Philippians Chapter 4 - "Through the Looking Glass"
February 1, 2019

C. R. Oliver

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February 1, 2019

Philippians Chapter 4 - "Through the Looking Glass"

"It's not what you look at that matters…. it's what you see"
Henry David Thoreau


Here we are at the final chapter of a series written in a three-year period between AD 60-62. Four books constitute the epistles written during Paul's first imprisonment. Intentionally, I have not covered the book of Ephesians (on purpose)-I wanted to savor the wonders of its pages as a grand display of a believer's privileges in Christ, while holding in mind the content of Colossians, Philemon and Philippians. They cover the things not fully found in the first-they are not after thoughts, but act as qualifiers.

Paul stepped through the final "Therefore" gate of his four prison epistles and gave his beloved Church a glimpse of four life principles which have guided him. It is as if he is taking the position of the early patriarchs and blessing them with insights into his inner person-he wants them to live like he does, using these four standards.

Notice how he sets up this final chapter by the manner he closed out with in chapter three. What he discusses in chapter four is premised on EVERYTHING he covered up to this point (including all of Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and the first three chapters of Philippians). He ended chapter three with this powerful note:

Philippians 3:20-21:
20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

Heaven's citizens live by a higher standard with greater rights than earthly kingdoms. Heaven's overriding consideration is the establishment of Jesus' rule on earth as it is there. His soon return to earth, in triumphant power, renders all other considerations as trivial and establishes priorities beyond the realm of earthly economies, governments and social standing. We are citizens now- not when we enter heaven's gates.

The believer's kingdom is ruled by a kingly high priest who "is able to subdue all things to Himself." (Is there a fierce force coming against you? He is able to subdue it! Is there an insurmountable situation where one faces the chances of death by incurable disease? He is able to subdue it! Is there a debt issue that looks like there is no channel of hope? He is able to subdue it!)

Cast an eye to the word: "subdue." Realize it knows no parameters, has no boundaries, fears no foe, has no favorites, never fails or loses, conquers to the uttermost and shouts "victory" before the battle begins.

Subdue: NT:5293 hupotasso (hoop-ot-as'-so); from NT:5259 and NT:5021; to subordinate; reflexively, to obey:
KJV - be under obedience (obedient), put under, subdue unto, (be, make) subject (to, unto), be (put) in subjection (to, under), submit self unto.

Now, comes the "Therefore" gate leading to closure-based on the fact of Jesus' power to subdue all things, these four life principles can be applied without qualifications.

But first, it must be noted Paul addressed his "first Macadonian Church" in endearing terms--and that for a reason-he wanted them to know they were part of him. Melded into his very being was a love that defied expression. Observe his tender embrace:

Philippians 4:1:
my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved.

Paul's repetition of "beloved" is interesting in that it indicates the depth of love he has for them. "Longed-for brethren" shows how deeply he is united with them. This "love letter" is furthered by "my joy and crown." (Please remember he participated in Stephen's death-now he uses the Greek word: stephanos [crown].)

Psalms 103 reminds us we are crowned with loving kindness and tender mercy. God does this for His beloved ones; now Paul joins in with, "You are my joy and crown." What greater accolade does one need?

This "joy and crown" insertion between "Therefore and stand fast in the Lord" gains significance when coupled with Paul's assessment of their sacrificial giving. He declares they are part and parcel of any reward garnered by his labor.

Philippians 4:17:
17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.

Vast doors open for those who sew into good soil-one enters into the field of endeavor and is invested in that field and is rewarded along with the harvesting laborers. Think of that! Oliver Evangelistic Association (OEA), through its contributors, has scattered offerings around the globe, so every Lord's day when the various congregations assemble, we rejoice in the growing number of those being born again and filled with the Spirit. We are part of them. I ask, "How does a local church-goer exist without that kind of 'entering in'?")

Next, Paul admonishes the Philippians to, "Stand Fast in the Lord." (Remember he has already written Galatians [40 AD], I and II Thessalonians [51AD], I and II Corinthians [56AD] and Romans [56,57AD], so the churches have access to these epistles and fully understand what he means by "stand fast.")

"Standing fast in the Lord" constitutes a stance and a commitment. A stance, in that one must maintain Biblical inerrancy (against all the intrusions, like the ones discussed in the previous chapters). It is also a commitment, in that one must maintain an "in the Lord" relationship. (It is one thing to cling to doctrinal purity and quite another to hear and do the will of God.)

In thinking of "standing fast" Paul considers what part unity plays in the "stand fast" admonition. He 'implores (a very strong word)" two ladies of the church to join that unity. Whatever their disagreement it must end. Upper Roomers were in "one accord" at Pentecost, and they stood in that unity. Unity changes the focus from self to serving others and Paul urges upon the congregation to minister to those ladies as well as to Clement and to all others who might have a need. Some say Clement was Bishop of Rome,* in which case he needed all the prayers he could get. Clement may have originally resided in Philippi. Nonetheless, the supreme attribute for all them was, "their names are in the Book of Life."

* According to Bible Hub, Clement was ordained by Peter and sent to Rome by the British Church.

How wonderful to be listed in that book, although not much is spoken about it in modern times. However, several passages in the book of Revelation address this volume. One of the most significant passages is this one:

Revelation 20:12-15:
And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. 13 The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. 14 Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

Other passages join this one and clarify certain aspects of the Book. For instance, it is possible to be blotted out of its pages (Rev. 3:5). Also, there is coming a time when the world stands against God, and those not found written in its pages are subjected to delusion and condemnation (Rev.13:8). Again, Heaven's citizenry is made up of only those found in the Book of Life (Rev. 22:27). Finally, anyone who adds to or takes away from the prophecy of Revelation will be expunged from the Book (Rev. 22:19).

So, when Paul references the Book of Life as the qualifier for his entreaty, he is dealing with a heavy hand. He uses a heavy hand when he "implores" two ladies of the church as well.

Philippians 4:2-3:
2 I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. 3 And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life.

His instruction in verse 4, to "rejoice in the Lord and again I say rejoice," is a transitional statement, much like when ministers say things like "Hallelujah, Give God Glory." Paul rejoiced in whatever circumstances he found around him. He truly knew what it was to abound and to be abased. Circumstances don't matter-rejoice when you feel like it or don't feel like it, for feelings have nothing to do with rejoicing! In chapter 3, the overflowing benefits of rejoicing were merited as an exclusive rite of the believer.

Almost as an afterthought, Paul added a dimension which would adjust the churches' attitude toward each other.

Philippians 4:5:
5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.

As one delves into various translations and word studies of NT:1933 epieikes (fair, moderate, gentle), some interesting variations of meaning begin to appear. Words like "equitable," "forbearing" and "considerate" begin to show up to color what is said. One translation goes as far as saying "not insistent on the letter of the Law." Paul is basically striking out against contention and dispute, as was displayed by Euodia and Syntyche. Simply put, he is calling for them to appreciate one other and remember the Lord is coming soon, maybe today! The soon return of Jesus makes some items irrelevant. (This could be preached today in light of some of the vicious divisions taking place.) Paul is repeating his "let each esteem the other higher than himself" found in the previous chapters.

The soon return of Jesus was a constant anticipation among the early believers. Verse 1 and verse 5 reference this expectancy. One ancient writer took to task the erosion of this expectancy, which was prominent and important to those who saw Him leave on a cloud. (Imagine the bride who is separated from her betrothed who has departed on a journey. We see His bride longing for His return. We see her desire to see His form on the horizon and experience the thrill of that moment as it casts aside all other considerations. The early church made much of the soon return of Christ-the latter church does not [see: Solomon's Secret for a full discussion]).


1. Life Principle number one: "Be careful for nothing."

1. Philippians4:6-9:

6. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, 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 minds through Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, 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 anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things. 9 The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.

In the June 1, 2018, Newsletter, I chose these three verses for an entire letter-I encourage the reader to go to the archives and read it again. However, they are easily understood and act as a defense against anxiety and worry.

Jesus' teaching about "take no thought" regarding clothing and food (your Heavenly Father knows what you have need of) can be easily associated with Paul's instructions.

Think of what Paul faced on a daily basis. Not only was he in prison for an undetermined period, he had the responsibility as an Apostle for the welfare of the many churches he established. When he was not imprisoned, the sheer logistics associated with his journeys was staggering. What would be his source for funds, where would he find lodging, what circumstances would he find upon arrival at his destination? Then there was the constant harangue of Judaizers, as well as the Jerusalem officialdom, complicating his work with the local congregation (whoever that might be, based on their response to his preaching). Pagan idolatry, philosophic bigotry and religious idiocy was everywhere to be confronted (see: book of Acts). His answer: "Be careful for nothing."

Bring every condition, consideration and fear to the Throne! There is where the peace of God is found. There is where Christ's promises to garrison one's heart and mind is found.

(Is this not the message which should grace our pulpits? Is this not the practicum which should be our first response? For those who determine to live by the Word, is this not the word?)

"Be careful for nothing" has no place for worry, fear or doubt. There is no situation, circumstance or problem it does not cover. There are no exceptions!

Bring this truth home and survey all the issues causing the believer consternation and bathe them with thanksgiving and bring them to the throne.

Then, with garrisoned mind, put your thoughts through the test of verses 8-9. Those criteria are serial: Is it true, noble, just (righteous), pure, lovely, good report, virtuous, praiseworthy? Having checked off each spiritual tab, the next step is to meditate on those areas.

Paul practiced this mental surgery, and he called for his congregation to follow his example. Having been tested in shipwreck and solitary confinement, riot and rigor, betrayal and beatings- this works!

2. Life Principle number two: "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Philippians 4:10-13:
10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at last your care for me has flourished again; though you surely did care, but you lacked opportunity. 11 Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things, I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. NKJV

Really there are two principles in this one set of verses.
          a. Be content no matter the circumstances.
          b. Depend on Christ's strengthening power.

Paul did not itinerate (seeking sponsorship financially). He was, however, grateful for the resources that were sent him (v.10). Like a father who understood their situation, he did not fault them when they sent nothing. He rejoiced to know they cared for him and that they sent an offering.

He was not "under" his circumstances, for he ruled over them with the knowledge he was able to overcome any situation with "Christ who strengthens me." The "tent maker" was dependent on no man. He did not "trust the sweetest frame, but wholly leaned on Jesus' Name." (Every missionary I know has had to take verse 13 and own it for themselves.)

3. Life Principle number three: those who invest their time and resources share in the results.

Philippians 4:17:
Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account.

Giving is an investment in souls reached and lives that are changed. The same one who recognized the labor of others alongside himself (Paul planted and Apollos watered, but God gave the increase.) now reveals that God records and keeps accounts of these investments.

(Churches should be constantly sewing into mission endeavors and getting reports back from those areas. [I know of one congregation which has built a church a month in areas of central America and Africa].)

Philippians 4:16-19:
For even in Thessalonica you sent aid once and again for my necessities. 17 Not that I seek the gift, but I seek the fruit that abounds to your account. 18 Indeed I have all and abound. I am full, having received from Epaphroditus the things sent from you, a sweet-smelling aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God.

4. Life Principle number four: "My God shall supply all your needs."

Philippians 4:19:
19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

Somehow, there is a reciprocity involved in the matter of offerings sent to meet the needs of those evangelizing and making disciples of the lost. For one thing, there is a special sense of fulfillment when someone gets involved in the work of the Lord. Believers often are prompted by the Spirit where to send funds or lend a hand. Many times, assistance comes just in the nick of time and is an answer to prayer. When churches and their congregations listen to the Spirit, there will be no lack in the body. The issue today is not the lack of funds, it is the lack of response to the prompting of the Lord.

This forth principle is such a wonderful promise to believers, for there are many situations in the corporate body where depending on this word by faith is all the answer one can rely upon.

Paul closed the four-book series with a greeting to and from the saints (holiness ones). Realize, a saint-greeting incorporates more than a casual "howdy;" it begins with a holy kiss and involves blessing and heartfelt love.

The final interesting note in this closure is Paul's reference to the "household of Caesar.**" Even in prison, Paul's witness reached into his captor's ranks and the gospel did its work.

**Possibly these are the Pudens mentioned in Romans16:13 "greet Rufus." Rufus Pudens was Paul's half-brother. He was a Senator and married to a British Princess. Romans 16:15 mentions Julia. She was the daughter of Emperor Claudias and was married to the British Christian King Arviragus.

The first Christian Church above ground was in the British Palace in Rome. (Contributed by Betty A. Oliver, using the research of George F. Jowett, The Drama of the Lost Disciples, Covenant Publishing, 2004.

Hallelujah to the cross! His Word will never return void!

Until Next month,

Dr. Cosby R. Oliver, PhD.


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Last modified: 02/04/2019