TEXT: Philippians 4:1-23
The last chapter ended with a passionate exhortation of Apostle Paul to the Philippian brethren to beware of the invading shameless and carnal ministers whose mission was to destroy the message of the cross of Christ. He counselled them to follow his pattern of godliness and live in earnest expectation of the glorious translation that awaits them at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. In continuation of his call to steadfastness, the Apostle gave a detailed exposition of what he had described as fruits of righteousness expected of them as believers. He also admonished the brethren on the need for singleness of purpose required for a successful ministry as exemplified by his life. He concluded the epistle to the Philippians with an affectionate salutation and benediction.
The joy of the Apostle is palpable. He expressed it in the salvation of the brethren and in their gracious care for his needs. He exhorted them to “Rejoice in the Lord alway…” (verse 4). Paul’s confidence in our text was firmly based on: one, his hope of eternal reward (verse 1); two, the visible evidence of genuine spiritual experiences of his fellow labourers (verse 3); three, the ability of God to supply all the needs of His praying and faithful saints and to give them incomprehensible peace in a precarious and failing economy (verse 6); four, the acceptability of the sacrifice of his life and ministry to God, which he recommended to the brethren as a pattern (verse 9); five, inner spiritual strength from Christ to serve God in all circumstances and overcome the temptations concomitant with poverty or prosperity (verses 11-13).
GRACIOUS ATTRIBUTES OF BELIEVERS IN CHRIST: (Philippians 4:1-9; 1:9-11; Galatians 5:22,23; 2 Peter 1:5-10)
As an effective minister, Paul understood the importance of unity or working together to achieve a common purpose. Therefore, he enjoined the Philippian believers to “…be of the same mind in the Lord…” and “…help those women which labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow-laborers, whose names are in the book of life”. He exhorted them to make the Lord the great object of their affections, bury all their petty differences and show consideration for his fellow labourers. As believers, we should support those who labour sacrificially among us and are faithful to the gospel. “Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (verses 5,6). Again, the Apostle emphasized the indispensability of a watchful, moderate, worry-free, peaceful, prayerful, thankful and godly life in everything. According to a Bible commentator, the word ‘moderation’ refers to restraint of passions, sober living and freedom from all excesses. Used as synonyms of propriety, gentleness, mildness, it means that which is fit or suitable. The Apostle admonished them not to indulge in excess of passion, dressing, eating or drinking. They were to govern their appetites and restrain their tempers so to be examples of what was proper for men in view of the expectation that the Lord would soon appear. The imminent return of Christ calls for moderation in the way believers live.
People worry and are anxious over small as well as big issues of life. Food, clothing, shelter and safety are some of the basic concerns people worry about. Worriers think and see problems, Satan, impossibilities, impending doom, death, etc. But Paul the apostle says it is unreasonable for a child of God to get so preoccupied with challenges of life which will always be there. If anyone had any cause to worry, Paul should as he wrote the epistle from his prison ward. In spite of problems and challenges, the proper conduct of anyone who believes in God is to “Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (verse 6).
Before and after prayer and thanksgiving, believers need to “gird up the loins of [their] mind...” (1 Peter 1:13) to filter out worry-induced thoughts and darts of the wicked aimed at weakening or discouraging them. The Apostle enjoined the Philippian believers to program their minds with thoughts that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous and praiseworthy (Philippians 4:8). This means that believers are required to have the mind of Christ and walk as He also walked. To have the mind of Christ and think wholesome thoughts that translate into Christ-like conduct, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16). This way, we will be able to live impactful lives to the glory of God.
GRATEFUL ACKNOWLEDGEMENT OF A SINGLE- MINDED MINISTER (Philippians 4:10-19; 2 Corinthians 11:9; 2 Samuel 9:3,7; 2 Kings 4:8-17)
Paul was a single-minded minister who did the will of God at great costs. He was a model in Christian service and did not abuse the privilege of his apostleship. He labored more abundantly and suffered most for the gospel of Christ than all the other apostles (1 Corinthians 15:10; 2 Corinthians 11:25-27). He toiled relentlessly to win souls and mature them in the Lord for no pecuniary benefits. When opportunity allowed, he labored with his hands to provide his own physical needs (Acts 20:34).
Although he had taught the truth that “…they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Corinthians 9:14), he bore no grudges for failure of some of the churches to meet his physical needs. The reason is, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: everywhere and in all things, I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (verses 11- 13). Though he is unmoved by lack or plenty, the generosity of the Philippian church
was an encouragement to him. He said, “…I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity”.
Paul’s appreciation of the kind gesture of the Philippian church teaches us some vital lessons. One, Christian ministers should appreciate and commend the kind deeds of their members. Two, the best of God’s children will experience the vicissitudes of life. He should therefore, display godliness and contentment in whatever state he finds himself. Three, the Philippian church was committed and generous in giving. Even when the Apostle was not in their midst, they remembered to support his ministry. Four,
giving is an investment into the kingdom of God. It is laying up for ourselves, “…treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal” (Matthew 6:20). The believer who gives cheerfully, faithfully, consistently and bountifully is making a sure investment in the Kingdom. It is, however, pertinent to note that those who give to God as sinners or backsliders will reap no eternal profit. Five, giving of our precious substance, money and time to cater to the needs of fellow believers is a spiritual service to God (Matthew 10:40-42; 25:37-40). Apostle Paul described it as “…an odor of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, well pleasing to God”. Six, leaders should earnestly pray for members of the church who graciously give their substance, time, money and entire lives for the propagation of the gospel. In response to their generosity, the Apostle prayed that “my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (verse 19).
APOSTOLIC FAREWELL AND BENEDICTION: (Philippians 4:20-23; Leviticus 9:22; Numbers 6:23-27; Acts 20:32; Jude 24,25; Colossians 4:12)
“Salute every saint in Christ Jesus…The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen.” Paul concluded this epistle by acknowledging the supporting role of his companions and conveying their greetings to the brethren. He also showered apostolic blessings and good wishes upon them. Salutation or greetings is a sign of courtesy or respect. Believers should learn to appreciate and commend ministerial companions. “…The brethren which are with me greet you.” This reveals another sterling quality of leadership of the Apostle: he was a master team builder.
Apart from the brethren which were with him, Apostle Paul also sent the greetings of “All the saints…”. However, in sending the saints’ greetings, he made particular mention of “…they that are of Caesar’s household”. History tells us that the Apostle was at this time under imprisonment in Rome when Nero was the Emperor. It was said that he became acquainted with the emperor’s family and turned his house to a church. This confirms Paul’s testimony that, although he was bound by men, the word of God could not be bound (2 Timothy 2:9). This is indeed a great marvel of the grace of our loving Lord and a challenge to those of us who are free and have, at our disposal, the benefits of modern technology to fully reach out to sinners everywhere with the gospel of Christ (Romans 15:19).
Having declared that the grace of God was the secret of his unquenchable passion, uncompromising stand and great ministerial success (1 Corinthians 15:10), the Apostle ended this epistle with an apostolic benediction: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (verse 23). The importance of the believer’s prayer for a daily dose of divine grace cannot be overemphasized. This is because he is saved, sanctified, Spirit-filled and sustained by the grace of God. He can only serve the Lord acceptably and secure his eternal inheritance by His grace (Hebrews 12:28).