With the biblical church, every member of the body is a saint, and we are called to greet all as members of the same family (21). There ought to be no barriers to acceptance of one and all those who believe and live the gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. The members of Caesars household were the most highly esteemed in that society, yet Paul notes that they made a deliberate move to greet one and all (22). In this simple way we show that membership, and our treatment of each other, is all of grace (23).
Paul commends the Philippians for participating with him in the work of the gospel, when no one else did. He was more happy for this fruit in their lives than the fruit itself, because it was evidence of the genuineness of their faith (14-16). It was help, not for his wants, but for his necessities (17). We do well to remember both things – giving to others for their necessities or needs. Paul called what he received, and from what they did, as “a sweet smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.” (18) In turn, Paul was confident that God the Father would supply all their needs, “according to the riches in glory by Jesus Christ.” (19). The Father supplies all our needs from his throne of the glory-presence, where Jesus is at his right hand (Ps. 110, Heb. 1:3). “Now to our God and Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2) Reigning sovereignly from his glory-presence is an eternal reality – without beginning, end, or interruption. Amen.
Paul learned to be content in every situation, but here he tells the saints that he rejoiced to receive their help, mainly because it showed that they were true believers (10-12). We are called upon to help each other, as we have opportunity, something the so-called church never does today. The ‘opportunity’ is only after a spouse, 2.5 kids headed for college or university, the latest vehicles and toys, and then not even enough to pay a pastor a comparable wage. If the biblical example is to be our guide, then I have never been more convinced than ever, that the vast majority who call themselves Christians, and attend church, even evangelical and reformed ones, are fake. I am learning to follow Paul, to “do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (13) I also find the current population of those giving every sign of being reprobates, especially within the so-called evangelical and ‘reformed’ fold frightening, especially those of my own physical blood, and ‘family ties’. I do not concern myself with the mainline obvious synagogues of Satan.
“Whatever things are true.” (8a) Post-moderns would have us accept the relativism that truth is purely subjective, and that which prevails does so from a position of power alone, and not objective veracity. Jesus faced the most powerful man in his sphere, from a human standpoint, and also taking a pagan approach Pilate asked what he must have thought was a rhetorical question: “What is truth?” (Jn. 18:38) Ironically it is a question which came in the context of whether or not Jesus admitted to being a king, but Pilate actually speaking the truth that he found “no fault in Him at all.” The scriptures claim to be infallibly objectively true, and the one foundational norm for thought and life, and it is truth that we are called upon to speak (II Sam. 7:28; Mt. 22:16; Eph. 4:25).
“Whatever things are noble.” (8b) The name of Jesus is the most noble of all – worthy of honour. Whatever is true is also noble, thus the scriptures are also noble, and they help us to define what is noble. The same may be thought of justice, and what is pure, lovely, and “of good report.” (8cdef) “If there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy – meditate on these things.” (8ghi) There is perhaps no verse in scripture requiring more cross-referencing word studies than this one. Each word Paul used here speaks volumes. In the scriptures we learn what is good and virtuous, stemming as they do from God’s own character, and so for this reason alone are praiseworthy. No one can better flourish in life than to meditate on the word that God has given, and see and govern all of one’s life by it.
Paul, and the Spirit through Paul, is not content with meditation alone, as we are to put the above things into practice (9a). The truth is something that can be learned, but not everyone receives it. Some live in sin seeking to suppress it (cf. Rom. 1:18). Again, many hear it, and even see it demonstrated by the regenerate elect, like Paul, but it is also necessary to follow such examples and be “doers of the word and not hearers only.” (Js. 1:22) Those who only read or hear, but refuse to repent and by the other gift of faith to live it, are living a life of self-deception. Only the regenerate, who by the Spirit evidence his fruit in living according to God’s word, will have a true and lasting peace (9b). With minds renewed by the word, our lives are transformed forever (Rom. 12:1-2).
“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say rejoice!” (4 cf. I Th. 5:16-18) Not many can say that they suffered like Paul, but the Lord sustained him throughout it all, and since it was for the Lord, he rejoiced that this was the case. He did not rejoice in suffering per se, either as a masochist or a sadist. It was always “in the Lord.” We should also note that being ‘in Christ’ was paramount for Paul, as we come and rejoice also in the Father and the Spirit ‘in’ Him. It is the Lord, through the indwelling of the Spirit, that we are able to be gentle toward all people – even our enemies. The Lord is always “at hand.” (5 cf. 4:1 and II Cor. 10:1)
“Be anxious for nothing.” (6a cf. Mt. 6:25) I think that it is possible to misunderstand these words. As one who has physiological reasons for what we call ‘anxiety’, which can and should be addressed medicinally, I believe what Paul is referring to gets to the spiritual core of who we are in Christ. Of course, if we pray according to God’s will in his word, we have every assurance that he will answer to our needs, provided we add thanksgiving (6b). The latter shows that we understand where our help ultimately comes from. It is not the absence of struggles or suffering, but peace in the midst of all circumstances (7a cf. Jn. 14:27).
Through thanksgiving we can have his peace. “Surpassing all understanding” is Paul’s way of saying that it comes by revelation, and not by our imaginations (7b). Certainly, it includes the whole person – body and soul, emotions but also mind. In fact, it is this revelatory knowledge which guards our “hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (7c) Having noted this, it is nevertheless true that we often do not understand why we are going through certain struggles or sufferings when we are in the midst of them, and we can still have this peace, especially during these times, if we place all our trust in Him.
It is important for any team to be of one mind, and so Paul implores both Euodia and Syntyche to be of the same mind. The one main objective was the propagation of the gospel, in word and deed. Without a singleness of mind the work would not prosper. If we are all written in the Book of Life for all eternity, then we ought to be united together in this chief purpose of the church militant’s mission.
Despite the fact that Paul was aware that he was not yet perfect, acknowledging this reality, but also of the power of God at work in his life, he set himself as an example for his audience to follow. From before he was born, God knew all this, including his conversion and call to the ministry of the word. No man other than Jesus is perfect in this life, but we should be examples for how we deal with this reality – as Peter also concurs, growing “in grace, and the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” (II Pet. 3:18) The saints have a pattern in Paul for a comparison to their own shepherds as well (17 cf. II Cor. 11:15). We all must show a desire for progress in both doctrine and life.
His warning of verse 18 still stands. Those who live as enemies of Christ and his church, are evidenced by four things here, even if not exhaustive, they are still high in Paul’s thought in this context. Firstly, and perhaps ironically, is their end (19a). Despite what they say or claim to hope for, their actions betray themselves to be those headed for destruction (cf. Rom. 9:22). These are also those “whose god is their belly.” (19b) These are those who see the ‘ministry’, so called, simply as a means of gaining beyond what one needs, to satisfy wants, like gluttony (cf. I Tim. 6:5). Thirdly, what could have been their glory, will be their shame, in fulfillment of prophecy of their corruption (cf. Hos.4:7; Mal. 2:7-9).
The one thing that separates the elect from the reprobate is the fact that the former have their citizenship in heaven. We are those who know that having Christ as our Saviour, also means that He is our Lord (20). We live as ambassadors of the King of heaven and earth, while the former are unlawful illegal occupiers. We also have the sure hope that when he has put his enemies down completely, he will return to a new heavens and earth, and transfer the kingdom back to the Father (cf. Ps. 110; Is. 51:16, 65:17, 66:22; I Cor. 15; Heb. 1:1-4; II Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21). There will also be a transformation of our current ‘lowly’ bodies, still suffering the effects of the fall, into our new bodies, so that bodily existence will remain part of who we are – without sin.
As noted in the previous passage, we are predestined not only to justification, but also to sanctification, complete in Christ, progressively transforming us in the here and now, and this includes the body and its usage (21). Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit’s presence, being continually cleansed in the blood of the lamb (I Cor. 6:18-20). It is precisely because the Spirit dwells within us that we detest our sins, and are given power to grow in grace. Amazingly, we shall have bodies “conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” (21) One may not go to this verse first, to prove God’s absolute omnipotent sovereignty, but this is exactly what it teaches.
All of the above, Paul makes clear, he intends for the beloved – the Lord’s and thus also his (4:1). Paul’s brethren were longed-for because as he stated in 1:8, it was because of the affection of Christ, which he shared. These direct recipients were Paul’s “joy and crown.” (1) As with the Corinthians, he could boast of their fidelity in doctrine and life, following his own example (cf. II Cor. 1:14). However, one must give such evidence to the end, as perseverance is also a sign of one’s election according to grace. Not also, they were not to stand in themselves, or Paul, but ‘in Christ’ alone. Just as we stand justified in Christ alone, even so we will stand in his image complete when our journey ends, and begins anew.
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected.” (12a). Thankfully, the heresy that one can be perfected in this life, has never been very popular. Most people, including the regenerate, know all too well the imperfection. However, this does not mean that we give up. Instead we saints are equipped by God to press on, to “lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of” us. (12b) Make no mistake, as in Romans 7, Paul was writing as a brother to ‘brethren’ (13a). The whole family of God is registered in Heaven (Heb. 12:23), both the church militant on earth, and triumphant in heaven, and knowing that we are still in a fight, but will one day join the triumphant, inspires us by God’s Spirit to all press on.
However, being aware of our past failings should not leave us in a morbid self-imposed lifelong penance, such as in the Roman cult, which extends even to the afterlife in purgatory. Instead, we are to look to Christ, by whom we can forgive ourselves and others, and “forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead,” we can “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (13b-14) The NGSB* puts this already-not yet in Paul quite well. “The prize of salvation in its fullness has not yet been won, a point Paul emphasizes against ideas of perfectionism (cf. 1 Cor. 4:8; 2 Tim. 2:18; 1 John 1:8). Yet the saving process will be consummated on the day of Christ (1:6, 10). (1879-80).
‘Therefore’ always directs one to the argument that has come before, so the above is the basis for what Paul now adds. “Let us,” expresses what is known as the hortatory subjunctive in Greek, where the author or speaker is exhorting the audience to join them (15a). However, Paul makes clear that one must be mature (15b), and this is made possible only through the wisdom of scripture (cf. I Cor. 2:6-21). The truth we need from God is that which He reveals to us in his word (15c). This is what Paul, as a New Testament documents apostle, was delivering. Being “of the same mind,” means knowing and living by this infallible inerrant and sufficient rule (16). We live by advancing degrees, toward the goal of perfection ‘in’ Christ.
*New Geneva Study Bible (NKJV)
In the previous two verses Paul wrote about the idea that the saints are ‘found’ “in Christ.” Salvation is sola Christos – only in the Christ, that we are declared righteous through the righteousness of Christ. However, our salvation does not stop at justification. Regeneration is what brings a change in us that also comes about, so that Paul can add here, that his number one goal is “to know Him.” (10a) It certainly must start with a mind renewed by His word (Rom. 12:1-2), but Paul also knew that he needed the power of God, the very same power that rose Christ from the grave, to be at work in him (10b).
Lest we view power in pagan or secular humanistic terms, he added that he also knew that this relationship comes with suffering, in fact, “the fellowship of His sufferings.” (10c) So what does he mean by “being conformed to His death?” (10D). This is made even more troubling by verse eleven – “if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.” This seems somewhat akin to a kind of penance, and not the true repentance and faith consistent with Paul’s, and the whole of the protestant canon’s, doctrines of grace. How do these verses stand with verses like Eph. 2:8-10?
Well, for anyone familiar with Paul, when it comes to being ‘conformed’, Paul believed that it is predestined for the elect (Rom. 8:29). Also, in reference to having our minds renewed (cf. Rom. 12:2), he also warned us to not be “conformed to the world.” Everyone has a worldview which includes both belief and practice, and the biblical one is the only true, coherent, and life transforming one. As to ‘sufferings’ and “being conformed to His death,” Romans 12:1 also helps us. Our “reasonable service” is to “by the mercies of God” to present our bodies as “a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God.”
So, we see that the ‘conformed’ hearkens back to the preceding context – the righteousness of Christ. Being ‘conformed’ to His sufferings, and knowing the power that was at work in His resurrection, is why our ‘living sacrifice’, can be living, and “holy, acceptable to God.” Two verses, especially the last, in this chapter, in other words, in the same immediate context, also sheds light on what Paul meant – 20-21. Just as we will have a heavenly body conformed to His, His battered and bruised body became conformed to our sinful bodies by taking our sins upon Himself on the cross.
3:21 also refers to God’s power “by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.” God’s will, power, sovereignty, providence, and predestination are all absolute. If we endure suffering, it is because He enables us to persevere. If we are victorious, it is because He gives us the power. So also, if the reprobate is destined for hell for all eternity, it is because God willed it, before creation, just as He willed the fall – a mystery to some. They ask, “How could He do so without sinning? However, the same people say He only willed what He foresaw – so then why didn’t He stop it all from ever happening in the first place?
Either God is absolutely powerfully sovereign, or humans have a more powerful will than His, and we brought ourselves into being – both physically and spiritually. Both cannot be true. For those who are able and willing, this is my answer to this conundrum. We all love stories. Furthermore, any really good story, or movie, always pits good against evil. I cannot, nor do I believe that scripture tells us how the two above truths can be taught in scripture and not seem to us to be contradictory, but I do know that God is a story teller, in a good way, and this is as far as I have gone. Like Calvin, I choose to go as far as scripture takes me, but no further.
Do you want to gain your soul? Then consider all else as “a loss for Christ.” (v. 7) It is simple to read or say, but costly in practice. This is how it should be, for something so valuable. What is it that sticks out the most? “The excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus” as Lord. (v. 8) Two things stand out – first knowledge of Christ Jesus,” with the end of knowing Him as Lord. One cannot have a saved soul by the Saviour without repenting by confessing Him as Lord. Paul understood this costly discipleship. One must indeed ‘suffer’ with the losses. Anyone who says they do not suffer losses is lying to others, and possibly to themselves.
To gain Christ means to be “found in Him.” (v. 9) Note well, if we find Him, it is only because he first ‘found’ us. What the Father ‘finds’ is the righteousness of Christ in our stead, and this is a declaration that we are justified – ‘just-as-if-I-died’, and rose again. This impacts how we live (II Cor. 5:15). “Likewise, you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 6:11) There will be a time for the reckoning of every human being conceived – make sure you reckon with Him now. We are “justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by works of the law no flesh shall be justified.” (Gal. 2:16)