Three Purposes for the Letter

Three Purposes for the Letter

I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.
–Philippians 4:18

The apostle Paul had three purposes for writing the letter to the Philippians. First, he wrote this letter to express gratitude. It is a thank-you note from Paul for the church’s financial gift to him. In Philippians 4:18, Paul said, “I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma.” He was not talking about cologne; he was talking about the financial gift they had brought him. It was “an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.”

Second, Paul wrote this letter to provide guidance for the church. When Epaphroditus brought Paul the love gift from the Philippians, he also brought some disturbing news that there was trouble in the church. And Paul, because he loved those Christians, was distressed to hear about the trouble. The church was facing two threats. One was external. False teachers were starting to invade the church. Paul addressed that in Philippians 3:2: “Beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision.” And there were also internal problems in the church–division and lack of unity in the congregation. Paul said in Philippians 2:2: “Make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” We ought to be on guard against false doctrine. But for every church that is destroyed by false teaching, there are a hundred that are destroyed by dissention from within. And we need to be on guard against that.

Third, Paul wrote this letter to exhibit gladness. He was showing by his own life how to remain joyful in spite of what’s happening to you. Warren Wiersbe wrote about what he called “joy robbers”–those things that rob us of the joy that Christ died to give us.

Sometimes circumstances rob us of our joy. People often tie their happiness to the Dow Jones Industrial Average or last night’s football game. In Philippians 1:12-13, Paul said the way to keep circumstances from robbing you of joy is to have a purpose bigger than your own peace and prosperity. He said, “I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else.” He was saying, “I can rejoice in these negative circumstances, because I have a purpose bigger than myself. And I can see how these circumstances are contributing to that greater purpose.”

Do you have a purpose in life bigger than your peace of mind and your prosperity? That is key to maintaining your joy.


Today’s devotion is excerpted from “Living above Your Circumstances” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2007.

Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.