Today: [Philippians 4:] Gems of Admonition: In the final chapter of Philippians there are several statements Paul makes that constitute some of the most often quoted verses in the scripture. We find promises and admonitions given that once incorporated into our thinking and our faith will make a radical difference in our daily lives.
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[Phl 4:1-23 KJV] 1 Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, [my] dearly beloved. 2 I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and [with] other my fellowlabourers, whose names [are] in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: [and] again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord [is] at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things. 9 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. 10 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. 11 Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, [therewith] to be content. 12 I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. 14 Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. 15 Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. 16 For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. 17 Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. 18 But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things [which were sent] from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God. 19 But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. 20 Now unto God and our Father [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen. 21 Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. 22 All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household. 23 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ [be] with you all. Amen.
In chapter 4 Paul sums up his letter to the Philippians with an apostolic encouragement to stand fast in the Lord in the areas of concern that prompted his message in the first place. In chapter 1 he gave an account of his imprisonment that they had become aware of in his absence. He informs them that he is willing to die for his faith and he urges them to be strong in the face of persecution. In chapter two he remonstrates with them over reports of strife and discord among the members of the congregation, calling for the people to be in unity and of one mind as believers. He speaks on the subject of Christ’s condescension in the passage that expresses what theologians call the “kenosis” or “self-emptying” of Christ. In chapter 3 he warns them to beware of legalistic teachers sent from James the half-brother of Jesus who were requiring Gentile believers to submit to circumcision and Jewish customs as a condition of salvation. He speaks of his holy ambition to be apprehended of Christ in hopes that he might attain to the resurrection. Now in his concluding remarks, he mentions several of the Philippians by name regarding various issues.
In v. two he names a particular man by the name of Euodias and urges him along with a woman named Syntyche to be of one mind in the Lord. Can you imagine a pastor or leader calling out names of problem people in a public meeting? This would be unacceptable in today’s church setting and cause for a pastor’s removal. What is the problem? It is nothing more than pride and a stark contrast between today’s Christian concept of accountability and the accountability that went without saying in the early church. Today’s leaders have little or no authority concerning personal accountability in the lives of their members whereas in the early church personal accountability of the elders and apostles was presumptive. What about you? Would you tolerate a leader calling out your name regarding some problem you were having with a fellow member? Would that be your last Sunday in that church or would you submit to the correction? The answer to that question is a metric for establishing the difference between your concept of being a believer and the standard of faith found in the scriptures we claim to venerate.
In verse 3 Paul intreats the aforementioned Euodias to be helpful with the prominent women in the church who labored with Paul in the gospel. What this tells us by reading between the lines is that Euodias was a leading member of the church in Philippi with a misogynistic bent to his character who had a problem with women. Paul corrects him by commanding him to follow the example of Clement, another leader in Philippi who by all accounts didn’t show this lack of good character toward the women in the congregation. Clement is not unknown to us in the early histories of the church, and in fact, he went on to become an apostle in his own right and one who wrote several letters that are known to us today that were greatly revered in the early centuries of the church although not included in the canon of scripture.
In v. 4 Paul encourages the people, in essence, to lighten up and stop taking themselves so seriously. He calls upon them to rejoice in the Lord and to be careful about nothing. He also speaks to them of the need for moderation and sobriety in the light of the imminent return of the Lord Jesus Christ that Paul no doubt felt was close at hand. What does this tell us? To be overly severe and weighted down with cares and troubles is to invite dissipation and giving one’s self to overindulgence as a coping mechanism to deal with worry and the responsibilities of life that press down upon us. So be careful about nothing is Paul’s counsel and that we should take all our concerns to God in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving making our requests known to God. In so doing (v. 7) the peace of God that passes understanding will keep our minds in perfect harmony. What does this tell us? It isn’t always helpful to understand or have explanations for what we are going through. You could understand fully everything that is happening in your life, and that understanding and comprehension wouldn’t make things any better. The Lord spoke to us at one point in our lives, asking the question “do you want peace or do you want understanding – you can’t have both.” The human demand for explanations and understanding is merely the carnal mind demanding that God explain himself to our sinful nature. We must put our intellect and our ego in check, humbling ourselves under the Lordship of Jesus Christ in such matters.
In verse 8 Paul instructs us to focus ourselves on whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of any virtue or praise we are to think in these things and not all the other things we could fill our minds with of controversy or scandal or negativity. Does this command still hold to us today? What about the 24-hour news cycle? If we refrained from consuming any information from the news outlets that didn’t fall under this description what would be left to listen to, read or watch? Are we exempt from following the command of Phil. 4:8? Is it a sin to do otherwise or is Paul just being naive or perhaps he didn’t mean what he said, or maybe again this verse doesn’t apply to the modern believer in the information age? Are we so spiritual and mature in godly things that this verse doesn’t apply to us?
Paul goes on to thank the Philippians for their willingness to stand in support of him with their offerings and gifts. He isn’t soliciting them because of his own need, however, for he says he knows how to be abased and how to abound. If you are in full-time ministry, there will be times of abasing and times of abounding. The fact of the matter is that well-established statistics tell us that only 2 percent of the people who sit under any given ministry will substantively give any support at all. Paul realizes this and doesn’t even try to correct it. He merely states that it is a pressure he has learned to deal with. He says he knows how to be abased and how to abound. They are actually the same lesson, and that is dealing with pressure and looking to God as his source. Even when there are money and resources in abundance there is still pressure, for success in ministry or any other endeavor doesn’t remove pressure but in reality compounds it even greater than that which those in poverty struggle with. Only people who have never had success will wrongly think that abundance of this world’s resources means having no pressure in their lives.
In verse 13 Paul declares that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him. At the end of the day, popularity does not strengthen a ministry. Neither does an abundance of resources or large crowds — the source of strength and grace for a leader as it is for the people they minister to — originates in God himself. In the situation, Paul is in at the time (v. 18 tells us) he is fully supplied but just because he doesn’t need money at the moment doesn’t mean he won’t talk about finances. Many people who do give will not do so unless there is a perceived need. That is why many ministers will even manufacture a need (such as sponsoring an orphanage) in order to get people to give. This is an error on the part of a leader and a mistake on the part of the people. We have had well-off supporters who gave generously until we gave testimony regarding how God had blessed us after which they promptly notified us they wouldn’t be giving any further because they wanted to give where there was a need. That is ego driven thinking. In verse 19 Paul reveals his understanding that we need to give not only for the furtherance of the gospel but for our own benefit and blessing as well. Paul states that when people gave to him whether he had a need or not – that his God (Paul’s God) would meet all of THIER NEED according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus. We usually quote this as “my God will meet all of MY need…” but that is NOT what Paul said here. He is speaking about his apostolic authority to call down financial blessing upon the lives of those who were partnering with them. Many people, in fact, most people will never know the power of this principle because they struggle financially (as a result of not giving) and feel that giving is not an option because they struggle financially. For this reason, they are in a closed loop of a spiraling financial downturn. They are the only ones that can break this cycle which is why Paul is addressing it and why the Holy Spirit by inspiration includes these statements for us in the canon.
Paul signs off with a communicated greeting from those around him from his incarceration in Rome. He even sends greeting from the believers in Caesar’s household who were close to Paul in prison. We can almost forget this was a prison epistle for the note of dominion and confidence and faith by which Paul speaks without any complaint or bad report to give for he knows in whom he believes and has perfect trust and rest in the hand of God upon his life to keep him safe and supplied.
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