1Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!
2I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. 3Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life.
As Paul nears the end of the epistle, he begins to sum it all up: "Therefore, my brothers, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, that is how you should stand firm in the Lord, dear friends!" (Phil. 4:1). The word "Therefore" points to what has preceded it, and one can view the entire first three chapters of the epistle as being the object of the "Therefore". In those chapters, Paul spoke of many ways to "stand firm in the Lord". To do so, apparently, is not so easy. We have so much trouble just standing our ground in this spiritual war. Consistency in our faith is something we all must strive for. We would go far in "standing firm" by heeding Paul's advice: by rejoicing through affliction (1:18); by being fearless through persecution (1:28); by being united in purpose (2:2); by serving graciously (2:14); by putting confidence not in oneself, but in Christ (3:3); by valuing knowledge of Christ above all things (3:8); by pressing on toward fulfilling God's purpose (3:14); by keeping one's mind not on earthly things, but looking toward the glory in store for us (3:20-21).
To bring this advice home, Paul singles out an example of some faithful saints who were having problems "standing firm in the Lord": "I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you, loyal yokefellow, help these women who have contended at my side in the cause of the gospel, along with Clement and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life" (vss. 2-3). There was some contention in the house of God. And apparently, this was no isolated petty quarrel between troublemakers in an otherwise "perfect" church. No, the quarrel between Euodia and Syntyche must have seriously threatened the ability of the church at Philippi to serve the Lord effectively. The quarrel was serious enough for Paul to specifically point it out, and to "plead" for its resolution. Most probably, Euodia and Syntyche were leading figures in the Philippian church, for they "contended at [Paul's] side in the cause of the gospel" (vs. 3). Recall that women were the first converts in Philippi (Acts 16:13ff). Being leading figures, their quarrel must have been dividing the whole church into two camps. Paul, earlier in this epistle, emphasized the importance of unity (see 1:27; 2:2), and here he speaks of a place to put his teaching into practice. Theoretical preaching must be brought home, and acted out.
Paul in these brief verses lays a groundwork for the resolution of the quarrel. First, he pleads that they agree with each other "in the Lord". In their quarreling, Euodia and Syntyche were "in themselves", not "in the Lord". Second, Paul enlists the aid of a brother, his "loyal yokefellow", to help resolve the quarrel. We do not know the name of Paul's "loyal yokefellow", but this nickname reenforces the attitude that the women needed to adopt to resolve their quarrel. We all need to be "yokefellows": pulling side by side toward the same goal. Third, Paul reminds the women that they had a history of working together, for they "contended at [Paul's] side in the cause of the gospel" (vs. 3). They were fellow soldiers, fighting side-by-side, allies in the spiritual war. The bonds of fellow soldiers are among the strongest: Surely, they can put aside their quarrels. Fourth, Paul reminds them of their common ground in the faith: their names are "in the book of life". They will spend eternity together; they might as well start getting along together here on earth.
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
We would all do well to set aside our petty quarrels and do as Paul says here: "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (vs. 4). This is the antidote to the selfishness that leads to our quarrels. Note that this is a command: We as Christians are to rejoice, nay more than that, rejoice always in the Lord. Paul doesn't want us to miss this point, so he "say[s] it again: Rejoice!" This was not rote praise on Paul's part, but legitimate, overflowing joy from the heart. And if Paul could "rejoice", certainly we can. Recall that Paul was in chains as he wrote this, awaiting his execution in captivity. Also, the Philippians surely remembered that Paul demonstrated his ability to "rejoice" when he and Silas were "praying and singing hymns" at midnight in the Philippian jail (see Acts 16:25). Now you, why can't you also "rejoice" and "rejoice...always"? The fact is that whatever our situation, we have much to "rejoice" in. "In the Lord" there is always much to "rejoice" in. Such rejoicing serves a great purpose. It is a great testimony to the world. It shows the world that we have much more than our outward circumstances would indicate.
Rejoicing affects our whole being. In connection with his command to "rejoice", Paul exhorts: "Let your gentleness be evident to all" (vs. 5). Rejoicing will lead to such "gentleness". One cannot be rude while rejoicing. Both rejoicing and gentleness demonstrate one's valuation of the eternal over and above the temporal. "Gentleness" is the opposite of selfishness. Gentleness means, at times, losing arguments, giving up so-called rights, foregoing last words, letting others get their way. In making our "gentleness...evident", we risk being perceived as weak. But, what of it? The world is wrong in this. "Gentleness" is not a weakness, but a victory: a victory over self.
The impetus for both our "rejoicing" and our "gentleness" is that "the Lord is near" (vs. 5). This can be taken in two ways: He is near in position, and near in approach. First, in position: we should all live our lives with the awareness of the Lord's presence. He is with us, just as He said: "And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age" (Matt. 28:20). "True Christianity does not postpone the presence of Christ to the future, or recall it from the past, but lives in the sense that He is."[Footnote #3] Second, the Lord is near in approach: He is coming soon. We should all live our lives with the expectation of the Lord's soon coming. "This consciousness of the imminent advent was a mighty lever, by which to lift the whole state of thought and feeling in the early Church to those higher levels, the best and most glorious levels, which the Church of God has ever attained."[Footnote #4] So also should the Lord's soon coming affect our lives. We must be always ready to be received into glory.
Knowing that "the Lord is near", we can follow Paul's next exhortation: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (vs. 6). Oh, if we could all follow this exhortation: "Do not be anxious about anything." Don't forget this commandment! Commit it to memory! Anxiety is destructive to the work of God. Christ taught us in a parable that anxiety causes the receiving of the Word of God to be unproductive: "The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful" (Matt. 13:22). And then, Christ also taught us that we should not be anxious because our Father, who loves us, will surely take care of us:
"Noone can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, `What shall we eat?' or `What shall we drink?' or `What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own" (Matt. 6:24-34).
Note the all inclusiveness of Paul's exhortation: "Do not be anxious about anything". There is no room at all for anxiety.
Now, Paul does not leave it at that. He tells us not to "anxious about anything", but he also gives us the method by which we may follow this exhoration: "But in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God". The answer to anxiety is prayer. And prayer is the answer to every sort of anxiety because we can bring "everything" to God in prayer. God is good! He does not demand that we only bring the "big" things to Him, not bothering Him with the small things. No, we are told to bring "everything" to Him, not to hold anything back: nothing is too small, nothing too big. Note also the three parts of prayer that Paul enumerates: "prayer" (meaning worshipful praise), "petitions", and "thanksgiving". These three should be included in all of our prayers.
The consequence of bringing "everything" to God in prayer is given next: "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (vs. 7). Instead of anxiety, we will have "the peace of God". Everyone desires peace of mind, but so many look for peace in the wrong places. They look for peace in their possessions, their home, their retirement fund, their human friendships, their jobs, their family relationships, and while these things may be well and good, they are made of sand. Each of these things can crumble, and if they crumble, where then is your peace? "The peace of God", however, is a rock, never to crumble. Many who have the perfect "peace of God" have none of these temporal things. They have a peace independent of worldly things. This is why Paul describes "the peace of God" as that which "transcends all understanding". The world would look at the peace that Paul had in captivity in Rome, or the peace that Paul had in the jail at Philippi, and not understand. How could Paul be at peace in those situations? Christ said: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives" (John 14:27). The world does not understand the "peace of God", because it is true peace. One cannot have true peace if he does not have peace with God.
Such peace is effective because it "guards your hearts and guards your minds" (vs. 7). Note that verb: "guards". The peace of God is a soldier, guarding your heart and mind from anxiety. The peace of God is a sentry, protecting us from the ups and downs of the world. May the Lord be praised!
3. F. B. Meyer, Devotional Commentary on Philippians, pg. 212.
4. Ibid., pg. 208.