A. The Problem of Friction and Discord (4:1-3)
1. The Plea (4:1,2)
As the great apostle introduces this section dealing with discord in the congregation, his very approach is an example of grace. As an Apostle, he could have commanded and demanded things be changed. But he begins by appealing to them in a general way as “brethren” and “dearly beloved,” his “joy and crown.” He pleads with them to stand fast in the Lord and repeats the title of “dearly beloved.” The verb he uses in his plea is the word “beseech” (parakaleo), which literally means, “I call you off to one side to implore, to warn, to encourage, to exhort.” It is indeed a gracious appeal.
2. The Persons (4:2,3)
It seems the two people in the church who were having friction were two ladies, Euodia and Syntyche. We do not know who these sisters in the faith were. They were mentioned nowhere else in the Scriptures. Apparently they were prominent women in this congregation which was originally the outgrowth of Paul’s ministry to a group of Jewish women in a Sabbath prayer meeting (Acts 16). We only know they had differences they could not reconcile, and these differences had apparently developed into factions in the church. This is the reason Paul appeals to them in this public letter. It is a sad commentary on the power of the old nature to hinder the work of the Lord that the only thing we know about these ladies is they could not get along with one another.
Paul is very careful not to take sides. He simply tells them to “be of the same mind IN THE LORD.” This is the only way we can be of the same mind one with another. Dr. Lehman Strauss comments on this passage in words worth sharing:
He is not telling them they must think alike in everything and see eye to eye on every issue. There is always room for difference of opinion and originality of thought due in part to one’s environment, education, and influences. But how then can they be of one mind? Of course, such a condition could only come to pass if they come together “in the Lord.” There may be diversity without division, a difference of methods without a disunity of minds, disagreement without departure. Individual subjection to Christ and His Word will save the brethren from dissension and division. Diversity can be a good thing, but disunity will destroy a testimony for Christ. Beware! And remember, there is but one way to settle any disagreement; the right way is “in the Lord.”
He appeals to someone whom he designates “true yokefellow” to help those women. Many times a Spirit-controlled believer can be used of the Lord to help settle differences between two other believers. We do not know for sure who any of these persons were, but we know the problem was a burden on Paul’s heart.
B. The Problem of Fear and Dread (4:4-7)
After dealing with the problem of friction between the two sisters, Paul turns to a more general problem; anxiety, or fear and dread. He deals with this problem in a very logical way. The key to a life of peace is found in the “formula” he gives us in these verses. He begins by telling us the preparation we need to have the peace of God keeping our hearts. He then stresses the importance of prayer. Finally, he unfolds the wonder of the peace that can be ours.
1. Preparation (4:4-6a)
a. Be Cheerful
“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say, Rejoice.” Paul certainly practiced what he preached. No less than eleven times in these four short chapters he uses the word “rejoice,” and the word “joy” is there five times. Guy King reminds us Paul was rejoicing in spite of his fetters and in spite of his future. The reason this prisoner could rejoice in the dismal dungeon was his rejoicing was IN THE LORD.
We cannot always rejoice in circumstances. They may bring heartache and disappointment. We can, however, always REJOICE IN THE LORD. This is the place to begin. When we feel our world has fallen in and nothing can bring us cheer, we can remember our position in Christ, our being blest with every blessing that is spiritual in the heavenlies, and we can rejoice in the Lord!
b. Be Gentle
“Let your moderation be known unto all men.” “Moderation” means gentleness or forbearance. It suggests a spirit of sweet reasonableness which causes one to be satisfied with less than his due. It involves yielding one’s “rights” for the sake of peace and harmony. It should be noted at this point Paul is not dealing with compromise on doctrine. We cannot forget his stand when principles of doctrine are at stake. “To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour,” was his evaluation of the situation recorded in Galatians 2:5. The yieldedness he asks for here is, as Bishop Moule brings out in his paraphrase, “your selflessness, the spirit which will yield in anything that is only of self, for Christ’s sake.” This spirit of forbearance must not be lip service, but rather a reality in everyday life.
c. Be Mindful of Christ’s Presence
“The Lord is at hand.” This is often taken to mean, “The coming of the Lord is at hand.” While we certainly believe in the imminent coming of our Lord, I am not sure this is the message Paul is giving here. Instead I think he is reminding those Philippians, and us, Christ is present with us now! If we were always mindful of the presence of the Lord, and of His omniscience, we would live very differently. How many of our conversations would be different if we really believed the motto we sometimes see in homes, “Christ is the Head of this house, the Unseen Guest at every meal, the Silent Listener to every conversation!”
d. Be Anxious About Nothing
“Be careful for nothing.” This literally means, “Stop being unduly anxious about anything.” The comment of Dr. J. Dwight Pentecost is both timely and easy to understand:
The apostle begins with a command. “Be careful for nothing.” This is not simply an exhortation, something optional that would be nice to do if we decide to do it. This is a command. Perhaps the force of this command is lost because of the translation. Read literally the verse says, “Do not under any circumstances worry about anything.” The word translated “be careful” has in it the idea of an anxious, distressing care. It is the kind of worry that ties the stomach into knots so that we can’t eat. It is the kind of worry that puts a crease in our brows. It is the kind of care that makes us irritable and hard to get along with because of the pressure that has built up inside. The apostle recognizes that there is reason for worry, but he forbids the child of God to fall into sin. The command is given, “Do not under any circumstances worry about anything.”
It was reported a few years ago that a physician had analyzed a group of “worriers” and had discovered the following statistics:
40% worried over things that never happened
30% worried over past matters they couldn’t change
12% worried over imaginary health problems
10% worried over family or neighbors, with no basis for their fears
8% worried over things that appeared to have some basis for
“In everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.” Note the words for prayer in this statement:
The Greek word is proseuchei, which means a fervent prayer. It is prayer addressed to God as an act of worship or devotion. It has been defined as “prayer on fire.” It includes bringing EVERYTHING TO GOD IN PRAYER, as the old hymn suggests.
This is the part of prayer involving one’s bringing to God specific requests for personal needs.
This literally means your “objective asking.” Bishop Moule translates it “specific petitions.”
This is often the most neglected part of prayer, but a vitally needed part. The other parts of prayer are to be offered out of thankful hearts.
“And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” There is, of course, a peace which is quite understandable. When things are going our way, when we have health and our needs are being met abundantly, we say we are living a quiet and peaceable life. The peace spoken of in this verse, however, is quite different.
All believers have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). This comes with justification by faith and is our permanent possession. But the peace which passeth all understanding, while it is a gift from Christ (John 14:27) and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), can only be realized in a practical way in our lives as we are careful for nothing, prayerful for everything, thankful for anything.
When our hearts are prepared according to Philippians 4:4-6a, we will have this peace that passeth all understanding standing like a sentinel (for this is the meaning of “keep”) over our hearts (emotions) and minds (thoughts). We can only pause to realize how far we live below our privileges, confess this to God, and look to Him for grace to know this garrison of peace which is our heritage.
C. The Problem of Fantasy and Dreaming (4:8,9)
1. The Believer’s Attitude
The thoughts of a believer’s heart and mind are extremely important to God. We are told as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). Our Lord said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaketh” (Matthew 12:34). Paul exhorted the Colossians to set their minds on things above, not on the things on the earth (Colossians 3:1).
After dealing with the problems of friction and discord and of fear and dread, the Apostle now deals with the danger of the wrong use of the mind; the danger of fantasy and daydreaming, if you please, instead of occupying the mind with wholesome thoughts. Note the list of Christian graces believers are urged to make the subject of their reflections rather than the sensual things that strive for our attention each day.
a. Whatsoever Things Are True
This implies not only the true as opposed to the false, but that which is true in character. It speaks of things that conform to reality. In an age of make-believe, it is refreshing to meditate on things that are real. It is also used of persons and carries the meaning of being unconcealed, nothing hidden, actual, true to fact.
b. Whatsoever Things Are Honest
This is not repetition. The word translated “honest” was used in secular Greek writings to mean “honorable, worthy of respect, meriting reverence.” Bishop Moule lists as synonyms such words as “serious, sacred, venerable, self-respectful.” Again, instead of idle fancies and dreams, the believer should think on what is honorable.
c. Whatsoever Things Are Just
The word “just” means “righteous.” Moule paraphrases it, “all things that are righteous, as between man and man in common life.” Dr. Lehman Strauss reminds us, “Thought must be given to that which is right or righteous, both by divine and human standards.”
d. Whatsoever Things Are Pure
Our Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Again we turn to Dr. Strauss for a timely comment, “The peace of God will replace wrong thoughts with pure thoughts, impure motives with pure motives, and impure acts with pure acts.” Paul’s word for “pure” means uncontaminated or stainless. It describes that which is undefiled and therefore morally pure. The word was used of ceremonial purity describing what had been cleansed from defilement and was therefore fit to be brought into the presence of God and used in His service.
e. Whatsoever Things Are Lovely
Here the word indicates amiable things or things producing peace, rest and harmony. Any attention to thoughts which would produce strife, personally or with another believer, should be crowded out with lovely thoughts. This is the real inner beauty of the believer. The word has been translated “winsome” and “attractive.” The mind of the Christian, then, should be set on things calling forth love!
f. Whatsoever Things Are of Good Report
The word means “gracious.” Translated literally it means “fair-speaking.” Someone has paraphrased it, “Whatever things are fit for God to hear.” Instead of thinking of ugly, impure words the believer should keep his mind on things “fit for God to hear.”
g. If There Be Any Virtue or Praise … “think on these things”
This is the admonition to fill our minds with pure, honest, true, lovely, winsome and right thoughts. The best way to get victory over evil thoughts is by thinking good, wholesome thoughts. The best way to “mind not earthly things” is to be occupied with heavenly things. And the only way to do this is to “Let the Word of Christ dwell in you richly.” The Word and only the Word is true, honest, just, lovely, of good report and full of virtue and praise. Dr. Dwight Pentecost has well said:
Transport yourself to the pasture, consider the cow chewing her cud, and learn that lesson from nature that the psalmist learned. Your delight must be in the Word of God, and in His Word you must chew your cud day and night. If the battle is lost, it is lost because you do not meditate on these things.
2. The Believer’s Action
“Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do, and the God of peace shall be with you.”
After stressing the importance of our mental attitude, Paul takes up the need for action, “DO.” This moves us from the realm of doctrine to the arena of deportment. It moves from dogma to deed, from position and precept to practice. It is not enough to “think” on these things, we must DO the things that are right. We look once more to Dr. Strauss for a pointed paragraph:
Noble thoughts are of little value unless they are translated into deeds. Living surpasses learning; practice outshines preaching; living supersedes learning. As we conform to orthodox thinking in our daily living, we have the sweet assurance that “the God of Peace shall be with you.”
Maturity in the Christian life is not measured by a believer’s knowledge, but by his walk. It is true the only way to have a satisfactory walk is through a knowledge of the Word. But Paul is speaking here of the ability to use the Word so as to determine the course of the believer’s life. Dr. Pentecost remarks, “Until what we know and have been taught is translated into action and into life, it avails nothing.”
3. The Believer’s Assurance
“The God of Peace shall be with you.” John Nelson Darby, early leader among the Plymouth Brethren, comments, “In trouble, we shall have the peace of God (4:7); in our ordinary lives, we shall have the God of peace.” Bishop Moule paraphrases, “and so the God of peace, Author and Giver of peace within and harmony around, shall be with you, your Companion and Guardian.”
When we remember Paul was experiencing the peace of God and the presence, power and purpose of the God of peace while in a Roman prison, we are aware of how much more we should be able to know the reality of this assurance in the midst of our troubled world today! Indeed, “our sufficiency is of God” (2 Corinthians 3:5).
D. The Problem of Finances and Donations (4:10-19)
This is a sensitive spot in the hearts of most people, even dedicated believers. So great has been the departure from giving according to the grace principle laid down in the church epistles that believers respond only to pressure and gimmicks in most congregations today. This is true because they have been conditioned to respond only to these tactics. The longer the practice continues, the greater becomes the need for more pressure and newer gimmicks.
Dr. Lewis Sperry Chafer told of the child in Sunday School class who, when the teacher asked, “What does the shepherd do for the sheep?” replied, “He gets their wool.” Denominational organizations have become great machines, veritable bureaucracies needing more and more “oil” from the collection plates of their churches in order to keep them running. More and more dollars designated for the mission field are spent in support of larger and larger home administrative staffs.
A veteran pastor in a large denomination recently expressed sorrow in his heart that smaller churches in his group were being looked upon as little more than a source of revenue to keep the denominational organization well supplied with funds. Add to this the fact more and more television and radio “pastors” bombard their followers with pleas for money, sending them on “guilt trips” if they do not send it in. With their offers of “blest handkerchiefs” and “gifts” for those who send in $10 or more they siphon off support which should be going to local churches or dedicated missionaries.
What makes the matter even more distressing is even fundamental, dispensational, Bible-believing groups are rapidly following the example of the large denominations and worldly organizations in this pressure and clamor for more and more funds. The average pastor and active Christian today cannot go to the mail box without being deluged with appeals of every kind to support this organization or that one. Each letter appeals to the emotions, to a sense of responsibility, etc. Each letter tells of some new project, some new employee, some new venture that the recipient must feel obligated to support.
Even though these may be worthwhile ministries, the recipient of these appeals sometimes feels like giving up. If he has not been taught the responsibility of giving under grace, in contrast with the law, he is bewildered. Pastors cannot keep from feeling as though they are never consulted when decisions are made for these new projects, but they are always there to be pressured into supporting them.
Brethren, these things ought not to be so! How we need to return to the method that Paul taught us in his epistles. Let us be “Pauline” in the matter of finances as much as we are in the matter of doctrine!
Contrast the methods of the world today with Paul’s teaching as we note:
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.” The word “careful” is from a word having to do with the act of “taking thought of” and is not a contradiction of 4:6. Their taking thought of Paul had, in the words of Bishop Moule, caused them to “blossom out” with this generous gift. In other words, their giving was out of a heart of love, sympathy, sincerity, and purely GRACE, not from the pressure of legalistic tithing nor pleas for pledges. Giving is inseparable from grace in the revelation given to us through the Apostle Paul. We are taught to give CHEERFULLY, NOT OF NECESSITY and we are given the example of Christ Himself (see 2 Corinthians, chapters 8 and 9 for details).
The sooner we learn and preach and practice this truth, the sooner we will see our message reaching out to the ends of the earth! This kind of giving is not only a gift to God’s work or God’s workmen but to God Himself! (Note Philippians 4:18.)
“Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned in whatsoever state I am, in this to be content.” What a far cry from modern day appeals for money! Thank God for faithful missionaries who have served the Lord in foreign fields for many years with this same attitude! “Want Lists” seem to be the order of the day in the minds of some novice missionaries who expect to take to the field many items home churches have struggled for years to obtain. But the Apostle Paul had no “want list!” He had long ago made commitment to God that allowed him to be content with whatever state was his lot.
Apparently he had not always had this peace of mind. The grammatical construction tells us he had “come to learn” to be independent of external circumstances. What an education! The learning of this lesson can come only through a commitment to total dependence upon Christ.
There is also a great lesson here for those of us who stay at home and SEND missionaries. We live in a society glutted with gadgets we call “conveniences.” If WE can learn to be content with fewer of these THINGS we will have more to give to those faithful missionaries who have left all of these comforts to take the Word to foreign lands. Do we really know how to be CONTENT in “whatsoever state” we find ourselves?
“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed (literally, “have been initiated into the secret”) both to be full (sated, as a fattened animal) and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me.” Here is Paul’s secret! Here is the reason he could accept love gifts from the Philippians but could never send them a “want list.” He had no “wants;” he could do ALL THINGS THROUGH CHRIST. His strength, his power, his entire life was from Christ. He is assuring the Philippians Christ was day by day, moment by moment, infusing him with the strength necessary for whatever he faced.
“Notwithstanding, ye have well done, that ye did communicate with me.” This introduces a paragraph on the importance of giving. We cannot “outgive” God. When we sow sparingly, we reap sparingly. When we sow of necessity, or under pressure, we lose the joy that should be associated with giving. If pastors today would return to the Bible doctrine of giving for our dispensation and would be willing to give up their unscriptural systems, we could know more of the Biblical practice of giving as communion — fellowship — sharing!
What has happened to the young believer, assured of God’s calling to the ministry, who is willing to begin in a simple, humble way; teaching a home Bible class, working with his hands to supplement the love offerings from the budding congregation? Are we teaching our young people the fledgling pastor should step out of school into some “First Church” with a high salary, lovely parsonage, fringe benefits, etc.? How many of the so-called “grace” churches today trace their origins to a home Bible class! Where are the beginnings of future churches today? Can it be a failure to teach that the fellowship of sharing and the willingness to be content with ALL THINGS, even small things, is responsible for our lack of growth?
“But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Most of us can remember when we thought this was a promise God had given to preachers, especially to those who were in a “faith ministry.” A careful look at the context, however, will reveal this is a promise to believers who have given cheerfully to the needs of a “faith minister.”
The Philippians had given generously to meet Paul’s need. Now, because they had done that, he assures them they may rest confidently in the goodness of God to supply for them. “You have supplied my needs by giving cheerfully and sacrificially; now MY GOD is going to supply all of yours!” That is the thought in this passage. It becomes still another Scriptural motive for Scriptural giving.