(There is a revised and expanded version of this message available here, preached at First Baptist, Pauls Valley, OK 7-13-14)
The other day, as I was getting out of my car, I saw that I had a can of Coke in the cup holder. I can’t stand to leave anything in the car, so I picked up the can to take it in, and noticed that I still had a little bit of Coke left in it. I didn’t really want to drink it right then, so I just poured it out on the ground not far from the car. I’m sure you’ve probably done the same kind of thing.
In Philippians 2, the Apostle Paul gives us a similar picture of what was happening with his life. He says it was being “poured out”. A lot of people might think that like my Coke, Paul’s life was being wasted, but the truth is, it is only lives which are being poured out like his, that are NOT being wasted. Let’s look at Philippians 2:17, where Paul writes: “Even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.”
I. The Picture of the Drink Offering
The situation in Philippians, as many of you know, is that Paul is in prison in Rome for the sake of the Gospel. He does not know but that it may cost him his life. But he is not unwilling for that to happen. In fact, that is the occasion for his words here: he says, “Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice …”. He says, I am glad that I can spend my life in this way.
And to express his joy at being used this way by God, he employs the word picture that is at the heart of this verse: “I am being poured out as a drink offering.” What does he mean by the “drink offering”? He is referring to one of two things, both of which are really the same basic picture:
— He may be referring to the Old Testament “drink offering”, in which wine would be poured out on the place of sacrifice. In Genesis 35:14, when Jacob set up the pillar for worship at Bethel, he consecrated it by “pouring out a drink offering on it.” There was a similar ritual commanded in the Law: in Exodus 29, it says the priests were to offer a “drink offering” of a hin of wine along with the lamb of the burnt offering. They would pour the wine out as part of the sacrifice that was offered.
— OR Paul may have been referring to the pagan practice of pouring out wine from a glass as a sacrifice to their god. This practice took root in ancient Greece. When they wanted to seek their god in a special way, they would pour out some of their wine as a sacrifice that would help “pave the way” for their prayer. Over the years it became a custom for some to pour out just a bit of each cup they drank, almost as a little “tithe” or sacrifice to their god.
Some, like A.T. Robertson, suggest that since the Philippians came out of a pagan Greco-Roman culture, it is more likely that they would think of this latter type of sacrifice, than the Old Testament drink offering. But either way, the basic meaning is the same: both would involve taking a measure of wine, and instead of using it for personal pleasure and drinking – they would pour it out as a sacrifice that would please the god who was its object. The idea was that it was “wasted” as far as their personal use went, but “spent” in a sacrifice to their god instead.
What we need to see here in Philippians 2:17 is that Paul was comparing his LIFE to this drink offering. He said, “I am being poured out as a drink offering.” He compared himself to that glass of wine. Just as that wine was poured out on the altar of sacrifice, or on the ground, so he saw HIS LIFE as being poured out as a sacrifice for the Lord’s work.
That “pouring out” did not fully happen at the time that Paul wrote Philippians, but it did later. In II Timothy 4:6, in his very last letter, Paul writes, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering (that’s the same Greek word there) and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith …” and so on in his famous last words. At the end of his life, Paul was indeed “poured out” as a sacrifice for the gospel.
But the truth is that Paul’s life was not only “poured out” at the very end, when his life on earth came to a conclusion. In a real sense, his life was being “poured out” the whole time he lived, as he gave up all that was important to him (he speaks about this later in Philippians: his background, his religious heritage, his accomplishments – he says he counted all those things as “loss”); in a real sense he “poured out” his life all along as he served God. Instead of spending life in ways that might have pleased him — his own pleasures, family, career, etc. — he “poured it out” for God instead. His whole life, after he met Christ, was in a sense a “drink offering” to the Lord.
Paul goes on to write in Philippians 4:9 that we should practice the things that we have seen in him. That means that we should imitate what he did – that we should allow our lives to be used by God – spent — poured out for His kingdom’s sake. It means that there are things in this life that people might say that we have a “right” to — like our own “pursuit of happiness” – and that we should sacrifice those for the sake of the Kingdom of God. To the extent that we do that, we will become like Paul: a “drink offering”, “poured out” for the sake of God’s glory in this world.
II. The Inevitable Pouring
Now, I understand that this concept of being “poured out” as a drink offering may not sound very attractive to a lot of people. Who wants to give up their own “pursuit of happiness” and be “poured out” like an unused drink?!
But I think it should also be pointed out, that there is a sense in which your life WILL be “poured out”, regardless of what you choose to do with it. Time is fleeting. Moments and hours and days and weeks and years rush by. Every week you read it on Facebook: “Is the weekend over already?” Weeks are spinning by. If you are very young, it may seem like time is dragging to you, but the truth is, the older you get, the faster it seems to go. The hours and days of your life, your strength, your vitality, are being poured out – and poured out quickly. I’ve never seen the soap opera “Days of Our Lives”, but its famous opening sequence is actually very appropriate here: “Like sands from the hourglass, so are the days of our lives.” That picture is right on target: our hours, our days, are being poured out – one after the other after the other. In a sense, EVERYBODY”s life is being poured out. Some are pouring their lives out for their job. Some are pouring their lives out for sports. Some are pouring their lives out for their own “pursuit of happiness” — whatever that involves. And the truth is, when you “pour out” your life like that, it can lead to a wasted life.
We were visiting with Steve Gaudet, one of our church members, who owns Gillis Grocery and Meat Market, about doing Libby & Josh’s rehearsal dinner. As we were talking about the arrangements, and how many pans of food he was going to bring, he said something about how they always plan for what he calls a “drop pan”. He said that often, when they are bringing the food in to the dining room, whoever is bringing it in will drop one of the pans. Over time he’s learned it just IS going to happen; someone IS going to drop one, and so he plans in advance for a “drop pan.” While he was telling us about it, I was just sitting there thinking what a WASTE that would be – for a whole pan of that Cajun cooking to just be dropped on the ground and wasted! That’s a shame!
But how much more of a shame is it when not just a pan of food, but a whole LIFE has been wasted! Can you imagine, that your whole LIFE would be like a “drop pan” – all the years of your life, spilled out and wasted for no good purpose? And yet that is actually the way that most people live their lives! They might look at someone like the Apostle Paul and say, “Man, you’re a fool for pouring your life out” – but the truth is, THEY are pouring THEIR lives out too! Their days are slipping by; their lives are being poured out. A “pouring out” is actually inevitable! ALL our lives are being poured out in one way or another.
III. The Choice of the Pouring:
So the question is not WILL your life be poured out – it inevitably will. The only question is, ON WHAT will you have it poured out? On this you have a choice. You can choose to pour your life out on leisure and self-centered pleasures, on your personal “pursuit of happiness” – or you can choose to pour it out for the sake of the Kingdom of God. We need to understand what the choice really is.
Nate Saint was the missionary pilot who flew Jim Eliot and 3 others on a mission trip to a remote tribe of natives in Ecuador, where all 5 of the missionaries ended up being killed by the tribe after they landed. Nate Saint was not as well-known as Jim Eliot, but had a great heart for the Lord and His work as well. Before his death, he wrote these words:
“People who do not know the Lord ask why in the world we waste our lives as missionaries. They forget that they too are expending their lives … and when the bubble has burst they will have nothing of eternal significance to show for the years they have wasted.”
That is just what the point we see here. The truth is, it is not just Christians whose lives are being “poured out.” In a sense, we are ALL “losing our lives”; in a sense, we are all being “poured out.” The only question is, ON WHAT are we going to pour out and expend our lives: on temporary things that will have vanished in the using – or on things that will last for eternity?
C.T. Studd grew up in England, in the home of a father who had made a fortune overseas, and Studd was an heir to that fortune. He was also a successful college student and star cricket player in England. But one day when Hudson Taylor visited and called for missionaries to come to China, C.T. Studd and 6 others from Cambridge surrendered their lives to be missionaries and headed to China. They were dubbed “The Cambridge 7”. Studd went to China were he served for a number of years, and when his father died and he was left with a large inheritance, he gave it all away to the China mission and to other Christian evangelistic causes. He had to return to England because of poor health, though he later recuperated and went as a missionary to India and Africa as well. Just before his death, Studd wrote one final letter back home:
“As I believe I am now nearing my departure from this world, I have but a few things to rejoice in; they are these:
1. That God called me to China and I went in spite of utmost opposition from all my loved ones.
2. That I joyfully acted as Christ told that rich young man to act. (he gave away his fortune to gospel causes)
3. That I deliberately at the call of God … gave up my life for this work … for the whole unevangelized World.
My only joys therefore are that when God has given me a work to do, I have not refused it.”
C.T. Studd could look back on his life – a life some would say he “wasted” – poured it out – and say no, as I look back on my life, the only joys I have are in how I did what God told me to do.
When you look back on your life, what are you going to rejoice in having done? You are not going to find joy in countless hours spent watching television. You are not going to rejoice over how many hours you spent surfing the internet. You are not going to wish you spent more time watching football games. You won’t even care about the awards that seemed so important to you, how much money you made, what kind of promotion you received, or how many “things” you accumulated. Your joy, when this life is over, is only going to be found in the ways that you “poured out” your life for the Lord. And that is all.
Remember Jesus said, “He who wishes to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake, will find it.” Spend your life in serving yourself, and you will have lost it forever. But lose your life in serving the Lord, and you will have made an investment that will last forever.
Before he died, C.T. Studd wrote this poem – you’ve probably heard at least part of it before – and it hits right at the heart of this message from Philippians 2:17:
“Two little lines I heard one day, traveling along life’s busy way;
Bringing conviction to my heart, and from my mind would not depart;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, soon will its fleeting hours be done;
Then, in ‘that day’ my Lord to meet, and stand before His Judgment seat;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, the still small voice, gently pleads for a better choice
Bidding me selfish aims to leave, and to God’s holy will to cleave;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.
Only one life, yes only one, now let me say,”Thy will be done”;
And when at last I’ll hear the call, I know I’ll say “twas worth it all”;
Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last. ”
And then he added one extra half-stanza:
“And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, if the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”
Don’t waste your life; invest it: POUR IT OUT, as a drink offering to the Lord!
Thank you for your message. I am doing a study in 2 Timothy and wanted to know more about the drink offering (2 Tim 4:6). You really practically showed what it is all about: expending yourself and your life for the gospel and for people, so that they may know Him. Christ is the example who poured out His life for us.
This message is found on Google searches as often or more so than any of my others; a lot of people are looking for info on the drink offering. Thank you for your kind words, and I pray that all of us who study these truths will live them out in those practical ways.
I was looking into the whole “drink offering” phrase, and your blog was one of the first things that showed up. Wow! Thank you SO much! And thank You, Jesus! This was exactly what I needed to read at this point in my life.
I’m grateful that God used this to minister to you, Rachel. He is an amazing God of Providence — worthy of us pouring ourselves out like Paul described!
Was very blessed and motivated
Amen! Thank you for letting me know, Lesi. That is a blessing to me!
thank you so much for your sermon on drink offering, i was wondering what it actually translate to in todays worship and your sermon has clearified my question and doubts, jacob poured out a drink offering when he first had an encounter with GOD, so i was wondering what to do in place of a drink offering when one just had an encounter with GOD? i will happy you clearify this to me.
Roland, I am grateful that it was able to help you. Thank you for writing!
You have enriched my understanding of this passage of the Scripture and that has strengthened my resolve to pour out my life like a drink offering in the service of the Lord. Thank you so much. Apostle BC Simeon, WINGS OF THE SPIRIT Christian Centre, Cape Town.
Amen! The Lord is worthy of us all having such a holy resolve! Thank you writing and letting me know that the Lord used the message to minister to you. God bless you in your walk with Him, and in your ministry for His kingdom!
Pastor Thomas, Here it is Sunday morning. While looking over the notes to the sermon I am to preach this morning, I found your article on the “Drink Offering”. Thank you for taking the time to write so clearly and compellingly. Grace and peace to you. -trw
Thank you, Tommy; glad you found it helpful! (and hope God used your sermon to touch hearts!)
Thank you for your devotion on the drink offering!! I needed a better understanding on what Paul meant when he wrote Phillipians 2:17 & this really helped.
You are welcome, Lisa! Thank you for visiting my site!
Thanks so much for this. I spent some time this morning in prayer after a very difficult season in my life and coming to a crossroads of what is important in my marriage, future, hopes, and dreams. I woke while it was still dark, feeling anxious and like I needed to be praying and reading the Bible. As I prayed, the word I kept coming to in scripture was “poured out”, so I’d been reading all the passages with these words in them. I came to Philippians and really wanted to understand what this meant. A quick Google, and I found this site. Your commentary, thoughts, quotes, and poems here are such an encouragement to me. Thank you for writing them.
I’m 29, getting ready to start a family and my career after an intensive doctoral program and I am so aware that I want to life my one life for the Lord. The Cajun food example was wonderful!! Life gets spent no matter what. And it’s so easy to get caught up in things that don’t matter. As a woman, I find myself consumed with my appearance, weight, and image. And then I read this:
“Only one life, the still small voice, gently pleads for a better choice Bidding me selfish aims to leave, and to God’s holy will to cleave; Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.” Amen!!
What a testimony, Rachel; thank you for sharing it! Please know that I am praying tonight for your decisions and priorities.
This message came just at the right time.
Amen, Matt; I am thankful for that. Praise God for His perfect timing and providence!
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Hi Pastor Shawn, today is Sept. 7, 2013; just 7 months after you stepped out of the pastorate. I hope you’re doing better, but I believe you now have more time to write and share topics such as this. Like some of the others, I did a Google search because I am working on a study of Genesis 35:14 and wanted to learn more about “The Libation or Drink Offering.” As one other person commented, you explained it very well without going into all the details prescribed in Numbers and Leviticus.
Thank you, Angel; I am doing almost unbelievably better, and am hoping to be back in full-time ministry before too long, if the Lord is willing. I have indeed enjoyed being able to spend a good amount of time in study and blogging, but will also enjoy being back in the pastorate. I am grateful that this message was helpful to you. Hope you’ll come back and visit my site again!
thanks. I will be using your thoughts in my bible study of phil. 2 this week.this was very helpful.
Amen; I’m grateful that you found it helpful! God bless you in your Bible study this week!
Boy, God sure has used you! Reading your commentary on the drink offering, like so many others, I wanted to research more on this and found your blog. God’s been working on me in the area of self-centeredness, and your article is one more confirmation about where my focus needs to be – on HIM! Thank you for your article and apparent passion for the Lord.
Thank you for sharing your study of this subject. I find that, like God clearly shows us, when we slow down and really dig through passages of His Truth, He will allow them to be seen more clearly. Thank you for allowing Him to use you to encourage and teach even strangers!
It is indeed a blessing to be able to share this way. Thank you so much, Abbie!
Thank you for sharing the study of pouring your life out as a drink offering . I’ve been serving the lord in a personal relationship with him for over 30 yrs now . In prayer a few days ago he spoke to me and said “ You’re a drink offering and House of prayer to all nations . I wanted to understand what he meant by drink offering . Your blog explain it clearly to me . I’m now a senior I’m 65 yrs old and still loving people and serving Elohim
Thank you for the encouraging words Judy. May God continue to bless you as you serve Him!
*This message has been slightly revised and expanded in a message I preached at First Baptist Pauls Valley, Oklahoma on July 13, 2014. It is available at: https://shawnethomas.com/2014/07/13/the-drink-offering-dont-waste-your-life-philippians-217-sermon-update/
I had a vision of a drink offering while I was sleeping and I proceeded to google it. Thank you for your very thoughtful blog!
I was reading about Paul “being poured out as a drink offering” in Phillppians 2:17 and wanted to know more about what that really meant. Googled it on the internet and clicked on your blog on the subject. Great message. I had heard the phrase, “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last”, but didn’t know it was part of poem by C.T. Studd. Thanks for the “wake-up call” to all who read your message.
Well said brother. I surely needed the message and encouragment. Thank you!
just finished a study on finishing strong and was reading Gen 35, then I “just so happened” to come across your study. Thanks for the insight. Keep lookin’ up.
Enriching and insightful. Thank you for this message.
Awesome. Thank you so much. God bless you.
How profound, we live our lives like there’s no tomorrow. Yet at the end of it all, we’ll wonder what have we done with all that we had.
Amen. God bless you Vicky as you seek to live for Him and not waste your life in 2020!
An excellent lesson on the drink offering. I’m reading researching for a devotion I’m writing on Elijah and 2 Tim 4:6 is one of the verses illuminating verses. Your blog entry really filled out my understanding of the drink offering. – Thank You!
Please I need to print this your Sermon out “as a tract” for my Evangelical work for Christ Jesus our Lord and Master. Thank you
You certainly have my permission to use any of these messages as a tract for evangelism. God bless you in your ministry!
Paul would not have equated his life as a drink offering with that of a drink offering to a pagan God. That is wrong of you to say.
Searching to enter more deeply into this sense I have these days of “being poured out” I found this amazing message online. What a gift to read this and to share it with loved ones. I am encouraged to go on and do all that God leads me to do in the strength He gives, new every morning.
Amen, God bless you Margaret as you seek to walk more closely with Him every day!