Philippians 4:10-23 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What has caused Paul to “greatly rejoice in the Lord?” See Philippians 4:10,18 (printed below)

I greatly rejoice in the Lord that now at last you have revived your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you lacked opportunity…(18) I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the things you sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. (Philippians 4:10,18)

In verse 10 the apostle acknowledges that he has received the recent gift sent by the Philippian church and that it has caused him to “greatly rejoice in the Lord.” He rejoices that now, after a considerable length of time, they have “revived their concern” for him; literally, the Philippians’ thoughtfulness and concern for the apostle have once again “flourished” after a period of dormancy. Paul is quick to point out that he realizes that this period of dormancy was not due to a lapse of concern, but rather a lack of opportunity.

2. Does Paul rejoice because his personal needs have been met, or is there another reason for his rejoicing? See Philippians 4:10-11,17 (printed below)

I greatly rejoice in the Lord that now at last you have revived your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you lacked opportunity. (11) I do not say this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I find myself…(17) It is not that I am interested in the gift; rather, I am interested in the fruit that will accrue in your account. (Philippians 4:10-11,17)

Notice that the apostle’s joy upon receiving this financial gift is not personally-oriented, but Philippian-oriented. His happiness is not due to the fact that this gift is finally enabling him to meet his needs or improve his personal standard of living. On the contrary, he rejoices because of what this generous act says about the Philippians and what spiritual benefits they will accrue (verse 17). The apostle Paul is interested in the fact that the Philippians’ Christian faith is bearing fruit, and their recent gift is a tangible expression of their faith in accordance with such admonitions as that found in 1 John 3:17-18.

3. Paul testifies that he has “learned to be content.” How has he learned? See Philippians 4:12 (printed below)

I have experienced poverty and I have experienced abundance; by every circumstance and in every circumstance—whether well fed or hungry, whether experiencing abundance or poverty—I have learned the secret of how to be content. (Philippians 4:12)

Paul has learned through experience: “I have experienced poverty and I have experienced abundance.” Paul personally experienced situations in which he was in dire need. While he and Silas were in Philippi they experienced the dire situation of being cast into jail (Acts 16:23-24). Paul had also experienced situations in which he enjoyed great material bounty (Acts 16:14-15). Again, while they were in Philippi Paul and Silas became the guests of Lydia, who as a seller of purple dye, was a wealthy business woman who enjoyed a high standard of living that she willingly shared with the two servants of Christ. Paul had been exposed to the extremes of life and through that exposure he had learned the secret of how to handle them.

4. Paul speaks of having learned “the secret” of how to be content. What is the secret he reveals in verse 13 (printed below?)

I am able to do all things by him who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)

“To learn the secret” is a Greek phrase that contained the meaning “to be initiated (as into a secret organization or religious cult.”) The apostle Paul views his various experiences with wealth and poverty as a sort of initiation: a time of testing and teaching. In verse 13 Paul reveals the secret he has learned: “I am able to do all things by him who gives me strength.” Paul declares that he is “able to do all things” (he is able to handle all situations;) he is not victimized, conquered or defeated by any situation of life that he may encounter. On the contrary, in all circumstances he is more than a conqueror. The source of his ability does not reside within himself, but in Christ (cp. 2 Timothy 2:1).

5. What assurance does the apostle give the Philippians in verse 19 (printed below?)

My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

The apostle confidently asserts—based on personal experience—that “my God will meet all your needs.” Note that the promise pertains to the meeting of our needs, not necessarily our desires. God our Father is able and willing to meet our every need “according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.” The Lord has at His disposal a bountiful, superabundant storehouse of riches (Psalm 24:1a; Psalm 50:10), and from that superabundant storehouse our heavenly Father dispenses the amount sufficient to meet our need, and many times well beyond our need. Our heavenly Father will meet our every need in a glorious way; in a way that is in harmony with His own glorious nature as the God who is all-wise, all-merciful, all-giving, and all good. This relationship with God—knowing Him as our heavenly Father—and the blessing that ensues from this relationship, are only experienced “in Christ Jesus.” In other words, it is only when we by faith enter into a saving relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ that we become the children of God in Christ Jesus and share in the blessings that God bestows upon His children in Christ.