Philippians 4:1-20-Paul’s Teaching Concerning Peace
Philippians 4:1-4-How to have peace with other people
Philippians 4:1-4-Paul names two specific women who are having relational difficulties and encourages them to do what he has just taught. The English translation "live in harmony" comes from a Greek word meaning "the same thing to think"...suggesting that they have differing ideas about something and cannot agree. He suggests that others in the church help them. He tells them to "rejoice"...perhaps their disagreement has affected the church in such a way that their joy in the Lord has been affected, church-wide.
Philippians 4:5-9-How to have peace with yourself
Philippians 4:5-9-Paul now gives instructions on how to deal with "anxious" times. It could be that these are stressful times that have been brought on because of difficult relationships (stressful people) such as he has been teaching about. Up until now, he has taught how to deal with other people. Now, he teaches how to deal with one’s self. He reminds them to be patient with one another. Don't give up. The word "anxious" (:6) means to be overcome, overwhelmed by the situation. In order to handle such matters we must first remember that "the Lord is near". He is always ready to step in and help...this is the starting point...and the ending point. Dealing stressful relationships begins with prayer (:6). It has been said, “Be anxious for nothing, pray about everything, and be thankful for anything.” Paul mentions two aspects of prayer that are particularly relevant to stressful times...supplication and thanksgiving.
6) But what about our troubles in daily life, some of which are painful and depressing, indeed? Look at Paul, a prisoner while he is writing this. Worry about nothing but in everything by means of your prayer and your petition together with thanksgiving let your askings be made known to God!
Martha “was bothered about many things” (Luke 10:41). The verb means “to be of a divided mind,” to be anxious, whether to seek this way out or that, to use this means or that. The Christian is never to worry thus about a single thing. 1 Pet. 5:7: “All your worry cast on him, seeing that he is taking care of you.” Certainly, unless we can constantly get rid of our worries before they worry us, joy would cease, and that noble, gracious yieldingness would disappear. But we need do no more than to let God know. The scoffer will say, “Do you first have to inform God?” God certainly knows even before we ask (Matt. 6:8); but God bids us ask and promises to give us what we ask. Those who, like the skeptic, refuse to ask simply do not have (James 4:2).
Paul’s exhortation is elaborate; he uses three terms: “in everything” or “in every case” that may worry you, “by means of your prayer and your petition (the articles have the force of the possessive) let your askings (the things asked) be made known to God.” The datives denote means: “by means of prayer and petition,” the nominative is the subject: “askings.” Jesus, too, used three terms: ask—seek—knock. We are to pray and not to shrink from petitioning and to let τὰ αἰτήματα, the actual things asked for, be ever and ever made known to God. Then no worry will ever be able to arise. In what better hands can any trouble of ours rest than in God’s hands? Paul’s very words contain the assurance that God will attend to all that we ask by either giving this to us or giving us something better above what we ask or think. Our prayer and our petition will naturally be accompanied by (μετά) “thanksgiving,” will thus be offered with constant joy. Only the thankful heart is a joyful heart. Without thankfulness for what God has already given to us and done for us, how can we ask him for more? The heartthrob of all true prayer is thankfulness.
Lenski, R. C. H. (1937). The interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians (pp. 877–878). Columbus, O.: Lutheran Book Concern, Logos Bible Software
That is when the peace of God (:7) begins to guard our hearts and minds. This is a peace that is not the result of our own genius or ingenuity...it is beyond "comprehension"...it is the work of God. We haven't figured out what to do...but we have peace that is the result of God's presence with us.
4:7 The answer to anxiety is the peace of God. Paul made three statements about this peace. First, it is divine peace. He did not envision a situation where circumstances changed or external needs were met. This peace was a characteristic of God which invaded the Christian. Second, it “transcends all understanding.” “Transcends” translates the word hyperechousa (“excellent”), which is found in 2:3; 3:8, and here in a compound form. Paul contrasted knowledge and peace at one point: Peace excels over knowledge. No doubt he had in mind situations where knowledge is insufficient. Sometimes it cannot explain, and sometimes explanations do not help. Peace, however, is always appropriate and meets the need of the heart. Finally, this peace will “guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” “Guard” is a military term, implying that peace stands on duty to keep out anything that brings care and anxiety. For these reasons, prayerful people are peaceful people.
Melick, R. R. (1991). Philippians, Colossians, Philemon (Vol. 32, pp. 149–150). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, Logos Bible Software
It is only when God's peace is at work that we can begin to think correctly...otherwise, our thoughts are under the control of what is causing the stress and the weakness of our own flesh. Paul tells us to control our thoughts and not allow our thoughts to control us (:8). He gives a list of very specific things to think about in order for this to happen. As we think about these things the Holy Spirit restructures our thinking process and the thoughts that fill our mind. By way of example: sometimes, even after we close them out, programs are left partially open and running in the background on our computer. In order to remove these programs we have to reboot the computer...so that it can run properly. Before we can deal with other people, we must first deal with ourself. As I begin to think correctly it allows the Holy Spirit to identify any inconsistencies, faults, or failures in my own life that I need to deal with. The Holy Spirit is in control of what we think about and how we think about it. Only then will I be prepared to deal with the difficulties that I have with other people. Paul actually gives us a short list of things to think about. These kinds of thoughts are the tools that the Holy Spirit uses to restructure our thinking so that it is in keeping with His thinking. Paul tells us to “let your mind dwell on these things.” The word “dwell” means…
"to reckon," is rendered "to think," in Rom 2:3, AV (RV, "reckonest"); 1Cr 13:5, AV, RV, "taketh (not) account of," i.e., love does not reckon up or calculatingly consider the evil done to it (something more than refraining from imputing motives); 1Cr 13:11, "I thought;" in the following, for the AV, "to think," in 2Cr 3:5, RV, "to account;" 1Cr 10:2 (twice), "count;" 1Cr 10:7, "consider;" 1Cr 10:11, "reckon;" 1Cr 12:6, "account." In Phl 4:8, "think on (these things)," it signifies "make those things the subjects of your thoughtful consideration," or "carefully reflect on them" (RV marg., "take account of").
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, https://www.blueletterbible.org/lang/lexicon/lexicon.cfm?Strongs=G3049&t=NASB
Paul tells us to give intentional, thoughtful consideration to things that are…
- true-as opposed to things that are untrue, or uncertain; things that are settled and factual
- honorable-worthy of respect
- right-conforming to God’s standard
- pure-having no element of evil; they are holy, set apart and pleasing to God
- lovely-winsome, appealing
- good repute-things that others speak well of, that have a good reputation
- excellence-moral excellence, goodness
- worthy of praise-it is above the gossip and degrading conversation of the things of this world
Finally, having cleared our minds of wrong thoughts and filled it with correct thoughts...we are able to determine a course of action that is based on the spiritual things that we have learned about relationships and to put them into practice (:9). Then, and only then, will they make sense. They are spiritual thoughts (and practices) and must have the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit. When we do this, we will realize that we are operating in God's power..."the God of peace shall be with you" (:9). Often, when we are having relational problems, we become overwhelmed with thoughts about the problem. It is all that we can think about. We even go beyond the facts of the situation and begin to allow our mind to speculate. We ask, “But what if this, or that, happens?” But worse of all, our thoughts become so captured by the problem…we stop thinking about God. This process that Paul gives reorients our thinking so that we bring God back into His proper place in the equation. We aren't trying to figure out on our own what to do...but, we listen to God and accept His will.
7) And the peace of God which exceeds all understanding will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
The καί has consecutive force: “and so,” R. 1183; it states the blessed result of leaving everything in God’s hands by means of prayer with thanksgiving. “The peace of God” (see 1:2) is to be taken objectively, the condition of shalom when by God’s act all is well with us. “Of God” is to indicate source: God creates and bestows this peace. The fact that the objective condition of well-being is referred to we see from the verb: this peace “will guard” (voluntative and not merely futuristic). Like a guard or sentry it will stand over our hearts and thoughts lest anything disturb them.
The greatness of this peace assures its ability so to guard us, for it is the peace “exceeding all understanding.” The point of this attributive modifier is often indistinctly apprehended or entirely misapprehended. Paul is not telling us that the peace of God, either objectively or subjectively conceived, is beyond our comprehension. The Scriptures tell us at length how God has wrought peace in Christ Jesus, and all of us upon whom this peace has been bestowed know its sweetness from our own experience. What Paul says is that this is the peace “exceeding all mind” in what it is able to do for us regarding our hearts and our thoughts. The Christian does not depend on his νοῦς, his mind, to fend off worry from his heart and his νοήματα or thoughts. That is the best that worldly men are able to do. We read much in the way of advice as to how to manage the mind (νοῦς) so that it shall keep the heart and the thoughts clear of worry. Paul points the Christian to something that “exceeds all mind” and all that mind can do in this regard. It is “the peace of God” bestowed upon us as a gift in Christ Jesus.
In the Scriptures the heart is the center of the personality. There dwells the νοῦς which produces the νοήματα, the thoughts, theoretical and practical reasonings with their purposes, plans of action, and personal decisions. Heart, mind, and thoughts are constantly subject to assaults which distress, harass, and worry us. The νοῦς or mind bravely tries to hold the fort but is ever a poor guard and protector. The peace of God exceeds all mind in this function.
Turn to Psalm 73. There is the mind trying to guard and protect itself. “Why does God allow me to suffer so? Why does he allow the ungodly to flourish and thrive?” In v. 16 and 22 the psalmist confesses the inability of his own mind to protect itself from the assaults of such thoughts. In v. 23, 24 he makes the peace of God his refuge, where all his harassing thoughts are answered and brought to rest.
“In Christ Jesus” is to be construed with the verb and thus also with its two objects just as in Eph. 1:4, for the action is “in connection with Christ Jesus,” and the objects of that action cannot be in some other connection. As far as the feeling of peace (subjective) is concerned, we need scarcely say a word. Where the actual state of peace exists with its great guarding effects, how can the feeling of peace, the enjoyment of it, be absent? If the feeling ever declines, this divine guard will revive it. All we need is prayer, petition, asking, i. e., getting back under the protection of our guard, then we shall feel safe and happy again and shall joyfully offer thanksgiving.
Lenski, R. C. H. (1937). The interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians (pp. 878–880). Columbus, O.: Lutheran Book Concern.
Philippians 4:10-20-How to have peace with your circumstances
Philippians 4:10-19-Evidently, the Philippian church had sent a financial offering to Paul. He thanks them. He tells them that he has learned how to live in any circumstance (:11-12). It is through God's strength that he can live in any circumstance. He is grateful and recalls that more than one time before they have helped him...and that in the same way God will supply whatever they need.
Philippians 4:21-23-Paul’s Last Words to the Philippians
Prayer: Father, there are people who bring stress into my life...sometimes they can be difficult to deal with. Please help me to do all that I can to serve them. At times they respond and at other times they don't. I pray that you will help me to have Your peace, regardless of how they respond. I ask for the Holy Spirit to fill my mind with correct thoughts. Don't let me be controlled by what other people say, or even by what I may feel, or think. Help me to have Your perspective, and Your power. Help me most of all to know that You, the God of peace, are with me in my most unpeaceful times.