Philippians 4:20-23 Grace and Glory


Few of Paul’s books end abruptly, and none of them ends without thought. In this book, as in others, Paul’s thoughts ran back over the work he had written, and his final remarks were added to impress his most important themes upon his readers. These last verses (Phil. 4:20-23) contain a twofold doxology interspersed with a few brief words of greeting. The doxology has the glory of God and the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ as its theme.

What is the glory of God mentioned in these last verses of Philippians? It is not exactly the same thing as the glory mentioned in verse 19, although the words are identical. In verse 19 Paul is talking of glory in the sense that God’s glory expresses God’s character. God’s glory is the outward expression of what God is internally. Hence, Paul is really saying that God shall continue to supply the need of the Christian out of His inexhaustible might, wisdom, love, holiness, truth, and other perfections. However, when Paul prays in verse 20 that glory might be given to God, he is thinking of glory in another sense. Here glory is praise. He is really looking forward to the day when God shall be praised and honored as He should and must be forever. There is a picture in the fourth and fifth chapters of Revelation of how this will happen. When Paul closed his letter to the Philippians he was looking forward to the day when God should be praised in this way and when all honor should be given to the Lord Jesus Christ, before whom every knee should bow. In this desire the first part of this doxology sums up much of the teaching of Philippians.

Paul had been speaking of the glory of God, which is certainly an exalted theological concept, but he no sooner speaks of this than his mind immediately turns to those who would actually give God glory. Of whom did he think? In these two short verses Paul’s thoughts run to four distinct bodies of believers. First, there are the Christians at Philippi. Second, there are the Christian leaders who are in Paul’s immediate company. Third, there is the larger company of believers in Rome. Finally, there is the special body of Christians who were employed in various services related to the imperial court. Paul knew that it was these very human brothers and sisters in Christ, some of whom had been sharply critical of him, who would one day join in the great heavenly chorus to sing God’s praises. He rejoiced that they would give God glory.

The final verse of the letter to the Philippians says, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.” God’s grace! There is nothing more significant that Paul could have used to end his epistle. If we have understood anything at all about this letter, we have understood that the message of Christianity from beginning to end is grace, God’s unmerited favor to human beings. Do we deserve anything from God? Not at all! We deserve nothing. We have run from God, and still, even after we are born again, we run from Him. Yet, when we were far from Him, God came to us dying for our sin, rising for our justification, and now living to enter the life of those who believe in Him and to guide them in holiness. God loves us and will love us forever. That is grace. It lies at the heart of the gospel.

Finally, Paul does not only mention the word grace, he also mentions the Lord Jesus Christ. This is significant, too, for it is only through the Lord Jesus Christ that we know God’s grace and indeed continue to experience it. In fact, it is only through Jesus Christ that we experience any spiritual blessing. Think how many times the name of the Lord Jesus Christ is mentioned in this letter. The letter begins with the name of Jesus; it ends with His name. He is mentioned in every conceivable relationship.

As I reflect on our journey together through this study my heart is warmed, thinking of the preeminence, honor, and great glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is our life; He is the hope, prayer, song, and joy of Christians in all ages – of Paul and his friends at Philippi, of the Roman Christians, and now of our congregations today. May this great theme – the Lord Jesus Christ and His grace – bless your heart today, and may it continually do so until that day when we shall know Him perfectly even as we are known. Amen!

Philippians 4:20-23 Reflection Questions:

Do you think about and pray for the Christians you associate with, even if they are objectionable and may be extremely critical of you?

What is one thing God has shown you through this study?

Isaiah 28:23-29 The Parable of the Farmer


Just as Jesus often used parables to illustrate His teaching, so Isaiah does here. It may be an already existing parable which he presses into service, whether it is his own creation or not it certainly serves his purposes well. It relates to what he has just been saying in at least two main ways.

First, it illustrates God’s various ways of working in history. Sometimes He deals harshly with His people, and sometimes He saves them from their enemies; sometimes He gives them over to their enemies. Why do His ways change so much? The parable gives the answer. A farmer changes his manner of working according to the materials he is working with and the stage he is at. So too the Lord changes His manner of working in history. But His ways are not haphazard; He is working according to a plan. Most of the processes described in the parable suggest pain – plowing, threshing, grinding – but all contribute to the final good of food production. In a similar way the Lord’s severe dealings with His people are directed towards a good end which He constantly has in view, as we have seen (vv. 16 & 22).

The second connection is via the theme of wisdom, to which our attention is pointedly drawn at the end of both sections of the parable (vv. 26 & 29). In acting as he does the farmer is simply putting into practice a wisdom that he has received from God. That is why his work is so productive: he is open to God’s wisdom and willing to be guided by it, unlike the proud, foolish leaders of Jerusalem. Like many of Jesus’ parables, this apparently gentle and reassuring picture of rural life has a sting in its tail.

The issue of the folly (false wisdom) of the nation’s leaders is taken up and developed further in the next chapter; so the parable points forward as well as backwards. Again and again Isaiah has reminded his hearers that in the short term the fate of Jerusalem hangs on the way its leaders respond to the warnings he has sounded, but that its final destiny is secure because of the Lord’s unswerving commitment to make it the center of a renewed earth.

Isaiah 28:23-29 Reflection Questions:

What New Testament parable has spoken to you?

Which agricultural term fits with what you have been or going through now?

What encouraging word do you get from this study?

Philippians 4:19 The God Who Provides


Are you depressed or discouraged? Has life gotten you down? If so, somewhere in the Bible there is a promise of God to cover it. I am convinced there is no need, no anxiety, no worry, and no dismay for which God has not made dozens of encouraging and uplifting promises.

Think of the breadth and scope of God’s promises. There is John 3:16, a promise of everlasting salvation, Romans 8:28, John 10:9, John 10:27-28. Some promises concern prayer: Philippians 4:6-7, 1John 5:14-15. Then we come to what is perhaps the greatest promise in the entire Bible. It is great because it includes all other promises. It is Philippians 4:19. Do you stand in need of salvation? God will supply salvation. Do you need strength for life’s trials? God will supply strength. If you are lonely, God can meet you and comfort you in your loneliness. If you are discouraged, He can lift you up. No need is left out, for the verse says that “God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”

A verse like this needs to be savored in each of its phrases, and the place to begin is with the two most important words in the sentence, the subject. The words are “my God.” Who is the one who Paul knew was able to supply the needs of the Philippian Christians? It was not any God, for he did not say “a god” or merely “the god in whom you may happen to believe.” Paul was not referring to the gods of the Greeks, Egyptians, Assyrians, or Romans. When Paul said, “my God,” he was being specific and personal. Paul’s God was Jehovah, the God of Israel was had revealed himself to human beings personally in Jesus Christ. This is a great God. He is a gracious and effective God. In fact, to the biblical writers all other gods were “no gods” (idols); they were nothing. The God of whom Paul speaks is a God who will support His people and who will not let down the one who believes in Him. Is He your God? If He is not your God, if you have never come to Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the promises of God’s care in the Bible are not for you. On the other hand, if you do believe in Him and wish to obey Him, you will find Him strong in you need. You will find Him entirely and consistently faithful.

The emphasis of the first part of the verse is on God, but the second part speaks of human needs. We must think of this also. What are our needs? First, there is our need for forgiveness. God provides that abundantly, for He offers forgiveness of sins that are past, present, and future. Forgiveness is made possible for us through the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, and we receive it personally by acknowledging our sin before God ad accepting Christ’s sacrifice. Forgiveness is not our only need, however. Our second greatest need is for fellowship with God. Without God we are spiritually hungry, empty, and miserable. God longs to be known by us, to fill the spiritual vacuum of our hearts, to commune with us personally, and to meet us in our deep longings. Moreover, He is able to do so abundantly “according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus. We also need God’s defense against enemies, and God is able to supply that too. There is one other need that must be added, for it is sometimes true that in God’s sight we have a need for that which in not so pleasant. We need to be disciplined, taught, or tested. If that is the case, then it is also true that Philippians 4:19 is a promise of God to supply the unpleasant discipline and testing.

The final phrase of our text speaks of the measure of the supply of God for our need. The measure is this: “according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” God has promised to fill the need of the believer in Jesus Christ out of His infinite wealth and resources. He will expand us as time goes on, and we shall come to hold more. We shall become more and more like Jesus Christ. But even at the greatest extent of our enlarged capacity we shall only touch His resources slightly. There will always be infinite resources beyond the ones we experience. In this life, as in the next, God shall supply all our needs, according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus, and still there will be inexhaustible resources beyond.

Philippians 4:19 Reflection Questions:

What are some of your “go to” Scripture verses when in a time of need?

Do you think that you can exhaust the riches of God by your needs, however great they may be?

What is your current need? Pray and ask God to supply for it now!

Isaiah 28:14-22 The Covenant with Death


Like a skilled orator, Isaiah has approached his target group indirectly, but now he unleashes on them the full force of his inspired rhetoric. The word “scoffers,” in verse 14, is a strong indictment, since scoffing in the Old Testament thought, is the very last degree of ungodliness. The rulers in Jerusalem are, if anything, worse than those in Samaria had been. The words attributed to them in verse 15 are highly ironic. They themselves would hardly have described their alliance with Egypt in these terms, but Isaiah puts into their mouths words which show the real import of what they have done. They have inn reality entered into a covenant with death and made an agreement with the grave (Sheol). If they think God’s judgment will pass them by as it did their ancestors, they are mistaken. The promise of effective support which the alliance offered was a false hope, and the faithless diplomacy by which it was constructed was therefore a “refuge of lies” (v. 17). Like the fool’s house in Matthew 7:26-27, it would be swept away; or to put it another way, having made their bed they will have to lie on it, but they will find that it is too short; it will not give them any comfort or protection.

These were not idle threats, as Jerusalem’s leaders were soon to learn to their great loss. But neither did they represent the Lord’s normal attitude to His people or His way of relating to them. Much more typical were His actions at Mount Perazim and Gibeon referred to in verse 21. At Perazim He gave victory to David by breaking through his enemies like a bursting flood, and at Gibeon He defeated Israel’s enemies by raining down hailstones upon them from heaven. That is how He would prefer to act now, and that is why He appeals to His people in verse 22 to stop their scoffing. But since they will not listen, He must turn His judgment, pictured as flood and hail in verse 17, against His own people and use their enemies as His instrument to punish them. It is the very reverse of the way things used to be, and not at all the way the Lord desires them to be. Like a loving father who must take a stick to his rebellious son, he does what he must do with a heavy heart (v. 21b). A parent who acts in this way does so with an eye to the future – to the good that will come if what is hard but necessary is done now.

The same basic thought underlies the image of the precious cornerstone, the sure foundation (v. 16) which stands centrally within the unit and is in many ways the key to the whole. The Lord demolishes what is false only that the true may rise in its place. He acts in the interests of the long term. His ultimate aim is not the destruction of Zion but its renewal. Demolition is a necessary, if distasteful, prelude to rebuilding. And the Lord is already laying the foundation for that new Zion of the future. The stone bears an inscription which gives the hallmark of this community: the one who trusts will never be dismayed. It represents collectively those who, very much against the current trend, placed their whole confidence in the Lord and waited quietly and confidently for Him to act. It was from among this faithful remnant that the Messiah finally came, which is why the New Testament writers see this verse fulfilled ultimately in Christ Jesus.

Isaiah 28:14-22 Reflection Questions:

Have you ever been disciplined by the Lord? What lesson did you learn?

What are you building your house on, Rock or sand?

Are you relying on world or placing your whole confidence in the Lord?

Philippians 4:10-18 The Church That Remembered


Throughout the history of Christianity individual churches have been remembered for different things, some good and some bad. In Philippi we have a picture of a church that is remembered because it remembered. It remembered the apostle Paul in his moments of great financial necessity. We remember it for its example of true Christian compassion and stewardship.

When Paul first came to the city of Philippi in Macedonia there were no Christians, for he was the first missionary. It was only as Paul began to preach and teach the Old Testament that a small group of believers gathered around him. These Christians were attached to Paul, because through him God had called them to faith in Jesus Christ and through him God brought great blessing. These Christians loved Paul and wished to help him, and they continued their interest in him even after he had moved on to other cities. For a short time after he had left Philippi, Paul worked in Thessalonica. Since this was near Philippi the Philippians sent a messenger to find out how Paul was doing. Word came back that Paul was in financial need. They took a collection and sent it to him. Later when they had heard that the need continued they did the same thing again (Phil 4:16). In Paul’s mind the gift from the Philippians was a shrub that had flowered, as it were, in spring after a long winter. It was a sacrifice to God for which Paul was thankful.

Paul’s pleasure at the gift that the Philippian Christians had sent was not merely for his own sake, however. He was pleased for their sake also. For he knew, as we should all know, that a gift actually benefits the giver more than it benefits the one who receives it. This is true on the human level, but it is even more true spiritually, for Paul writes that in God’s sight the gift would appear as fruit credited to their personal account (v. 17). We often think of the fruit of Christianity only in terms of character, primarily as the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23. But other things are said to be fruit of the Christian life also. Converts are the fruit of our labors for the Lord Jesus Christ. Money given to help another Christian is called fruit. According to this text we may say that our gifts to others are encouraged by God, noticed by God, and much desired by Him.

Perhaps someone is going to ask at this point, “Well, what about tithing? Doesn’t the Bible say that we are only required to give a tenth of all earned income”? The answer to that question is that the Bible does speak about tithing, but that was for Jews under the Old Testament laws. “Well then,” you say, “doesn’t that mean that we are released entirely from the requirement to give”? Yes, is a sense we are, for we are not under law; we are under grace. But if you understand what it means to be under grace the standard does not go down – it goes up! For instance, the Sermon on the Mount is not law as the Ten Commandments are law; it is an ethic to be lived out by God’s grace in the lives of regenerate people. But because it is by grace, the standard goes up. We are not under law as regard to percentages, but we do have a high level of responsibility for the support of other Christians and Christian work. We are responsible for determining God’s will where our own individual stewardship is concerned.

Finally, let me call your attention to another phrase in this section that also deserves to be noticed. It should encourage us in a special form of stewardship. It occurs in verse 15; the last three words say “…except you only.”  You only! Not only were the Philippians distinguished by the fact that they had remembered Paul in his need – that was significant – they had also been the only ones to remember him.

Do you want real joy in this world, real fruit in your Christian ministry? If so, let me suggest this; seek for ways in which you can help someone, particularly in those areas in which only you know the problem. God will show you how. The other person will think that no one understands their need or no one is aware of their problem. Then your gift or your word of encouragement will come. Then they will be overjoyed; and if they are a Christian, they will see it as another way which God uses people as channels of His faithful provision and blessing.

I cannot tell you who the person is whom you could help. I cannot tell you what the circumstances will be of even what you can do. That will vary. You will have to find it out for yourself. It might be a person in your own family with a unique need, perhaps one of your children who desperately need someone to do something special for him or her, or your wife or husband who needs understanding. It might be someone at work who thinks that no one cares about him. It might be someone at church. It might be a stranger. It might be a financial need. It might be a word of encouragement. Whatever it is, God will help you to find it if you ask Him. And He will give you great joy in being the one, like the Philippians, who did not forget, but remembered.

Philippians 4:10-18 Reflection Questions:

Are you always asking and looking for ways God can use you to bless someone else?

Are you a good steward of your money?

What does the word stewardship mean to you?

Who is God putting on your heart now to bless?