“I Seek the Fruit that Abounds” (Philippians 4:14-18)
In the city of Philippi, the book of Acts records two conversions Paul initiated by his preaching. The first is the conversion of Lydia and her household (Acts 16:12-15). The second is the Philippian jailer (Acts 16:23-34). Both household conversions were likely wealthy families. Lydia was from Thyatira but doing business out of a second home in Philippi (16:14-15, 40). The Philippian jailer held a reliable job as well (prisons always seem to be busy). He owns his own “house” and has enough “food” to share it with the apostle Paul (16:34). This history is helpful in understanding the remarks Paul makes to Philippi about the financial support he received as he moved on to Thessalonica (Acts 17:1).
“Nevertheless you have done well that you shared in my distress. 15 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” (Philippians 4:14-18, NKJV).
The passage above indicates the Philippian church, comprised of some wealthy new converts, sent money to Paul so he could do his preaching work (Philippians 4:14-15). There were times Paul worked as a tentmaker (Acts 18:1-3) and supported himself (see also 2 Corinthians 11:7- 12). Yet, there were also times Paul was able to focus on his preaching work without the entanglements of a side job to generate income. In fact, he commends the Philippian church for making this very situation possible. Thus, it is right for a church to “share” and “give” to support gospel preachers, both local and abroad, so they might give of their time and energy more fully to the work of the gospel (Philippians 4:16)!
Beyond the duty of sending financial aid to preachers though, Paul turns it into a great privilege for these Philippian brethren. In verse 17, he writes, “Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.” When money was sent, it did far more than support the livelihood of a man devoted to God’s work. Paul did not just want money out of personal greed. Any “fruit” that came from his work was truly the result of the giving Philippians who made it possible. When local churches support preachers in other locations, any conversion or restoration or edification which takes place by that preacher is applied to the sending church’s account!
Most importantly, Paul points out the gift of the Philippians was “a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18). This is the Old Testament language used of pleasing sacrifices (Genesis 8:21; Leviticus 1:9, 13, 17). Thus, Paul was most pleased not for what the gift did for him, but for how it blessed the giver with God’s blessing! Let us give realizing God credits us with “the fruit that abounds” and spiritual fruit produces the most fragrant “sweet- smelling aroma” to the nostrils of God!