Chapter 4

“Therefore my brethren.” This verse properly closes chapter 3. It is the practical lesson that the Holy Ghost draws from the fact that we are looking for the Lord Jesus to come from heaven. Are you expecting such a Saviour? Do you live in the hope of being in His presence any moment, all together? “Therefore—stand fast in the Lord.” Do not give up your confidence, or slacken in your obedience. “Stand fast in the Lord,” He owns you, controls you: let His will alone be your law. “In the Lord,” implies subjection to His will, obedience to His Word. “My brethren:” there is force in that word. All have one Father, one nature, one standing: all are loved with the same love, and ought to love one another. There is no superiority, no lording it over one another. As a true shepherd He longs for them, and looks onward to the day of the judgment seat, where they shall be His “joy and crown.” Subjection to the Lord now, and the “Well done” of that day go together. When He comes, He will own all that has been done in obedience to Him. Therefore “Stand fast;” have a little patience, and go on steadily in the path of pleasing Him. Do not be depressed or cast down, if you find some difficulty, some opposition, but let your hearts be full of the bright and blessed hope of His coming.

Verse 2.—“I beseech Euodias, and I beseech Syntyche.” In the midst of so much to cheer the Apostle among his beloved Philippians, there seems to have been one jarring note, which he does not pass by, one little heartburning which he seeks to remove, for well he knew how great a matter that little spark might kindle. “That they be of the same mind in the Lord.” There may be diversity without division, individuality without departure from the ways of the Lord. He does not make us all exactly alike, not all diamonds, or emeralds or sapphires. But although “many members,” yet there is only “one body:” many ministries, only one Lord. There is no room for self-will and self-choosing, you taking your way, I taking mine. The word is “of one mind” as in chap. 2:2, and here “of one mind in the Lord.” Individual subjection to Him and to His Word, will keep saints from differing and being divided.

Verse 3.—“I entreat thee also true yokefellow.” This refers to Epaphroditus (chap. 2:25) who was to help them to be of one mind. How few are able to do such delicate work! It needs much love, grace, wisdom, tenderness. The mention of these two women evidently brought to the Apostle’s mind “other women “who had laboured with him in the Gospel. He does not say they preached: they “laboured.” How much may be done if only there is the heart for it, without going beyond the woman’s sphere as marked out in Scripture. And how great the need for such labourers. Many seem to think now-a-days that one man should do everything, and all the rest be silent and inactive. But this is not the Lord’s way. He gives to every member of the body a place and a work, and it is our responsibility to find out what our work is, and then do it as unto the Lord. All can help by earnest prayer, especially for those who are in the thick of the fight.

“Whose names are in the book of life.” What a motive for service to the Lord, and for loving our fellow-servants, and keeping us humble. When the seventy returned telling of the devils being subject through Christ’s Name, He told them to rather rejoice that their names were written in heaven (Luke 10:17-20). Paul has several allusions to Luke’s Gospel in his Epistles, and doubtless this is one of them, for he adds “Rejoice in the Lord.” When he reminded Epaphroditus and the saints at Philippi that their names were in “the book of life,” he would have in his mind those memorable words of the Lord Jesus. Ah, there would be no time for these little quarrels, these bickerings and estrangements among fellow-saints and fellow-servants, if we only remembered that our names are in the book of life, that all are dear to Christ and sure to be in the same heaven. These precious little reminders by the Lord Jesus in Luke 10, and by the Holy Ghost here, are intended to make us rejoice and sing.—

“Now I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies.”

It implies also that one sure evidence of our names being written in heaven is, that we love and own His Name here. He will not fail to own our names up there; let us cling to His peerless Name down here in the scene where He was cast out, and where His Name is still disowned among men.

Verse 5.—“Let your moderation be known unto all men.” “Moderation,” means—yieldingness or gentleness. It means you should not stand up for your rights, but be willing to surrender rather than quarrel. Of course this refers to what belongs to ourselves, not to the truth of God. We ought never to surrender it, or yield to those who would deprive us of it, anything that concerns the glory of God. But some may say, “If I yield, and not stand up for my rights, I shall be a loser.” Very likely. But then see what follows—“The Lord is at hand:” What a beautiful word: This may be taken in two ways: First—That the Lord is near, and He will take care of you: Second—He is coming, and what will it matter though you be a loser. Five minutes with the Lord will recompense for all you have lost by yielding, or showing the gentleness of Christ down here. How these great eternal truths come down and enter into the details of our everyday lives! What an intensely practical thing it makes life to be, to see that it is to be moulded and fashioned by the fact that the Lord is near, close at hand, to look after His people’s interests, and not to allow a hair of their heads to perish unless it be His good pleasure. And then to think that He may come at any moment and call us home. Oh! what lives ours would be if we allowed these truths to have their power over us.

Verse 6.—“Be careful for nothing.” In one sense we must have cares, and these He tells us to cast upon Him. “Casting all your care upon Him, for He careth for you (1 Peter 5:7): but He would not have us burdened with anxious cares, so as to weigh us down and come in between us and God. The Lord Jesus said to His disciples—“Take no thought for the morrow” (Matt.6:34). Do not allow cares and anxieties about what may never come, clog and hinder you in your service for the Lord, or in your soul’s communion with Him. In 1 Cor. 7:35, the Apostle says “Attend upon the Lord without distraction.” It means that we are not to allow the soul to be distracted, or the mind perturbed by lawful things, so as to cloud or break our communion with God. How often a very little thing is used by the devil to upset and disturb the soul’s enjoyment of God. What is the cure? “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.” How good of the Lord to bid us bring our cares unto Him. “Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee” (Ps. 55:22)—not only it, but “thee.” What a gracious God we have, to so interest Himself in us, and in all that concerns us. Surely we ought never to have a care or a burden that we are afraid to cast upon Him, when He so freely invites us. And notice, it is “in everything,” not the big things that we know we can do nothing with ourselves, but the little things as well. Nothing is too trifling for Him to take notice of, nothing ought to be too insignificant to carry to the Lord in prayer. Some one has said “Earthly care is a heavenly discipline,” and the more frank and free you are in telling it all out to God your Father, the more will you find relief. When kneeling before the Lord in prayer, it is best to unburden the spirit, by telling Him all our cares and troubles first. It is of no use to try to be peaceful and in a spiritual frame of mind, if cares and troubles are pressing us down. Tell them all to the Lord freely, and the more you enter into the details of them the better. There are things you can tell to God, you could not to anyone else, and He delights to hear you. “In everything”— nothing is too insignificant. How often He has heard your cry and interposed on your behalf. As John tells us “If we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him “(1 John 5:15). There it is prayer bringing down the answers directly from heaven; here it is telling God the whole matter and then leaving it with Him: casting the care and burden upon Him and leaving it there. Have you not sometimes come away carrying it, instead of leaving it with God? There is no promise here of immediate interposition, or a manifest deliverance, but the word that follows is, “And the peace of God which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and minds.” “The peace of God:” What a beautiful word! Do you think God in His high and holy heaven is perturbed or annoyed about these little cares and vexatious things? No, not a bit. Then the very same peace that He has is to be yours. You have told Him all your care, all that presses upon your heart, now leave it to Him. Trust Him with it, and know that if it be for your good He will deliver you, calmly resting in the assurance that all power is His, and that whatsoever is best that He will do. Then “the peace of God shall guard—keep as a garrison—(for the same word see 2 Cor. 11:32) your hearts and minds through” or “in Christ Jesus.” And take care not to forget “with thanksgiving.” How often God has given deliverance and eased us of the burden. Have we always thanked Him? Not only are we told to “Pray without ceasing,” but this is immediately followed by, “In everything give thanks” (1 Thess. 5:17, 18), “Giving thanks always for all things” (Eph. 5:20).

Verse 8.—“Finally, brethren, 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.”

In the preceding verse we have God’s peace guarding the heart and mind. Here we have what is to occupy them. “Think on these things.” What a beautiful line of things for the mind to dwell upon. It must have some occupation, something to think about, and if we allow it to dwell on such things as are enumerated here it will be kept healthy. As a man “thinketh in his heart so is he” (Prov. 23:7, 8). Some by nature have a morbid mind, some a wicked mind, some an immoral mind. The saints of God ought to have “pure minds” (2 Pet. 3:1), and “pure hearts” (1 Pet. 1:22). None of us have these by nature. The heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer. 17:9). “Fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind (Eph. 2:2). But the Gospel believed and received works a change.” “Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit, unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Pet. 1:22). The love of God is poured into the heart of the saint (Rom. 5:5), and turns it to Himself and to what is according to Him. The mind purified and renewed (Rom. 12:2) has new objects.

Here we have a large category of things that the Spirit of God gives us to think about—“think on these things”—the honest things, the just things, the pure things, the lovely things, the things of good report. Dwell on these things, cultivate the mind to think on them, and look for them in others. It is natural and quite easy to see the faults of fellow-believers, but it will be in proportion to your spirituality and keenness of vision that you will see their graces and good points. Think of them as loved of the Father, and given by Him to Christ, as accepted and beautiful in His sight. And then remember that there are some lovely things, some things of good report in each of them, even as there are some unlovely things in yourself. This wonderfully helps us to see good in others, and to let our minds dwell on what is good and lovely.

Verse 9.—“Those things which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me do.” I wish we could all say that. Paul evidently had the assurance that much of his own life and path had been according to God, as well as his doctrine. He could write to Timothy “Thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life” (2 Tim. 3:10). The “doctrine” and the “manner of life” were in unison: he practised what he taught, and could appeal to the saints and say “Those things which ye have seen in me do.” “Be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). Our example speaks louder than our words, and when we can let others “see” as well as “hear,” our testimony must have weight.

“And the God of peace shall be with you.” What a beautiful title! “The God of peace.” So fully does He want His people to be habituated to peace, that He gives it to them in successive stages. First: “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1). Second: “Make your requests known to God. And the peace of God shall guard your hearts and minds” (Phil. 4:8). And here by thinking of these lovely and beautiful things, and by doing what God has taught us by precept and example, “The God of peace shall be with you.” This name gives us one aspect of the character of God. He has many others: “The God of patience and consolation” (Rom. 15:6). “The God of the hope” (v. 24). “The God of Glory” (1 Peter 5:10). We are warriors in the fight, but our hearts are to be surrounded with peace, and our companionship is to be with “the God of peace.” What a calm, unperturbed condition ought ours to be even when foes are all around. To enjoy the companionship of “the God of peace,” do what He says. Let it be your aim to render continuous, persistent obedience every day: fight to do it, and “the God of peace shall be with you.” This was the principle of the life of the Lord Jesus. He could say “The Father hath not left me alone, for I always do those things which please Him (John 8:20). And when He had, in obedience to His Father’s will, gone down to death, even the death of the Cross,” “the God of peace” (Heb. 13:20) entered and brought Him again from the dead. Obedience on the part of the saint is the secret of communion (John 14:23). The expression “God of peace” occurs at the end of the Epistles, implying that if we attend to God’s instructions and commands, we shall know and enjoy His presence with us thus. There is a beautiful word at the close of the Epistle to the Thessalonians—(“Those who gain the victory”)— “The Lord of peace Himself, give you peace always, by all means” (2 Thess. 3:15). He delights to give with a large and bountiful hand. “Always,” in every circumstance, no matter how disturbing in its nature: “by all means,” as if He would over-rule everything to keep His people calm and unruffled, so that they may always be victorious, dwelling in the unclouded sunshine of His presence. It is remarkable how, if nineteen things go smoothly, and one gets ruffled, the devil can use that one thing to upset us. But it is just there that “the Lord of peace” comes in to “give peace.” Let us ever be ready and willing to receive it from Him. In His own way, and by His chosen means.

Verse 10.—“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly.” He who bids them “Rejoice in the Lord always” (v. 4) is full of joy himself. Not surely in his outward circumstances, for he was a prisoner in a Roman prison. Nor is it here that Christ is preached, as in Chap. 1:18, but they had not forgotten him, as many others had who had been brought to the Lord through his ministry. It is a sign of heart-fellowship with the Lord, when we are showing a real and practical care of His faithful servants. Coldness towards them is regarded by the Lord as being toward Him also (see Matthew 25:42, 45).

Verse 11.—“I have learned in whatsoever state I am therein to be content.” He had not got into this condition in a moment. It was the result of long wilderness discipline and of acquaintance with the living God. The wilderness with its trials had not cast him down, or thrown him into a morbid state. He had learned God in a way he otherwise never could have, save in the midst of these trials. “I have learned,” is the language of a warring yet cheerful soul, glorifying God in the fires.

Verse 12.—“I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound,” etc. What a variety of experiences we have here: The ups and downs of real wilderness life. It is truly blessed to hear a man who had for Christ’s sake suffered the loss of all earthly things, telling in such a cheerful and triumphant strain how contented he is with his lot, and how his soul had learned the secret not only of submission to, but of joyful acquiescence in the will of God. It shews he was much in communion with God about, all these things, and this alone is what gives a happy and contented mind.

Verse 13.—“I can do all things through Christ which strengthened me.” This was the secret of it all. “Not I, but Christ.” Jesus says, “Without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). Here we have the converse side —“I can do all things in Him who strengtheneth me.” People sometimes say, “We are such poor things we can do nothing.” This may sound very humble, but it is not Christianity. Paul’s Christ is ours, and His strength avails for us as it did for him. He never sends any a warfare at their own charges. If he calls you to pursue a certain path, or to do a certain work for Him, He will give you strength for both. His commands are all enablings. This triumphant note in closing the Epistle to the Philippians, contrasts with the closing words of the Thessalonian Epistles. There it is the coming of the Lord; here it is the work, the warfare, and the triumphs and trials and difficulties. He is in full harness, still pressing on in the fight, singing as He advances, because he knows God is with him, and Christ’s strength is sufficient for him.

Verses 14, 15.—“Notwithstanding, ye have done well,” etc. He does not undervalue the love and care of fellow-believers even though his faith in God is unwavering. In one way he was independent of all, because he was dependent on God, yet God uses His people who are in fellowship with Him to carry out His purposes, and the Apostle says—“Ye have done well” It reminds us of that beautiful word of the Lord concerning the woman—“She hath done what she could” (Mark 14:8). “The beginning of the Gospel,” refers to the time when it first was preached among the Gentiles. These were times of persecution. We are as near to the end as Paul was to the beginning. Then it was surrounded by open ungodliness and opposition, now with empty profession, varnished ungodliness, and secret hatred to God and His truth. How this should cause God’s people to be on their guard, and not be misled by outward appearances which so often deceive.

Verses 16-18.—“I desire fruit that may abound to your account,” etc. He looks at their gift in the light of the judgment seat. Do we reckon in this way when we give? If we withhold what we might and could give, it will diminish our reward in that day. All that is given with a single eye to His glory shall have its recompence then. But what is done to be seen of men will have none (Matt. 4:4, 5).

“Having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice well-pleasing unto God.” The allusion is to the burnt-offering which went up from the altar as a sweet savour unto Jehovah (Lev. 1:9). Then we read in Eph. 5:1 — “Christ also hath loved us and hath given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour.” The same word is used of the little offering of the Philippians, and of the infinite sacrifice of Christ. The one ascended up to heaven perfumed with the fragrance of the other. We do not know of what it consisted, but whatever it was, God accepted it as a sweet savour offering. It had evidently cost them something, and it was sent to Paul constrained by the love of Christ, hence its value in the estimation of God. If our gifts and offerings cost us nothing, they are worth nothing in God’s sight. If we only give out of our abundance, and what we can easily spare, whether of money, time, etc., it is of little account in the reckoning of heaven, but when we give what we can ill spare, and when we feel the shoe pinches as we do it, that alone is a sacrifice. And when it is given to God from a pure motive, it goes up to Him as a sweet savour perfumed by the sacrifice of Christ. It is as it were a reminder to Him of that one great and costly sacrifice which Christ offered when He gave Himself. Thus we see how close we may follow in His steps, and how God delights to receive from His people that which they offer in His peerless Name.

Verse 19.—“But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” What a promise. The very arrangement of the words is precious. Our need and His riches are strung together, looped as if by two bands. Then see the beginning and end of the verse—“My God”—“Christ Jesus.” Just think of that word—“My God.” Paul was in prison, yet he knew God as his God. The very trials he was passing through made him prove, and enjoy God in a way he could not have otherwise done. He was not a novice in the knowledge of God. He knew Him well, and had known Him long. “Peace with God” he had known for long: “the peace of God” was also his portion, and he knew the presence of “the God of peace” as consciously with Kim. From that height of enjoyment of God he says to others—“My God.” There is a personality about it too, as if He would have each one of His people thus appropriate Him. He loves to be so used. To give is His delight. The sun in the heavens is ever pouring out its fulness of warmth and light, and yet it is not exhausted. So God is ever giving: it is His very nature to give. He says “It is more blessed to give than to receive,” and He takes the more blessed peace as a bountiful giver. “Shall supply all your need.” He does not say all your known need, for we do not know half of our need. Nor does He say all that you want, for we often desire things that are not good for us, and He withholds them from us! but “all your need” as He knows it and sees it.

“According to His riches in glory,” He looks at our need, but supplies it according to His riches. If you have a little need, He will put a great deal in. It seems to say—If you need six pounds, He will give you twenty. He gives in superabounding measure, and always in the very nick of time. “His riches in glory.” That is according to what He is, not according to what we need or deserve. By way of contrast to God’s way of giving, we read that when Paul and his companions left the island of Melita, the natives showed them kindness, and when they departed they loaded them with “such things are were necessary” or “as they needed “(Acts 28:10). They acted humanely and kindly, according to man’s way, but when God opens out His storehouse, He does it “according to His riches in glory.” Another thing He will do is to strengthen us “according to the riches of His glory.” Paul prays in Eph. 3:14-16— “That He would grant you according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might by His Spirit in the inner man.” Glory and power are constantly conjoined in Scripture, and that He is able to do it verse 20 fully shows. “By Christ Jesus.” It is in Him and through Him that all God’s riches descend to us, and He gives in no other way. All God’s blessings come through Him, temporal and spiritual But for Christ, we would have been with the man who cried, “Send Lazarus that he may dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am tormented” (Luke 16:24). Do you like to be indebted to God for everything? Do you enjoy all that you possess as coming to you “by Christ Jesus.” “Christ Jesus,” means Christ in resurrection. He not only earned it all for you by His death, but in resurrection He lives as the great Administrator. The tiniest gift or mercy comes direct from that Christ in glory, God’s agent, in whom all His fulness dwells for the filling of His wilderness people. Notice then the four chief points in this beautiful verse— three pronouns and one preposition: “My God”— “your need”—“His riches”—“by Christ Jesus.”

“Why should I ever careful be,
Since such a God is mine;
He watches o’er me night and day,
And tells me ‘Mine is thine.’”

Verses 21-23.—“Salute everysaint in Christ Jesus.” All are dear to Him, and should be to us. It is Christ-like to care for, and to be interested in one another, to pray for and help our fellow-saints who are one with us in Christ, and with whom we are to spend a long eternity. This epistle is a needed balance to Ephesians, where the saints are seen “in Christ Jesus”: here Christ is seen in His saints. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” “He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.” This beautiful Epistle is like a bracing sea-breeze to the people of God, full of strength and encouragement, bracing us up to go onward in the fight and forward in the race, ever victorious and always triumphant through Christ Jesus.