Study Notes

Philippians 4:1-7


Paul has written to the Philippians to encourage them in joy and provoke them to growth. His most recent exhortation, as we saw in last week's study, was that there are bad examples in the church, abusers of grace, who are caught up in the things of this world. But he reminded the Philippians not to fall into that trap - that their citizenship is in heaven, and that Jesus Christ was coming soon to take them there.

4:1 My Crown

It is clear that Paul loves these people. He calls them "my beloved brethren," and tells them that they are his joy. But one description he uses here is strange: he calls them "my crown."

The word crown here is the Greek word "STEF-an-os." That is the wreath that would be placed on the heads of those who were victorious in the Olympic Games. It describes a reward or prize given for winning. So they would have read this as Paul saying, "You guys are my Olympic Gold Medal. You're my reward."

The Bible tells us that, in heaven, there are actually four different rewards available to the believer, each described as crowns. They are the crown of exultation (1Th 2:19), the crown of righteousness (2Ti 4:8), the crown of life (Jas 1:12), and the crown of glory (1Pe 5:4).

These crowns are awarded for different behaviors on this earth.

The crown of life is the reward given to all who love God. James said,

James 1:12 Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life, which {the Lord} has promised to those who love Him.

The crown of glory, on the other hand, is given to those who are examples to the church, who lead by serving. Peter wrote,

1Pet. 5:1-4 Therefore, I exhort the elders among you, as {your} fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to {the will of} God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.

The crown of righteousness is given to those believers that do not get caught up in the cares and desires of the world. Those who live righteously, because they know the Lord is coming back any minute. So Timothy was told,

2Tim. 4:8 in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing.

But the crown that Paul is making reference to here in Philippians is the crown of exultation. It is the reward for leading people to Jesus Christ and discipling them. Paul told the Thessalonians,

1Ths. 2:19-20 For who is our hope or joy or crown of exultation? Is it not even you, in the presence of our Lord Jesus at His coming? For you are our glory and joy.

There is a tremendous reward in heaven waiting for those who lead people to salvation and discipleship. The angel Gabriel said to Daniel,

Dan. 12:3 "...Those who have insight will shine brightly like the brightness of the expanse of heaven, and those who lead the many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever."

My reward in heaven will be greatly increased by those that I shared the gospel with, those I led to Christ, those I taught and encouraged in the ways of God.

So it is only natural that Paul would say, "You guys are my crown. It is your new life in Christ that will increase my reward from Christ."

4:2-3 Live In Harmony

Now we hear about a specific situation that has been a source of trouble and division in the Philippian church. Two women, Yoo-od-EE-ah and Soon-TOO-khay, were at odds with one another. We don't know what the division or disagreement was about, but we do know that they were not living in harmony with one another.

The word Paul uses here indicates that each of them had a different understanding about something. It wasn't a matter of one of them sinning against the other - they were just on opposite sides of the fence over an issue. Paul's command to them publicly is that they need to be united in the Lord.

Notice that he does not say, "Let's get them into long-term counseling. Let's have a public forum for them to air out their differences. Let's get down to the heart of the matter and see which one of them is really right." No, he simply tells them to live in harmony in the Lord.

You see, we can live in harmony without seeing eye to eye. We can live in love if we're living in the Lord.

I find that very often, the way to bring peace is not to go back to the argument, but to go back to the cross. Not to look at the source of the fight, but to unlock the secrets of forgiveness.

The key to bringing disagreeing Christians together is to remind them that they are supposed to be like Christ. Supposed to be like Jesus. Peter told us in 1Peter 2 that we are to follow Christ's example of allowing ourselves to be crucified so that we could have unity with the person we are at odds with. Paul the apostle said,

1Cor. 6:7 ...Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?

Jesus taught,

Matt. 5:40-41 "And if anyone wants to sue you, and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. And whoever shall force you to go one mile, go with him two."

If we weren't so busy sticking up for our rights and trying to convince people that our perspective is the right one, we could be busy forgiving people and loving them.

And it is our place as Christians to not only practice this, but to encourage others to do it as well. Paul makes an individual reference to his "true comrade," asking this person to help these women. But who is it? I suggest to you that it is everyone in the church, individually. Remember that this letter was written,

Phil. 1:1 all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons

Each person in the church could have, and should have, felt that it was their obligation to help these two women live in harmony in the Lord. No doubt some had taken sides in the disagreement. But if each person in the church had a common purpose of unity, the division would fall apart.

4:4-5 Rejoice In The Lord Always

Once again in this letter, Paul emphasizes the need for joy. But notice once again that it is not based on life's circumstances. As a matter of fact, notice how much of a necessity the Lord is in every aspect of life. Just in these four verses, Paul has said,

Phil. 4:1 ...stand firm in the Lord...

Phil. 4:2 in harmony in the Lord. ..

Phil. 4:4 Rejoice in the Lord...

Apart from the Lord, we cannot stand firm. Apart from the Lord, we cannot live in harmony with others. And apart from the Lord, we cannot have permanent joy.

Your Forbearing Spirit

He also tells them to let their forbearing spirit be obvious. This is a word that describes someone who is gentle when they are wronged. Someone who is patient when they didn't get what they deserved. Why should I be like that? Paul tells us: "The Lord is near."

This world is passing away. It is only a matter of time before it is consumed in fire. And every dollar that we deserved to be paid will be destroyed. Every argument that we should have won will be forgotten. Everything that was stolen from us will cease to exist. None of it will matter. Do these things still matter to you? Be reminded that the Lord is near, He's coming soon. Learn to be patient and gentle when you get the raw deal, when you get shorted.

4:6-7 The Peace Of God

Finally, this morning, we come to what I believe is the most effective and useful tool for the Christian given in the entire Bible. It is the cure for anxiety, a test for the existence of God, and the key to what everyone in the world is searching for: perfect peace.

These two verses contain a conditional promise of God. The difference between conditional and unconditional promises are whether you have to do something to get what is promised or not. In this case, if you do three things, God will give you something.

Your three obligations are prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. Although all three would seem to fall generically under what we call prayer, they are three distinct actions.

The word "prayer" here means a devotional and worshipful communication with God. Talk to God about what He means to you. Worship and adore Him in prayer.

The word "supplication" means to make request. Let God know what you're concerned about. Talk to Him about your needs.

Thanksgiving is more than the holiday we will celebrate this Thursday. It means what it says: the giving of thanks. Thank God in the midst of your circumstances. Thank Him for using it to draw you to Him. Thank Him for everything you can think of that has resulted or will result from the situation.

Now, God's end of this bargain is the peace that passes understanding. If you will do these three things, God will give you this peace. This peace guards your heart from distress, and your mind from racing. Although the situation you've been praying about hasn't changed, you suddenly have peace in the midst of it.

God will always be faithful to keep this promise if you are faithful to do the three actions in prayer: worship, request, and thanks.

As the Scripture says,

Isa. 26:3 (KJV) Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee.

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