The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
March 4, 2012


1) Philippians 4:1-4 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes 


Philippians 4:1-4
by Tom Edwards

After speaking of the Christian's citizenship being in heaven and waiting for the time when God will transform the Christian's body into a glorious state, Paul then says in Philippians 4:1, "Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved."

The division of the Bible into chapters and verses was done years after the books of the Bible were compiled.  According to one source, it was Stephen Langton, an "archbishop of Canterbury," who divided the Bible into chapters in A.D. 1227, which was then first used in Wycliffe's English Bible in 1382 and in nearly all Bible translations since then.  Verse numbering came along later.  A Jewish "rabbi" by the name of Nathan is said to have divided the Hebrew Old Testament into verses in 1448; and then a little more than a 100 years later, Robert Estienne (also known as Stephanus) was the first to divide the New Testament into verses in 1555.  The Geneva Bible is said to have been the first to use these chapter and verse divisions by Stephanus; and since then, nearly all Bible versions have used the same.

The chapters and verses are to make it easier for us to find specific passages.  Without them, one might have to say something similar to what the Hebrew writer states in Hebrews 4:4: "For He has said somewhere concerning the seventh day: "AND GOD RESTED ON THE SEVENTH DAY FROM ALL HIS WORKS."   Notice the beginning of this: "For He has said somewhere...."  The writer could not cite the chapter and verse in the Bible where that was said because they were not used at that time.  

Some Old Testament prophecy had a dual application and fulfillment, such as in 2 Samuel 7:12-16, in which much of it is referring to Solomon and also to Christ.  Psalm 22 is also said to have pertained to more than Jesus, though it clearly does foretell the Lord's suffering at Calvary.  The psalm begins with, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?," which is one of the seven sayings Jesus said while on the cross (Matt. 27:46).  It could very well be that the Lord made that statement as a way of drawing attention to that particular psalm with its various specific prophecies concerning the crucifixion that were now being fulfilled that very day.    

Sometimes, however, where man-made chapter divisions have been made, it doesn't always seem to be in the best spot.  For example, if we look at the way Philippians 3 ends (vv. 20,21), it would appear that Philippians 4:1 ought to actually be the last verse of that chapter -- rather than beginning a new one.  

Paul refers to his brethren as "beloved" (4:1).  He was one who had a genuine love and concern for them.  We had seen this in Philippians 1:7,8, where Paul speaks of having "you in my heart," and how he longed for them "with the affection of Christ Jesus."

Paul also refers to the Philippians as being "my joy and my crown" (4:1).  These brethren were a joy to Paul because of their faithful commitment to the Lord, which led to Paul being able to rejoice in their obedience to the gospel.  Compare 3 John 1:3,4.

The Greek word for "crown" ("stephanos") has for one of its definitions, "the wreath or garland which was given as a prize to victors in public games."  It can also be used to mean "that which is an ornament and honour to one" (Thayer).  

We think of children obeying their parents as one of the ways in which they honor them.  And in a similar manner, as Zerr writes, "Paul felt honored by the faithfulness of these brethren, since they were the product of his labors, and their continued devotion was due to their respect for the truth he had delivered to them."  Paul could rejoice in the part he had to play in their salvation and spiritual development.  

He exhorts them to "stand firm in the Lord" (4:1).  As children of God there is much standing firm that we need to do.  For instance, in writing to the Corinthians, Paul urges them to "Be on the alert, STAND FIRM IN THE FAITH, act like men, be strong" (1 Cor. 16:13).  Here the King James Version uses the phrase "quit you like men"; but it certainly doesn't mean "stop being a man"; rather, it means to act like one; and standing firm in the Lord is part of that.  To the Ephesians, Paul encouraged them to "Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to STAND FIRM AGAINST THE SCHEMES OF THE DEVIL" (Eph. 6:11).  As we stand firm toward the things that are right, we must also stand firm against those things that are wrong.  In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, Paul's instruction is as follows: "So then, brethren, STAND FIRM AND HOLD TO THE TRADITIONS which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us."  Though "traditions" is more often used in the Scriptures to refer to that which is merely man-made traditions that clash with God's word (such as in Matthew 15:1-9), Paul is using it in 2 Thessalonians 2:15 to refer to the gospel, which has been "handed down" by God Himself.  For our standing firm involves "standing" in the light of God's word.  Through that means, we can also have the unity among brethren that the Lord not only desires for His people, but also died and prayed to make possible (Eph. 2:13-18; Jn. 17:20,21).   And in that unity, we are also to stand, as Paul exhorts in Philippians 1:27: "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are STANDING FIRM IN ONE SPIRIT, WITH ONE MIND striving together for the faith of the gospel."  Clearly, one's relationship with God is not merely a one-sided affair of the Lord's part only.  Rather, all this "standing" we have been considering indicates our responsibility as well.  Peter also makes this evident in 1 Peter 5:12: "Through Silvanus, our faithful brother (for so I regard him), I have written to you briefly, exhorting and testifying that this is the true grace of God. STAND FIRM IN IT!"  If salvation by grace were entirely up to God, what would be the need for this exhortation to "Stand firm in it"?  But we must stand firm in it because God's grace can become ineffectual in our lives, if we turn from the Lord.  Compare, for example, 2 Corinthians 6:1: "And working together with him we entreat also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain."  Grace can become vain if we don't give heed to what that grace demands of us.  For instance, Paul shows that God's grace is "...instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age..." (Titus 2:11-13).  So how can we be saved by God's grace if we refuse to do what that grace requires of us?  But when our faith in the Lord is coupled with obedience, then God will help us to stand firm.  The Psalmist declares, "Those who trust in the LORD are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved but abides forever" (Psa. 125:1).  

Paul then states in Philippians 4:2, "I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord."  When we think about 1 Corinthians, we think about numerous problems that Paul had to bring to the attention of those Christians.  When we think of Philippians, however, we think of an epistle of joy.  It is a positive letter; but here is just one gentle admonishment.  We had just heard Paul exhort the brethren to stand firm in the Lord, and part of that would include their being united in spirit with each other; but here were two women who were not doing that.  It could very well be that the exhortations Paul makes in Philippians 1:27 (to "conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel," to be "standing firm in one spirit" and "with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel"; along with his instruction in Philippians 2:2 to "make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose") was said with these two ladies in mind.  

As David Lipscomb writes, "A Christian shows his selfishness and his disregard for God when he disturbs the body of Christ to gratify his own and gain his ends.  He ought to be willing to bear and suffer wrong rather than defile the temple of God."

Whatever the problem was that these two women had with each other, I hope it was worked out; for they both had been workers for the Lord.  This can be seen in the next verse: "Indeed, 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" (Phil. 4:3).  We are not told specifically what these women did in sharing Paul's struggles for the cause of Christ, but since it was for the will of the Lord, it certainly was commendable of them.   

Many women, down through time, have been of great service to the Lord.  Though women are not authorized to "teach or exercise authority over a man" (1 Tim. 2:12) and, therefore, can not serve as a gospel preacher who is to "...speak and exhort and reprove with all authority..." (Titus 2:15), there are still other ways in which they can be of great service.  Aquila and Priscilla, for instance, were a husband and wife who worked together in teaching Apollos, who, though he had been "eloquent" and "mighty in the Scriptures" (Acts 18:24), did not know about the water baptism Jesus had commanded as part of the plan of salvation (v. 25). Aquila and Priscilla, therefore, after hearing him, "...took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately" (v. 26).

Sometimes women would help out through giving what they could for the needs of others, as Matthew 27:55,56 shows.  For the "ministering" these women did, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, would involve financial assistance that they had rendered.  Luke makes this clearer when speaking of "some women," which included Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, and "many others who were contributing to their support out of their private means" (Luke 8:1-3).  

In Romans 16:1, Paul refers to "our sister Phoebe, who is a servant of the church which is at Cenchrea."

It is thought that this "Clement" (Phil. 4:3), though mentioned only here in the Scriptures, is the same as the "Clement of Rome" who lived until A.D. 101 and had written letters to the Corinthians (which have been preserved in the writings of the "Apostolic Fathers"); but this is uncertain, since "Clement" was a common name.  

Though Paul does not mention all of his fellow workers by name, he does say something very important about them -- their "names are in the book of life." This, of course, does not mean, necessarily, that there is a literal book containing these names; but it does indicate the saved state they were in at that time.  For the importance of having one's name in that book can be seen in the following verses:  Revelation 20:15: "And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire."  Revelation 21:27: "and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life."  And, as we have seen, this is truly a reason why the Christian can rejoice -- as Jesus told His apostles in Luke 10:20: "Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven."  The apostles had just returned, joyful that even the demons were subject to them; and Jesus said that He "was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightening." The Lord then pointed out that He had given them authority to "tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy," and that nothing would injure them -- but, even so, what they were really to rejoice in (even above these things) is that their names had been recorded in heaven.  We can further point out that having one's name in the book of life does not mean that, while on earth, one has an eternal security that can never be lost -- for, through sin, one's name can be removed from that book of life.  This can be seen in Revelation 3:5: "He who overcomes shall thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father, and before His angels."  Concerning some wicked people of the psalmist's day, he declares, "May they be blotted out of the book of life and may they not be recorded with the righteous" (Psa. 69:28).  So if your name is not in that book of life, why not obey God's gospel plan of salvation today that it will be?

As we move on in Philippians 4, Paul says in verse 4, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!"  This is now the seventh and eighth times that Paul uses the word "rejoice" in this epistle; but we will soon see that he also uses it again in verse 10, in the past tense.  In connection with this verse, David Lipscomb writes, "When we surrender self and lose ourselves in Christ, the fountains of joy are at once opened."

We note that Paul shows that this rejoicing is to be "always."  We, therefore, do not have to wait for special times, or be in special places.  We can always rejoice in the Lord -- and even in spite of dire circumstances, or troubles of any kind.  Psalm 5:11 says, "But let all those that take refuge in thee rejoice, Let them ever shout for joy, because thou defendest them: Let them also that love thy name be joyful in thee" (ASV).  And in Psalm 31:7, "I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul."  Notice the reason for rejoicing in the Lord, according to Psalm 33:21: "For our heart rejoices in Him, because we trust in His holy name."  Rejoicing is coupled with gladness, according to Psalm 68:3: "But let the righteous be glad; let them exult before God; Yes, let them rejoice with gladness."  If we don't take for granted what the Lord has done, we should find plenty of reasons to rejoice.  For instance, Psalm 118:24 declares, "This is the day which the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it."  Think about that.  What if it were up to us to make our own day?  We would have to start by making a planet, add some air, include some food and water, put a sun in the sky, and provide all the other necessary ingredients that make up a healthy environment that can sustain life, just to mention a few of the necessities.  So the creation itself is something we can rejoice in the Lord for.  But notice what else, as seen in Psalm 119:162: "I rejoice at Your word, As one who finds great spoil."  God's word is the greatest source of all and, therefore, of the greatest value.  For it shows the way of eternal salvation, provides us with what our soul needs, and helps us to know our Creator.   These are just some of the reasons why we can do as Paul instructs in Philippians 4:4 to, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice!"  


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following people:

* Gyndell Henry (Lea Hall's grandmother) who has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

* Mike Dubose who is continually undergoing cancer treatment.

* The following is an update on R.J. Stevens (from his son Tim and posted by Steve Wolfgang, 3:30 PM, 3/8/12):

"My dad was moved from ICU to a room today so that more therapy can be administered. We believe this is a step in the right direction.

"The mini stroke that my dad experienced following surgery, has restricted him in his mobility and speech. As we know, he was not responsive for several days while in ICU, but is showing signs of improvement."

* Let us also be praying for my landlord's grandson, Joseph John Koczrowski IV.  He is a happy, contented, little 2-year old.  If you met him, you wouldn't realize how serious and complicated his intestinal problems are.  Local surgeons don't want to even attempt the operation, without which the boy's life would be short.  After reaching the $1-million limit, the Koczrowski's insurance terminated.  When Medicaid didn't want to step in, Joseph's grandfather appealed to Governor Bobby Jindal who has worked it out for the Koczrowskis.  What a great guy our governor is!  Some similar rare cases of this particular intestinal problem have been successfully taken care of in Cincinnati, where the family will be taking the boy.  First, to run tests to better plan; and then about a month later to do the actual surgery.  All in all, it will probably involve many weeks of hospital stay.  Please keep the boy and family in your prayers.        

* Here's the latest (3/2/12) on Roy Fenner (from his wife Michelle): "Roy had another shot in his eye Monday.  They took x-rays of both eyes and feel it is some better: went from 20/70 to 20/60. They noticed a leak in his other eye, but stated this is from his diabetes. Good news is it is not next to the MACULAR like the left eye. There is a possibility later they can use laser surgery to stop the bleeding. We are praying it continues to get better. He had an appointment today.  Dr. was pleased at how it is healing. Still have to find a plastic surgeon for the one that is the biggest basal cell on him that is behind his ear. It has been there for almost 2 years now."

* I received some good news concerning Jackie Evans.  Through additional testing, what had previously appeared to have been an abnormality from an EKG is now no longer.  This testing was for preparation for same-day knee surgery (scope).  She later had a nuclear stress test and an echo-cardiogram.  So we are glad to hear that the abnormality has now been ruled out.

*  Members who have been sick, with poor health, and/or physically weak: Geneva Wilson, Jean Calloway, Lelani Armstrong, Shirley Young, and Cheryl Crews.

*  Let us also be keeping Cheryl Anderson in prayer who will be moving next week to the Houston area.  She has been with the Park Forest church of Christ for 25 years.  Though we will miss her, we pray that all will go well for her.

* Also, Mozelle Robertson (Ken's mother) who at 91 years of age is still healing from wrist surgery; and Clifton Trimble whose health has been poor.

*  Let us also pray that Anthony Webb and Andrew Robertson will be able to find new employment. 

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)