And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 16b-18)
Sacrifices were expensive things. If a Hebrew was making an animal sacrifice it was to be an animal without blemish and therefore one of your better oxen, sheep or goats. A meal offering might accompany it and/or a drink offering. Leviticus describes the typical drink offering as a fourth of a hin of wine. A hin is equal to about 12 pints or 3.5 liters. I have no idea how much 3 pints of wine cost in Paul’s day, but it would be hard to just pour out good drink on an altar.
But this is what Paul was willing to do with his life. He was willing and had been doing it on behalf of the Philippians since the day he met them. The sacrifice they had made of their lives of faith was being combined with Paul’s outpouring of his life and had now resulted in imprisonment. He did not regret this sacrifice of his life. He rejoiced in it. What they considered a detriment to the gospel he saw as an advance of it.
But Paul, understandably, wanted to make sure that his sacrifice was not in vain with regard to the Philippians. Were they going to continue to stay in conflict with each other? If so, they were not working out their salvation. Had he run in vain? Had his labor not actually accomplished the forming of Christ in their lives individually and corporately? If they were still in the game he could rejoice and so could they.
Paul is living out here the very principle that Jesus lived out. He is, in humility of mind, considering others more important than himself. He is not paying heed only to his own agenda or selfishly thinking only of himself. He is concerned about the needs and interests of the Philippians. If they were to live this same way they would, of necessity, have to give up their arguing and murmuring.
Who is pouring out their life like a drink offering for you? Are they doing it in vain? Or are you committed to working out your salvation by seeking the unity of the body of Christ?