May 25, 2016
"I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life."
Paul continues his letter to the Philippians with an appeal for agreement in the Lord. Euodia and Syntyche are two women who served side-by-side with him in the Gospel as fellow workers, yet now they’ve had some kind of falling out. Ignoring the specifics of their disagreement, which he may feel is secondary, Paul asks them to come to an agreement, not only because they work together, but both of them have been redeemed by Jesus Christ, which means their names are in the book of life.
This isn’t the first time that Paul’s asking for unity (Philippians 1:27-30, 2:1-11), but here Paul appeals to “true companion.” Commentators aren’t certain who this might be, but whoever it is, we should pay close attention to the fact that Paul isn’t just appealing to the preaching of his own letter or any sermon in Philippi as the motivation for this kind of reconciliation, but rather a faithful friend at ground zero, someone who will be willing to lovingly help these two be reconciled.
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice."
Ferocious about the Philippians experiencing the real joy found only in Jesus Christ, Paul again weaves another command to rejoice into his letter. “Rejoice in the Lord always,” he says. Know the Lord Jesus in such a way that you rejoice always. He wants the constant refrain of the hearts at Philippi (and Reach) to be that of an unshakeable and undying joy found in their Lord and Savior.
"Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."
The joy the Philippians are experiencing should overflow as reasonableness and gentleness with everyone. Believers, Paul says, should not have a callous and rough disposition toward others, but instead should be gentle and kind, because God has been amazingly gentle and kind with them. This behavior isn’t in addition to what’s come before, but rather the result of a joy rooted in Jesus Christ. Paul then says that “the Lord is at hand”—whether he means that Jesus will soon return for his own people or that their Savior is always close by is unclear. Either (and both) of these facts should have a deadly effect on anxiety in the heart of the believer. Why? They both display Jesus as the sovereign Lord he is, completely in control of human history and near us no matter the circumstance.
Bring your anxieties to God, Paul says, echoing the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 5:6-7). Pray and petition him with a gratitude that rises out of his previous blessings. And what happens next? Every prayer is answered exactly the way we want them to be? No, something far better... The very peace of God, which outstrips and outshines every kind of earthly peace imaginable—even our understanding of the very nature of peace—will stand guard over our hearts and minds. Paul is saying that the very peace God has—utterly and unshakably invincible—is, for the believer, found only in knowing Jesus Christ.
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you."
As the letter heads to a close, Paul wants to provide a helpful and practical command which helps sum up his core message to the Philippians. He rattles off an epic list of attributes and affections they should intently dwell on. In doing this, he’s reaching back to earlier in the letter (Philippians 1:9-11), when he says his prayer for them is that God would give them a kind of love which would compel them to approve of what is excellent, a love which ultimately results in the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ. He’s asking God to give them this kind of love, not a love that is swayed by temperaments and passions which come and go, but a kind of affection that clings to the most superior excellence that exists: their Savior Jesus Christ.
What he says here (Philippians 4:8-9) is very similar, but from another direction. Anticipating God’s work in their hearts, Paul now compels them to fill their minds with whatever is honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable—whatever is excellent and worthy of praise. What could he mean? Paul has only held out one thing this entire letter which is full to the brim (and more) with all of the attributes he’s just listed, one thing which is perfectly excellent and entirely worthy of praise... Jesus Christ.
Paul isn’t saying fill your mind with nice philanthropic concepts—even good things that could ultimately distract you from Jesus—but rather, he’s saying dwell on your Savior and the remarkable blessings his reckless love have brought into your life—including the good things other people bring by his grace. In reading this letter, this is what the Philippians have seen in Paul already: everything is loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus, such that Paul says for him to live is Christ. When believers glut their hearts and minds on Jesus, God’s peace becomes theirs.
Knowing Jesus is dwelling in the mighty arms of the living God. It is the very definition of peace.
“Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” This is how Paul began his letter. Peace, he says, comes from God the Father and Jesus Christ. Why is that? The reason is the Gospel. God sent his Son to pay the penalty for sin we owed and to give us a perfect righteousness we could never earn or merit. For the believer, this is an eternal peace. No longer are we under wrath for dishonoring God’s beauty by our sin (Romans 8:31-34), no longer are we slaves to the self-destructive addictions of a broken world (Romans 6:18-21)—we have real and lasting peace. We get this peace from the Gospel, from knowing and being known by Jesus Christ (Galatians 4:9).
How then do we respond? How do we go about attaining a peace that surpasses all understanding? First, we recognize that the greatest threat to all of our future joy and peace has been paid for: our own sin. When we know Jesus—know him as the One who purchased our freedom on the cross—then we recognize that there’s nothing this life could send our way that could ever rob us of our peace because our peace is not our own. Our peace comes from a sovereign God. It’s unshakeable. It’s never ending. And we get it by seeking and trusting the Savior who has already rescued us.
Here are some questions to help you dig a little deeper, both personally and in group: