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CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 4:1. Brethren beloved and longed for, … beloved.—By these caressing titles, which, however, are not words of flattery but of sincere love, he works his way into their hearts. The “beloved” repeated at the close of the verse is like the clinging embrace of affection. My joy.—The most delectable joy of St. John was to hear that his children walked in truth. So St. Paul says of his Philippian converts, as he had said of their neighbours of the Thessalonian Church, that they are his joy. And crown.—“The word must be carefully distinguished from ‘diadem.’ It means a chaplet or wreath, and the idea it conveys may be either
(1) victory, or
(2) merriment, as the wreath was worn equally by the conqueror and by the holiday-maker” (Lightfoot).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 4:1
A Plea for Steadfastness—
I. After the pattern of those worthy of imitation.—“So stand fast in the Lord.” Having pointed out the dignity of Christian citizenship and the exalted conduct befitting those possessing its privileges, the apostle exhorts them to steadfastness in imitating those who, through evil and good report and in the midst of opposition and suffering, had bravely maintained their loyalty to Christ. “So stand fast”—be sincere and earnest in devotion to God, as they were: be faithful and unflinching, as they were; triumph over the world, the flesh, and the devil, as they did. “Behold, we count them worthy who endure;” and the same distinction of character is attainable by every follower of Christ, attainable by patient continuance in well-doing. The ideal of a steadfast character is embodied in the Lord, who was Himself a supreme example of unfaltering obedience and love. Follow Him; being united to Him by faith, deriving continual inspiration and strength from His Spirit, stand fast in Him. Riding up to a regiment that was hard pressed at Waterloo, the Duke of Wellington cried to the men, “Stand fast, Ninety-fifth! What will they say in England?” History records how successfully the appeal was obeyed. Stand fast, Christians! What will they say in the heavenly city to which you belong, and for whose interests you are fighting? William of Orange said he learnt a word while crossing the English Channel which he would never forget. When in a great storm the captain was all night crying out to the man at the helm, “Steady! steady! steady!”
II. Addressed to those who have given evidence of willingness to be instructed.—“My joy and crown.” The Philippians who had embraced the gospel he preached, and whose lives had been changed by its power, were the joy and crown of the devoted apostle. The crown was not the diadem of royalty, but the garland of victory. He has in his mind the famous athletic games of the Greeks, which in the diligent training and the strenuous effort to gain the laurel coronet, and the intensity of joy felt by the victors, were a significant illustration of the Christian life, whether as regards the spiritual progress of the believer himself, or his work for the salvation of others. He believed the Lord would place around his brow an imperishable garland of honour, of which each soul that had been quickened, comforted, and strengthened by Him would be a spray or leaf. In Nero’s prison, aged, worn with trouble, manacled, uncertain of life, he rejoiced in being a successful minister of Christ—a conqueror wreathed with amaranth. The emperor in his palace was in heart weary and wretched; the prisoner was restful and happy, invested with a glory that should shine on undimmed, when the glitter of Nero’s power and grandeur should vanish as a dream. The satisfaction enjoyed by those who first led us to Christ and who have helped us in our spiritual struggles, is another reason for continued steadfastness and fidelity.
III. Urged with affectionate solicitude.—“My brethren dearly beloved and longed for, … my dearly beloved.” The terms employed are the outflow of a jubilant spirit, and are full of tender endearment and loving appreciation. Love delights to exaggerate; yet there is no exaggeration here. The Philippians were to the apostle “brethren beloved—dearly beloved”—children of the same spiritual Father, members of the one family of God, united together in a happy Christian brotherhood. He recalls the first introduction of the gospel into Philippi, the preaching of the word, the impressions made, the converts won, the formation of the Church, and its growth and prosperity, amid labours and suffering. Attachments were then formed that deepened and strengthened with the years. Christian friendships call forth the finest feelings of the soul, and form a strong bond of union in the love of a common Saviour. Christ will have no forced selection of men, no soldiers by compulsion, no timorous slaves, but children, brethren, friends.
1. Steadfastness is a test of genuine devotedness.
2. Instability is a loss of advantages often won at great cost.
3. They who endure will finally conquer.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 4:3. And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow.—It is doubtful whom the apostle addresses. On the whole, however, it seems most probable that Epaphroditus, the bearer of the epistle, is intended (so Lightfoot, following Hofmann). Meyer says: “Laying aside arbitrariness and seeing that the address is surrounded by proper names, we can only find in the word for ‘yokefellow’ a proper name, … genuine Syzygus, i.e. thou who art in reality and substantially that which thy name expresses: “fellow-in-yoke, fellow-labourer.” Whose names are in the book of life.—St. Paul had before said the polity of the Christians was a heavenly one. Here he says there is a “burgess list” from which no name of a true citizen is ever by accident omitted—though by any chance he might have omitted to mention his co-workers in his epistle.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 4:2-3
Glimpses of Life in the Early Church.
I. The early planting of the gospel involved arduous and united toil.—“Which laboured with me in the gospel” (Philippians 4:3). Prodigious as were the labours of Paul, he could never have accomplished the work he did but for the willing co-operation of others. There is great art in evoking the sympathy and help of those who can help forward the work of God. Christian work finds scope for all kinds of talents and agencies. Pioneer work is rough work and tests all our powers and resources. The difficulties of the work unite its propagators in heart and hand. There is little good done without strenuous labour, though the results of our toil are not always immediately apparent. Dr. Judson laboured diligently for six years in Burmah before he baptised a convert. At the end of three years he was asked what evidence he had of ultimate success. He replied, “As much as there is a God who will fulfil all His promises.” A hundred churches and thousands of converts already answer his faith.
II. The names of gospel pioneers are not forgotten.—“With Clement also, and with other my fellow-labourers, whose names are in the book of life” (Philippians 4:3). Some of these names are recorded in the pages of history and handed down to our day; the rest, though unknown on earth, are registered in the imperishable pages of “the book of life.” Clement, though unknown to fame and unidentified with any other of the same name mentioned in history, is referred to here as recognising the apostle’s cordial recollection of his valuable work. But the unknown on earth are not forgotten in heaven. The work we do for God will live for ever. When Columbus was homeward bound after his brilliant discovery of a new world he was overtaken by a terrific storm. In his indescribable agony that not only his life and that of his crew, but his magnificent discovery must all go down and be lost in the abyss, and that, too, not far from land, he committed to the deep hurried entries of that discovery sealed up in bottles, in the hope that some day they might reach land. We need not be unduly anxious about either our work or our fame; God will take care of both.
III. From the earliest times women have rendered valuable help in the propagation of the gospel.—“Euodias, Syntyche, … women which laboured with me in the gospel” (Philippians 4:2-3). In the Temple worship the Jewish women were fenced off in a court by themselves. The woman occupied an inferior religious position in Rabbinical teaching. It was a shock to public feeling to see a rabbi talking to a female. Even the disciples were surprised that their Master should be found conversing with a woman on the brink of the Samaritan well. Jesus Christ broke down this middle wall of partition as He had broken down the other. Here, again, He made both one. If in Christ there is no distinction of Jew and Gentile, neither is there of male or female. Women were His faithful and constant attendants; women were the favoured witnesses of His resurrection; women were among the most helpful fellow-workers of the apostles. There was an organised ministry of women deaconesses and widows in the Apostolic Church. “What women those Christians have,” exclaimed the heathen rhetorician, on learning about Anthusa, the mother of Chrysostom. Anthusa at the early age of twenty lost her husband, and thenceforward devoted herself wholly to the education of her son, refusing all offers of further marriage. Her intelligence and piety moulded the boy’s character and shaped the destiny of the man, who in his subsequent eminence never forgot what he owed to maternal influence. It is no exaggeration to say that we owe those rich homilies of Chrysostom, of which interpreters of Scripture still make great use, to the mind and heart of Anthusa.
IV. We learn the apostolic method of reconciling two eminent women in serious disagreement.—
1. He addresses to each an earnest and pointed exhortation to unity. “I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2). He repeats the entreaty to show that he placed the like obligation on each of them. He does not exhort the one to be reconciled to the other, for they might have doubted who should take the initiative, and they might wonder, from the position of their names and construction of the sentence, to which of them the apostle attached the more blame. But he exhorts them both, the one and the other, to think the same thing—not only to come to a mutual understanding, but to preserve it. The cause of quarrel might be some unworthy question about priority or privilege, even in the prosecution of the good work—vainglory leading to strife. It does not seem to have been any difference in creed or practice (Eadie).
2. He recognises their devoted and impartial labours.—“Those women which laboured with me in the gospel” (Philippians 4:3). Their work does not appear to have been done from personal friendship, as is often the case; they treated all and helped all alike. They were deeply interested in the spread of the gospel and the increase of the Church, and toiled with such self-sacrificing devotion as to elicit the special commendation of the apostle.
3. He entreated that help might be rendered them in the adjustment of their quarrel.—“And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women” (Philippians 4:3). A third party is appealed to, to interpose his good offices—an evidence that Paul regarded the harmony of these two women a matter of no small importance. Mediation between two persons at variance is delicate and difficult work, but if judiciously done may help to a reconciliation. Women were the first to receive the gospel at Philippi, and from the first used their influence and opportunities in commending it to their sex. The unseemly misunderstanding between these two women whose labours had been so blessed made it the more necessary that something should be done to heal the breach.
1. Pioneer work has special hardships and temptations.
2. The best of women may quarrel.
3. It is the wise policy of the Christian statesman to compose and strive to prevent discord and disunion.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 4:2. Feminine Disagreement—
I. May occasion much mischief in a Church.
II. All the more dangerous where the parties are eminent in gifts and labours (Philippians 4:3).
III. Reconciled when truly possessing one mind in Christ.—“Be of the same mind in the Lord.”
IV. The most earnest entreaty should be employed to rectify.—“I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche.”
Philippians 4:3. Names in the Book.
1. Some observations.—
1. It is a great thing to have a name in the New Testament.—Think of the roll-call in Romans 16:0 and Hebrews 11:0.
2. It is a great thing now to have a name in the family Bible, for that generally signifies Christian training and parental prayers.
3. It is a great thing to have a name upon the pages of a church register.—How affecting are these old manuals, with their lists of pious men and women, many of whom have passed into the skies.
4. It is the greatest thing of all to have a name in the Lamb’s Book of Life.—Beyond all fame (Matthew 11:11). Beyond all power (Luke 10:20).
II. Some questions.—
1. In how many books is your name written now?
2. How can a human name be written securely in the Lamb’s Book of Life?
3. To backsliders: are you going to return to your name, or do you want it to come back to you?
4. To Christian workers: how many names have you helped to write in the Book of Life?
5. Is there any cheer in thinking how our names will sound when the books are opened in the white light of the throne?—Homiletic Monthly.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 4:4. Rejoice in the Lord.—R.V. margin, “Farewell.” The word is neither “farewell” alone, nor “rejoice” alone (Lightfoot). That the A.V. and R.V. texts are justified in so translating seems clear from the “always” which follows.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 4:4
I. Is in the Lord.—“Rejoice in the Lord.” The joy of the Christian is not in his own achievements, still less is it in himself or in his own experiences. A glance at ourselves and the imperfections of our work for God fills us with shame and sadness. Pure, lasting joy is found nowhere but “in the Lord.” When Möhler, the eminent Roman Catholic symbolist, asserted that “in the neighbourhood of a man who, without any restriction, declared himself sure of his salvation, he should be in a high degree uneasy, and that he could not repel the thought that there was something diabolical beneath this,” he only afforded a deep glance into the comfortlessness of a heart which seeks the ultimate ground of its hope in self-righteousness, and in making assurance of salvation to depend on attainment in holiness instead of in simple faith in Christ. The friends of Haller congratulated him on the honour of having received a visit in his last hours from the emperor Joseph II.; but the dying man simply answered, “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” The more we realise Christ, not as a dim abstraction or a mere historic personage, but as a living and loving personal reality, the more truly can we rejoice in Him.
II. Is constant.—“Always.” Christian joy is not a capricious sentiment, a fitful rapture, but a steady, uniform, and continued emotion. The direction of the apostle to rejoice always sounds like a paradox. How can we continually rejoice when we are continually in the midst of sin, suffering, and sorrow? Still, when we think of the change divine grace has wrought in us, when we think of the ample provisions of the gospel every moment available to us, when we contemplate the bright prospects before us which even present distresses cannot dim, and when we remember the infinite ability of our Lord to accomplish all He has promised us, our joy may well be perennial. Airay, the earliest English expositor of this epistle, has well said, “When Satan, that old dragon, casts out many flouds of persecutions against us; when wicked men cruelly, disdainfully, and despitefully speake against us; when lying, slandering, and deceitful mouthes are opened upon us; when we are mocked and jested at and had in derision of all them that are about us; when we are afflicted, tormented, and made the world’s wonder; when the sorrowes of death compasse us and the flouds of wickednesse make us afraid, and the paines of hell come even unto our soule; what is it that holds up our heads that we sinke not, how is it that we stand either not shaken, or, if shaken, yet not cast downe? Is it not by our rejoycing which we have in Christ Jesus?”
III. Is recommended by experience.—“And again I say rejoice.” Paul recommended what he himself enjoyed. If he, in the midst of disappointment, imprisonment, and suffering, would rejoice and did rejoice, so may others. It might be that, as he wrote these words, a temporary depression crept over him, as he thought of himself as a prisoner in the immediate prospect of a cruel death. It was but a passing feeling. In a moment divine grace triumphed, and with heightened elation and emphasis he repeated, “And again I will say, rejoice.” We have already remarked that joy is the predominating feature of this epistle, and to the last the apostle maintains the exalted strain.
1. Great joy is found in working for God.
2. Joy is found not so much in the work as in the Lord.
3. It is the Christian’s privilege to rejoice always.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSE
Philippians 4:4. Rejoicing in the Lord.
I. The text involves the fact that believers may and should rejoice.—
1. The world holds that believers have no enjoyment.
2. There are believers who all but teach this; for
(1) they use not the language of joy themselves;
(2) they discourage it in others.
3. But that believers may and should rejoice is evident for—
(1) joy is commanded as a duty;
(2) it is mentioned as a fruit of the Holy Ghost;
(3) it is a feature of the Christian, portrayed in the Scriptures (Acts 2:46-47).
4. The spiritually-minded, if not warped by some defective system of doctrine, rejoice.
5. Joy is quite consistent with those states of mind which are thought to be inconsistent with it. “Sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”
6. Joy is the natural result of peace with God.
II. The text exhibits the nature of the joy peculiar to the believer.—He rejoices “in the Lord.”
1. The world rejoices in the creature and shuts out God.
2. The believer rejoices only in God.
3. This joy has several elements.
(1) The believer rejoices that God is—“I am.”
(2) He rejoices that He is what He is.
(3) He rejoices in the manifestations of His glory, which He has made in His word, works, and ways.
(4) He rejoices in his own relation to Him in Christ—“boasting himself in God.”
(5) He rejoices in the hope of the glory of God.
4. Every element of pure and elevated pleasure is found in His joy.
5. It is fellowship with God Himself in His joy.
III. The text renders it binding upon the believer at all times to seek this privilege and to cherish this feeling—“always.”—This command is reasonable, for:
1. God is always the same.
2. The believer’s relation to Him is unalterable.
3. The way to God is always open.
4. The mind may always keep before it the views which cause joy—by the indwelling Spirit.
IV. The manner in which the commandment of the text is pressed teaches us the importance of the duty it inculcates.—Its importance is manifest, for:
1. It is the mainspring of worship and obedience.
2. It prevents a return to sinful pleasures.
3. It renders us superior to temporal suffering—fits for enduring for Jesus Christ.
4. It presents to the world
(1) True religion.
(2) Connected with enjoyment.
V. The manner in which the commandment of the text is expressed implies that there are obstacles in the way of obedience.—What are some of the obstacles?
1. A habit, natural and strong, of drawing our satisfaction from the creature.
2. Not keeping “a conscience void of offence towards God and man.”
3. Not having the heart in a state to have sympathy with God’s character.
4. Not proportioning aright the amount of attention given to self and Christ.
5. Not making sure of our interest in Christ.—Stewart.
Joy in the Lord—
1. Our power of rejoicing in the Lord is a fair test of our moral and spiritual condition.
2. Is a Christian’s main support under the trials of life.
3. Is one of the great motive forces of the Christian life.—H. P. Liddon.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 4:5. Let your moderation be known.—This moderation or forbearance is the very opposite of the spirit which will “cavil on the ninth part of a hair” in the way of asserting personal rights.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 4:5
I. Does not exact all the claims of legal justice.—“Let your moderation [forbearance] be known.” Human laws, however carefully devised, may sometimes, if rigidly enforced, act unjustly and cruelly. We should guide ourselves at all times by the broad principles of equity in the sight of God. We should not urge our own rights to the uttermost, but be willing to waive a part, and thus rectify the injustice of justice. “The archetype of this grace is God, who presses not the strictness of His law against us as we deserve, though having exacted the fullest payment for us from our divine Surety” (Fausset). It is not gentleness as an innate feeling, but as the result of self-restraint. It does not insist on what is its due, it does not stand on etiquette or right, but it descends and complies. It is opposed to that rigor which never bends nor deviates, and which, as it gives the last farthing, uniformly exacts it. It is not facile pliability—a reed in the breeze—but that generous and indulgent feeling that knows what is its right, but recedes from it; is conscious of what is merited, but does not contend for strict proportion. It is that grace which was defective in one or other, or both, of the women who are charged by the apostle to be of one mind in the Lord. For, slow to take offence, it is swift to forgive it. Let a misunderstanding arise, and no false delicacy will prevent it from taking the first step towards reconciliation or adjustment of opinion (Eadie).
II. Should be evident in dealing with all classes.—“Be known unto all men.” We are to practise forbearance, not only towards our Christian brethren, but towards the world, even towards the enemies of the gospel. It is a rebuke to the Christian spirit to be austere, unbending, and scrupulously exacting. If we are always rejoicing in the Lord, we cannot cherish hard feelings towards any. The Christian should be notorious for gentleness and forbearance; all with whom we come in contact should be made to know it and feel it. We should be prepared for yielding up what may be our own rights, and to endure wrong rather than dishonour Christ, or give a false representation of the heavenly life which He exemplified and recommended, and which is becoming in all his professed followers. “This gentleness manifests itself at one time as equanimity and patience under all circumstances, among all men and in manifold experiences; at another as integrity in business relations; as justice, forbearance, and goodness in exercising power; as impartiality and mercy in judging; as noble yielding, joyful giving, and patient enduring and forgiving” (Passavant).
III. Should be practised as conscious of the near advent of Christ.—“The Lord is at hand.” The early Church had a vivid sense of the immediateness of the second coming of Christ, and were taught to do and bear everything as in His sight. We lose much in spiritual power, and in the realisation of eternal things, when we consign that advent to the remote and indistinct future. After all, the second coming of Christ, and not our own death, is the goal on which our eye should be fixed, as the period which will furnish us with the true and final value of our life-work. In the first ages it would have been deemed a kind of apostasy not to have sighed after the day of the Lord. The coming of the Lord is a motive to show moderation and clemency towards all men, even towards our enemies, for the great Judge is near, who will rectify all inequalities and redress all wrongs.
1. Equity is superior to legal enactments.
2. It is a sorry spectacle when Christians appeal to the civil courts to settle their differences.
3. The Christian spirit is the highest equity.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 4:6. Be careful for nothing.—R.V. “in nothing be anxious.” The word suggests the idea of a poor distraught mind on which concerns have fastened themselves, which drag, one in one direction, another in the opposite. Well says Bengel, “Care and prayer are more opposed than water and fire.” In all things, prayer—in nothing, care. By prayer.—The general idea of an expression of dependence. Supplication.—The specific request—the word hinting too at the attitude of the petitioner, e.g. clasping the feet of the person from whom the favour is asked. With thanksgiving.—The preservative against any possible defiance which might otherwise find its way into the tone of the prayer, or on the other hand against a despair which creeps over those who think God “bears long” and forgets to answer.
Philippians 4:7. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding.—If we say the peace of God is so profound that the human mind cannot comprehend it, no doubt that is an admissible interpretation of these words; but it seems better far to say, the peace of God excels all that the mere reason of man can do. The νοῦς, the highest faculty of man as such, intended to be the guide of life, oftener brings anxiety than a calm heart. Shall keep your hearts.—As a watchman keeps a city. Lightfoot says we have a verbal paradox, for “to keep” is a warrior’s duty; God’s peace shall stand sentry, shall keep guard over your hearts. And minds.—R.V. much better, “and thoughts,” for it is not the mind which thinks, but the products of thinking which the word indicates. The sentry questions all suspicious characters (cf. Proverbs 4:23, and Matthew 15:19).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 4:6-7
The Cure of Care.
I. That all anxious care is needless.—“Be careful for nothing” (Philippians 4:6). It is not forethought that is here condemned, but anxious, distracting care. Care is a kill-joy, and is the great enemy of Christian peace. The future is not ours; why be anxious about it? The past is done with, and regrets about it are unavailing. The future is provided for, for God, the great Provider, is ahead of every step we take towards that future. The ancient custom of distracting a criminal by tying him to the wheels of two chariots which were then driven in opposite directions well illustrates how cares may be allowed to distract the mind. We put ourselves on the rack when we ought to cast our care on God, not in part, nor occasionally, but in all things and at all times. Care depreciates the value of all our past blessings, and dims our vision of the blessings we now actually possess. After the great military victories of Marlborough in 1704, he one day said: “I have for these last ten days been so troubled by the many disappointments I have had, that I think if it were possible to vex me so for a fortnight longer, it would make an end of me. In short, I am weary of my life.”
II. That all anxious care should be taken to God in thankful prayer.—“But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). The best system of heathen philosophy regarded equability of mind, undisturbed alike by the troubles and allurements of the world, as the most perfect state of the soul; but it did not provide any adequate motive for attaining this desirable equipoise. It could only state the theory and insist on its importance; but refractory human nature had its own way, in spite of philosophy. The apostle supplies in these words a nobler and more workable philosophy. He not only exhorts us to tranquillity of mind, but shows us how it may be attained and kept. In all kinds of anxieties, and especially in the struggles of religious doubt, prayer is the truest philosophy. Our difficulties vanish when we take them to God.
“By caring and by fretting,
By agony and fear,
There is of God no getting;
But prayer He will hear.”
We should cast our care on God because He is our Father. A father’s office is to provide for his family. It is out of place for a child to be anxiously making provision for emergencies—asking where to-morrow’s food and clothing are to come from, and how the bills are to be paid. We should rebuke such precocity, and send the child to school or to play, and leave all such matters to the ordained caretaker. The birds of the air are taken care of; so shall we be, even though our faith is small. “Our prayers run along one road, and God’s answers by another, and by-and-by they meet. God answers all true prayer, either in kind or in kindness” (Judson).
III. That the peace of God in the heart will effectually banish all care.—“And the peace of God which passeth all understanding shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). The enemies of peace are: melancholy, to which the apostle opposed joy in the Lord (Philippians 4:4); want of self-restraint or intemperance of feeling or conduct, to which he opposes moderation (Philippians 4:5); care and anxiety, or unthankfulness and unbelief, to which he opposes grateful and earnest prayer (Philippians 4:6); the final result is peace (Philippians 4:7). The peace that God gives “passeth understanding”; it is deep, precious, immeasurable. God alone fully understands the grandeur of His own gift. It is an impenetrable shield to the believing soul; it guards the fortress in peace though the shafts of care are constantly hurled against it.
1. Our sins breed our cares.
2. God is ever willing to take up the burden of our cares.
3. Only as we commit our cares to God have we peace.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 4:6-7. The Remedy for Worldly Care.
I. A caution or warning.—“Be careful for nothing.”
1. This does not respect duty.—We must have a care for our Lord’s interests.
2. But having performed duty, we are not to be careful as to consequences.—
(1) Because unnecessary. Christ cares.
(2) Because useless. It cannot ward off the evil. The evil only in imagination. The evil often a good. Itself the greatest evil.
3. Because positively sinful.—
(1) It breaks a commandment.
(2) It sets aside promises.
(3) It undervalues experience.
(4) It distrusts God’s wisdom and goodness.
(5) It is rebellion against God’s arrangements.
(6) It is an intrusion into God’s province.
4. Because hurtful and injurious.—
(1) It often deters from duty.
(2) It destroys the comforts of duty.
II. Counsel or advice as to the manner in which the evil is to be avoided.—“But in everything by prayer and supplication.”
1. The correction is not a needless and reckless indifference.
2. The emphatic word here is “everything.” This describes the range of prayer. This precept is generally neglected.
3. The performance of this duty would correct carefulness. It places everything under God’s government, and leaves it there. It leads to a study of the divine will in secular affairs. Our prospects and plans are thus tested. It gives to every event the character of an answer to prayer—evil as well as good. Prayer, i.e. direct entreaty or petition. Supplication, i.e. deprecation. Thanksgiving for all past and present.
III. A promise as to the result of following this counsel or advice.—“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds.”
1. The mind and the heart are the seat of care.—The mind calculates, imagines. The heart feels fear, grief, despair.
2. The mind and heart are made the seat of peace.—“The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.” The peace which God has flows from unity, from omnipotence. This is the peace of God, because He gives it.
3. This peace comes through Jesus Christ.—He produces the unity. He encircles with omnipotence.—Stewart.
Philippians 4:6-7. Anxious Care.
I. The evil to be avoided.—
1. Care is excessive when it is inconsistent with peace and quietness.
2. When it induces loss of temper.
3. When it makes us distrustful of Providence.
4. When it hurries us into any improper course of conduct.
(1) Anxiety is useless.
(2) Is positively injurious.
(3) Exerts a mischievous influence on others.
(4) Is criminal.
II. The proper course to be pursued.—
III. The happiness to be enjoyed.—“The peace of God, which passeth understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ.”—Dr. Robt. Newton.
Philippians 4:6. Subjects of Prayer.
I. For temporal blessings.—
1. Our health. Value of health. Dependence on God.
2. Our studies. Not to supersede diligence. Communicates a right impulse. Secures a right direction.
3. Our undertakings. Agricultural, commercial.
II. For spiritual blessings.—
1. For pardon. Of our daily sins in thought, word, and deed. Of all our sins.
2. For holiness in heart and life. Regeneration, faith, love, hope, meekness, zeal, resignation, obedience.
3. For usefulness and happiness.
III. For the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.—
1. On ourselves.
2. On our relatives and friends.
3. On the Church. 4. On the world.
IV. For the spread of the gospel.—
1. For the multiplication of the necessary means.
2. For the removal of obstacles.
3. For the success of labourers.
4. For the conversion of sinners.—G. Brooks.
I. True prayer is specific as well as earnest.—Nothing is too little to be made the subject of prayer. The very act of confidence is pleasing to God and tranquillising to the suppliant. God is not only willing to hear the details, but He desires that we should tell Him.
II. True prayer consists of confession, supplication, and thanksgiving.—We are to confess our sins, ask forgiveness, and do it with gratitude and thankfulness. God will not answer the requests of unthankful beggars. Without thanksgiving what we call prayer is presumption.—Homiletic Monthly.
Philippians 4:7. The Peace of God keeping the Heart.
I. The nature of this defending principle.—It has as its basis forgiving mercy.
II. Its author.—“The peace of God.” It is called His peace, because that work of mercy on which it rests is His work, and He Himself communicates the peace.
III. Its property.—“Passeth all understanding.”
1. The understanding of such as are strangers to it.
2. They who enjoy it the most cannot fully comprehend it.
IV. Its effects.—“Shall keep your hearts and minds.”
1. In temptation it secures the heart by satisfying the heart.
2. It keeps the heart in affliction.
3. It keeps the mind by settling the judgment, and keeping doubts and errors out of the mind.
V. Its source and the instrumentality by which it works.—“Through Christ Jesus.”—C. Bradley.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 4:8. Whatsoever things are true.—The apostle recognises the ability of the renewed mind to discern truth under any guise. “Ye have an unction from the Holy One and know all things” (1 John 2:20). Honest.—A.V. margin, “venerable.” R.V. text, “honourable.” R.V. margin, “reverend.” This variety shows the difficulty of finding an exact equivalent for the word of St. Paul, in which the sense of gravity and dignity, and of these as inviting reverence, is combined. Just.—Answering to that which is normally right (Cremer). Pure.—As there is no impurity like fleshly impurity, defiling body and spirit, so the word “pure” expresses freedom from these (Trench). It denotes chastity in every part of life (Calvin). Lovely.—Christian morality as that which is ethically beautiful is pre-eminently worthy to be loved. “Nihil est amabilius virtute,” says Cicero. Of good report.—R.V. margin, “gracious.” Lightfoot says “fair-speaking” and so “winning, attractive.” Meyer says, “that which, when named, sounds significant of happiness, e.g. brave, honest, honourable.” If there be any virtue.—The New Testament is frugal of the word which is in such constant use in the heathen moralists. If they sought to make man self-confident, it seeks to shatter that confidence. The noblest manliness is godliness. Think on these things.—They are things to be reckoned with by every man sooner or later—occupy the thoughts with them now.
Philippians 4:9. Those things … do.—Here speaks the same man, with a mind conscious of its own rectitude, who could say, “I have lived in all good conscience before God unto this day.” He had not only “allured” his Philippian converts “to brighter worlds,” but had “led the way.” The God of peace shall be with you.—Note the phrase in connection with “the peace of God shall mount guard” (Philippians 4:7).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 4:8-9
The Science of Christian Ethics—
I. Demands the study of every genuine virtue.—“Whatsoever things are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, of good report, … think on these things” (Philippians 4:8). In regard to what is honourable, just, pure, lovely, and of good report, there is a true and a false standard, and for this reason the apostle here places the true at the beginning, that when the following exhortations are presented, this fact which our experience so often discloses may at once occur to the Christian, and he may be led to examine himself and see whether he also is everywhere seeking for the true (Schleiermacher). Genuine virtue has its root in genuine religion. The modern school of ethics, which professes to teaches morality as something apart from spiritual Christianity, is a return to the exploded theories of pagan moralists, an attempt to dress up pre-Christian philosophy in a nineteenth-century garb. The morality that is lovely and of good report is Christian morality—the practical, livable ethics of the New Testament. The ethical terms used in this verse are closely united. The true, the becoming, the right, and the pure are elements of virtue or moral excellence, and when exhibited in practical life are lovely and worthy of all praise. The charm of the Christian character is not the cultivation of one virtue that overshadows all the rest, but the harmonious blending of all the virtues in the unity of the Christian life. Christian ethics should be earnestly studied, not as matters of mere speculation, but because of their supreme importance and utility in the moral conduct of every-day life.
II. Requires the translation of high moral principles into practical life.—“Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do” (Philippians 4:9). It is one thing to ponder, admire, and applaud morality; it is another thing to practise it. The apostle not only taught Christian ethics, but practised them, and could point to his own example as worthy of imitation; it was not, “Do as I say,” but, “Do as I do.” Christian morality is of little value as a mere creed of ethics; its true power is seen in changing, elevating, and refining the life. We have all to lament there is such a wide chasm between theory and practice. Theory may be learned in a brief period; practice is the work of a lifetime. The theory of music may be rapidly apprehended, but the mastery of any one instrument, such as the violin or organ, demands patient and incessant practice. It means detail-work, plod, perseverance, genius. So is it with every virtue of Christian ethics. Theory and practice should go together; the one helps the other; practice more clearly defines theory, and theory more fully apprehended stimulates practice. It is the practice of Christian morality that preaches to the world a gospel that it cannot fail to understand and that is doing so much to renovate it. Lord Bolingbroke, an avowed infidel, declared: “No religion ever appeared in the world whose tendency was so much directed to promote the peace and happiness of mankind as the Christian religion. The gospel of Christ is one continued lesson of the strictest morality, of justice, benevolence, and universal charity. Supposing Christianity to be a human invention, it is the most amiable and successful invention that ever was imposed on mankind for their good.”
III. Links practical morality with the promise of divine blessing.—“And the God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9). The upright man—the man who is striving to shape and mould his life on the ethics of the New Testament—shall not only enjoy peace, the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, but the God of peace shall be with him and in him. True religion, in healthy activity, gives, and can alone give, a restfulness of spirit such as the troubles of life are impotent to disturb. The two vital elements of true religion are communion with God and the diligent cultivation of practical holiness—conformity to the will of God in all things. Pray and bring forth the fruits of the Spirit, and the God of peace shall be with you, preserving you from unrest and harm. The peace of God is also an active principle, gentle and noiseless in its activity, which will help the soul to grow in ethical symmetry and beauty.
1. The gospel is the foundation of the highest ethics.
2. No system of morality is trustworthy that does not lead to holy practice.
3. God helps the man who is honestly striving to live up to his light.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 4:8. Mercantile Virtues without Christianity.
I. What a man of mercantile honour has.—He has an attribute of character which is in itself pure, lovely, honourable, and of good report. He has a natural principle of integrity, and under its impulse he may be carried forward to such fine exhibitions of himself as are worthy of all admiration. It is very noble when the simple utterance of his word carries as much security along with it, as if he had accompanied that utterance by the signatures, the securities, and the legal obligations which are required of other men. All the glories of British policy and British valour are far eclipsed by the moral splendour which British faith has thrown over the name and the character of our nation. There is no denying the extended prevalence of a principle of integrity in the commercial world.
II. What a man of mercantile honour has not.—He may not have one duteous feeling of reverence which points upward to God. He may not have one wish or one anticipation which points forward to eternity. He may not have any sense of dependence on the Being who sustains him, and who gave him his very principle of honour as part of that interior furniture which He has put into his bosom. He is a man of integrity, and yet he is a man of ungodliness. This natural virtue, when disjoined from a sense of God, is of no religious estimation whatever; nor will it lead to any religious blessing, either in time or in eternity.—T. Chalmers.
Philippians 4:9. Paul as an Example to Believers.
I. He was distinguished by his decision of character in all that relates to religion.—Constitutionally ardent; zealous as a Pharisee. From the day of his conversion he never faltered, notwithstanding his privations, his dangers, his sufferings. Be decided.
II. By his care about the culture of the divine life in his own soul.—The student may desire to know the truth rather than to feel its power. The preacher may be more solicitous about the power of the truth over others than over himself. He never lost sight of the interests of his own soul.
III. By his devotional habits.—One would rather be the author of his prayers than of his sermons. The difference between his prayers as a Pharisee and as a Christian. The subject, the spirit, the style of his prayers as a Christian. Be careful. Be not soon shaken in mind or troubled by speculations about the philosophy of prayer.
IV. By his spirituality and heavenly mindedness.—He did not show any interest in the class of worldly objects that might have been expected to interest a man of his order of mind. He was absorbed in “spiritual things.” The second coming of Christ had a prominent place in his thoughts. “That day.” Cultivate a habitual superiority to the things of time and sense. Seek the things that are above.
V. By his patient submission to the dispensations of divine providence.—Rare amount of suffering. Strong feeling, unmurmuring submission. Patient, meek, contented. All from Christian principle. Be resigned.
VI. By his laborious usefulness.—Sketch his career. Be useful.—G. Brooks.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 4:10. Hath flourished again.—R.V. “ye have revived your thought for me.” The active generosity of the Philippians towards St. Paul had never died, any more than a tree does when it sheds its leaves and stands bare all through the winter. The winter of their disability was past, and the return of the sun of prosperity made the kindly remembrance of the apostle sprout into a generous gift to him.
Philippians 4:11. Not that I speak, etc. “Do not mistake me; I am not moved thus by the good of my own need.” The apostle does not leave it possible for one to say with the melancholy Jaques, “When a man thanks me heartily, methinks I have given him a penny and he renders me the beggarly thanks.” I have learned … to be content.—“Self-sufficiency,” said Socrates, “is nature’s wealth.” St. Paul is only self-sufficient so far as Christ dwells in him and assures him, “My grace is sufficient for thee” (cf. Hebrews 13:5).
Philippians 4:12. I know how to be abased.—To be “in reduced circumstances.” I know how to abound.—To be in affluence. By this it does not appear that St. Paul meant, “I have chewed the bitter cud of penury, and tasted the sweets of prosperity.” Many a man has had to do that—everything lies in how it is done. It is as much beneath the Christian philosopher to make a wry face at the one, as to clap the hands in childish glee at the other. I am instructed, etc. Lit. “I have been initiated.” The pass-word is in the apostle’s possession—no novice is he. To be full and to be hungry.—As if we said “to pasture and to pine.” It is the psalmist’s “green pastures and still waters.… The valley of the shadow of death.”
Philippians 4:13. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.—A fresh general statement of the self-sufficiency of Philippians 4:11. “In the grand brevity how marked is the assurance, and at the same time humility” (Meyer).
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 4:10-14
The Joy of a Good Man in Extremity—
I. Stimulated by the practical evidence of the growth in his converts of Christian thoughtfulness.—“Your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity” (Philippians 4:10). The Philippians were a hospitable people, as was shown both by Lydia and the gaoler, who insisted on the privilege of ministering to the wants of the apostles in the beginning of their ministry at Philippi. The Church in that city had already sent a liberal contribution to the apostle to help him in his missionary work; and he now rejoices over another practical evidence of their generous thoughtfulness in the timely help they had sent him by the hands of Epaphroditus. Paul and his mission were much in their thoughts, and they were often devising how they might minister to his wants and further the work of the gospel. They were eager to help him more frequently, but lacked opportunity. They valued the gospel so as to be willing to pay for it. It is a gratifying and unmistakable proof of religious growth when we are anxious to contribute of our means, according to our ability, for the spread of the gospel. Liberality in money-giving is a crucial test of genuine godliness. When the commission of excise wrote Wesley, “We cannot doubt you have plate for which you have hitherto neglected to make an entry,” his laconic reply was, “I have two silver teaspoons at London, and two at Bristol; this is all the plate which I have at present, and I shall not buy any more at present while so many around me want bread.” It is estimated that he gave away more than £30,000.
II. Maintained by having mastered the secret of Christian contentment.—
1. A contentment gained by actual experience of the ups and downs of life. “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” (Philippians 4:11-12). The checkered and eventful life of the apostle had taught him many lessons, and not the least useful and important was the art of contentment. A man with his varied experience is not easily inconvenienced by fluctuating fortunes. Contentment is gained, not by the abundance of what we possess, but by discovering how much we can do without. “That which we miscall poverty is indeed nature,” writes Jeremy Taylor; “and its proportions are the just measures of a man, and the best instruments of content. But when we create needs that God or nature never made, we have erected to ourselves an infinite stock of trouble that can have no period.” Most desires are first aroused by comparison with others. Sempronius complained of want of clothes and was much troubled for a new suit, being ashamed to appear in the theatre with his gown a little threadbare; but when he got it, and gave his old clothes to Codrus, the poor man was ravished with joy and went and gave God thanks for his new purchase; and Codrus was made richly fine and cheerfully warm by that which Sempronius was ashamed to wear; and yet their natural needs were both alike.
2. A contentment inspired by divine strength.—“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13). The apostle’s contentment was not self-sufficiency, but self-sufficingness; and this was acquired, not only by the experiences of life, but the help of divine grace. He could conceive no circumstances in which that grace was not sufficient. His contented mind he regarded as a gift of God. “I have learnt from Thee, O God,” writes Augustine, “to distinguish between the gift and the fruit. The gift is the thing itself, which is given by one who supplies what is needed, as money or raiment; but the fruit is the good and well-ordered will of the giver. It is a gift to receive a prophet and to give a cup of cold water; but it is fruit to do those acts in the name of a prophet and in the name of a disciple. The raven brought a gift to Elias when it brought him bread and flesh, but the widow fruit, because she fed him as a man of God.”
III. Gratefully commends the generosity of those who alleviate his extremity.—“Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction” (Philippians 4:14). Though the apostle had learned contentment in every situation, and his mind could accommodate itself to every change of circumstances; though he had fresh and inexhaustible sources of consolation within himself, and had been so disciplined as to acquire the mastery over his external condition and to achieve anything in Christ; yet he felt thankful for the sympathy of the Philippian Church, and praised them for it. His humanity was not absorbed in his apostleship, and his heart, though self-sufficed, was deeply moved by such tokens of affection. Though he was contented, he yet felt there was affliction—loss of liberty, jealous surveillance, inability to fulfil the great end of his apostolic mission. This sympathy on the part of the Philippians with the suffering representative of Christ and His cause is the very trait of character which the Judge selects for eulogy at last (Matthew 25:35) (Eadie).
IV. Has a divine source.—“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly” (Philippians 4:10). He regarded the gift as coming from the Lord, and his joy in its reception was from the same source. He rejoiced the more in this practical evidence of the love and gratitude of his converts. Every kindness shown to us by others, when it is recognised as coming from God, will augment our joy in Him.
1. God does not forget His servants in distress.
2. A contented spirit is a fruit of divine grace.
3. It is a joy to be remembered by those we love.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 4:10. Practical Christian Benevolence—
I. Is quick to see the needs of God’s servants and of the cause in which they faithfully labour.
II. Eagerly watches every opportunity for supplying those needs.
III. Is a matter of exalted joy to those who fully appreciate both the supply and the motive that prompted it.
Philippians 4:11-12. Tendency of Christian Principles to produce True Contentment.
I. Christianity takes away the natural causes of discontent.—
II. Christianity furnishes powerful motives for the exercise of a contented mind.—
1. The disciples of Christ are under the strongest obligations to walk in the footsteps of their divine Master.
2. True Christians are firmly convinced that their lot is chosen for them by their blessed Lord and Master.
3. It is chosen for them, in infinite love and mercy to their souls.—E. Cooper.
Philippians 4:11. Contentment.
I. That a man be content with his own estate without coveting that which is another’s.
II. That a man be content with his present estate.—
1. Because that only is properly his own.
2. All looking beyond that disquiets the mind.
3. The present is ever best.
III. That a man be content with any estate.
IV. The art of contentment—
1. Is not learned from nature.
2. Or outward things.
3. But is taught us by Gods Spirit.
4. By His promises.
5. By the rod of discipline.
6. Proficiency in contentment gained—
(1) By despising unjust gain.
(2) By moderating worldly desires and care.
(3) By carefully using and charitably dispensing what we have.
(4) By bearing want and loss with patience.—R. Sanderson.
I. What it is.—
1. That our desires of worldly good are low and moderate.
2. That in all our views of bettering our worldly condition we indulge not immoderate cares.
3. That whatever our present condition be, we cheerfully submit to the providence of God in it.
4. That we are so easy with our own lot as not to envy others who may be in more prosperous circumstances.
5. That we will not use any unlawful means to better our present condition.
6. That we make the best of our condition whatever it be.
II. How it may be learned.—
1. Christianity sets in view the most solid principles of contentment and the strongest motives to it.
2. Furnishes us with the brightest patterns of contentment to enforce its precepts and prevent our despair of attaining it.
1. The present state should be considered as a state of learning.
2. More depends on our spirits than upon our outward condition in order to contentment.
3. Labour to have our minds so formed that they may be content and tolerably easy in any state of life.
Philippians 4:13. The Source of the Christian’s Power.
I. The extent of a Christian’s ability.—
1. He is able to discharge every duty.
2. He is able to endure every trial.
3. He is able to brave every suffering.
4. He is able to overcome every temptation.
II. The source of the Christian’s ability.—
1. Christ strengthens us by His teachings.
2. Christ strengthens us by His example.
3. Christ strengthens us by the moral influence of His death as a sacrifice far our sin.
4. Christ strengthens us by uniting us to Himself, and bestowing on us, in answer to the prayer of faith, the influences of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the fountain of spiritual strength,—G. Brooks.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 4:15. No Church communicated with me.—The lofty independence of the apostle had not unbent to any other Church as to this. There are men from whom one could never receive a gift without sacrifice of self-respect. St. Paul was not the man to be patronised.
Philippians 4:18. An odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God.—The last word transfers their deed to another sphere entirely. “Ye did it unto Me,” says Christ.
Philippians 4:19. My God shall supply all your need.—Did I say, “I am filled”? (Philippians 4:18). I can make you no return, but my God will. He will fulfil every need of yours. According to His riches in glory.—According to the abundant power and glorious omnipotence whereby as Lord of heaven and earth He can bestow what He will.
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 4:15-19
A Generous Church—
I. Spontaneously contributing to the earliest efforts in the propagation of the gospel.—
1. Its generosity conspicuous by its solitary example. “No Church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only” (Philippians 4:15). In the account between us, the giving was on your part, the receiving on mine. The Philippians had followed Paul with their bounty when he left Macedonia and came to Corinth. We are not to wait for others in a good work, saying, “I will do so when others do it.” We must go forward though alone (Fausset). Their liberality followed him on distant missionary tours, and when no longer in their own province. One single example of generosity is an inspiration and a hint to others. Any Church will wither into narrowing dimensions when it confines its benefactions to itself.
2. Its generosity was repeated.—“For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity” (Philippians 4:16). Even in Thessalonica, still in their own province and not far from Philippi, they more than once contributed to his help, and thus rendered him less dependent on those among whom he was breaking new ground. Help in time of need is a pleasant memory; and the apostle delights in reminding the Philippians of their timely and thoughtful generosity. Repeated kindnesses should increase our gratitude.
II. The gifts of a generous Church are appreciated as indicating growth in practical religion.—“Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account” (Philippians 4:17). It is not the gift he covets, but that rich spiritual blessing which the gift secures to its donors. The apostle wished them to reap the growing spiritual interest of their generous expenditure. Not for his own sake but theirs does he desire the gift. He knew that the state of mind which devised and contributed such a gift was blessed in itself, that it must attract divine blessing, for it indicated the depth and amount of spiritual good which the apostle had done to them, and for which they thus expressed their gratitude; and it showed their sympathy with the cause of Christ, when they had sought to enable their spiritual founder in former days to give his whole time, without distraction or physical exhaustion, to the work of his apostleship. This was a spiritual condition which could not but meet with the divine approbation and secure the divine reward (Eadie).
III. The gifts of a generous Church are accepted as a sacrifice well pleasing to God.—“Having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God” (Philippians 4:18). It was a gift in which God delighted, fragrant as the sweet-smelling incense which burned in the censer. It was felt that God is supreme Benefactor and that all possessions are His gracious gift, that these have an end beyond the mere personal enjoyment of them, that they may and ought to be employed in God’s service, and that the spirit of such employment is the entire dedication of these to Him. The money, while contributed to the apostle, was offered to God. They discharged a spiritual function in doing a secular act—“the altar sanctified the gift” (Ibid.). Giving to the cause of Christ is worship, acceptable and well-pleasing to God. It belongs to the same class of acts as the presentation of sacrifices under the old economy, which was the central act of worship. For the proper use of no talent is self-denial more needed than for that of money.
IV. The gifts of a generous Church will be recompensed with abundant spiritual blessing.—“But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:19). The money we give to God’s cause is well invested, and will yield a rich return: spiritual blessing in return for material gifts; this is beyond the power of arithmetic to compute. This was no rash and unwarrantable promise on the part of Paul. He knew something of the riches of the divine generosity, and was justified in assuring his kind benefactors of God’s perfect supply of every want of body and soul, bestowed not grudgingly but with royal beneficence.
1. Gratitude for blessings received should prompt generosity.
2. Money is never more wisely employed than in forwarding the cause of God.
3. Our gifts to God are handsomely rewarded.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 4:15-16. Christian Generosity—
I. Indicates a genuine interest in the work of God and love for its ministers.
II. Is especially valuable in prosecuting pioneer mission work.
III. Should not be conspicuous by one solitary example, but be continuous and commensurate with the pressing needs of the work of God.
Philippians 4:17-18. Liberality a Fruit of the Christian Life.
I. It is not a gift, but the discharge of a just claim.
II. Paul did not desire a gift only to benefit himself, because he wanted nothing.
III. Liberality is a fruit of the Christian life by discharging a debt to which we stood engaged.
IV. Liberality is an advantage in the exercise of our patience before the day of trial come upon us.
V. As God will punish the neglect of this duty, so if we perform it He will count Himself in debt to us.—Farindon.
Philippians 4:19. Man’s Need supplied from God’s Riches.
I. Look at man’s necessity.
II. God’s wealth.—Its abundance; its excellence.
III. The supply the apostle anticipates for this necessity out of this wealth.
1. Contentment with our present lot.
2. Confidence for the future.—C. Bradley.
Our Need and our Supply.
I. Examine the scope of the promise.—There is danger of fanaticism in the interpretation of truth. God promises to supply our need, but not to gratify our wishes or whims. Some of us God sees cannot bear wealth, and so it is not given us; but as our day is so is our strength.
II. The supply—The supply is not according to our deserts, but according to the riches of His glory. The resources of the Trinity are drawn upon. His wealth is unbounded. He is not a cistern, but a fountain.
III. The Medium.—This supply comes through Christ. We can claim it in no other name. But God ordains means and puts us under conditions. As in agriculture, so here, we are to work in harmony with God’s established methods if we would secure fruits.—Homiletic Monthly.
CRITICAL AND EXPLANATORY NOTES
Philippians 4:22. The saints … of Cæsar’s household.—This expression does not oblige us to think that any relatives of Cæsar had embraced Christianity. It comprises all who in any way were connected with the imperial service.
Philippians 4:23. Be with you all.—The oldest MSS. read, “Be with your spirit.”
MAIN HOMILETICS OF THE PARAGRAPH.—Philippians 4:20-23
I. A glowing ascription of praise to the divine Giver of every blessing.—“Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and ever. Amen” (Philippians 4:20). To God, even our Father, the kind and liberal Supplier of every want to every child, be eternal glory ascribed. The ascription of praise is the language of spiritual instinct which cannot be repressed. Let the child realise its relation to the Father who feeds it, clothes it, and keeps it in life, who enlightens and guides it, pardons and purifies it, strengthens and upholds it, and all this in Christ Jesus, and it cannot but in its glowing consciousness cry out, “Now to God and our Father be the glory for ever.” The “Amen” is a fitting conclusion. As the lips shut themselves, the heart surveys again the facts and the grounds of praise, and adds, “So be it” (Eadie).
II. Christian salutations.—“Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Cæsar’s household” (Philippians 4:21-22). Salutations are tokens of personal interest and living fellowship which should not be lightly esteemed. The apostolic salutations teach that the Christian religion does not make men unfriendly and stubborn, but courteous and friendly (Lange). The reference to the saints in Cæsar’s household may mean either kinsfolk of Nero or servants in the palace. It is improbable that so many near relatives of the emperor should have yielded themselves to Christ as to be designated by this phrase, and it is not likely to suppose that a combination of these two classes would be grouped under the one head. In all likelihood the reference is to servants holding more or less important positions in the imperial household—some, no doubt, slaves; and it is a suggestive testimony to the unwearied diligence and influence of the apostle in using every opportunity to make known the saving grace of the gospel. To explain to any the reason for his imprisonment was an occasion for preaching Christ. “O Rome, Rome!” exclaims Starke, “how greatly hast thou changed! Formerly thou hadst true saints even in the household of a pagan and tyrannical emperor; but now hast thou false saints, especially in and around the so-called chair of Peter and at the court of his supposed successor.”
III. Final benediction.—“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (Philippians 4:23). The oldest MSS. read, “Be with your spirit.” It is important that the grace of God should be not only around us, but with us and in us. The benediction is a prayer that the divine favour may be conferred upon them, enriching the noblest elements of their nature with choicest blessings, making them to grow in spiritual wisdom, beauty, and felicity, that grace may ultimately merge into glory.
1. Praise should be offered to God in all things.
2. The Christian spirit is full of kindly courtesy.
3. It is a comprehensive prayer that invokes the blessing of divine grace.
GERM NOTES ON THE VERSES
Philippians 4:20. Eternal Praise should be offered unto God—
I. For mercies enjoyed in the past.
II. For mercies which as our Father He holds for us and bestows on us in the present.
III. That the glory of His character may become increasingly conspicuous in His works of creation, providence, and grace.
Philippians 4:21-22. Christian Courtesy—
I. Elevates and sanctifies the amenities of social life.
II. Awakens and strengthens mutual sympathy and help in the Christian life.
III. Should be exercised by Christians of all ranks and conditions.
Philippians 4:23. The Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ—
I. Is the sum of all we can need for ourselves or desire for others.
II. Is a revelation of His own character and of His regard for us.
III. May be sought with the utmost confidence and enjoyed in ever-increasing measure.
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Philippians 4". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fifth Week after Easter