About Jesus     Steve Sweetman

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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 donít 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 arenít 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 Paulís 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 doesnít 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 Godís 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 oneís 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 shouldnít 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 Ė put into practice."   Paulís 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 Paulís 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 Paulís 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 donít, we sin.  As James says, "he that knows to do good and doesnít do good, to him this is sin." (James 4:17)


I often find myself in the position of wanting to do more but I can't.  Being legally blind, there are many things I would like to do in the service of the Lord, but simply can't do.  I know the Lord sees my heart.


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


The Greek word "artaukes" is made up of two Greek words meaning "self" and "sufficient."  What Paul is saying here is that he has learned in all things to be self sufficient and content.  Although Paul appreciates the help from his brothers in the Lord, he does not want to have a dependency on them.  Always looking for help from others is not really a good attitude to have. 


Paul does not ask from others too often because he, or so I believe, has a healthy independence. Their is a unhealthy independence that borders on arrogance.   Paul did not have that.  He does not ask of others because he would rather give to others than take from them. 


As I have said, I believe by nature that Paul was an independent type of man, but he was not so independent that he ignored the Body of Christ in which he was a part.  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.


If the word "content" is part of the meaning of this Greek word, and I am not quite sure it is; that tells me that Paul, despite all of his hardships, lived a life of contentment.  Anyone who knows anything about Paul knows that most of his post-conversion life was complicated with hardship.  Many of us could not have withstood such trials as Paul.  Non-the-less, we are to be encouraged by Paul's example to live a life of contentment despite what may come our way, which is hard for western world Christians to do in our heavily consumer driven culture.  We want, and we want more.  Our desire for more often hinders our service of the Lord.  I have always said it this way.  If we cannot be content with what we have, and if our desire for more outweighs our contentment; we will live a life of frustration.  If you want to free yourself from frustration, live a life of contentment.


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 does not mean you will always have everything you want or even need at times.  Still, Paul was content in knowing Jesus through these hard times.


We should know that there is no corresponding word for our English word "content" in this verse.  The NIV translators, as is also seen in other versions of the Bible relate what he is saying here with what he said in the last verse where he was talking about being content or self-sufficient. 


In verse 12 Paul also says that he has "learned the secret" of being content.  It is something he had to learn, and I believe he learned contentment through the things he suffered.  Suffering can produce contentment in your life if you allow it, and if you trust Jesus in the process.


Being a Pharisee in his earlier life meant that Paul had much of everything, and lacked for little.  This would have been especially true if he was a member of the Sanhedrin as some suggest.  That being said, 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 is not a normal attribute people have.  It is an allusive characteristic that many never find in their lives.  It is something we must learn, and it is a mystery to human nature.  It is a mystery because it is foreign to who we are.


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 simple statement to understand but I have seen this verse misinterpreted many 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 help you to do everything, including singing in the worship team.  He quotes this verse to back what he says.  Well, some people cannot sing.  I know that Jesus can do miracles, but if you donít have the God given talent to sing, you should not 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.  To go beyond this context is bad Biblical interpretation.      


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 did not 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 didnít.  One reason why they might not have is because Paul really didnít want this help.  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 donít 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 donít 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 and sisters 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 todayís 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 itís done out of the joy of his heart. 


In verse 16 we see that the Philippians just didnít 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.  That is to say, Paul never preached tithing as some do today in order get money from those to whom they preach. 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 donít 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 giving 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.  As 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.


Note here in verse 18 that Paul's wording is Old Testament Jewish wording.  There would be some Jews in this community, but most of them were Gentiles.  


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 would 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 received the promise and what needed to be done wasnít written in the promise box.  My point is simple.  Put the promise in context, because unless you fulfill what the context tells you to do, you will not receive the promise. 


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 Philippiansí 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.  In today's religious world where many believe that all religions end up at the same God, what Paul says here is religiously incorrect these days.  The God of the Bible that Christians serve is the God and Father of Jesus.  No other religion makes that claim, so, how can we worship the same God as a Muslim or someone of any other religion.      





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 does not mean every last brother had forsaken him.  He obviously still had some brothers with him.


In verse 22 Paul notes brothers from Caesarís 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 Neroís affairs. Basically, many people who were employed by Nero so to speak became Christians through their contact with Paul while in prison.  This surely made Paul full of joy.  His imprisonment was not in vain, and for Paul, that would make him thankful.    


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 Paulís 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 both Godís unmerited favour towards us and His ability He gives us to do His will."   May this grace be found in our spirit.  If it is in our spirit it will show forth in all we do and the way we live.



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