The Letter of Paul to the Philippians Chapter 4

by Mike Ratliff

I know both how to be humbled and how to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to hunger, both to abound and to have lack. I can do all things in the one empowering me.  (Philippians 4:12,13 Possessing the Treasure New Testament Version 1)

The enemy of our souls, Satan, does not attack believers in such a way that we should recognize him as being who he is. Instead, he comes disguised as the voice behind the theologian from the best seminary who may be the leader with a huge church empire and also be the author of many best-selling books. How does he attack what we call the Orthodox Christian faith? You know, the preaching of the gospel, the weekly opening of the Word of God, the sacraments of baptism and the Lord’s supper, et cetera. He attacks that by putting people in place that both insist on and those who promise to deliver “more.” You know, taking emphasis away from all that stuff above and giving people “what they really want!” Sometimes the leaders doing this think this is what the people really want, but it is not. That is when the sheep go to their pastors and ask to be fed rather than be entertained. What happens most of the time nowadays when that takes place? 

In this post, we will look at the concluding chapter of Philippians in which the Apostle Paul continues to encourage the Philippians while seeking reconciliation between two women in disagreement. He also calls for them to pursue joyful faith and disciplined thinking.

So then, my beloved and longed for brothers, the joy and my crown, stand firm in the Lord. I appeal to Euodia and to Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also true yoke-fellow, assist them who contended in the gospel alongside me with both Clement and my co-workers whose names are in the Book of Life. Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious in nothing, but in everything, by prayer and by petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God surpassing all understanding will guard your hearts and thoughts in Christ Jesus. As to the rest, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever honorable, whatever righteous, whatever pure, whatever lovely, whatever well-spoken of, if any virtue and if any praise, take account of these things, which you both learned and received as you heard and saw them in me. Practice these and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:1-9 Possessing the Treasure New Testament Version 1) 

It is obvious that Paul had a close and intimate relationship with the believers at Philippi. Here he calls them the joy and his crown. They were not so just because they believed the gospel, but because of their perseverance and growing into maturity in Christ. Here, he exhorts them to continue to stand firm and makes sure that everyone understands that true perseverance is always “in the Lord.” Not one of us can do it through sheer will power. No, we do so as we abide in Christ (John 15).

In vv2,3 Paul mentions Euodia and Syntyche whom he appeals to agree in the Lord. What an exhortation! Paul knows what the conflict is, but does not mention it. Notice that it is not a doctrinal issue and simply appeals that they reconcile in the Lord. How often to believers hold petty differences that are simply held in the bitter parts of our hearts as trophies of pride? Paul’s answer is to forget that and agree in the Lord. Peace in the Body of Christ is worth far more than petty differences like what color to paint the walls. He also calls on all those hearing this letter or reading it to assist these women in making up.

What is the next step? Rejoice in the Lord. I promise you, those two women were not doing that while in conflict. Christians must start here and then let their reasonableness be known to all men. This disposition seeks what is best for everyone not just for oneself. What is the admonition? The Lord is near! When he returns, it is as judge. I for one do not want things like this to be outstanding when I stand before him to give an account.

In vv 8,9 Paul gives us a list of things to fill our minds with that will inspire worship of God and service of others. If we will do this, what will be the result? The God of peace will be with us.

I greatly rejoiced in the Lord that you now at last have revived your concern of me. You were thinking of me, but were lacking opportunity to help. Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever my circumstances to be content. I know both how to be humbled and how to abound. In everything and in all things I have learned the secret both to be filled and to hunger, both to abound and to have lack. I can do all things in the one empowering me. Nevertheless, you did well in having become partners with me in my affliction. And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I went from Macedonia, not one church shared with me in an accounting of expenditures and receipts except you only. Because indeed, in Thessaloniki, both once and again you sent help to me. Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit increasing to your account. But I have all things and I abound. I have been filled having received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent, a fragrant odor, an acceptable and well-pleasing sacrifice to God. And my God will fill every need of yours according to his wealth in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be the glory into the ages of the ages. Amen. Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brothers with me greet you. All the saints greet you and especially the ones of Caesar’s household. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit. (Philippians 4:10-23 Possessing the Treasure New Testament Version 1)

In vv10-13 Paul talks about the gift the Philippians sent to him via Epaphroditus. He uses this to talk about contentment and the need for believers to be generous for spiritual reasons. The contentment Paul talks about here is an alien thing to this flesh bound world. Paul told them that he had learned to be content when hungry or when full, when he had nothing or when had plenty. From where did he say this ability came? In v13 he said, “I can do all things in the one empowering me. ” What this means is that God empowers believers to obey Him in service to Him and to others. God used the fires of tribulation, thorns in the flesh, et cetera, to train Paul in growing in Grace to this level of maturity.

Notice that the Philippians were special to Paul because they not only prayed for his ministry, but they helped fund it through financial support. They contributed to his work long after he left Macedonia.

Paul used the metaphor of an offering at the Temple in reference to the gift given to Paul’s ministry by the Philippians. He called it a fragrant odor, an acceptable and well-pleasing sacrifice to God. The principle remains for us today. If we are generous toward God, we will find that he is generous toward us and will supply all our needs in Christ Jesus. What more do we need?

Soli Deo Gloria!

 

6 thoughts on “The Letter of Paul to the Philippians Chapter 4

  1. The average western believer is far from content. Let his air conditioning go out, or let his employer mistreat him, or let his roof begin to leak and you may see how his outward contentment is tethered to his outward circumstances and not his inward faith to Christ and His eternal truths, We have a long way to go before we can truthfully say our culture of entitlement does not influence us.

  2. Maybe in part western Christianity is shallow; but there are certainly those in the western church who are content in Christ in the midst of abundance – which is, I think, a very hard thing to be! I have prayed Proverbs 30:7-9 since the day I first read it in the Bible; it struck me how it sounded just like Matthew 6:9-13. I find it a comforting reminder of how God knows our sinful tendencies, that if we have more or less than our daily bread, we are prone to transgression either way. I do admit there have been times when I have been swayed by outward circumstances, but the Lord is faithful, always.

    Nonetheless, I think it’s safe to say that there is room for every believer to grow in grace and continue to learn true contentment; just when we think we know something, we know it not as we ought.

    As far as the two women who won’t reconcile – I find myself in those shoes, though I am desirous of reconciliation, the other parties are not. It is a grievous thing to me. I hope my friends and I can reconcile before we go home to the Lord.

  3. Good points Carolyn. I’ve tried to be the one who helped Christians reconcile, to agree in the Lord, but have seen only bitterness and such. It makes one wonder at their maturity level…

  4. As an employee, I am not content when I have a job that is not worth the money I’m paid. I enjoy working smart and hard to help my company succeed and a back-water job that a high school kid could do at far less money drains me. My dear wife – now 33 years of marriage! – wrote me a note several years back, pointing me to 1 Thess 5:16-18 and rebuking me for griping about a job so many would love to have. Reminding me to be thankful for my premenapausal wife, my moody teeenage daughter, my sometimes insolent teenage son, and dogs that are always on the wrong side of the door. I am most thankful to God – and content with – my dear godly wife and rejoice in the goodness of our God and Father for His grace in our lives and for the gospel-focused church He has brought us to. How glorious is our God! May we learn to be content and thankful in all circumstance, for He has been most gracious to us!

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