Sunday, July 24, 2005

Philippians 4

4:2-3 (Paul’s Plea For Unity)

This is Paul’s third plea for unity (2:2 & 3:16). Here he names two women specifically. They were women who labored with him in the gospel. They must have been important to his work, because this is the same way he referred to Priscilla and Aquila (Romans 16:3). They must have been important to the church, or he would have not named them specifically. They are also important enough for Paul to ask someone to help them acquire this like mindedness. In verse 3, the NKJV reads “true companion”, but notes in a footnote that the Greek word “syzygos” might be a proper name. The NASB translates it “true comrade” with no footnote, so those people did not think it could be a proper name. Since the letter is not addressed to one person, but a group, it is hard to see who he means if you use the general term “true companion”. Some think it was a charge to Epaphroditus, who was to deliver the book to the Philippian church.

Regardless, he wants someone to assist these two women in becoming like minded in the Lord’s work. Sometimes we have to help people get over their differences or dislikes or hurts. In Matthew 5:9, Jesus said “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

Paul also mentions Clement, then all of his fellow workers whose names are in the book of life. That is what we always come back to: our names are written in the book of life, meaning we have eternal life. Jesus told the 70 he sent out not to rejoice that he had given them authority over all the power of the enemy, but to rejoice that their names are recorded in heaven.” Revelation 20:12-15 tells us those whose names are not found written in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire. Whose names are written in the book? Those who believe in Jesus and have eternal life.

4:4 (Rejoice Again)

Paul reminded them, again, to rejoice. The life of the church is to be one of unity and rejoicing, not strife and dissension. The rejoicing Christian is less likely to be involved in strife. He is less likely to complain or have disagreements with others. Joy issues from the nature of God. It is a fruit of the Spirit.

4:5 (Be Gentle)

The life of the church must also be marked by the forbearance (NASB) of its members. The NKJV uses the word “gentleness”. We put up with each other, in West Texas talk. We are patient and gracious toward each other even in the face of difficulties or personality quirks.

James 5:7-9 tells us to be patient until the coming of the Lord. Both Paul and James stress living with the Lord’s return in mind.

1 Peter 3:8 tells us to be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted and humble in spirit (NASB).

4:6-7 (Obtain The Peace of God)

Not only is the church to be known for its forbearance and patience, it is to be known for its peace and lack of anxiety. We live in anxious times. There is much stress, especially in our work lives. We worry about money, our children, and all sorts of things. But here, Paul tells us to be anxious for nothing. That is a big and broad statement. He does not say “don’t sweat the small stuff”, but “be anxious for nothing”, or to have no anxiety about anything.

We do not obtain this peace by performing breathing exercises, but by turning over the matters of life to our Heavenly Father. What kind of things can we pray about? He says “in everything” by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God.

If you turn over your anxiety causing problems to God, the peace of God will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. God’s peace will guard you against a fearful heart and a fretful mind. His peace is so profound it passes all understanding.

Jesus taught this same principal in Matthew 6:25-34. Read it. Jesus said God knows what you need, so quit worrying about it. Seek his kingdom first and he will make sure you get what you need.

At the heart of these verses it the requirement that you believe God is powerful enough to handle your problems and loving enough to want to. It also requires a submission to his will. If you do not believe in this power and his love, you will not give your problems to him. If you do not submit to his will, you will not be able to accept his deliverance or solution. Then you do not receive the peace of God that surpasses understanding.

1 Peter 5:6 says “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety upon Him, because He cares for you.”

Paul puts this in the specific context of prayer. Prayer is talking with God. It is the special province of believers. Hebrews 4:16 tells us that Jesus, as our great high priest, allows us to draw near with confidence (NASB) (some versions say “boldness”, as the NKJV) to the throne of grace, that we might receive mercy and may find grace to help in our time of need. Paul said to make supplication, to make our requests known to God. So, he specifically encourages us to ask God to take care of our needs.

Paul does not say God will always give us what we ask for. He said God will give us peace. This is where your belief in God’s goodness and power come into play. If he does not give you what you ask, you must know he has done so because it is better for you not to have it. If you trust him, you will have peace regardless. Paul himself experienced this.

We may feel unable to pray, or that God is not hearing us. This may be because of sin in our lives. Read Psalm 66:18 and Isaiah 59:1-2.

4:8-9 (Meditate and Do)

Paul then gives us another spiritual principle of emotional health. He said to meditate on good things. He said to meditate on things that are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, good, of good report, virtue, and praiseworthy. Our brains and our emotions are subject to the “garbage in, garbage out” theory. If you continuously contemplate bad things, they will dominate your thoughts and emotions. If you meditate on good things, they will saturate your mind and bring you peace. It is human nature to think about and talk about negative things. We notice what is wrong and complain about it.

But we have to make the effort to concentrate on good things. What gives you the best opportunity for a peaceful night’s sleep: thinking about problems at work, or how blessed you are?

Thankfulness in prayer is part of this. Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.

Paul’s last principle is to do the things learned from him, another time he tells them to use himself as an example. The guy who can sing hymns while in jail after a beating is qualified to give you advice on how to rejoice in the Christian life.

4:10-13 (Content In Every State)

Paul was thankful for the gift from the Philippians, supplying his physical needs. He was glad that his needs had been met, and knew also that their gift was an offering for the Lord’s work and was pleasing to God.

Paul, though, had learned to be content in all situations. In verse 12, he said he knew how to rejoice when he had a lot and when he had nothing. He could do this because he relied on the strength of Christ, which empowered him to do all things. Again we see that Paul was fully stretched out onto Christ and reliant on Him. He would have what Christ gave him and he would be content with it, no matter what it was.

He was also confident that God would supply all the needs of the Philippians. If God provided for him, He would provide for them.

4:14-19 (Sharing In Distress)

Although Paul could be content in every situation , he was still grateful for the gifts and the love of the Philippians. Notice the loneliness and isolation that he shared here. He said “not one church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving, but you only.” Although he started many churches and brought many people to Christ, he found himself at times with no support from any of them.

After receiving the gifts from the Philippians, though, he was amply supplied. He, in fact, calls them a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. Here he draws on the imagery of the Old Testament sacrifices, whose aromas were said to go up to God and be pleasing to him. Leviticus 1:9 calls the burnt offering “an offering made by fire, an aroma pleasing to the Lord.” Paul, then, compares a gift to the ministry of the gospel to an Old Testament offering. It is pleasing to the Lord. It is an act of worship. Hebrews 13:16 says “and do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”

In addition, Paul affirms to them that God will meet all their needs as they meet Paul’s needs. It is a paradox of Christian living that the Christian does not seek his security in hoarding, but in giving. The problem with acquiring a lot of stuff is that it is human nature to trust our stash rather than trust God. Jesus explained it when he said, in Matthew 6:21 “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Paul said, in 1 Timothy 6:17 “command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

Jesus confronted the rich young ruler on just this point in Matthew 19:16-24. He told him to go and sell his possessions and give them to the poor. Why? Jesus said “you will have treasures in heaven”. He wanted the man to exchange treasures on earth for treasures in heaven, so he could trust God and enter into his kingdom. Unfortunately, the young man walked away from the treasures of heaven to keep his treasures on earth. This is the opposite of the reaction desired by Christ, who compared the kingdom of heaven to a reassure hidden in a field and the man who found it sold everything he had to acquire it. (Matthew 13:44).

Bishop Handley C.G. Moule said, in his Philippian Studies: “The epistle witnesses to Him as to a treasure worth all our seeking, at any cost; infinitely precious to our joyful finding: infinitely deserving of our keeping, of our holding, our ‘apprehending,’ as He in His mercy has laid hold of us, and will keep hold of us, even to the end; ‘unto the day of Jesus Christ.’”

So Jesus tells us plainly “do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…” Proverbs 23:4 says “do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint.” .” Hebrews 13:5 says “Keep your lives free from the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said never will I leave you ; never will I forsake you.” Colossians 3:2 says “set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.”

When we give, especially when we give sacrificially, we force ourselves to trust God to provide for us, and he does. Jesus said “seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

James Montgomery Boice wrote “From my own observation of the various patterns of Christian giving today I believe I would say that one of the best tings that could happen to many believers would be for them to be led to give away, all at one time, a substantial part of their savings. That is, they should give a substantial part of their capital. Why? Because there is something about giving away a sizable percentage of one’s money – and, of course, the amount would vary entirely from one individual to another-that is spiritually invigorating. And there is seldom a case in which a large gift does ot throw the Christian back on the Lord and increase the feeling that He is all wonderful and that He is more than able to care for the one who trusts Him. I have seen this happen in many instances. And I have never known a true Christian to be sorry for even the most sacrificial giving afterward.”

We cannot exhaust God’s resources, either. Here he says he meets our needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Just ask yourself “can the finite exhaust the infinite?”

Although Paul speaks here in a financial context, I think it applies to all our needs of all kinds. We need forgiveness, God gives it to those who believe in Jesus. We need fellowship with God and he gives it to us through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

David said “He satisfies my desires with good things, so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s (Psalm 103:5).

4:20 (Glory To God)

Paul ends his discussion by giving God glory, for ever and ever. It is a sort of doxology. He is looking forward to the time when God will receive the glory due him.

The Book of Revelation gives us some picture of that. In Revelation 4, the angels around the throne of God never stop saying “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come. Then the elders around the throne say “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.”

Then, in Revelation 5, every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, sang “to him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power for ever and ever.”

Psalm 104:31 says “may the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works.”

4:21-23 (Greetings)

Paul ends this letter with greetings. He greets all the believers in Philippi. His Christian brothers there with him send greetings also. This is Timothy and Epaphroditus and others. The believers in Rome send their greetings and especially those who work in Caesar’s very household. There is a bond of love between these believers in different cities and countries.

Then he ends with his most important theme, grace. God’s grace brings our salvation and preserves us day by day. May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit also. Amen.

That's it for Philippians. Now it is on to the Old Testament book of Joshua.
Post a Comment