Philippians 4:4-13


Philippians 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

"Rejoice" is a key word in this Epistle. Cf. 1:18; 2:17.18.28; 3:1; 4:4.10.  "In the Lord" tells us that this rejoicing is possible because of what the Lord has done for us and that it is in keeping with His will, Word and work.  "Again" whether we are sad or glad, in all circumstances of life. The fact that he repeats this injunction shows its importance. Christianity is not a religion of gloom. Several translations use the phrase "be happy" but perhaps that gives the wrong idea. We associate the word "happy" with intermittent, earthly joys. The fact that Paul tells the Philippians time and again to rejoice shows that often Christians do not rejoice as they should.

Philippians 4:5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

"Gentleness" is variously translated "forbearance, gentle attitude, tolerance, magnanimity, forbearing spirit, selflessness." 

Lenski: 'Gentleness,' not insisting on one's legal rights.
ICC: Do not make a rigorous and obstinate stand for what is your just due.

It hardly need be said that Paul is not speaking about permissiveness (letting people live in their sin). One lets this proper attitude be known by the way one treats other people. "Be evident to all", making no exceptions. Jesus was this way toward all.

"The Lord is near" evidently refers to the Parousia. Does it go with what precedes? If so, it is Law and enjoins watchfulness. Or does it go with what follows? If so, it is Gospel and involves the comforting thought that all things are in His hands. Cf. James 5:8.

Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

"Anxious" in Paul's writings is found only in Philippians and 1 Corinthians. Here it denotes anxiety. That is not always the case. Cf. 1 Corinthians 7:32; 12:25; Philippians 2:20. Here RSV renders: "Have no anxiety about anything." 

"But" introduces a good antidote to worry.  "In every circumstance" implies that the Christian can be joyful and thankful even when he can see no earthly reason to do so. When this was read to the Philippian Christians perhaps they thought of Paul and Silas while in prison in Philippi. They sang hymns and prayed.

"General prayer" and "particular requests." Note that each has its own article. In the New Testament, only Paul joins these together.  "Thanksgiving" covers the requests in both kinds of prayer. "Let them be known" even though God is omniscient. Prayer is as natural to a Christian as learning a language is to a child. A child who does not speak is a source of worry to the parents.

Note the antithesis in the words "to God." God does not will our anxiety in anything. But He does will that we bring Him all our desires and wishes. See Matthew 6:25-34!

Philippians 4:7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

"And" here and the last in verse 9 are resultative. Translate "and thus" or perhaps "and don't forget."  The word "peace" is the objective use of this word. That which God bestows. The words "transcends all understanding" do not mean that the mind does not experience peace but rather that the human mind, owing to the fall of man, is incapable of dealing with anxiety. Cf. Psalm 73.

ICC: The metaphor 'peace of God' is beautiful. The peace of God as a sentinel mounting guard over a believer's heart.

Note "your" with both "hearts and minds."  It is remarkable that Paul says nothing about the body, though the word appears in the apparatus in an inferior manuscript. The body is of secondary importance. 1 Timothy 4:8. But the body is not evil. It will be glorified. Philippians 3:21. Look at Proverbs 3:5-8.

The translations leave the words "in Christ Jesus" in their literal form. The words mean: "On the basis of the vicarious atonement." 

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things.

ICC: 'Finally' introduces the conclusion of the letter.
Lenski: 'For the rest' these two, that you reckon in your thoughts with the right things (8), and that you practice them by deeds (9).

The versions have either "finally" or "in conclusion."   "Keep your minds on." A man is what his mind is occupied with.

The eight adjectives and nouns in this verse likely do not indicate eight exclusively different items but rather different aspects of the same things. In a word, the new man is directed to purity of doctrine and living.  "Whatever" is found six times and "anything" twice. That is done simply for the sake of variety.

Note that this verse ends with "think about such things." Here we have a good summary of the third use of the Law, all our thinking, all our doing.

Philippians 4:9 Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

The first and second verbs in this verse denote doctrine and the third and fourth denote Christian living. A pastor should be able to say to his parishioners: "What I teach you comes from God. Imitate my living."  This, of course, places a tremendous responsibility on the pastor but it is nothing more nor less than just that.

The prepositional phrase "put into practice" obviously is meant for all four verbs. In translation it must be rendered according to English usage. The AAT translates:  "Do what you have learned, received, and heard from me and what you saw me do." 

The "and" surely does not mean "and then" in the sense that if they do what Paul says the God of peace will be with them. Above we suggested that this "and" is something like "and don't forget."  We say that because they cannot do what Paul tells them to do without the help of God.

Note that here we have "the God of peace" whereas in verse 7 we had "the peace of God."  He is a God Who gives us peace in Christ. See the parallel passages at Romans 15:33.

Philippians 4:10 I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it.

The first word in the Greek, not translated here, is merely transitional, introducing a new subject. But the second instance is clearly "But, indeed."  By the way, "but" found at the very end of a sentence, is rare. Cf. the end of a sentence in Mark 16:8. Some argue that this argues for the idea that Mark ends here at verse 8. Though it is strange, it is not a conclusive argument.

RSV, TEV, NIV, JB and NEB consider  "I rejoice" as an epistolary aorist which means that Paul is looking at this sentence from the standpoint of the recipient. For example, RSV:  "I rejoice in the Lord greatly etc."  On "in the Lord" compare 4:4. It denotes the faith relationship. In 4:4 it denotes a rejoicing which is based on salvation. Here in verse 10 it denotes a joy over the sanctification of the Philippian Christians.

Phillips: It is a great and truly Christian joy to me that etc.

"That at last" gives the wrong impression in English. To avoid that AAT renders it:  "Now again."  TEV has:  "After so long a time, you once more etc."  Paul is very likely complimenting the Philippians. He is happy that, despite the long time, they "blossomed" again. RSV renders this verse as follows:  "I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me; you were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity." 

It is difficult to render this verse literally. That is why the translations resort to paraphrasing it. They revived their care for Paul for they had cared for him formerly. To understand verse 10 one must read from verse 10 to verse 20. The Philippian Christians had sent Paul a gift, almost certainly a collection of money. That gift supplied his physical need, but more so his need of their love. Paul promises them that the Lord will reward them and will supply their every need.

Philippians 4:11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.

"Not saying" can be either objective "not that" or causal  "not because."  This difference is reflected in the translations. For the former cf. RSV:  "Not that I complain of want."  For the latter see the NIV above:  "I am not saying this because I am in need." 

Literally here we have:  "Not that I speak with reference to want."  For the same idea see 1 Timothy 6:6. See also Hebrews 13:5. Contentment in one's circumstances grows out of one's sufficiency in the Lord. Paul rejoices over their love, not their material gifts, but he does not consider material gifts inferior, nor is Paul thankless.

Philippians 4:12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

Note the repetition of words in this verse. And then note the antonyms and synonyms in the last part of the verse. It would not be wrong to call this verse a literary gem. Note that this verse speaks about the needs of the body. Paul is not saying:  "I can get along on just a little of the forgiveness of sins." 

Paul says "I have learned the secret."  Not many do. The repetition of verbs noted above indicates that God had truly taught Paul and that Paul was receptive to the teaching.  "In every respect and on all occasions."  What a blessing! People in the USA have so much to learn here. Note that Paul is actually teaching the people by speaking to them about what they had given him and his reaction thereto. Neither abundance nor lack moved him from thankfulness and contentment. He taught the people via his own example.

Philippians 4:13 I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

Does this verse mean:  "In every respect (adverbial accusative) I am strong " (NEB, Phillips, TEV) or  "I can do every thing etc."  (NIV, AAT, RSV, KJV, NASB)? In verses 10-12 Paul is saying that he is content with whatever circumstances God causes to come to his way. Likewise, in verse 13, he is saying that he is sufficient for all circumstances and then come the important words:  "through Him Who gives me strength."  (NIV)

NIC: Paul can face all circumstances of life as they come, and be strong.

Paul is not bragging but is confidently speaking about contentment and trust in all of life's circumstances. This of course, all depends on Christ Who alone can strengthen Paul. If one uses a translation which renders it:  "I can do everything etc."  One ought note that the words  "everything" is limited to God's will and denotes that which God expects of us. On this look at Isaiah 40:29.31; 2 Corinthians 12:10.

The author of these  Notes  once heard a so-called charismatic claim that he could do everything because Paul said:  "I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me."  When he was asked to lift the author's car the charismatic was displeased though he had claimed that he could do anything if he prayed hard enough and had faith enough.


Adapted from Exegetical Notes, Series A Epistle Texts, Sundays After Pentecost, by Harold H. Buls, Concordia Theological Seminary Press: Ft Wayne IN, 1984, pp. 78-80. Used with permission.

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