One Mind in Christ v1-3

Paul begins chapter four with a rebuke directed at two sisters – Euodias and Syntyche. How carefully and tenderly he frames his words: “my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown1, so stand fast in the Lord2, my dearly beloved”. Paul refers to the Philippian ecclesia as his ‘brethren’, his ‘dearly beloved’, a group of people he longs to be with and his ‘joy and crown’; such was his love for them.

In chapter two Paul tells the ecclesia that his joy would be complete if they were all of one mind, and now he implores them to be of the same mind again. Particularly, he speaks to Euodias and Syntyche.

Paul has spoken about unity of mind right throughout the epistle, in every chapter. He speaks of a mind which is lowly, humble and ready to serve. A mind seen in Christ, in Timothy, in Epaphroditus, in Paul and a mind which is now described. A mind dominated by thoughts of truth, honesty and justice. A mind which grabs hold of thoughts which are pure and acceptable to God. A mind which gravitates to things of virtue and worthy of God’s praise. And of course, a mind that drives action. This mind was to influence what the Philippians did each day; and it is to influence us as well.

Unity of mind between these sisters required the help of other faithful members of the ecclesia. We are not told precisely what separated these two sis­ters; a difference of opinion perhaps. Nevertheless, unity was compromised and a concerted effort was required to restore harmony. Such efforts and labours will be rewarded at Christ’s appearing3.

The Peace of God v4-7

Paul speaks about joy and rejoicing in the context of Philippi more than anywhere else4. It seems that the joy of the Gospel resonated well with this ecclesia. Perhaps it was the memory of Paul and Silas singing their hearts out in a cold prison cell, while their backs were bruised and bleeding that inspired the ecclesia. They embraced the spirit of joy despite their deep poverty and great trial of affliction. They, like Paul, had found the secret to rejoicing even when circumstances were not com­fortable. Their joy was driven by something outside their circumstances. Their spirit of rejoicing came from the Lord and was felt when faith produced fruit in those around them.

Reason to rejoice was found in Christ and in the Lord, in the opportunity to sacrifice themselves and serve faithfully, in knowing that Epaphroditus was in good health once more. Similarly, Paul was motivated to rejoice when he knew that the gospel preaching prospered. He rejoiced to see likeminded ecclesias; in knowing that salvation was very near to the Philippians; in seeing their sacrifice and service of faith; in receiving their gift, and perhaps most of all, he rejoiced in Christ.

What makes us happy? Circumstances change but true joy transcends circumstance. Like Philippe and like Paul we can always rejoice if we look for spiritual growth in those around us and work to that end.

With joy in the Lord comes the peace of God, a remarkable gift which passes understanding. This peace stems from a firm conviction that our Lord’s appearing is very close at hand. It will bring with it a gentleness that pervades our communication with all men and a mind free from anxiety about the things of tomorrow5. Paul also highlights the need for thanksgiving in obtaining peace with God. Thanksgiving turns the focus of our mind from what we might not have tomorrow, to what we do have today: “take therefore no thought for the morrow,” says Christ, “for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof ” (Matt 6:34)6.

❝Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God❞ (Phil 4:6)

Think on These Things v8-9

Paul has written so much about the mind through­out the epistle. In every chapter it is mentioned. The Philippians and believers today are encouraged to be of one mind (Phil 1:27; 2:2; 3:16; 4:2). Paul tells us what this mind is – lowliness (2:3), the mind of Christ (2:5). Now Paul’s description of this mind is expanded further: “whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

The words of Paul are not idle. Paul had showed the ecclesia this mind in everything: “those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do.” These thoughts were embraced wholeheartedly by Paul and they breathed the peace of God into everything he did.

Thanks for the Gift v10-19

Paul opens his heart in overflowing praise for the gift he had received from the Philippians. We learn that for some time, the ecclesia has been thinking of Paul and wanted to provide their support, but they lacked opportunity to do so. Perhaps poverty stole opportunity away7. Whatever the impedi­ment, circumstance changed and opportunity presented itself once more. Quickly Philippi’s care for the Apostle Paul flourished.

The epistle reminds us that while Paul ap­preciated the gift he received, his mind was not dissatisfied in its absence. Contentment ruled. We must remember that Paul’s circumstances in prison were not comfortable. He describes ‘affliction’, being ‘abased’and has also shared his thoughts about the uncertain outcome of his trial. A sentence of death could come any day. Yet in his affliction – perhaps through his affliction – over a lifetime, Paul learned the wonder of contentment. Each new day he had clothes to wear and food to eat, and that was all he needed. Paul rejoiced in these gifts from God and no doubt thanked God for them. In addition, Paul found the peace of God, which could shine through his circumstances which were sometimes terrible. Strength came through Christ and not himself.

In an age of plenty, how can we be so thankless? In a country of wealth, how can we be so covetous? In a time of security, how can we be so anxious?

Final Salutation v20-23

Paul completes the epistle with a short and beau­tiful prayer before his characteristic salute: “now unto God and our Father be glory forever and ever. Amen.9” The glory of God has been at the tip of Paul’s pen in chapter one (v11) and chapter two (v11) and these thoughts are with him as he completes and seals the epistle. Likewise, the epis­tle begins with ‘the saints’ and ‘the grace of God’ and ends with the same thoughts. By the grace of God, Paul was what he was, and his prayer was surely that this same grace would empower the Philippians to continue in their labours.

The Legacy of Philippi

The letter to Philippi was written long ago, yet it remains as powerful as ever. While it was Paul who wrote the letter, it is perhaps more important to remember that God inspired Paul to write. God’s angels carefully guided Paul’s mind as he wrote and the angels also ensured that the letter was preserved through time and safely brought to our hands. The angels were ministers for the salvation of Philippi and are also our ministers today.

God inspired the letter so that believers through time could take courage, could seize the joy of Christ, could be united with one mind and could demonstrate that mind in a practical way every day.

God cannot make us change; it is a decision we need to make for ourselves. However, God has given the motivation and the message we need to make positive changes in our life. Let us listen to the mes­sage to Philippi and by God’s grace embrace both the will and the strength to do His good pleasure.

“To the glory and praise of God”

Footnotes

  1. Paul uses a similar phrase in 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20: “For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Are not even ye in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at his coming? For ye are our glory and joy”.
    This tells us so much about the motivation of the Apostle Paul – the source of his joy lay in a ourishing ecclesia which he knew would be rewarded at the coming of Christ.
  2. The phrase ‘stand fast’ is used by Paul on a number of occasions to encourage believers in the first century. Note, that on each occasion, there is something unique the ecclesia is to stand fast in. Some examples include:
    1 Cor 16:13 – “stand fast in the faith…”; Gal 5:1–“Stand fast therefore in the liberty…”; Phil 1:27–“… stand fast in one spirit…”; 1 ess 3:8–“ stand fast in the Lord”. Each use of the phrase has something that will bring strength. If we are to stand fast, we need to embrace Christ and his faith together with the liberty and unity of mind which this brings.
  3. Paul uses here an analogy relating to the theme of citizenship which has a strong foundation in Philippians. He alludes to the registry of citizens which was kept in each city. Citizenship could be obtained by birth or adoption. When citizenship was withdrawn, the name was deleted from the registry of citizens. The book of life is referred to on seven occasions in the book of Revelation (3:5; 13:8; 17:8; 20:12; 20:15;.21:27; 22:19)
  4. Some 20 references within the epistle.
  5. In Matthew 24:45-50, the same thoughts are placed together. Our awareness of Christ’s soon appearing will transform the way in which we behave, particularly in relation to those around us.
  6. Christ refers to anxious thought no less than five times in Matthew six alone.
  7. Paul mentions that “deep poverty” was experienced by the ecclesias in Macedonia in 2Cor 8:1-2.
  8. Paul records his abasement in several passages of Scripture (e.g. 1Cor 4:9-13; 2Cor 6:4-10) though it is more difficult to think of examples where Paul ‘abounded’. ‘Abounding’ may well refer to occasions when Paul simply had sufficient for his needs, and his thankfulness was such that he describes this as ‘abounding’.
  9. Other notable prayers within epistles include Eph 3:20-21, I Tim 1:17 and Jud 1:24-25.