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Bible Commentaries
Philippians 4

Utley's You Can Understand the BibleUtley Commentary

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Philippians 4:0


ExhortationsBe United, Joyful and in PrayerFinal AppealsInstructionsLast Advice
(Philippians 3:17-1)(Philippians 3:17-1)(Philippians 3:17-1)Philippians 4:1(Philippians 3:17-1)
Philippians 4:2-7Philippians 4:2-7Philippians 4:2-3Philippians 4:2-3Philippians 4:2-3
Philippians 4:4-7Philippians 4:4Philippians 4:4-9
Philippians 4:5-7
Philippians 4:8-9Philippians 4:8-9Philippians 4:8-9Philippians 4:8-9
Acknowledgment of the Philippian GiftPhilippian GenerosityThanks for the GiftThanks for Help Received
Philippians 4:10-14Philippians 4:10-20Philippians 4:10-14Philippians 4:10-13Philippians 4:10-20
Philippians 4:14-20
Philippians 4:15-20Philippians 4:15-20
Final GreetingsGreetings and BlessingFinal GreetingsGreetings and Final Wish
Philippians 4:21-23Philippians 4:21-23Philippians 4:21-22Philippians 4:21-22Philippians 4:21-22
Philippians 4:23Philippians 4:23Philippians 4:23

READING CYCLE THREE (from "A Guide to Good Bible Reading")


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

Read the chapter in one sitting. Identify the subjects. Compare your subject divisions with the five modern translations. Paragraphing is not inspired, but it is the key to following the original author's intent, which is the heart of interpretation. Every paragraph has one and only one main subject.

1. First paragraph

2. Second paragraph

3. Third paragraph

4. Etc.


NASB (UPDATED TEXT: Philippians 4:1 1Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.

Philippians 4:1 "my beloved brothers" Paul combined two of the typical NT terms for believers: "beloved" [twice] and "brothers." This affectionate combination showed his great love for this church as is seen in the next phrase and the parallel in Philippians 1:8.

"whom I long to see" This same strong term (epipotheô) is also used in Philippians 1:8; Philippians 2:26; 2 Corinthians 9:14.

"my joy and crown" The term "crown" (stephanos) meant a victor's crown in an athletic contest. This same exuberance can be seen in Paul's comments to another Macedonian church (cf. 1 Thessalonians 2:19-20; 1 Thessalonians 3:9). This church was the proof of Paul's effective apostleship (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:2; 1 Thessalonians 2:19).

"stand firm" This is a Present active imperative. This military metaphor refers to the Christian's ability to remain faithful amidst problems (cf. Philippians 1:27; 1 Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians 6:11-14). It also relates to perseverance (see Special Topic at Philippians 1:9-11), which is only possible "in the Lord" (cf. Galatians 6:9; Revelation 2:7, Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17, Revelation 2:26; Revelation 3:5, Revelation 3:12, Revelation 3:21).

This is another biblical paradox in the relationship between God's sovereignty and humanity's free will (compare Ezekiel 18:31 with Ezekiel 36:26-27). In this verse believers are commanded to "stand firm," while in Jude 1:24 it is God who keeps them standing. Somehow, both are true.


This is a study guide commentary, which means that you are responsible for your own interpretation of the Bible. Each of us must walk in the light we have. You, the Bible, and the Holy Spirit are priority in interpretation. You must not relinquish this to a commentator.

These discussion questions are provided to help you think through the major issues of this section of the book. They are meant to be thought provoking, not definitive.

1. What is the key phrase of this chapter?

2. What does it mean "to stand firm"?

3. What are the principles for solving disunity in a local church?

4. Give the aspects of prayer that Paul mentions in verses Philippians 4:4-7.

5. Describe in your own words the significance of verses Philippians 4:8 and 9 to our day.

6. Is verse Philippians 4:10 a negative statement by Paul to chide the Philippians for not helping him?

7. What is the true secret of happiness expressed in verses Philippians 4:11-13?

8. List and explain the three commercial terms found in verses Philippians 4:15, Philippians 4:17 and 18.

9. Explain how the context affects the proper interpretation of verse Philippians 4:19a.

Verse 1

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Philippians 3:17-1 17Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us. 18For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ, 19whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things. 20For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. 4:1Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved.

Philippians 3:17 "Join in following my example" This verse has two present imperatives. Paul is encouraging them to follow him as he followed Christ (cf. Philippians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 4:16; 1 Corinthians 11:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 2 Thessalonians 3:9). This phrase is logically linked to Philippians 3:15-16. Notice how Paul's example is expanded to include his missionary team and possibly Epaphroditus ("my"-"us").

"Example" See Special Topic following.


Philippians 3:18 "for many walk of whom I often told you" There were, and are, false teachers in the church. In this book they could be either Judaizers (cf. Philippians 3:2-16), as in the book of Galatians and Acts 15:0, or Gnostics (cf. 1 John 2:18, 1 John 2:22; 1 John 4:1-6). The only way to protect oneself from error is to know, embrace, and live the truth! False teachers are sharp, logical, articulate, and attractive people. Trust the Son; follow the Book; yield to the Spirit!

"even weeping" This is a term for intense grief (cf. Matthew 2:18; Matthew 26:75; Mark 5:38-39; John 11:31; James 4:9; James 5:1). Paul took no joy in others who were in moral or theological error.

"enemies of the cross of Christ" There is uncertainty about the identity of these "enemies of the cross." The phrases used by Paul are so intense they seem to refer to the unbelieving false teachers of Philippians 3:2-16. The sins listed in Philippians 3:19 do not fit legalistic Jews, but Greek antinomian false teachers or possibly Christian converts who have reverted to former pagan lifestyles (cf. Colossians 2:16-23; 2 Peter 2:20-22). The context favors the last option. But, if so, the contrast of Philippians 3:20 implies that Paul thought they were not truly saved (cf. Matthew 7:13; 1 John 2:19; 2 Peter 2:1-22; Revelation 2:4-5; 10-11; 16-17; 25-26; 3:2,5,11,21).

Be careful that your systematic (denominational, experiential, cultural) theology does not interpret this text. Literary context and the original author's intent must be the major criteria. The NT is not a systematic presentation of truth but an eastern, paradoxical genre. The NT regularly presents truths in seemingly contradictory pairs (paradox). The Christian life is a tension- filled life of assurance and hope as well as responsibility and warning! Salvation is not a product but a new life!

Philippians 3:19

NASB, NKJV, NRSV"whose end is destruction" TEV"they are going to end up in hell" NJB"they are destined to be lost"

These were sincere, informed, religious people. Paul uses this term apôleia to describe God's ultimate judgment (cf. Philippians 1:28; Romans 9:22; 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 1 Timothy 6:9). However, in the Gospels it must be admitted that it was used in the sense of "wasted" (cf. Matthew 26:8; Mark 14:4). Therefore, it is impossible to know to whom Paul is referring (believers or nonbelievers).

NASB"whose god is their appetite" NKJV, NRSV"whose god is their belly" TEV"because their god is their bodily desires" NJB"their god is their stomach"

This shows their tendency toward (1) antinomian practices or (2) gluttony and materialism. This sounds more like Greek false teachers (cf. Romans 16:17-18) than Jewish legalists (cf. Philippians 3:2-6). TEV may have captured the metaphorical meaning,"because their god is their bodily desires."

"whose glory is in their shame" This could refer to

1. the Judaizers' emphasis on circumcision or Jewish pride

2. the Gnostics' emphasis on knowledge

3. the Libertines' immoral lifestyle

These false teachers were proud of the very things for which they should have been ashamed! The false teachers of the NT are often characterized by financial and/or sexual exploitation.

"who set their minds on earthly things" This shows the origin of much of humanity's religiosity (cf. Isaiah 29:13; Colossians 2:16-23; Colossians 3:1-2).

Philippians 3:20

NASB, NKJV"For our citizenship is in heaven" NRSV"But our citizenship is in heaven" TEV"We, however, are citizens of heaven" NJB"But our homeland is in heaven"

This verse is a contrast to Philippians 3:18-19. The pronoun "our" is emphatic. "Heaven" is plural (cf. 2 Corinthians 12:2; Ephesians 4:10; Hebrews 4:14; Hebrews 7:26) following the Hebrew usage (shamayim). Possibly Paul was using the Roman colonial status of this city as an illustration (cf. Philippians 1:27).

"we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ" Paul often uses this term "eagerly wait" in relation to the Second Coming (cf. Romans 8:19, Romans 8:23, Romans 8:25; 1 Corinthians 1:7; Galatians 5:5; Hebrews 9:28). Believers' desire for the Second Coming is one evidence of their relationship with Christ and an impetus for Christlike living (cf. Romans 8:19, Romans 8:23; 1 Corinthians 1:7).

Paul's emphasis on the Lord's return is recurrent, but his understanding of the time element is ambiguous. There are several passages in which Paul includes himself in the group who would be alive at the Second Coming (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; 2 Corinthians 5:0; Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 4:15, 1 Thessalonians 4:17). However, there are other passages where he asserts a future return beyond his own lifetime (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:14; 2 Corinthians 4:14 and especially 2 Thessalonians). It is possible that the "we" of the first group of texts is literary, or that Paul's views on this subject developed. It is difficult to suppose that an inspired author "developed" his theology. A better approach is to assert a dialectical model. Paul, like all NT writers, asserted the certainty and "soon-ness" of the Second Coming. Believers are to live in light of the any-moment return of the Lord! However, Jesus (Matthew 24:0) and Paul (2 Thessalonians 2:0) spoke of historical events that must occur before the Second Coming. Both are somehow true! The return of Jesus is a motivating hope of every generation of believers but the reality of only one generation!

This is one of two times Paul calls Jesus "Savior" (cf. Ephesians 5:23) before the Pastoral Letters (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus), in which he uses the title ten times. This term came to be a title for the Roman Emperor. In Titus there is a parallel in the use of this term between God the Father and Jesus the Son (cf. Philippians 4:3 vs. 1:4; 2:10 vs. Philippians 2:13; Philippians 4:4 vs. 3:6). The early Christians were willing to face death rather than relinquish this title to the Emperor. Both "Savior" and "Lord" were Imperial Roman titles used by Christians exclusively for Jesus.

Philippians 3:21 "who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory" Paul put a positive emphasis on believers' bodily existence (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:1-10), both here and in heaven. This is referred to theologically as glorification (cf. Romans 8:30; 1 John 3:2), when salvation will be consummated and fully realized. Our body of dust (cf. Psalms 103:14) will be exchanged and remade (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18) into a spiritual body like Jesus' (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:45; 1 John 3:2).

"He has even to subject all things to Himself" The resurrected Christ is Lord of all (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24-28; Colossians 1:20).

Verses 2-3

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Philippians 4:2-3 IUrge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 2Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Philippians 4:2 "Euodia...Syntyche" Apparently, even in this loving church there is still internal tension. This does not refer to doctrinal tension, which was mentioned in chapter 3, but to fellowship tension of some sort. This first proper name means "a prosperous journey or success." The second name means "pleasant acquaintance" or "good luck." Their names did not match their current actions. In Macedonia women had more freedom than anywhere in the ancient Roman world (cf. Acts 16:12-15). Sometimes freedom turns into personal preference or even license.

"live in harmony in the Lord" The key to harmony is the believers' relationship to Christ which radically transforms their relationships with their covenant brothers and sisters. Believers' love for God is clearly seen in their love for one another (cf. Ephesians 4:1-6; Ephesians 2:1-5; 1 John 4:20-21).

Philippians 4:3

NASB, NKJV"true comrade" NRSV"loyal companion" TEV"faithful partner" NJB"partner"

This is often translated literally as "yoke-fellow" (cf. Arndt and Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p.783). However, it is a masculine singular noun which, in a list of so many other names, possibly was a proper name itself, Syzygus (cf. NJB and Moulton and Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament, p. 607), which would have been a play on the meaning of the name.

It is possible that this was Paul's way of referring to Luke. The "we" sections of Acts start and stop at Philippi. Luke may have stayed there to help the new converts and collect the offering for the church in Jerusalem.

"to help these women" This is a present middle imperative which literally means "take hold with." Paul was admonishing one of the members of the Philippian church to help these two women overcome their differences in the Lord (cf. Galatians 6:1-4).

NASB"who shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel" NKJV"labored with me" NRSV"struggled beside me" TEV"have worked hard with me" NJB"have struggled hard"

This term is only used here and in Philippians 1:27. It is a military or athletic term for a "hard fight." It is metaphorical for the intensity of gospel work. These women helped Paul in his evangelistic mission work. Many of Paul's helpers mentioned in Romans 16:0 were women. Even missionaries have disagreements (cf. Acts 15:36-41). How they solve them as Christians is the issue, and the witness!

"Clement" This is a common name in the Roman world. This person is mentioned nowhere else in the NT. However, Origen of Alexandria, Eusebius, and Jerome believed that it refers to Clement of Rome who wrote a letter to the Corinthian church sometime toward the end of the first century (A.D. 95). However, this identification seems highly speculative.

"and the rest of my fellow-workers" Paul was willing to use many helpers in his gospel work. He was no prima-donna; he apparently delegated responsibility to other men and women. It is interesting to note in Romans 16:0 how many women's names appear as helpers of Paul.

"whose names are in the book of life" This may refer to the registration of the covenant people in the OT (cf. Daniel 7:10; Daniel 12:1) which was metaphorical of God's memory. There are two books mentioned in Daniel 7:10 and Revelation 20:12-15: (1) the book of remembrances and (2) the book of life. The book of remembrances includes the names and deeds of both the redeemed and the lost (cf. Psalms 58:6; Psalms 139:16; Isaiah 65:6; Malachi 3:16). The book of life includes the names of the redeemed and can be seen in Exodus 32:32; Psalms 69:28; Isaiah 4:3; Daniel 12:1; Luke 10:20; Philippians 4:3; Hebrews 12:23; Revelation 3:5; Revelation 13:8; Revelation 17:8; Revelation 20:12, Revelation 20:15; Revelation 21:27. God knows those who are His. He will reward His followers and judge the wicked (cf. Matthew 25:31-46; Revelation 20:11-15). In the Greco-Roman world this term referred to the official registration of a city; if so, it might have been another play on this city's official status as a Roman colony (cf. Philippians 1:27; Philippians 3:20).

Verses 4-7

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Philippians 4:4-7 4Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4 There are two present active imperative forms of the term "rejoice" in Philippians 4:4. The term can be translated as a farewell, but in this context they must be translated "rejoice" (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:16). This is a major theme in Philippians. Notice the number of times the terms "all" and "every" are used in Philippians 4:4-13 as in Philippians 1:1-8. Joy must not be linked to circumstances. The key is the believers' relationship to Christ ("in the Lord").

Philippians 4:5

NASB"gentle spirit" NKJV, NRSV"gentleness" TEV"a gentle attitude" NJB"good sense"

This call to Christian lifestyle began in Philippians 3:1, but the discussion of the false teachers drew Paul's mind away until this point where he renews the emphasis. The term itself is best translated "kind," "gentle," or "yielding" (cf. 1 Timothy 3:3; Titus 3:2; James 3:17; 1 Peter 2:18).

"be known to all men" This verse has been interpreted in two ways:

1. believers are to have this gentleness toward other believers so that those outside the church will notice and be attracted to Christ (cf. Matthew 5:16)

2. this gentleness is to be applied to all people, regardless of their relationship to the Lord, as a witness to His power in the lives of these converted pagans and as a deterrent to unfair criticism by unbelievers (cf. Romans 12:17; Romans 14:18; 2 Corinthians 8:21; 1 Peter 2:12, 1 Peter 2:15; 1 Peter 3:16)

NASB, NRSV, NJB"The Lord is near" NKJV"The Lord is at hand" TEV"The Lord is coming soon"

This word "near" is used of time (cf. Matthew 24:32, Matthew 24:33). The Second Coming is a recurrent theme in Philippians. This has a very similar meaning to the Aramaic word maranatha (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:22; Revelation 22:10). The any-moment expectation of the Second Coming was and is an encouragement to Christian living (cf. Romans 13:12; James 5:8-9).

It is also possible that this could have referred to the Lord's moment-by-moment presence with believers (cf. Matthew 28:20; Romans 10:8 and F. F. Bruce's Answers to Questions, p. 201).


Philippians 4:6 "be anxious for nothing" This is a present active imperative. The church at Philippi was under great tension, both from without and within. Anxiety is not an appropriate characteristic for the Christian life (cf. Matthew 6:25-34 and 1 Peter 5:7). There is nothing that should worry believers except possibly their standing fast in the Lord and serving Him. The great enemy of peace is anxiety.

"but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving" This is a key answer to anxiety-prayer, for others and ourselves, mixed with thanksgiving. It is interesting how often Paul uses the term "thanksgiving" in combination with prayer (cf. Ephesians 5:20; Colossians 4:2; 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18; 1 Timothy 2:1). There is an obvious contrast between "for nothing" and "in everything." See Special Topic: Paul's Praise, Prayer, and Thanksgiving at Ephesians 3:20.

"Let your requests be made known to God" This a present passive imperative. There are several passages in the NT which emphasize that believers should persist in prayer (cf. Matthew 7:7-11; Luke 18:2-8). Possibly, thanksgiving and perseverance are the two missing elements in a proper theology of prayer. God knows what is needed but He desires the fellowship and trust involved in prayer. God has limited Himself in many areas to the prayers of His children; "We have not because we ask not" (cf. James 4:2).

Philippians 4:7 "the peace of God" It is interesting that in this context the peace of God is mentioned in Philippians 4:7 and the God who gives it is mentioned in Philippians 4:9. The first emphasizes what God gives and the second His character. Peace is used in several different senses in the NT:

1. it can be a title (cf. Isaiah 9:6; Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Philippians 4:9; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:16)

2. it can refer to the peace of the gospel in an objective sense (cf. John 14:27; John 16:33; Colossians 1:20)

3. it can refer to the peace of the gospel in a subjective sense (cf. Ephesians 2:14-17; Colossians 3:15)

Sometimes 2 and 3 are combined as in Romans 5:1. See Special Topic: Peace at Colossians 1:20.

"which surpasses all comprehension" This is a present active participle. It has been interpreted in two ways: (1) God's peace is better than human reason or (2) God's peace is beyond human reason. The parallel passage in Ephesians 3:20 is helpful. God's ways are beyond our ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8-9). An example of this peace that passes all human ability to understand is found in the life of Paul in this very chapter (cf. Philippians 4:11-13). The peace of God must be unconnected with circumstances and locked securely to the person and work of Christ. For "surpasses" (huperechô) see Special Topic: Paul's Use of Huper Compounds at Ephesians 1:19.

"shall guard your hearts and your minds" God's peace acts as a soldier guarding believers. This same beautiful truth of God's garrisoning of His children can be seen in 1 Peter 1:4, 1 Peter 1:5. The two Greek terms "heart" (kardia) and "mind" (nous) are synonymous in speaking about the whole person (feeling and thinking). Paul emphasizes Christian thinking throughout this letter. See note at Philippians 3:15. See Special Topic: Heart at Colossians 2:2.

"in Christ Jesus" He is the key to Paul's theology. All of God's benefits and blessings flow to fallen mankind through the life, teachings, death, resurrection, Second Coming and personal union with Jesus Christ. Believers are vitally united with Him. This is theologically synonymous with John's "abide in me" of John 15:0.

Verses 8-9

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Philippians 4:8-9 8Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. 9The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9 This continues the emphasis on the believer's thought life. The rabbis saw the mind as the seed-bed of the soul. What we think becomes who we are. These verses are much needed in the life of the modern western church in a day of such socially accepted evil. Paul's list is similar to the Stoics' lists of virtues. Paul was exposed to Greek philosophy as a citizen of Tarsus. He even quotes several Greek writers (cf. Acts 17:28; 1 Corinthians 15:37 and Titus 1:12). See Special Topic: Vices and Virtues in the NT at Colossians 3:5.

Philippians 4:8 "finally" See note at Philippians 3:1.

"true" This is truth in contrast to falsehood, however, it is not academic truth, but rather a lifestyle of godly living. This very term is used of God in Romans 3:4.

"honorable" This literally means "dignified." This term is often translated "grave" and is used for church leaders in 1 Timothy 3:8, 1 Timothy 3:11 and Titus 2:2. It seems to have been used in the sense of "dignity" with "attractiveness" toward both the saved and the lost.

"right" This refers to one conforming to the standard of God's character, thereby being a morally upright person. In the OT the Hebrew term for "right" comes from the word for "measuring reed" and refers to God's nature as the standard by which all humans are judged. This does not mean that humans can be perfectly right with God on their own effort, but that God has freely imputed the righteousness of Christ to those who believe in Him by faith Once given, God's character transforms the receiver!

"pure" This is used in the sense of moral purity (cf. 1 John 3:3).

"lovely" This term is used only here in the NT. It seems to mean "pleasing," "amiable," "congenial," or "pleasant." This is another call for believers to live attractive lives.

NASB"of good repute" NKJV"praiseworthy" NRSV"commendable" TEV"deserve praise" NJB"admire"

This term is used only here in the NT. It refers to that which is "praise-worthy" or "attractive."

"if there is any excellence" The grammatical form of these eight items used in Philippians 4:8 changes after the sixth one and becomes a first class conditional sentence which was assumed to be true. The term "excellent" is used only here in Paul's writings and only three times in Peter's (cf. 1 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 1:3, 2 Peter 1:5). It refers to doing something well with its accompanying prestige. It was a common word in the Greek moral philosophers (Stoics). It is used to express goodness in its fullest practical expression.

"worthy of praise" This meant "that which was approved both by God and by man" (cf. Philippians 1:11). It refers to being socially acceptable to a culture for the purpose of attracting people to God (cf. 1 Timothy 3:2, 1 Timothy 3:7, 1 Timothy 3:10; 1 Timothy 5:7; 1 Timothy 6:14).

NASB"dwell on these things" NKJV"meditate on these things" NRSV"think about these things" TEV"fill your minds with those things" NJB"let your minds be filled with"

This is a present middle imperative. This commercial term (logizomai) implies a process of calculating or reasoning that was continual and priority. Dwell on these things so that they can shape your thinking and living (see note at Philippians 3:15). God will do His part in the believers' lives through grace, but they must participate by removing those things that they know will draw their heart away from the Lord (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).

Philippians 4:9 "the things you have learned and received and heard and seen" All four of these verbs are aorist active indicatives. These relate to Paul's activities in Philippi. Both the content of believers' theology and their lifestyle (cf. Ezra 7:10) are crucial if believers are to reflect who the Lord is and attract others to Him.

It is interesting that the second word "received" (paralambanô) became an official term for "received tradition" and was used in that sense by Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:23; 1 Corinthians 15:3.

"seen" This emphasis began in Philippians 3:17. As Paul followed Christ, believers are to follow him.

"Practice these things" This is a present active imperative, "keep on practicing these things!" Do not be just hearers, but doers (cf. Luke 11:28; James 1:22). It is very similar to the Hebrew concept, Shema (cf. Deuteronomy 5:1; Deuteronomy 6:4; Deuteronomy 9:1; Deuteronomy 20:3; Deuteronomy 27:9-10), which meant "to hear so as to do." Christianity must not be turned into a creed isolated from daily godly living.

"the God of peace" As verse Philippians 4:7 emphasizes the peace that God gives, this verse emphasizes the very nature of the One who gives it. This emphasis on the peace-giving God can be seen in Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; Hebrews 13:20. Jesus is called the Lord of peace in 2 Thessalonians 3:16.

Verses 10-14

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Philippians 4:10-14 10But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked opportunity. 11Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. 14Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my affliction.

Philippians 4:10 "I rejoiced" Paul is so appreciative of this church's help (money, concern, prayers, Epaphroditus).

NASB, NRSV"that now at last you have revived your concern for me" NKJV"that now at last your care for me has flourished again" TEV"after so long a time you once more had the chance of showing that you care for me" NJB"now that at last your consideration for me has blossomed again"

At first glance this seems to be a negative statement in English. It is very similar to the phrase found in Romans 1:10. The term "revived" means "to bloom again." Paul is simply stating that they had the desire to help him but they had not had an opportunity (imperfect tense of both the verb and the infinitive of Philippians 4:10b). This probably refers to a monetary gift (cf. Philippians 4:14). For a good article see Gordon Fee, To What End Exegesis? pp. 282-289.

Philippians 4:11 "I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am" This is an aorist tense employing a Stoic term (autarkçs). The Stoic philosophers used this term translated "contented" as the goal of their philosophy, which was a passionless distancing from the affairs of life, "a self-sufficiency." Paul was not saying that he was self-sufficient, but that he was Jesus-sufficient ("in the Lord," Philippians 4:10). The peace of God is not connected with circumstances, but with the person and work of Christ. This contentment is both a Christian worldview and friendship with the Savior. The theological concept of Christian contentment is also found in 2 Corinthians 9:8; 1 Timothy 6:6, 1 Timothy 6:8; Hebrews 13:5.

Philippians 4:12 This verse has three perfect tense verbs and six present infinitives. It is a beautiful, artistic affirmation of Paul's trust in God's moment-by-moment provision "in Christ." See Special Topic: Wealth at Ephesians 4:28.

"I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity" The two "I knows" are perfect active indicatives. Paul knew about want and plenty! The first term is translated "humbled" in Philippians 2:8, where it is used of Jesus. Here it means "less than what is needed for daily life."

The second word means "much more than is needed for daily life." There are two dangers facing believers in their Christian lifestyle: poverty and wealth (cf. Proverbs 30:7-9). The danger is that with poverty one becomes discouraged with God and with wealth one becomes self-sufficient apart from God.

"prosperity. . .assurance" See Special Topic: Abound at Ephesians 1:8.

NASB, NRSV, TEV"I have learned the secret" NKJV"I have learned" NJB"I have mastered the secret"

This literally means "I have been initiated." This is another perfect passive indicative. This term is used only here in the NT. It was used in the mystery religions for one who was initiated into their cult. Paul was asserting that he has learned by experience and by theology that the true secret of happiness is found in Christ, not in circumstances (cf. The Christian's Secret of a Happy Life by Hannah Whithall Smith).

Philippians 4:13 The term "Christ" found in the King James Version does not occur in this verse in the oldest Greek manuscripts (א*, A, B, or D*). However, the pronoun "Him" certainly refers to Jesus. This is the flipside of the truth found in John 15:5. Biblical truth is often presented in tension-filled pairs. Usually one side emphasizes God's involvement and the other, mankind's. This eastern method of presenting truth is very difficult for western people to grasp. Many of the tensions between denominations are a misunderstanding of this type of dialectical presentations of truth. To focus on one aspect or the other is to miss the point! These isolated proof texts have developed into systems of theology which are in fact only "half truths"!

"strengthens" This is a Present active participle, "the one who continues to strengthen" (cf. Ephesians 3:16; Colossians 1:11; 1 Timothy 1:12; 2 Timothy 4:17). Believers need to be strengthened by Christ. They also need to be strong (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:13 Ephesians 6:10; 2 Timothy 2:1). This is the paradoxical tension found so often in Scripture. Christianity is a covenant; God initiates it and sets the conditions and privileges, but humans must respond and obey and continue! These believers were under internal and external pressure from false teachers and persecutors! As Paul was content in all circumstances, so must they be (and us, too).

Philippians 4:14 These believers shared with Paul in the spreading of the gospel (cf. Philippians 1:5) and the persecution that it brought. See Special Topic: Tribulation at Ephesians 3:13.

Verses 15-20

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Philippians 4:15-20 15You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; 16for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. 17Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account. 18But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God. 19And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

Philippians 4:15, Philippians 4:16 This has been understood to be a contradiction to 2 Corinthians 11:8-9, which implies that the other churches of Macedonia also helped Paul. However, the time element is significant. Paul is saying that at this particular time no other church besides this church at Philippi had helped him. Paul was very hesitant to accept financial contributions (cf. 1 Corinthians 9:4-18; 2 Corinthians 11:7-10; 2 Corinthians 12:13-18; 1 Thessalonians 2:5-9; and 2 Thessalonians 3:7-9).

Philippians 4:15 "You yourselves also know" This is an emphatic "you" and a perfect active indicative. Paul shared himself with this church and they reciprocated.


NASB, NKJV, NRSV"shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving" TEV"shared my profits and losses" NJB"made common account with me in the matter of expenditure and receipts"

There is a series of commercial terms in Philippians 4:15-18 which can be verified and defined from the Koine Greek papyri found in Egypt and the ostraca (broken pottery used as writing material). This first one was a banking term for an open account.

Paul was acutely aware of the problems caused by money. As a rabbi he was not allowed to take money for his teaching. The false accusations by the factions at Corinth reinforced his need to refuse monetary help from the churches. Paul must have felt uniquely comfortable with this congregation.

Philippians 4:17 "I seek. . .seek" This is a very strong Greek term used twice to show Paul's ambiguous feelings about his thanksgiving for the gift and yet his not actively seeking their help. He realized that they would receive a blessing from God for their stewardship and generosity in the gospel. For this he was glad.

"the profit which increases to your account" This is another commercial metaphor which refers to the interest that accrued and was deposited in another's account. Giving to gospel causes results in gospel blessings (cf. Philippians 4:19).

Philippians 4:18 "I have received everything in full," This is another business term for a receipt of a payment in full. Paul felt this church had done everything expected and far more. (The use of the term "abound" or "abundance" and the prefect passive indicative "amply supplied").

"Epaphroditus" He was the Philippian church's representative sent to deliver the monetary gift and stay on to help Paul (cf. Philippians 2:25-30).

"a fragrant aroma; an acceptable sacrifice, well pleasing to God" This came from an OT metaphor of an accepted sacrifice on the altar of burnt offerings (cf. Genesis 8:21; Exodus 29:18, Exodus 29:25, Exodus 29:41; Leviticus 1:9, Leviticus 1:13; Ezekiel 20:41). This same type of metaphor is used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 2:15 and Ephesians 5:2.

The help given to Paul as a minister of the gospel is in reality given to God and will be repaid and blessed by Him!

Philippians 4:19 "My God shall supply all your needs" This is not a blank check from God! "Needs" must be defined. This must be seen in light of the principles of spiritual giving found in 2 Corinthians 8:0 and 9, particularly 9:6-15. This is not a promise that can be taken out of context and be applied to every human desire. In this context it relates to Paul's provision for ministry. God will always supply those who are generous givers with more to give. This does not mean that they will have more for personal use, but more to give to gospel causes!

"according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus" It must be remembered that this whole chapter is motivated by the work of Christ and that all that is accomplished in the Christian life is by the help of the Lord, "in the Lord," (cf. Philippians 4:1, Philippians 4:2, and 4). All of God's blessings come through Christ.

Philippians 4:20 "to our God and Father be glory forever and ever" This is very similar to Paul's closing prayer in other books. The term "forever and ever" is literally "to the ages of the ages," which is a Greek idiom for "forever." See Special Topic: Paul's Praise, Prayer, and Thanksgiving at Ephesians 3:20.

The description of God as Father is one of the greatest truths of the Bible (cf. Hosea 11:0). The family metaphors used for God (Father, Son) help humans understand His nature and character. God accommodates Himself to human understanding by using human titles, human analogies, and negation. For fuller note on "glory" see Ephesians 1:6.

"Amen" is the Hebrew word for "faith" or "faithfulness" (cf. Habakkuk 2:4). Originally this term was used to describe a stable stance, sure footing. It came to be used metaphorically of someone who was faithful, stable, steadfast, dependable, trustworthy. Later it came to be commonly used in the sense of an affirmation of a trustworthy statement. See Special Topic at Ephesians 3:20.

Verses 21-23

NASB (UPDATED) TEXT: Philippians 4:21-23 21Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. 22All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household. 23The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Philippians 4:21-23 It is possible that this was written in Paul's own hand which became a common technique to verify the authenticity of his letters (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:21; Galatians 6:11; Colossians 4:18; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; Philemon 1:19). This was also a common practice in the Koine Greek papyri found in Egypt. Most of Paul's letters were penned by a scribe (cf. Romans 16:22).

Philippians 4:21 "greet every saint" This is the only use of the word "saint" in the NT in the singular. It is followed in Philippians 4:22 by the plural form. Even Philippians 4:21 is used in a corporate sense. To be saved makes one a part of a family, a body, a field, a building, a people! It is impossible to be a spiritual "lone ranger." The gospel is received individually but results in a collective fellowship.

Be carful of the modern western overemphasis on individual rights and freedoms. Christianity is a corporate experience. Even well-known Reformation (Luther) slogans like "the Priesthood of the Believer" are biblically inaccurate. The NT people of God are described by the OT priestly phrases (cf. 1 Peter 2:5, 1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 1:60. But note that they are all plural, "a kingdom of priests."

Remember, believers are individually gifted at salvation for the common good (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:7). We are saved to serve. Our modern cultural milieu has changed the biblical focus into "what's in it for me?" thereby turning salvation into a ticket to heaven instead of a life of ministry. Believers are not saved so that they might exercise their freedoms nor actualize their potential, they are saved from sin to serve God (cf. Romans 6:0). See Special Topic: Saints at Colossians 1:2.

Philippians 4:22 "especially those of Caesar's household" This obviously relates to servants, slaves, and minor officials in Rome in governmental service (cf. Philippians 1:13). Paul's gospel had even invaded the Emperor's own staff and would one day cause the whole pagan system to collapse.

Philippians 4:23

NASB, NRSV, NJB"be with your spirit" NKJV, TEV"be with you all"

This refers to the human person. In the NT it is often very difficult to know if the author is referring to the Holy Spirit (with a capital "S") or the human spirit which is motivated by the Holy Spirit (with a little "s"). In this context it is obviously a little "s."

There is a manuscript variation in the Pauline closing (cf. Galatians 6:18 and Philemon 1:25). Some Greek texts, אc, K, and the Textus Receptus (NKJV), have "with you all," which was Paul's close in 1 Corinthians 16:24; 2 Corinthians 13:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:18 and Titus 3:15. The majority of ancient Greek papyrus and uncial manuscripts have "with your spirit."

Bibliographical Information
Utley. Dr. Robert. "Commentary on Philippians 4". "Utley's You Can Understand the Bible". https://studylight.org/commentaries/eng/ubc/philippians-4.html. 2021.
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