Riches in Glory

“Riches in Glory”

Philippians 4:19 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (ESV)

I have seen this verse abused over and over again by the “blab it and grab it”, “name it and claim it”, prosperity sycophants.  I guess they think uttering this incantation will bring them whatever they desire.

Part of the art and science of interpreting Scripture is to determine the original meaning of the text, what the Author was trying to convey,[1] and what the original audience understood about it. If anything is left for “life application” for us today, then great!  As R.C. Sproul taught, there is only one meaning of Scripture, but many applications. Before we apply this to our lives, let’s first try to understand it in its historical, grammatical, literary, cultural, and theological setting. Applying another rule of interpretation, let’s look at every passage that uses the phrase “riches in glory” or similar, to determine a pattern of understanding that was relevant for them, but may not be as noticeable to us. Let’s begin.   (verses from the ESV)

“in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” Romans 9:23

“that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” Ephesians 3:16 

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles, are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27 

Ok. There are the four verses we will be studying. The first verse listed is part of the following passage: reading the surrounding verses is part of understanding ‘context’.

“What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?” Romans 9:22 

If you have not studied Jewish history, covenant theology, or just aren’t that familiar with this terminology, here’s a quick lesson: the “vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” were the Jewish leaders of the first century. The “vessels of mercy, prepared beforehand for glory” were, and are, believers in Christ. Especially those in the first century who were entering into persecution from both Rome and Judaism. How can we know that? Paul confirms it in the next verse when he wrote: “even us whom he has called, not from Jews only but also from the Gentiles.”  Those Jews who were brought into the kingdom were known as the “remnant” and the gentile believers were ‘grafted’ into the kingdom via the early (all Jewish) church.  For the first 15 years or so, everything Christian had deep Jewish roots. But this doesn’t answer what the ‘riches of his glory’ were, or does it?  What did Paul say about his message?

“but we preach Christ crucified…”1Corinthians 1:23 (ESV)

“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” 1 Corinthians 2:2 (ESV)

The Riches of His Glory was Christ.  Next verse of our four verses comes from the previous page.

“that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being,” Ephesians 3:16  This verse also has a place inside a deeper passage:

“For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith”. Ephesians 3:14 

In both these verses, the “riches of His glory” have belonged to the Father.  Again, it is another poetic way for Paul to describe Christ. Here is verse 3 of our 4:

“To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:27  (ESV)

Again, Jesus is the focus of the verse.  I need to clear up a Greek issue here as well: the use of the word “are” in the phrase “how great among the gentiles are the riches of the glory…” should not be there. It is not in the Greek manuscripts.  Using the word “are” is typical of indicating the plural tense of a word.  Jesus is not plural.  Translators added this word to clarify the meaning. They failed.  Also, since I’m picking on translators, “riches” in the plural, is incorrect.  The Greek indication is the singular.  This might be confusing as it could render the understanding as these ‘multiple riches’ being utilized by the Father to bless us.  We could miss the entire focus of Paul’s writings.

The Greek word used for ‘riches’ is “pluotos”. It can also mean enrichment, bestowment, abundance, richness.  Any of these words would have been more helpful to understand the verse than “riches”. Let me give you an example of how the verse would read with my transliteration: “To them God chose to make known how great among the Gentiles the bestowment of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.”  Doesn’t that read better?  Just saying.  Ok, our last study verse:

 “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches (singular) in glory in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:19 

I want to introduce a study technique I have found useful over the years. As the writers of the New Testament were Hebrew (writing right to left) yet wrote in Greek (left to right) you can take certain verses and read them backwards and sometimes get a ‘richer’ understanding.  The technique is not restricted by Biblical warnings, it’s not heretical, and not the same as changing a jot or tittle.  It’s just reversing word order.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.  I think it works with this instance.

Actual word order: “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his bestowment in glory in Christ Jesus.”

Reversed: “In Christ Jesus, according to God’s bestowment in glory, every need of yours, my God will supply”.  Not an earth-shattering revelation, but it does freshen up a verse that you might have been reading. Use this technique if you found it helpful.

This was a shorter chapter, but it didn’t need to be “Les Miserables”[2]. Scripture always points to Yeshua as the beginning and end of all blessings!  Not wealth, health, success, or prosperity.


[1] This principle is called “audience relevance”.

[2] Novel by Victor Hugo 1,462 pages

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