Pastor David B. Curtis


Paul - the Sacrificial Rejoicer

Philippians 2:17-18


Have you ever come to the place where you feel that what is required of you as a Christian is impossible?

Suppose you are a salesman who was responsible for $500,000 worth of sales last year. The boss comes to you and says, "Well, you did very well last year; $500,000 was a good figure, but we would like to increase that by $100,000 this year." you take a deep breath and say, "All right, I'll do my best." But if the boss comes to you and says, "$500,000 was a terrible figure, we would like to make that $2,000,000 this year," you are very likely going to quit your job and get another one.

This is the way the Christian life often strikes people when they first begin to realize what is required of them as Christians. When you first become a Christian you have a pretty high opinion of yourself. You say, "After all, I believed and that's something, and the Lord has brought me this far." You think you have arrived. Then you begin to study the Bible and realize that God wants you to be like Jesus Christ;

Ephesians 5:1 (NKJV) Therefore be imitators of God as dear children.

As you study the Bible you get a glimpse of his love;

Matthew 5:48 (NKJV) "Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

You also see his compassion, his wisdom, his understanding, his holiness and all his other perfections and, like the salesman, you say, "That's impossible! I cant do it." You may even feel like quitting at times. But don't! It's true that in this life you will never be completely like Christ. Much of your sanctification will consist in your realizing how much unlike Him you are. But yet, you are to become more and more like him.

The Bible teaches that although God's standards are high and thus seem impossible, God provides supernatural resources to meet them.

Philippians 2:13 (NKJV) for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.

God is at work in us. He gives us the power and ability to do the things that he has called us to do. I'm glad he told us this in light of the context of Philippians 2. This is a demanding chapter. If you have been with us for the study of chapter two, I'm sure that at times you have felt uncomfortable with your progress in the Christian life.

In chapter 2, Paul emphasizes the importance of Christian unity. In verse 1, he gives us the "Motives" of unity. In verse 2, he gives us the "Marks" of unity, and in verses 3 and 4 he gives us the "Means" of unity. This is how to have unity;

Philippians 2:3-4 (NKJV) Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

He tells us that unity comes from Humility. Just think of everybody else as better than yourself and you won't have a problem with unity. Conflict is always the result of competing interests and always because of carnality.

Then in verses 5-8, we see the Model of humility, the Lord Jesus Christ. Being fully God he lays aside the prerogatives of deity and takes on the form of a servant. Then in verses 9-11, we see that God honors and rewards his humility. In verses 12-13, we are called to work out our sanctification in dependance upon the power of God. Dependant Discipline is the key to sanctification. We are called to work out our humility in every day life and no matter how tough it gets or how you are taken advantage of, don't complain or question God.

Philippians 2:14 (NKJV) Do all things without complaining and disputing,

Then in verses 15-16, we are told that if we live this way we will be a light in the midst of a dark world, thus reflecting God's glory.

Think about all we've been admonished to do in chapter 2. This is not easy to live out. How can we do it? How can a Christian live up to such standards? How can we esteem others as better than ourselves? How can we work out this humility in our lives? It's hard, but it's not impossible if we depend upon the Lord, and to prove that we are given three human examples. In verses 17-30, we have the example of Paul, Timothy, and Epaphroditus (an apostle, an apostolic delegate, and an elder). Three men we can look to and pattern our lives after.

In living my Christian life, one of the strongest motivations to me is the example of godly men and women, both biblical and personal. Men and women who have fleshed out the word of God. I remember couples like John and Dot, and men like Billy who had a great influence on my life. They walked the walk. They lived humble godly lives. They fleshed out the principles of the Word of God. Humanly speaking, I owe my love and commitment to the Word of God to Billy, who was a model to me of humble service.

We all should have those who we can look to as an example to pattern our lives after. A flesh and blood example we can watch and learn from. F. B. Myer, at age 82, was asked to sum up his life in a statement or two, to which he responded with these words, "I have only one ambition, to be God's errand boy." Mr. Myer was a model of a humble servant, he followed the example of Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus.

Caution: we live in a day of the celebrity and superstar preachers, many of which are not godly examples at all. Jesus wasn't a superstar, he was a humble servant.

In verses 17-30, Paul gives us a Pattern of three men who lived their Christian lives and rendered their service to God in humility, without complaining.

All three of these men were together in Rome at the time of this writing. They all illustrated the same thing; selfless humble service, working out their sanctification in the power of God. All of them illustrate a non-grumbling, non- disputing attitude in the midst of adversity.

Paul is the "Sacrificial rejoicer," Timothy is the "Single minded sympathizer," and Epaphroditus, is the "loving gambler."

Paul had just said in verse 16, "I don't want to have run in vain or labored in vain." Paul wanted what he did to count.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV) Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Paul didn't want to be disqualified from honoring God. He had a passion for service, to teach and preach Christ. His service was sacrificial, it cost him and he was willing to pay the price.

Acts 20:22-24 (NKJV) "And see, now I go bound in the spirit to Jerusalem, not knowing the things that will happen to me there, 23 "except that the Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me. 24 "But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.

The people who make a difference in the world are those who are willing to pay the price. And in Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus, we meet men that are willing to pay the price.

Paul -- "The Sacrificial Rejoicer."

Philippians 2:17 (NKJV) Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Paul uses himself as an example of sacrificial joy. Why does he use himself? Is it pride? NO! He's writing under inspiration and the Holy Spirit uses Paul because he is a good example. Paul is a humble man, he is God's errand boy.

1 Corinthians 4:1 (NKJV) Let a man so consider us, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God.

The word Paul uses here for servant is the Greek word huperetes. It means: "a galley slave." It was the lowest level of slavery. Paul sees himself as a slave of Christ. This is Paul's testimony -- "I am gladly sacrificing my life and I find great joy in doing so."

"Sacrifice"-- this word would produce a potent image to the first century believers but it is very remote to us. We've never seen anybody sacrifice a lamb, or a goat or a bull. We've most likely never seen someone cut an animal's throat and let the blood drain out. We don't have that in our culture, it's unfamiliar to us but it wasn't to the Philippians.

Paul is talking about an alter, a living animal (a valuable one), blood, suffering, pouring out a drink offering, a libation. That is the imagery that's in his mind. This ancient ritual stopped in AD 70 when Christ returned in judgement on Jerusalem, forever putting an end to the Old Covenant.

The word "poured out" that Paul uses is the Greek word spendo. It means: "to pour out as a libation, a drink offering." Figuratively, it was used of devoting one's life as a sacrifice. Background: the offerer would bring his animal and kill it and after preparing it, it would be burned on the alter giving off a sweet fragrance in the process. At this point the ancient worshiper would have made an additional offering called a libation. He would have taken a cup of wine and poured it upon the alter, thus pouring it upon the sacrifice that was already burning. Because the alter was hot, the libation would immediately turn to steam and be gone. Paul is saying that he is a libation, poured out for God. That would be how a Greek or Roman would offer sacrifice.

The Jewish libation was poured out around the alter on the ground, not on the sacrifice. Look with me at several scriptures that speak of the drink offering.

Jeremiah 7:18 (NKJV) "The children gather wood, the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, that they may provoke Me to anger.

This was a pagan sacrifice using a drink offering.

2 Kings 16:13 (NKJV) So he burned his burnt offering and his grain offering; and he poured his drink offering and sprinkled the blood of his peace offerings on the altar.

This is a Hebrew offering on a pagan alter.

Numbers 15:1-5 (NKJV) And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 2 "Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: 'When you have come into the land you are to inhabit, which I am giving to you, 3 'and you make an offering by fire to the LORD, a burnt offering or a sacrifice, to fulfill a vow or as a freewill offering or in your appointed feasts, to make a sweet aroma to the LORD, from the herd or the flock, 4 'then he who presents his offering to the LORD shall bring a grain offering of one-tenth of an ephah of fine flour mixed with one-fourth of a HIN of oil; 5 'and one-fourth of a HIN of wine as a drink offering you shall prepare with the burnt offering or the sacrifice, for each lamb.

So, this libation, or drink offering, was always part of the sacrifice. The Jew would pour it out at the foot of the alter, the Greek would pour it right on the sacrifice.

Paul is saying, "I am offering my life as the final act upon another sacrifice." Paul is the libation or drink offering.

Philippians 2:17 (NKJV) Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Paul says, "Yes, and if".....The "if" is a first class condition in the Greek and means "since." The word spendo translated "poured out" is in the present tense which signifies, "it's going on right now." He is not talking about some future event but a present reality. It wasn't just his death that he saw as a sacrifice but his life also. His life was a sacrifice in which his death was the culmination. The only other use of spendo in the New Testament is in:

2 Timothy 4:6 (NKJV) For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand.

His whole life was a drink offering, a pouring out of his life in the service of God. Look at Paul's testimony:

2 Corinthians 11:23-28 (NKJV) Are they ministers of Christ?; I speak as a fool; I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness; 28 besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches.

Paul's life was literally poured out, it was an offering to God. If any one had reason to complain, it was Paul. As he writes the letter to the Philippians he is in a Roman prison, chained to a guard 24 hours a day, no privacy, and no freedom. His life is a willing drink offering. This "being poured out" doesn't refer to death. He didn't think that he was going to die at that time according to:

Philippians 1:24-25 (NKJV) Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 25 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith,
Philippians 2:24 (NKJV) But I trust in the Lord that I myself shall also come shortly.

Paul viewed his live as a living sacrifice.

Paul says that his offering was poured out, "on the sacrifice and service of your faith." There is a greater sacrifice than the drink offering and the greater sacrifice was that of the Philippian's faith. I'm poured out on your sacrifice, you are making the greater sacrifice, I'm just topping it off. Paul saw the Philippians as making the greater sacrifice. What character, what humility in action! After all we just saw in 2 Corinthians, Paul says their sacrifice was greater. He esteemed them as greater than himself. Paul is living out what he preaches. Paul is saying, "I've been through some suffering but it's nothing compared to what you guys have been through." This is very different than how we normally view our selves. We most often see what we are doing as a greater sacrifice than what others do.

Was this a false humility, was he just flattering them? No! They were suffering too.

Philippians 1:28-30 (NKJV) and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29 For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30 having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.

Paul knew that they were going through the same conflicts that he was. Their Christian lives were no picnic. Paul saw himself as just a drink offering poured out on their sacrifice.

Look at the phrase, "the sacrifice and service of your faith." The word "sacrifice" is thusia, and the word "service" is leitourgia. It could be understood this way; taking thusia and leitourgia as one phrase, governed by one definite article we could say, "The sacrificial service of your faith." The sacrifice that Philippians were offering was their faith in the midst of the persecution and trials.

Paul used the same word thusia in:

Romans 12:1 (NKJV) I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service.

Their bodies were to be living sacrifices to God. The idea of putting you body on the alter is speaking of action. They are to use their bodies in active service to the Lord.

The word "sacrifice" used here is not a sacrifice of propitiation ( to satisfy God's wrath through the offering of a sacrifice). Nothing we can do in the service of God could ever satisfy God's justice. Christ has done that, once for all by his sacrifice on calvary.

Hebrews 9:26-28 (NKJV) He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.
Hebrews 10:12-14 (NKJV) But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

Sacrifice used here in Philippians is used as an offering made to God as an expression of thanksgiving and homage. The word "service" is leitourgia, from which we get liturgy. It is sacred service or a form of worship. The work the Philippians did for God was considered an act of worship.

Their sacrificial service was their faith-- not what they believed but how they acted on what they believed. We often think of faith as simply what you believe. The word "faith" is used here to refer to "living faith" that works. A living faith is an active faith. Static faith is dead faith.

James 2:14 (NKJV) What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?

Let me ask you a question, "Can faith save you?" James expects his readers to reply "No, faith alone can't save." Is James teaching salvation by works? No, James is not talking about being born again, he is talking about preserving your life from judgement. Dead faith won't save you from temporal judgement. Only a living faith like the Philippians had can save you from the temporal judgement of sin.

James 2:17 (NKJV) Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

If faith is alone-- if it doesn't work-- it is dead faith.

James 2:20 (NKJV) But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
James 2:22 (NKJV) Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?

Notice that it says that it is by works that faith is made mature.

James 2:26 (NKJV) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

James point is this: works are actually the key to the vitality of faith. James is writing about the necessity of having works if our faith is to stay alive. Unless we act on our faith and live it out, our faith rapidly decays into dead faith.

The question that we need to ask here is, "What are works?" If the Philippians demonstrated a living faith and their faith was literally a sacrificial worship, what was it? In verse 14 and 17, James talks about works and in between these verses he tells us what the works are.

James 2:15-16 (NKJV) If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?

What physical good does it do somebody who is cold and hungry to tell them to be warmed and filled? It does no good. Neither is your faith good to somebody else unless it acts in love toward them.

Galatians 5:6 (NKJV) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love.

I think that the work of faith is love. When you see a believer who demonstrates love, they have a living faith. If your faith is alive, it will demonstrate itself in love.

1 John 3:16-17 (NKJV) By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. 17 But whoever has this world's goods, and sees his brother in need, and shuts up his heart from him, how does the love of God abide in him?

How do we know that God loves us? He acted toward us in love by meeting our needs. If you see someone with needs and you don't meet them, then you are not acting in love.

Faith is invisible, it is static, you cannot see my faith. But love is visible, it is active. And a living faith demonstrates itself in love. It works by love. Love towards God equals obedience. Love toward our fellow man is always defined as meeting a need. As Jesus taught in the parable of the good Samaritan, your neighbor is anyone who has a need. And meeting their needs is loving them.

James gives us some illustrations of love in the end of chapter two.

James 2:21-24 (NKJV) Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? 22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? 23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God. 24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.

Abraham's faith was alive as demonstrated by his love to God through his obedience.

James 2:25 (NKJV) Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?

Rahab's faith was alive as demonstrated by her love to her fellow man through her meeting their needs. Rahab risked her life to meet the needs of the spies. And Jesus said:

John 15:13 (NKJV) "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.

Rahab demonstrated great love. If you don't act on your faith through love, it will die. And dead faith will cause you to loose practical fellowship with God.

The Philippian's faith was an act of sacrificial worship because it was active, not dead. Their faith acted in love as they sacrificially met Paul's needs:

Philippians 4:15-18 (NKJV) Now you Philippians know also that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church shared with me concerning giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

Their financial love gift was a demonstration of their love. Their faith was made visible and evident in the gifts which they sacrificially contributed to Paul.

Hebrews 13:15-16 (NKJV) Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. 16 But do not forget to do good and to share, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

The issue here is that there is no more blood sacrifices needed in light of Christ's work. God is well pleased with our sharing with others. When we meet the needs of someone in the name of Christ, it is a sacrifice.

Paul looks at the Philippians as priests, offering up their faith as a sacrifice.

1 Peter 2:5 (NKJV) you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

This is really only one sacrifice, they are the main sacrifice and Paul is the libation, and they are offering up their lives to God as worship.

Philippians 2:17 (NKJV) Yes, and if I am being poured out as a drink offering on the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

Paul's attitude is "I joy and rejoice." Why? Because I'm being poured out as an offering. Joy comes through sacrifice.

Have you ever experienced the joy of sacrifice in suffering? We know so little about Paul's level of joy because we know so little about his level of sacrifice. His joy was in the sacrifice, he lived to serve God. Paul's attitude is, "Don't worry about me, I'm rejoicing."

Philippians 2:18 (NKJV) For the same reason you also be glad and rejoice with me.

Paul's joy is not related to circumstances, but most of our joy is. If our circumstances are good, we are happy, if they are not, we are miserable. Paul seems to have the most joy in the worst circumstances. Most Christians never really know the joy that comes from sacrificial service. The whole world wants joy but most people chase it in the wrong direction. Joy comes from sacrificial service. [Navy, teen ministry]

The word Paul uses here for "joy" is chairo. It means: "to be cheerful. The word "rejoice"is sugchairo. It means: "together we are glad."

Paul is our model, what he shows us is the greater the sacrifice the greater the joy. If you live out the exhortations of chapter 2, you won't be miserable, you will be filled with joy.

2 Corinthians 7:4 (NKJV) Great is my boldness of speech toward you, great is my boasting on your behalf. I am filled with comfort. I am exceedingly joyful in all our tribulation.
Colossians 1:24 (NKJV) I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church,

He's a perfect example of not complaining, he always rejoiced. This is so typical of great Christians.

Acts 5:40-41 (NKJV) And they agreed with him, and when they had called for the apostles and beaten them, they commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41 So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.

How can they have this attitude-- rejoicing in suffering? They knew the Biblical reasons for suffering. They knew: it produces spiritual maturity (James 1:2-4); it weans us from self-reliance (2 Corinthians 1:9); it glorifies God (1 Peter 4:14); it is a grace gift from God (Philippians 1:29).

For most people the only way they get joy is by what they do for themselves, or maybe in helping others. How many of us receive joy from the sacrifices we make for Christ?

What are you sacrificing in service for Christ? What amount of treasure, and time are you putting into the ministry? What have you said, "no" to in order to say, "yes" to God's will? His will is that you know his word.

Colossians 3:16 (NKJV) Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.

What have you said, "no" to so you could spend time in God's Word?-- T.V., sports, hobbies, sleep?

The reason that we have such a discontent society is because we try to find our joy in possessions, rather than in sacrifice which is where real joy comes from. Do you know the joy of sacrificial service? How can I know this joy? Where did Paul learn it? He learned it from Christ.

Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV) looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Jesus is the perfect illustration of ultimate sacrifice and ultimate joy.

Philippians 3:10 (NKJV) that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death,

How can we reach this level? Just like Paul did by abiding in Christ. Your effectiveness as a Christian is directly related to one thing-- the proximity in which you live in intimate fellowship with Christ.

John 15:4-5 (NKJV) "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

You abide in Christ by knowing and obeying his word.

John 15:8 (NKJV) "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

We produce fruit by abiding and when we abide in Christ, we bring glory to God.

John 15:11-13 (NKJV) "These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full. 12 "This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends.

When we are plugged into Christ, we will know his joy. He then goes on to say, in verse 12, that this joy comes from sacrifice.

Paul's frame of mind was not something that came about in an instant. Paul's genuine humility and sacrificial attitude was the product of a long relationship with God.

Can we really live the life called for in Philippians 2? Paul did, and he was only a man and a great example to us of a sacrificial rejoicer.

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