Last chapter, we saw Paul telling us about how our citizenship is in Heaven, and it is from there that we wait for our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will save us completely, spirit soul, and body when He returns. Just before that, he told us about false brethren, whom Paul called “enemies of the cross of Christ,” and listed off how we could recognize them. (Their real god is their own appetite, they glory in their shame, and they set their mind on earthly priorities.) Paul is saying that we need to live as citizens of Heaven in the here and now, because Jesus inaugurated the Kingdom of God, and we are to follow Him as born (again) citizens of that realm.
This is a good spot to jump into the first verse:
1: Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.
- Okay! The verse starts with everyone’s favorite word! Therefore! What do we do when we see the word therefore? We see what it’s there for! I know, I know, a preposition is a poor word to end a sentence with. [wink] Usually, we get a clue from the previous thought, and this is no different. 3:17 begins a thought, and it tells us to join Paul in following Godly example, and we can confirm that clue with this verse itself – “in this way stand firm in the Lord…”
- Paul calls his friends in Philippi beloved brethren [agapetoi adelphoi, divine birth-brothers (adelphia means “from the womb”), speaking, I believe of the New Birth, born again, or born from above, as Jesus said. Whom he greatly desires, his joy [chara, calm gladness] and crown [stephanos, the crown won in the games].
- In this way. What way is Paul referring to? Remember, every text has a context. If the context is ignored, then anything I say is pretext. 3:17-21 talks about how we are to live out our citizenship in Heaven even in the midst of false brethren.
- Stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. Where else have we seen “stand firm?” Ephesians 6 in the description of the complete armour of God, where we read that God has supplied everything we need to stand for Him in an evil day. Paul concludes the verse with “my beloved,” which reminds me that we are divinely loved, and cared for.
2: I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.
- Apparently, just because we have someone rub us the wrong way, it doesn’t mean they are among the false brethren described in the previous chapter. Here are two women that Paul knew personally, and he knew they had issues with each other. What those issues were are not mentioned, but I did hear it put like this a long time ago – their names could be pronounced “You-odious” and “Soon-touchy.” Whatever their issues were, it is not good to have squabbles in our midst. We need to choose harmony and unity with our brothers and sisters in Christ. Why does God allow this? I believe it is so we can practice our Christianity. Sometimes, that means deliberately taking a back seat or giving place to another. Sometimes it means keeping your mouth closed and just breathing. I’m learning to do a lot of that as the moderator here. Live in harmony [phroneo, thoughts and understandings]. We need to think differently about each other sometimes. And I’m a pretty perceptive guy, and have been reading people for my entire life – it was a basic survival skill when I was growing up. Sometimes, that’s really hard. But think of it this way – can you really know what someone else is thinking? And even if you were right, so what? Does it change what God wants? Probably not.
3: Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
- Here, we get a small window of insight into the gathering at Philippi. Paul is clearly addressing his correspondence to an individual that fellowshipped at Philippi. Hey, somebody Paul trusted had to get the mail, right? Just saying. He calls this person a true [gnesios, genuine] companion [suzugos, yokefellow]. Who does Paul send the physical letter to? Someone he knows is a genuine yokefellow, someone who is engaged in the work God is doing in Philippi. Now I ask you – is everyone that attends worship on any given Sunday engaged in the work of God there? Remember those false brethren? And what about real brethren that are living according to the flesh? Complacent or backslidden? All of these and more are possibilities. We don’t ever learn his name, because it isn’t important. But he was – because he was a genuine yokefellow, doing the work.
- What does he say to that yokefellow? He says, “help these women.” Paul knew them both, and knew they set each other off. I’ve known brothers like that. Heck, I’ve been the soon-touchy one occasionally, because of my background of an abusive dad. He knew that both women were servants of Christ. And he knew that they were going to need a little help to learn Christ with respect to each other. He asks the genuine yokefellow to help them. He asks him to be a pastor, a shepherd, and guide them along the way.
- He tells us that Clement, and an unspecified number of others (we only know from his use of the plural that there was more than one) were workers for the Gospel, the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ and His redemption of humankind, and that their names were written in the Book of Life. All of these people were God’s sons and daughters. Guide them, he says to the genuine yokefellow. That really speaks to me personally, and in this verse I hear God’s call to me to shepherd His flock, and to be a pastor, whatever that means. How can all these people get along?
4: Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!
- A common source of joy [charete, be filled with calm gladness] – the Lord [kurios, the master]. When? Pantote, at all times. If you are constantly filled with the Joy of the Lord, then how can you NOT get along with everyone? The answer is that you will get along with everyone, because Christ is living through you – unless someone is deliberately being a stick in the mud. I’ve seen it, and it’s sad. People that will fight you over any little thing, even when they agree. They just seem to need to fight. No, brothers and sister, be filled with the JOY of the Lord. Rejoice always.
5: Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
- Gentle spirit [epieikes, gentle, seemly, equitable, yielding]. With everybody. This is something I attempt to practice. I admit I am not perfect, and that I can be provoked. But I am finding that if I can have that “gentle spirit,” or that fair-minded equity with all, then I am more able to help everyone around me. I stress, I am still learning.
- The Lord is near. This can mean two things – the first, and the way most people seem to understand it, is that the Lord is coming, and that time is soon. But it can also mean that He is ready, and nearby, if you’re finding a situation where having that gentle spirit is seeming very difficult. Why? Because Christians are under increasing public attack here in Canada and the USA. And those wingnuts that do NOT display that gentle spirit well are the ones the media are turning to for examples. People who name the name of Christ as their Lord speak openly about their rights to carry weapons for self-defense. I ask you – did Jesus ever carry a weapon for any reason? And this has been going on for over 30 years. When will we learn that we have no rights? We are God’s chosen servants. Our will should be His. And He doesn’t need guns to defend Himself. Because of this kind of issue, and others like it, we are increasingly being marginalized in society, which isn’t so bad. At least the line is clear. But worse, we are being viewed as the wingnuts that are causing all the problems. No, put an end to this. Yield to the Lord in your life, brothers and sisters. Let your gentle spirit, your attractive, fair-minded yielding nature be demonstrated to everyone. How else will they know us as “little Christs?”
- You know, I have a fiend I’ve known since kindergarten. He posted on Facebook that if you care more for supporting people who put kids in cages than feeding the poor and you call yourself a Christian, you suck at being a Christian. I agree with him, and we don’t agree on much. No, let your attractive, fair-minded, equitable, friendly, yielding nature be known. To everyone. At all times.
6: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.
- But Gerry! How can I do that? I hear you ask. This verse is your answer. First, lay your anxieties aside. Those of you who know me know I have a daughter with an anxiety-related disorder. It absolutely disables her. There are times where she just lays in bed and vibrates. There are other mental health issues here, but my point is that they trigger her anxiety, and that anxiety shuts her down. I know how serious anxiety attacks are, I have them too. So, what about us? Do we allow our nerves to rule us, or do we allow Christ to rule us? If we are real Christians, we have the choice. Lay that care aside. It doesn’t matter what it is.
- In EVERYTHING by prayer and supplication (an entreaty for a specific need) with thanksgiving (remember, worship, which is what this is should be our response to God’s work in our lives, not a demand for some mythical “breakthrough” to a higher level), request things of God. We need to become and remain a praying people. Not because God needs us to pray or His will won’t be done, but because He wants to invoilve us in His great work here.
7: And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
- Peace of God. [eirene, the quality of being undisturbed]. And Paul is right. It passes all comprehension. It makes no sense. And yet it guards our hearts, that is our decision-making center and ability, and our minds [nomea, thoughts], that is our ability to think and act, in Christ Jesus. It is a divine gift to us, given by grace, through faith, by Christ alone. It is our salvation in Christ, once again.
8: Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
- Okay, there’s a lot of stuff here, so let’s try to open it up and unpack it a bit for ourselves. Whatever is true [alethes, true, real]. The words and concepts are the same word in Greek. It is reflective of a set of facts that have basis in reality, not the fantasy world we can sometimes walk around in.
- Whatever is honourable. Semnos, reverend, venerable; dignified, honourable. What gives people dignity. It isn’t breaking up parents and children that are trying to better their lives and sticking the kids in guarded cages. You know, I have a friend I’ve known since kindergarten. He lives in the US now, and he is most decidedly not a Christian by his own confession. He says it like this – if you care more about defending people who put kids in cages than you do about feeding the poor or clothing the homeless and you call yourself a Christian, then you suck at being a Christian. I agree. How does this bring dignity and honour to the situation?
- Whatever is right. Dikaios, correct, righteous, innocent. What adds to the facts? How about being correct? How about being innocent, not trying to gain points for yourself or your thing? How about the right thing for the right reasons?
- Whatever is pure. Hagnos, the noun form of hagios. It means holy, or sacred. Free from sin. Is this possible? It must be, or Paul would not have added it to this list of sorts. Thinking about how something is holy before the Lord is never a futile exercise.
- Whatever is lovely. The margin here says whatever is loveable and gracious. The Greek word is prosphiles, and it means pleasing or agreeable. Personally, I find being agreeable pleasing, so long as no compromise of my Christianity is involved. Find things to agree on, not argue about. Remember last week, those guys that are like a dog with a bone. Don’t be like that.
- Whatever is of good repute. Whatever has something good to be said about it. The Greek here is euphemos, and we get our word euphemism from it, but this is a change in word meaning, and not correct to consider. I just wanted to let you know that. The original meaning is “well reported of.” (There it is again – a preposition is a poor word to end a sentence with…)
- If there is any excellence. Arete, moral goodness. So if it is a good thing to do, a good thing to say, a right thing done for right reasons, someone putting forward a great effort, saying a kind word, that kind of thing.
- If anything worthy of praise. Epainos, commendation, saying good things about. Hard to do if all you are interested in is the headline news, I agree. Try instead looking on the bright side of something.
- Dwell of these things. The margin here says ponder these things. The sense of the Greek is to logically and calmly think about these things. This is one of the definitions I have learned over the years of western meditation. Eastern philosophy encourages the emptying of the mind of thought, and that actually has a place in Christian practice (listening for instructions of God, learning to be quiet), but western meditation takes a subject matter and makes it a focus of detailed thought to investigate and expound a matter. Scientific method had its beginnings here, in fact. Systematic focus on these things that Paul has written is never a futile exercise or fruitless in terms of spiritual growth.
9: The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
- Learned [manthano, (comes from the root for math, which is why most people don’t like it! Ha ha!), to learn; Received [paralambano, to receive from]; Heard [akouo, to hear or to listen]; Seen [horao, to see, perceive or attend to]; Practice [prasso, to do]
- Paul is saying that as we practice following his example, particularly from verse 8, but not limited to it, that God of peace [eirene, the quality of being undisturbed] will be with us.
10: But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity.
- Remember that Paul did not often accept support, particularly financial support. Philippi was the exception, it seems, and these brothers and sisters were very committed to supporting Paul. Paul here references that in the past, they lacked opportunity. Why? Well, Paul was what we would call in these times a bivocational minister – he was a pastor and teacher, and he also earned money by working as a tent maker to support himself. I used to fellowship in a place that believed that ALL servants of God should support themselves, and that is what they actively taught. However, I think God has some servants that are worthy of congregational support, and those are they who would study the Scriptures for the purposes of shepherding the people of God. I’m not the only one that had that opinion either, clearly that is how the saints at Philippi thought with respect to Paul. God allows for both – even Jesus had people who supported Him financially in His earthly ministry.
- This brings me to a point that is difficult for me. Those of you who know me or have heard me for a while now have heard me say that I hate asking people for money, and that’s true. But the fact is, I am a student pastor at the moment, and am not in a position to turn away gifts. I’m not asking for money, but I am asking that you prayerfully consider supporting this ministry with a monthly gift if that is what God lays on your heart. Moving on…
11: Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am.
- Paul is practicing a great principle in ministry – be content with what the Lord provides for you. The Greek word used for “content” here is autarkes, and means self-sufficient. Attention Jesse Duplantis! If you think that God wants you to have another jet for $54 million dollars, I suggest being self-sufficient here. This is not an endorsement of our old nature, the old self. This is an appeal to be able to stand on your own two feet, rather than bilk people out of their hard-earned resources. And friends, this is WHY I hate asking people for money. It always sounds like I’m begging, and I’m not. See what Paul means here. Next verse.
12: I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.
- Paul is saying here that money is not the main point, nor should it be the focus of our ministry. Jesse Duplantis would doubtless tell you that this would be for the work of the ministry. Is this because the three other jets you’ve bought won’t fly anymore? Or are you just getting used to the perks of the false prosperity gospel you preach?
- Paul said that he knew how to get along when there was no money, and he knew how to get along when there was lots of money. Paul had been through both. One thing the Lord has prepared me for in ministry is to show me that money comes, and money goes. Sometimes you will have more than enough. Sometimes you will have need, sometimes desperate need. Like Paul, I can tell you that God never lets you suffer without there being a point. My wife can tell you. When the kids were babies (and there were only two of them then), we were at our wits end. If we paid the power bill, the kids wouldn’t have formula or diapers. We prayed. At the end of our prayer together, someone pushed an envelope through the mail slot. In that envelope, there was enough money to go and get some groceries and feed ourselves and the kids and stock up on supplies for the babies. Now – we didn’t tell anyone how bad off we were then. God honoured that commitment we made to Him.
- Even when God doesn’t meet all your needs, there is always a reason for it. There is nothing we suffer here that is not 100 percent Father-approved before it happens. And it ALWAYS has a point or a lesson attached to it.
13: I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
- And Paul is saying that no matter what circumstance he finds himself in, no matter what lesson the Lord is teaching him, whatever God is having him face at the time, he can go through it – because God strengthens him to go through it.
- A word here, this is a verse that is often used without the context of the surrounding verses. Although it is true, it finds its true meaning within the context of the surrounding verse. Remember, text without context can be pretext, and that’s very dangerous spiritually.
14: Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.
- And after all that, stuff about how Paul is actually able to support himself, and he can make do with whatever the Lord brings his way, I think this is his way of saying thank you to his brothers and sisters in Christ at Philippi.
15: You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone;
- Paul again telling us that he did not often accept provision from others. He is in fact telling them that He ONLY accepted resources from them, and no one else as he went forward on his missionary journey.
16: for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.
- Paul reminds them that they supported him multiple times!
17: Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.
- Here is the mark of a real servant of God. He doesn’t NEED you to give. He’s going to do what he does regardless of what you do in terms of giving. But the true minister of the Gospel understands that your giving is of spiritual value to you. I need to be very precise here, because a lot of false theology has been formed around this topic.
- This is NOT you planting a seed of faith. In the Word of Faith movement, and among a movement referred to as the New Apostolic Reformation (which isn’t new, doesn’t actually have apostles, and isn’t reformed at all), the teaching is that you need to “plant your seed in faith.” This is false teacher code for “Send me your money.” Along with this teaching goes the false teaching that the “bigger your seed, the bigger your faith, the bigger your reward.” More code, meaning the more money you send, the bigger your payoff from the bank card in the sky. This is ABSOLUTELY false, and those who teach it, like Jesse Duplantis (recently in the news for his demand for a new $54-million-dollar jet for his “ministry”), will have a lot to answer for when our Chief Shepherd returns. So why does Paul say “the profit which increases to your account?”
- Paul speaks here of a couple things, the first of which is a spirit of generosity. We SHOULD be generous and giving, and not just with our wallets. If we can volunteer our time, we should, and likewise ability, ideas, like that. The second is the learning of being good stewards of what God actually gives us. Or did you think all that stuff was actually yours? Friends, Job said that we came naked into the world, and we will leave it the same way. Anything you have now, God gave you. And if you think you earned it with your own talents and knowledge, who gave you those talents and knowledge, or the brain to learn those things in the first place? Paul understood this, and he was communicating this to the Philippians, and thus to us.
18: But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.
- Paul is letting them know first that he received their gift to the Lord on his behalf. The second thing is that their messenger Epaphroditus was faithful in getting it all there to Paul. And finally, Paul acknowledges that this is an acceptable sacrifice to God, giving to God’s servants that are doing the work of God, using the same language used in the Old Testament for the whole burnt offering to God. God is pleased by this spirit of generosity, the faithful stewardship of what He has given us to look after, and our selfless giving to Him and His work. Please note, there is NO promise of reciprocation here. NOWHERE here does it say that if you “loan your money to God,” that He will “repay you 30, 60, and 100-fold according to your faith.” This is a horrible twisting of scripture by false teachers that Paul has mentioned and called the enemies of the cross of Christ in the previous chapter.
19: And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
- This is what I was saying when we looked at verse 12. Again, I need to be precise here. God will supply your NEEDS. Not your every desire. That’s stuff the Bible talks about NOWHERE. I know God loves us, and I know He will bless us, but that doesn’t mean He will give us all endless supplies of money or resources just so we can be comfortable. That isn’t what the ministry of the Gospel is all about. Even the world recognizes this concept. The Rolling Stones wrote the song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want.” You know why that is? It’s because God loves us – He knows that our sin nature would cause us to spiral out from Him to our own destruction if we ever did end up with this junk. But what we NEED? Oh yes, every time. And what we REALLY need, not what we think we need.
20: Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
- And after all that explanation and thank you to the saints at Philippi, Paul gives thanks to God, which should ALWAYS be our response to Him, regardless of whether we are paupers or have plenty, because HE is the one in control, and HE is ALWAYS good.
21: Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you.
- I can remember back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the gathering I was a part of communicated with other gatherings by letter as the easiest way to get news out, prayer requests, etcetera. This was in the days before email, and things like Facebook or Twitter. The brother writing the letter was careful to greet every saint. Why? Because every one of those “holy ones” [hagios] was redeemed by the Lord. Every one of them was following the Lord Jesus Christ. It fostered a real closeness between us and other gatherings. When I had occasion to travel to some of the other cities that had associated gatherings, it was like going to your brother’s or sister’s home. I met people in those places with whom I have formed lasting relationships that are closer than with my own family, and I have a fairly close family to start with. Why? Because we greeted each other in Christ at every opportunity. And we greeted them back.
22: All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.
- Paul here is giving a bit of information on the sly. He is telling us that there are members of Caesar’s family that have become Christians. Paul was NOT idle while imprisoned. He has already told us in his letter that the whole Praetorian Guard knew of Paul and knew the Gospel of Jesus, whether they came to faith or not. And now, some of Caesar’s household were counted among the “saints,” the most common word for believers in the New Testament.
23: The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.
Paul’s final word to his friends at Philippi? Grace [charis, kindness]. And not just any grace, but the best grace of all – the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. And He wishes that grace, the kindness of our Lord Jesus Christ, to be with our spirit, the seat of our spiritual connection with Him. He wants us to know that grace and see it have its true effect of transformation in our lives. It is a great way to end, and I with Paul, wish the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ to be with your spirit, because we are saved by grace, through faith, and that salvation is a gift of God to us. I wish for you all to continue to grow in that grace.
And that is Paul’s letter to the Philippians.