Philippians

Philippians 4:8-9 “Meditate on these things.”

The word “Finally” draws to an appropriate conclusion what Paul has been stressing up to this point, namely the fruit of obedience which ought to accompany faith and the gospel. The example he gives of himself following and imitating Christ, finds a fulsome description in these verses. It is a list of character attributes and actions which follow a logical order of priority which may not be an order of priority or content that one might find even in the Christian community today. A case in point is his first point, a point which affects every other attribute which follows-“whatever things are true” (v. 8a Cf. Eph. 4:24-25). If things are not true it matters not how well they sound, because if they are not true then they have no meaning and therefore do not exist. This is why the scriptures must continue to be the first axiom of all our thought and existence. Only by God revealing what is true to us will we know what is true. As noted previously, Paul laid down this foundation in 2:16-“holding fast the word of life, so that I may rejoice in the day of Christ that I have not run in vain or labored in vain.”

So in like vein, if we do not begin with meditating on what is true, everything which follows in this beautiful description, is a running and labouring in vain. Only that which is true can be noble, just, pure, lovely, of good report, have any virtue or be in any way praiseworthy. Furthermore, none of these attributes is static, they show themselves in action, for Paul said “these do” (v. 9). These characteristics and behaviour associated with them, are things which are not only to be meditated on, but also “learned and received and heard and saw” in the life of those who were living out the truth, walking the talk, so to speak. That which is noble is that which is worthy of respect-a life that measures up to one’s profession. Something cannot be just or pure if it is also not true, showing that the question of ethics is inseparable from the question of what is true, or epistemology. Another counter-cultural definition here is that of what love is and is not. What is lovely is also inseparable from both what is true and what is just and pure. Take truth, justice, and purity from the definition of love and you don’t have a biblical definition.

All of these things are of good report. If any of the above is absent then it is not a good report. This is important. Without the truth of God’s revelation we have no understanding of what is good, and therefore what is a good report. Is it pure? If it is not, it is not a good report. Is it just? If not, it is not a good report. Is it noble, that is, worthy of respect? If not, it is not a good report. Therefore gossip, for example, is not a good report. However, as important as the order and substance of these virtues are, this list is not exhaustive, for Paul wrote that “if anything is praiseworthy-mediate on these things” (v. 8b). Nevertheless, if any other so-called virtue does not at least measure up to the ones he gave, then it cannot be praiseworthy. “Meditate on these things.” These are things which are learned, they do not come naturally to fallen humanity. They are the fruit of the Spirit, the evidence of regeneration or new birth. They must also be received-that is they come by revelation. Fallen humanity could not even think these things up. Furthermore it is not enough to simply hear or speak them, but to live them. This is what it is to have the God of peace with us.

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