Philippians 4:1-3 NASB
Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see,
my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. (2) I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in
harmony in the Lord. (3) Indeed, true
companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement
also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
Who Are the Players?
It would be very convenient to know what these two women
were arguing about. It would be nice to know something about these two women.
We in fact know practically nothing. There is no real history that tells us
anything here, but we might remember that the church at Philippi was founded
with Paul talked to a woman by the river. Her name is Lydia. It is not
unreasonable to assume that this church had more than its share of women in
leadership positions. While the church would not permit a woman to teach a man,
there is certainly a requirement for women to teach other women. So this is
probably not a dispute over what color tablecloth to be used in the Fellowship
Even more mysterious is the person referred to as "true
companion." Other translations have "loyal yokefellow." In the
rather conservative style of Bible translation which is preferred among the
more Orthodox churches, translators have chosen to render this individual by a
description. It is possible however that he is something else: he could be a
man named Syzygus. That's the transliteration of the name given here, and it is
a name that is known in Greek society, though not very ordinary. It is
definitely a man, however; the Greek definite articles clearly state that. In
the structure of the church at the time, it would have been ordinary for a man
to have been appointed over the teaching of the women in terms of the doctrine
to be followed. Paul is reminding this man that is his duty to resolve the
doctrinal disputes and not allow the two women to teach two different things.
"Be of the Same Mind"
In the original, Paul is seen pleading with these two women.
The word he uses is never used in the context of prayer; so this is a personal
appeal to two people that he knows fairly well. He asks them to be "of the
same mind" as it is stated in earlier translations. To understand this, we
must explore the nature of peace itself.
When you see the word "peace" most people think of
it in a military context. Peace, to them, is the absence of war. This is
incorrect. The correct term for the absence of active war is
"armistice." The word itself means a space between two periods of
armed fighting. At the end of World War I, most people thought we had achieved peace.
But Marshall Foch rather succinctly and correctly observed, "This is not
peace — it is a 20 year armistice." He understood that the root causes of
that war had not been addressed. Such grievances as Germany held were still in
effect; territorial disputes were not resolved in mutual goodwill but by simply
marching troops into the territory.
Peace, especially in the Christian sense, means that the two
parties agree. This translation says "live in harmony." The root of
the matter is that they are to agree in the Lord; and this is very difficult to
do. Often enough, we select the process of arbitration to settle disputes
rather than mediation. Arbitration is cheaper and less time-consuming. But it
does not resolve the root causes. Only mediation can do that.
Correctly understood, peacemaking is a natural function of
the church. We are the ambassadors of peace between God and man; it would be
quite surprising if we did this in constant conflict with each other. The
reason we do not see peacemaking as a natural function of the church is not
that God does not provide for it; rather, it is because it is expensive and
In particular, peacemaking is rather expensive to the
peacemaker. Anger is very delicious, and we cling to it quite tightly. If one
is to be a peacemaker, one is going to have to get past this. That usually
costs the peacemaker something. We are dealing with people's anger, pride and
just plain stubbornness. They are usually willing to take out their anger on
their opponent — which is of course quite counterproductive. So they wind up
taking out their anger on the peacemaker. But if the emotions are not brought
out and processed, peace will not happen. So being a mediator, a peacemaker, is
not an easy thing to do nor is it cheap. This explains our reluctance to do it.
But it is a normal part of the discipline of the church. The
church is one body, divided by pride. It is the function of the peacemaker to
close that rift of pride and anger and so be called a child of God. It's not
that this is easy; it's not that it's cheap; it is that it is required.
Rejoice in the Lord
Philippians 4:4-7 NASB
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! (5) Let your gentle spirit
be known to all men. The Lord is near. (6) Be
anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with
thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (7)
And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts
and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Command to Rejoice
Some of us have the misimpression that we are supposed to be
rejoicing all the time because we feel so good. You will note please that this
is a command, not a statement of facts. We are commanded to rejoice in the
We are commanded to rejoice in our trials. It means that Satan
has found is worthy of opposition; which is to say, we just made the varsity
We are commanded to rejoice in our suffering, because this means
God is perfecting us for a purpose. He is making us into an instrument which
his hands can use.
If neither of these is happening, then we can rejoice that things
are going quite well.
The Gentle Spirit
The phrase is translated variously. It is called
forbearance, patience, modesty, moderation, and even leniency. This is one of
those things that's easy enough to point to and hard to define. You probably
know some people like this. They are hard to rattle, shrug off little offenses
as nothing, usually aren't telling you just how great they are, and are
particularly good with children trying their patience. I hope I have drawn you
in a picture for this.
The key to this is that we are to be known for this. It's
something we are to have as part of our reputation. This is particularly true
when we are dealing with non-Christians; they are the ones who try to form a
picture of what a Christian is like. One of the key questions informing that
picture is, "what's so different about a Christian?" If they can see
a difference between their temper, pride, and general must have it my way
attitude and your gentle forbearance, it just might become clear to them that
you have something they don't — and they want it.
The main reason that you should have this, however, is that
your Lord is near. You are trying to please Jesus the Christ, not necessarily
your neighbor. Christ will judge the real thing, and your neighbor will judge
whether or not you are known for it. It is best to have both.
Anxious for Nothing
It's easy to say that you should be anxious for nothing;
it's quite a bit harder to do. This is particularly true for intelligent
Christians, because we believe that we should be able to handle things that
come our way. The Lord has an interesting habit with regard to this; he loves
us and things your way which you can't handle. The secret to this command is
simple: anxiety comes from knowing who is in charge. If you are in charge,
there will be a great deal of anxiety. You after all do not control the
universe. If God is in charge matters are somewhat different.
So what's an intelligent Christian to do? Paul gives us the
answer: prayer and supplication. Looking into the original language it seems
that prayer is related to oral requests and worship; where supplication is
rather more formal, like submitting a petition. A parallel example to
supplication today would be the use of a prayer list. In other words, be
spontaneous in your prayer life — but also be organized.
Why doesn't this work for most of us? It's because we start
by trying to do things ourselves. God wants us to start by asking him for the
things that we need or desire. He then expects us to do what we can along those
lines; but often enough what we ask for is completely beyond us. Have you ever
asked for someone else's healing, particularly in desperate circumstances? You
know you can't do it – therefore he must. Ask God first!
Another of the problems of the intelligent Christian is the
desire to understand everything. Paul explicitly tells us here that if we seek
God first, bringing our requests to him, that we will receive peace that
surpasses all comprehension. In plain English, it means that you will not
understand where this peace is coming from. It is supernatural. But of all the
religions in the world, none finds the supernatural as irreplaceable as Christianity.
Without the concept of divine intervention, Christianity makes no sense. So
those who wish to explain this peace without the supernatural will find this a
very difficult thing to do.
There is a very good reason why God interferes and grants
you this piece — particularly if you are an intelligent Christian. He wants to
stand sentry over your heart and mind. Remember that "heart" does not
mean emotions in the Bible, but it means the will of man. That will, of course,
is informed by your mind. It's a decision on your part, something you do with
your intelligence. God wants to guard both of those things. It does not mean
that he wants your mind controlled robot. It does mean that he doesn't want you
wandering off when you should keep your mind on the job.
Whatever Is True
Philippians 4:8-9 NASB
Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is
any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. (9) The things you have learned and received and
heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with
This passage comes as a surprise to many people. It would
seem that God does not want your mind to dwell only on those things which you
find in the Scripture, but in a whole host of other things which are virtuous.
This is actually not too surprising, if you think about it. The Scriptures are
rather short and experience is rather long. There are many evil things in this
world, but there are also many good things in this world, things of virtue.
These things change as the years go by, but every Christian has a number of
them to contemplate. As we shall see, imitating the lives of the great Saints
is one such contemplation. If the only Saints you could ever possibly imitate
were the ones written down in Scripture, you would be left without a living
example. And yet you see the principle of successive imitation clearly
proclaimed in the Scripture. In short, there are good things in this world and
you should think about them. At the very least you can use the encouragement.
Just what kinds of things are we to contemplate?
Things that are true — the literal meaning here is that
these are things which are not concealed. A simple way to think of it is this:
those things which are on the up and up, clearly honest, clearly correct are
worthy of our thought.
Things that are honorable — the concept of
"honor" has greatly diminished in our time. Perhaps the central core
of honor is in keeping promises. A person is honorable if his intentions are
right and he follows through on them. Look about you, and see if you see any
person or institution that is noted for this.
Things that are right — the word can be taken a number of
senses, but the most common one is that of being fair. Consider things which
are a square deal, which are not biased in favor of one group or another.
Things that are pure — the root word in this life is
something which is clean. You like to have purity in your foods; perhaps the
concept extends beyond that — even to people.
Things that are lovely — the point is almost artistic. For
the creative artist, things that are lovely are an expression of the truth. The
point may be emotional, but if it is, consider this: have you ever looked at
something and said, "Beautiful?" If you have, perhaps you understand
Things that are of good repute — in other words, things
that are well spoken of. It is important to the Christian to realize that not
only must you be good, but you must be known to be good. You are an example.
And there are examples around you if you will but look for them.
Excellence — this one may surprise you. The word itself is
drawn from the concept of manliness; in short, the characteristics of a man's
man. In our feminist society we deny that such things exist — until we need
them. Firefighters were known mostly for racial discrimination before September
Things that are worthy of praise — this is probably Paul's
catchall phrase to make sure he didn't miss anything. And I'm sure we need
What are we instructed to do with these things? We are to
"dwell" on them. The original word means to take an inventory of
them. We are to systematically look with these kinds of things and consider
their excellence. The obvious next step, then, is to imitate such virtue.
Sometimes we will be unable to do so. But our minds should be so formed that we
are always looking for things which are virtuous and good.
The Power of Example
Paul ends this section by commending to the Philippians the
power of example. The things in the previous section — all those bullet points
— are such examples; but for most of us we have to see the example in a human
being. Most of us learn by imitation, and therefore we need an example to
follow. This implies that the examples must be something to follow, a burden
for teachers and preachers. But it also implies that the average Christian must
seek out such examples. This is a lot easier than learning everything there is
to know about Christianity started with first principles and reasoning from the
But Paul concludes by telling us that if we do this, the God
of peace will be with us. Sometimes that seems a little strange; after all, why
would God want the "with" somebody who's a rather amateur, beginner
Christian? Wouldn't he wait until we were pretty much perfect? Don't we have to
be "worthy" somehow?
The truth is none of us ever get be fully worthy; by being
with even Christian beginners God saves himself from the intellectual hard work
of determining who is a worthy sinner and who is not. You will notice that
Christ did not die for the worthy sinner; he died for all sinners. We may take
this as evidence that God makes no discrimination it in worthiness; rather in
intent. What he wants to know is what direction you're going. How far along the
trail you might be is not so important. But be assured: once you set out on
that trail, he will be your constant guide.