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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 4

Dr. Constable's Expository NotesConstable's Expository Notes

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Paul had been saying he hoped to be able to revisit Philippi and to minister to his original readers again in person. However, he was not sure that he could do that. This uncertain state of affairs led him to exhort them now that he had the opportunity. Whether he came to them or not, their duty was the same. In the following verses he emphasized the importance of certain qualities essential to conduct worthy of the Lord. He did this so his readers would perceive the importance of these traits and give them proper attention.

Verse 1

B. Unity and steadfastness 2:1-4:1

In addition to walking worthily, the Philippians needed to walk in unity and steadfastness.

Verse 1

2. Walking in steadfastness 3:1-4:1

Paul now turned to the second major quality that he introduced in Philippians 1:27-30, namely, steadfastness in the face of opposition to the gospel (cf. Philippians 1:7; Philippians 1:28). He had introduced the idea of joy in the face of opposition earlier (Philippians 1:19; Philippians 1:28-30; Philippians 2:17-18). He would discuss how to face overt persecution later (Philippians 4:4-9).

There were two main sources of opposition that the Philippians faced as they sought to have fellowship with Paul in the proclamation of the gospel. Paul dealt with both of these. However, he began with a charge to rejoice in the Lord and ended this section with a summary exhortation.

Verse 1

The concluding charge to stand fast in the Lord 4:1

The key word "Therefore" (Gr. hoste) and the repetition of "stand firm" (cf. Philippians 1:27) point to a conclusion of the main subject. This verse begins the rather drawn out conclusion of the letter. The apostle did not want his readers to lose their balance and tumble spiritually because of bad influences. Instead he wanted them to adopt the mind of Christ as he had and so continue with him in the partnership of the gospel. He proceeded to explain how to live until the Lord returns.

Paul’s strong affection for the Philippian Christians comes through very clearly in this verse. This is one of the warmest expressions of affection for his readers that we have in Paul’s inspired writings. He called them "brethren" four times (Philippians 1:12; Philippians 3:1; Philippians 3:17; Philippians 4:8), "beloved" twice (Philippians 2:12 and here), and "beloved brethren" once (here). Again he affirmed his desire to visit Philippi and see them again (cf. Philippians 1:8; Philippians 2:24). Moreover he referred to them as his present source of joy and his future crown when he would stand before the judgment seat of Christ. He would receive a reward for establishing them in the faith. [Note: See Joe L. Wall, Going for the Gold, pp. 129, 152-63, for discussion of the crown of life.]

In this section on walking steadfastly (Philippians 3:1 to Philippians 4:1) Paul urged his readers to rejoice in the Lord and warned them about false teaching of two kinds that would limit their joy. On the one hand, there was teaching from Judaizers, some of whom may have been Christians but most of whom were probably not. These false teachers wanted to limit the Philippians’ legitimate liberty by persuading them to submit to laws that God did not intend to govern them. On the other hand, there were antinomians, many of whom seem to have been believers but some of whom may not have been. They were urging the abandonment of legitimate law and were advocating self-indulgence. Paul’s example in the middle section of chapter 3 (Philippians 4:4-16) provides a path that leads us safely between these extremes (cf. Galatians 5).

Standing firm involves living in harmony with one another (Philippians 4:2-3), rejoicing on all occasions (Philippians 4:4-7), and developing the quality of sweet reasonableness (Philippians 4:8-9). This is clear because three imperatives in the Greek text explain "so stand firm" or "stand firm thus" (Gr. houtos).

Verse 2

Euodia ("Success") and Syntyche ("Lucky") were evidently two women in the Philippian congregation. Other less acceptable identifications are that they were two men (Theodore of Mopsuestia) or that they were symbols of Jewish and Gentile Christians (the Tübingen school).

"For the Pauline letters, this is a remarkable moment indeed, since Paul does here what he seldom does elsewhere in ’conflict’ settings-he names names." [Note: Fee, Paul’s Letter . . ., p. 389.]

God did not reveal the reason for the estrangement that existed between these two women. Regardless of the reason, the will of God for them was to establish a harmonious relationship. Unanimity in the church is not always possible, but unity is. Paul urged each of these two women individually, perhaps so neither would feel that responsibility for healing the breach lay with the other. Urging was all Paul felt he had to do, not commanding (cf. Philippians 1:27 to Philippians 2:4). He assumed they would respond to gentle persuasion. The addition of "in the Lord" would remind them that they were under His authority and had much in common as sisters in Christ. [Note: See A. Boyd Luter, "Partnership in the Gospel: The Role of Women in the Church at Philippi," Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 39:3 (September 1996):411-20.]

"Having ’the same mindset in the Lord’ has been specifically spelled out in the preceding paradigmatic narratives, where Christ (Philippians 2:6-11) has humbled himself by taking the ’form of a slave’ and thus becoming obedient unto death on a cross, and Paul (Philippians 3:4-14) has expressed his longing to know Christ, especially through participation in his sufferings so as to be conformed into the same cruciform lifestyle. The ways such a ’mindset’ takes feet is by humbly ’looking out for the interests of others’ within the believing community (Philippians 2:3-4)." [Note: Fee, Paul’s Letter . . ., p. 392.]

Verses 2-3

1. Restoring unity 4:2-3

Verses 2-9

C. Specific duties 4:2-9

This last section (Philippians 4:2-9) of the body of the epistle (Philippians 1:27 to Philippians 4:9) deals with the same two subjects as the preceding two sections, unity and steadfastness, but in more detail. Paul gave his readers specific instructions about what they should do. Unity needed restoring, and steadfastness needed encouraging.

Verse 3

Paul appealed to another person in the Philippian church to help Euodia and Syntyche restore their fellowship. Most translations interpret suzuge ("comrade" or "yokefellow") as a description rather than as a proper name. Probably it referred to the leading elder (pastor) in the church. There are many other views of who this person was, all of which, I think, are less probable. [Note: See the commentaries.]

Euodia and Syntyche had evidently labored for the Lord with Paul (cf. Acts 16:13-15). Here the main theme of the epistle comes out clearly again as partnership in the gospel. Clement had been a partner in the gospel as well. The Scriptures do not identify who he was. Clement was a common Roman name. Others had also worked with Paul, probably in Philippi and perhaps elsewhere. The fact that their names appeared in the book of life seems to be an allusion to their honored status among the citizens of heaven.

"Practically every city of that day maintained a roll or civic register of its citizens, and in that record was entered the name of every child born in the city. If one of the citizens proved guilty of treachery or disloyalty or of anything bringing shame on the city, he was subjected to public dishonour by the expunging of his name from the register. (The name was, in any case normally obliterated at death.) He was deemed no longer worthy to be regarded as a citizen of the city. If, on the other hand, a citizen had performed some outstanding exploit deserving of special distinction, honour was bestowed upon him, either by the recording of the deed in the city roll or by his name being encircled in gold (or overlaid in gold) in the roll." [Note: Frederick A. Tatford, The Patmos Letters, pp. 116-17. See Charles R. Smith, "The Book of Life," Grace Theological Journal 6:2 (Fall 1985):219-30.]

The Bible refers to more than one book of life: the book containing the names of people presently alive (Exodus 32:32-33; Psalms 69:28), and the book containing the names of God’s elect (i.e., all believers; Luke 10:20; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12; Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27) and the names of faithful believers (Philippians 4:3).

Verse 4

Rejoicing in Christ is something the apostle had commanded earlier (Philippians 3:1) and had illustrated abundantly for his readers throughout this epistle. He must have felt that there was a great need for this attitude in Philippi. There were many reasons why the Philippian saints could have felt discouraged. Paul’s imprisonment and the possibility of his death, Epaphroditus’ illness, and the antagonism of unbelievers were a few. The attacks from legalists on the one hand and libertines on the other, plus friction among certain members of the church, contributed to this spirit. To counteract this attitude Paul prescribed rejoicing in the Lord. He repeated this charge in this verse for even greater emphasis.

Paul was not urging us to be unrealistic. He was not saying that we should never feel sad. Even Jesus wept (John 11:35). However, he was advocating focusing on the blessings we have in Christ and being grateful for these regardless of how sad we may feel at any particular time. He had set a good example by singing when he was in prison in Philippi (Acts 16:25). [Note: See Frank Minirth and Paul Meier, Happiness Is a Choice.]

"The truly godly person both longs for God’s presence, where one pours out his or her heart to God in joy, prayer, and thanksgiving, and lives in God’s presence by ’doing’ the righteousness of God. Otherwise piety is merely religion, not devotion." [Note: Fee, Paul’s Letter . . ., p. 402.]

Verses 4-9

2. Maintaining tranquillity 4:4-9

Paul gave his readers five other brief positive exhortations, all of which are vitally important for individual and corporate Christian living. They all result in the maintenance of peace in the body so the saints can work together effectively as partners in the gospel even in the midst of opposing unbelievers.

Verse 5

We should also demonstrate forbearance (Gr. epieikes) to everyone, saved and unsaved alike. The Greek word contains connotations of gentleness, yielding, kindness, patience, forbearance, leniency, and magnanimity. It recalls Jesus Christ’s humility in Philippians 2:5-11. The forbearing person does not insist on his or her own rights or privileges. He or she is considerate and gentle toward others. Of course, there is a time to stand for what is right. The forbearing person is not spineless but selfless.

In this connection Paul reminded his readers of the imminence of the Lord’s return at the Rapture. When He comes, He will right wrongs and vindicate those who have given up their rights for the glory of God and the welfare of others (cf. Philippians 3:20-21; James 5:8).

"The Apostle is not speaking of the nearness of the Lord in his abiding presence with us, but of the imminence of his coming." [Note: Beare, p. 146.]

"In all we do we must always remember that the Lord may return at any time. His coming is always at hand, yes, but we do not know when, and so we must always live in the realisation [sic] that he is coming." [Note: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Life of Peace, p. 162.]

"At any moment they may have to answer for their conduct." [Note: Alfred Plummer, A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, p. 93.]

"In light of the concept of the imminent coming of Christ and the fact that the New Testament does teach His imminent coming, we can conclude that the Pretribulation Rapture view is the only view of the Rapture of the church that comfortably fits the New Testament teaching of the imminent coming of Christ. It is the only view that can honestly say that Christ could return at any moment, because it alone teaches that Christ will come to rapture the church before the 70th week of Daniel 9 or the Tribulation period begins and that nothing else must happen before His return." [Note: Renald E. Showers, Maranatha: Our Lord, Come! A Definitive Study of the Rapture of the Church, p. 149. See also Stanton, ch. 6: "The Imminency of the Coming of Christ for the Church," pp. 108-37.]

Verse 6

Earlier Paul commended Timothy for being anxious over the welfare of the Philippians (Philippians 2:20). Here he said we should not be anxious about anything. The same Greek word (a present imperative, merimnate) appears in both places. The resolution of this problem probably lies in viewing anxiety as concern that may become fretful and inappropriate if taken too far. Paul’s point here was that rather than becoming distraught over a particular situation we should take it to the Lord in prayer (cf. Matthew 6:25-34). We should pray about everything that concerns us. Someone has said, "Why worry when you can pray?" Prayer needs to replace worry in the Christian’s life.

Paul used several different words for prayer in this verse. "Prayer" (proseuche) is the most general term for our communications to God. "Supplication" (NASB) or "petition" (NIV, deesis) refers to requests for particular benefits. "Thanksgiving" (eucharistias) is grateful acknowledgment of past mercies. "Requests" (aitemata) looks at individual requests of God that form part of the whole prayer. [Note: See Trench, pp. 176-80; and Bryan Gordon Burtch, "The Greek Words for Prayer in the New Testament" (Th.M. thesis, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1951).] Paul offered strong encouragement to seek release from anxiety in prayer and more prayer. [Note: Hawthorne, p. 183.]

"Lack of gratitude is the first step to idolatry (Romans 1:21)." [Note: Fee, Paul’s Letter . . ., p. 409.]

Howard Hendricks called Philippians 4:2-6 "a five-part recipe for conflict resolution: (1) ’Rejoice in the Lord,’ that is, get beyond yourselves and look to the Lord. (2) ’Let your gentleness be evident to all.’ In other words speak with kindness to each other. (3) ’Do not be anxious.’ Relax, and give it all to God. (4) ’Be thankful.’ The simple act of expressing gratitude for our blessings takes the heat out of infection. (5) Present your requests to God. Prayer realigns us and restores peace . . ." [Note: Howard G. Hendricks, Color Outside the Lines: A Revolutionary Approach to Creative Leadership, p. 96.]

Verse 7

Peace in the heart will follow praying about what concerns us. The phrase "the peace of God" occurs nowhere else in the New Testament. This is peace that comes from God rather than peace with God. It is a peace that comes to us when we pray because we enter into the tranquility of God’s own presence. Those doing the praying are believers. This peace, or release from tension, is something that we cannot fully comprehend. Nevertheless this peace acts as a sentry to guard the believer’s heart (affections) and mind (thoughts) under the sovereign influence of Christ Jesus.

"Together these words refer to the entire inner being of the Christian, his emotions, affections, thoughts and moral choices. This inner part of a person, then, so vulnerable to attack by the enemy, is that which God’s peace is set, like battle-ready soldiers, to protect." [Note: Hawthorne, p. 185.]

Most of us have experienced lack of complete peace from time to time when we pray. Paul was not saying that we will feel absolutely at ease and relieved after we pray as he directed here. Still a measure of peace will be ours. At least we will have the confidence that we have laid the matter before the Lord and sought His aid.

This verse does not promise peace as the indicator of God’s will when we are praying about what we should do. Paul did not say that if we need to make a decision God will make His will known to us by giving us peace about the right choice. The promise of this verse is that if we pray rather than worry (Philippians 4:6) God will give us peace. Anxiety brings no peace, but praying does.

Verse 8

This "Finally" signals the last of the three imperatives that explain how to stand firm (Philippians 4:1; cf. Philippians 4:2; Philippians 4:4). It also introduces Paul’s next to the last exhortation in this list that deals with what the believer should spend his or her time thinking about. This subject obviously relates to prayer since both activities involve mental concentration.

"True" (alethe) means valid, honest, and reliable (cf. Romans 3:4).

"Honorable" or "noble" (semna) means worthy of respect (cf. Proverbs 8:6; 1 Timothy 3:8; 1 Timothy 3:11; Titus 2:2).

"Right" (dikaia) refers to what is just and upright.

"Pure" (hagna) denotes cleanness and connotes moral purity.

"Lovely" (prosphile) means what is amiable, agreeable, or pleasing.

"In common parlance, this word could refer to a Beethoven symphony, as well as to the work of Mother Teresa among the poor of Calcutta; the former is lovely and enjoyable, the latter is admirable as well as moral." [Note: Fee, Paul’s Letter . . ., p. 418.]

"Of good repute" or "admirable" (euphema) refers to what is praiseworthy because it measures up to the highest standards.

Paul listed these virtues like contemporary moral philosophers of his day taught, namely, by reciting catalogues of virtues and vices. [Note: Hawthorne, p. 187.]

The conditional clause structure at the end of this sentence is a rhetorical device. It places the responsibility on the reader to make his or her own decision regarding what is excellent and praiseworthy. [Note: Kent, p. 152.]

". . . Paul seems to be drawing upon the cultural background of the Philippians and is saying to them: ’If there is such a thing as moral excellence, and you believe there is. If there is a kind of behavior that elicits universal approval, and you believe there is,’ then continue to strive for this goodness and to attain to this level of behavior that will command the praise of men and of God." [Note: Hawthorne, p. 186.]

"We are responsible for our thoughts and can hold them to high and holy ideals." [Note: Robertson, 4:460.]

Verse 9

Wholesome conduct (Philippians 4:9) should follow wholesome thinking (Philippians 4:8).

Paul organized his thoughts on this subject by constructing two pairs. The Philippians had learned and received many helpful lessons from Paul, their teacher. They had personally heard his verbal instructions and seen his individual example. They needed to put these things into practice, not just think about them and discuss them.

"It appears that he [Paul] was of the conviction that 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." [Note: Hawthorne, p. 190.]

"The preacher is the interpreter of the spiritual life and should be an example of it." [Note: Robertson, 4:460.]

When the Philippians put these truths into practice, the God of peace would be with them. Obviously God is always with His people (Matthew 28:20). Paul’s phrase is a way of saying that they would experience God’s presence by enjoying the peace that comes when we walk in fellowship with God. This was undoubtedly a play on words in view of Philippians 4:7. Both the peace of God and the God of peace guard the believer who is a partner in the work of the gospel.

In this section of collected exhortations (Philippians 4:4-9) Paul urged five things. These are rejoicing in Christ always, being forbearing with all people, praying about difficult situations, thinking about wholesome subjects, and practicing apostolic teaching. These are fundamental revelations of God’s will for all Christians that are especially relevant to our calling to proclaim the gospel.

The exhortation in Philippians 4:8-9 also concludes the main body of the epistle begun in Philippians 1:27. The reference to Paul’s conduct in Philippians 4:9 ties back to Philippians 1:12-26.

"The body of the letter begins with a topic sentence in Philippians 1:27 a. The Philippian Christians, to be perfected in their partnership for the gospel, were to conduct themselves worthy of the gospel. Specifically two things are in view-unity with one another and steadfastness against their opponents. They need not fear, for God will supply grace (Philippians 1:27-30). Chapter 2 takes up the unity motif, and chapter 3, steadfastness. The main body of the epistle then concludes with a hortatory paragraph which again addresses the same two subjects. All this is freed from any topical ’loose ends’ by the summarizing double conclusion of Philippians 4:8-9." [Note: Swift, p. 249.]

Verse 10

The "But" (Gr. de) that opens this section in the NASB is a bit misleading. It does not imply a contrast with what precedes but simply introduces a new idea. Paul was glad that the Philippians had again expressed their loving concern for him by sending him a gift. Their care of him had "blossomed afresh" (NEB). It had been some time since they had done so.

"Like a person rejoicing over the signs of spring after a hard winter, so Paul rejoiced to see again the signs of personal concern from Philippi after a long interval of silence." [Note: Hawthorne, p. 197.]

Their failure seems to have resulted from some apparently unavoidable circumstance. The apostle understood this and did not chide them for their lack of attentiveness to his needs.

"In this section we see that the first attitude which makes giving and receiving a joy is concern for the work of the gospel and for those who do the work of the gospel. When the minds of the givers and receivers are focused on the work and on the workers rather than on the gift itself, financial matters will be kept in the right perspective." [Note: Brug, p. 219.]

Verses 10-14

A. The recent gift 4:10-14

First, Paul thanked his brethren for their recent gift that Epaphroditus had delivered to him (Philippians 4:10-14).

Verses 10-20

IV. EPILOGUE 4:10-20

The apostle began this epistle by sharing some personal information about his situation in Rome (Philippians 1:12-26). He now returned from his concerns for the Philippians (Philippians 1:27 to Philippians 4:9) to his own circumstances (Philippians 4:10-20). Notice the somewhat chiastic structure of the epistle. This epilogue balances the prologue (Philippians 1:3-26).

"Nowhere else in all of Paul’s letters nor in all of the letters of antiquity that have survived until the present is there any other acknowledgment of a gift that can compare with this one in terms of such a tactful treatment of so sensitive a matter . . .

"The very structure of this section makes clear what has just been said. It exhibits a nervous alternation back and forth between Paul’s appreciation on the one hand (Philippians 4:10; Philippians 4:14-16; Philippians 4:18-20), and his insistence on his own independence and self-sufficiency on the other (Philippians 4:11-13; Philippians 4:17)." [Note: Hawthorne, p. 195.]

". . . Paul’s point is that his joy lies not in the gifts per se-these he really could do with or without-but in the greater reality that the gifts represent: the tangible evidence, now renewed, of his and their long-term friendship, which for Paul has the still greater significance of renewing their long-term ’partnership/participation’ with him in the gospel." [Note: Fee, Paul’s Letter . . ., pp. 425-26.]

Verse 11

Paul did not want the Philippians to misunderstand him. He was not rejoicing primarily because their gift had met his need, but because their gift expressed their love and concern for him. Paul had learned to be content and to rejoice regardless of his physical circumstances. Such contentment is not a natural gift.

"It [the aorist tense of the Greek verb emathon, translated "learned"] implies that Paul’s whole experience, especially as a Christian, up to the present has been a sort of schooling from which he has not failed to master its lessons." [Note: Hawthorne, p. 198.]

Every Christian needs to learn to be content. When Paul urged his readers to rejoice in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4) he was preaching what he practiced (Philippians 4:5-8). The apostle’s contentment and joy even in prison indicate his spiritual maturity, and it challenges us all.

"Socrates said as to who is wealthiest: ’He that is content with least, for autarkeia [contentment] is nature’s wealth.’" [Note: Robertson, 4:461.]

Verse 12

Specifically, Paul could be equally content with little or with much materially because he was rich spiritually. Both poverty and wealth bring temptations with them (Proverbs 30:7-9). The apostle had learned how to handle both need and abundance in every individual situation (en panti) and in all situations (en pasin).

"His disinheritance would follow upon his becoming a Christian, and this is probably in view in iii. 7 (cf. I Cor. iv. 10-13; 2 Cor. vi. 10)." [Note: Martin, p. 176.]

"Prosperity has done more damage to believers than has adversity." [Note: Wiersbe, The Bible . . ., 2:97.]

Verse 13

How could Paul be content? His contentment did not come through will power or the power of positive thinking. Paul was not a member of the Stoic philosophic school. It was Jesus Christ who enabled him to be content.

"The secret of Paul’s independence was his dependence upon Another. His self-sufficiency in reality came from being in vital union with One who is all-sufficient." [Note: Hawthorne, p. 201.]

Earlier in this letter Paul explained that the most important thing in life was to center on Christ (Philippians 2:7-11). Contentment is a fruit of doing so. "All things" in the context included being content with little or much materially, but Christ can enable His children to do much more than this (cf. Matthew 19:26; Luke 1:37).

"Paul . . . never allowed his weaknesses or perceived weaknesses to be an excuse for inactivity, or for a failure to attempt the impossible task. They in a sense became his greatest assets, and surrendering them to Christ he discovered that they were transformed for his own enrichment and for the enrichment of others." [Note: Ibid., pp. 201-2.]

Verse 14

In view of Paul’s attitude the Philippians might have wondered if they should have bothered to send him the gift. Paul hastened to add that it was good of them to send it. He appreciated it more because it showed a proper spirit in the givers than because it eased his discomfort (Philippians 4:18).

"We know that God loves a cheerful giver, but I believe we also need to stress that God loves a cheerful receiver. Cheerful receivers make giving and receiving a joy. It is especially important that the called workers of the church learn to be gracious, cheerful receivers. This is not necessarily an easy task. The art of being a gracious, cheerful, thankful receiver may be even more difficult than being a cheerful giver. If we learn to accept the compliments and the special personal gifts which we receive in a gracious, cheerful manner, we will help make giving and receiving a joy for ourselves and for our people." [Note: Brug, p. 221.]

Verse 15

The Philippians had been very thoughtful and generous with Paul when he left their town after planting their church on his second missionary journey. He had traveled south from Philippi into the province of Achaia. Probably the gift to which he referred in this verse is the same one he mentioned in 2 Corinthians 11:8, the gift that reached Paul in Corinth.

Verses 15-20

B. The previous gifts 4:15-20

Paul seems to have intended the references in these verses to previous gifts that the Philippians had sent him to dispel any doubts they may have had about the genuineness of his gratitude.

Verse 16

Even before Paul arrived in Corinth the Philippians had sent him gifts in Thessalonica, the next town he visited after leaving Philippi (Acts 17:1). Perhaps these were smaller gifts since they were not as memorable.

"There is good evidence from the Greco-Roman world that the actual expression of ’thank you’ was not a part of friendship as such. As strange as it may seem to us, true friends did not need to express thanksgiving directly in order for it to be received. What Paul is most likely doing here in keeping with social convention is thus expressing his ’thank you’ indirectly, but even more tellingly, by rehearsing their history in this way." [Note: Fee, Paul’s Letter . . ., pp. 446-47.]

Verse 17

However the most important thing to Paul was not the gifts themselves. It was the spiritual reward that would come to the Philippians because of their financial investments in his ministry.

"They themselves will be Paul’s eschatological ’reward’ (Philippians 2:16; Philippians 4:1); their gift to him has the effect of accumulating ’interest’ toward their eschatological ’reward.’" [Note: ibid., p. 447.]

Throughout this section dealing with gifts Paul used common business terminology (i.e., "the matter of giving and receiving," Philippians 4:15; "profit" [NASB] or "credited to your account" [NIV], Philippians 4:17; "received . . . in full" [NASB], Philippians 4:18). Paul was very aware of business matters. Perhaps this reflects his Jewish heritage. His writings reveal a consistent concern over good investments that he regarded mainly as investments yielding eternal rewards.

Verse 18

Paul felt fully satisfied. He had received the Philippians’ recent gift in full. This acknowledgment was his written receipt for their donation as well as a thank you note. He also viewed their gift as an offering ultimately made to God that was acceptable to Him. Sweet savor offerings in Israel were sacrifices made in worship more than to atone for sin. The Philippians were serving as believer-priests by sending their gifts to Paul.

Other sacrifices Christians can make to God beside our material possessions (Philippians 4:18) include our bodies (Romans 12:1-2), our converts (Romans 15:16), our praise (Hebrews 13:15), and our good works (Hebrews 13:16).

Verse 19

This promise harmonizes with previous revelation concerning how God supplies the needs of His people (cf. Proverbs 11:25; Matthew 5:7; Matthew 6:33). Note that it is needs that He will meet, not "greeds." God will supply them all. He will do so commensurate with His riches in glory, not simply out of them. As His riches are lavish, so He will give lavishly.

Why do so many Christians suffer because they lack food, clothing, or money in view of this promise? Perhaps it is because some of our greatest needs are not material. To meet these needs God sometimes does not make us rich or even financially comfortable. Remember too that God gave this promise to generous and sacrificial givers. We may be able to think of examples that appear to be exceptions to this promise. However, I believe if we could see things from God’s perspective we would realize that God has been completely faithful to His Word.

Note too that the supply of our needs comes through Jesus Christ. They come through His sovereign control, through His vast resources, through His infinite wisdom, through His loving heart, and through our union with Him.

Verse 20

Paul closed this section with a doxology in which he praised God for His providential care. God’s care comes to us through His Son, and He often uses His people as His channels of blessing. Nevertheless ultimately God is the provider of His people’s needs. May we ever be mindful of this truth and be grateful to Him!

We cannot read this pericope (Philippians 4:10-20) thoughtfully without appreciating the apostle Paul’s sensitivity to his Philippian readers. He was careful to balance what he said. He wanted them to understand his genuine gratitude for their gifts on the one hand and his contentment with whatever God sent his way on the other. In our day we tend to go to one of these extremes or the other in dealing with those who give us gifts. We may give these people the impression that we do not appreciate their gift, or we may lead them to conclude that we are greedy. A proper balance must rest on genuine contentment and should communicate both appreciation and faith.

William Dalton identified four elements common in both the prologue (Philippians 1:3-26) and the epilogue (Philippians 4:10-20). Paul’s return to these ideas in the epilogue ties the book together and gives it unity.

". . . we seem to have evidence of an inclusion which binds the whole letter into one unit. First of all, the idea of partnership is strongly expressed at the beginning and the end. Thus in Philippians 1:5 Paul is ’thankful for your partnership (koinonia) in the gospel’; and in Philippians 4:15 he records that ’no church entered into partnership in giving and receiving except you only.’ This partnership is reiterated in another parallel: in Philippians 1:7 the Philippians are sharers (sugkoinonous) of grace with Paul; in Philippians 4:13 they are sharers (sugkoinonesantes) with him in his trouble. At both beginning and end we have the same idea expressed in different ways: the long-standing partnership of the Philippians with Paul: ’from the first day until now’ (Philippians 1:5), and ’in the beginning of the gospel’ (Philippians 4:15). And finally the reciprocal attitude of sympathy between Paul and the Philippians is expressed in the same phrase; in Philippians 1:7 he says ’it is right for me to feel this about you’ (touto phronein huper panton humon), and in Philippians 4:10, ’You have revived your concern for me’ (to huper emoi phronein)." [Note: William J. Dalton, "The Integrity of Philippians," Biblica 60:1 (1979):101.]

Verse 21

The apostle wished that the Philippians would pass his greetings to every individual believer whom they would touch. He probably meant Christians in nearby towns as well as in Philippi. He used the same term to describe them as he employed in his opening greeting: "saints in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 1:1). We have seen that the believer’s position "in Christ" is an important theme in Philippians. Christ Jesus was both the source and focus of Paul and the Philippians’ common life together. [Note: Fee, Paul’s Letter . . ., p. 458.]

The brethren with Paul in Rome included Epaphroditus and probably Timothy. They would have also included the Roman Christians with whom Paul had contact and perhaps other fellow workers such as Luke.

Verses 21-23


Paul concluded this warm, positive epistle with some greetings and a final benediction. He did this to cement good relations with the Philippians and to point them again in closing to the Lord Jesus Christ. This closing section of the epistle balances the salutation that opened it (Philippians 1:1-2).

Verse 22

"All the saints" probably refers to the Christians at Rome. Of these, some were employees of the imperial government. [Note: Cf. Robertson, 4:463.] Paul had already referred to the praetorian guards, some of whom had evidently become believers (Philippians 1:13). Since Philippi as a colony had close ties with Rome, it is likely that some of the Roman Christians had friends in the Philippian church.

Verse 23

This benediction is similar to Paul’s initial greeting (Philippians 1:2; cf. Philemon 1:25; Galatians 6:18). God’s bestowal of the unmerited favor and supernatural enablement of the Lord Jesus Christ on the spirits (attitudes) of the Philippians would enable them to succeed. God’s grace would enable them to do all that the apostle had exhorted them to do in this letter. We need God’s grace for this purpose too.

Paul’s personal view of life lies at the center of this epistle structurally as well as conceptually (cf. Philippians 3:7-14). There he demonstrated what it means to adopt the mind of Christ. The great burden of this letter is that we need to make His attitude our own so we can join with other believers in partnership in the gospel. The partnership of the Philippians with Paul is still bearing fruit today through this encouraging epistle.

Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Philippians 4". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dcc/philippians-4.html. 2012.
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