Standing Fast in the Lord

I. Base Text: Philippians 4:1-23

II. Context
A. Philippians 1:1-2: Paul and Timothy write to the saints of Philippi along with overseers and deacons
1. Church in Philippi established around 51 CE despite persecution (Acts 16:10-40)
2. Paul writes while imprisoned in Rome (ca. 60-62 CE; cf. Acts 28:13-31)
3. He writes to update them on his condition, regarding Epaphroditus, and provides some exhortation and encouragement to fairly mature Christians
B. Paul prays to God in thankfulness for Philippian Christians and for their growth in love and righteousness; Paul speaks of his condition as advancing the Gospel; some preach from rivalry; to die is gain, to live is Christ; Christ will be glorified whether Paul lives or dies; Philippians are to live as worthy of the Gospel, suffering in Christ with Paul (Philippians 1:3-30)
C. Paul wants the Philippians to make his joy full by living in unity; have Christ’s mind in them, humbling oneself so that God can exalt; obey, work out salvation, for God works in us; be as lights to a crooked generation; Timothy, Epaphroditus commended (Philippians 2:1-30)
D. Beware of the circumcision; Christians as the true circumcision; fleshly status of no importance; importance of gaining life in Christ in the resurrection; press on to obtain the goal of upward calling of Christ; those of the world headed to condemnation; believers have citizenship in heaven, from which a Savior is expected to transform us (Philippians 3:1-21)
E. Paul now concludes his letter to the Philippians in Philippians 4:1-23

III. Meaning
A. On account of our heavenly citizenship and expectation of resurrection Paul exhorts his beloved Philippian Christians to stand fast in the Lord (Philippians 4:1)
B. Various exhortations (Philippians 4:2-7)
1. “Euodia” (Prosperous Journey) and “Syntyche” (Pleasant Acquaintance) are exhorted to be of one mind in the Lord; loyal Syzygus (Yokefellow) is to help these women, for they, with Clement, labored with Paul in the Gospel and their names are in the book of life (Philippians 4:2-3)
a. This Clement believed to be the same as one of the elders of Rome who would write to the Corinthians in the letter known as 1 Clement
b. This use of “book of life” unique in Paul’s writings, seen otherwise in the NT in Revelation (Revelation 3:5, 13:8, 17:8, 20:12, 15, 21:27, 22:19)
c. As to the situation not much is known; there is most likely some kind of disagreement that has come up between two women of the congregation, and a certain male member is exhorted to help them sort out whatever differences they have and return to being of one mind in the Lord
d. Euodia and Syntyche are attested as women’s names at the time; Syzygus is most likely not a name
e. It is entirely possible though that all three are nicknames or ciphers; the Philippians would know well of whom Paul spoke
2. Paul doubly commands the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord (Philippians 4:4; cf. Philippians 1:4, 1:18, 2:2, 17-18, 3:1)
3. The Philippians are to display their epiekes, that which is seeming or suitable, thus forbearance, reasonableness, or moderation, to all men, for the Lord is at hand (Philippians 1:5)
a. cf. Matthew 24:45-51, 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11
b. The Philippians are to behave appropriately because the Lord can see and is coming soon!
4. The Philippians are not to be anxious about anything: in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving they are to make known their requests to God, and His peace, surpassing all understanding, will guard their hearts in Christ (Philippians 1:6-7)
C. Paul again uses the standard term for concluding a message (to loipon, “as to the rest”; cf. Philippians 3:1), exhorting the Philippians to think upon whatever is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, of good report, of virtue, and/or of praise, and to do the things which they saw, heard, received, and learned from Paul, and the God of peace will be with them (Philippians 4:8-9)
D. The Philippians’ Support of Paul (Philippians 4:10-20)
1. Paul then turns to how the Philippians have supported and continue to support him
2. He is thankful that they have revived their thought (phronein; cf. Philippians 4:2) for him; he knew they thought of him in the meantime, but knew they lacked opportunity to provide assistance (Philippians 4:10-11)
3. He wants to reassure the Philippians that he does not speak out of want or covetousness, for he has learned contentment, whether in lacking or abounding, for he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him (Philippians 4:12-13)
4. Nevertheless, the Philippians do well to have fellowship (sugkoinonesantes) with his afflictions (Philippians 4:14)
5. Paul reminds the Philippians that of all the churches they alone had fellowship/joint participation (ekoinonesen) in terms of giving and receiving from him “in the beginning” of the Gospel; they even sent support for his needs when he was in Thessalonica (Philippians 4:15-16; cf. Acts 17:1-10)
a. The Philippians provided direct support to him
b. “In the beginning of the Gospel” not absolutely true but in reference to the point of their conversion
6. He does not seek the gift for his own purposes but for theirs; he abounds, for he has received what the Philippians had sent him by the hands of Epaphroditus; he speaks of it in terms of a ritual offering to God, as a “sweet smelling sacrifice” (Philippians 4:17-18)
7. Paul is sure that God will supply the needs of the Philippians through the riches in glory in Jesus; he then praises God in doxology that He may receive the glory eis tous aionas ton aionon, unto the age of the age -> forever and ever (Philippians 4:19-20)
E. Final Greetings and Epistolary Conclusion (Philippians 4:21-23)
1. Paul now asks the Philippians to aspasasthe, salute or greet, all the saints; the brethren with him salute/greet the Philippian Christians, as do all the saints, particularly those ek tes Kaisaros oikias, from the household of Caesar (Philippians 4:21-22)
a. Such is how we can be sure Paul is writing from imprisonment in Rome and not Caesarea
b. This does not mean that any of Nero’s relatives have converted to Christianity, although there was some speculation that Poppaea, Nero’s mistress-turned-wife, might have been a God-fearer; it is far more likely that some of the slaves who worked directly for the Emperor in his house had converted and such are the saints greeting the Philippians
2. Paul ends the letter with a standard epistolary conclusion: the grace of the Lord Jesus be with the spirit (sing.) of you (plural; the grammar is odd; some manuscripts read you all, which it at least grammatically consistent; Philippians 4:23)
F. Thus Paul wrote to the Philippians

IV. Application
A. Rejoice!
1. Rejoicing is a major theme throughout Philippians (Philippians 1:4, 1:18, 2:2, 17-18, 3:1, 4:4)
2. This may seem particularly odd to us since Paul’s conditions are less than ideal; few people find reasons to rejoice by being imprisoned, suffering for another, seeking to be conformed to His death (Philippians 3:9-11)
3. Paul does not rejoice because he enjoys the feelings of suffering or really digs imprisonment; he rejoices in spite of them!
4. Paul is in fact attempting to make it clear, both to the Philippians and to us, that dire situations, pain, misery, and suffering are exactly the time in which we should rejoice, not because we enjoy such things, but because we find our satisfaction and hope in Jesus!
5. The Philippians are sharing in those sufferings (Philippians 1:29-30); they must rejoice in Jesus because their faith and hope can sustain them through whatever they must endure
6. Do we as Christians really rejoice in Jesus? Does our countenance brighten as we consider the resurrection to come? Are we positive despite our circumstances, resolute despite danger, and hopeful no matter the odds precisely because Jesus lived and died but was raised in power and sits at the right hand of the throne of God?
7. We do well to restore a sense of rejoicing in the Lord no matter what, and often precisely because, of our circumstances!
B. Anxiety, Prayer, and Peace
1. One of the major themes of humanity is existential anxiety in the face of the opposition we endure in this creation
2. Jesus addresses the matter in Matthew 6:25-34 for good reason: humans naturally are anxious and afraid because they do not know what tomorrow will bring
3. In the face of powerlessness, we have power over our thinking about the future, hence, we have power over worrying, so we worry!
4. Paul makes it clear that Christians are not to be anxious (Philippians 4:6); as Jesus said, we should instead put trust in God our Father that He will provide what we need (Luke 11:5-13): we must recognize we don’t have power!
5. Paul goes further: the primary means by which we can overcome anxiety is to demonstrate our trust in God by making our prayers and supplications with thanksgiving!
a. Through prayer we entrust God with our difficulties, challenges, and fears
b. But they must be in thanksgiving, lest we forget all God has already done for us; the very act of thanksgiving reminds and reassures us of our Father’s provisions
5. In so doing God will give us peace that surpasses understanding; if you have ever experienced this peace you understand its Source and its supreme value!
a. Part of that peace is the recognition that you are reconciled to your Creator who cares for you; any trouble in the world is of less consequence than that (Matthew 10:28, Romans 5:6-11, 8:31-39)
b. Yet it is also a transcendental tranquility which we recognize does not exist naturally in the high-stress situations that normally breed anxiety!
6. The challenges with which we deal are greater than we can handle (Ephesians 6:12); we must maintain our dependence on God who can provide strength and peace beyond our abilities or understanding and quit trying to hold on to the vestige of control we think we have in anxiety!
7. Thus Paul again shows the surpassing value of prayer, dependence on God, and the realization that He will provide us exactly what we need
C. Meditation on the Good
1. We do well to meditate on Paul’s concluding thought: think on what is true, honorable, just, pure, commendable, praiseworthy, virtuous, lovely, excellent (Philippians 4:8)
2. As a man thinks, so he is (Proverbs 23:7); Jesus affirms that everything we do derives from what we think and feel (Mark 7:14-23) 3. So what we think about will invariably influence what we feel and what we do; so it is that there are few things more important than making sure we meditate on the good so that we may have good feelings and good behavior!
4. Such is why we cannot think we can put in evil or impure thoughts and get out good behavior!
5. In the name of this principle we understand we ought to avoid coarse jesting, filthy talk, sexualized imagery, grotesque violence, etc.
6. Such is true, but we must also be on guard against constant negativity coming from ourselves, those we love, those whom we feel are “on our side,” because that negativity can as toxic as the immorality we seek to avoid!
7. Not for nothing is the entire self-help industry based on the power of positive thinking, positive reinforcement, and positive
self-esteem and encouragement of others; such reinforces why it is so important to meditate on what is good and right and lovely and pure!
D. Contentment
1. Another major theme of humanity is never having enough
a. It never seems to fail!
b. One may be in poverty and sees that they don’t actually have enough to eat
c. But one may get a little money, get food, but now don’t have enough for shelter
d. Get a little more, get shelter, now there’s not enough for something else
e. Reach “middle class” standing, have something for right now perhaps, but not enough to be comfortable, not enough for confidence in the future
f. Perhaps one can get to full wealthy status: there’s always more to have, more to store up and invest, more to provide for one’s descendants
2. Humans can never have enough…unless they learn to find enough in what they have (1 Timothy 6:3-10)
3. Paul speaks about contentment in Philippians 4:11-13
4. He has found the power of being able to abound or be in want, to find contentment in his circumstances: the power of Christ who strengthens him!
5. In Christ Paul learned to abound, have something for those in need, and to be grounded in faith
6. In Christ Paul learned to be without, to trust in the provisions of the Lord and His people, to find greater value in the hope of
the resurrection than any standing in this life (Philippians 3:7-12)
7. Paul’s lesson is not just to be satisfied in the little you have when you lack because you have Christ; his lesson equally applies
to those who abound, to recognize that the abundance comes through the blessing of God in Christ and should be used for His purposes
(cf. 1 Timothy 6:17-18)
8. Of a truth we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us; without Christ we can do nothing!

V. Conclusion
A. We have seen how Paul concludes his letter to the Philippians
1. Exhortations to stand fast in the Lord, to be of one mind
2. Exhortations to rejoice, not be anxious, pray, find peace and contentment in the power of God in Christ, follow the example of Paul
3. Commendation for support and salutation of Christians B. We do well to stand fast in the Lord, seek maturity in the faith by being of one heart and mind, humbling ourselves so God can exalt us, press forward unto the resurrection, ever joyful, meditating on the good, doing all things through the power of God in Christ!

C. Invitation/songbook

By Ethan R. Longhenry

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