Philippians 4:10-23 Content In Christ.

Paul rejoiced in the help which he had received from his readers, not so much for the care itself as in it being evidence that his labour among them was not in vain, as they showed the fruit of regeneration and simply lacked the opportunity (vv. 10, 17 Cf. II Cor. 9:12; 11:8-9; Titus 3:14; Heb. 13:16). This brings around full circle to what he started his letter with, namely his readers fellowship with him in the gospel ministry (1:5). However, he also made clear that he had learned to be content whatever his circumstances (vv. 11-12). Paul knew something about real deprivation (Cf. I Cor. 4:11ff.). Nevertheless, Paul learned contentment even in these circumstances. “Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (I Tim. 6:6-8).

For Paul, Christ was enough (v. 13 Cf. Ps. 23:1). The Philippians were in fact unique, “that in the beginning of the gospel…no church shared” with him as they had shared in his distress, and in both giving and receiving (vv. 14-15). Again, this reiterates what he opened his letter with-they were partakers with him of grace (1:7). And he concluded this letter with a prayer for continuing grace (v. 23). Furthermore the help they provided was not a one time thing-they were consistent and stuck with Paul in his work (v. 18 Cf. 2:25). Paul was also convinced that God would reward their help by supplying all their needs (v. 19), therefore to Him alone belonged the glory (v. 20). Paul encouraged greetings among all, and these even included members of Caesar’s household (vv. 21-22). These were people he would not have had contact with if not for his imprisonment (1:13). This also brought him contentment.


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.


Philippians 4:1-7 “Be anxious for nothing.”

In the previous section (3:17-21), Paul referred to his readers as brethren (v. 17), now he goes further and calls them “beloved and longed-for brethren” (4:1). Paul greatly loved his readers because they were his “joy and crown”. This seems to speak to the likely possibility that Paul was in fact the one who brought the gospel to them (Cf. 1:3-4). The ‘Therefore’ which begins this chapter connects what he said concerning the contrasting citizenships, and his desire that they continue to “stand fast in the Lord.” To this end he pled for unity between Euodia and Syntyche “to be of the same mind in the Lord” (v. 2). Whether the word for “companion” (syzygos) is a name or simply an unnamed but trusted leader, they are “true” and as such are commanded to help these women who Paul says laboured with him in the gospel (v. 3a).

Paul also includes Clement and the rest of his fellow workers, in the labour of the gospel, all of whom have their names “in the book of life” (v. 3b), that is, their names are written in heaven (Lk. 10:20). And once again Paul tells them to rejoice, no doubt because they are called to labour for the Lord and that they do have the hope of eternal life (v. 4). They were called to serve with gentleness, being anxious for nothing (vv. 5-6a). The answer to anxiety was prayer, with thanksgiving, making known their requests to God (Cf. I Th. 5:17-18). God, in turn, answers our prayers with peace that only He can give (Jn. 14:27). It is a peace that surpasses understanding and guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (v. 7), a peace which comes from His very presence with us (v. 5b Cf. 1:1) This echoes what Jesus Himself taught (Cf. Mt. 6:25).


Philippians 3:17-21 No Dual Citizenship.

We have to walk the talk. True faith will evidence itself in the fruit in one’s life lived. Paul considered his readers to be brethren, and as such he urged them to walk according to the pattern of his own example (v. 17). He was not ashamed to ask them to imitate his own example, but only insofar as he imitated Christ (Cf. I Cor. 4:16; 11:1). Paul delineated to the pastoral protégé Titus what this entailed (2:7-8). Walking is inevitable, but we walk what we believe, albeit not perfectly or consistently. However, there is another way to walk that is fundamentally opposed to the way of the word and the gospel. There are some who talk a good game but who show by their walk that they are “enemies of the cross of Christ” (v. 18). Paul, through the cross of Christ, was crucified to the world (Gal. 6:14).

In both the Galatian context and here, Paul has in view those of the circumcision, who took pride in themselves and the outward badges of membership (3:1-11). They were essentially advocating a different “gospel,” a perversion of the true, which evidenced itself in the lack of spiritual fruit in their lives (Cf. Ga. 1:6-7). Paul accuses his opponents of idolatry-making a god out of their own bellies. These enemies of the cross knew nothing of the sufferings of the cross, rather they gloried in their own shame-they took pride in their gluttony and excess. These are those who set their minds only on earthly things, whose end is destruction (v. 19 Cf. Rom. 8:5; II Cor. 11:15; I Tim. 6:5). Christians, on the other hand, have their citizenship in heaven, and we are more and more being conformed to His image (vv. 20-21).


Philippians 3:12-16 Pressing Toward The Goal.

What Paul makes clear is that one can have “the righteousness which is from God by faith,” and yet not have fully “attained” or “perfected” this relationship (vv. 9, 12a). Both words are in the past tense, and this is Paul’s point-there is an ongoing aspect to this righteousness from God that is by faith which won’t be finished until we die (Cf. Heb. 12:23). Nevertheless, this is what we are called upon to strive for (v. 12b). Paul knew that he had not yet “apprehended” this perfection, but this did not mean that he wasn’t making progress. For this reason he said, “one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (vv. 13-14). The Christian life, as far as progressive sanctification is concerned, is a marathon, a lifelong project.

We must not let the lack of perfection in the present to either prevent perfection in the end or the progress that is possible in this life. Paul stated in the last chapter that we are all called upon to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, because God is at work in us (vv. 12-13). The standard to go by is not the other runners in the race, but rather the goal is Christ and the progress is where we are today compared to where we were yesterday or a year ago. Paul stated the following in Galatians 6:4. “But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.” This is the mature way to look upon this progressive work (v. 15). On this we should agree-let each of us keep what we have attained. We do not want to backslide. We should all have this as our rule-strengthen what remains and press forward (v. 16 Cf. Rev. 3:2).


Philippians 3:1-11 All For Christ.

Paul stresses repeatedly in this letter the importance of joy and rejoicing in the Lord. There is a sense in which only the Christian understands what is true joy. Paul also saw the need to repeat himself, for the sake of the spiritual safety of his readers (v. 1 Cf. I Th. 5:16). In particular he has to warn them to beware of those who claimed that in order to be Christians the males had to be circumcised. In short, there were some teachers who did not understand the transition from the old covenant administrations of the covenant of grace to the new (v. 2 Cf. Gal. 5:15). There were both physical and spiritual aspects to circumcision (Cf. Rom. 2:28).

Paul claimed that Christians were the true inheritors of the spiritual forebearers in the old covenant. Circumcision was never intended as a badge of national identity (Cf. Dt. 30:6). Circumcision was not instituted with Moses, rather it was given as a sign of the old testament administration of the covenant of grace beginning with Abraham. God sovereignly reaffirmed this covenant with Abraham, and then later circumcision became the sign of it, which was then reaffirmed by Moses and later by David (Cf. Gen. 15; 17). Circumcision was to be Abraham’s response to God, a response which followed grace, it did not precede grace (17:9-10).

The LORD alone passed through the sacrifices when he “made a covenant with Abram” (Gen. 15:18). There were some who did not understand the covenantal transition, but there were also some for whom religion was nothing more than a pride in externals. There was never any “confidence in the flesh” for Abraham and those who had like faith with him (vv. 3-4 Cf. II Cor. 5:16; 11:18, 22-23). Abraham was, by grace, effectually called by God from a culture and religion of idolatry to a life of faith in God’s word spoken to him (Gen. 12:1-4). Likewise, Paul placed no confidence in himself, even though he had far more “credentials,” so to speak.

It is not a matter of ethnicity, external signs or rites, observance of the law, or zeal (vv. 5-6 Acts 8:3). What mattered was salvation by grace through faith, which in Abraham’s case simply had as one evidence among many, the obedience of administering the sign of circumcision (Cf. Eph. 2:8-9). “The righteousness which is from God,” is “by faith,” and “through faith in Christ” (v. 9). Paul counted all the externals of his life as rubbish compared to being found, not with a righteousness of his own, but the righteousness that comes by faith in Christ (vv. 7-8). Paul also stands in opposition to those who disparage knowledge in favour of a false spirituality of feelings.

One will not find Paul saying that the problem is too much theology, quite the opposite. The answer to bad theology was biblical theology. Paul regarded all these externals as a loss compared to “the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus” as Lord (v. 8 Cf. Jer. 9:23-24). On the one hand there was a confidence in humanity, on the other hand there is a biblical Christology and soteriology-a knowledge of Christ and the way of salvation that was both intellectual and personal. True biblical theology has always been knowledge with power, in fact it has always included three essential elements.

The first is always knowledge-we cannot have a relationship with a God whom we do not have any true knowledge of, and this comes by Him revealing Himself to us. Secondly, this knowledge must be combined with the power which He alone can give us. Finally, we must know something of the cost of true discipleship-sharing in “the fellowship of His sufferings” (v. 10a). It is only with all three of these elements that we will be conformed to Him in His death and know the power of His resurrection in our own resurrection on the last day (vv. 10b-11). All of these things are as a result of grace, not because of anything we are or do.


Philippians 2:25-30 Epaphroditus.

The Philippians had expressed their concern for Paul by sending a messenger, Epaphroditus, to him. Whether Paul knew him before or not, Paul considered him to be a brother, fellow worker, and even a fellow soldier in the work of the gospel ministry. The terms used seem to suggest a progression from brother to one who shares in the work, to one who actually knows what it is like to be engaged in the battle (v. 25). Nevertheless, Paul wanted to return Epaphroditus, because the latter longed for the Philippians who had heard that he was sick (v. 26). Paul confirmed that he was indeed sick, near to death, but that God in his mercy spared him and Paul, who was also distressed at his condition (v. 27). Therefore sending him back would relieve everyone (v. 28). So, since this messenger had proven himself to be a fellow soldier, and laboured to the point of ill health, Paul commended him back to them as someone whom they should receive and hold in high esteem (vv. 29-30).


Philippians 2:19-24 Timothy-Paul’s Son And Best Friend.

Paul had a partner in ministry whom he could trust-Timothy. More importantly, Paul trusted in the Lord-in effect he was saying that if it was Jesus’ will Timothy would be sent to his readers (v. 19). It also depended on Paul’s circumstances, because Timothy was a great help to Paul, and Paul’s best friend (v. 23). But Paul himself also longed to meet them (v. 24). Paul knows that this letter, being part of the word that they were “holding fast” (v. 16a), would be an encouragement to them, and hearing about this from Timothy would in turn encourage him. Timothy, as the messenger and fellow bondservant (1:1a Cf. Rom. 16:21), would also be an encouragement to both.

Paul had no one who was “like minded” meaning, one who would “sincerely care” for their condition (v. 20 Cf. II Tim. 3:10-11). “For all seek their own, not the things of Christ Jesus” (v. 21). They were on the same page not only in their message but also in the will and attitude of service. Timothy had a “proven character” (v. 22a). They shared a father-son kind of relationship-in the ministry of the gospel (v. 22b Cf. I Cor. 4:17). Every minister needs this kind of relationship. This is not something that a wife can provide, for she will never know the struggles that someone in the same responsibilities and service does. Paul and Timothy were best friends-they shared the same struggles and experience that no one else could identify with.


Philippians 2:12-18 “Holding Fast The Word Of Life.”

With another ‘therefore’ Paul rolls along. The humility encouraged, and the example given of Christ Himself, leads Paul to urge his readers to obey his teaching-whether he is present or absent. Not surprisingly, some people behave differently when a teacher is present then when they are absent. Paul wanted his readers to be consistent. It was Christ who he was calling them to follow. This then leads to some of the most oft quoted verses of scripture, because they beautifully describe the sanctifying process of the believer as we “work out” our “own salvation with fear and trembling” (v. 12). The first thing to note is that progressive sanctification does involve work on our part. Secondly, we can only “work out” what God works in (v. 13a). Thirdly, it is our own salvation, which this progressive sanctification is a part of-others do not work this out for us, nor are we the ones to work out another’s salvation. Fourthly, the willingness to do this is part of what God works in-even the will to do this comes from God. Finally, willing to work out one’s salvation is evidenced by doing “for His good pleasure” (v. 13b).

However, to “do all things” is not in isolation, and much of it involves the entire body and society at large. First of all, we should “do all things without complaining and disputing” (v. 14). It is not just what we do but how we do it. Having the right attitude is as important as the will to do and what we do. If we have all three of these, then we will be “blameless and harmless, children of God without fault” (v. 15a). By implication, those who consistently lack any of these three ought to have their confession questioned. Those who lack these three give evidence that God is not at work in them and they are not in fact born of Him as His adopted children. Not following all three is the “crooked and perverse generation.” The result ought to be that we, by way of contrast, “shine as lights in the world” (v. 15b). Paul then arrives at what is the foundation of all of this-“holding fast the word of life” (v. 16a). This must be our first axiom of all thought and existence. If his readers did not hold fast the word then Paul’s labour was all in vain, and so it remains with us. This is service and sacrifice we should rejoice in together (vv. 17-18).


Philippians 2:5-11 “Let This Mind Be In You.”

After pleading for humility on the part of his readers, Paul now sets out the most excellent example of all-the Lord Jesus Christ (Cf. Mt. 11:29-30). For Christ, His claims to deity were not robbery-for He was God. But being also man, he “made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant” (vv. 5-7 Cf. Ps. 22:6; Is. 42:1; Jn. 1:14; II Cor. 4:4). This humility ultimately extended to the cross (v. 8 Cf. Mt. 26:39; Heb. 5:8). It was only through the humiliation of the incarnation and a sinless life of obedience according to God’s law, that the Father finally exalted Him and His name above all others, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (vv. 9-11 Cf. Is. 45:23; Jn. 13:13; Acts 2:33; Eph. 1:21; Heb. 2:9). It is very interesting that to “confess,” here taken from Isaiah 45:23, is rendered by the prophet as “every tongue shall take an oath.” This is what it means to say you are a Christian-it means to take an oath of covenant fidelity to the Lord with promises of blessing for obedience and cursing for disobedience. It isn’t just the mouthing of words.