A Bird’s-Eye View of Philippians

In the first four verses of Philippians 4, Paul used three expressions which include the words “in the Lord”. Each expression refers back to something he had said in the preceding chapters and, in a sense, the phrases summarize the contents of the earlier three chapters.

1."Stand fast in the Lord”, 4.1.

In chapter 1 Paul had exhorted the saints to “stand fast in one spirit … striving together for the faith of the gospel”, v. 27. Paul himself provided an example of steadfastness. He was writing the letter when imprisoned. But, although he was in chains, he was not in despair. His imprisonment, he declared, had meant a personal witness to the imperial guards and to many others who passed through. Also, his unflinching stand for God had encouraged many others to proclaim His word boldly. It was true that some were preaching just to annoy the apostle. But he was not annoyed. “However such men may look at it”, he says, “the fact remains that Christ is being preached, and in that I rejoice”. “I am standing firm”, he is saying, “and you must do so too".

2."The same mind in the Lord",

4. 2. Chapter 2 opens with Paul’s desire that the Philippians be of the same mind, living together in harmony and love. This unity could only be achieved by removing all selfishness and vanity. Paul told the Philippians that they should be concerned about the needs and interests of others. He cited the examples of: (a) Christ. For the sake of others He became a man, humbled Himself in living a life of utter obedience to God, and even died on a cross, {b) Paul, He was willing to suffer martyrdom if this meant gain to them, (c) Timothy, He was commended for his genuine interest in their wellbeing. (d) Epaphroditus. He had delivered their gifts of money to Paul. As a result of his exertions for Christ, he had been taken seriously ill and had almost died. Now he was worried, because he knew that they had found out that he had been ill and he wanted to spare them any anxiety on his part. He was looking to their interests, not his own.

3. "Rejoice in the Lord”, 4. 4,

Chapter 3 opens with the command to rejoice in the Lord. Regrettably there were false teachers around Philippi, who boasted of their being Jews and who were trying to bring the Christians into bondage to the law of Moses. Paul pointed out that, if anything, he was more of a Jew than they, and that he had far more to boast about than they. Becoming a Christian had, however, changed his whole outlook on life. He now regarded all his former privileges and advantages as useless rubbish compared with possessing Christ. Now he found all his joy and boast in the Lord Jesus. He pointed out further that believers have good grounds for their joy. We are already citizens of the heavenly country and have the hopeful expectation that the Saviour will return. He will then remake our bodies to resemble His own glorious body by the very power which makes Him Lord of all.

The rest of chapter 4 is mainly concerned with two things. First, the mind, (a) The Christian should tell God every detail of his needs in earnest and thankful prayer. He will then enjoy the luxury of having his mind and heart guarded from worry and anxiety by the peace of God, vv. 6-7. (b) The Christian should fix his mind firmly on those things which are true, honourable, just, pure, beautiful and good, v. 8. It is wrong, therefore, for him to feed his mind today with books or television programmes which do not meet these standards. Second, the Philippians’ gifts of money, which they had sent to Paul. He explained that he could have managed without the money, but was happy to receive it because it was a credit to their account in God’s reckoning. Paul was unable to repay them himself but, nevertheless, they would not be losers. They had supplied some of his needs out of their poverty; his God would supply ail of their needs out of His unlimited wealth. We learn here about our privilege of supporting God’s servants in their work for Him, about the need to acknowledge courteously what others have done for us, and about God’s willingness to provide for all our needs.

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