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Bible Commentaries

Mark Dunagan Commentary on the Bible
Philippians 4

 

 

Other Authors
Introduction

Outline:

I. Final Exhortations:

A. To stand firm in the Lord:

B. To be united:

C. To rejoice in the Lord:

D. To trust completely In God:

E. To mind and do the right things:

II. Final expression of Thanks:

III. Final Greetings:

“Paul once more expresses his joy and pride in his Philippian friends and encourages them afresh to be steadfast in their Christian life (cf. ). More particularly in the present context he encourages them to be steadfast in resistance to those influences against which he has just warned them--influences that would undermine their Christian stability” (Bruce p. 137). “A certain general order of thought is being followed even in this informal, friendly epistle. Paul first writes of his personal experiences in Rome, and then adds certain pertinent exhortations to his readers. He next mentions the plans of Timothy and Epaphroditus, who are sharing his imprisonment, and then warns the Philippians against the evil influence of certain men of a very different character. He now turns to mention the names of certain individuals in the Philippian church, and to urge them to live in Christian harmony” (Erdman p. 131). Even in this very positive and upbeat letter, we have warnings against false teachers and not standing firm. 4:1 infers that the Christian can lose their salvation, if not, why even give the warning? In addition, the true message of Christianity is never so positive that it eliminates all negatives. Christian joy is not gullible and neither does it have its head in the clouds.


Verse 1

Philippians 4:1 “Wherefore, my brethren beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my beloved”

“Wherefore”: The ideas that follow are: “Because the believer"s homeland is in heaven and not on earth, and because a glorious inheritance awaits them at Christ"s return, when even their bodies will be made to resemble Christ"s body, let nothing sway them from their firm foundation. Let them always remain steadfast and sure, so that these glories may be theirs indeed” (Hendriksen p. 189). ”Because there are many enemies of the cross, and also because the believers are looking forward to the coming of their Lord, the church is exhorted to stand firm” (Muller p. 136). “My brethren beloved”: “Dearly beloved” (KJV). “My dear brothers” (TCNT). “And longed for”: Yearned upon and greatly loved. “Whom I am longing to see” (TCNT). “Greatly desired” (Jackson p. 75). See ; 2:26. “They are in his heart and mind, and his separation from them causes him pain and distress; he yearns to see them” (Erdman p. 132). As we seek to restore the Christianity taught in the New Testament, let us always remember that such a relationship with God also included a very close relationship with brethren (1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7; 1 Corinthians 12:25-26). “My joy”: “My delight” (Knox). “Even in the present time they are a source of true gladness” (Erdman p. 132). “And crown”: “The crown of victory in the games, of civic worth, of military valor, of nuptial joy, of festal gladness. Surely words as comforting as these are an incentive for each of us to stand fast in the faith” (Jackson p. 75).

Christians need to realize that their present level of faithfulness either causes others to rejoice or to worry (2 John 1:4; 3 John 1:4). We need to seriously ask ourselves, “Does my life uplift people or does it discourage people?” If the brethren at Philippi remained firm in the faith, Paul would consider them as composing his victor"s crown, because such a faithful congregation would demonstrate that his labor had not been in vain (2:16; Galatians 4:11; 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20). The faithful preacher, besides preaching the correct doctrine, also loves the souls of those he exhorts. Faithful and growing Christians are his joy. He is not merely preoccupied with his own salvation, but also the salvation of those he teaches (1 Timothy 4:16). Seeing people rewarded at the judgment day that he had a hand in assisting, will be his crown of victory. “Paul may be reinforcing the idea that the Philippians are a cause for his festal-like joy” (Hawthorne p. 178). We would say that the Philippians were really a shot in the arm to Paul. They were his pride and joy. He always felt refreshed and uplifted when with them (Colossians 4:11). Is that the effect that we have on other Christians?

“At the appearing of Christ, these faithful converts will be the occasion of deepest satisfaction. They will be the witnesses to his triumphant career” (Erdman p. 132). “He praises them again and again, and thanks God for them (,29,30; 2:12,17; 4:10, 14-20)” (Hendriksen p. 189).

“So stand fast”: “By this word he describes them as soldiers who are to stand at their post irrespective of the pressures to abandon it” (Hawthorne p. 178). “It is the word which would be used for a soldier standing fast in the shock of battle, with the enemy surging down upon him” (Barclay p. 71) (Ephesians 6:11-14). “In the Lord”: “Stay true to the Lord” (Tay). “In His fellowship and in attachment to Him and His cause” (Muller p. 137). This includes standing fast in the truth that Christ taught (Colossians 1:23). Since it is only a matter of time before temptation comes, every Christian must take full advantage of everything that will enable them to "stand firm" (Ephesians 6:10-17; 2 Peter 1:5-11; Hebrews 10:24-25). “After such an endearing introduction addressed to each and to all, the needed admonition intended for two individuals cannot seem harsh” (Hendrisken p. 190).


Verse 2

Philippians 4:2 “I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord”

“I exhort”: Pay careful attention to the double use of the word "exhort" in this passage. Paul exhorted both Christians. God expects both parties to seek reconciliation (Matthew 5:23-24). “Euodia”: The name is a woman’s name. Pronounced “you OH dih uh”, and meaning “good journey”. “And I exhort”: Both needed to act like Christians, and both had the mutual obligation to work things out. There are to be no one-sided relationships in Christianity (Romans 12:18). Paul would not be impressed with the professed Christian that everybody must tip-toe around or is easily offended. “Syntyche”: Is another female Christian. Pronounced “SIN tih keh”, and the name means “fortunate”, “happy chance” or “good luck”. “To be of the same mind”: Compare with 2:2. The phrase means “Live in harmony as fellow-Christians” (TCNT), “To agree in the Lord” (Mof), “To make up your differences as Christians should” (Phi), “Be in agreement, live in harmony as sisters in Christ” (Jackson p. 77), “Is to live harmoniously together a way of life that is fit and proper for all who claim to have placed themselves under the Lordship of Christ” (Hawthorne p. 178). “In the Lord”: “The desired agreement should be sought on the highest ground and from the loftiest motives. They should remember their common relation to Christ and to his church” (Erdman p. 133).

As previously mentioned both of these Christians were women, and they were very hard workers for the cause of Christ (), therefore how much more needful it was that they get along. Working hard for God does not excuse a bad attitude toward our brethren. That"s why Jesus stressed reconciliation to a brother, as coming ahead of even worship (Matthew 5:23-24). Not being on right terms with our brethren can threaten our salvation (1 John 3:15). We are not told what the "real problem" was between these two sisters in Christ. Obviously, it was not a disagreement concerning some essential point of doctrine, for the apostles had no tolerance for the false teacher (2 John 1:9-11; Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 2:20).

Paul names the specific individuals. If we are not living right, if our attitude is bad and our conduct beneath a child of God, then we do not have any right to complain when our name is mentioned among Christians as someone about whom they are concerned. In naming these two Christian women, Paul had not humiliated them. Their own bad attitude had already accomplished that much. “There can be no unity unless it is in Christ. Their loyalty to each other depends entirely on their loyalty to Him” (p. 71).


Verse 3

Philippians 4:3 “Yea, I beseech thee also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life”

“Yea, I beseech thee also”: “Yes, and I ask thee” (Knox). “True”: Genuine, that is, one who truly lives up to the name of being a yokefellow. “Yokefellow”: Co-yoked, a colleague. “It is supposed by some that the word rendered ‘yoke-fellow’ is a proper name (Synzygus), and that ‘true’ is to be explained as ‘rightly so called’” (Vincent p. 455). “Lit., joiner-together” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 465). “Help these women”: Help them to patch up their differences. “Help them! You must!” (Hawthorne p. 180). “Yokefellow, a person who pulls well in a harness for two” (Hendriksen p. 191). Christians are expected to work together. Sometimes we forget that unity, growth, and all those other good things that can be found in a local congregation are the result of many Christians working hard (Ephesians 4:16). Every Christian needs to be very conscientious about doing their fair share, because it is unfair to another brother or sister to make them assume the full load. Slacking off is selfish, for it only places a greater weight upon the shoulders of the very Christians that I profess to love.

Carefully note that Paul is bending over backwards to give these women the most favorable circumstances possible for reconciliation. He calls upon another Christian in Philippi to help these women resolve their differences. It"s not that these women could not work it out on their own, but rather, every moment of strained relations in the church is a wasted moment.

“For”: The reason for this urgent help. When talented, knowledgeable, and zealous Christians cannot get along, they have been rendered ineffective. All of a sudden the gospel they preach lacks credibility. “They”: Both of them. “Labored with me”: “They toiled by my side"”(TCNT). “Lit., strove as athletes” (Vincent p. 456). “They exerted themselves and eagerly cooperated” (Muller p. 139). “To fight side by side with is a metaphorical word drawn from the games or the gladiatorial arena. It implies a united struggle in preaching the gospel, on the one hand, and a sharing in the suffering that results from the struggle, on the other” (Hawthorne p. 180).

Unfortunately, some try to argue that the expression "labored with me", infers that these two women were preachers. How soon people forget that the very same writer also wrote 1 Timothy 2:12 ff.

“In the gospel”: At some time in the past, possibly when Paul was at Philippi. “With Clement also, and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life”: See Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 21:27. Christians may never be famous upon this earth, or get their names in the papers, yet something is far more important than the magazines and books written by men. “Their names have a glory greater than that of historical renown” (Muller p. 139). “When earthly citizens die, their names are erased from the records; the names of the spiritual conquerors will never be blotted out. Christ Himself will publicly acknowledge them as his very own (Matthew 10:32)” (Hendriksen p. 192). Seeing that the Bible is a very brief book, the very mention of this quarrel indicates that God views strife among Christians as a very serious matter. Therefore, let"s avoid it or resolve it and get over it, at all cost. Note what God considers to be important. Nothing else is known about the Clement mentioned in this verse. Yet what is said, is more important and relevant than all the volumes that have been written concerning the heroes of this world. Clement was a fellow-worker and his name was written in God"s book of life. Hence, the one line that is said concerning this obscure Christian is worth more than all that has been ever written concerning Lincoln, Washington, Jefferson, or any other famous person.

The repeated call to rejoice


Verse 4

Philippians 4:4 “Rejoice in the Lord always: again I will say, Rejoice”

“Rejoice in the Lord always”: “Always be glad in the Lord” (Wey). “Be happy in the Lord always” (Beck). "Keep on rejoicing" (Jackson p. 79). True and legitimate joy is only found in a relationship with Jesus Christ. The joy of the Christian is not rooted in fleeting circumstances. The world must depend upon external things to bring them joy and unsaved people depend upon artificial means to produce happiness (Ephesians 5:18; Hebrews 11:25). The joy of the Christian is real, deep, strong, and enduring. It is not like the fleeting, shallow joy that the world offers. Paul was in prison, facing an uncertain verdict, separated from dear friends, helpless to stop false teachers in other places (3:2). In addition, he found himself unsupported and let down by some who professed to be Christians (4:2; 1:15). Yet all of these negative circumstances could not remove from him the joy he found in being a Christian. Christians can always find something very real in which to presently rejoice (1 Thessalonians 5:16).

“It is a simple fact of human experience that a man living in the lap of luxury can be wretched. A man upon whom life has apparently inflicted no blows at all can be gloomily or peevishly discontented” (Barclay pp. 71-72).

Often people attack the writings of Paul. We need to seriously confront such people and demand that they demonstrate to us an equivalent level of happiness and contentment with Paul"s before we will take them seriously. Why should I listen to someone trash the writings of Paul, who obviously experiences very little of the joy, contentment and happiness that Paul experienced, in situations even more difficult that our critic friend has ever faced?

“Again I will say rejoice”: “And I will say it a second time (for emphasis)” (Bruce p. 141). It is as if Paul feels that he cannot stress this enough. To count your blessings, to be grateful and always realize how much God has done for you, and despite adverse circumstances, to always remember what a glorious future awaits you and how fortunate you are to be a Christian--this can never be stressed enough. Erdman reminds us, “If a person is not rejoicing, it is because he is not appropriating to his personal needs all the available riches of grace in Christ Jesus. One cause of joylessness is the memory of past failures and faults. We are slow to believe in divine forgiveness, or to expect victory where once we have been overcome. Others are continually inclined to take dark views of life; their humor is seldom cheerful. They are almost proud that they are pessimists. All should endeavor to cultivate the fine art of good cheer” (pp. 137-138). All of this tells us, that if we are unhappy, then it is our own choosing.


Verse 5

Philippians 4:5 “Let your forbearance be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand”

“Let”: This is a choice. “Forbearance”: “Forbearing spirit be plain to everyone” (TCNT). “The Greek term contains the idea of yieldingness, gentleness or sweet reasonableness. The term suggests the disposition of one who is willing to forego his own rights in the interest of the higher good of others. The word does not, however, imply a yielding in truth or principle!” (Jackson pp. 79-80). “Goodwill, fairness, magnanimity” (Muller pp. 140). “The term indicates something of ‘the power of yielding’, the ability to give way to the wishes of others, the poise of soul which enables one to sacrifice his own rights, not by necessity but out of generosity and sympathy. It is the opposite of stubbornness and thoughtlessness. It underlies chivalry and true politeness” (Erdman p. 139). “It is that considerate courtesy and respect for the integrity of others which prompts a person not to be forever standing on his rights” (Hawthorne p. 182). “Be known unto all men”: Not just Christians, rather display this character trait before your non-Christian friends and neighbors as well.

This is a character trait that we see in the life of Jesus (; 2 Corinthians 10:1). This is part of the definition of true love (1 Corinthians 13:5-7). From the context, the two sisters mentioned in 4:2, especially needed to apply this attitude.

Especially in our society that insists upon its own rights, it is hard to learn to give up your rights for the good of another (1 Corinthians 10:32-33). This context reveals the key that unlocks such a wonderful attitude. The key is "gratitude" (4:4). Seeing that God has unselfishly done so much for my salvation (2:6-8), seeing that I have all spiritual blessings in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 1:3), and seeing that I have always far more than I really deserve, I do not have to insist on every "right" that is entitled to me. Ungrateful people demand their rights. Hendriksen notes: “The lesson which Paul teaches is that true blessedness cannot be obtained by the person who rigorously insists on whatever he regards as his just due. Sweet reasonableness is an essential ingredient to true happiness” (p. 193).

“The Lord is at hand”: In view of the fact that the second coming of Jesus Christ could happen at any time, the Lord is always at hand (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). ‘Leave all wrongs for Him to adjust. Forbear all wrath and retaliation (Romans 12:19 ff)” (Gr. Ex. N.T. p. 466). Hence there is good reason to rejoice always and good reason to forego our own rights and good reason to live worry-free. The Lord can come at any time to reward the faithful and to punish the evil-doers, to heal all ills and right all wrongs (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9). Again, this phrase should stimulate the two women in 4:2 to quickly resolve their differences, because being at odds with our brethren when the Lord comes again, is like crying at our own birthday party. Nobody is impressed! Some suggest that the phrase "at hand" means "near in space", that being that the Lord is always near to His people (Hebrews 13:5-6). There is a great lesson to be learned here. Christians should be known as people who are "reasonable". That is, we are ready to compromise where we can. Being a Christian means that we are only "strict" and "unyielding" in those areas where God is unyielding. Being unyielding on anything and everything is not a mark of spirituality.


Verse 6

Philippians 4:6 “In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God”

“In nothing”: “Do not worry about anything” (Mon). “Entertain no worry” (Ber). Yet, we often want to "reserve" at least something or one thing to worry about. “Be”: Note: We have a choice in this area. We do not have to worry. We can choose not to. “Anxious”: “To draw in different directions thus to be of a divided mind” (Jackson p. 80). ‘Stop being anxious” (Robertson p. 459). God is not against "caring", rather He is against being unduly concerned about something, that is letting such cares choke and paralyze the child of God (Matthew 13:22). “Anxious harassing care, of attempting to carry the burden of the future oneself, especially about things over which one has no control” (Hawthorne p. 183).

Paul practiced what he preached. The man who wrote this spoke from experience (). Presently, he probably had far more things he could worry about, than the brethren in Philippi---or us.

Lest we think that such instruction was "easy" for the Philippians, we need to remind ourselves that "stress" has always existed. Even Christians can find themselves thinking that since our generation and culture moves faster than others, that we have more things to worry about, thus this passage does not really apply to us in the busy rat-race of the Western world. Yet listen to what Bruce says, “Christian experience in a pagan world was full of uncertainties: persecution of one kind or another was always a possibility, and the impossibility of membership in guilds which were under the patronage of pagan divinities was bound to involve economic disadvantage” (p. 143). “Paul and the Philippians had ample reason (from a human standpoint) for anxiety since the one was in prison and the others were threatened with persecution (). So he is not speaking of imaginary troubles or phantom anxieties” (Hawthorne p. 183). Thus if they were not to worry about such real possibilities, obviously the Christian today (who is not being persecuted), needs to turn over all their worries (yes, even the ones which pertain to career, spouse, children, retirement, and the future) to God. Jesus taught the same truth (Matthew 6:25-34).

The answer to worry

God is fair, He does not give us a command without also giving us the "tools" we need to implement it. The world has come up with any of its own ways of handling worry, such as drugs, physical temporary pleasure, even apathy, that is, ceasing to care about the troubles of life so that they will not bother you anymore. “Don"t expect anything, don"t get your hopes up about anything and you will never be disappointed”. “God never tells us to suppress every desire” (Hendriksen p. 195). “At the coming of the Lord all wrongs will be righted, and the believer will stand in the presence of his Lord, fully vindicated. Hence, let him not make too much of disappointments, or unduly trouble himself about the future” (Hendriksen p. 194).

“But in everything by prayer”: Someone has well said, that if a care is too small to be made into a prayer, then it is too small to worry about. “But under all circumstances” (TCNT). “There is nothing too great for God"s power; and nothing too small for His fatherly care” (Barclay p. 77). “In everything”: Sadly, some Christians only view prayer as a last resort, or something that is only used in emergency situations. Others view prayer as being completely inadequate for the big "crisis" situations. In contrast, God says, “prayer is suited for all and every circumstance”. “Supplication”: Hawthorne offers the following insights: “How does one gain and keep his equilibrium in a world heaving with anxiety-creating situations? Paul"s answer: by prayer, and by believing that God is, and that He is greater than the greatest problem. From personal experience he had learned that ‘the way to be anxious about nothing was to be prayerful about everything’. He is saying in effect, that prayer is a conversation with, a plea directed to, a request made of the supreme Person of the universe who can hear, know, understand, care about and respond” (p. 183).

“With thanksgiving”: Paul often connects gratitude with prayer (Romans 1:21; Romans 14:6; Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 3:15). “This implies humility, submission to God"s will, knowing that this will is always best” (Hendriksen p. 196). Matthew 6:10 “Thy will be done”. “Thanksgiving must be the universal accompaniment of prayer. The Christian must feel, as it has been put, that all his life he is, as it were suspended between past and present blessings” (Barclay p. 77). “To begin by praising God for the fact that in this situation, as it is, He is so mightily God--such a beginning is the end of anxiety” (Hawthorne p. 183). This passage is a great test of spirituality and character, because selfishness and pride insist that we hold on to our worries. Actually, when we refuse to give God our worries we are arrogantly claiming that He cannot handle these problems but we can. Expressing such cares to God is to glory in God instead of wallowing in self. Letting God have our worries is part of giving God the complete control in our lives (Galatians 2:20).

“Let your requests be made known unto God”: Compare with Matthew 6:8; 1 Peter 5:7). “The troubles that exercise us then cease to be hidden and bottled up. They are, so to speak, laid open to God, spread out before Him” (Hawthorne p. 184). This should remind us that gratitude needs to be expressed just for the opportunity to pray!


Verse 7

Philippians 4:7 “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus”

“And”: As a result of practicing the gratitude and humble prayer-life mentioned in . “The peace of God”: The peace that is available in a relationship with God. “Which passeth all understanding”: “Surpasses all comprehension” (NASV). Vincent notes, “Either, which passes all power of comprehension or better, which surpasses every (human) reason, in its power to relieve anxiety” (pp. 457-458). “There are two possible views. It may mean that the ‘peace of God’ is beyond our ability to mentally appreciate or, it may denote that real peace, such as comes from God, is beyond man"s ability to contrive, produce, or obtain by himself” (Jackson p. 80).”"God"s gift of peace will do far more for us than will any clever planning or calculating on our part.” (Hendriksen p. 197). “God"s peace is able to produce exceedingly better results than human planning or that it is far superior to any person"s schemes for security or that it is more effective for removing anxiety than any intellectual effort or power of reasoning” (Hawthorne p. 184). Often people will ridicule prayer, but this section reveals that sincere, humble, grateful and earnest prayer, casting all our cares upon God in simple trust, can do much more than all the human "cures" combined!

An incredible number of human ways of dealing with anxiety exist. Some turn to drugs and medication. Others turn to promiscuity. Some read endless self-help books and spend their time on a psychiatrist"s couch. Some turn to human philosophy, Eastern religions or some other false teaching. People try to convince themselves that suffering is just an illusion. Some naively think, “Everything will always just work out”, or that things will simply take care of themselves. Others take the fatalist view, “What will be, will be, and it is pointless to resist”. Again, let it be emphasized, “all our contemplations and premeditated ideas of how to get rid of our cares” (Muller p. 142), will fail.

“Shall guard”: All other mechanisms for dealing with worry will fail. Notice the word "shall". Prayer, when done right, will work every time. “Guard is a military term picturing God"s peace as a detachment of soldiers ‘standing guard over’ the metaphor would have been easily understood and appreciated by the Philippian Christians who read it: God"s peace, like a garrison of soldiers, will keep guard over our thoughts and feelings so that they will be as safe against the assaults of worry and fear as any fortress” (Hawthorne pp. 184-185). “Your hearts and your thoughts”: Guarding the heart and mind is essential (Proverbs 4:23). Believe the wrong thing, become convinced of something false, buy into some erroneous idea, and we are sunk. “Together these words refer to the entire inner being of the Christian, his emotions, affections, thoughts and moral choices” (Hawthorne p. 185). “In Christ”: “Apart from Him there is no surety or guarantee for peace of mind” (Muller p. 143). In Christ Jesus we have access to every spiritual blessing (Ephesians 1:3), therefore, such peace can always be a reality, yet outside of Christ, we are lost, and real, true peace is impossible for anyone who remains an enemy of God (Jeremiah 6:14; Jeremiah 8:11).

God’s prescription for mental health

“In his little book, ‘The Bible and Mental Health’, Dr. Paul Southern states: ‘The number one problem in the United States is the mental health problem. Mental and emotional ailments claim more victims than cancer, heart disease, polio, tuberculosis, and all other physical diseases combined. At least one in every ten persons across the nation is in need of help for the living of life in these days. This simply means that twenty million Americans suffer from psychic tensions that they are unable to handle alone. Every other bed in all the hospitals in our country is occupied by a patient who has no organic ailment. One in every five families is affected” (pp. 2,3)” (Jackson p. 81). The Bible stresses the absolute importance of filling our minds with good things (Proverbs 23:7; Proverbs 4:23; Matthew 12:34; Mark 7:20-23).


Verse 8

Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, 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”

“Finally”: “Paul lists a number of traits, which, if incorporated into one"s thinking processes, would truly contribute to tranquility of life” (Jackson p. 81). This verse also contains practical information that will help any Christian "stand fast" in the Lord (). The "peace" mentioned in 4:7 demands some human cooperation, and it does not just happen. “The readers must do their part by controlling their minds and thoughts” (Erdman p. 142). Yet, this verse admits that we can realistically control our mental attitude and what we think about. Standing fast in the Lord, involves standing firm in our convictions, beliefs, and thoughts. The Christian does not have the right to think or personally believe anything they want (Matthew 5:28). Everyone allows their mind to dwell on something, “The human mind will always set itself on something” (Barclay p. 79). Hence, since I am going to expend mental energy thinking about something, the wise man says, “I should at least profit from such mental activity”. Many have noted that thoughts produce habits, habits lead to actions, actions determine character, and character determines our eternal destiny. Barclay reminds us, “This is something of the utmost importance, because it is a law of life that, if a man thinks of something often enough, he will come to the stage when he cannot stop thinking about it. His thoughts will be quite literally in a groove out of which he cannot jerk them” (p. 79).

“Whatsoever things are”: Whatever would fit into the following categories. “True”: This infers that many things are also false. “Many things in this world are deceptive and illusory, promising what they can never perform, offering a specious peace and happiness which they can never supply. A man should always set his thoughts on the things which will not let him down” (Barclay p. 79). The Christian cannot afford to live in an illusionary fantasy world. “It is not a true thing that God does not care what we believe and how we act in consequence” (Lenski p. 882). This means that the Christian does not have the right to believe a false concept, even though they might not practice it. God does not want Christians to be gullible. “The term denotes that which is ‘true to fact’. Truth is grounded in the very nature of God (Romans ; 8:32; 17:17)” (Jackson pp. 81-82).

“Honorable”: “Dignified” (Rhm). “Whatever is worthy of reverence” (Mon). “Is a quality that is characterized by soberness, as opposed to a flippant attitude that lacks ‘intellectual seriousness’” (Jackson p. 82). “That which wins respect or commands reverence, or is esteemed. It refers to lofty things, majestic things, things that lift the mind from the cheap and tawdry to that which is noble and good and of moral worth” (Hawthorne p. 188). “There are things in this world which are flippant and cheap and attractive to the light-minded” (Barclay p. 79). Christians need to take the time to reflect about the serious things of life (1 Timothy 2:2; 1 Timothy 3:4; Titus 2:2; Titus 2:7; Titus 3:8). “There lies in it the idea of a dignity or majesty which is yet inviting and attractive, and which inspires reverence” (Vincent p. 458). The things above would fit into this category, Colossians 3:1-2.

“Just”: “What is right” (Gspd). The Christian will be miserable, if he or she allows false concepts to remain in their thinking. The Christian is the person who admits that whatever God says and does is "right".

The Christian does not long for the "easy way out", rather, they only want to do what is "right". Instead of thinking selfishly, the Christian says, “What is just?” (Colossians 4:1). “It concerns giving to God and men their due. It involves duty and responsibility. It entails satisfying all obligations” (Hawthorne p. 188).

“Pure”: Innocent, modest, chaste, and clean. “This world is full of things which are sordid and shabby and soiled and smutty. Many a man gets his mind into such a state that it soils everything of which it thinks” (Barclay p. 80). Compare with Titus 1:15. Hendriksen reminds us, “The Philippians, because of their background and surroundings, were being constantly tempted by that which was unchaste” (p. 198). The word "pure" also applies to "pure" motives and actions. The Christian does not have the right to "plot" revenge (Romans 12:19-21). Some people spend their lives dwelling upon all the bad things they would love to see happen to those who wronged them, and such people are usually miserable (Titus 3:3). “Lovely”: “Endearing” (Con). “Lovable” (TCNT). “It is that which calls forth love” (Jackson p. 82). “Winsome--Thus the Christian"s mind is to be set on things that elicit from others not bitterness and hostility, but admiration and affection” (Hawthorne p. 188). “There are those whose minds are so set on vengeance and punishment that they call forth bitterness and fear in others. There are those whose minds are so set on criticism and rebuke that they call forth resentment in others” (Barclay p. 80).

“Good report”: Well spoken of. Those things that deserve and enjoy a good reputation (1 Corinthians 13:6). “Lit., ‘sounding well’--that which is fit to hear” (Jackson p. 82). The Christian is not interested in "gossip" and the Christian takes no pleasure in hearing the "dirt" that has surfaced concerning another member. The Christian eagerly desires to hear those things that are good, such as the good things that Christians are doing, and the successes they are having. Jackson makes all of us uncomfortable when he says, “It is a truly interesting exercise to listen to the things that most commonly engage the conversations of men--even some who profess to be disciples of the Lord Jesus!” (p. 82). “If there be any”: “If virtue and honor have any meaning” (TCNT). “Whatever moral excellence exists, and whatever praise it deserves” (Erdman p. 143). “Nothing that is really worthwhile for believers to ponder and take into consideration is omitted from this summarizing phrase. Anything at all that is a matter of moral and spiritual excellence, so that it is the proper object of praise, is the right pasture for the Christian mind to graze in” (Hendriksen p. 199). Paul could also be inferring that virtue and praiseworthy behavior cannot be developed without thinking about the right things.

“Think on these things”: "’To take account of. It also suggests that we are to constantly place our minds on these things. Vine notes that it means to ‘make those things the subjects of your thoughtful consideration’” (Jackson p. 81).

We are responsible for our thoughts. Contrary to the thinking of some, man is capable to "holding on" to good thoughts. I can make such things the habitual food for my mind. The Christian can really change, and such change can reach right down to the very essence of one"s attitude. The Christian has too much to ponder to allow his mind to wander. Happiness and contentment () are impossible without practicing Philippians 4:8.


Verse 9

Philippians 4:9 “The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do: and the God of peace shall be with you”

“The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me”: “All that you learnt and received and heard and saw in me put into practice” (TCNT). Again, Paul sets up himself as an example to be followed (1 Corinthians 11:1). “These things do”: Right thoughts must result in right actions if they are to be worth anything. The present tense here is used, that is, keep on doing. “Practice as a habit” (Robertson p. 460). “Right thinking is invaluable, but it must also be accompanied by resolution; it must be followed by determined action” (Erdman p. 143). Paul himself practiced these very truths. “The truths of the Christian gospel must never be abstracted from action and put into high-toned words and phrases, but always expressed in the life of the teacher” (Hawthorne p. 190) (1 Timothy 4:12-16).

“And the God of peace shall be with you”: “To think of God as ‘the God of peace’ was a most refreshing and encouraging exercise for Paul who lived constantly in the center of turmoil and trouble (2 Corinthians 11:23-33)” (Hawthorne p. 190). Fellowship with God is conditional. We must "do" these things (Matthew 7:21-27).

There is one final thing I wish to point out in this section of Scripture. Paul gave the Philippians the right concepts or truths. The instruction was very practical and possible for all, but there was a time to stop discussing these things and to start doing them. All Bible study is vain, if it doesn"t result in changed conduct. Most Christians do not need another class on how to go about teaching others, or treating their mates or brethren with honor and so on. They simply need to finally accept what they already know is true and then do it.


Verse 10

Philippians 4:10 “But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length ye have revived your thought for me; wherein ye did indeed take thought, but ye lacked opportunity”

“One of Paul"s purposes in writing Philippians was to give written expression to his gratitude for the gift received. Says C.R. Erdman, ‘This message of thanks is a rare blending of affection, of dignity, of delicacy, with a certain undertone of gentle pleasantry. It is an embodiment of ideal Christian courtesy’” (Hendriksen p. 203).

“But”: Marking a transition in subjects from . “I rejoice in the Lord”: This a joy that is motivated by the highest possible considerations. “Its connection with the Lord is evident when we see the unselfish, spiritual quality of this joy” (Lenski p. 886). “I gave joyful thanks to the Lord (when I received your gift)” (Bruce p. 148).

Paul always brings everything back to the Lord, because it was the gospel message which had changed the Philippians and had moved them to be this generous (2 Corinthians 8:5). The Philippians had to cooperate and they had done well (Philippians 4:14), yet the Lord should get the full credit for planning and making possible the Christian lifestyle (4:20). Muller says, “Not only natural joy for the gift received, but a joy experienced in the Lord, because the gift stood in connection with the cause of the Lord, was sent as a support for His servant in prison, and gave evidence of Christian love and sympathy in the Church” (p. 145). Jackson reminds us, ‘There is no true rejoicing out of Christ” (p. 85). That last comment brings up another angle to the expression "in the Lord". Hawthorne says, “By saying that his joy was ‘in the Lord’ he was saying that it was thoroughly Christian, flowing out of his union with Christ and therefore totally free from ingratitude or resentment” (p. 196).

“Greatly”: “How grateful I am” (Tay). Great joy is a mark of the Christian experience (Acts 8:8; Acts 15:3). Something is wrong with our implementation of the teachings of Christ, if we do not experience some "great joy" now and then. Lenski says, “It lets us see how surprised and delighted Paul was when a handsome gift was so unexpectedly presented to him by the messenger from the Philippian church” (p. 886). This verse should make us seriously reflect upon our relationship with our brethren and God. Paul received great joy from what many would consider to be a simple contribution, yet Paul could see the wonderful growth and attitudes behind what the world would consider as a small thing. Let’s guard our ability to rejoice greatly in the "small things"?

“That now at length ye have revived your thought for me”: “That now at last you have revived your concern for me” (NASV). “At length”: “At last, hinting of implied hindrances” (Jackson p. 85). “The phrase at last might imply, if it stood by itself, that the Philippians had let an inordinately long time elapse since last they sent Paul a gift; but the context shows that no such reflection is intended” (Bruce p. 148). “Revived”: “To sprout again, to shoot up, to blossom again” (Jackson p. 85). “As soon as the news of Paul"s imprisonment had become known in Philippi the desire had sprung up ‘to do something’ to help him. But at first no favorable opportunity had presented itself” (Hendriksen p. 204). “Wherein ye did indeed take thought, but ye lacked opportunity”: “Though your care indeed never failed” (Con). “For what you lacked was never the care but the chance of showing it” (Mof). “He hastens to say that what they lacked was not sympathy but the chance of showing it” (Erdman p. 146). The Philippians provide us with an excellent practical example. Often Christians will find themselves in situations in which they greatly desire to do something specific for God, but either lack the resources or the favorable circumstances to make their desire a reality. The Philippians would tell us, “Keep that desire alive, for often the opportunity will come in time”. This section also comforts those who are aged or sick and cannot presently meet with Christians or teach classes. God is fair. He understands such situations. Yet note carefully, God is only understanding towards those who have the desire to serve Him. “As soon as this situation changed, the Philippians had acted with characteristic enthusiasm and devotion” (Hendriksen p. 204).

“The durative present tense states that the Philippians have always had Paul in mind” (Lenski p. 887). The text does not say what specifically the hindrance was or what created this lack of opportunity. We know that some six years previous, Paul described these same brethren as being in deep poverty (2 Corinthians 8:1-5).


Verse 11

Philippians 4:11 “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content”

“Not that I speak in respect of want”: “Not that I have anything to complain” (Gspd). “Do not think that I am saying this under pressure of want” (TCNT). “His rejoicing is not based upon the fact that his needs have been met” (Jackson pp. 85-86). Some commentators feel that this gift embarrassed Paul and that he felt uncomfortable in receiving such support. They say that he liked to be independent and self-sufficient. I think this completely misses the point. Paul is saying, “I am elated about this gift, but it is not because I am hinting that you please send me another gift soon”. “Under no circumstances would he express discontent; nor would he so express his thanks as to seem to be requesting another gift” (Erdman p. 147). In addition, Paul is not saying, “This gift of yours makes me so happy, because I am so desperate for any help”. Here we see the wholesome rejoicing of Paul. It was not selfish, for even when he received help from others, he took the time to realize and rejoice in the blessings such generosity would bring upon the givers (,17-18; 2 Corinthians 9:6-11). Next time another Christian does something for you, do not merely rejoice in your own good fortune, but rejoice at the fact of how God is pleased with your brother or sister (2 Corinthians 9:6). “For I have learned”: This is the reason why Paul did not consider himself deprived and miserable, even in prison. “Learned”: “To learn by use and practice, to acquire the habit of, the term points back to difficult times in the apostle"s life” (Jackson p. 86). “Looking at his long experience as a unit” (Robertson p. 461).

Contentment is not inherited or inborn, it is learned. Paul was not born content. Paul, like all others, must learn this lesson. This is not an easy lesson to learn: “For Paul it has been a matter of long tuition. The school of discipline has included many difficult courses. Some of these Paul now specifies” (Erdman p. 147).

“In whatsoever state I am”: “Whatever be my outward experiences” (Wey). “Therein”: In whatever circumstances Paul finds himself. “To be content”: A great contrast is found in these verses, and the world has attempted to achieve the same state of mind, apart from God. Christians need to realize that people in the world desire the same type of happiness, fulfillment, contentment, and satisfaction that is found in Christ. The Stoics attempted to find a contentment that was independent of one"s circumstances: “They proposed to eliminate all desire. The Stoics believed that the only way to contentment was to abolish all desire until a man had come to a stage when nothing and no one were essential to him. They proposed to eliminate all emotion until a man had come to a stage when he did not care what happened either to himself or to anyone else. Epictetus says. ‘Begin with a cup or a household utensil; if it breaks, say, "I don"t care." Go on to a horse or pet dog; if anything happens to it, say. "I don"t care". Go on to yourself. If you go on long enough, and if you try hard enough, you will come to a stage when you can watch your nearest and dearest suffer and die, and say, "I don"t care." The Stoic aim was to abolish every feeling of the human heart. As T.R. Glover said, ‘The Stoics made of the heart a desert, and called it a peace’” (Barclay pp. 84-85).

Erdman points out: “It is to be noted that Paul says nothing about poverty"s being a great blessing. He has learned, however, that even the poor man does not lack those things that are essential to the highest life. Nor does he say anything about riches being a great curse. He does not intimate that the only thing to do with wealth is to abandon it. This might be the cowardly evasion of real responsibility (1 Timothy 6:17 ff). He does claim, however, to have learned the secret of being cheerful and joyful even in times of penury and privation, of being generous and unselfish and grateful in seasons of prosperity and of abundance. Nor does Paul mean that he has become an unfeeling fatalist or a stoic. There is such a thing as ‘divine discontent’. Conditions may exist indifference to which would be sinful (1 Corinthians 5:1 ff). To be satisfied with one"s own imperfections, to be unconcerned when others are in misery and distress, to be at ease while the great world is ignorant of the gospel of grace--such is not the contentment of Paul. He is ceaselessly struggling for spiritual progress. However, he is able to be calm and confident in the midst of the most disturbing circumstances” (pp. 147-148). Carefully note that Paul did not "choose" poverty, and he did not go out of his way to find persecution.

Paul says that he found contentment, a contentment that was not prone to the pitfalls of the contentment the world offers. You see, Paul still cared. He still felt joy and pain, happiness and heartache (Romans 12:15; 2 Corinthians 11:28-29). He still labored to improve himself (Philippians 3:12), yet in the midst of all of this, he was content. “The apostle is no statue. He is a man of flesh and blood. He knows both joys and sorrows, yet is content” (Hendriksen p. 204).


Verse 12

Philippians 4:12 “I know how to be abased, and I know also how to abound: in everything and in all things have I learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in want”

“I know how”: I know how to adjust to such external circumstances, and I know how to roll with the punches. Paul is saying, “I know how to handle life”. Or, “I know how to cope”. “To be abased”: “To get along with humble means” (NASV). “I know how to live when things are difficult” (Phi). “To be humbled” (Robertson p. 461). Paul had plenty of opportunities to practice contentment in humble circumstances (Acts 14:19; Acts 16:22-25; Acts 17:13; Acts 18:12; Chapters 21-27; 2 Corinthians 4:11; 2 Corinthians 6:4-5; 2 Corinthians 11:27; 2 Corinthians 11:33). “He knew what was meant by hunger, thirst, fasting, cold, nakedness, physical suffering, mental torture, and persecution” (Hendriksen p. 205).

Often, it is easy for people to forget that difficult circumstances involve more than suffering. They also bring with them a great opportunity for real spiritual growth (Romans 5:3-5; James 1:2-4; 2 Corinthians 1:8-9). It is hard to develop such traits as patience and trust in God, if we have never really faced circumstances that demanded real patience and trust for an extended period of time.

‘How to abound”: “I know what it is to have more than enough” (Rhm). “I know how to face prosperity” (TCNT). “How to live amid abundance” (Wey). “How to enjoy plenty” (Gspd). Paul"s whole life in serving God was not lived on a bare-bones existence. He enjoyed some material prosperity as well. “Not all of Paul"s life was marked by a cramping and oppressive want of resources. He knew that grace was needed to handle prosperity properly as well as penury” (Hawthorne pp. 199-200). Abundance and want both have their own unique temptations (Proverbs 30:8-9; 1 Timothy 6:6-10; 1 Timothy 6:17-19). “Paul is well acquainted with these opposite experiences: to be made very lowly--to abound in or to be amid plenty. The idea is that he knows how to adjust himself to either with equal contentment” (Lenski p. 889). Unfortunately, many people cannot handle prosperity, and they get uneasy if things are going too well. They feel that such good fortune cannot last, so instead of anxiously awaiting the day that it could end, they make it end themselves, that is, they undermine their own success. Others can never take the time and simply enjoy the fruits of their prosperity (Ecclesiastes 5:10). “In everything and in all things”: “In all circumstances” (Wms). “Into all and every human experience” (TCNT).

“I have learned the secret”: “I learned”, again stresses the fact that contentment was not genetically a part of Paul"s nature, and that such instruction came from without. Man, on his own and by his own wits, cannot bring true contentment upon himself (Jeremiah 10:23), and all human philosophies will fail to provide real contentment. The Christian is the person who has refused to settle for what is a distant second best. The phrase "learned the secret", “has an interesting background. Many scholars believe it has a pagan history, being used of the initiation rites into the ancient ‘mystery religions’. It thus may suggest that which is not commonly known (and how few know real contentment!), and possibly implies that a difficult process has been endured” (Jackson p. 86). Yet, unlike the pagan religions, this "secret" is made known to all. Anyone who wants contentment upon God"s terms can have it! These verses reveal something about Paul"s life, “He knows the joys and cares of life, prosperity and adversity, ‘good’ days and ‘evil’ days, favorable and unfavorable circumstances” (Muller p. 147).


Verse 13

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things in Him that strengtheneth me”

“I can do”: “He has the power to cope with or is competent and able to handle” (Hawthorne p. 201). “Have power, be competent; be able” (Jackson p. 87).

“All things”: The type of things mentioned in the context. Obviously, Paul is not claiming that he can fly, or convert every person he talks to, and so on. “I have the power to face all conditions of life. I can endure all these things. I have the resources to master them” (Hawthorne p. 201). “In Him”: In Christ (). Outside of Christ, Paul realizes that he is incompetent and unprepared to face the harsh realities of life. Jesus also taught this while upon the earth (John 15:4-5 “apart from Me you can do nothing”). This is not a mysterious condition, rather in Him is simply being in a right relationship with Christ, fully trusting Him, believing and obeying His teachings, and being convinced that Christ loves us. “That strengthens me”: “Lit., in my strengthener (enabler) 1 Timothy 1:12” (Bruce p. 151).

The strength or power available to Paul was not something that seized him and proceeded to override his own freewill. The phrase "I have learned" teaches us that this contentment required Paul"s cooperation and effort. Other verses tell us that such contentment demands our complete trust in God (Hebrews 13:5-6). The strengthening available to Paul is also available to all Christians. Through His revelation, God has given us every incentive to fully place our trust in Him (John 3:16; Romans 5:6-8; Romans 8:32; Galatians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6; James 4:8), regardless of the external happenings around us. Notice how Paul"s contentment is so different from the world. The world tries to find contentment in complete self-sufficiency. Paul found it in being God-sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul did not spend his life trying to manipulate the circumstances to serve him, he realized that such was impossible, even for the wisest and most gifted of men (Ecclesiastes 9:11). Paul gave up all, in order to gain Christ (Philippians 3:8), and in doing so, found the greatest treasures of life. Mark this down, true happiness, contentment, and peace cannot be found in a life that is being lived for self (Matthew 16:24-25).


Verse 14

Philippians 4:14 “Howbeit ye did well that ye had fellowship with my affliction”

“Howbeit”: Even though Paul could be content in meager circumstances, he does not want his readers to infer that their gift has therefore been useless or unappreciated. “If the Philippian readers got the impression that some modern commentators get, that Paul is saying, ‘Thank you for your gift, but it really wasn"t necessary,’ Paul removes any impression of ungraciousness on his part by assuring them again of his grateful appreciation” (Bruce p. 152). Paul allowed Christians to help him and did not feel that such made him less of a Christian. Being God-sufficient also includes allowing God to use His people to care for your needs. Some want a Christianity where they are not obligated or do not feel obligated to anyone. Such a relationship with God and brethren is not taught in the Scriptures. Paul could graciously accept help, because he already viewed himself as a debtor to all men (Romans 1:14). Human relationships involve debts that can never be paid in full (Romans 13:8; Galatians 6:1-2).

It is refreshing to see that Paul could be content with less, but he did not have to remain in humble circumstances to "look spiritual". Paul realized that faithfulness is not inherently connected to one’s lot in life. Paul did not operate under any of the following false assumptions: “I"m really poor, therefore I must be right with God” or “I am suffering more than you and that proves that I am a better Christian”.

“Ye did well”: “Excellently, nobly. Paul"s straightforward commendation is the best kind of thanks” (Lenski pp. 891-892). Compare with Mark 14:6. Notice, we can "do well" (Acts 17:11). Offering service that is pleasing to God and doing the right thing is not an impossible task. Have the right attitude and you"ll end up doing the right thing. “Ye had fellowship with my affliction”: “They helped him to carry his burden by means of their material gift and so they had a share in alleviating his hardship in captivity” (Muller p. 148). The Philippians could do nothing to change the fact that Paul was in prison, yet they could do something. Often we think that if we cannot change the circumstances, then there is nothing we can do. We forget about what some would call the "little things", things that Jesus said were very important (Matthew 25:31-46). Instead of wanting to do everything, we need to realize what we can do right now. In many instances we will not be able to completely remove someone"s pain, trial, or difficult circumstances, but we can do something that might make their burden just a little lighter (Galatians 6:2). The faithful child of God does not need a smooth path, but a little encouragement and refreshment along the way is greatly appreciated (Colossians 4:11).


Verse 15

Philippians 4:15 “And ye yourselves also know, ye Philippians, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving but ye only”

“Also know”: “Paul gratefully acknowledges the fact that the present gift was the continuation of a series of gifts” (Hendriksen p. 207). “Also you Philippians know means: as well as I know and will never forget” (Lenski p. 892). “By sending him a gift now they were repeating earlier acts of kindness. They did not need Paul"s reminder of these: but it was encouraging for them to realize that Paul still recalled their kindness with gratitude” (Bruce p. 152). “Ye Philippians”: Compare with 2 Corinthians 6:11; Galatians 3:1. Very rarely does Paul address his readers by name. Another key to contentment is remembering past blessings received. Gratitude is an essential ingredient to happiness, contentment, and just good mental health. “That in the beginning of the gospel”: When the gospel was preached for the first time in the Macedonian region (Acts 16:1-40). The beginning of the gospel from the standpoint of the Philippians. “When I departed from Macedonia”: And went to preach in Greece (Acts 17:15-16). “Going by way of Athens to Corinth” (Vincent p. 460). “No church”: That is, no congregation. “Had fellowship with me in the matter of giving and receiving but ye only”:

“Giving and receiving”: This passage has become one focal point in the debate over what is known as the Sponsoring Church Arrangement, that being where one congregation receives funds from another congregation(s) and then distributes those funds to yet another congregation(s) or to individuals or an individual outside of the receiving and sponsoring church.

When some people read Philippians 4:15 they see the following: “What the apostle appears to be saying is this: after he left Macedonia, no church, expect the Philippian congregation, became his partner, keeping the ‘books’ containing the ‘debits and credits’ of his missionary work. Philippi ‘received’ the funds from other churches (2 Corinthians 11:8 ff) and ‘disbursed’ them to the apostle” (Jackson pp. 87-88). J.W. Roberts argued, “Many commentators have argued that the instances of Philippians 4:15-16 and 2 Corinthians 11:8 f included the same arrangements and urge that the ‘churches’ of 2 Corinthians 11:8 f sent funds to the congregation at Philippi and that that church ‘only’ kept the expense account of this fellowship and forwarded money to Paul. Thus, according to the argument, we would have precedent for one church to receive funds from several congregations to and forward those funds to another work”. [Note: _ Gospel Advocate, August, September, October 1955; reprinted in "How Churches Can Cooperate", Lewis Hale. pp. 132ff.] Before I respond to the above, I would like to say that it doesn"t matter to me, what pattern of cooperation God desires. I have no personal preference, yet a number of considerations cause me to reject the above view:

If Philippi is simply receiving funds from other churches and passing them on, then why do they get all the praise? Why does not Paul praise the other congregations?

Is the church that keeps the books more important that the other congregations that enable something to be actually on the books? Paul only praises the Philippians for this contribution. He specifically talks about the Philippians concern for him ( “you have revived your concern for me--but you lacked opportunity”). This context doesn"t end in 4:15. Why does not Paul talk about the "fruit" that would come to the other congregations, if, other congregations were involved? (4:18)

2 Corinthians 11:8-9 does not demand a Sponsoring Church type arrangement. Nothing in the text demands that the "other churches" mentioned in 11:8 acted through the Philippian congregation. One would have to assume such. Robert Turner notes, “It was ‘churches’ he ‘robbed’--not a pooled fund. Paul did not say he was supplied by a special missionary fund under the control of one church; he said, ‘I robbed other churches, taking wages of them’” [Note: _ The Arlington Meeting. pp. 267-268] The text of the NASV on Philippians 4:15 is somewhat misleading. For it says, “after I departed from Macedonia”. From that translation one could infer that from that point onward, the only church that supported Paul was the church in Philippi. But the ASV and the KJV say “when I departed”. Hence Philippians 4:15 and 2 Corinthians 11:9, do not necessarily refer to the same gift. One would have to assume that the brethren from Macedonia, includes only the brethren from the congregation at Philippi, yet Macedonia contained other congregations as well (Thessalonica, Berea). In the final analysis, too many assumptions have to be taken to embrace the Sponsoring Church arrangement. In addition: The question of congregational autonomy remains in a plain passage (1 Peter 5:1-3), and the clearest passages on giving and receiving have money being sent directly to the congregation in need (1 Corinthians 16:1-3). Seeing that this context only mentions Paul and the Philippians, it seems more consistent to view the "giving and receiving" mentioned in 4:15, as they gave and Paul received.

For me, trying to force a Sponsoring Church type of arrangement into this context removes much of the warmth found in these verses. Such a view must admit that the Philippians didn"t lack the money (), for other churches were contributing the money, and the Philippians "concern" was more about getting the money to him, than raising it themselves. Instead of this being a freewill offering, it would be rather funds that were both owed and overdue. It is wise of God not to fund red tape, machinery and middle men.


Verse 16

Philippians 4:16 “for even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my need”

“For even in Thessalonica”: Even before Paul left the province of Macedonia, the young, newly established congregation in Philippi had helped him twice. “For when Paul, upon having founded the church in Philippi, left there, he went immediately to Thessalonica, a city only a short distance away, to carry on his mission (Acts 17:1-9). Even there, and so soon after their own beginning as a church, the Philippians began their pattern of giving by sending help to relieve the pressure of his needs” (Hawthorne p. 205). The Thessalonian letters indicate that Paul still had to work to support himself (1 Thessalonians 2:9; 2 Thessalonians 3:8-9). This infers that these gifts may not have completely eliminated his need, yet we can rarely eliminate fully the needs of any Christian. God expects us to do what we can. Even if our personal contribution cannot fix the problem, it is still worthwhile and needed. What a great example of unselfishness and considering others more important than oneself (2:3-5)! The Church at Philippi continued to support from time to time the Apostle Paul even though he was not preaching for them. Other people needed to hear the message he had. The Philippians had appreciated so much what Paul had brought to them what they wanted others to have the chance to enjoy the same salvation they were experiencing. Here is a great test of our Christianity. Do we enjoy our relationship with God so much that we are willing to sacrifice so that the gospel can be preached to those who have not heard?


Verse 17

Philippians 4:17 “Not that I seek for the gift; but I seek for the fruit that increaseth to your account”

“Not that I seek for the gift”: “Not that I seek the gift itself” (NASV). “He does not wish his readers to suppose that he is concerned chiefly with his own profit” (Erdman p. 150). “It is not money I am anxious for” (Mof). “Paul"s fear of being misunderstood when he speaks about receiving gifts appears again and again, no doubt because his enemies were constantly misconstruing his motives (2 Corinthians 11:7; 2 Corinthians 12:14; 1 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Thessalonians 2:5; 1 Thessalonians 2:8). If he accepted a gift or if his enemies suspected that he did, they were ready to charge him with selfishness, and greed; if he did not, they accused him of making a show of his humility. Yet, in the final analysis it was not the gift but the giver that was the object of Paul"s concern” (Hendriksen pp. 207-208). “But I seek”: “I am seeking for” (Robertson p. 462). “Seek”: “To wish for” (Jackson p. 89). I have my heart set on. “For the fruit that increaseth to your account”: “I am anxious to see the abundant return that will be placed to your account” (TCNT). “They meant Paul to be the gainer from their generosity, and so indeed he is; but on the spiritual plane the permanent gain will be theirs” (Bruce p. 154). “More than the advantage which a gift yields to him personally, Paul desires the fruit of spiritual enrichment among them” (Muller p. 150). “He rejoices in their gift chiefly because they have gained spiritually by their giving. It has been a real benefit to them. They have really been enriched by their transaction” (Erdman p. 150). “Right giving always enriches the giver. ‘The liberal soul will be made fat’ (Proverbs 11:25; Proverbs 19:17; Matthew 5:7; 2 Corinthians 9:7” (Hendriksen p. 208). Christians need to bear fruit (John 15:1-6; Romans 7:4; Galatians 5:22-23; Titus 3:14).

Paul continues the financial metaphors he has been using. He talks about "fruit" or profit increasing or gaining interest in their account. Clearly, he is using these terms in a figurative sense, for good works do not actually gain "interest" in some account in heaven. Yet Paul realizes that the real important thing about "good deeds" is the good heart that produces them (Luke 8:15). Their willingness to sacrifice and give for the cause of Christ, demonstrated a great love for Paul and especially the Lord. It demonstrated continual spiritual growth and maturity and that their love had not died down. God would surely bless such diligent and unselfish Christians and Paul knew it (Hebrews 11:6). The person who gives from the right motives to the right cause is never made the poorer.


Verse 18

Philippians 4:18 “But I have all things, and abound: I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God”

“But I have”: “I have received in full” (Matthew 6:2) (Vincent p. 460). “The technical sense is, ‘This is my receipt’ (Hendriksen p. 208). Yet there is not any reason to think that Paul actually gave them an accounting or an actual receipt of his expenses, especially in view of the fact that the same type of "accounting" language is to be taken figuratively in the previous verse.

“And abound”: “And more than enough” (Alf). “And more than I require” (Con). This reinforces the figurative use of the accounting terminology in this section, because if such terms are to be taken literally, then Paul is here saying, “You have overpaid me”. Lenski observes, “Paul is only adopting this business term and uses it together with two other verbs, not in the sense of assuring the Philippians of a receipt in full, but to let them know how rich he feels” (p. 895). Paul is saying that their recent gift has enabled him to be in that condition of "abounding" once more (). “I am filled”: “My wants are fully satisfied” (TCNT). “Like a vessel to the very brim, the perfect tense indicating that he continues to be full” (Lenski p. 896). Such a statement should at least cause people to investigate the Christian religion. How many people can really say with any amount of honestly, “I am filled”?

“Having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you”: He had brought their gift with him, he had been their messenger (). Carefully note how a simple material offering was received with gratitude by a Christian. We tend to take so many things for granted in this life, as if we deserve every good thing that comes our way. “An odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God”: “It is like fragrant incense, just such a sacrifice as God welcomes and approves” (Gspd). Christians still have sacrifices to offer (Romans 12:1-2; Hebrews 13:15-16). Again, carefully note that I, an imperfect human being, can do something that pleases the very heart of God. Paul assures the Philippians that what they gave and the manner in which they offered it was of the first rank, of the highest quality. “The apostle credits the givers with the proper spirit. He acknowledges that their deed was not merely an act of sympathy shown to a friend in need, but a genuine offering presented to God to promote his cause, and thus to Paul as God"s representative!” (Hendriksen p. 209).


Verse 19

Philippians 4:19 “And my God shall supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus”

“My God”: God is the source. “Shall supply every need of yours”: “They may rest assured, says Paul, that what they have given to God will be amply repaid by him from the limitless resources of His riches” (Bruce p. 155). “Every need”: Not every selfish wish. “According to His riches in glory”: “Out of the greatness of His wealth” (TCNT). “His glorious riches” (Con). “In keeping with His glory” (Jackson p. 89). “In Christ Jesus”: The non-Christian or the unfaithful Christian does not have any right to expect God to meet their needs (James 1:7 “For let not that man think that he shall receive anything of the Lord”). Compare with Colossians 2:9-10 and Ephesians 1:3.

“Not only Paul, but also the Philippians have their needs” (Muller p. 152). Paul always remembers the hardships and difficulties of his brethren. “Since God"s wealth is limitless, it is therefore impossible to exhaust it by all needs combined” (Hawthorne p. 208). As in other passages, this one also teaches that God will care for His people (Matthew 6:33; 2 Corinthians 9:8-11; Hebrews 13:5-6). It also reinforces the principle of sowing and reaping (Galatians 6:7). The "needs" in this passage could be physical, spiritual, or both, because Paul had found both to be true. God had supplied what was necessary for his spiritual needs (2 Peter 1:3; Ephesians 1:3) and his physical needs (2 Corinthians 12:9; Philippians 4:18). God had not forgotten Paul in times of hardship and distress (2 Timothy 4:17-18). He is sure that his God would do the same for these faithful brethren. It is sad to see Christians fall away from the faith, because they are looking to "have their needs met". The honest truth is, when you give up God, you give up any chance of having your real needs ever met! Some of these "needs" will finally be supplied in eternity (Revelation 21:4). “The rewarding will not be merely from His wealth, but also in a manner that befits His wealth--on a scale worthy of His wealth” (Hawthorne p. 208).


Verse 20

Philippians 4:20 “Now unto our God and Father be the glory for ever and ever. Amen”

“Our God and Father”: A call for united praise. “Uniting himself once again with his converts in a song of praise to the one who provides for the needs of all his people” (Hawthorne p. 209). This God so magnificent is actually our Father (Matthew 6:9). “Be the glory for ever and ever”: The Christian is the person who is content to allow God to be in the spotlight-forever. The Christian understands that only God deserves everlasting praise and adoration. “Amen”: “As a closing word serves to approve of what has been said, and is an expression of confirmation and assurance. So it is! Sure and unquestionable! So let it be!” (Muller p. 153).


Verse 21

Philippians 4:21 “Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren that are with me salute you”

“Salute every saint”: Give my greetings to every Christian in Philippi. “The apostle expresses his loving concern for each individual believer of the church” (Muller p. 154). Paul was concerned about the spiritual welfare of every Christian (2 Corinthians 11:29). “The brethren that are with me salute you”: His co-workers had the same type of concern.


Verse 22

Philippians 4:22 “All the saints salute you, especially they that are of Caesar"s household”

“All the saints salute you”: All the Christians in Rome spend greetings.

“Especially they that are of Caesar’s household”: Probably not members of the imperial family, but those connected with the imperial establishment. Servants and slaves of the emperor. “Caesar’s household”: “This expression is used in the literature to refer both to the highest officials in the Roman government and to the lowest servants in the emperor"s employ. It is likely that Paul is speaking now of Roman soldiers stationed in the barracks, or slaves or freedmen handling the domestic affairs of the emperor, or both” (Hawthorne p. 215). “Especially”: “The reason these are singled out may be to show that the gospel was beginning to penetrate even these loftier circles” (Hawthorne p. 215). Or, since Philippi was a Roman colony, it could be that many members in Philippi knew friends and relatives who were members of the imperial staff. “These may have been soldiers, slaves or freedmen, who, because they have been involved in the service of the emperor in provincial matters for an extended period of time, had come to know many of the believers in the Roman city of Philippi” (Hawthorne p. 216). Hendriksen remarks, “A considerable percentage of those who belonged to Caesar"s household in Rome had come from regions east of Rome” (pp. 212-213). He also notes, “If among the early Christians there were those who belonged to Nero"s ‘household’, today"s government-employees in far more favorable circumstances will have great difficulty when they try to find an excuse for failing to bear witness for Christ” (p. 214).

Erdman points out, “The emperor was Nero. Yet amid all its darkness and superstition and wickedness the gospel of Christ had taken root. There are no conditions over which the power of Christ cannot triumph. To find saints in Caesar"s household may be surprising, yet it should also be remarked that this was the very place where saints were most needed, where heathenism and godlessness are most firmly entrenched, there the true apostle is most eager to have the gospel proclaimed. Where the world is at is worst, there the church should be at its best”.


Verse 23

Philippians 4:23 “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit”

“This reference to the spirit certainly is perplexing to those religious materialists who contend that man"s spirit is merely his breath (cf. the doctrine of the Jehovah"s Witnesses)” (Jackson p. 90). Compare with 2 Timothy 4:22.

 


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Bibliography Information
Dunagan, Mark. "Commentary on Philippians 4:4". "Mark Dunagan Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dun/philippians-4.html. 1999-2014.

Lectionary Calendar
Sunday, December 15th, 2019
the Third Week of Advent
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