About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

Home Page

This Section - Chapter 4

ch. 4:2-9    ch. 4:9-20  ch. 4:21-23

Previous Section - Chapter 3 

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 2 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. 


In verse 3 Paul asks his “loyal yokefellows” to help these women out with their problem.  The word “yokefellow” is made up of 2 Greek word’ one for “yoke’ and one for “fellow”.   The word “yoke” means a joining together. So “yokefellow” means two or more fellows, or people who have been joined together, and in this case joined together in Jesus by His Spirit.


The picture to have in your mind to help explain yokefellow is the yoke that is bound around the neck of oxen in those days.  The yoke was tied around their necks to keep them together as they pulled a wagaon or a plow.   


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’ve been joined together in great loyalty.  This should be the case with all Christians.  We thus see how Paul views his relationships with other Christians.  No wonder he’s 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 “loyalty” is that it presents a picture of being yoked by choice and not by force.  The oxen are yoked by human demands.  They are not yoked on their own free will.  This is not so with Christians.  We should be yoked by choice that come from the love of Jesus.  Forced yoking is not true Biblical yoking.  


Also in verse 3 we note that these 2 ladies have contended at Paul’s side in the work of the gospel.  We learn 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’s clear the Kingdom of God ’s 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.


Also note the name Clement.  Some wonder if this not the famous Clement that is a leader in the church in later years, but there’s no hint of this in the text.


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”.  Here we see that Paul must believe 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. 


Also in verse 5 he says, “the Lord is near”.  I suppose there might be 2 ways of looking at these words.  One way is that the presence of Jesus is near, while the other way is that His return is near.  I believe most commentators suggest the second to be Paul’s intent.


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’s our choice.


And Paul 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.   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”.  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.  I don’t believe there is anything wrong with asking Jesus for personal requests.  We ask and we leave it to His will.


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 the 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. 


There is peace of God and there is peace in God.  There’s 2 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 in 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 war.  We are no longer enemies.


Paul says that this peace passes understanding.  If we can truly find this peace in our hearts and minds that comes from God, those around 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.


In verse 8 Paul lists the following things for the Philippians to think about.  I’m sure it’s not an exhaustive list.  It’s mainly a list of positive things 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.


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. 


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 me or submit to me.   This isn’t the kind of following or imitating that Paul is talking about.  He’s 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.


Thanks For Their Gifts  (ch. 4:10-20)


In verse 10 we see that Paul rejoices over the fact that the Philippians had renewed their concern for Paul.  He goes on to say that they always had this concern but was unable to do anything about it.  Now that they had sent Epaphroditus, this concern was expressed in practical terms.


The Lord does look on our hearts.  We often times do have genuine concern for others but are unable to do anything about it.  We will not be judged for this.  But when and if we have opportunity to express this concern we should do so.  If we don’t, we sin.  As James says, “he that knows to do good and doesn’t do good, to him this is sin”. (James 4:17)


In verse 11 Paul is making sure that the Philippians understand that he is not need because of what he has just said.  If his words suggested that he was in need, they’d be right their to help, and they have done more than enough already.  Besides, as he says in the last half of verse 11, “I learned to be content whatever the circumstances”.  Paul didn’t really want these people to go out of their way to help him.   


The Greek word that is translated here means “self sufficient”.  What Paul is saying here is that he has learned in all things to be self sufficient and not have to depend on others, or bother others for anything.  And, he is content to be this way.  This is easily seen in the way Paul lived. He never collected a salary from anyone.  He made money from his tent making. He did his best not to be indebted to anyone.  I believe he did this out of love.  Some might suggest that Paul had a stubborn independent streak in him and maybe to a degree that might be right.  I don’t know if we can say that for sure.  But one thing we can say for sure from what he writes is that everything he does is motivated from the love of Jesus. 


Paul doesn’t ask from others because he is independent.  He doesn’t ask of others because he’d rather give to others than take from them. 


If Paul was an independent type of man, I believe he had that in balance.  He viewed himself as being part of the Body of Christ, having co-worker status with his brothers and sisters in Christ. If Paul was independent, he obviously knew how to work effectively with others.


In verse 12 Paul states that he knows what it is like to have lots, and also to have nothing.  He knows what it is like to have lots of food, yet he knows about starvation.  Yet in all these things he is content.  This tells us that being a servant of the Lord doesn’t mean you’ll always have everything you want or even need at times.  Still, Paul was content in knowing Jesus through these hard times.


Also in verse 13 he says that he’s “learned the secret” of being content.  It is something he had to learn.  Being a Pharisee in his earlier life meant that he had much of everything, and lacked for nothing.  Yet once coming to Jesus all that was lost, and it was a learning process for him.  The Greek word translated as “secret”  suggests “mystery”.  And a mystery it is.  Being content in all circumstances of life does not come normal to us.  It is something we learn, and it is a mystery to human nature.  It’s a mystery because it is foreign to us.


Verse 13 is the simple conclusion to what Paul has just said. “I can do everything through Him who gives me the strength”.  This should be a simpler statement to understand but I have seen this verse misinterpreted at times.  For example, a pastor encourages people to be active in the church.  He needs singers for the worship team and so he says that Jesus can cause  and help you to do everything, including singing in the worship team.  He quotes this verse to back what he says.  Well, some people can’t sing.  I know that Jesus can do miracles, but if you don’t have the God given talent to sing, you shouldn’t be on the worship team, and no one should use this verse to make you sing. 


This verse simply means that Jesus can help you through any circumstance of life that comes your way, whether good or bad.  The context is speaking of surviving the hardships of life and nothing else.    


In verse 14 Paul says, “yet it was good of you to share in my troubles”.  What Paul has just said might come across as him being overly independent, never wanting any help from these people and maybe not thankful for the help they did give him.  Paul is thankful and he didn’t want the Philippians to think differently.  So he says it straight out by telling them that it was good of them to help him. 


In verse 15 Paul reminds the Philippians of their early years of faith which by some commentators account was ten years prior to this.  He reminded them that in those days they were the only church that “shared with him in the matter of giving and receiving”.  The word shared is the well known Greek word “koinonia” that means to fellowship, to hold in common, to share”.   Some translations actually say that these people were the only church that “fellowship with him in the matter of giving and receiving”. 


There were other churches around that could have fellowshipped with Paul in this matter, but didn’t.  One reason why they might not have is because Paul really didn’t want this.  It seems the Philippians did help Paul out in their early days of faith and Paul did not want to hurt their feelings being new in the Lord, so he graciously accepted whatever they gave him.


The matter of “giving and receiving” suggests a two way street.  One gives at times and one receives at times.  If you don’t ever receive, then you fail to allow someone else to give.  Yet the receiving is not based on demand, or receiving because you deserve it. You don’t beg or demand from others, but if others freely give to you, you thank them for it, and that is what Paul is doing now.


Another thing to note here is that churches as a whole may not have helped Paul at this point but it is clear that individual brothers in the Lord did help Paul.  This is important because giving should be first an individual thing, and then secondly a group thing.  One problem with today’s church is that individuals give to the church, and then the church distributes the funds as the leadership sees fit.  This loses all personal touch by the individual and giving becomes purely routine.  Yet when the individual gives to a specific cause, it is his choice and it’s done out of the joy of his heart. 


In verse 16 we see  that the Philippians just didn’t give once, but they gave over and over again.  This giving had to have been out of love for Paul.  It is important to understand that Paul never preached to these people that they needed to financially support him.  Their giving was from their own free will with no arm twisting from Paul.


Once again Paul wants to be clear, and in verse 17 he makes sure his readers don’t get the idea that he is hinting around for more of their giving.  Paul would never do such a thing.  The reason why he mentions this is that when they, or when we, give out of pure motives, our heavenly “account” will be credited by Jesus.  Jesus told us to lay up treasure in heaven and not on earth.  This is what Jesus meant.  When the Philippians gave to Paul, Paul was mostly happy not for what he got, but for the fact the Philippian Christians had an account in heaven and it was just credited by Jesus.  Once again, Paul thinks of others over himself.


In verse 18 Paul says that he “has received full payment and more, and that he is amply supplied” now that he had received from Epaphroditus the gifts they sent to him. Epaphroditus brought some kind of gifts from the Philippians to give to Paul.  But we learned earlier, Paul viewed the biggest gift these people sent was Epaphroditus himself.  A real live human being was the most important gift, and this is typical Paul as well.  The person is more important than what he has to give.


Also in verse 18 Paul says that these gifts were “a fragrant offering and acceptable sacrifice to God”. This is interesting. These people gave Paul the gift but he says that the gift was acceptable to God.  This is a New Testament truth.  When you give to your brother, you give to God.  Jesus Himself said that when He said that when you do this to the least of these my brothers, you do it to me. So whatever we do, or whatever we give, and to whoever we give to, in the final analysis, we give to Jesus.


Verse 19 is often taken out of context.  Years ago Christians used to have what they called promise boxes.  In the box would be a number of little cards on it with Scriptural promises.  You’d pull out one promise a day and claim the promise.  The problem with promise boxes is that usually a promise followed something that needed to be done before one got the promise and what needed to be done wasn’t written in the promise box. 


Paul tells these people that God will supply all of their needs.  The important part of this verse comes in the verses before.  The reason why God will supply the Philippians’ needs is because they generously gave, and when you generously give as unto the Lord, your heavenly bank account increases in value to the point that when you need something, Jesus will pull out what you need from this account.


Verse 20 ends this section. Paul says, “ to our God and Father be glory for ever and ever”.    God is both God and Father to the Christian. The most important aspect of God being our Father is the fact that God is also the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. The God that Christians serve is the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  There is no other God.


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.



Previous Section - Chapter 3 

Home Page