Sweet Smelling Sacrifices and Security of the Saints (Phil 4:18-23)

April 25, 2016 — Leave a comment

In today’s post from Phil 4:18-23, Paul talks about sweet smelling sacrifices and how believers have security in their salvation. This will be one of my final (of many) posts based on the text of Philippians. 

Sweet Smelling Sacrifices and Security of the Saints Phil 4:18 -23Photo Credit: Treasures of the Bible

I. INTRODUCTION TO PHIL 4:18-23

A. Summary of the Book of Philippians

Message – Believers ought to live righteously based on the example of Christ, by staying in harmony with each other, enduring suffering, and focusing on the righteousness we all have.

Themes – The Work and Result of Christ, Sanctification, Paul’s Imprisonment, Suffering Because of Ministry

Outline – Greetings, Life Purpose, and the Goal for Believers (1); The Christian Life You Should Have (2); Paul and the Future Goal for Christians (3); Putting the Christian Life Together (4).

Past Lessons

B. Philippians 4:18-23

18And I am paid in full and have plenty. I am well supplied since I have received the things from you. Things which are a fragrant aroma and acceptable sacrifice which are well pleasing to God. 19And my God will fulfill all of your needs according to his glory in Christ Jesus. 20Now to our God and Father be the glory for evermore. 21Greet every holy saint in Christ Jesus. Everyone else with me greets you. 22All of the saints are greeting you, but most of all the believers from Caesar’s house. 23May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

C. Introduction and Joke

A devout Quaker man was leaning on his fence watching a new neighbor move in next door. After lots of modern appliances, electronic gadgets, plush furniture, and costly wall hangings had been carried in, the Quaker called over, “If you find you’re lacking anything, neighbor, let me know and I’ll show you how to live without it.”

II. PAUL’S NEEDS (4:18-19)

18And I am paid in full and have plenty. I am well supplied since I have received the things from you. Things which are a fragrant aroma and acceptable sacrifice which are well pleasing to God. 19And my God will fulfill all of your needs according to his glory in Christ Jesus.

A. Sweet Smelling Gifts (v. 18)

18And I am paid in full and have plenty. I am well supplied since I have received the things from you. Things which are a fragrant aroma and acceptable sacrifice which are well pleasing to God.

It is important to note that these gifts were not “given to God.” Instead, the financial gifts provided to the Philippians are similar to sacrifices that are provided to God which are pleasing to him (O’Brien, Philippians, 542).

It is interesting that Paul uses this language here because the Old Testament law and requirements had been replaced by the work and person of Jesus Christ. The following Old Testament and New Testament  passages give some background and meaning to what Paul might have meant by “sweet smelling” sacrifice.

Old Testament

  • “But the internal organs and the legs must first be washed with water. Then the priest will burn the entire sacrifice on the altar as a burnt offering. It is a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” (Lev 1:9, NLT)
  • “But the internal organs and the legs must first be washed with water. Then the priest will burn the entire sacrifice on the altar as a burnt offering. It is a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” (Lev 1:13, NLT)
  • “Then, grasping the bird by its wings, the priest will tear the bird open, but without tearing it apart. Then he will burn it as a burnt offering on the wood burning on the altar. It is a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” (Lev 1:17, NLT)
  • “and bring it to Aaron’s sons, the priests. The priest will scoop out a handful of the flour moistened with oil, together with all the frankincense, and burn this representative portion on the altar. It is a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” (Lev 2:2, NLT)
  • “The priest will take a representative portion of the grain offering and burn it on the altar. It is a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” (Lev 2:9, NLT)
  • “and Aaron’s sons will burn them on top of the burnt offering on the wood burning on the altar. It is a special gift, a pleasing aroma to the LORD.” (Lev 3:5, NLT)
  • “and the priest will burn them on the altar. It is a special gift of food, a pleasing aroma to the LORD. All the fat belongs to the LORD.” (Lev 3:16, NLT)
  • “For on my holy mountain, the great mountain of Israel, says the Sovereign LORD, the people of Israel will someday worship me, and I will accept them. There I will require that you bring me all your offerings and choice gifts and sacrifices.” (Ezek 20:40, NLT)

New Testament

  • “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:1–2, NLT)
  • “Therefore, let us offer through Jesus a continual sacrifice of praise to God, proclaiming our allegiance to his name. And don’t forget to do good and to share with those in need. These are the sacrifices that please God.” (Hebrews 13:15–16, NLT)
  • “And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.” (1 Peter 2:5, NLT)

These verses are reminders that Christ has fulfilled the Old Testament requirements for sacrifices. Now we provided a different type of sacrifice as a pleasing aroma to God.

B. God Will Provide for Needs (v. 19)

19And my God will fulfill all of your needs according to his glory in Christ Jesus.

1. ὁ δὲ θεός μου πληρώσει πᾶσαν χρείαν ὑμῶν – And my God will fulfill all of your needs

a) Textual Variant for πληρώσει

πληρώσει is what the Nestle-Aland 28 text sees as original. This is the future indicative form, “God will fulfill.” It is supported by 𝔓46 א A B D2 K L P 630 𝕸 co. If this reading is original this is likely a “promise” based on the future indicative variant outlined here and included in the Nestle-Aland 28 text. For a lengthy discussion on this issue see O’Brien, Philippians, 545-546; Comfort, Philippians, 219; Metzger, A Textual Commentary, 550..

πληρωσαι is a variant that has a larger amount of manuscript support, however that support is from later dated manuscripts. This is in the optative mood form, “God might/could fulfill.” This reading is supported by D* F G Ψ 075. 6. 33. 81. 104. 326. 365. 1175. 1241. 1505. 1739. 1881 latt. If this reading is original then this statement from Paul is likely a “wish” or “petition” based on the optative mood in the less attested textual variant. People such as Chrysostom, Luther, and G. Hawthorne (207-209) have taken this view.

b) What Is the “Need”

Regarding what the “need” might include is most likely comprehensive to mean “Physical needs” and “spiritual concerns” (O’Brien, Philippians, 547). On the other hand, some might see this “need” as being only the spiritual needs of the Philippians (Comfort, Philippians, 219).

c) God Providing for a College Student

I remember one of the jobs I had while in college was working as an independent contractor for a local mortgage company. I had done all my training and certifications and was starting out in my new career doing what I thought I should do to provide for myself. While I was starting out my new job I needed a couple hundred dollars to get me started in my business for marketing. I did not have the money and was not sure how I was going to get it. The idea that I wanted to start out in my new career but did not have the finances to do it was devastating to me. I was discouraged. Yet, very shortly after I realized I needed a couple hundred dollars I received a phone call from my former college golf coach’s wife. She said that she and my coach would be traveling for the next week and needed someone to come by every day and feed their cats. If I would be willing to do the job they would pay me $200 for the week! It was an answered prayer. I was immediately able to spend the money not on myself or my own personal luxury, but was able to invest that money into my business in order to get started.

Our prayers do not always get answered but I do believe that God fulfills our needs. That is just one of many stories I could share about God fulfilling the needs I had.

d) God’s Provision for Spurgeon’s Orphanage

“This precious text is one which, years ago, when we built the Orphanage, I caused to be cut on one of the pillars of the entrance. You will notice it inside the first columns on either side whenever you go there. ‘My God will fulfill your every need according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus’ (Phil 4:19). This I took for the foundation of the institution, and set my seal to it as true. And it has been so. Time would fail me if I were to tell how often God has interposed there for His numerous family—those children that are cast upon the divine Fatherhood. He has honored His own promise and our faith, and I believe He always will. There on the forefront of the Orphanage stands also the word, ‘The Lord will provide.’ You shall see whether it be not so. As long as that place stands my God shall supply our need, and it shall be a standing encouragement to us all. Think of the far more extensive orphanage of our brother George Müller, of Bristol, with those two thousand five hundred children living simply through prayer and faith, and yet as abundantly supplied as the Queen in her palace. Nothing is wanting where God is the Provider. The Lord will supply without fail; let us trust without fear. Go and plead this promise with the Lord your God, and He will fulfill it to you as well as to the rest of His saints” (Spurgeon, Spurgeon Commentary: Philippians, 163–164).

2. κατὰ τὸ πλοῦτος αὐτοῦ ἐν δόξῃ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. – according to his glory in Christ Jesus.

C. All Glory to the Father (v. 20)

20Now to our God and Father be the glory for evermore.

This type of ending is very typical to Paul’s method of ending his letters. The basic structure follows three parts:

  1. The person who is praised is usually mentioned in the dative case.
  2. A word of praise is shared which normally is δοξα.
  3. A temporal description usually ends the doxology referring to eternity (O’Brien, Philippians, 549).

III. A FINAL GREETING (4:21-23)

21Greet every holy saint in Christ Jesus. Everyone else with me greets you. 22All of the saints are greeting you, but most of all the believers from Caesar’s house. 23May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

A. Paul’s Greetings to God’s Holy People (v. 21)

21Greet every holy saint in Christ Jesus. Everyone else with me greets you.

1. Ἀσπάσασθε πάντα ἅγιον ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ. – Greet every holy saint in Christ Jesus.

a) Second Person Plural Address

Paul uses Ἀσπάσασθε in the second personal plural form. This means Paul was not addressing the entire church with this letter. But, he likely is addressing a few church leaders and helpers (Phil 1:1) who would be reading this letter to others.

b) Every Holy Saint

I love this idea that we are “holy saints.” O’Brien comments, “Each one of them is ‘a holy one’ (ἅγιος) who is stamped with the seal of being in Christ Jesus” (O’Brien, Philippians, 553). Numerous times in the New Testament believers are referred to as “holy ones” or “holy believers” by using this adjective, ἁγιος, as a noun. This adjective is used as a noun in the New Testament to describe believers in Act 9:13, 32; Rom 1:7; 8:27; 12:13; 15:25; 1 Cor 1:2; 6:1; 2 Cor 1:1; Eph 2:19; 3:8; Phil 4:22; Col 1:4, 26; 1 Tim 5:10; Heb 6:10; Rev 22:21 (BDAG, 11).

This fact that we are “holy saints” in Christ Jesus is based on us being citizens of heaven as has already been described in Philippians 1:27 and 3:20. This is a standing that we have that is securely held by believers as seen in the following passages:

  • “But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God.” (*John 1:12, NLT)
  • “For God knew his people in advance, and he chose them to become like his Son, so that his Son would be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And having chosen them, he called them to come to him. And having called them, he gave them right standing with himself. And having given them right standing, he gave them his glory. What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else? Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us. Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.”) No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (*Rom 8:29–39, NLT)
  • “For God’s gifts and his call can never be withdrawn.” (*Rom 11:29, NLT)
  • “And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption.” (*Eph 4:30, NLT)
  • “And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (*Phil 1:6, NLT)
  • “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.” (*1 Peter 1:3–5, NLT)
  • “Dear children, the last hour is here. You have heard that the Antichrist is coming, and already many such antichrists have appeared. From this we know that the last hour has come. These people left our churches, but they never really belonged with us; otherwise they would have stayed with us. When they left, it proved that they did not belong with us.” (*1 John 2:18–19, NLT)

However, I must admit that there are some difficult texts that describe how believers might be able to be cut off from God. These texts are Heb 6:4-6; John 15:1-6; Matt 12:32. Even in light of these texts it is clear to me that we are holy saints and that is a privilege we received which cannot be revoked.

2. ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς οἱ σὺν ἐμοὶ ἀδελφοί. – Everyone else with me greets you.

Most likely, it was Luke (Col 4:14; Phlm 1:24) and Timothy (Phil 1:1; 2:19-24; Col 1:1). But, it could have been others too. This serves as a good time to review who wrote the Gospel books and where those writers acquired their material. Matthew and John were both disciples of Jesus Christ. They bookend the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). If Matthew and John received their material directly from Jesus as eye witnesses, then we have to look at Mark and Luke to see where they acquired their material for their books. Mark was a disciple and travel companion of Peter. Luke was a disciple and travel companion of Paul (Acts 20:7).

3. Paul’s Usual Way to End His Letters

Similar to other Hellenistic writers of his time Paul would write the ending of his letters in his own handwriting. Paul usually dictated his letter to another person called an “amanuensis.” Because of this Paul usually had his own personal signature to the end of his letters (1 Cor 16:21; Gal 6:11; Col 4:18; 2 Thess 3:17).

B. Paul’s Companions Send Greetings (v. 22)

22All of the saints are greeting you, but most of all the believers from Caesar’s house.

1. ἀσπάζονται ὑμᾶς πάντες οἱ ἅγιοι, — All of the saints are greeting you,

Who were these “saints?” Likely refers to the whole Christian community in Rome where Paul was writing from (Comfort, Philippians, 222).

2. μάλιστα δὲ οἱ ἐκ τῆς Καίσαρος οἰκίας. – but most of all the believers from Caesar’s house.

O’Brien notes that this does not refer to the members of the Emperor’s family but instead to the great number of slaves and freedmen from whose ranks the imperial service was staff (O’Brien, Philippians, 554). Furthermore, scholars generally agree that this statement in accord with Phil 1:13 suggests that Paul was in prison in Rome when he wrote this letter (Comfort, Philippians, 222-223; O’Brien, Philippians, 554).

C. The Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (v. 23)

23May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

IV. CONCLUSION AND APPLICATION

Question: What are some of the things you have learned from the book of Philippians?

Christopher L. Scott

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Christopher Scott is Small Groups Pastor at Rocky Hilly Community Church in Exeter, CA. He has more than ten years of experience leading volunteers, running nonprofit programs, and teaching the Bible in small group settings. He holds a bachelor's degree from Fresno Pacific University and master's degree from Dallas Theological Seminary.

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