CONTEXT: The first word in chapter 4-the Greek word hoste (so that, so then, wherefore, therefore)-connects chapter 4 to chapter 3. In chapter 3, Paul spoke primarily about his own situation. In chapter 4, he begins to speak to the local Philippian church situation.
In chapter 3, Paul laid the following foundation:
Having established that foundation, Paul says "THEREFORE!" (4:1). Our Gospel lesson for this week follows.
PHILIPPIANS 4:1. STAND FIRM IN THE LORD
1 Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, whom I long to see, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
"Therefore (hoste), my brothers" (adelphoi) (v. 1a). See the comments about hoste in "The Context" above.
The Greek word adelphoi appears several times in this epistle (1:14; 3:1, 17). That word is masculine, so a strict translation would be "brothers." The NRSV, with its inclusive language agenda, translates adelphoi "brothers and sisters." That is appropriate, given the importance of women in the Philippian church. When Paul first arrived in Philippi, his first congregation was a group of women, and his first convert was Lydia (Acts 16:13-15). In 4:2 he speaks directly to Euodia and Syntyche-two women. Women are an important part of the Philippian church, just as they are an important part of the church today.
"beloved and longed for, my joy and crown" (v. 1b). These are tender words-beloved-longed for-joy (1b)-beloved (1c). They reflect Paul's deep affection for the Philippian Christians, perhaps his deepest affection for any of the churches that he has founded.
"my joy and crown" (v. 1b). Most pastors have experienced making a significant positive impact on another person's life. It is a joy to remember like that. Allow me to give an example from my own ministry. Pete and Carol came to the retreat. The first evening, as we sat in a circle discussing faith issues, Pete said that he had some real problems with the "God" thing. His grandmother was a devout Christian, but she had lived a hard life. How could God allow such a thing to happen? We sat in our chairs staring at our shoes-hoping someone would come up with a good answer. Finally, a young soldier said, "Pete, what about your grandmother? Is she a happy person?" Pete said that she was very happy in spite of the many trials that she had suffered. Then the
Paul also speaks of the Philippian Christians as his crown. In athletic contests of that day, officials would issue a laurel wreath or a crown to the victor. That crown would be a prized possession as it told the world that the person wearing it had won the prize. When Paul says that the Philippian Christians are his crown, he is saying that their faith bears witness to the efficacy of his ministry. They are the sign and symbol of his achievement at Philippi. They are his reward for a job well done.
"so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved" (v. 1c). Earlier, Paul appealed to the Philippian Christians to let their lives "be worthy of the Good News of Christ, that, whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your state, that you stand firm in one spirit, with one soul striving for the faith of the Good News" (1:27). Now he tells them to "stand firm in the Lord."
What does it mean to "stand firm in the Lord"? In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, "Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn't fall, for it was founded on the rock"(Matthew 7:24-25). In that instance, standing fast required hearing Jesus' words and acting on them. For the Philippian Christians, listening to Paul's words and acting on them could be expected to have much the same effect.
PHILIPPIANS 4:2-3. THEY LABORED WITH ME IN THE GOOD NEWS
2 I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also, help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement as well as the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
"I exhort (parakaleo) Euodia and I exhort (parakaleo) Syntyche to think the same way in the Lord"(v. 2). The word parakaleo has a pleading quality to it. I urge Euodia. I beseech her. I exhort her. I urge Syntyche. I beseech her. I exhort her.
Paul is careful not to take sides. He pleads with these women individually to move past their conflict so that they might see things the same way-and work together in harmony.
These verses are the only place where Euodia and Syntyche are mentioned in the New Testament. Verse 2 tells us that there is a problem-that Euodia and Syntyche are not "of the same mind in the Lord." Verse three tells us that they are women-and that they have worked closely with Paul (and Clement and others) in the past. That is all we know about them.
But this verse reveals that there was conflict in the first-century church-and that Paul wanted to resolve the conflict so that the Philippian Christians could focus their full energies on promoting the gospel.
That is important for Christians today to understand. Most churches experience conflict of one sort or another. There are at least two reasons for that conflict:
"to think the same way in the Lord" (v. 2b). In his first letter to the Corinthian church, Paul urged Corinthian Christians to avoid divisions so that "that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10).
This is the fourth time in his letter to the Philippians that Paul has used the "same mind" or "think this way" terminology.
This suggests that the Philippian church has a serious problem with conflict. Euodia and Syntyche are NOT of the same mind at present. They need to deal with their conflict in a positive way so that they can be single-minded in their Christian work.
But it isn't sufficient to resolve conflict by insisting that one or the other person "give in." Nor is it sufficient to take a vote so that one person wins and the other loses. Paul calls Euodia and Syntyche to "think the same way in the Lord." If the Lord is at the forefront of each of their minds, they will find themselves facing in the same direction-advocating for the same thing. If the Lord rules their hearts, they will find it much easier to deal gracefully with the differing ideas that surface when they get together to conduct church business.
The fact that Paul doesn't intervene directly suggests that the problems between Euodia and Syntyche are not doctrinal in nature. If they were, Paul would surely give them the correct doctrinal solution. His word as an apostle would carry great authority.
"Yes, I beg you also, true yokefellow" (gnesie syzyge) (v. 3a). "True yokefellow" is a good translation-except that the word yokefellow is archaic and few people understand what it means.
In Paul's day, wooden yokes were used to bind two animals together so they could work as one team. The word "yoke" came to be used metaphorically to speak of people working in partnership. A yokefellow, then, would be a partner-a person who would share the workload. In this instance, Paul is addressing someone who has been his partner in ministry at some time in the past.
Paul doesn't name his yokefellow. Scholars think that he was probably Luke. In Philemon 24, Paul identifies Luke as one of his coworkers (synergoi)-a word similar in meaning to yokefellow (syzyge). Also, we believe that Luke wrote the Gospel of Luke and the book of Acts. If that is the case, the "we" passages in Acts 16 ("We sailed away.... We stayed seven days....) place Luke in Philippi with Paul. Then we read "we sailed away from Philippi" in Acts 20:5-suggesting that perhaps Luke remained in Philippi when Paul and Silas were asked to leave (Acts 16:39).
"help these women, for they labored with me in the Good News, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers" (v. 3b). Whoever Paul's yokefellow is, Paul asks him to help Euodia and Syntyche to resolve whatever issues exist between them. Paul show his respect for these two women by noting that they "struggled beside me in the work of the gospel."
"with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers" (v. 3b). We know nothing more about "Clement and the rest of (Paul's) co-workers." Clement was a common name, so any attempt to identify this Clement would be sheer speculation.
"whose names are in the book of life" (v. 3c). The book of life is mentioned on several occasions in both Old and New Testaments (Exodus 32:32; Psalm 139:28; Daniel 7:10; Malachi 3:16; Revelation 3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12-15; 21:27). The book of life is where the names of the redeemed are recorded. It is these redeemed people-and only them-who will enjoy life in the world to come.
PHILIPPIANS 4:4-7. REJOICE IN THE LORD ALWAYS!
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near. 6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. "Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, 'Rejoice!'" (v. 4). There are a number of references to rejoicing in this letter (1:18; 2:17-18, 28; 3:1; 4:10)-and the word "joy" also recurs frequently (1:4, 25; 2:2; 2:29; 4:1). In this verse, Paul uses the word "Rejoice" twice to emphasize its importance.
Note: Joy is a common theme in both Old and New Testaments. God's people give thanks because they have experienced salvation at God's hands (Isaiah 25:9)-or rejoice in God's steadfast love (Psalm 90:14) or God's presence (Psalm 16:9-11). The birth of the Savior was an occasion for joy (Luke 2:10-11). Just as an ordinary person might rejoice at the recovery of a lost sheep or coin or son, so also "there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance" (Luke 15:7). It should be obvious from these citations that joy in the scriptures is rooted in the love and faithfulness of God.
Paul models the kind of joy to which he is calling these Philippian Christians. He writes this letter from a prison cell, but he says that he rejoices-and continues to rejoice-in the proclamation of the gospel (1:18). He tells the Philippians that he rejoices with them, and he calls them to rejoice with him (2:17-18).
Paul's call to these Philippian Christians to rejoice in the Lord always is reminiscent of his call to the Thessalonian Christians to "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). It is significant that Paul doesn't say "Give thanks FOR all circumstances," as if we should be thankful for our adversities. Instead, he says, "Give thanks IN all circumstances"-knowing that God loves us and is present with us.
"Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, 'Rejoice!'" (v. 4). John Wesley said, "Sour godliness is the devil's religion." So it is!
"Let your gentleness (epieikes) be known to all men" (v. 5a). What does it mean to be epieikes-gentle? It cannot mean being passive, because Paul includes this kind of gentleness in his list of qualifications for a bishop (1 Timothy 3:3). A bishop might be passive about defending his/her own rights, but must be assertive in defending the rights of others-and in promoting the faith.
Martin Luther King, Jr. comes to mind. In a time and place where tempers were running hot and people on both sides of the racial issue were prone to violence, King counseled non-violent resistance. He was persistent-but not violent. He understood that he didn't have to break heads to get results. In fact, he could not have achieved what he did had he counseled violence.
"The Lord is at hand" (eggus) (v. 5b). The word eggus can mean close at hand (physically near) or eschatologically imminent (near in time). Both meanings are appropriate here. The Lord is present with the Philippian Christians to help them in their adversities now. It is also possible that Paul expects Jesus to come again shortly. Many in the early church expected that Jesus would come again soon, and Paul certainly considered it a possibility (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11).
"In nothing be anxious" (v. 6a). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus spoke at length about worry:
"Therefore, I tell you, don't be anxious for your life: what you will eat, or what you will drink; nor yet for your body, what you will wear. Isn't life more than food, and the body more than clothing? See the birds of the sky, that they don't sow, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns. Your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren't you of much more value than they?
"Which of you, by being anxious, can add one moment to his lifespan? Why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow. They don't toil, neither do they spin, yet I tell you that even Solomon in all his glory was not dressed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today exists, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, won't he much more clothe you, you of little faith?
"Therefore don't be anxious, saying, 'What will we eat?', 'What will we drink?' or, 'With what will we be clothed?' For the Gentiles seek after all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first God's Kingdom, and his righteousness; and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore don't be anxious for tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Each day's own evil is sufficient"(Matthew 6:25-34).
In that passage, Jesus identifies common causes of worry-life (presumably meaning longevity), food, drink, and clothing. He doesn't say that those things are unimportant. He says instead that "your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things" and can be expected to provide for our needs (Matthew 6:32-33).
Jesus also warned that "the cares of this age, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the lusts of other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful" (Mark 4:19).
Throughout the Old and New Testaments, we find counsel not to fear-not to be afraid (Numbers 14:9; Deuteronomy 1:21; Psalm 118:6; Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 10:31; 14:27; 28:5, 10, etc., etc., etc.).
This counsel not to worry is not a call to idleness. When Paul heard that some Thessalonian Christians were refusing to work, he counseled the rest of the Christian community to shun them (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 11). He noted that, when he was in Thessalonica, he had toiled day and night to provide his own support (2 Thessalonians 3:7-9). He said, "If anyone will not work, neither let him eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). He told Timothy, "If anyone doesn't provide for his own, and especially his own household, he has denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever" (1 Timothy 5:8).
"but in everything, by prayer (proseuche) and petition (deesei) with thanksgiving" (v. 6b). The alternative to worry is "prayer and petition with thanksgiving." The words proseuche and deesei are similar in meaning-but proseuche places more of an emphasis on prayer as an act of worship while deesei places more of an emphasis on asking or petitioning.
"with thanksgiving." As noted above, Paul called the Thessalonian Christians "Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus toward you" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We can include genuine thanksgiving in our prayers, regardless of circumstances, knowing that God loves us and provides for our needs-both here and throughout eternity.
"let your requests be made known to God" (v. 6c). We need not be bashful about letting God know the desires of our hearts. God knows them anyway, but like a loving Father, covets the conversation with his children.
"And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding" (v. 7a). Peace (eirene) is a significant word, occurring nearly a hundred times in the New Testament. It has its roots in the Hebrew word shalom, which was used frequently in the Old Testament. The LXX (the Greek translation of the Old Testament) uses the Greek word eirene to translate the Hebrew word shalom nearly two hundred times. Both eirene and shalom, as used in the Bible, mean more than the absence of violence-although they can mean that. Both words connote the kind of well-being that is derived from a deep relationship with God-the kind of wholeness that comes from having the image of God, once shattered by sin, restored in the believer.
"which surpasses (hyperecho) all understanding (nous), will guard your hearts (kardias) and your thoughts (noema) in Christ Jesus" (v. 7b). The Greek word nous can be translated "mind" or "understanding," and is related to our capacity to think, to understand, and to make judgments. It is related to the word noema.
Our minds are wonderful things. They make it possible for us to assess and reason and solve problems. They make it possible for us to enjoy relationships and to create beauty. They make it possible for us to know God.
But our minds can become debased (Romans 1:28)-and corrupt (2 Timothy 3:8). Our minds tend to be conformed to this world and need to be transformed, "so that you may prove what is the good, well-pleasing, and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2). Paul called these Philippians to "Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus"-a mindset focused on others-focused on service-focused on what it could give rather than what it could get (Philippians 2:5-8).
The Greek word hyperecho speaks of something that is higher, better, and more excellent than something else. As wonderful as our minds can be when aligned with God, Paul says that the peace of God is even more wonderful. It has the capacity to stand guard-to protect-our hearts and minds-the very core of our being.
PHILIPPIANS 4:8-9. THINK ABOUT THESE THINGS
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things. 9 As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
"Finally, brothers" (adelphoi-brothers) (v. 8a). Paul has been telling these Philippian Christians what they need to do. The "Finally" in this verse indicates that he is concluding this section of imperatives. In verses 8-9, he concludes this section with additional imperatives. But he also addresses them as "brothers"-fully in keeping with the way that he has addressed them in the rest of this letter (1:12; 3:13; 4:1).
"whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things" (v. 8b). This is an unusual section-a list that reflects secular Greek values. Two of these virtues (prosphiles and euphemos) are not found elsewhere in the New Testament and others are infrequently used. While these values are consistent with the Christian faith, any number of Greek philosophers could have compiled such a list. Paul is asking the Philippian Christians to look at the best values of their culture-to reflect on them-to adapt them to their Christian lives-and to use them for Kingdom purposes.
"whatever things are true" (Greek: alethes). The word alethes is related to the word aletheia, which means "truth" or "reality." A true person is sincere-people can depend on his/her word. When Paul calls these Philippian Christians to think about things that are alethes, he is telling them to focus their thinking on that which is true-that which is real-instead of that which is false. The person who guides his/her life according to that which is true will enjoy a better life than those who guide their lives by that which is false.
"whatever things are honorable" (Greek: semnos). Semnos means "august" or "venerable" or "noble" or honorable." The image that comes to my mind is an aged person known for wisdom and integrity-the kind of person who has grown wise through native ability and experience, and who can be expected to offer faithful counsel.
"whatever things are just" (Greek: dikaios). Dikaios means "righteous" or "just." The person who is dikaios-RIGHTEOUS will try to live his/her life in accord with God's will. The person who is dikaios-JUST will deal with other people fairly and honestly.
"whatever things are pure" (Greek: hagnos). Hagnos means pure-guiltless, morally pure, without corruption. It is related to hagios, which means pure, sinless, or holy.
"whatever things are lovely" (Greek: prosphiles). Prosphiles is a combination of the preposition pros(to or toward) and the word phileo (friend, dear). It speaks of something that is pleasing or lovely or beloved.
"whatever things are of good report" (Greek: euphemos). Euphemos is a combination of eu (good) and pheme (report, repute, fame). It therefore speaks of something of which people think and speak well-something with a good reputation.
"if there is any virtue" (Greek: arete). Arete has to do with excellence of any sort. We can assume that Paul, in this epistle, would especially emphasize excellence of thought or moral behavior.
"and if there is any praise" (Greek: epainos). Epainos is a combination of epi (upon) and ainos (praise or praiseworthy). "Any praise" is a good translation.
"think (Greek: logizomai) about these things." Logizomai means "think," but in a deeper way than mere passing reflection. The person who is thinking in this sense is analyzing, reasoning, and making judgments about what is useful-and how it might be used.
Paul is telling these Philippian Christians to focus on these things-things that their non-Christian friends would consider to be virtues. He is telling them to consider how to incorporate them into their lives.
While Paul doesn't specify his reason, we know that Christians who embody the best of the community's values can serve as especially effective witnesses for Christ. In his book, I Was Just Wondering, Philip Yancey asks: "What would happen in the national consensus if these nine words came to mind when you said the word "Christian": love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control?" (These are the fruits of the Spirit from Galatians 5:22-23)
The answer, of course, is that Christians, embodying the fruits of the Spirit, would have a powerful witness to those outside the faith. We can be sure that if, when Philippian citizens hear the word "Christian," the words that come to mind are the ones that Paul has outlined in this verse, then the Philippian Christians will have a powerful witness to their neighbors.
"The things which you learned, received, heard, and saw in me: do (Greek: prassete) these things" (v. 9a). The word prassete means "do." The present tense gives it the sense of "continue doing." With that word, Paul acknowledges that the Philippian Christians have learned from his ministry with them-and are trying to follow his lead. He also acknowledges that there is always a danger that they might be led astray (see also 3:2, 18-19). He calls them to continue in the ways that he has taught them (see also 3:17).
Paul has already outlined the kind of humble service that Christ rendered to the world by being born in human form and submitting to death on a cross. Paul has called the Philippian Christians to emulate the mindset that made it possible for Christ to do that (2:5-8, 17). Paul has also shared his personal journey from being a Pharisee under the law (3:4-6) to being a disciple of Christ-fully reliant on his grace-sharing his sufferings so that he might also share his resurrection (3:4-11).
"and the God of peace will be with you" (v. 9). Paul also uses this phrase, "God of peace," in Romans 15:33; 16:20; 1 Corinthians 14:33; and 1 Thessalonians 5:23. This is the promise-the reward for faithful discipleship. The God of peace will be present with them. Implied in these words, "God of peace" is the promise that God will bring peace to them-peace in their relationships with each other, and peace within their own hearts.
So of course you should stand firm in unity, joy, and prayer.
Having developed this mindset of rejoicing in the Lord and having warned the congregation about the kinds of people that will pull them away from that mindset, Paul now summarizes and brings some specific application for the Philippian congregation.
4:1: So, my brothers, loved and very much missed,194 my joy and my crown,195 in this way stand firm in the Lord, loved ones.196
Three things stand out very clearly in this verse. First, Paul is very warm, encouraging, and winsome towards his partners in Gospel ministry as he turns his attention specifically to them. Second, he is not just urging them to stand firm in the Lord. Rather, he is claiming that, in the preceding discussion, he has given them the proper approach to standing firm in the Lord. This is not simply a warm encouragement to try as hard as they can to be firm in their faith. It is rather a warm encouragement to take all the preceding discussion to heart and live it.
Second, Paul referred to them as his joy and crown. There and then in their partnership relationship they were a great joy to him. When that great Day would come, Paul was assured that the Lord would give him a reward for the Philippian part of his Gospel work, so he uses a figure of speech to refer to them as his crown.197
Third, they are to stand firm in the Lord in this way. Paul stresses that this is the way we should be doing what we all know we should be doing. Joy in the Lord should propel us to stand firm in the Lord.
4:2: To Euodia I appeal198 and to Syntyche I appeal to agree199 in the Lord.
Although he has said almost exactly the same thing in the first half of 2:2, Paul repeats himself specifically to Euodia and to Syntyche. We do not have any other information about these two women. Their conflict was serious enough that Paul decided to intervene through this letter.
4:3: Yes, I ask you, loyal Syzygos,200 to help them, who have struggled together201 in the Gospel with me and Clement and my other coworkers, whose names are in the Book of Life.
Paul calls upon a loyal servant in the congregation to work to reestablish unity between these two women, reminding him that the two women have been an effective part of a partnership in Gospel ministry in the past. We simply do not know any more about the situation there, but it is a good guess that Paul thought the situation was serious enough to ask for this man's intervention.
Although there was a Clement in Rome who was identified as the third bishop of Rome in later tradition, it is not clear that these two were the same man.
These people's names are in the Book of Life. As is clear from Revelation 20:15, this is another way of saying they are born again individuals.202
4:4: Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!
Paul understood, probably more than they did, about trials in ministry, both from outside the congregation and from within, as in the conflict between Euodia and Syntyche, but he does not shy away from calling them to consistently rejoice in the Lord. He knows that if they can do that, as he has been describing for them in chapter 3, they will have the spiritual resources to work through problems from the outside and problems from within as well.
4:5: Let your gentleness203 be known to everyone. The Lord is near.
A heart rejoicing in the Lord will be gentle, and that should be evident to everyone. It is not stated here, but we may suppose that sooner or later a heart rejoicing in performance and the maintenance of religious standards will be unyielding, ungentle, unkind, discourteous, and intolerant.
In James 5:8 we see a similar connection between our heart attitudes and the anticipation of the Lord's soon return.
4:6: Do not worry204 about anything, but in all things by prayer205 and petition206 make your requests207 known to God with thankfulness,
As we rejoice in the Lord, we should easily be free of worry and full of prayer and thankfulness. However, without the mindset of the Lord as our pride and our joy, instead of being easy this seems unattainable, appearing to be a habit only saints and monks can maintain. However, we can imitate Paul in this, rejoicing in the Lord, so that, free of worry, we are ready with thankful prayer.
4:7: and the peace of God that excels all intellect208 will guard your hearts and your minds209 in Christ Jesus.
Because of what Christ has done, because of the Gospel, we are at peace with God, but if Christ is not our joy, and if we therefore cannot thankfully bring all our concerns to Him, we will not be experiencing that peace of God. This is a promise of one of the rich benefits of letting Christ be our joy and our boast, and of the prayer life that follows: the peace of God.
Yes, if you live like that you will experience the peace of God - furthermore, if you will fill your minds with true and good things and follow my example, the God of Peace will be with you!
4:8: Finally,210 brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable,211 whatever is righteous, whatever is pure,212 whatever is amiable,213 whatever is commendable, if something is excellent214 and if something is praiseworthy,215 let your minds dwell on216 these things.
Our thought life is of the highest importance in our spiritual development. A great deal of this letter to Paul's partners in Gospel ministry is taken up with teaching and exhortation concerning the mindset and attitude that they should have, so that they can be the best possible partners with him. This and the next verse make up Paul's final exhortation to them. Empowered by having Christ as our joy and our boast, the devotion and discipline these two verses require will be available.
4:9: And the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things; and the God of peace will be with you.
Paul himself has embodied the things he spoke of in the previous verse, so he can now boldly tell them to imitate the model he has lived in front of them. Although there may be a great deal of hypocrisy in Christian ministry, Paul is claiming here that he was no hypocrite. Before them he did not say one thing and do another. This was not accomplished out of sheer self-discipline, however. It must be understood in light of the source of this devotion, which was no longer an attempt to meet the inward and outward moral standards of his religion. The source of his devotion was his personal delight in Jesus Christ and the Gospel, as he described in chapter three.
As his partners in Gospel ministry model what they saw in Paul, they will experience what he experienced: not only will the peace of God guard their hearts, but they will enjoy the presence of the God of peace.
Here Paul could have closed his letter with the personal greetings that are found in verses 21-23. He almost seems ready to do that. However, he appends just one more topic: money!
1) Stand firm in the Lord (1) - The first instruction is this: Stand firm in the Lord. Look at verse 1:
"Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!" (Philippians 4:1)
I want you to notice Paul's language of affection for the Philippians. Earlier in this letter Paul told them that he loves them with the affection of Jesus Christ, and we have seen evidence of that throughout the letter. He often pauses to address them as brothers, sisters, and dear friends. And here in verse one he makes his love for the Philippians especially clear. He addresses them as brothers, those whom he loves and longs for, his joy and his crown.
The word translated "crown" here is the word for the victor's wreath, the wreath that was placed on the winner's head after the race was completed. And so Paul is saying that his reward for all his labors among the Philippians is the Philippians themselves! They are his pride and joy because of their partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.
And his instruction for them as dear friends is to stand firm in the Lord. There are many things in this life that will try and rock your relationship with Christ. There will be trials and temptations, perhaps even persecutions. And as a citizen of heaven living here on earth, you need to stand firm in Christ. You need to make Jesus the very center of your life, so that all your decisions flow through him first. This world is not friendly to those who put their faith in Christ. Read your Bible daily. Spend time with the Lord in prayer. Stand firm in the Lord.
2) Agree with each other (2-3) - The second instruction is this: Agree with each other. Look at verses 2-3:
"I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 3 Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life." (Philippians 4:2-3)
Paul follows up his general instruction to all believers to stand firm with this specific instruction to two women to agree with each other. Did you notice he mentions them each by name? Can you imagine if your pastor did that in a sermon! Imagine if the pastor mentioned your name! Everyone would snap to attention, wide awake. Remember this letter was read out loud to the whole congregation. So you can just imagine the shock when Paul mentions these two women, Euodia and Syntyche, by name.
We're not told what their disagreement was, but it was clearly having a negative impact on the church. It doesn't take much to disrupt unity in the body. Two people face off against each other, and what does everyone else do? They start taking sides. And before you know it the whole church is facing off.
Paul knows how important unity in the church is, so he takes the unusual step of naming the offenders. Notice also how he addresses each woman in turn. "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche." In other words, Paul is careful not to take sides here. He addresses each woman individually and wisely refuses to be drawn into the argument.
Notice the Euodia and Syntyche are to agree with each other "in the Lord." In other words, we don't need to agree with each other on each and every particular thing. But we must agree with each other in the Lord. We must stand united in Christ and work together as partners in the gospel. There is an old saying that goes: "In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity." It would seem that Euodia and Syntyche were disagreeing over a non-essential matter and were not doing so in a charitable manner. And so Paul intervenes.
Apparently Paul knew they were going to need some help with this. So he calls on his loyal yokefellow - some unnamed person, perhaps the pastor of the church, perhaps the one reading the letter, some people think perhaps Silas or Luke - he calls on his loyal yokefellow to come alongside these two women and help them resolve their differences. That word "help" carries the idea of taking hold of each woman's hand and bringing them together. Jesus said, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9) And here Paul calls on his loyal friend to take the initiative and act as a peacemaker for Euodia and Syntyche.
I want you to notice also that Euodia and Syntyche were not just a couple of troublemakers in the church. They were partners in the gospel. They had struggled and labored alongside Paul in the cause of the gospel, along with a man named Clement and fellow-workers.
Paul doesn't name them all here in the letter, but he assures them their names are all written in the book of life. And if our names are all written together in God's book of life in heaven, how much more should we all agree in the Lord and get along with each other here on earth. We are going to spend eternity with each other. Let's get it right now while we are still on earth.
Euodia and Syntyche were mature believers in the faith, but even mature believers can get off track sometimes. And when we do, we need the help of others to reconcile and make things right.
If this was an important enough matter for Paul to name names in the letter, we can be assured this instruction is for us too. We need to agree with each other in the Lord!
3) Rejoice in the Lord - always! (4) - Paul's third instruction is to rejoice. Look at verse 4:
"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Philippians 4:4) Joy has been a major theme in this letter, and we hit it again right here.
This is one of the mot recognizable verses from Philippians, and it is really a remarkable verse. It's easy enough to understand, drop dead simple to memorize, but we marvel at the implications. Rejoice in the Lord - always! No matter what is going on, no matter what the circumstances, rejoice! Really? And as if Paul anticipates our objection, he repeats the command: "I will say it again, rejoice!"
In order to apply this verse correctly we need to understand a couple things up front:
(1) First of all, notice the object of your rejoicing. The command is to rejoice "in the Lord." This is central to the command, and this is what makes the command actually possible to obey. This is not simply a throw-away phrase like "Hakuna matata" or "Don't worry, be happy," but this command has some teeth to it. You rejoice in the Lord, not in your circumstances. Your circumstances may be terrible, or they may be great. It doesn't matter. Your rejoicing has nothing to do with them. Circumstances change, but the Lord remains the same forever. The object of your rejoicing is your good, all-loving, all-powerful, all-wise God who never changes. Rejoice in the Lord.
(2) Secondly, notice that rejoicing is an action not simply an emotion. That's important, because you can't always control your emotions, but you do get to choose your actions. And no matter what other emotions you may be feeling at the time, you can choose to rejoice in the Lord in obedience to this command.
(3)Thirdly, understand that joy is different from happiness. Happiness comes and goes and is dependent on your circumstances. Joy is a settled confidence that God is God, that God is good, and that God is in control. Nehemiah 8:10 says, "The joy of the Lord is your strength." When you trust God, you can know joy in even the most desperate of circumstances.
(4) And fourthly, know that it's okay to be sad. That might seem like a contradiction at first, but you can be sad and still rejoice in the Lord. Jesus wept over Jerusalem, and he wept over the death of his friend Lazarus. In the book of Acts we read that "godly men buried Stephen and mourned deeply for him." (Acts 8:2) In 2 Corinthians Paul talks about being "sorrowful, yet always rejoicing." (2 Corinthians 6:10) There is nothing sinful about being sad. It is right to feel sorrow over sin and death and tragedy. But you can still rejoice in the Lord through your tears and the sadness.
People ask us how we're doing, and we often answer, "Okay under the circumstances." But as Christians we don't live under the circumstances. We live above the circumstances! Joy is one of the marks of a true believer in Jesus Christ. Christ is risen! Jesus is alive! Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice!"
4) Let your gentleness be evident - to all (5) - Our fourth instruction for earth is found in verse 5:
"Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near." (Philippians 4:5) This verse is not as well known as the verses surrounding it, but it is just as important.
This command has to do with your attitude towards others. The word "gentle" means a gracious, humble, patient spirit that puts up with other's faults. Are you patient with others? Humble? Forgiving? Notice your gentleness is to be evident to all. And so you should demonstrate this gentle spirit not only at home and in the church and to your family and friends, but also to your neighbors, your co-workers, your waiter or waitress, the person at the checkout counter, the telemarketer ... on the phone ... during dinner. Some of have some rough edges we need smoothing off. We can be pretty abrasive or pushy. Paul says, "Let your gentleness be evident to all." In other words, when people see you, they should see a gentle spirit. It is part of your testimony to them.
And then Paul adds a motivation to this command. "The Lord is near." One of the characteristics of the citizen of heaven we looked at last week was our eyes are watching for heaven's Savior. Christ is coming. So let's treat each other well.
5) Don't worry - pray! (6-7) - So we've had four instructions so far: 1) Stand firm in the Lord. 2) Agree with each other. 3) Rejoice in the Lord always. And 4) Let your gentleness be evident to all. Now we come to our fifth instruction: Don't worry - pray! Look at verse 6:
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
Once again, this is a very familiar and precious verse. Let's take a look at it phrase by phrase.
First of all, "Do not be anxious about anything." (Philippians 4:6a) Now I've prepared a special slide for you this morning where I have listed all the things that it is okay to worry about. Ready? Here it is. (Put blank slide up.) There you go! Now this is real easy. Anytime you're worrying about something, just check and see if it's on the list, and if it is, it's okay to worry about it! Here, I'll give you some time so you can write it all down! Now of course, we're just having some fun with this, but you get the point? Philippians 4:6 says, "Do not be anxious about anything!" Worry about nothing. This is a command without any exceptions.
Now I've prepared a second slide with a list of all the things it's okay to pray about. Let's take a look at that one. (Slide with word "Everything" written on it over and over and over). That's right, it's okay to pray about everything! "But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6b) That means you can bring the really big things in your life to God in prayer, and you can also pray about the really small things. Nothing is too big or too small to bring to God in prayer.
There are actually four words for prayer tucked away in that one sentence: prayer, petition, thanksgiving, requests. The first word is just the general word for prayer. The words petition and request both have to do with asking for God's help. And the fourth word tucked in the middle there brings out another aspect of prayer which is thanksgiving.
We usually think about thanking God after he has answered our request, but notice that Philippians 4:6 says we should mix our thanksgiving right in with the request. "With thanksgiving, present your requests to God." And so even as I am asking God, I am already thanking him: thanking him for being my God, thanking him for being my Savior, thanking him for hearing my prayer, and in faith thanking him for answering my prayer according to his wisdom.
"Present your requests to God" is more literally "present your requests before God, in his presence." And so we come before God in his presence. We pray specifically, we pray in faith, and we pray with thanksgiving.
Don't worry, pray! The two commands go together. In fact it is impossible to obey the first command without first obeying the second. The only way you can worry about nothing is to pray about everything. Every time you are faced with something to worry about, turn it to prayer.
And what is the result? Look at verse 7: "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7) God will fill you with a supernatural peace that goes beyond your ability to understand it. Notice this supernatural peace is not a result of God granting all your requests but of you making all your requests to him. Once you have prayed about it, you know that God's will will be done, so you can leave it in his hands.
I have known this peace from the Lord so many times, and Paul is right, it is beyond our understanding. I remember watching my car go up in flames before my eyes and yet being filled with God's peace. I remember the day our landlord called us up and told us we had one month to move, and yet I was filled with peace. It doesn't make sense in the world's eyes, but it makes sense when you know God and you trust his working in your life.
Paul says this supernatural peace will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. That word guard is a military term. It was used of soldiers standing guard over a city to protect it from harm. God's peace will stand guard over your heart and your mind and protect you from worry.
This is such an important instruction for earth. Don't worry, pray. Worrying and praying are both actions. You can choose to do one or the other. If you choose to worry, then you will be filled with anxiety. But if you choose to pray, you will be filled with peace. God already knows your needs before you ask him, but the asking will help you. Prayerful people are peaceful people. Don't worry, pray.
6) Think good thoughts (8) - Okay, we have two more instructions to go, and these two also go together. 1) Think good thoughts, and 2) put it into practice. First of all, instruction number six: think good thoughts. Look at verse 8:
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things." (Phil 4:8)
I've got four letters for you here: G.IG.O. Not G.I. Joe, but G.I.G.O. - "giggo!" You know what G.I.G.O. stands for, don't you? Garbage in, garbage out. It's a computer term that means if you put poor programming in, you will get poor results. Well, it's true of our minds and our lives as well. If you put garbage into your mind, you will get garbage out in your life.
What you feed your mind with has such an important impact on your life. And so Philippians 4:8 encourages you to think good thoughts, like:
And then Paul sums up all six by saying if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things. Isa. 55:7 says, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the evil man his thoughts." Let's face it, we are sinful people, and the only way to get rid of the bad stuff in our minds is to replace it with the good. Romans 12:2 talks about being "transformed by the renewing of your mind." (Romans 12:2) Memorizing Scripture is key here as we learn to think God's thoughts after him. Spending time in God's Word, listening to good Christian music in the home or in the car, all of these are important ways of filling your mind with good things. Filter out the bad; focus on the good; practice discernment. Think good thoughts.
7) Put it into practice (9) - And then finally, instruction number seven: put it into practice. Don't just think, do! Look at verse 9 where Paul writes:
"Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you." (Philippians 4:9)
Paul asks the Philippians: Did you learn something from me? Did you receive instruction? Have you heard what I've been saying? Have you seen my example? Then do it! And the same word applies to us. We don't just come to church to listen and leave. We come so that our lives may be changed. Take what you have learned or received or heard or seen and put it into practice.
And what will be the result? "The God of peace will be with you." That's it folks. Nothing beats that. Verse 8 spoke about the peace of God which was wonderful enough. But I would rather have the God of peace than the peace of God. Fortunately you don't have to choose between the two. They are actually related, because only God's presence brings God's peace. Do you want to know God's presence in your life? Then put these things into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
CONCLUSION: So there you have it. We are citizens of heaven, but we still live here on earth. So Paul leaves us with seven vital instructions for earth: 1) Stand firm in the Lord. 2) Agree with each other. 3) Rejoice in the Lord always. 4) Let your gentleness be evident to all, 5) Don't worry, pray! 6) Think good thoughts, 7) Put it into practice.
These are things that we cannot possibly do without Jesus Christ in our lives. If you are not a Christian, don't try and do this list to try and gain approval with God. Rather, let this list show you your need for the Savior, and put your faith in Christ who died for you. If you are a Christian, don't try and do this list in your own strength. Ask Jesus to help you grow in these areas and ask his forgiveness when you fail. We cannot do this list on our own, but we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength!