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Bible Commentaries

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments
Philippians 4

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-23

Philippians 4:6. Be careful for nothing — let your requests be made known unto God. Not that we are to abandon all care, or become careless, about the things of the present life, for that would be inconsistent with the requirement, to provide things honest in the sight of all men, and for that purpose to be diligent in business, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord. But it becomes christians not to be burdened with inordinate care, or to be over solicitous about any temporal good, so as anxiously to enquire, what shall we eat, what shall we drink, or wherewithal shall we be clothed; for our heavenly Father knoweth that we have need of these things, and he is able to provide. Matthew 6:31-32. The Lord is my shepherd, said the pious psalmist: I shall not want. If sorrow and trouble come upon us, if threatened with poverty or destitution, let us flee without delay to the mercyseat, and make our requests known unto God, who has appointed this way of relief, that we may feel our dependence upon him, and that we may go to him day by day for our daily bread as children to their father. And what a happy life, free from corroding care and depressing anxiety, having cast all our cares on Him who careth for us, and is able to supply all our need. It is also one of the tests of true religion that we not only pray on special occasions, but on all occasions, and in every thing make our requests known unto God; that we tell him all our wants and all our hearts, even in matters that to others might appear trivial or unimportant.

Philippians 4:7. And the peace of God — shall keep your hearts and minds. This follows as a consequence upon the foregoing exhortation. The way to be kept in perfect peace, is to have our minds stayed upon the Lord, as a building rests upon its foundation. Isaiah 26:3. Then, when troubles come, “our hearts” shall be kept as in a garrison, which no enemy can invade. This peace of God, arising from reconciliation with him and a consciousness of acceptance in his sight, will diffuse a sweet tranquility over all the sorrows of life, and enable the believer to view without dread the approaching hour of death and a judgment to come. And while many errors, as well as troubles, are abroad in the world, it will keep “our minds” free from them, and prevent our being corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:3. He that lives in communion with God will neither be in danger of any fatal error, nor of sinking under the trials of life.

REFLECTIONS.

“How condescending is this great apostle in the kind notice he takes, not only of his fellow-labourers in the work of the christian ministry, but even of the women, who, according to the opportunity which God gave them, lent their assistance for the service of the gospel, whatever those assistances were; whether by their prayers, or familiar addresses to their friends, or their kind offices to the bodies of those in distress, or that uniform example by which the several virtues of christianity were recommended, and the christian profession adorned. Let none then object the privacy of their stations, as if that must necessarily cut them off from usefulness, but let them endeavour diligently and humbly to do their utmost, and pray for encreasing wisdom and grace, to guide them in their deliberations and resolves.

It will be very subservient to this happy design, that christians, in whatever stations they are, should be of one mind in the Lord; that they should endeavour to lay aside mutual prejudices, and unite in love, if they cannot perfectly agree in all their sentiments. Then may they rejoice in the Lord; and it is to be urged upon them again and again, that they do so. It is to be urged, not only as a privilege, but a duty. And surely, if we consider what a Saviour he is, and how perfectly accommodated to what our necessities require, and what our hearts could wish, we shall easily enter into the reasonableness of the exhortation.

Let us often represent it to ourselves as a truth equally important and certain, that the Lord is at hand. By his spiritual presence he is ever near us, and the day of his final and visible appearance is continually approaching. Let our hearts be duly influenced by it, and particularly be taught that holy moderation which becomes those who see the season so nearly advancing, when all these things shall be dissolved. And let this abate our anxiety about them. Why should we be solicitous about things which shall so soon be as if they had never been? Let us seek the repose of our minds in prayer. In every thing by humble supplication let us make known our requests to God, and let us mingle thankful acknowledgments for past favours with our addresses to the throne of grace for what we farther need. This will establish the serenity of our souls, so that the peace of God, more sweet and delightful than any who have not experienced it can conceive, will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, and make our state secure as well as pleasant. Let us study the beautiful and the venerable, as well as what is true and just in actions, and pursue every thing which shall, as such, approve itself to our consciences, every thing in which there shall be virtue and praise. Let us always in this view endeavour to keep the moral sense uncorrupted, and pray that God would, if I may be allowed the expression, preserve the delicacy of our mind in this respect, that a holy sensibility of soul may warn and alarm us, to guard against every distant appearance of evil. That so cautious of venturing to the utmost boundaries of what may be innocent, we may be more secure than we could otherwise be from the danger of passing over to the confines of guilt, and of wandering from one degree of it to another. And while we exhort others to such a care, let us ourselves endeavour to be like this holy apostle, among the brighter examples of it.

What a noble spirit of generosity and gratitude appears in the apostle. How handsomely does he acknowledge the favour of his friends, still maintaining the dignity of his character, rejoicing in the tokens of their affection to him, chiefly as fruits abounding to their account, and as it would be a sweet savour acceptable to God. And as the incense which they were presenting at the divine altar, would also by its fragrancy delight them, surely they enjoyed what they had of their own, whether it were more or less, with greater satisfaction, when they were imparting something with filial gratitude to their father in Christ, to make his bonds and imprisonments the less grievous.

The apostle freely professes that he received these tokens of their affection with pleasure, but much happier was he in that noble superiority of mind to external circumstances which he so amiably describes. Truly rich and truly great, in knowing how to be content in every circumstance; possessed of the noblest kind of learning, in having learned how to be exalted, and to be abused, to abound or to suffer need. This alsufficiency of which he boasts, is it haughty arrogance? Far from it; he is never humbler than when he speaks of himself in this exalted language. It is in the strength of another that he glories. I am sufficient for all things through Christ which strengthens me. And here the feeblest christian may join issue with him, and say, If Christ will strengthen me, I also am sufficient for all.

His grace let us constantly seek, and endeavour to maintain a continual dependance upon it, praying for ourselves and for each other, that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ may be with us. This grace produced and maintained saints, where of all places upon earth we should least have expected to find them, even the palace of Cæsar, of Nero. Let it encourage us to look to God to supply our spiritual necessities out of the riches of his glory in Christ. And in a cheerful hope that he will do it, let us through him ascribe glory to our God and Father for ever and ever. Amen.”

ADDITIONAL NOTES TO Philippians 4.

Philippians 4:1. My joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord. Other combatants fought for garlands which fade in a day, but Paul’s contest was for a crown of righteousness which fadeth not away. Daniel had said before, that those who are wise, and those who turn many to righteousness, should shine as the brightness of the firmament, and as the stars for ever and ever. Paul had turned multitudes of gentiles to the Lord, and his crown was bedecked with a whole galaxy of celestial luminaries. What an argument for perseverance, and steadfastness in the faith. Other robbers steal a person’s money, but backsliders steal away irradiated crowns from the heads of their dejected pastors.

Philippians 4:3. I entreat thee also, true yoke-fellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel. Erasmus is almost singular in understanding this of Paul’s wife. Eusebius affirms that he was married, but does not say at what period of his life. Others understand it of Epaphroditus, the bishop of Philippi, the genuine yoke-fellow of Paul, and therefore joined with Euodias, Syntyche, and Clement; and it was his business to succour and comfort the deaconesses of the church. But the name Syntyche having a feminine termination, Calmet, after some others, thinks she was a woman in the church of Philippi eminent for piety and good works. If so, she must, like the daughters of Philip, have been a prophetess in the church, a mother in Israel. The inscriptions to the bishops, in Philippians 1:1, does not affect this idea, for Paul’s epistles were provincial, as well as particular, and he refers to the bishops of adjacent towns. True yoke-fellow is therefore a term of courtesy, Epaphroditus having laboured with Paul in the ministry. Women in the east, being separated from the men, as indicated by the court of the women in the temple, matrons were alike essential in the synagogue and in the church of Christ. Romans 16:1.

Whose names are in the book of life. See on Exodus 32:32. Homer says of Ulyses, that his name was in Jupiter’s court. τουνομα εν διου αυλη. Indeed all the heroes claimed divine descent, as is intimated by many of their names. Christ keeps the register of the faithful in the archives of heaven.

Philippians 4:4. Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say rejoice. The believer has indeed cause for joy, both in this world and in that which is to come. He has a God, a Redeemer, a hope laid up in heaven. Why not then, like David, bless the Lord at all times, and call upon him seven times a day. Why not dispose of his cares, and sorrows, and crosses; and being persuaded that all his affairs are in the hands of a heavenly Father, why not sing, though the figtree should not blossom?

Philippians 4:5. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The adjective, επιεικες, is here put for the substantive: let your modesty, meekness, lenity, candour, probity, humanity, be noted and approved of all. Men shrink away from the Nabals of the age.

Philippians 4:8-9. Whatsoever things are honest, pure, lovely. Here the moral glory of the christian character is described, similar to what we find in Psalms 15, 119. and in our Lord’s sermon on the mount. It is the want of this amiable and lovely character that hinders the world from believing in Christ, by giving an unjust and unfavourable view of the gospel. John 17:20-21. Christianity, they say, has done nothing for us — a most grievous sarcasm against the true church. Her charities at this moment are blazing out to distant lands, under every form of active benevolence.

Philippians 4:11-13. I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. This is not a lesson of theory, but of practice; nor is it one that nature teaches, for Paul had to learn it long after his conversion; and he learned it in hunger and affluence, in stripes and jails. At Philippi he sung at midnight in the stocks; he was calm in the tempest at sea, and he saw his bonds the means of converting many in Cæsar’s court. Well then did the Saviour say of outward troubles and calamities, “In patience possess ye your souls.” Christ can strengthen us to do and to suffer all his pleasure.

Philippians 4:15. No church communicated with me — but ye only. Paul had asked nothing for his journey to Jerusalem; but now, being in affliction and bonds, they more than supplied all his lack at Rome. This was an odour of sweet smell to Him, who in return would supply all their need, according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:23. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. As he began so he closes with benedictions, and pours upon them the full effusions of his heart. Nor are we to think lightly of paternal benedictions. The peace of a messenger of the Lord rests upon the good man’s house, and who can estimate the good which that blessing contains. Assuredly, the reading of this epistle would warm every heart, and brighten every countenance. The eye of him that sees the Saviour shall not be dim, nor the ear dull of hearing.

 


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Bibliography Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Philippians 4:4". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jsc/philippians-4.html. 1835.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 11th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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