The word ‘moderation’ means gentleness, and has been rendered ‘yielded-ness’, or ‘sweet reasonableness’, which is identified as a trait of character.1 This should speak to us. How do we react?
Sadly, how often do we allow the ‘flesh’ to come to the fore? There are another two points which challenge all our hearts: the first being, ‘unto all men’; and the other, ‘The Lord is at hand’. With respect to the first, it not only includes our attitude to our brethren and sisters in the Lord, but also to the world outside. The testimony of Christ is at stake and it is of paramount importance that we do not mar it. With respect to the second, throughout the Epistle, Paul has underlined the coming day of assessment, 1. 6; 2. 16. The thought of the Lord ‘at hand’ can also be taken to mean that He is present at all times, and therefore our behaviour should be in accord with this as He weighs every thought and action in all that we do.
What a privileged people we really are! We have not only been saved and made sons of God by faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, but also brought into fellowship with the eternal God, and able to call Him ‘our Father’.
How little we appreciate this privilege, and do not spend enough time, not only in prayer, but also in His presence. The attitude of our lives should be one of constant prayer in the presence of the Lord. If we do not spend time in His presence, how can we make our ‘supplications’ know unto Him?
How often have we found ourselves in situations where we are anxious - being full of care, and failing to look to our heavenly Father and seek His help ‘in prayer and supplication’. It is not just ourselves individually that the apostle is thinking of, but that of the collective body of saints, the assembly, as well. Additional to that is the thought of ‘thanksgiving’. Do we remember to give thanks to our God and Father for the help and answer that He gives to our prayers and requests? Again, how often we fail to remember these things, yet He appreciates and looks for that sweetness of thanksgiving from our hearts. For therein is the peace of God ensured.
Following his thoughts in the previous verse, he now underlines a blessed assurance that is found in pursuing such an attitude of prayer and supplication. It is one of peace and tranquillity that comes as a result of the closeness of union with our God. It is a peace that will ‘keep [garrison]’ our hearts and minds, ‘through Christ Jesus’.
It is that which will encircle the troubled one with that assurance of a caring and loving Father. Notice the two aspects of that peace:
How precious it is when saints show a caring attitude to their brethren and sisters in the Lord. It is a wonderful source of comfort and encouragement that is much needed today, even as it was in the days of Paul. It is a comfort to know that someone is thinking of me and is prepared to show the love of Christ to me. It is sad when one hears of the world showing more love and care for a dear saint than that which the saints show to the same individual. Paul underlines this in his letter to the Corinthians, where he states, ‘That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another’, 1 Cor. 12. 25. Caring for saints is what the Lord described in the parable of the Good Samaritan, where the Samaritan cared for an injured man, Luke 10. 34, 35.
The difference here in this verse is that they wanted to show that love and care for the apostle but had lacked opportunity to do so.
In other words, he is giving them credit for the gifts and all that he had received via Epaphroditus from them. The apostle had learned from experience in his walk with the Lord, that no matter what the situation was he found himself in, he was able to say, ‘I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me’, 4. 13. He knew the truth of the words that Peter expressed, ‘Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you’, 1 Pet. 5. 7. May the Lord help us to make a love and a care for fellow saints real in our lives, and not be hypocritical about it, even as the Lord has shown to us, such guilty sinners as we are.
Whilst gifts and help given to the Lord’s servants and work can be envisioned here, we can be assured that whatever is given to the Lord is recorded in heaven’s account book and will be rewarded a hundredfold in a coming day, Matt. 19. 29. What have we that we have not received? We are to return to Him that which is His own. It is not the tithe, but how much I can sacrificially give of my income to the work of the Lord, as the Lord has prospered me, 1 Cor. 16. 2. How the apostle rejoiced at their unselfish giving that more than met his needs and following this he will give them assurance concerning their own need, v. 19. All that we do for the Lord, whilst here, will not be without significance, for all our work will be tested before the Judgement Seat, 1 Cor. 3. 14. Let us heed the exhortation of John, ‘Look to yourselves, that we lose not those things which we have wrought, but that we receive a full reward’, 2 John 8.2
However, I believe that the idea of the apostle is that the fruits of righteousness should be seen in them. It was not so much the gift, but the giving, that was uppermost in the apostle’s mind. And, because they had so unselfishly, and sacrificially, given out of their resources in their love for the Lord and His servant, he knew that they themselves would be looking in faith to the Lord to meet them in their need.
The thought is that since they had not forgotten the needs of the Lord’s servants, the Lord would not forget their needs. It was a sufficiency they would prove. They had ministered to the apostle again and again, 4. 16; now he is saying ‘My Master will fully repay you; I cannot’. We have a God, who not only cares for the sparrow but, so much more, cares for His children. The psalmist underlines this by saying ‘the earth is full of thy riches’, 104. 24. We, as believers, can thank Him for the fact that He is ‘rich in mercy’, and for the ‘riches of his grace’, and His kindness toward such vile sinners as us, Eph 2. 4, 7.
What a blessed truth for every one of us to grasp, that the Lord Himself taught that with prayer comes the assurance, ‘your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him’, Matt. 6. 8. The early church gave evidence of their liberality in giving to all who had need, Acts chh. 2, 4. How much more, again, is the exhortation of John in his Epistle, ‘But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?’ 1 John 3. 17. May the Lord preserve us from a selfish attitude to all around us, particularly those of the household of faith.
We should not miss the last phrase of verse 19 ‘by [through] Christ Jesus’. What a blessed people we are, and our rejoicing and thanksgiving should be abounding to the One who, at great cost to Himself, brought about our salvation. More than that, we should consider the words of the apostle in Ephesians chapter 2 verse 7, ‘That in the ages to come he [God] might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus’. How true the words, ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him’, 1 Cor. 2. 9!
It was while meditating on this Epistle, and that of the apostle’s desire for fruit that would abound to their account, I came to the reality of seeing that they also gave evidence of the fruit of the Spirit in their walk with the Lord.