6. Practical pastoral issues, 4:1-9
ii] Christian virtuesArgument
Paul is about to conclude his letter, but before he does he leaves the Philippian believers with some general exhortations. We could title these exhortations The Seven Steps to Peace: keep a joyful heart; be reasonable to all; stay conscious of the Lord's presence; avoid over-anxiety; live a prayerful life; think beautiful thoughts; and practice Christian understanding.
i] Context: See 4:1-3.
ii] Background: See 1:1-11.
iii] Structure: Christian virtues:
joy and peace, v4-7;
good living, v8-9;
A word of appreciation, v10-20.
This passage consists of seven short Gk. sentences with connectives alla and kai used only in v6 and v7. Each sentence provides a general exhortation to the Philippian congregation.
Verse 6 is of particular interest. Some commentators argue that this verse promotes the idea that Jesus will deal with all our concerns in a practical way when we bring them to him in prayer. The problem is, it doesn't quite say this. Paul's exhortation is that we should not be burdened by the cares of this world, cf., Matt.6:25-34. To achieve this state, "in everything", ie., in all circumstances, we should make our requests to Jesus concerning the circumstances, and do so with an awareness of his mercy toward us in the past. Prayer must be "according to the will of God". As children of our heavenly Father, we have the right to seek his aid in times of need, but his aid is always framed by his will, not ours. So, the prayer of faith must always address the promises of God, all of which are outlined in the scriptures.
v] Exposition: A simple exposition of this passage may be found in the linked pew-level Sermon Notes.
Text - 4:4
Christian virtues, v4-9: i] Joy, gentleness and prayer, v4-7; a) Rejoice in the Lord. This letter contains quite a number of references to joy, 1:4, 18, 2:17, 18, 3:1. Paul's exhortation to the Philippians is that in all circumstances they should rejoice. The enabling of such joy comes through Christ. It is possible for a believer, in an intimate relationship with Jesus, to be filled with joy, no matter what the circumstances. Of course, joy is not a requirement, and in any case, it is possible to experience heart-felt joy in the midst of a stream of tears.
cairete (cairw) pres. imp. "rejoice" - rejoice (enjoy a state of happiness and well-being*). There are no linking conjunctions, or causal links to the imperatives that follow and so it is best to see the injunction "rejoice", as with the following injunctions, as an independent exhortation.
en + dat. "in" - in [the lord]. Local, expressing space, incorporative union, "in your relationship with the Lord", but possibly the object of their rejoicing, rather than source, or even both, Varner, but note 4:2. "Delight yourselves in the Lord", Phillips.
pantote adv. "always" - "At all times", O'Brien; "never lose your Christian joy", Barclay.
palin adv. "again" - "I have said it once and I will say it again, rejoice!", O'Brien.
erw (eipon) fut. "I will say" - i will say [rejoice]. The future tense probably serves as a hortatory subjunctive, as NIV.
b) Let your gentleness be evident to all. Paul encourages a show of goodwill toward all people. The word "gentleness" means something like: goodwill, fairness, friendliness, forbearance. It is the opposite of claiming ones rights over another. The exhortation is supported by the truth that Christ will soon return. The term, "the Lord is near", could mean that Jesus is nearby watching us, but it is more likely a reference to the parousia.
gnwsqhtw (ginwskw) aor. pas. imp. "let [your .....] be evident" - let be known. "Obvious", NJB.
to epieikeV adj. "gentleness" - the reasonableness, patience [of you] (pertaining to being gracious and forbearing*). The adjective serves as a substantive, nominalized by the article to, subject of the verb "let be known." Not retaliating, demanding, but being gracious and kind as God is both gracious and kind, Ps.86:5. Possibly in the sense of a legalistic / pharisaic attitude, "you must make it common knowledge that you never insist on the letter of the law", Barclay.
pasin anqrwpoiV (oV) dat. "to all" - to all men / mankind. Dative of indirect object / interest, advantage. Expressing "the way in which Christians and non-Christians should live together", Bauder, cf., Reumann. "To all sorts of people."
oJ kurioV (oV) "the Lord" - Nominative subject of an assumed verb to-be. Obviously referring to Christ.
egguV adv. "near" - is near. The predicate use of an adverb. Either with a spacial or temporal sense. Most commentators opt for a temporal sense where the second coming of Christ serves as a motivation for faithful discipleship. This always seems a crude weapon to use against our inclination toward selfishness. There is much to be said for a spacial sense, as it is never easy to drag Jesus into our sin. The adverb, with a supplied verb to-be, forms the predicate of the sentence; "the Lord is near. Probably best treated as an imperative; "never forget the nearness of your Lord", Phillips.
c) Do not be anxious about anything, rather pray and God's peace will guard you, v6-7. The cares of this age can very easily affect the stability of a person's life. Jesus even warned that the cares of this age ("life's worries, riches and pleasures") can choke the life-giving Word from a believer's life. For this reason, Paul calls on his readers to pass those cares onto the Lord and leave them in his keeping. They can then respond with thanksgiving in the knowledge that the Lord will carry their load. Paul defines the business of prayer in the terms of: "by prayer" - by supplication or request to God; "petition" - asking; "with thanksgiving" - with a grateful acknowledgment of past mercies.
merimnate (merimnatw) pres. imp. "do [not] be anxious" - be anxious for. The present tense is durative, so "do not continue to be anxious." In the face of life's circumstances, we should not have an overly anxious concern about the chaos of life, given that God is bringing all things into subjection to himself. "Do not be fretful", Beare.
mhden "not ... about anything" - nothing. Accusative of inner object; "not at all / not in any way", BAGD.
alla "but" - Strong adversative standing in a counterpoint construction; "instead".
en panti "in everything" - The sense may be temporal, "always", or local, "in all things / situations", "in every circumstance of life tell God ...", Barclay. It is possible that the "in everything" = "in all prayers and petitions", "in all your prayers ask God for what you need", TEV.
th/ proseuch/ kai th/ dehsei "by prayer and petition" - in prayer and in petition. The dative is instrumental, expressing means, so "by", as NIV. The different aspects of prayer are possibly intercessions and supplications, and this with thanksgiving.
meta + gen. "with [thanksgiving]" - Usually expressing association, "in company with", but possibly adverbial here, modal, expressing the manner by which the prayers and petitions are offered; "always asking him with a thankful heart", TEV.
gnwrizesqw (gnwrizw) pres. pas. imp. "present [your requests]" - let be known [the requests]. The present tense may be read as durative; "let your requests be constantly known", Reumann.
uJmwn gen. pro. "your" - of you. The genitive is adjectival, possessive, as NIV, although possibly ablative, source / origin, "from you", Varner.
proV + acc. "to [God]" - toward [god]. Possibly relational, "in the presence of God", O'Brien, or simply directional.
kai "and" - This conjunction is often consecutive when following an imperative, "and as a consequence, if we do this ...."; "so shall", Moffatt.
hJ eirhnh (h) "the peace" - When we respond in trust to the Lord, we then receive the gift of his peace. A sense of ease covers us and overrides all our complicated musings, ideas, plans, fears...... It is because we are "in Christ" (in an intimate relationship with him) that this sense of ease continues, protecting us from the "cares of the world". The peace which God gives is a peace of mind. Lightfoot puts it this way, "God's peace shall stand sentry, shall keep guard over your hearts." Kennedy writes, "The peace of God is a garrison of the soul in all the experiences of its life, defending it from external assaults of temptation and anxiety..."
tou qeou gen. "of God" - As is so often the case, the genitive may be taken a number of ways:
• ablative, source / origin, "God is the source of peace";
• verbal, objective, "our being at peace with God";
• verbal, subjective, "the peace that comes to us from God";
• descriptive, "the tranquility that eternally belongs to God",
• attributive, "the peacemaking God";
• idiomatic / of production, "the peace produced by God."
O'Brien opts for both the third and fourth option; Hawthorne and Wallace the fourth; Reumann the third, "the peace that God has and gives"; Fee suggests the first option. It seems best to follow Fee who notes that God, who is the God of peace, is usually identified by Paul as the source of peace, which is probably the intention of the genitive here, a once only use by Paul of this construction. So, an ablative genitive of source / origin.
hJ uJperecousa (uJperecw) pres. part. "which transcends" - surpassing [all understanding]. The participle is adjectival, attributive, limiting the noun "peace". A difficult participle phrase to translate, particularly as there is no direct object. Commonly translated as NIV, expressing the idea that the peace is such that "no one can completely understand [it]", CEV. Possibly meaning that God's peace is better at removing anxiety than any human scheme; "surpasses all our dreams", Moffatt.
frourhsei (frourew) fut. "will guard" - will guard, keep, protect. In a military sense of soldiers keeping guard for the purpose of protection.
taV kardiaV "hearts" - the hearts [of you]. Accusative direct object of the verb "will guard." The seat of reason and moral intent.
ta nohmata (a atoV) "minds" - the minds, thoughts [of you]. Accusative direct object of the verb "will guard." "Thoughts", JB
en + dat. "in [Christ Jesus]" - As with "in the Lord", see 4:2. Local, expressing sphere, probably the idea of union with Christ, relationship with, rather than, under the subjection of or influence of, "in obedience to his authority and the submission of his will", Martin (Tyndale). "God's peace will stand guard over the hearts and minds of those who are in union with Christ Jesus", O'Brien.
ii] At this point, "the apostle urges his readers to let their minds dwell on those qualities which are good in themselves and beneficial to others", O'Brien, v8-9. "In conclusion, if there is anything that is good and if there is anything worthy of praise [and of course there is], then think continually on those things that are true and honorable and just and pure and lovely and reputable."
to loipon adj. "finally" - as for the things remaining brothers. The articular adjective serves here as an adverb, as NIV; "In conclusion", TEV.
oJsa pro. "whatever [is]" - as many things as, whatever [is = are]. Nominative subject of the verb to-be.
alhqh adj. "true" - true. "Sincere."
semna adj. "noble" - [whatever] reverend, honorable. "Worthy", Moffatt; "honorable", Phillips.
dikaia adj. "right" - [whatever] just, righteous.
aJgna adj. "pure" - [whatever] pure (being without moral defect or blemish and hence pure*)
prosfilh adj. "lovely" - [whatever] lovely. "Lovable", NEB.
eufhma adj. "admirable" - [whatever] worthy of praise, well spoken of. "Reputable", Bruce; "decent" NAB.
ei "if" - if, as is the case, [there is any virtue] and if, as is the case, [there is any praise, then these things take account of]. Introducing two parallel 1st. class conditional clauses where the condition is assumed to be true. The indicative verb "to be" estin must be supplied. When expressed in English a conditional clause indicates doubt, but there is no doubt in Paul's mind that there is excellence and things that are worthy of praise; "if, as we rightly assume, there is any excellence." "Don't ever stop thinking about what is truly worthwhile and worthy of praise", CEV.
areth (h) "excellent" - moral excellence. "Good", TEV.
epainoV (oV) "praiseworthy" - praise. "Admirable", NEB.
logizesqe (logizomai) imp. "think about [such things]" - [these things] consider, calculate. Think on, in the sense of meditate on, absorb and apply. "Your thoughts must continually dwell on", Barclay.
Paul encourages his readers to put into practice all that he has taught them, both by example and teaching. The result of such is not only the peace of God, but the God of peace will touch them personally; he will manifest himself to them
aJ pro. "whatever" - which things [and = both you learned, and you received, and you heard, and you saw]. Accusative direct object of the four following verbs, each of which is introduced by a correlative kai. Many commentators regard v8 as a list of pagan virtues worth following, and so Paul now reminds his readers to add them to the particular Christian virtues revealed to the Philippians by Paul and his missionary team. Other commentators argue that the "those things which" refer to the "whatever things which" listed in v8 and that Paul is simply asking his readers to note that these qualities were evident in the life of the missionaries. So, the relative pronoun "which things" may be taken to refer either to the "whatever things" of v8, or the things heard from Paul, v9. The particle can be taken as "and" or "also", depending on which line of interpretation is adopted.
parelabete (paralambanw) aor. "you have ... received" - received, taken. A technical term, here to receive and appropriate instruction.
en + dat. "in" - in [me]. Local, expressing sphere, obviously here relational; "in your association / relationship with me." Probably applying to all four verbs.
prassete (prassw) pres. imp. "put into practice" - [these] practice, accomplish. The present tense probably underlines continued effort, "you must keep putting into practice", Barclay.
thV eirhnhV (h) gen. "of peace" - [and the god] of peace. Probably an ablative genitive, expressing source / origin, or adjectival, idiomatic / of product, in that God is the one who produces the peace. This God will be "with" the Philippians, which is probably the best way to understand the peace that God produces. This "peace", the tranquility that eternally belongs to God and radiates to his people, is ours when he is "with" us, and it is this divine presence residing in us that "guards" us, v7.
meq (meta) + gen. "with [you]" - [will be] with [you]. Expressing association / accompaniment.