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Philippians 4 – “More Christlike attitudes to work on”

January 22nd, 2012 by Vic

Philippians 4
January 22, 2012
“More Christlike attitudes to work on”
 
We’re coming to the end of this letter.  Paul began by greeting the church with a prayer that they would abound in love, knowledge, and insight.  He told them about his dilemma of being in prison with mixed feelings about his future.  He was going to continue to trust the Lord.  No matter what happened to him they must conduct themselves in a worthy manner as Christians.
 
Paul had heard about some conflict in the church.  There was some selfish ambition and vain conceit.  He admonished them to pay attention to the interests of others and follow the example of Christ who made Himself nothing to glorify God.  He admonished them to shine like stars in a dark world and be a living sacrifice like Timothy and Epaphroditus. 
 
Last week Paul repeated the command to rejoice so we could be more discerning about false teachers.  If we think we deserve our gifts and fail to thank God we make our appetites our god, destruction our goal, and shame our reputation.  Paul said the goal of his life is to know Christ and the power and suffering of His resurrection.  He has chosen to forget the good and the bad he has done in the past and focus on the immediate goal marker.  If we keep our focus on Jesus our church can be a colony of heaven.
 
In this last chapter Paul expresses his love for the Philippians.  He again calls them brothers.  He yearns for them.  He’s homesick because of separation.  They are his joy and crown.  People are his joy and crown, not things or accomplishments.  Things don’t give us real joy.  This word for crown was the word used for the trophy for a winner of the race or a gift (which was sometimes a crown) that was given to guests when they sat at a banquet.
 
Because you are a colony of heaven you should stand firm in the Lord.  You represent the Lord Jesus Christ.  Don’t be tossed by winds.  Paul gives 3 commands that are fulfilled ‘in the Lord’.  The word ‘stand firm’ was used of soldiers at their post.  They were not to abandon ship.  We are to stand firm in the Lord even when winds of circumstances are fierce.
 
4:2  Unity in the church is an essential element for standing firm in the Lord.  Paul urges, begs and implores these 2 influential women to live harmoniously in a way that is proper for all who claim to be Christian.  Literally they were to “be of the same mind”. 
 
We don’t know any more about these women or the nature of their quarrel.  We know that women played major roles in founding the Macedonian churches.  Women had more rights in the area of Macedonia than in other areas of the Greek and Jewish culture.  We do know that different personalities can work together when they are focused on a common leader or goal.
 
Paul knows it is not easy for people to iron out differences on their own so he asks a third party or the church as a whole as Paul’s fellow worker (singular) to help these women reconcile their differences.  These are good ladies who may have been involved with Paul in planting the church in Philippi or Thessalonica.  Many others had been part of that, but Paul does not list them.  Maybe he did not want to cause any more division.  He just says that God has written all their names in the Book of Life like the Romans have written names of citizens in the registry of the colony.
 
4:4-5  The first command was to stand firm.  Now the second is to rejoice in the Lord. 
 
Rejoice in the Lord.  Christian joy is independent of all things on earth.  The source of joy and the reason for joy is the presence of Jesus.
 
The Christian life is also characterized by ‘gentleness’ (NIV).  This is an interesting word related to reasonableness.  Aristotle contrasted it with strict justice.  It is a generous treatment of others that does not insist on the letter of the law.  It is a willingness to make allowances so that justice does not injure.  It is that courteous attitude that prompts a person not to be forever standing on his rights.  Paul used the word to describe Jesus in 2 Cor 10:1.  Is this an attitude that these 2 women were lacking?  It certainly is an attitude that is missing in our sue-crazy world. 
 
The Lord is near.  Rejoice because He is concerned for your well-being.  He is in you and He is returning in glory soon to punish evil-doers. 
 
4:6-7  Paul’s 3rd command is to stop worrying.  His solution to worry is prayer.  It is unreasonable to worry about things over which you have no control.  Only God is greater than all your situations.  The way to be anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything and trust God.  Pray with a thankful heart.  Praise God and give Him glory.  When I’m worrying my prayers are all about me and my requests are not presented to God.
 
If we have a thankful attitude our prayers will be presented to God and our hearts and minds will be protected by the peace of God.  This peace of God is grounded in God’s presence and promise.  It surpasses all understanding.  No human mind can comprehend its significance.  It is more effective at removing worry than any human effort or logic.  God’s peace will protect our hearts and minds like a detachment of soldiers standing guard to protect the garrison from attack.
 
Our thoughts, emotions, moral choices and feelings can be protected from worry and fear.  God’s peace is available to all who submit to the lordship of Jesus Christ; to all who live in Christ Jesus.
 
4:8-9  These 2 verses are one sentence.  “Finally’ tells us that this is the last command in this series that tells us how to stand firm as a Christian.
 
The ‘if’ clause at the end of 8 is assumed to be true.  It is more accurately translated as ‘since’.  Since there is moral excellence that the world acknowledges and since there are things worthy of praise among all men, you must think (reckon, ponder) and act on these things that will bring praise to God and from men.  Verse 8 is a list of characteristics that the Greeks and/Romans admired.  There is much in the non-Christian world that should be valued and retained.    
 
These are excellent qualities that belonged to the culture of Paul’s day:
1. True, in the sense of truthful.  They promise and perform.  They practice what they preach. 
2. Honest, venerable, noble.  This person focuses on the lofty things that lift the mind above the cheap.  It refers to the man who treats Creation as a gift from God.
3. Righteous, just.  It means giving to men and God their due.  It involves duty and responsibility.
4. Pure, chaste, undefiled.  It means being fit as a vessel or sacrifice for God’s presence or God’s service.
5. Attractive, winsome, kind.  That which calls forth love and brings the best out of others rather than bitterness and hostility.
6. Admirable, gracious in speaking, kindly.  Expressing what is kind and avoiding what is likely to give offence.  One who talks of things that are fit for God to hear.
 
Verse 9 adds a general summary of Paul’s teachings and life style.  In addition to commonly accepted values also put into practice Christian values that you have heard and seen lived out.  Everything Paul believed and taught he also lived out.  If we will continually fill our minds and think about good things then worry and fear can be minimized. 
 
And the God of peace will be with you.  God is characterized by peace and is the source of peace.
 
4:10-20  Paul is uncomfortable talking about receiving a gift of money.  The church had sent Epaphroditus with money to support Paul’s legal defense and ministry.  Paul puts off discussing the topic until the very end.  The whole matter of giving and receiving is a sensitive subject with Paul.  He never plainly says ‘thanks’.  He had no hesitation about asking for money to help other churches, but he preferred to support himself and his ministry by manual labor.  Maybe our pastors today should follow Paul’s example?
 
In this paragraph there is alternately a cautious gratitude and self-reliance in Christ.  He expresses appreciation but insists on his own independence.  It is written in such a way as neither to offend those who gave their gift out of love, nor to encourage their continued assistance.  We have some ministries today that need to follow Paul’s example.
 
Paul rejoices ‘greatly, immensely’ in the Lord (10).  What gave him joy was not the gift, but that they had been given an opportunity to give and they responded with thoughtful love.  He was delighted to hear of their renewed concern for him.  The word ‘renewed’ is used for the bursting into bloom of flowers at springtime.  He’s rejoicing at the signs of spring in their lives after a long time of silence.
 
Paul immediately writes a disclaimer.  He is not saying this to ask for more money.  He has learned the secret of a contented life (which the Stoics are searching for).  Contentment or self-sufficiency was the highest aim of the Stoics.  The Stoics tried to reach contentment by eliminating all desire.  They believed that contentment did not consist in possessing much but in wanting little.  Socrates was asked, “Who is the wealthiest man of all?”  He answered, “The man who is content with the least.”  The stoics tried to abolish all desires and emotions.  Caring was forbidden.  T.R. Glover said, “The Stoics made the heart a desert and called it peace.”  Paul says he has learned contentment in all situations.  It was not self-discipline but in the acknowledgement of God’s faithfulness that Paul found contentment.
 
In the routine ups and downs of life God gave Paul grace in need and prosperity, in times of hunger and being well-fed, having more than enough and having too little.  God has taught him how to cope with everyday reality.
 
The promise we quote in verse 13 needs to be put into this context.  Paul is saying that he has learned contentment in all these situations.  In all the prosperous and adverse circumstances we experience in everyday living, God gives us the strength to cope.  God gives grace to handle prosperity as much as adversity.  In Christ we can face all situations in life triumphantly.  In all these things, in all the ups and downs of life we have the power to be Christlike.
 
The power or strength we have is not the power of self-discipline or denying all desires.  The strength we have is the power of relationship.  Jesus said, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you.” (Acts 1:8)  “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matt 28:20)  We live in Christ and His Spirit lives in us.  It’s a growing relationship.
 
4:14  Paul does not want his desire for independence to be interpreted as indifference to the love they have displayed for him in their giving.  So he carefully says, “Though I did not need what you sent, yet you did the right, even the beautiful thing in sharing with me in my troubles.”
 
He remembers their generous attitude from the very beginning days of the church.  Their sympathy and concern was much more important to him than any financial relief.  He does everything possible to praise them without encouraging them to do more for him than they have already done. 
 
Paul uses several financial terms to say he’s been careful to give them an accurate accounting of all receipts and expenditures.  This letter is a receipt to them acknowledging their last gift (18).
 
Again in 17 Paul intermingles his determination to be free from the gifts of anyone and his desire to show appreciation for the love that is obviously motivating the giving.  “I do not have my heart set on the gift, but I really have my heart set on the fruit, profit, or credit.”  Paul views the gift as a credit to the account of the Philippian church, an investment that will pay rich dividends.  An attitude of liberality pays great dividends in the lives of those who give. 
 
“I have been paid in full.” (18)  Paul says he has more than enough and is implying that they send no more gifts.
 
The real recipient of your gift was God.  Whatever is done for the servant is done for the Master.  Whatever is given to the child is given to the parent.  Your gift is a fragrant sacrifice to God, pleasing and acceptable.  Your gift from a heart of love is the best gift you can give God.
 
Paul prays that his (my) God would fill their needs (19) in a glorious manner.  God’s ability to meet our needs is His unlimited wealth in glory.  Because the Church had supplied Paul’s needs out of their poverty, Paul asks God to meet all their needs out of His riches.  That wealth is available to all in Christ Jesus.
 
Paul used the rare expression ‘my’ God in verse 19 apparently to testify of his total personal trust in God’s faithfulness.  In verse 20 he breaks out in praise to “our God and Father” the One who provides the needs of all His people.  Glory carries a range of meanings including divine honor, divine power, and divine radiance.  His glory will not change or wear out.
 
This was a standard way to say farewell in letters.  Although this letter is the most intimate of his letters not one person is greeted by name.  He says greet every saint (contrary to the NIV) there in Philippi from all the saints here in Caesarea.  Paul expresses his affection to each individual Christian alike.  In a church troubled by disunity the apostle does not take sides.  Each believer is to be greeted.
 
The phrase ‘Caesar’s household’ meant civil servants.  Everyone employed by the government was considered the household of Caesar.  Paul is probably speaking here of Roman soldiers in charge of this prison.  The gospel is beginning to impact government workers.
 
Paul concludes with a prayer for Christ’s grace to rest and abide on the spirit of each one of his readers.  The word ‘spirit’ is singular while ‘your’ is plural.  The spirit of a man is usually used for the whole person.  Paul is simply praying that the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ would be with us.  Grace means beauty.  I pray that the beauty of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ would be with us and be visible on the outside.

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