“Heavenly Father, as we reach the top of “Mount Philippians” help us to keep our footing, to take each step carefully. Mountain Tops can be dangerous, Lord, and we do not want to fall. Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the wisdom you poured into Paul and Timothy. From the top of this mountain, let us see what they saw.”
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. 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 honorable, 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.
This is the “Great Sayings of Paul” paragraph. I think this is the most interesting part of the letter. It’s also the most difficult. I feel my lack of “seminary training” as I meditate on these verses. I had to consult someone who has studied Greek to get a clarification on verse 8. I had to look up “forbearance” and I am still uncertain about Paul’s actual meaning. In spite of that and other tough to comprehend words and phrases, here’s what I think. You are welcome to read what the experts say in their commentaries first. Here are the links from Bible Gateway:
The IVP Commentaries have quite a bit to say about these verses. First, they summarize the end of the letter, here. You might note that they seem to separate vs. 1-3 from the rest of chapter 4. They call the section we study today “Concluding Exhortations” and then add two more essays on it. The essay on vs. 8 & 9 is of cultural and linguistic importance. If you don’t read anything else from the commentaries, please give this one a look. Also, Matthew Henry provides one of his better commentaries.
We have reached the pinnacle of “Mount Philippians”. Three of these four verses (4-7) are quoted frequently – very frequently –by many Christians. Most famous is, I think, verse 4. I even named my website after it. However, rarely do these verses get quoted together. “Rejoice” is often tossed out as a platitude whenever things are not going well. Same with verse 6. And verse 7 is treated like it’s part of The Armor of God. That is one of the things I find interesting. We pull these verses out of context, using them in ways that, to me, make them sound like platitudes.
Paul is addressing the dissension and/or confusion that have generated around Syntyche and Euodia. I am not at all certain that Paul has changed the subject here. If there is dissension how better to unite than to “Rejoice in the Lord”? The three verses that follow this are actually a continuation of the thought. It is my opinion that verses 2-7 are all one thought.
Look at verse 4 as if you had never seen or heard it. Note the context. First is the idea that our names are written in the Book of Life. That alone is cause for rejoicing. He follows the command to rejoice with “forbearance” or “gentleness” because Jesus is near. We should not worry, but pray with thanksgiving. Why? Because the Peace of God is within us, guarding us. And while all of this is great reason to rejoice, it is also the solution to the problem facing Euodia and Syntyche and all of the Church at Philippi. I think that is really interesting. Vs. 8 & 9 are his heart for them. They are hurting. These are words of comfort.
No, St. Paul is not tossing out some isolated, but great, advice here. Beginning with vs. 1, “Therefore, my brothers and sisters” and continuing with vs. 8 “Finally, beloved” St. Paul is summarizing this entire letter. The first quarter of this letter deals with being a prisoner for Christ. Paul expresses Joy in each and every way that Christ is preached. Then he discusses obedience. He reassures them that both he and Timothy are coming soon. The third quarter of this letter deals with heresy and staying faithful. And now we get it put together in a nice summary.
The IVP Commentary discusses how Paul was very much aware of the fact that this letter would be read to the congregation. So, when we read this (and all of Paul’s letters) we need to read it out loud; best, maybe, for someone to read it to us. (Bible Gateway has audio versions of the Bible.)
These verses are a wonderful place for meditation.