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Philippians 2011

Rejoice In The Lord

Philippians  4:1-9

Lesson audio

Making Peace

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 Hall.

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 time-consuming.

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 Lord. Why?

·         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 team.

·         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 you.

Whatever Is

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 this.

·         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 11.

·         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 that.

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 Bible.

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.

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