CH-January 27, 2017 Print This Post
By Jack Riggs
In Philippians 4:11-12 we read Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.
The apostle Paul testified that whatever condition he was in, therewith to be content. The word “content” is the translation of the Greek adjective autarkes which basically means self-sufficient. The implication is that of satisfaction with whatever one’s possessions and circumstances might be, so that there is no need for aid or support. Paul used the term to describe his attitude toward his changing external circumstances. The Greek adjective appears in the New Testament only in Philippians 4:11. The term autarkes was a favorite word with the ancient Stoic school of Greek philosophy which taught that man should be sufficient within himself for all things. For the Stoics, the word denoted being independent of external circumstances. Therefore, it spoke of human self-sufficiency and competency. The idea was that man with his own inner potentialities can be independent, for he is sufficient to himself.
But in sharp contrast, Paul’s self-sufficiency was not of the Stoic kind. His sufficiency was from Jesus Christ. The apostle’s independence was not Stoic independence, but dependence upon Christ alone. Indeed, Paul made perfectly clear that his sense of contentment did not arise out of personal resources, but came from the One Who strengthened him for all of his tasks and for every circumstance. He was independent of his circumstances. Why? Because he was dependent upon Christ. Paul had learned through his experiences in serving Christ to be content in whatever circumstance God’s providence brought him. This was true Christian contentment exemplified for the profit of all believers. Paul was under arrest in Rome when he wrote to the Philippian church, and we need to mimic his example, for God’s sufficiency is available for us in all our circumstances as it was for the apostle Paul. In any circumstance, the apostle Paul knew how to cope with both need and over-abundance. He knew how to be abased, which means to live in poor circumstances. He also knew what it was to have more than enough.
Paul’s experiences had been a source of instruction to him. The word “instructed” speaks of learning a secret through personal experience. He had been initiated into knowing what it was to be fully satisfied as well as to be in hunger. He knew what it was to have an abundance as well as to be lacking in what was needed. The noun form of the Greek term “content” autarkeia appears in 2 Corinthians 9:8 and 1 Timothy 6:6. The word expresses the idea of contentment with one’s external circumstances or lot. It has to do with a mind-set of trust in the Lord with regard to being in want, or lacking in nothing. In 2 Corinthians 9:8 autarkeia is translated sufficiency. God’s grace abounds to Christians so that in all things that we are to do for the Lord we’ll have all the sufficiency we need. This is not self-sufficiency of self-reliance in doing God’s work, because God provides us with sufficiency for the task. We’re always dependent upon Him and not on ourselves. In 1 Timothy 6:6 Paul explained that while godliness itself does not provide financial gain, godliness is gained when accompanied with contentment. Godliness joined with the inner sense of God-given contentment, which does not depend on external circumstances is great gain. As Christians we recognize that we neither brought anything into the world nor will we take what things we have out of the world. Therefore, we consider having food and clothing sufficient. Our gain is understanding of and contentment with God’s providential and sufficient supply.
CH-January 27, 2017 Print This Post