Philippians 4:1–23comment (0)
April 7, 2011
By Cecil Taylor
Related Scripture: Philippians 4:1–23
Explore the Bible
Dean, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
NEVER LET UP
Because of their hope (Phil. 3:20–21), Paul urged his readers to “stand firm in the Lord,” which described a soldier standing firm in the face of the enemy. His converts were his “joy” in the present and will be his “crown” in the day of Christ. It was not a royal crown he had in mind but the athlete’s garland. The Philippians were the crown of Paul’s labor.
What Euodia and Syntyche quarreled over is not stated. Paul exhorted them not just to be reconciled but to “agree.” In the first century, this word held the idea of a union similar to marriage. In some translations, Syzygus was asked to help the women. Most likely, Syzygus is a personal name involving a play on words: “Syzygus, ‘yokefellow,’ live up to your name. Help these two join together!” Paul spoke of “Clement” and other workers who with him and these two women shared the initial labors at Philippi. Such recollections often awaken old feelings of unity among people who strove together in former days. Maybe verse 4 is the theme of the whole letter. Christian joy rests on Christ and nothing else.
“Epieikes” (NIV “gentleness”) describes the attitude of a judge who is lenient instead of harshly rigid. Paul bade the Philippians to give up their strict rights rather than to insist on them. Why? The Lord was about to return. The solution for being “anxious,” i.e., torn in two by worries, is prayer. It brings “the peace of God” that surpasses the serenity a man can achieve on his own. This peace would “guard” the Philippians’ hearts and minds against disruptive foes. Because thought shapes character, the Philippians must dwell on the finest and most worthy things. “True” points to God’s truth as opposed to shifting human opinion. “Noble” means that which commands reverence. “Right” means that which duty demands. “Pure” means that which is clean enough to stand God’s scrutiny.
The battle for morality begins in the mind. “Lovely” means that which draws out love as opposed to negative responses. In the first century, “admirable” connected to the silence at the beginning of a sacrifice to God and described “things fit for God to hear.” Christians should harbor only thoughts fit for God to hear. The best way to banish evil thoughts is to replace them with good ones.
To think about the good is not enough. Believers must do the good (9).
Previously Paul alluded to a gift the Philippians sent. Here he expressly thanked them for their generosity. Renewed support meant revived interest in him and his ministry. Indeed, Paul added, they had been concerned all along but lacked “opportunity,” to show it. Probably he meant they simply lacked the means to send a gift. Lest they think he was hinting for future favors, he added, “I am not saying this because I am in need” (cf 17). Whatever his circumstances — want or wealth — he was “content.” In the first century, this word meant “satisfied with what was allotted by fate or by the gods.” Christ gave Paul strength to be independent of circumstances (13).
The Philippians were the first, and, for a time, the only, church to support Paul’s missionary enterprise. “Giving and receiving” were accounting terms for debit and credit. They supported him during his ministry in nearby Thessalonica (in the province of Macedonia) and kept it up even after he went to Corinth in the neighboring province of Achaia. No more was due him, but gifts bless the giver more than the receiver (Acts 20:35). What they sent was not just a gift to Paul but a sacrifice to God. God would treat them as they treated Paul. They met Paul’s need (16); God would meet theirs (19). God is generous with the generous.
“Caesar’s household” meant the emperor’s servants and slaves, not the royal family. Here is proof Paul’s imprisonment gave the gospel a chance to penetrate the heart of the empire. He had only one gift to send them: his blessing. “Your spirit” is a reminder that every church has a spirit. What kind of spirit marks yours?