I have received full payment, and more. I am well supplied, having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God. (ESV)
There are some things that we read in Scripture that are a bit harder to understand because of our current perspective. I want to focus on a phrase that the Apostle Paul uses in our verse today. He has received all of the gifts that the Philippian believers have sent to him, including Epaphroditus himself, the delivery agent of the gifts. He describes the gift as a fragrant offering, a sacrifice acceptable and pleasing to God.
Paul's choice of words would have made sense to the original recipients of this letter. However, I wonder if we really know what he is saying. Paul was not only a student of Judaism, but he had been one of its greatest teachers, a Pharisee of Pharisees. He knew the Old Testament system of sacrifice and offerings to the Lord. He compares gifts given to the work of the ministry to fragrant offerings.
There are two components that I think are important for us to see when it comes to proper offerings unto the Lord. First of all, an offering had a cost involved with it. The worshiper who came to the temple had to provide the offering. It cost them something. Whether it was a bull or a lamb or whatever, it cost them something. Certainly there was cost involved in the gifts that the Philippian believers provided to Paul.
Secondly, for the offering to be proper unto the Lord it had to be offered with a right heart. There is nothing that creates quite a stench in the nostrils of God as an offering given from a heart that is arrogant or proud. Paul knew that these believers had given their support for the ministry from humble, loving hearts. What a tremendous blessing and example the believers at the church of Philippi were.
What gifts do you offer to the Lord? What cost is involved? When you give your gift do you give with no expectation of anything in return? Are you humble before the Lord?
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