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 18, 2012


1) Philippians 4:8 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Philippians 4:8
by Tom Edwards

After exhorting the brethren to manifest a gentle spirit to all, to take everything to God in prayer with thanksgiving (rather than being anxious), for the Lord is near and their hearts and minds will then be guarded by God's peace, Paul then says: "Finally, 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" (Phil. 4:8).  

The Bible has much to say concerning the importance of filling our minds with the right things.  For example, consider the following:  "This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success" (Josh. 1:8).  "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.  He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, Which yields its fruit in its season And its leaf does not wither; And in whatever he does, he prospers" (Psa. 1:1-3).  The psalmist also states in Psalm 119:97, "O how I love Your law!  It is my meditation all the day."  When some people think about meditating, they might think of only transcendental meditation that had been brought into our Western Culture through Eastern religions in the late 60's and early 70's.  But as Mark Copeland writes, "Both Eastern and 'Christian mystical' meditation usually attempt to empty the mind so as to find or receive truth within (i.e., a 'subjective' form of meditation)."  But this is not the meditation which the Bible speaks of.  For rather than emptying our minds, we are to fill them with God's word and give serious thought to it.  Consider, for instance, Psalm 77:11,12: "I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.  I will meditate on all Your work And muse on Your deeds."  Also, Psalm 119:15,16: "I will meditate on Your precepts And regard Your ways.  I shall delight in Your statutes; I shall not forget Your word."  In showing the distinction between Eastern meditation and Biblical mediation, Copeland goes on to say that "Christian meditation dwells on that already revealed in creation or inspired revelation.  Whereas other forms of meditation are seeking some new truth to be revealed."

By giving our full attention to God's word (of not only meditating upon it, but also applying it), our minds will be renewed; and we will be set free from worldly entrapments and have our lives transformed for the better (cf. Rom. 12:1,2).  For that transformation also involves are putting off the "old man" of sin, and putting on the "new," which is how we strive to develop Christ's nature within us (Col. 3:5-14).  For we are to "Have this attitude (mind, KJV) in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5).  It is only by looking to the Scriptures, giving our attention to His word, and allowing His word to govern us that this attitude or mind of Christ can be developed in us.  

In thinking more on what we are to meditate on, Paul gives it various descriptions.  He first says, "whatever is true" (Phil. 4:8).  

Unfortunately, to many people today, the Bible is not a true account; rather, to them, it is nothing more than a "myth" or a "fable."  But Peter declares, "For we did not follow cleverly devised tales (fables, KJV) when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of His majesty" (2 Pet. 1:16).  The word "tales" comes from the Greek word "muthos," which is defined as "a tale, that is, fiction ('myth')..." (James Strong).  The NASB, in addition, renders this word as "myths" three times and as "fables" once.  But we note, too, that what Peter testifies of is not second-hand information.  Rather, he was an eyewitness of those things.  As he goes on to show, "For when He received honor and glory from God the Father, such an utterance as this was made to Him by the Majestic Glory, 'This is My beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased' -- and we ourselves heard this utterance made from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain" (2 Pet. 1:17,18).  John was also there with Peter, at the Mount of Transfiguration.  Notice what he writes in 1 John 1:1-3: "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life -- and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us -- what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ."  This is really something to realize.  What we have in most of the New Testament are eye-witness accounts.  It is not what someone said about what someone said about what someone said, and on and on down to our time; but we can hear the testimony of men who were actually with the Christ, heard Him, saw Him, learned from Him, and report about Him -- and did so by the Holy Spirit.  If ever a witness could be believed, it is these men whom the Lord used to give us the Bible.  

Paul also shows that we need to meditate on "whatever is honorable."  This is a common rendering, though some versions translate it as "worthy of respect," "noble" (NKJ, NIV), and "honest" (KJV).  From the Greek word "semnos," it means "august, venerable," or "reverend" (Thayer).  And things "august" are "inspiring reverence or admiration; of supreme dignity or grandeur; majestic"; things "venerable" are "worthy of respect or reverence, as  because of great age, high office, or noble character"; and that which is "reverend" is "regard[ed] with a respect that is tinged with awe" (Random House Webster's Electronic Dictionary and Thesaurus).  The NASB also translates this word as "dignified," in pertaining to the conduct of women (1 Tim. 3:11) and older men (Titus 2:2); and as "men of dignity" in referring to the deacons (1 Tim. 3:8).  So meditating on the right ways to live is another way of reflecting on the honorable.  

Paul then speaks of  meditating on "whatever is right."  Especially in a world where more and more people are calling good evil, and evil good, we need to keep our minds in tune to what the Lord calls "right" and glory in that -- and even if it is only the minority of us who do. In addition, to have a love for the things that are right will also be a motivation toward carrying out those things.  So, we first think about them; and then we practice them.  But would this not be one of the reasons why we are told to meditate on all these good things?  Because good thoughts can lead to good actions.  In Philppians 4:8, "right" is often translated as "just" in other versions (which seems to be the most common); but also as "righteous" and "upright."  One of the ways that Thayer shows the Greek word (dikaios) is used in the Scriptures is to mean "approved of or acceptable to God."  And isn't that the type of things better to think on?  To the contrary, however, we note in Genesis 6:5 what the Lord saw in the heart of man during Noah's day:  "Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."  Consider also God's warning to His people in Jeremiah 4:14: "Wash your heart from evil, O Jerusalem, That you may be saved. How long will your wicked thoughts lodge within you?"

Another thing Paul shows that we are to think on is "whatever is pure," which is from the Greek word "hagnos."  Thayer shows that this word can also mean "exciting reverence, venerable, sacred"; but, secondarily, "2a) pure from carnality, chaste, modest  2b) pure from every fault, immaculate."  Most Bible versions of the 20-some I looked this up in, render it as "pure"; but there were a couple that also have it as "holy."  The Greek word actually stems from "hagios," which is the word most often translated in the New Testament as "holy" and is also rendered frequently as "saints."  And isn't it easy to see a connection between being a "saint," being "holy," and being "pure"?  A saint is to live a holy life, and to live a holy life is to live a life that is pure.  This is essential toward gaining access to heaven, as Jesus shows in Matthew 5:8: "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."  Though "pure" in Matthew 5:8 is from a different Greek word, it still expresses the need to be "clean," "pure," "free from corrupt desire, from sin and guilt," "sincere," "genuine," "blameless, innocent," "unstained with the guilt of anything" (as Thayer defines it).  "Pure," in Philippians 4:8, is from the same Greek word that Paul uses in 1 Timothy 5:22, where he exhorts Timothy to "keep yourself FREE FROM SIN."  It is also rendered as "innocent" (2 Cor. 7:11).  Guilt can sometimes do much damage to a person -- psychologically, as well as physically.  How much better it is for one to be pure in God's sight (through the blood of Jesus) and to think on things of purity; then those things of defilement and guilt.  Being "pure" is also one of the characteristics of the wisdom from above (Jms. 3:17); and purity is one of the virtues that the older women are to teach the younger women to have (Titus 2:3-5).  Going along with this, Peter also uses this Greek word when instructing wives to be "chaste" (1 Pet. 3:2).  Of course, every Christian is to strive for "purity" and to look to Jesus as our standard for it: "And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is PURE" (1 Jn. 3:3).  Since He was 100% that way, Jesus epitomizes purity in its fullest form: "For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens" (Heb. 7:26). We note in Philippians 4:8 that the phrase is "WHATEVER is pure," and Robertson points out in his "Word Pictures" that "hagnos" pertains to "all sorts of purity.  There are clean things, thoughts, words, deeds."  And so, again, we see a connection to the mind and the body -- or to the thoughts of purity that will lead to a lifestyle of purity.  This type of connection is also seen in Matthew 15:18,19, where Jesus speaks of various evil things that can come from the heart and defile the person: "evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders." 

Paul then says in Philippians 4:8 to think on "whatever is lovely," from the Greek word "prosphiles" and used only here in the New Testament and defined as "acceptable" and "pleasing" (Thayer).  It is also "what is dear to anyone; then what is pleasing.  Here it means amiable -- such a temper of mind that one can love it; or such as to be agreeable to others" (Albert Barnes).  In contrast to this, he then points out that "A Christian should not be sour, crabby, or irritable in his temper -- for nothing almost tends so much to injure the cause of religion as a temper always chafed....A sour and crabby temper in a professor of religion will undo all the good that he attempts to do."  The idea of this word indicating "amiability" is mentioned by several commentators.  So the Christian is to be "1. having or showing agreeable personal qualities; pleasant; affable.  2. friendly; sociable" (RHWED).  And the very word "lovely" itself, not only means "having a beauty that appeals to the heart or mind as well as to the eye"; but also as "highly pleasing; delightful" and, thirdly, "of great moral or spiritual beauty" -- such as in the case of a person who has a "lovely character" (ibid.).  "Lovely" is a very common rendering of this Greek word in Philippians 4:8; but some versions have also rendered it as "acceptable," "friendly," and "amiable."  As we consider this word with regard to a person's character being "lovely," we are made aware that true beauty -- and the greatest beauty -- is an inner beauty.  Some people can be very beautiful or handsome on the outside, but then become very ugly by their actions and speech.  It is truly the inner beauty that has far greater worth than the external. Peter, for example, exhorts wives to be more concerned with how they adorn "the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God," rather than merely their external appearance (1 Pet. 3:1-5).  

Paul next shows that what we are to meditate upon is "whatever is of  good repute."  The phrase "good repute" is from the Greek word "euphemos" and defined as "well spoken of, that is, reputable" (James Strong).  So things of good repute are things of a favorable or good reputation.  Another common rendering of "good repute" is "good report"; but it is also translated as "whatever is admirable" (NIV), "whatever is gracious" (RSV), "whatever things are of value" (BBE), "whatever is... Proper" (CEV), "whatsoever of good fame" (Douay Rheims), and "whatever is commendable" (English Standard Version, HCSB).  So as David Lipscomb points out, "...the word denotes things in their true  nature so excellent that to name them is a goodly and sacred thing...Not merely having a fair sound to the popular ear, but fair-sounding, as implying essential worthiness."  Doesn't this pretty much sum up the entire list of things in Philippians 4:8 that we are to mediate upon?  For all of it is of "good report."  Commenting on this phrase, Albert Barnes writes, "There are actions which all people agree in commending, and which in all ages and countries are regarded as virtues: courtesy, urbanity, kindness, respect for parents, purity between brothers and sisters, are among those virtues, and the Christian should be a pattern and an example in them all. His usefulness depends much more on the cultivation of these virtues than is commonly supposed."  So let us not only think on these things, but also practice them in our lives.  

Paul next includes, for our meditation, those things of "excellence."  The KJV renders this as "virtue," a common rendering; but it is also translated as "moral excellence" (HCSB) and  "worthiness" (YLT).  It is from "arete," which is defined as "1) a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action  1a) virtue, moral goodness  2) any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity" (Thayer).  When we think of the word "excellent" in connection with God, that certainly describes whatever the Lord might do.  It is also what we need to strive for as we continue to develop as a Christian, and Jesus is our excellent example to whom we are to look.  

In all these things that we are to meditate upon, Paul then lastly shows in Philippians 4:8 that we need to let our minds dwell on "anything worthy of praise."  Above all, God is worthy of praise.  First of all, for simply being the God who He is. And, secondly, for all which He has done for us.  The very first use of the word "praise" in the Bible is Genesis 29:35.  It refers to Leah and her giving birth to her fourth son.  The passage states, "And she conceived again and bore a son and said, 'This time I will praise the LORD.'  Therefore she named him Judah. Then she stopped bearing."  Judah's name, as you can probably guess (if you don't already know) literally means "praise"; and Israel told Judah that his brothers would "praise" him (Gen. 49:8-10).  This, incidentally, is the second place we find the word "praise" being used in the Scriptures.  The Bible shows of various things people praised God for: His power (Psa. 21:13), for His future help (Psa. 42:5), for His word (Psa. 56:10), for His lovingkindness (Psa. 63:3), for His "great and awesome name" (Psa. 99:3), for His teaching (Psa.119:171), for His "mighty deeds" and "excellent greatness" (Psa. 150:2), and for His mercy (Rom. 15:9), to mention just some.  God should be praised continually (Psa. 34:1).  

May we each do what Paul exhorts in Philippians 4:8: to meditate on those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, of good repute, of excellence, and worthy of praise.  


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 has been told that he must receive cancer treatment for the rest of his life.  Right now he has it every other week and has continued with his preaching.

* The following is an update on R. J. Stevens (from his son Tim and posted by Steve Wolfgang, 3:30 PM, 3/28/12), who recently had by-pass surgery for his heart, which was followed by a mini stroke:

"Doctors say each morning his condition is improved. Compared to one week ago, when it was 'touch & go', I agree. However, being here around the clock the past couple of days, it's difficult for me to see much improvement because he still has lengthy periods of being unresponsive.

"He's to be moved tomorrow across the street to the skilled nursing facility (Walnut Hill Place). I took a tour of it today. It's nice.

"Prayers must continue for my dad for a long time to come. Doctors told me today that his recovery will take time."

* Let us also be praying for my landlord's grandson, Joseph John Koczrowski IV.  As mentioned in the last "News & Notes," Joseph is a 2-year old who was born with serious intestinal problems that are so complicated local surgeons didn't want to attempt it.  So after doing research, the family located a hospital in Cincinnati and had the boy there recently to be examined.  The doctors have seen the problem and now think that it can be taken care of in two surgeries -- rather than in five, as initially thought.   So that is good news.  Please keep the boy and family in your prayers.        

* Here's the latest (3/29/12) on Roy Fenner (from his wife Michelle): "Roy went to the eye doctor this week, there is damage to his MACULAR. Good news is that the shots are working and some of the swelling to the Retina has gone down. Down side besides the damage to the macular is that he must continue to get shots in his eye indefinitely but not every month. His eye with the damaged macular, will ALWAYS be distorted. He says he is unable to read words no matter how big they are even though it is clear. Remember I described before it is like looking through a fish bowl that is bowed out and then in.

"Roy's neck has healed where they cut out the cancer, but has a small legion next to the scar (unsure if this is more cancer starting up, but it is not going away) and we still need to get a plastic surgeon to remove the Basal Cell wound behind his ear that has been there for over 2 years now. He is not looking forward to it and of course makes lots of excuses why he can't get it done....  Please continue to keep Roy in your prayers. I will send updates as we get them. Love to all!"

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

* 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
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Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
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