beginning of verse 18 is basically Paul’s receipt to the Philippians for their gifts. He is letting them know that their gifts arrived safely, and he has received them. He is amply supplied; he has more than enough; in fact he considers himself wealthy after receiving their gift.

But now Paul moves from accounting imagery to that of sacrifice. There is a spiritual dimension to giving that he does not want the Philippians to miss. The gifts from Philippi have not only supplied his need, but they are also a pleasing sacrifice of worship to God – they are a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.

Paul is picking up on Old Testament language here where the sacrifice on the altar was described as a sweet smelling sacrifice that went up before the Lord. Now God is spirit. He doesn’t have a body, so he didn’t actually smell the sacrifices. God is not pleased with smells but with hearts. It was a picture of God being pleased with the heart of the worshiper who brought their sacrifices to him. We find the same language in the New Testament in Ephesians 5:2 where we read that “Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:2)

When you support the gospel, you ultimately are giving to God. Yes you are furthering the spread of the gospel, yes you are supplying the needs of Christian workers, but worship is your primary reason for giving. This must come first. In the long run Christian giving is not measured primarily by financial value, but by the giver’s heart towards God. This is our fourth encouragement in Christian giving this morning: When you support the gospel with your finances, your gift is an act of worship that is pleasing to God.

   5) God promises to meet all your needs (19)

The fifth encouragement is this: When you support the gospel with your finances, God promises to meet all your needs. Look at verse 19: “And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

With all this talk of giving sacrificially for the gospel, someone might ask: What will happen to my own needs if I support the work of the gospel financially? We have here a wonderful promise from God, a wonderful word of assurance, that God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ.

Paul knows that he can’t repay the Philippians for their generous gift to him, but God can. Notice he describes God as “my God.” Paul has a personal relationship with God through Christ. And he is basically telling the Philippians, “My God who supplied my needs will also supply your needs.”

In the same way, we can be generous in our giving to the gospel, because God will more than supply our needs. God’s supply is infinite. He will meet your needs out of his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

God will not merely meet some of your needs. He will meet all of your needs. God has whatever you need for any situation. Is your need financial? God owns the cattle on a thousand hills! Do you have emotional needs? The Holy Spirit is the great Comforter, and God will fill you with the fruit of his Spirit. Do you need guidance or direction? God gives you wisdom through his word. Do you need protection? God watches over his children. Do you need salvation? God gives the free gift of salvation to everyone who comes to him through Jesus Christ.

This is a wonderful encouragement towards Christian giving. When you support the gospel with your finances, God promises to meet all your needs.

   6) To God be the glory! (20)

When you support the gospel with your finances: 1) you further the spread of the gospel, 2) you supply the needs of Christian workers, 3) you store up treasure in heaven, and 4) your gift is an act of worship that is pleasing to God, 5) God promises to meet all your needs, and finally 6) To God be the glory! Look at verse 20: “To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” (Philippians 4:20)

Paul ends this section with glory and praise to God. There are three parts to this doxology: the who, the what, and the how long. The “who” is our God and Father who meets all our needs so richly in Christ. The “what” is glory – all glory goes to God. The “how long” is forever. “To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen.”

This is a fitting close not only to this section but to the whole letter. The bottom line is this. When you support the gospel, the work of the gospel goes forth, people are saved, and God is glorified.

People need to hear the gospel. People cannot be saved apart from the knowledge of what God has done for them through Jesus Christ. Previous generations have sacrificed so much for the gospel to go forth. It is our turn now. We need to make the financial support of the gospel the highest priority in our church and in our personal lives.

There is no greater investment with no greater return than supporting the gospel with your finances. To God be the glory!

FINAL GREETINGS:

And then we come to the final greetings in verses 21-23. Paul probably penned this part himself as he often did with the personal greetings at the end of his letters. As we close this morning, let me highlight just one thing from each verse in this section.

   1) Each person in the body of Christ is important (21)

First of all, each person in the body of Christ is important. Paul writes in verse 21: “Greet all the saints in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me send greetings.” (Philippians 4:21) “All the saints in Christ Jesus” is literally “every saint in Christ Jesus.” Paul instructs the leaders of the church to greet each and every one, individually and personally. Each one is an important partner in his ministry. Each one has an important part to play. You are an important partner in this ministry. You have an important part to play. Each person in the body of Christ is important.

   2) We are all partners in the gospel together (22)

Secondly, a reminder that we are all partners in the gospel together. Verse 22: “All the saints send you greetings, especially those who belong to Caesar’s household.” (Philippians 4:22)

Did you notice how Paul especially singles out those who belong to Caesar’s household? Remember, even while Paul was in prison, he was still sharing the gospel and the gospel continued to advance. This is a reminder to the Philippians of how even within Caesar’s household people have come to Christ. Caesar put Paul in prison to keep him from spreading the gospel. Joke’s on Caesar! The Philippians have been supporting Paul in the gospel, and the gospel has now even penetrated the household of Caesar. It is a wonderful reminder that we are all partners in the gospel together.

   3) We owe all to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (23)

And then finally, we owe all to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. Verse 23: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. Amen.” (Philippians 4:23)

Paul began this letter with grace, and he ends the letter with grace. Everything we have learned and studied over the course of this series is bookended by grace. We are partners in the gospel, and grace is the hallmark of the gospel.

We have taken a careful look at this book together over the course of 15 messages, and I trust you have found this book as encouraging and challenging as I have. I have to admit, I entered this study thinking of Philippians as one of the “easy” books of the Bible, you know, all about joy and friendship. And that’s all in there, but I believe what we have also seen is a magnificent vision of the Christian life and a powerful call to make Christ the center of your life. And through it all we have seen this continuing theme of partnership in the gospel. As partners in the gospel, we are called to Christian growth, we are called to live a life worthy of the gospel, we are called to enjoy true Christian fellowship, we are called to demonstrate Christ-like character and humble obedience, we are called to keep our eyes on the prize as citizens of heaven, and we are called to advance the gospel together through prayer, witness and financial support. Finally, Paul ends this letter with a word of grace, because that is what the gospel is all about: the grace of our Lord Jesus who gave himself for you and for me.

© Ray Fowler

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