Firmness and Unanimity Enjoined. Phil. 4, 1-3.

V.1. Therefore, my brethren, dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved. V.2. I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord. V.3. And I intreat thee also, true yoke-fellow, help those women which labored with me in the Gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-laborers, whose names are in the book of life. The apostle here draws the conclusion from the previous exhortation: Therefore, my brethren, beloved and yearned for, my joy and my crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, beloved. What a world of kindness is contained in these appealing words, in which the apostle not only addresses the Philippians as his beloved, but shows the tenderness of his affection for them also by writing that he is yearning for them with a homesick longing, that his heart is desiring to be with them. They are his joy, they have always given him cause for rejoicing. They are the crown of his work, such as faithful pastors will be crowned with as a great honor. This being the case, they should stand firm in their Christian faith and life; they should not permit themselves to be led astray by the false teachers and their followers; they should avoid both extremes, selfishness and carnal-mindedness. The apostle has the confidence in them that they will fulfill his expectations.

To the general admonition to firmness, which grows out of unanimity, the apostle adds a specific exhortation: Euodia I beseech, and Syntyche I beseech, to think the same in the Lord. He wants these two women to drop their differences. Both of them were well-known, active members of the church at Philippi. But there was a rift in the lute, probably due to jealousy; there were dissensions, which, with the purity of the congregation’s life, loomed up all the more lowering. So Paul admonishes them to work in harmony, to be of the same mind, to put aside their alienation, their estrangement. The same thing happens also in our days, namely, that women in the various organizations of the church are bothered by jealousy and thus disturb the tranquility of constructive work. A careful, but firm admonition may avert disruption.

The matter caused the apostle some concern, as his next words show: Yea, I pray also thee, my sincere yoke-fellow, be of assistance to these women that have fought with me in the Gospel, with Clement and the other fellow-laborers, whose names are in the book of life. The differences were of such a nature that Paul seemed to fear the written admonition alone might not succeed in this case, wherefore he earnestly begs his yoke-fellow, one of the bishops or presbyters of the congregation at Philippi, to take charge of this matter. Note: The word translated “yoke-fellow” may be a proper noun, Synzygos, the name of one of the bishops or some other well-known member. He should help these women in their difficulty, be of assistance to them, show them the way out of their real or supposed grievances. If necessary, Clement and all the other workers, probably the entire presbytery, should be called upon to settle the dispute and to restore harmony. The names of these coworkers of the apostle are in the book of life, they are entered in the list of the elect unto salvation. Mark: It is said of these two women that they had strenuously labored with the apostle in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Women are by no means excluded from active participation in the work of the Church, but their tactful labor may do much to advance the cause of the Gospel, if they do not become entangled in jealous quarrels.

The rejoicing of the Christians Especially in Their Fellowship with Christ. Phil. 4, 4-9.

The care-free joy of believers: V.4. Rejoice in the Lord alway; and again I say, Rejoice. v.5. Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. V.6. Be careful for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God. V.7. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Here the apostle once more brings out the theme of the letter. He was obliged to include this warning against disharmony, but all the while his heart was overflowing with love and joy toward the Philippians. And so he breaks forth in another appeal: Rejoice in the Lord always: again I say, Rejoice! With Christians their joy is always in the Lord and on account of the Lord. That is the fundamental sentiment of their entire life, to be happy in the salvation which is theirs through the atoning work of Christ, to feel exultant joy over the fellowship with His sanctifying power. Lest the Philippians raise the objection that it is impossible in the midst of the tribulations of this vale of tears to feel happy always, Paul repeats his admonition, thus cutting off all remonstrances: the Christians can and shall rejoice at all times. Cp. 2 Cor. 4, 8. 9

Out of this feeling, which dominates their whole life, there follows: Your mildness make known to all men; the Lord is near. There is so much contained in the Greek word used here by Paul: moderation, forbearance, gentleness, patience, selflessness, equity, mildness; it is that quality by which a Christian always puts the best construction on everything. This should become evident before all men, it follows out of the joy of faith, from the knowledge of their acceptance with God. Toward all men they should exhibit this feeling, because it is the one characteristic attitude which will tend to win people for Christianity. There must, of course, always be an uncompromising opposition to all that is evil and condemned by the Word of God, hut this must never result in gruffness and harshness, which would be incompatible with the spirit of Christ. In this connection the Christians should always remember that Christ is near at hand, His advent is about to take place. He wants to deliver His believers from all evil. They will be with the Lord always. Then all the afflictions, all the anxiety, trouble, tribulation of this life, will be past. In view of this prospect, earthly bickerings and wranglings are utterly trivial. This thought should always encourage and spur on the Christians to show true lenity.

Another thought follows from the facts as presented: For nothing be anxious, but in everything, by supplication and prayer with thanksgiving, make known your wishes toward God. Here is a clear and inclusive injunction. The Christians should not be anxious, consumed with worry and anxiety about anything in this life. The Philippians may have had occasion to feel anxious, since they were suffering from the enmity of many opponents. But instead of being concerned about the things of this world, they should put all their trust in the Lord, leave all matters to His fatherly direction and care. In general prayer and in specific supplication, combined with the giving of thanks, they should make known their wants before God. Even the smallest, apparently insignificant detail of daily life, as well as the large, momentous facts which confront them, should be brought to the attention of God. There is nothing too small for His consideration if it concerns the welfare of His children or of the Church. And the giving of thanks must never be omitted. It is an essential part of prayer, since the Lord’s gifts always surround us and we are never without specific reasons for thanksgiving. By carrying out this injunction carefully, a Christian will always be in the right mood and spirit for kindness toward all men.

Since these gifts, however, are such as cannot be obtained by a Christian of his own strength nor be retained by his own power, the apostle adds the prayerful wish: And the peace of God which goes beyond all understanding keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. The peace of God enables the believers to do what they cannot perform of their own reason and strength. It keeps the hearts of the Christians secure in the trust that His presence and promise is with them at all times, and that it is but necessary to rely upon Him in childlike faith. The peace of God is a condition brought about between God and man as a consequence of salvation. There is now no more a dividing wall of enmity between God and man, but only the fullness of peace. This consciousness actuates and governs the Christians in all their relations toward their fellow-men, it keeps their hearts in a wonderful watch and guard. For this peace of God transcends all understanding. It is not only too wonderful for all human understanding and comprehension, but it is stronger than all understanding of men, it can accomplish far more than any human mind. What human mind, reason, and understanding cannot do the peace of God can accomplish with ease. It keeps the heart in check, it watches the mind, it guards against all mere human affections and sinful thoughts. And this is possible only because the efficacy of this peace is based upon its connection with Jesus Christ. It rests in the Savior of mankind. For through Christ the peace of God, with God, has been gained. If we have a firm stand in Christ Jesus, we shall think and do such things as are pleasing to Him. Thus the peace of God permeates and governs the entire existence of the Christians, it is the primary influence of their lives. 4)

Christian progress in all virtues: V.8. Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, what soever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. V.9. Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do; and the God of peace shall be with you, In order that peace and joy may remain within the Christian hearts and within the Christian congregations, it is necessary that Christians avoid all things which might disturb such harmony in the Spirit. Their thoughts must be directed solely to things that are well-pleasing to God. That is evidence of true progress in sanctification, to seek what pleases God and is of benefit to one's neighbor. The apostle enumerates the virtues which the believers must keep in mind, upon which they should think Their minds should be engaged with matters which are true, truthful, truth-speaking, sincere, frank, and open, especially toward God who searches hearts and minds; with things which are honest or honorable, belonging to and fitting true Christian dignity, since the Christians must never forget what they owe to their station as children of God in the world; with matters which are just and right, which agree with all just expectations of men, which are in accord with the Law. The believers should reflect carefully also upon things which are pure, chaste, clean in words and deeds, never become guilty of lascivious allusions or of filthy deeds; upon things which are lovely, well-pleasing, not only omitting all vain and empty conversation, but, above all, offensive garrulity; upon things of good report, which reflect credit upon the Christian religion and do not cause people to place Christian conversation on a level with that of the world. All such things the Christians will choose as the subject of their meditations, to these they will pay attention. In general, all that is excellent and laudable should be the constant object of every Christian's thoughts. In all things, at all times, in all places, the sanctification of the Christians should be evident.

To bring home this admonition, Paul cites his own example: What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, this do; and the God of peace will be with you. Those are the things which he has just enumerated. He has the good conscience that he has walked in these virtues, that he has proved a good example to the Philippians under all conditions, in every way. The daily life and example of a pastor, as a sermon in deeds, is of the greatest importance in the work of the Church. In this manner the relation of the redeemed to God will be upheld. These points are necessary for the preservation of peace and harmony in the Church. The assurance of the presence of God, the God of peace, is given to believers if they follow the words of the apostle.

Acknowledgment of the Kindness of the Philippians. Phil. 4, 10-20.

How Paul accommodated himself to every situation: V.10. But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at the last your care of me bath flourished again, wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. V.11. Not that I speak in respect of want; for I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content. V.12. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. V.13. I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me. This passage brings the thanks of Paul for the material help which the Philippian congregation had sent to Rome with Epaphroditus. It was this gift which occasioned the letter, which caused the apostle to write: I rejoiced in the Lord greatly because now at the last your thinking of me has bloomed forth again; upon which you also had thought, but the occasion was lacking. Paul’s joy is so great because their anxious care for him had again blossomed forth into activity, had once more given evidence of its continued existence. Their care and anxiety for him, as upon previous occasions, had once more assumed tangible form. They had made it a point before to share with him, but recently circumstances had prevented their remembering the imprisoned apostle, the persecution which they were suffering being the chief factor. Therefore Paul rejoices all the more that they have now succeeded. He praises both their good will and the deed in which it resulted. He rejoices in the Lord, because He it was that had put such cheerful and eager willingness into the hearts of the Philippians.

At the same time Paul forestalls a misunderstanding: Not that I speak concerning want; for I have learned to be content with the things I have. I know as well to be abased as I know to have plenty; everywhere and in all things I have become accustomed both to have abundance and to suffer want. That represents the sum of Paul’s experiences up to the time of his writing this letter. He had never suffered actual want. He had enough to eat and to live, but on account of his imprisonment he was without many comforts. And so he has reasons to be thankful and joyful, since this need is now supplied. For he had learned to be satisfied with what he had, to accommodate himself to every situation. He had been instructed, he had learned the lesson both to be brought low, to put up with the misery of poverty, and to have plenty, to be well supplied with the goods of this world, to be in a lowly as well as in an exalted position. He has become accustomed to that by long practice and usage. Whether he has all that he needs and more, or whether he suffers hunger, the prospect leaves him unscathed, because he has experienced all.

The reason why he can rise above all the exigencies of life is: I can do all things in Him who strengthens me. That is the confidence of faith, a faith which is victorious over all the possibilities of misery and affliction, by which we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us, Rom. 8, 37. Paul is strong in all, able to stand all, not in his own power and ability, however, but in and through Christ, his exalted Lord, who makes him strong, who transmits to him some of His own strength. In this strength he can be daring, he can meet the onslaughts of his enemies, he can overcome all their temptations. That is the attitude of every Christian: he is satisfied with whatever God sends and gives him. Every Christian learns this art, becomes proficient in this ability, because Christ strengthens him.

The generosity of the Philippians and God’s reward: V.14. Notwithstanding ye have well done that ye did communicate with my affliction. V.15. Now ye Philippians know also that in the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only. V.16. For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity. V.17. Not because I desire a gift; but I desire fruit that may abound to your account. V.18. But I have all and abound; I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well-pleasing to God. V.19. But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus. V.20. Now unto God and our father be glory forever and ever! Amen. The apostle now turns the attention of his readers back to the Philippians and their gift, his delicacy and tenderness being unwilling to leave them under the impression as though he did not appreciate their thoughtfulness and love to the full: All the same, you have done well that you shared in my affliction. It was a truly good work to remember him thus. It is also to-day a good and laudable thing if all Christians take proper care of their pastors in gifts of this world. That is an evidence of their love and appreciation of the Gospel.

Paul now mentions instances of the generosity of the Philippians: But you also know, Philippians, that at the beginning of the Gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you only. For also in Thessalonica you sent once and a second time to me for my need. Paul speaks commendingly of the fact that the Philippians, whom he singles out by the use of their name, had excelled in this particular work of taking care of his bodily needs. It was in the days when he first came to Macedonia, when he had preached the Gospel in Philippi and then had continued his journey to Thessalonica, which was situated just 100 Roman miles (about 92 English) west on the Via Egnatia. During Paul’s stay at Thessalonica, the congregation at Philippi had repeatedly remembered him with gifts of their gratitude; they had taken care of him when he was in need, certainly a splendid example for all Christian congregations.

But in praising the Philippians, Paul does not want to create a false impression: Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. That was not Paul’s object in reminding of their kindness in the past; he was not giving them a hint to send him some more gifts. He was not interested so much, and for his own person, in the external gift as in the evidence which it presented as being a fruit of their faith, which would be charged to their credit. The account in their favor would be largely increased by such manifestations of their faith in love. They would in due time receive their returns, the reward of grace in full value. Eternity will reveal how many gifts of love individuals and congregations have made for the cause and to the ministers of Christ.

There was no need of worrying on his account: But I have all and have abundance; I am filled, having received of Epaphroditus the things from you, an odor of sweetness, a sacrifice acceptable and well-pleasing to God. Since the messenger of the Philippian congregation, Epaphroditus, had delivered their bounty, Paul now had more than his immediate needs required; he had nothing left to wish for, he had not only outward abundance, but inward satisfaction as well. He calls their gift a savor of sweetness, like the Old Testament sacrifices that were well-pleasing to Cod. Their work of love was acceptable to God, it found favor in His sight; it pleases Him when congregations show their loving appreciation of the spiritual gifts which they have received by imparting to their teachers of their earthly goods.

Paul now makes such returns as he is able to make: But my God will fill all your need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To God, however, and our Father be glory forever and ever! Amen. This is a prayer that God would fulfill every need of the Philippian brethren. What they still lack in spiritual gifts, in knowledge of Christ, God will supply, and abundantly, with the infinite possibilities of His riches. If believers supply the physical wants of their pastors in a spirit of true love and faith, God will let this good work redound to their furtherance in spiritual growth. Since He has all riches, in both the physical and spiritual domain, He can supply and donate spiritual gifts in endless variety and richness. For the greatest riches are those in the glory of Jesus Christ. Whatever good gifts in spiritual riches God gives have been made possible through the mediatory work and vicarious sacrifice of Christ. All spiritual gifts and blessings are ours in Him. And God gives them to the believers for Christ’s sake. For that reason all glory shall be given to God, who is also our Father, the Father of all believers in and through Jesus. This praise and glory shall be given to Him as His rightful due forever and ever. Amen. Thus Paul, after his custom, ends with a doxology, with an expression of praise to the Lord, the Giver of all good gifts.

Greetings and Conclusion. Phil. 4, 21-23.

V.21. Salute every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren which are with me greet you. V.22. All the saints salute you, chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household. V.23. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all! Amen. Every saint, every member of the Philippian congregation, is remembered in the final salutation of the apostle. Being believers, they are saints, cleansed and sanctified by the blood of Christ. The brethren in Rome also wished to be remembered. Though they were not acquainted personally with the Philippian Christians, they felt themselves united with them in the fellowship of a common faith and love. Especially the Christians that belonged to Caesar’s household, with whom Paul undoubtedly was most intimately acquainted and whom he saw oftener individually than many others, sent their greetings. Into the very palace of the emperor that hated the Christians the news of Christ had spread and made converts. Whether servants only were included, or whether some members, of the emperor’s family had also been gained for Christ, as tradition has it, cannot be determined from this passage. The apostle closes with the earnest wish that the grace of Jesus Christ the Lord, the supreme gift and blessing of salvation, may be with the spirit of his readers. Cp. Gal. 6, 18; Rom. 16, 24; 2 Cor. 13, 13. 5)

Summary. The apostle closes his letter with general exhortations regarding the cultivation of all Christian virtues, recommends the Philippians for their liberality, and closes with the customary greetings.