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Philippians 4:13-16

In Philippians 4:13-16 Paul reminds us of a truth that we need to cling to with all our might….“I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” This refers to Paul’s ability to be content in all things. To achieve this contentment, he needed the strength of Jesus Christ. The strength of Jesus in Paul’s life was evident in his ability to be content when he did suffer need. This isn’t a verse that says we can do whatever we want and Jesus will make it happen. This builds upon the truth of what Jesus said “for without Me you can do nothing” back in John 15:5. With Jesus we can do all things, without Him we can’t do anything.

In speaking about his ability to be content, Paul did not want to give the impression that the Philippians had somehow done something wrong in supporting Paul. “Yet it was kind of you to share my trouble.” But there was a real sense in which the giving of the Philippians was better for them than it was for Paul. Godly giving actually does more good for the giver than for the one who receives. God wants to build up His people by teaching them how to give. It is a trait of a healthy walk with Jesus, and we need to lean into and listen carefully as the Holy Spirit guides us toward being a cheerful giver.

Paul thanks the Philippian church for partnering in his ministry through giving. “And you Philippians yourselves know that in the beginning of the gospel, when I left Macedonia, no church entered into partnership with me in giving and receiving, except you only.” The Philippians were the only ones to support Paul during this particular period. Paul especially remembered how they supported him when he was in Thessalonica. Spurgeon wrote “Probably the gift does not come to very much, if estimated in Roman coin; but he makes a great deal of it, and sits down to write a letter of thanks abounding in rich expressions like these.”

Clarke explains “While labouring to plant the church in Thessalonica, he was supported partly by working with his hands; and partly by the contributions sent him from Philippi. Even the Thessalonians had contributed little to his maintenance: this is not spoken to their credit.” Paul was clear that he worked night and day alongside his ministry team, laboring and toiling so they would not be a burden to the local church they were planting there. “Even in Thessalonica you sent me help for my needs once and again.” The Philippian church, not receiving the benefit of his ministry directly, stepped up to help meet the needs of Paul’s team. Giving is not about what we get from it directly. The blessing of giving comes often in different ways.

Philippians 4:9-12

In Philippians 4:9-12 Paul returns to the guidance around following him as an example. He had the integrity to put himself out there are an example of how to be an effective Christ Follower. He really could and did say, “Follow me as I follow Jesus.” “What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” We need to ask ourselves where would someone be if they followed you or me? Would we lead them to Jesus, or lead them astray and away from the Savior and Lord? If the Philippians did as Paul had instructed, not only would they have had the peace of God, but the God of peace would have also been with them. Would that be true of your life?

Paul then praises the Philippians for their faithful giving. “I rejoiced 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.” Paul wasn’t implying that the Philippians didn’t care before, only that before they lacked opportunity. When they had the opportunity, then their care for Paul flourished again. And he reminded the Philippians that his thankfulness for their giving wasn’t because he was needy (though he was in fact in need), but because it was good for them to be givers. “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.”

Here’s a major difference between Paul and most of us in the human race – contentment. Paul had to learn contentment; it isn’t natural to mankind. This was how Paul could say that his thankfulness was not based upon his own need. Even though Paul was in need, he was content where he was at – even in his Roman imprisonment. “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need.” Paul reminds us that his contentment was not only theoretical. He actually lived in contentment. Paul had been financially well-off; and he had been financially in need.

Paul knew how to abound. Spurgeon explained “There are a great many men that know a little how to be abased (humble in their circumstance), that do not know at all how to abound. When they are put down into the pit with Joseph, they look up and see the starry promise, and they hope for an escape. But when they are put on the top of a pinnacle, their heads grow dizzy, and they are ready to fall.” Paul understood completely what it was like to have little and be in deep need, but also to have plenty and experience the blessing of God’s bounty. The secret was he learned how to be content in both states knowing that God was completely in control of his abundance or need.

Philippians 4:7-8

In Philippians 4:7-8 Paul begins by making a statement that is powerful and should put our hearts at ease. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The Bible describes three great aspects of peace that relate to God.

  • Peace from God: Paul continually used this as an introduction to his letters; it reminds us that our peace comes to us as a gift from God.
  • Peace with God: This describes a relationship that we enter into with God through the finished work of Jesus Christ.
  • The peace of God: This is the peace spoken of in Philippians 4:7. It is beyond “all mind”; that is, beyond our power of thinking.

Spurgeon answers “What is God’s peace? The unruffled serenity of the infinitely-happy God, the eternal composure of the absolutely well-contented God.”

God’s peace isn’t senseless and impossible to understand, but it is beyond our ability to understand and to explain – therefore it must be experienced. This peace doesn’t just surpass the understanding of the worldly man; it surpasses all understanding. Even a godly man can not comprehend God’s peace. And what results from experiencing God’s peace? The word guard speaks of a military action. This is something that the peace of God does for us; it is a peace that is on guard over our heart and mind. When people seem to “lose” their heart or mind, it often is connected to an absence of the peace of God in their life. The peace of God then does not act as a guard for their hearts and minds.

Paul then begins to wind down his letter to the Philippians by telling them the right place to focus their mind. “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 we think about matters. It shapes so much of our attitude and ultimately our actions. Paul is telling us that the fruit and food of the mind (our thoughts) are guarded by God’s peace. When we fill our minds with the right thinking, it can stay in our mind and work its way into our heart and ultimately our actions. Our thoughts then come out through the things we do.

Much of the Christian life comes down to the mind. Paul tells us in Romans that being transformed happens through the renewing of your mind. He also tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:5 of the importance of casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. What we choose to meditate on matters. And we make that choice. We control what we allow into our minds and what we focus or even fixate upon. Paul describes a practical way to bring every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ. He gives us the playbook – think on these things. Make a list and put it on your mirror and focus your thoughts on eight areas!

Philippians 4:5-6

In Philippians 4:5-6 Paul continues to teach how we should live as Christ Followers. “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.” Paul used an interesting ancient Greek word (epieikeia) that is translated reasonableness here. Clarke explains “The word epieikes is of very extensive signification; it means the same as epieikeia, mildness, patience, yieldingness, gentleness, clemency, moderation, unwillingness to litigate or contend; but moderation is expressive enough as a general term.” A good example of this quality is when Jesus showed gentleness with the woman who was taken in adultery in a set-up and brought to Jesus. He knew how to show a holy gentleness to her.

This word describes the heart of a person who will let the Lord fight his battles. It describes a person who is really free to let go of His anxieties and all the things that cause him stress, because he knows that the Lord will take up his cause. Paul wants everyone to see that in us as Christ Followers. Why can we do that? “ We know that Jesus will settle every wrong at His return, and we can trust Him to make things right in our falling-apart world. 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 because Jesus has it all under His control, we don’t need to be anxious about anything. This is a command, not an option. Worry is an intrusion into an arena that belongs to God alone. It is not our place to worry, but rather the command is to pray. These two aspects of prayer are similar, but distinct. Prayer is a broader word that can mean all of our communication with God, but supplication directly asks God to do something. So why don’t we pray? And why aren’t all our prayers answered? Many of our prayers go unanswered because we do not ask God for anything. Here God invites us simply to let your requests be made known. He wants to know what is on our heart and mind.

It isn’t that God needs us to tell Him our prayers – God already knows our requests before we pray them; yet He will often wait for our participation through prayer before granting that which we request. God knows our heart, but He wants us to come to Him and spend time with Him asking. And our prayers need to be made with thanksgiving. This guards against a whining, complaining spirit before God when we let our requests be made known. We really can be anxious for nothing, pray about everything, and be thankful for anything. Prayer is not getting God on our page, but rather us getting us on His page. He is author of life and in control of what will happen. Prayer is how we line up with God by talking with Him!

Philippians 4:1-4

In Philippians 4:1-4 Paul builds on his instruction for how we should stand fast in the Lord. “Therefore, my brothers whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm thus in the Lord, my beloved. I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord.” Paul used the ancient Greek word for crown that described the crown given to an athlete who had won the race. It was a crown of achievement (a stephanos); not the crown that was given to a king (a diadema). The Philippians, as they stand fast in the Lord, were Paul’s trophy. We can only stand fast when we are in the Lord; any other place is not a secure place to stand.

Apparently these two women (Euodia and Syntyche) were the source of some sort of quarrel in the church. Instead of taking sides or trying to solve their problem, Paul simply told them to be of the same mind in the Lord. They had forgotten that they had a higher common ground in Jesus that whatever they were quarreling about. Nothing else is that important. Paul gives instructions to the one he calls a ‘true companion’. That person is to help these women, who had ministered side by side with Paul, to get over their differences, reconcile, and get on with the ministry of the Gospel. They were to become of one mind.

These two women, Euodia and Syntyche, were faithful workers with Paul in the work of the gospel. Yet, they had a falling out with each other. Paul knew that this unfortunate dispute needed to be cleared up. God never wants our personal agenda to get in the way of His ministry. “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 calls out positively Clement and sums up his life in a few words – as one whose name was in the book of life!

Paul then repeats the major theme of this letter to the Philippian church – to have joy! “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” Spurgeon explains: “I am glad that we do not know what the quarrel was about; I am usually thankful for ignorance on such subjects; – but as a cure for disagreements, the apostle says, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always.’ People who are very happy, especially those who are very happy in the Lord, are not apt either to give offense or to take offense. Their minds are so sweetly occupied with higher things, that they are not easily distracted by the little troubles which naturally arise among such imperfect creatures as we are. Joy in the Lord is the cure for all discord.” Paul’s joy is in the Lord!

Philippians 3:13b-14

In Philippians 3:13b-14 Paul gives us the secret to how we need to pursue our walk with Jesus as a Christ Follower. He gives us the singular answer. “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” He doesn’t give us a list of things to do – just one thing. It begins with forgetting. We often let those things which are behind distract us, whether they be good things or bad things. Looking at what is in the past often keeps us from what God has for us in the future. We need to push the past aside and focus on the present and what God wants us to do right now.

It is a deception to live either in the past or in the future; God wants us to press on in the present, because the present is where eternity touches us now. Paul knew that a race is won only in the present moment, not in the past or in the future. And what does Paul teach us to do in the present moment? He tells us to press on. To focus and put our energy on moving forward toward the goal. The prize is the upward call of God. The prize is the call itself, not the benefits that come from the call or any other thing. The prize is being able to run the race at all, working with God as a partner to do the work of His kingdom.

Meyer explains “It is a high calling because it comes from above, from God; the conception of it has emanated from His heart. It is a high calling because it is worthy of God. It is a high calling because it is so much above the ideals of men…. And then this is a high calling because it summons us to where Christ sits at the right hand of God.” Clarke continues by reminding us that because it is such a glorious call, it is worth reaching forward for it. “The Greek word points out the strong exertions made in the race; every muscle and nerve is exerted, and he puts forth every particle of his strength in running. He was running for life, and running for his life.”

The critical thing to note here is that there is only one focus of the call God gives us – Jesus Christ. There are many things that pull on us for attention or focus, but our call is only in Jesus Christ and no where else. The legalists might say they followed the upward call of God, but they certainly didn’t do it in Christ Jesus; instead they did it in the efforts of their own flesh. Paul has one target in his life – to press on and live out the call God has made on his life. And we have that exact same situation in our life. We need to live for an audience of One – and pursue the call of that One – as Christ Followers we have nothing else that comes close to importance or priority. We must press on!

Philippians 3:12-13a

In Philippians 3:12-13a Paul continues in describing how he is willing to give up everything for the sake of Jesus. He focuses now on the future of his relationship with Christ. “Not that I have already lobtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” Paul wrote from such spiritual maturity and purity that we might expect he believed that he had conquered all of life’s spiritual difficulties and saw himself as having arrived at near perfection. Yet here he assured us that is not the case at all. There was no perfectionist attitude in Paul.

Unfortunately today, many believe they have made it and give the image that their life is perfected, which is not the case. Spurgeon addressed this attitude with his writing: “But while the work of Christ for us is perfect, and it were presumption to think of adding to it, the work of the Holy Spirit in us is not perfect, it is continually carried on from day to day, and will need to be continued throughout the whole of our lives.” None of us has arrived. No one on this earth is perfected. So Paul tells us that he pressed on as there was no turning back for him. He was committed to the journey of becoming all that God wanted him to be.

Paul pressed on for what Jesus wanted. His effort was put forth to do God’s will, not his own. Paul expresses the idea that Jesus Christ had laid hold of him. Guzik explains “This is an important idea; yet sometimes Christians react to that idea by being passive. They suppose, “Jesus got a hold of me; so that is it now. I am a Christian and I am going to heaven.” Paul showed a different attitude; he was determined to lay hold for that for which Jesus had laid hold of him. So one should ask, “Why did Jesus lay hold of Paul?”

  • Jesus laid hold of Paul to make him a new man (Romans 6:4) – so Paul would lay hold of that and wanted to see the converting work of Jesus completely carried out in himself.
  • Jesus laid hold of Paul to conform him into the image of Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29) – so Paul would lay hold of that and wanted to see the nature of Jesus within himself.
  • Jesus laid hold of Paul to make him a witness (Acts 9:15) – so Paul would lay hold of both the experience of Jesus and to testify of that experience.
  • Jesus laid hold of Paul to make him an instrument in the conversion of others (Acts 9:15) – so Paul would lay hold of the work of bringing others to Jesus.
  • Jesus laid hold of Paul to bring him into suffering (Acts 9:16) – so Paul would lay hold of even that work of God in his life, wanting to know Jesus in the fellowship of His sufferings.
  • Jesus laid hold of Paul that so that the Apostle might attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:11) – so Paul would lay hold of that heavenly hope.”

Paul knew that Christ Jesus had made him His own. It wasn’t about something Paul did, but what Jesus had done for all of us. Our option is whether or not we will receive what Jesus did and make it our own. Paul didn’t just passively receive and follow. “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own.” He knew it was an ongoing pursuit. Wuest explains “He wants to catch hold of it and pull it down, like a football player who not only wants to catch his man, but wants to pull him down and make him his own.” Paul wants to tackle God’s will for his life and to walk obediently in it. This isn’t a part time or partial pursuit but a complete and life altering one!

Philippians 3:8b-11

In Philippians 3:8b-11 Paul takes his message about how he views the things of this world calling it rubbish. That’s some strong language. Literally, Paul considered them as excrement – as dung; not only as worthless, but as offensive. “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish….”Clarke explains “The word [rubbish] means the vilest dross or refuse of any thing; the worst excrement. The word shows how utterly insignificant and unavailing, in point of salvation, the apostle esteemed every thing but the Gospel of Jesus.” Putting it mildly, Paul makes the point that his earthly stuff meant nothing to him.

So why was that true? What was the spiritual benefit of gaining Jesus Christ? “….in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith….” The foundation for his spiritual life was in what Jesus had done for him and not in what he had done, was doing, or would do for Jesus in the future. Paul shows us the great difference between the legal relationship stressed by his opponents and his personal connection with Jesus Christ. The difference is between living and trusting in your own righteousness versus living and trusting in God’s righteousness given through faith in Christ.

Spurgeon writes “He disowns his own righteousness as eagerly as other men disown their sins, and he highly esteems the righteousness which Christ has wrought out for us, which becomes ours by faith.” It was all about the personal relationship Paul experienced with Jesus. “….that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead.” Paul simply wanted to know Jesus. That was the simple plea of his heart. He wasn’t focused at all on himself, but only Jesus.

Guzik explains that “To know Jesus is not the same as knowing His historical life; it is not the same as knowing correct doctrines regarding Jesus; it is not the same as knowing His moral example, and it is not the same as knowing His great work on our behalf.

  • We can say that we know someone because we recognize him: because we can distinguish what is different about him compared to other people.
  • We can say that we know someone because we are acquainted with what he does; we know the baker because we get our bread from him.
  • We can say that we know someone because we actually converse with him; we are on speaking terms with that person.
  • We can say that we know someone because we spend time in his house and with his family.
  • We can say that we know someone because we have committed our life to him and live with him every day, sharing every circumstance as in a marriage.
  • Yet beyond all this, there is a way of knowing Jesus Christ that includes all of these yet goes beyond them.

Paul continues by being focused on the power of Jesus resurrection:

  • The power of His resurrection is an evidencing power. It is the evidence and seal that everything Jesus did and said was true.
  • The power of His resurrection is a justifying power. It is the receipt and proof that the sacrifice of the cross was accepted as payment in full.
  • The power of His resurrection is a life-giving power. It means that those who are connected with Jesus Christ receive the same resurrection life.
  • The power of His resurrection is a consoling and comforting power. It promises that our friends and loved ones who are dead in Christ live with Him.”

The goal that Paul had which was worth more than anything he had was the power of Jesus’ resurrection. That was what Paul wanted to attain!

Philippians 3:7-8a

In Philippians 3:7-8a Paul begins with one of his more famous and impactful statements in all of scripture: “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” He rejects any confidence he has in the flesh. Wuest explains “The word ‘gain’ is plural in the Greek, namely, ‘gains.’… ‘Loss’ is singular. The various gains are all counted as one loss.” And Spurgeon continues “He was skilled in spiritual arithmetic, and very careful in his reckoning. He cast up his accounts with caution, and observed with a diligent eye his losses and his gains.” Paul knew the many things he had that were gains, but he was willing to throw them all aside to gain Jesus.

Paul counted all those things he had gained as loss, not because they were a loss by their very character, as much as he chose to regard them as loss. It wasn’t that they were harmful to Paul, but because these things were ways in which Paul sought to please God in the energies of the flesh. Before Paul became a Christian, he thought all these things made him a success in the effort to please God by works. Far too many even today believe that what they do is what pleases God. Salvation is not based on what we do, but who we are through Christ. We cannot possibly do enough to be saved on our own.

Paul reinforces that and makes clear the one thing that matters – knowing Jesus. “Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” Paul did not only count his religious pedigree as a loss; he counted all things loss – but he counted them as a loss in view of the knowledge of Christ Jesus. It wasn’t so much that those things were worthless in themselves, but compared to the greatness of knowing Jesus, they really were nothing. Paul shows us how to put a personal relationship with Jesus Christ at the very center of the Christian’s life. He joyfully accepted the loss of all other things for the greatness of this personal relationship.

It is important to note that Paul had plenty he could count as gain for himself. He listed much of that in prior verses. For Paul, this wasn’t just an internal spiritual exercise. He had indeed suffered losing everything for Jesus. Spurgeon explains “After twenty years or more of experience Paul had an opportunity of revising his balance-sheet, and looking again at his estimates, and seeing whether or not his counting was correct. What was the issue of his latest search? How do matters stand at his last stocktaking? He exclaims with very special emphasis, ‘Yea doubtless; and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.’ ” Paul discovered that knowing Jesus was all that mattered then, and the same is true for us today!

Philippians 3:3-6

In Philippians 3:3-6 Paul tackles one area that the false teachers were spewing to the Philippians – questions around circumcision. Here he defines true circumcision. “For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh—though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also.” These Jewish legalists considered themselves the ones truly circumcised and right with God. But Paul declared that he and his followers were the true circumcision. Worshipping God in the Spirit is what defines true circumcision as opposed to the fleshly and legalistic worship these false teachers were doing.

Wuest explains “The word ‘worship’ is the translation of the Greek word referring to the service of Jehovah by His peculiar people, the Jews. A Jew would be scandalized by the application of this word to a Gentile.” Paul knew that he was more qualified to be justified by the keeping of the law than any of his present legalistic opponents were. The interesting thing is that usually those who have confidence in themselves and their legalistic approach are often the least qualified to actually have a positive outcome if it were true, which it is not. It’s funny how we deceive ourselves so completely and these false teachers were doing exactly that.

Paul launches into his credentials as to why he could have confidence in the flesh – he lists four things that were possessions of his by birth that would give him claim to a legalistic salvation. “If anyone else thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.” So there were these facts related to his birth:

  1. Paul was circumcised the eighth day in accordance with the law
  2. Paul was of the stock of Israel, a descendant of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and therefore an heir to God’s covenant with them.
  3. Paul was of the tribe of Benjamin, a distinguished tribe. Benjamin was distinguished by the fact that it gave Israel her first king.
  4. Paul was a Hebrew of the Hebrews. This contrasted him with the Jews who embraced Greek culture as it spread through the Mediterranean.

But in case that wasn’t enough, Paul goes on to list three things that were his by personal choice and conviction, all reasons why he might have confidence in the flesh.

  1. Paul was a Pharisee which were noted for their scrupulous devotion to the law of God.
  2. Paul was a persecutor of the church. Paul was not merely an intellectual opponent but an active fighter against the early church.
  3. Paul was blameless according to the standard of righteousness which was accepted among the men of his day – though this standard fell short of God’s holy standard.

So if anyone could please God by keeping the law and doing works of the flesh, it was Paul. He was the most qualified of all, yet fell far short of God’s standard. Thus he was a minister of salvation through Jesus Christ alone!

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