Philippian 4:2-9 Exploring the Passage

Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).

1. What problem does the apostle Paul address in Philippians 4:2-3 (printed below?) How does he describe the persons involved?

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. (3) Indeed, I ask you, Syzygus, to help these women who labored with me for the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my fellow-workers whose names are in the book of life. (Philippians 4:2-3)

In verse 2 we find that two women of the church are singled out for a special word of admonition: they were at odds with one another and it was having a detrimental affect upon the local congregation. Notice that they are two sincere Christian ladies, they labored with Paul for the gospel. Nevertheless, despite their mutual commitment to Christ, a division and separation has developed between them.

2. What exhortation does Paul give in verse 4 (printed below?) Does this mean that the Christian should be in a constant state of euphoria?

Always rejoice in the Lord. Again I say, Rejoice. (Philippians 4:4)

In verse 4 there comes the exhortation: “Always rejoice in the Lord.” Does this mean we are to always be happy and continually experience a sense of spiritual euphoria? Other passages of Scripture would argue against such views as those mentioned above; note, for instance, Ecclesiastes 3:1,4, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…(4) a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

3. How would you explain what it means when the apostle exhorts us as Christians to “always rejoice in the Lord?”

What does the apostle Paul mean when he exhorts us to “always rejoice in the Lord?” Always rejoicing in the Lord involves the awareness of and confidence in God’s sovereignty and goodness in all the circumstances of our lives as Christians (Romans 8:28; 2 Corinthians 4:17-18). Always rejoicing in the Lord also involves the assurance of the Lord’s promise as recorded in such passages as Isaiah 43:2-3a, ““When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze—(3) because I am Jehovah your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

4. We may view the apostle’s instructions given in verses 5-6 (printed below) as “three aids” to assist us in rejoicing in the Lord always. What are those “aids?”

Let your gentle spirit be evident to all men. The Lord is near. (6) Do not be anxious about anything. On the contrary, in everything, by prayer and petition—with thanksgiving—let your requests be made known to God (Philippians 4:5-6)

The first “aid” is having “a gentle (or, ‘forbearing”) spirit.” That is to say, having a controlled and accepting spirit, one that does not persistently insist on its own way and its own rights, fretting and fighting when it is crossed or disappointed. A second “aid” is possessing the assurance that “the Lord is near;” more literally, “the Lord is on the verge of coming.” The apostle Peter speaks of “the salvation that is ready to be revealed at the last time” (1 Peter 1:5). The salvation accomplished by Christ’s work is finished and prepared and waiting to be revealed at God’s command, at which time the Lord Jesus shall return in power and great glory. The third “aid” is the practice of converting anxiety into prayer. The apostle assures us that when we heed his divinely inspired counsel, “the peace of God…will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

5. What counsel does Paul give the Christian in verses 8-9 (printed below?) What will be the result when we follow this counsel?

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, reflect on these things. (9) Put into practice the things you learned and received, and heard from me and saw in me, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8-9)

In verses 8-9 the apostle Paul counsels us to cultivate a Christian mind, or, outlook. Amount the many attributes listed Paul mentions “virtue,” or, moral excellence. The term originally was used by the Greeks to mean those qualities that should characterize a man. As a Christian, whenever you see a man reflecting the character of Christ, take note of that man and praise God and seek to emulate him. As you cause your mind to be focused on these godly attributes and your life to be shaped by them (verse 9), there is the assurance that “the peace of God will be with you.”