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Working through Philippians: Chapter 4

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Here is my final installment on Philippians.  I started working through it a few weeks back and offering some interpretive suggestions.  If you want to go deeper take a look at one of the quality commentaries you can find on Philippians.Rediscovering Paul cover

Philippians ch. 4

Paul concluded the letter to the church at Philippi with a number of exhortations and a “thank you” for a financial gift.  Apparently, two prominent women, Euodia and Syntyche, had had a particularly nasty falling-out.  News of it traveled to Paul in prison.  He called upon them to lay aside their disagreements and to have the same mind (reiterating his earlier call in 2:2).  He asked the church to help them as well since it had a vested interest in their split.  Other exhortations include:

  • Stand firm in the Lord (4:1)
  • Rejoice in the Lord (4:4)
  • Become famous for your gentleness with each other (4:5)
  • Do not worry, instead pray and give thanks in everything (4:6-7)
  • Keep your mind on excellence, goodness and truth (4:8)
  • Do what you have seen and heard from me [Paul] (4:9)

Paul waited until the end of the letter to thank the Philippians for their recent gift.  It gave him an opportunity to write about the contentment he had learned through his many ups and downs.  In any and every situation, he wrote, he had learned to be content.  For one so used to hardship and prison contentment was an important virtue.  He knew that lack of contentment was the root of all sorts of evil.  Lack of contentment led to coveting, stealing, adultery, murder and a host of other personal and social failures.  Contentment, on the other hand, led to peace and joyful satisfaction.  We note two things he said about contentment.  First, Paul had to “learn” contentment in the rugged situations life.  As a learned skill it is not innate or natural.  We might even say that discontent is the normal condition of man.  Second, Paul found he could be content in any situation through the power of Christ.[1]  Clearly the secret of contentment was not in himself; it was in the Lord.

In his contentment Paul acknowledged the kindness of their gift without admitting his need.  In fact he turned the gift around to their credit.   The gift sent by Epaphroditus was “a sweet-smelling aroma, a welcome sacrifice, well pleasing to God” (4:18).  Because they have been willing to meet Paul’s needs, the apostle promised that “my God” would supply every need of theirs according to his own riches (4:19).  The letter ends as it began with a prayer-wish that the grace of the Lord Jesus would be with them.  For Paul grace is the beginning and end of the Christian walk.


[1] Unfortunately many translations miss the point in Phil 4:13.  Note particularly, the NASV: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.”  The context is contentment not “doing.”  The passage is better rendered: “I have strength to be content in every situation through the one who empowers me.”

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