These reflections help us look into the Bible to discover what God is saying to us today. We find Bible passages to read and questions to ponder. The themes are in the process of being listed in an index with each theme ultimately divided into seven sections. We hope to be completed soon.
The Reading: Philippians 4:21-23
“The grace of the Lord … be with your spirit.” (v.23) RSV
‘Greeting’ and ‘Grace’ are the two parting sentiments that Paul expresses to the church at Philippi. In fact ‘grace’ is the word he uses to end every letter bar two. Greeting and Grace go together to make a fulsome blessing.
Greeting is a human blessing and grace is a divine one. It is so good to be greeted and not ignored or overlooked or cold-shouldered. It makes us feel good to be recognised and treated as important. Some people have a gift of making people feel they are the only person in the world at that moment. Paul was insistent that “every saint” be greeted. With him there were no favourites or one category of people that he preferred. Everyone counted.
Grace similarly is for everyone. Grace is a little word with a big meaning. I remember it being explained as G-R-A-C-E: God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense. But whatever clever mnemonic we use, it basically boils down to God’s initiative of forgiveness and giving.
Grace comes from God; it is free and undeserved. As rebellious and sinful human beings, both individually and as humanity, we are deserving of death, eternal death. But God is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). To that end he has sent prophets and finally his own Son.
Grace perseveres with us, even when we are wayward and obdurate. It costs God greatly to do so. But that is the price love will pay. When Jesus came to earth John described him as being full of “grace and truth” (John 1:14). This balance helps us understand that grace is no pushover. Grace wants repentance, and only truth will cause us to face that need.
When Paul blesses his readers with grace, he is wanting that grace to enable their lives to be strengthened and changed, so that they become more like Jesus. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with each one of us.
Thank you Lord for your underserved love and grace. May it transform me to be more like Jesus. Amen.
1 Which martyr was full of grace and power?
2 Read more of Paul’s use of the word ‘grace’.
The Reading: Philippians 4:14-20
“… no church … giving … except you only;” (v.15) RSV
Hardly a letter of Paul’s goes by without the subject of ‘giving’ being mentioned. Is this because the churches were short of money? No. It was because followers of Jesus Christ have a duty and obligation to share with others some of the riches that God has bestowed upon them. “All things come from you, O God, and of your own do we give you”.
Now, of course, some of us are not experiencing ‘riches! Well, if that is the case then at this point in time we can only give very little. However, all of us should want to share with others who are in need or who are doing the Lord’s work.
Paul, however, was experiencing very little support for his missionary work. Most of the time he was quite prepared to fund it himself by doing his tent-making. But at other times he could barely support the work, and some of the time he was in prison! Only a few churches sent financial support to him, and one of these was the church at Philippi. But even they had been somewhat tardy: “now at length you have revived your concern for me …” (v.10).
Paul was anxious to distance himself from the idea that he was forcing them to give or was in any way making them feel morally obliged: “Not that I complain of want” (v.11), and “Not that I seek the gift” (v.17). If they were going to give he wanted it to be inspired by their own concern and love. And that is always the motivation for giving: concern and love.
Paul also is concerned that they give because they will become more fruitful in doing so. Also, God sees all that is done and it will redound to their credit (v.17).
It is a timely reminder that what is done on earth has results in heaven. We cannot simply measure results from what happens on earth. What we do will abide and indeed is part of building the eternal kingdom of heaven. Every little act, every cup of water given in the name of Christ will not be lost. Furthermore, we can never outgive God; he will always continue to supply our every need (v.19).
Grant me, O Lord, a giving and generous heart. Amen.
1 See a practical example of church giving.
2 See more of Paul’s teaching on giving.
1 Corinthians 16:1-3, 2 Corinthians 8:1-15