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 11, 2012


1) Philippians 4:5-7 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes 


Philippians 4:5-7
by Tom Edwards

After exhorting the brethren to "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice!," Paul next instructs the Philippians to, "Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near" (Phil. 4:5).  

Other renderings for "gentle spirit" are "moderation" (KJV), "forbearance" (ASV, RSV), "gentleness" (NKJ), and "reasonableness" (Literal Translation of the Holy Bible).  It is from the Greek word "epieikes," which is defined as "appropriate, that is (by implication) mild..." (James Strong).  Also, "fitting upon, i.e. Fit, suitable, proper; hence...propriety, moderation, consideration, (i.e. Not insisting on just rights), forbearance" (E. W. Bullinger).  This is the word James uses in describing the wisdom from above.  It is "...first pure, then peaceable, GENTLE [epieikes], reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy" (Jms. 3:17).  It is also one of the qualifications for an overseer (1 Tim. 3:3), and a quality that each Christian is also commanded to possess (Titus 3:1,2).  For since God has shown His kindness and love to the world even while we had been "foolish...disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, [and] hating one another," we should, therefore, also be able to be gentle and compassionate toward others, out of our love and appreciation for what the Lord has done for us (vv. 3-7).  For is this not part of developing that Christ-like nature?  And as David Lipscomb writes, in commenting on Philippians 4:5, "He exhorts them not to become embittered and alarmed; but to let all see that they can be calm and moderate, and that they control themselves in the most trying ordeals through which they were called to pass."  

As Christians, we do not always have to demand our rights; and there are times when we even shouldn't, as also taught by the apostle Paul in Romans 14:20,21: "Do not tear down the work of God for the sake of food. All things indeed are clean, but they are evil for the man who eats and gives offense.  It is good not to eat meat or to drink wine, or to do anything by which your brother stumbles."  In 1 Corinthians 8:13, Paul declares this more personally: "Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble."  So as Christians, it is this mingling of forbearance, reasonableness, and gentleness that we need for doing the right thing and getting along with one another.  

Paul then says, "The Lord is near" (Phil. 4:5).  The word "near" comes from the Greek word "eggus," which means, "near (literally or figuratively, of place or time)" (James Strong).  Another common rendering for this, as the KJV words it, is "The Lord is at hand."  

God is not a being who is so far away that He is oblivious to us; rather, He is near.  To many people, however, God and His creation is likened to a watchmaker who makes a watch, winds it up, and sets it down -- but then walks away from it and forgets all about it.  But that is not how God is in relation to the world.  Rather, as Psalm 145:18 declares, "The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth."  Consider also Psalm 34:17-19: "The righteous cry, and the LORD hears And delivers them out of all their troubles. The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all."  The Lord certainly doesn't forget about us; rather, He knows more about us than someone would who would be standing right beside us.  For God not only knows when we sit down and when we rise up, but also is "intimately acquainted" with all our thoughts and with all our ways (Psa. 139:1-18,23,24).  It is also there in Psalm 139 that we see of the omnipresence of God.  For the psalmist says, "Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, Even there Your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me" (vv. 7-10). 

 There are things about God that are way too advanced for us to be able to fully understand or, perhaps, even comprehend at all.  For instance, we know that the Lord dwells in eternity, where there is no linear time as we know it; but what is that really like?  For while we live moment by moment, not knowing even one minute in the future, God already is all eternity and has been able to tell ancient man of future things that were to come; and even very specific things, such as Jesus being born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), His being betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zech. 11:12,13; Matt. 27:3-10), His hands and feet being pierced (Psa. 22:16), and more than 300 other Old Testament prophecies concerning just Christ alone that all came to pass.  Will God be a day older tomorrow, a year older next year?  Are there different ages in heaven?  Or is it a place of agelessness, a place where one does not grow old?  The thought of God's eternal nature -- that He never had a beginning, but always has been -- boggles the mind; but I believe it, as the creation itself even indicates that (Rom. 1:19,20).  The truth of God's eternal nature is even more awesome than the endlessness of infinity.  Here in our universe we are familiar with the dimensions of length, width, depth, and that fourth dimension of time.  But in heaven there is no time, only eternity; and maybe there are dimensions there that we have never known.  Here on earth we travel by going from point A to point B and the distance between, but will that be how it is in heaven?  Reminding us of Star Trek's beaming a person from place to place, there are some references in the Scriptures that appear to indicate something similar concerning certain occasions when Jesus seemed to suddenly appear (Jn. 6:19-21; Luke 4:29,30; Jn. 20:19,26), and even of Philip the evangelist, when after teaching and baptizing the Ethiopian eunuch and "...they came out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea" (Acts 8:39,40).  Enoch left this planet without dying first.  The Bible says about him, "By faith Enoch was taken up so that he would not see death; AND HE WAS NOT FOUND BECAUSE GOD TOOK HIM UP; for he obtained the witness that before his being taken up he was pleasing to God" (Heb. 11:5).  This is briefly expressed in the Old Testament as, "Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him" (Gen. 5:24).  Paul speaks of having been "caught up to the third heaven," Paradise, and not knowing whether that had occurred in his body or apart from it; but the Lord would not allow him to say anything additional about it, other than that Paul had "heard inexpressible words [there], which a man is not permitted to speak" (2 Cor. 12:2-4).  Do you think people will need "vehicles" to get around in heaven?  Do you think there will be the concept there of distances too far to travel?  Why not become a Christian if you are not one already, remain faithful to the Lord, so that you'll one day be able to find out the answers to these questions for yourself, there in heaven?

According to B. W. Johnson, this phrase "the Lord is near" was a "special watchword of the early church in time of trouble.  It meant practically 'Deliverance is near.'"  To, therefore, be one of those early Christians undergoing extreme adversity, what thought could have given them greater hope or comfort than in knowing that "The Lord is near"?  For He was the one that they would look to for help.  

Paul then goes on to say in Philippians 4:6, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."  To be "anxious" is "to be troubled with cares" (Thayer).  The KJV renders it as "Be careful for nothing"; but the term "anxious" appears to be the most common among various Bible translations. The Revised Standard Version words it as, "Have no anxiety about anything...."  Jesus used this word 5 times in Matthew 6:25-34, where He shows that He does not want His people to be "worried" about even the necessities of life, such as food, drink, and clothing; nor to worry about tomorrow, "for tomorrow will take care for itself" (v. 34).  Instead of worrying over these things, the Lord instructs the Christian to "Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you" (v. 33).  To put God's kingdom first is to put His rule first in our lives and submit to it.  This is also the same word that Jesus used when he spoke to Martha about being "...WORRIED and bothered about so many things" (Luke 10:41).  Jesus had come to her home; and while her sister Mary sat at the Lord's feet to hear Him teach, Martha "was distracted with all her preparations."  So she went up to the Lord and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?  Then tell her to help me" (v. 40). Jesus then also pointed out that "only a few things are necessary, really only one, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her" (v. 42).  Jesus as the "Bread of Life" (Jn. 6:35) is far more important than any meal for the body that Martha could prepare and serve.  This thought of not being anxious, but praying instead (Phil. 4:6) might also remind you of 1 Peter 5:6,7: "Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you."  So instead of being anxious, we are to take everything to God in prayer.  

Prayer is something that should characterize every Christian.  For the child of God is to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17), and to pray "on behalf of all men" -- and so that "we may lead a tranquil life in all godliness and dignity" (1 Tim. 2:1-4).  Paul also shows the attitude we should have when praying: Our prayers are to be "with thanksgiving" (Phil. 4:6).  

The Bible has much to say about prayer.  For one thing, it shows how the Christian is to pray: with faith (Mark 11:24), continually (Luke 18:1), "in the Spirit" (Eph. 6:18), with "holy hands" and "without wrath and dissension" (1 Tim. 2:8), without "meaningless repetition" (instead, be sincere and pray from the heart even those prayers that have been prayed before) (Matt. 6:7).  The NIV renders that as "do not keep on babbling like pagans."  Christians are to also pray with a forgiving heart (Mark 11:25), not to "show off" (Matt. 6:5, 6), with alertness (Luke 21:36), with devotion (Rom. 12:12), with thanksgiving (Phil. 4:6), with confidence (Heb. 4:16), righteously (Jms. 5:16), "earnestly" or "fervently" (Jms. 5:17,18), with humility (Jms. 4:6), and of "sound judgment and sober spirit" (1 Pet. 4:7).

The Bible also shows of some specific prayers:  Jesus says, "...pray for those who mistreat you" (Luke 6:28) and "those who persecute you" (Matt. 5:44).  Christians are to also pray that God will send forth "workers into the harvest" (Matt. 9:36-38), for opportunities to reach lost souls (Col. 4:3), that God's word will "spread rapidly and be glorified" ( 2 Thess. 3:1); Christians are to pray for deliverance from temptation (Luke 22:40), that they will do what is right (2 Cor. 13:7), that they will be "complete" (mature) in Christ (2 Cor. 13:9), enlightened with the gospel (Eph. 1:18,19) and for a love to abound in real knowledge and discernment (Phil. 1:9), to be filled with the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding (Col. 1:9), to be found "worthy of your calling" (2 Thess. 1:11), for effective "fellowship of your faith" (Phlm. 1:6).  Christians are to also pray when suffering (Jms. 5:13), to pray for one another (Jms. 5:16), to pray for prosperity and good health (3 Jn. 1:12), for strength to overcome (Luke 21:36), to "stand perfect and fully assured in the will of God" (Col. 4:12.), and to "lead a tranquil and peaceful life in all godliness and dignity" (1 Tim. 2:2), to mention some of them.  

The Bible also shows us the conditions that must be met for answered prayer:  One must have faith and know that God can answer prayer (Mk. 11:24), must be according to God's will (1 Jn. 5:14), must  know that God hears the prayer (1 Jn. 5:15), must have right motives (Jms. 4:3), must be of a forgiving spirit (Mk. 11:25,26), and must be faithful to God's word (1 Jn. 3:22).  

Paul then goes on to show in Philippians 4:7 that if we do turn to God in prayer, as He has commanded, then the following will be true: "And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

The Greek word for "peace" ("eirene") is used in the New Testament to refer to several things, as Thayer shows, such as "a state of national tranquility...exemption from the rage and havoc of war"; but here in Philippians 4:7, his fifth definition appears to be the way it is used in this passage: "of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is." This Greek word is consistently translated 90 times as "peace" in the New Testament.  But in Luke 11:21, it is used with another Greek word that means "in, on, at, by," or "with" and translated as "undisturbed."  Hendriksen describes this peace poetically by referring to it as "The smile of God reflected in the soul of the believer, the heart's calm after Calvary's storm, the conviction that God who spared not his own Son will surely also, along with him, freely give us all things (Rom. 8:32)."

In writing to the Colossians, Paul states, "And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful" (Col. 3:15).  To be ruled by peace is definitely something we can be thankful for.  And since we are to be governed by it, it implies we must also cooperate with it.  Consider, for instance, Isaiah 26:3: "The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You."  The dictionary defines "steadfast" as "1. fixed in direction; steadily directed...  2. firm in purpose, resolution, faith, etc. ... 3. unwavering, as resolution, faith, or adherence.  4. firmly established... 5. firmly fixed in place or position...."  Some other translations render "steadfast of mind" as "whose mind is stayed on You."  As Christians, we are to have our minds firmly established on spiritual things.  For when the Hebrew writer exhorts the brethren in Hebrews 12:1 to "lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us," he then goes on to say in verse 2, "FIXING OUR EYES ON JESUS, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God."  We note from this passage that we are not merely to "glance" at Jesus; but, rather, to be "FIXING OUR EYES" on Him, which implies giving Him our full attention.  Thayer defines it as, "to turn the eyes away from other things and fix them on something."

In personifying wisdom, Solomon declares that "...all her paths are peace..." (Prov. 3:13-18).  Similarly, in following Jesus, we find peace with God (Rom. 5:1), peace with others (1 Thess. 5:13), and peace with ourselves (Rom. 8:6).  Consider also Psalm 119:165: "Those who love Your law have great peace, And nothing causes them to stumble." So taking heed to God's word is a way that we can "Seek peace and pursue it" (Psa. 34:12-14), which also indicates our need to go after it, rather than just waiting for it to come to us.  

Paul speaks of this peace as being one that "surpasses all comprehension" (Phil. 4:7).  It is also rendered as "transcends all understanding" (NIV), "goes far beyond anything we can imagine" (ISV), and "transcends all our powers of thought" (Weymouth).  Sometimes people turn to self-help books, such as those that deal with the power of positive thinking; but God has something even greater than that for us, if we will just turn to His word, trust Him, and accept His way for us.  

Not only does this peace exceed our understanding, but it also "will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 4:7).  The Greek word for "guard" (phroureo) literally means to "protect by a military guard, either to prevent hostile invasion, or to keep the inhabitants of a besieged city from flight" (Thayer), but it is also used figuratively as well.  We can see its literal sense in 2 Corinthians 11:32, where Paul states, "In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was GUARDING [phroureo] the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me."  But consider also how it is used in 1 Peter 1:5, where Peter addresses the Christians as being those "who are PROTECTED [phroureo] by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time."  God's power can be like a military guard, protecting His people.  To be guarded or protected by the power of God reminds us of some of the things for which David praised the Lord in the Psalms (Psa. 12:1-8, Psa. 91:1-4).  Paul declares, "For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day" (2 Tim. 1:12).   Here a different Greek word is used for "guard," but a similar thought.  Confidently knowing what the Lord could do for him, Paul could easily entrust his very life and soul to the Lord.  

We note that all of this guarding was to be done "in Christ," so it is while we abide in Him that this will be so.  For "in Christ," we have "redemption" (Rom. 3:24); are "alive to God" (Rom. 6:11); have "no condemnation" (Rom 8:1); have been "sanctified" (1 Cor. 1:2); have become "a new creature" (2 Cor. 5:17); "have been brought near" (Eph. 2:13); have all our needs met (Phil. 4:19); are made complete (Col. 1:28); have "salvation" (2 Tim. 2:10); have God's "grace" (2 Tim. 2:1); have God's "peace" (Phil. 4:6).  And we close this section with Galatians 3:26,27, which shows that one is put into Christ through faith and baptism; and from elsewhere, we also learn of the need to repent (Luke 13:5) and confess our faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10) so that our baptism will be valid.  

So may we who are Christians be of a "gentle spirit," pray with thanksgiving, allow God's peace to guard our hearts and minds, and faithfully strive to maintain our relationship with Jesus Christ that we will be all that the Lord wants us to be here on earth, and which will also lead to that great home in heaven, where some of the questions raised earlier in this article will be answered with not just earthly words that would fall short, but by personal experience in that far-surpassing and blissful realm of heaven itself. 


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, 6:30 PM, 3/13/12), who recently had by-pass surgery for his heart, which was followed by a mini stroke:

"Pain med has made him too sleepy & incapable of responding to all therapy. This is not a good day.

"Please continue praying"

Here is the 3/8/12 info:

"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."

* Let us also be praying for Jim Mayfield who had a mini stroke last Wednesday.

*  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 this 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
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