“The Drink Offering” (Philippians 2:16-18 sermon)

Early in his presidency, George Washington was stricken with a serious illness, from which he was slow to recover.  Historian Ron Chernow writes: “Washington conceded that his job might have contributed to his ailment and might even kill him, but he was resigned to the sacrifice. Washington said, “The want of regular exercise, with the cares of office, will, I have no doubt, hasten my departure for that country from whence no traveler returns.” Nevertheless, his official duties, he maintained, would remain “the primary consideration in every transaction of my life, be the consequences what they may.” (Ron Chernow, Washington: A Life, p. 588)  

This was, of course, just one of the MANY ways in which George Washington sacrificed himself for the good of others, and his new country.  

Sacrifice is at the heart of the Christian message, and rightly so. Jesus sacrificed Himself for our sins, that we might be saved. That’s what the Christian message IS.  

But there is another aspect to this idea of sacrifice; one that we don’t often emphasize as much, and that is that WE are to imitate the sacrificeJesus made, and sacrifice OURselves for the sake of others. That is what our passage for today is all about. Paul tells the Philippians that he is being poured out as a “drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith.” He tells them that HE is making personal sacrifices for THEIR spiritual life and growth — and we today should follow his example and do the same thing.  So let’s look for a few moments at the idea of “The Drink Offering” — imitating Jesus by sacrificing ourselves for others.  

“… holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain. 17 But 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. 18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.”


What did Paul mean here when he said he was being poured out as a “drink offering”? That’s not an expression many of us are familiar with. What is a “drink offering”?

Bible scholars tells us Paul is likely 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 altar 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 Exodus 29, where it says the priests were to offer a “drink offering” of a hin (about a gallon) 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 ancient practice of pouring out some of the wine you were drinking as a sacrifice to your 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 pretty common custom to pour out just a bit of each cup they drank, almost as a little “tithe” or sacrifice to their god. 

Some Biblical scholars, 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, rather 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 –  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 was saying, in effect, “my LIFE is like the wine of the drink offering; my life is being poured out as a sacrifice for the Lord’s work, and His people.

This is what being a “drink offering” is: it is a “pouring out” of our life, our time, our money, our energy, as a sacrifice for the Lord, and the work He wants to do in His people. It is something that Paul did — but it is also something that Jesus did, and which you and I are to imitate as well, as we shall see.


Now, what was Paul’s “drink offering” for? When you take a bit of your drink and just pour it out on the ground, someone might say “Well, that was a waste.” But Paul says here that his “drink offering” sacrifice of his life was not a waste. It was an investment in others’ salvation and spiritual growth. There’s a big difference between a waste, and an investment. 

Several years ago, Cheryl & I were in Oklahoma while I was recuperating from my illness, and we went out driving in Northwestern Oklahoma. Like some places in Texas, it can be pretty desolate out there, but they do have a lot of crops growing there, with the help of some big irrigation systems.  While we were out there, we saw some of these huge systems, and they were just pouring water out all over on the ground. An ignorant bystander, watching the water pour out, might say, “What a waste, just dumping all that water out on the ground like that.” But of course we know that water was not “wasted”, it was purposefully being poured out to water the crops that would give life to thousands and thousands of people. There is a big difference in something being poured out as a “waste”, and something being poured out as an “investment” for a greater purpose.

And that is the nature of the Christian giving his life as a “drink offering.” It’s not a “waste,” it’s first of all on offering to the Lord — but it is also an investment: 

— When Jesus poured out His life blood as a “drink offering” on the cross for us, it was not a “waste;” He gave His life as a purposeful sacrifice, to save us from our sins. It wasn’t a “waste;” it was an investment that would save countless millions of people from hell, and bring them to heaven. 

— When Paul poured out himself as a “drink offering” as he said here, that too was not a “waste.” He said it was for “the service of your faith.” Because he was pouring out his life preaching the gospel, being thrown into prison — and eventually killed, many other people benefitted from his sacrifice: people were coming to Jesus, and growing in their faith, and churches were being started because of the sacrifices that he made.

And it is the same with the sacrifices that WE make as well. When we “pour our lives out” in different ways for the Lord, our sacrifices are not “wasted.” God uses our sacrifices to see people saved, ministered to, and grow spiritually. Our “drink offerings;” our sacrifices to God are an investment. 

— For example, we have Sunday School teachers who spend hours every week, preparing their lessons for Sunday morning, calling and checking on members, and praying for them — when they could be doing something else with their time. In a very real sense, they are “pouring out” these precious hours of their lives as a “drink offering,” a sacrifice that will lead to the spiritual life and growth and ministry to others. 

— We have people who regularly take a turn working in the nursery during the worship service. Some people just naturally “love” to do this — and that’s great!  But many others do it, not necessarily because it’s their favorite thing to do, but because they want young moms to be able to come to church and hear the gospel, and be saved, and grow spiritually. Every time they go in to serve, these nursery volunteers are “pouring out their lives as a drink offering” for the faith and growth of others — this kind of sacrifice is exactly what Paul was talking about. It is a “drink offering” to the Lord; not a “waste” of your time, but a spiritual investment in others. 

— When we GIVE, above and beyond our regular tithe, to missions like the Pregnancy Help Center, or “Acts 1:8:, or Lottie Moon, to support our missionaries, when we could have used that money to buy something we wanted, we poured that money out as a “drink offering” to the Lord — so that others can hear the gospel and be saved. Those mission offerings we make are “drink offerings”; investments in others’ spiritual lives.

— When you are tired, and you don’t feel like doing anything or going anywhere, but you hear that one of our church members has a need, and you go out to help, you are pouring out that portion of your life as a “drink offering” for ministry to others.

— I know that many lay people who go on mission trips do it out of their own personal vacation time: time they COULD have spent in the mountains or at the ocean or wherever their favorite place is — but instead they take a week or 10 days or whatever and sacrifice that time to go on mission to tell people about Jesus. That trip is a “drink offering;” your time, your vacation is “poured out” as a sacrifice to the Lord, so that people at that mission can be saved and ministered to.  

The people that we reach when we give, and serve, and go, they are the OBJECTS of our drink offering. I think a good question each of us should ask ourselves is: “In what ways am I doing this?”  “In what ways am I pouring out my life as a drink offering?”  How am I sacrificing to serve God and lead people to Him? 


So the “drink offering” is a sacrifice. Sacrifices, typically, are difficult and costly things. Nobody said “pouring out your life as a drink offering” was easy. All those things I just mentioned, are HARD!  Going on a mission trip is hard. Teaching Sunday School is hard. Working in the nursery can be hard.  And yet, Paul says here that “even though I am being poured out as a drink offering I REJOICE and share my joy with you all.”  Paul says, although this is obviously, hard, he is glad to do it. He “rejoices” in it.   

And the reason he rejoice is that he talks in these verses about “the day of Christ.” He’s looking to the future: when Jesus comes back, and he gets rewarded for how he has served Him. Paul is taking the long view. He says, I am making sacrifices now; I am pouring out my life and my time and my personal desires and my preferences now — but he says I “rejoice” in that because he knows 1) that what he is sacrificing of himself  is leading to the salvation and spiritual growth of others, and 2) he knows that there is coming a day when the sacrifices he has made in pouring out his life as a “drink offering” will be rewarded by God.

This kind of “long-term thinking” is uncommon in our day. We want “instant gratification” here and now. We want what feels good to us now. 

But Paul, and Christians who follow in his steps, have the attitude: this IS hard now; it is costing me now; but “in the day of Christ” I will have reason to glory. Why? Because those of us who have poured out their lives as a “drink offering” will have a great reward from the Lord on that day.  And those who don’t — will miss OUT on that reward. And worse than that, their lives will have been wasted. 

See, here’s the thing … the truth is, ALL of our lives being poured out. Time is fleeting.  Psalm 90:10 says of our lives, “Soon it is gone and we fly away.” 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 they are being poured out quickly. In a sense, EVERYBODY”s life is being poured out.  You are either pouring it out for the Lord, or you are pouring it out on something else. Your life IS being spent somehow. That’s just the truth.

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 he had a great heart for the Lord and His work too.  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.”

See, Nate Saint is saying you can pour out your life like Paul did, in service to God — or you can just waste it on things that won’t matter in eternity, which is tragic.

When our daughter Libby was getting married, we visited with (Steve Gaudet) one of our church members, who owns the wonderful Gillis Grocery and Meat Market in Gillis, Louisiana, about catering the 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 of food. Over time he’s learned it just IS going to happen; someone IS going to drop one of those pans, and so now he just 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!  What a shame! 

But how much more of a shame is it when not just a pan of food, but a whole LIFE that has been wasted!  Can you imagine, that your whole LIFE would be like a “drop pan” – that all the years of your life, would be 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, giving it to the Lord and His church” – but the truth is, THEY are pouring THEIR lives out too!  Their days are slipping by too. But on WHAT? What are you spending your life on? Sports? Video games? Entertainment? What are you spending your life on?  The fact that your life will be “poured out” is inevitable!  The only question is, ON WHAT IS YOUR LIFE BEING POURED OUT?

Have you ever looked back on a day, and felt bad because you didn’t really get anything accomplished? You just kind of wasted it?  I hate that feeling.  But can you imagine, doing that with your whole LIFE? Looking back on your whole life, and thinking, what did I do with it? 

— Honestly, some of you are there, right now. You’ve spent most of your life. What did you do with it that will last for eternity?

— Some of you are at the middle of your life right now, or maybe you’re at a big crossroads. And you’ve got some decisions to make: what are you going to do with the rest of your life, that will matter for eternity?

— And some of you are just beginning. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. You need to ask yourself right now, before it’s too late: What are you going to do with your life? What are you going to “pour your life out” on? Are you going to pour it out on things that won’t make a difference in 5 years? Or will you pour it out on things that will last for eternity; and give you an eternal reward?  

Some of us really need to examine the direction of our lives today. What are you going to pour your life out on?


C.T. Studd was a successful college student and a star soccer player in Cambridge England in the 1800’s. One day Hudson Taylor, the missionary, spoke at Cambridge, and C.T. Studd and 6 others committed their lives to go to China on mission. They called these young men “The Cambridge 7,” and many people felt they “wasted” their lives, because they gave up careers in sports and other profitable fields to be missionaries. C.T. Studd ended up serving in China for a number of years, until his health broke down. His father died and left him a lot of money, and he gave it away to missions. When his health recovered somewhat, he went back on mission to India, where he served until his death.

But before he died, C.T. Studd wrote a poem – you’ve probably heard at least part of it before – and speaks right to 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. …

And after a couple more verses, at the very end of the poem, he added one little extra line:

“And when I am dying, how happy I’ll be, if the lamp of my life has been burned out for Thee.”

C.T. Studd … Nate Saint … The Apostle Paul … they’re all giving us the same message today; they’re all telling us the same thing:

Don’t waste your life; invest it for eternity: POUR IT OUT, as a drink offering to the Lord!


— As we bow our heads, would let God’s Spirit examine your heart. Your life is being “poured out,” day by day. But on what? 

— Some of us might = I’m flat out wasting the vast majority of my life; it’s not making a difference for eternity – and it needs to stop. 

—God may be speaking to some of us today about investing more of our lives, time, money, maybe even your career in God’s Kingdom work:  to “pout out” more of your life as a drink offering:  fill out that form to work in the nursery; get with Scott or Kyle or me about ministry 

— Maybe you’ve never even given your life to Christ …

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
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