About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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This Section - Chapter 4

ch. 4:2-9    ch. 4:9-20  ch. 4:21-23

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ch. 4:2-9    ch. 4:9-20  ch. 4:21-23

 

Exhortation (ch. 4:2-9)

 

 

In verse 2 we see Paul "pleading" as the NIV says with two women.  This pleading was an admonition to "agree with each other," or "to keep minding the same thing in the Lord."  I don’t believe Paul is telling Euodia and Syntythe to think alike in all things.  Paul is telling them to have the same purpose in mind in the work they do in the Kingdom of God .  As Paul said back in chapter 2, we need to be of one mind, meaning, of one purpose and not be divided in what we need to do in the service of the Lord. 

 

The idea here is as best as two people can, they must live in harmony, despite the difference of opinions.  Brotherly love and God's grace extended to one another should be the underlying motivation to maintained healthy relationships.  Now Paul is not talking about condoning sin and not confronting sin, as he did in 1 Corinthians 5 when he advised that the man having sex with his step-mother should be expelled from the church.  These women seemed to be having relational problems.  What exactly this relational problem was based on we do not know.     

 

In verse 3 Paul asks his "loyal yokefellow" to help these women work out their relational problem.  Whatever this problem was, it had to have been somewhat serious for Paul to have written about it in this letter.  The Greek word "syzygos" is translated as "yokefellow" in this verse.  It is made up of two Greek words, one for "yoke" and one for "fellow."   This word simply means a joining together, and in this case joined together in Jesus by His Spirit.  All that being said, the common consensus seems to be that this Greek word is actually a person's name.  Although it is somewhat debatable, many believe Paul was speaking to a specific man here in the hope that he could help mend the relationship between these two women.   

 

We also see the word "loyal" before the word "yokefellow," giving even more credence to the joining of these Philippians with each other and with Paul.  They have been joined together in great loyalty.  This should be the case with all Christians in every community of believers.  We, thus, see how Paul views his relationships with other Christians.  No wonder he is so happy when things are going well and so unhappy when things aren’t going so well with his fellow yoked believers.

 

Another thought concerning the word "loyal" is that it presents a picture of being yoked by choice and not by force.  The ox is yoked by human demands.  An ox is not yoked by his own free will.  This is not so with Christians.  We should be yoked by choice that comes from a heart of love and grace.  Forced yoking is not true Biblical yoking.  

 

Also in verse 3 we note that these two ladies have contended at Paul’s side in the work of the Lord.  We learn here, as we do elsewhere, as in Romans 16, that women were involved in the work of the Lord.  The word "contend" means that these women were putting great effort into their work and were actually fighting the good fight of faith along with Paul.  It is clear the Kingdom of God is not just a kingdom for men.  

 

Once again we see the term "fellow workers."  Paul views himself as one working alongside others.  He does not view himself in place of superiority over others, and really, that is the way it should be with us and Jesus.  We work alongside Jesus.  He works alongside of us through His Spirit.   

 

Also note the name Clement.  Some wonder if this is not the famous Clement that is a leader in the church in later years of the first century, but there is no hint of this in the text.  Clement was a common name back then.

 

Paul adds that those he has just mentioned are found in the Book of Life that records all of the names of those who belong to Jesus.  See Revelation 3:5, 13:8 and 17:8.

 

In verse 4 we see Paul exhorting these people to rejoice as he has already a few times in this letter, but as we see in chapter 3 verse 1, Paul does not have any problems with repeating himself. He views such repetition as a safeguard.

 

In verse 5 he says: "let your gentleness be made known to all."  The Greek word translated as "gentleness' in the NIV can also be translated as forbearance, moderation, or something similar.  Here we see that Paul believed that gentleness is a good quality to have.  More can be accomplished through gentleness than harshness.  Also, you can still speak the truth from a gentle spirit. Gentleness does not imply weakness.  It actually implies strength.  If you can speak the truth in a gentle, but with conviction manner, it means you have the strength to control your emotions.  For some, gentleness is a difficult task.  Some are more gentle by nature than others.

 

Verse 5 also says: "the Lord is near."  I suppose there might be two ways of looking at these words.  One way is that the presence of Jesus is near, while the other way is that Jesus' return is near.  I suggest that the first view to be the more likely one.  Paul is talking about character quality here and because the Lord is near via His Spirit, He can assist us to be gentle and moderate.     

 

In verse 6 Paul tells his readers to "not be anxious about anything."  You will see a note of humanness here.  Paul tells his readers not to be anxious but in chapter 2, verse 28, Paul speaks about himself having anxiety at times. We all have anxiety at times, but when the anxiety begins to set in, we can turn to Jesus.  It is our choice to submit to Jesus and His help or to wallow away in our anxiety.  The Greek word that is translated as "anxious" expresses a distraction that takes one way from effectively serving Jesus.   

 

Paul then tells us in the next phrase how to be relieved of anxiety.  It is through prayer, petition, and thanksgiving.  This confirms what I said in the last paragraph.  We turn to Jesus in times of anxiety.  We pray, we petition, and we thank Jesus for all things.   Petitioning Jesus is asking him for specific things.  Then we end with words of thankfulness. 

 

Note the word petition.  Petitioning is asking.  It is not claiming.  We simply ask Jesus for what we feel we need and then thank him in whatever way He responds.

 

The last phrase in verse 6 says: "present your requests to God with thanksgiving."  I know that we are to ask in the name of Jesus, that is, asking according to His will, but, I believe these requests that Paul is speaking about could well be personal requests that may have little to do with ministry.  The context might suggest this. I do not believe there is anything wrong with asking Jesus for personal requests.  We ask and we leave it to His will and thank Him for however He responds.

 

In verse 7 we see the results of the above prayers.  The peace of God will guard our hearts and our minds.  Both our hearts and minds need to be guarded from the devil and world and all that comes our way. Our hearts and minds should be given over to the Lordship of Jesus but that doesn’t mean they will not suffer attack.  The peace of God can help in the times of attack from the enemy.  The peace of God can relieve our anxiety. 

 

Concerning the peace of God I believe there is peace of or with God and there is peace in God.  There are two types of peace.  This peace that Paul is talking about is a peace that can penetrate our hearts and minds to set us at rest and relieve the anxiety.  Then there is the peace of or with God that we have when we are reconciled to Him.  This peace means that we are no longer enemies of God.  This is what reconciliation means, that is, we are on God’s side.  We are in a state of peace with Him and not a state of enmity.  We are no longer enemies.

 

Paul says that this peace passes understanding.  If we can truly find this peace in our hearts and minds in the midst of turmoil and anxiety that comes from God and is simply difficult to figure out.  Those around you can see our state of peace and wonder how it could be so.  When going through hardships how can one be at peace?  It is beyond comprehension and only attainable through Jesus, but it is attainable.

 

The Greek word that is translated as "guard" is a military word.  It speaks to guarding a city, a nation, or4 whatever a military soldier might need to guard.    

 

In verse 8 Paul lists the following things for the Philippians to think about and have lived out in their lives.  I am sure it is not an exhaustive list.  It is mainly a list of positive attributes to set one’s heart and mind on.  The things that we should think on are things that are, true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy. 

 

The point to this is that when we think on these things we tend to not think on the things we shouldn’t be thinking about. This does not mean that we should never address the opposite to these things, that is problems, because we should, and Paul often does that.  By this I mean that we are not to overlook negative things in our pursuit of positive thinking.  Positive thinking is important, but, as it is often taught in secular culture apart from Jesus is humanistic.  I am not saying that our modern culture's understanding of positive thinking cannot be effective in a life because it can be.  I am simply saying that for the Christian there is more than simply positive thinking.  There is the power of the Holy Spirit which we cannot neglect.

 

The first positive attribute that Paul lists here whatever is "true."  I think this one is especially important in today's world when se many people through social media and elsewhere espouse things that are not true.  It is especially so in American politics these days.  Even Evangelical Christians are neglecting what is true in order to maintain their political allegiance.  That is to say they will ignore the sin of a politician if it helps their cause.  I would dare say that this was not how John the Baptist conducted his ministry.

 

Whatever is noble is another good quality Paul mentions.  The word "noble" can be understood in terms of being "reverent" towards one another.  I would suggest that would be a good character quality to have in the church. 

 

Whatever is pure is another good character quality.  Again, in today's western culture purity, whether sexual purity or any other kind of purity is losing ground to impurity.  

 

Whatever is right is yet another good attribute.  This sort of goes along with the word "true" that is mentioned above.  The word "fake" has become a popular word here in 2018 in western culture.  We have fake news and fake anything.  We use the word "fake" to promote our own position, and, what we often call fake these days is not necessarily fake.  We only proclaim it to be fake in order to push our own agenda.   

 

Whatever is lovely comes next in line.  The English word "lovely" is translated from the Greek word "prosphiles."  In this word is the Greek word "philes," meaning brotherly or reciprocal love. 

 

Whatever is admirable is next on Paul's list.  The Greek word translated here as "admirable" speaks to things that are of a good report, of sound reasoning.   

 

The next in line is excellence, or, as the Greek implies, moral good, virtuous, or pre-eminence.  

 

Lastly, we see the word praiseworthy, or, anything that is worth giving praise to.  In this particular instance the Greek word is a strong word, meaning, a strong form of praiseworthiness.                    

 

In verse 9 Paul says: "whatever things you have learned, or received, or heard from me, or seen in me – put into practice."   Paul’s life was such that he could say this.  If any of us wants to say such things to others, we should make sure that our lives are worth imitating.  Paul is saying, and I believe rightfully so, that he is one who has these character traits being produced in him.  I am sure that he would say, as he did earlier, that he has not fully attained, but, he would also say that he has come a very long way in having these good qualities in his life.    

Part of Paul’s ministry was to set himself forth to be an example for others to follow.  He did not do this from a position of heavy handed authority.  Paul was not saying, obey or submit to me or else.   This is not the kind of following or imitating that Paul is talking about.  He is saying, "as I live before the Lord in all purity, truth, and all of the above things, you do the same."  And if you do this, "the God of peace will be with you."  The God of peace will be with those who follow Paul’s way of living. 

 

We should be clear that Paul is not asking people to imitate or follow him in the things he does.  We all have different ministries.  Paul is asking these people to follow him in his Godly character.  These are two different things altogether.  He describes part of what being a Godly person is like in verse 8.  It is the things in verse 8 that Paul wants these people to follow him in.  

 

Final Greetings (ch. 4:21-23)

 

In verse 21 Paul greets all the saints in Philippi .  Then he said that the brothers who are with him send their greetings as well.  This is noteworthy in the sense that early in this letter Paul said that all had forsaken him.  But all doesn’t mean every last brother.  He obviously still had some brothers with him.

 

In verse 22 Paul notes brothers from Caesar’s household send their greetings.  Nero was the Caesar at this time.  Paul is not referring to Nero's immediate or even distant family.  Household refers to slaves who were in fact important managers of Nero’s affairs. Basically, many people who were employed by Nero, so to speak, became Christians through their contact with Paul.  

 

Since we see Caesar mentioned here, it seems clear to me that Paul wrote this letter while in Rome where he was in house arrest, waiting for his trial before Nero.    

 

Verse 23 ends Paul’s letter to the Philippians.  He says, “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.  Amen”.  The last word of Paul here is “grace”, that is “God’s unmerited favour towards us and His ability to do in us as He wishes”.  May this grace be found in our spirit. If it is in our spirit it will show forth in all we do.

 

 

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