Philippians 4 - Rejoice Always In The Lord

INTRODUCTION: When Paul thanked the Philippians for the gift they sent with Epaphroditus, he used that opportunity to explain how the Lord had taught him to be content regardless of whether he was in comfort or in need. As Paul began to close this letter, he mentioned several of the Philippian believers by name, along with encouragement especially intended for them. He once again emphasized to all, the importance of rejoicing, and he gave some very specific goals for training the mind and the heart to rejoice in grace and peace, knowing that the Lord's return for them is always imminent.

NOTE: All scripture passages are from the World English Bible.


A - STAND FIRM IN THE LORD

Philippians 4 "1 Therefore, my brothers, beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. 2 I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to think the same way in the Lord. 3 Yes, I beg you also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they laboured with me in the Good News, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, "Rejoice!" 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand."

COMMENTS: Paul sought no crown for his own achievement or status, but saw those who had received his message of salvation in Christ as his crown, and the one that all will receive by standing firm in service to Christ; and it is the only crown to be truly sought by Christians. James 1 "12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation, for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which the Lord promised to those who love him." Just as James wrote about the crown reserved for those who have given their heart to Christ, it is promised by the Lord in another passage. Revelation 2 "To the angel of the assembly in Smyrna write: The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life says these things: 9 I know your works, oppression, and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10 Don't be afraid of the things which you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested; and you will have oppression for ten days. Be faithful to death, and I will give you the crown of life."

Paul wrote to Euodia and Syntyche to strongly encourage them in whatever trial they were experiencing to continue to stand strong in the Lord and to be like-minded. He also appealed to one he called true yokefellow to help those women, because they had laboured with him in the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of his fellow workers. He told them that their names are in the book of life. Moses spoke of that book as he prayed to the Lord to forgive the transgression of Israel in the wilderness. Exodus 32 ""32 Yet now, if you will, forgive their sin - and if not, please blot me out of your book which you have written." 33 Yahweh said to Moses, "Whoever has sinned against me, him will I blot out of my book."" Another passage from Revelation gives admonition to weakened believers to turn to the Lord to be overcomers. Revelation 3 "1 "And to the angel of the assembly in Sardis write: "He who has the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars says these things: "I know your works, that you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and keep the things that remain, which you were about to throw away, for I have found no works of yours perfected before my God. 3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If therefore you won't watch, I will come as a thief, and you won't know what hour I will come upon you. 4 Nevertheless you have a few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments. They will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 He who overcomes will be arrayed in white garments, and I will in no way blot his name out of the book of life, and I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels."

Christians need to continually return to the Word of God to be strengthened, and reminded of the reasons we can rejoice in the Lord always, while we show gentleness to those around us, as Paul enjoined the believers at Philippi. The Lord's return is always to be considered as imminent, so we must constantly be ready to go to be with him forever.


B - SEEK THE PEACE OF GOD

Philippians 4 "6 In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. 8 Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honourable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things. 9 The things which you learned, received, heard, and saw in me: do these things, and the God of peace will be with you."

COMMENTS: Paul advised the believers at Philippi to not allow themselves to be in distress through worrying about anticipated difficulties or circumstances. The alternative he offered is to pray and to make requests to God, but always by faith with a spirit of thanksgiving. The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will then guard the heart and thoughts in Christ Jesus, in ways that cannot be accomplished otherwise. Paul added to that advice, a practice that will make each Christian better prepared for things that are unforeseen. Continually put into your thoughts whatever things are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good report, having any virtue, and that which is praiseworthy. by considering the opposites of those things listed, we then know what we should put out of our thoughts. Paul then asked the believers at Philippi to follow his example by doing the things which they had learned, received, heard, and saw in him, and the God of peace would be with them. By that statement he was asking them to do the things he practiced and experienced himself, and that was through the enabling of Christ.

Not long after Paul had been forced to leave Thessalonica, he wrote about the God of peace to comfort those believers. 1 Thessalonians 5 "23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you completely. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ." What a comfort it can be to all believers to realize that we will be held blameless at the coming of Christ our Savior. Before Paul finally went to Rome as a prisoner, he mentioned the God of peace and grace in his letter to the believers there. Romans 15 "33 Now the God of peace be with you all. Amen." Romans 16 "20 And the God of peace will quickly crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you." Another letter tells us that our God of peace will make believers complete in every good work to do his will, with all glory to the Lord Jesus Christ. Hebrews 13 "20 Now may the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep with the blood of an eternal covenant, our Lord Jesus, 21 make you complete in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen."


C - I CAN DO ALL THINGS IN CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME

Philippians 4 "10 But I rejoice in the Lord greatly, that now at length you have revived your thought for me; in which you did indeed take thought, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in respect to lack, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content in it. 12 I know how to be humbled, and I know also how to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to be hungry, both to abound and to be in need. 13 I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me. 14 However you did well that you shared in my affliction. 15 You yourselves also know, you Philippians, that in the beginning of the Good News, when I departed from Macedonia, no assembly shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you only. 16 For even in Thessalonica you sent once and again to my need. 17 Not that I seek for the gift, but I seek for the fruit that increases to your account. 18 But I have all things, and abound. I am filled, having received from Epaphroditus the things that came from you, a sweet-smelling fragrance, an acceptable and well-pleasing sacrifice to God. 19 My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus."

COMMENTS: Paul said he was rejoicing in the Lord because the Philippians had sent provisions to him, even after a good length of time when there was little opportunity for them to do so. He commended them for their gift, but he wanted them to know that he was not drawing attention to anything that he lacked. The Lord had taught him how to be content whether he was humbled in want, or when he was abounding in plenty. The way Paul stated that principal from his life should not be casually or flippantly applied to oneself. In the best or the worst of circumstances he had learned that the secret for him was to believe "I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me."

Paul remembered they alone had sent to him more than once to supply his need when he had been in Thessalonica, and before he left Macedonia after sharing the gospel there. There is more value in the way they had shared, than there was in the needs they could meet for him. But he felt abundantly supplied with the things Epaphroditus had brought from the Philippians, and they represented a sweet smelling fragrance as an acceptable and well-pleasing sacrifice to God. Paul said God would supply all of their needs according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.


D - MAY THE GRACE OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST BE WITH YOU

Philippians 4 "20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever! Amen. 21 Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers who are with me greet you. 22 All the saints greet you, especially those who are of Caesar's household. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."

COMMENTS: What a wonderful thing it is to say as a redeemed one, that all glory should be given forever and ever to the one who is our God, and also our Father! This is the blessing all Christians share in Christ, and we can exclaim about our agreement with Paul by adding our own amen. Paul encouraged the Philippian believers to give greetings to every saint in Christ Jesus, and to know that the believers who were directly with him sent their greetings along with his. He then expanded that greeting to include all the believers at Rome, and he wanted them to know especially that greetings were included from those who were part of Caesar's household. How wonderful that even though Paul was being held as a prisoner, he witnessed that the gospel had reached into the midst of the emperor's household. Certainly God's grace was being evidenced in Rome, so it was very fitting to close the letter by saying "the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen."

When Gentiles had been accepted at part of the body of Christ at Antioch without first converting to Judaism as some were insisting, Paul and Silas went to Jerusalem to have the matter settled. Peter spoke up to validate the conversion of Gentiles as he referred to his own personal experience with Gentiles at Caesarea. Acts 15 "7 When there had been much discussion, Peter rose up and said to them, "Brothers, you know that a good while ago God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the nations should hear the word of the Good News, and believe. 8 God, who knows the heart, testified about them, giving them the Holy Spirit, just like he did to us. 9 He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you tempt God, that you should put a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they are."" After the apostles and elders at Jerusalem had affirmed that Gentiles become Christians by grace through faith, part of the close of Paul's second letter to the Corinthians was very similar to the phrase he now used for his letter to the Philippians. 2 Corinthians 13 "14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen."

--- REFLECTIONS IN PRAYER ---

Lord, I ask that you enable me to be like-minded with other believers, as we work together to stand firm in our belief in the gospel of Christ. I want to continually renew my rejoicing in you, Lord, as I remember that my name is written in the book of life. Since your return is imminent for me as one of those you have saved, I want to act upon Paul's instruction to let my gentleness to be known to all people. Lord, I also want to avoid any pattern of anxiety by showing my trust in you as I pray with petition and thanksgiving to receive the peace that surpasses all understanding, which will guard my heart and thoughts in Christ Jesus.

Thank you, Lord, for those things Paul listed as examples of how we as Christians can keep our thoughts focused on you as our God of peace: whatever things are true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, to think about these things. I want to be content whether I have luxuries beyond the necessities, or when I experience hard times, as I seek to do all things through Christ who strengthens me. When you, Lord, supply me in abundance directly through the generosity of other Christians, may I show my appreciation to them, while realizing this is also a fruit of their service to you. For them, and for me whenever I have the opportunity to do likewise for someone, may these actions become a sweet-smelling fragrance, an acceptable and well-pleasing sacrifice to God. I believe that in eternal matters you, my God, will supply every need of mine according to your riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Therefore, my desire is that all glory be to you, my God and Father, forever and ever! Amen.

Published 16 December 2015