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Rightly Dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)
Established November 2008 Published: November 22, 2019
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:3-4).
Welcome everyone to HBS.
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things. Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you” (4:8-9).
In Matthew 6:5-15 the Lord Jesus Christ taught His disciples how to pray. It’s not a prayer in and of itself it is Israel’s outline for prayer. In Philippians 4:6-7 our Apostle Paul used a similar teaching aid when he outlined the manner in which the Believers in Philippi (and us today) are to pray. He began by saying, “Be careful for nothing.” They were not to worry about anything because God is in control (Romans 8:28-29). Worry is an exercise that gains you nothing. It not only adds unnecessary stress to one’s life and it distracts your attention from the things of God. Paul then explained their prayers ought to be balanced: “…but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” He then assured them God answers their prayers with the promise: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds (how) through Christ Jesus.”
“Peace with God” is one thing; “the peace of God” is another thing altogether. To enjoy the latter, we must first experience the former, for the peace of God, ruling in our hearts, is the result of “peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Paul declared by divine inspiration that “Christ Jesus was delivered for our offences and was raised again for our justification” and that “therefore, being justified by faith,” we, who once were at enmity with God, may enjoy “peace with God” through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 4:25, 5:1). The result of “peace with God” is “the peace of God,” the peace that He gives to His own amid all of life’s troubles:
“Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing” (Romans 15:13).
While only those who are at peace with God can and should know “the peace of God,” it does not follow, however, that all those who are at peace with God necessarily enjoy “the peace of God.” This is because not every Believer follows Paul’s outline for prayer or bothers to pray at all. They will only experience “the peace of God” when they put into practice Philippians 4:6: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.”
As we follow Paul’s prayer outline the promise which follows will be fulfilled.
Then, before Paul could say “Finally” and “think on these things,” (4:8-9) the Philippians needed to have the mind of Christ.” It’s highly unlikely they could or would think on those things that are true, honest, just, pure, etc. without embracing this mindset. Paul goes on to say, “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me do: and the God of peace shall be with you,” which is another way of saying, “Following my example:
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (Corinthians 11:1).
At the trail end of verse 4:9 Paul mentioned the God of peace. We discussed the “peace with God,” and “the peace of God” recently, so what does the God of peace mean? If we skip ahead to 4:11-12 we’ll find the answer to this question. This is where Paul admitted he had learned to be content no matter what:
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.”
Having the mind of Christ, makes enables you to be content even in the midst of difficult times. Paul wasn’t stymied by his circumstances or his surroundings, he practiced what he preached saying, “rejoice in the Lord alway” (in every way) in spite of his predicament. Paul had learned to be content in any situation, so this is what “the God of peace shall be with you” means.
********Please open your Bible at Philippians 4:10-13.
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care for me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity. Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
After wrapping up his instructions on prayer, Paul begins a new topic. In this section of Scripture he explains how and why the Believer ought to behave when they have all they need and when they do not. He wanted these folks to learn by following his example, not because he was perfect, but because sometimes the best way to learn how to do something is by following a visual example.
Back in the day when I taught the Bible in classrooms I learned from trial and error that people absorb information differently. Some folks are auditory they’re able to learn by reading the material aloud, to themselves, or by discussing the topic in group. Others are visual; they require teaching aids such as pictures, power point, slide shows and the like. Then there are those who learn best by getting their hands dirty, so to speak. This is known as kinesthetic learning or learning by doing. It’ also true some people require more than one of these teaching aids to learn the material. We know Paul, whether knowingly or unknowingly, utilized two of these teaching techniques. The Philippians had either read this letter themselves, or heard it read aloud in their house church, and he urged them to follow his example which is certainly a visual aid (4:9).
“But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly” (4:10a) - Paul personalized this declaration when he said, “I.” He is expressing his heartfelt gratitude for the Philippian’s gift, but he didn’t thank them. Paul’s gratefulness is addressed to the Lord because He is the source of the gift. It came about because the Lord was able to work effectively in and through the saints in Philippi.
“…that now at the last your care (concern) for me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.”
Paul planted many churches but the assembly at Philippi was the only one that supported him financially. He specifically mentioned this in 4:15-18. Paul was imprisoned multiple times, so when he said, “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;” (1:13) we know he was writing this letter while under house arrest in Rome (Acts 28:17-31). It stands to reason this was most likely a transitional period for Paul, that is, after he’d been falsely accused of being an insurrectionist, but before he stood trial before Nero. During this period of time, Paul wrote his prison epistles, i.e. Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon, and of course Philippians (1 Corinthians 9:11-14; Galatians 6:6).
We aren’t told how the Philippians became aware of Paul’s predicament in Rome. But they demonstrated their concern (care) for his wellbeing by sending him a gift. But here’s the thing, most people fail to understand the significance of that gift. The Romans didn’t have prisons like the ones we know today. Accused wealthy citizens were simply kept under house arrest, provided they behaved, until a trial could take place. The poor generally found justice swift and usually fatal. Outside of the cities, a villa might have three areas to keep slaves, one for those who were well behaved, one for those that were kept shackled, and one for those allowed some freedom of movement. The actual prisons in Rome themselves were merely a place where the condemned were held awaiting execution. In addition, the prison system in Rome didn’t provide meals for their prisoner’s or any of the creature comforts. This duty fell to their family members and friends, or else they would simply do without. We know Paul wasn’t being held in the dungeon at this time. He was chained to a Pretorian guard around the clock in a rented house. Paul was a Roman citizen so he was better off than some others, but he still required help. After learning about his situation, the Philippians sent Paul money that could be used to pay for his basic needs. But there was still a lot that Paul couldn’t do for himself, so the church also sent Epaphroditus to assist him (2:27-30).
“…your care (concern) for me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.”
Another word for “flourished” is revived. It is a word applicable to plants and flowers, meaning to grow again; to flourish again; to spring up again. The Philippians “lacked opportunity” or were hindered from helping Paul because of his situation and the great distance between them. So, when their gift arrived in Rome it was as though their care for him had been revived, i.e. sprung up again.
“Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
One dictionary defines contentment as: "The state of being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are." Contentment is a rare state of mind today. In fact, based on my observations, people do not comprehend the value of contentment. If they truly understood its worth, wouldn't they be doing all they could to obtain it and then retain it? Thus, we live in a discontented culture. I say this because it’s more common to find someone who is dissatisfied with his or her condition in life than not. People are discontent with what they have, what they are missing in life, how they look, who they are married to, their vocation, their relatively new and fully operational smart phone, and their circumstances. Paul demonstrated he is the polar opposite of that mental attitude. For example, with Christmas Day almost on our doorstep I’m certain you know few, if any, people who have said, “I have all that I need. Don’t buy me anything.” Fortunately, I do and Paul is one of them. According to verse 4:17, Paul wanted the Philippians to understand although he was grateful for both their concern and their generosity, he did not want them to think he was expecting another gift, for he had learned to be content in whatever state he found himself.
When Paul said, “I have learned” he implied there was a time in his life when he was not content. He had come from a family that was well off financially, religiously, and socially prior to his conversion, which meant he was like so many other folks, Believers included, who equate contentment with the accumulation of stuff and monetary wealth tops the list. But now, Paul considered all of his earthly gains as “dung” (3:4-12). He had “learned” how to be “content in whatsoever state” he found himself. He had learned contentment in this life wasn’t dependent upon his worldly assets or gains, but through Christ Jesus: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (4:7).
“I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction.”
This is how Paul could confidently say that whether he was full or hungry he knew how to be content, whether he was free or in prison, he simply left it with the Lord. True spiritual contentment is found in Christ for our sufficiency is Christ and Christ alone!. Until we come to accept this truth we will be hopelessly searching for the same contentment Paul experienced. That thought takes us to verse 4:13:
“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” – Paul means to say he is independent of his circumstances, i.e. he is content no matter what happens. He knows God is able to move or remove whatever mountain that is confronting him, but if He does not Christ Jesus will provide the strength needed to withstand any and all of life’s difficulties.
The number one thief of contentment is undesirable circumstances. Paul said, “I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound : The word abased means to "get along with humble means." He knew how to do without food, clothing, shelter, or the basic human comforts without murmuring or complaining. He also knew how to abound which means: "to have more than enough or to be prosperous. It requires as much grace to maintain the right mental attitude in prosperity as it does in adversity, perhaps more. Adversity in and of itself does something to keep the mind in the right state; prosperity does nothing.
“I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need” - the phrase “I am instructed” means Paul is well acquainted with the lessons learned from his adverse situations because he went through each and every one. The word “full” means to have plenty to eat, and the word “hungry” means to go without food. Plainly said, Paul was able to be abased without feeling anxiety, resentment, or worry. He suffered the need of clothing, food, safety, shelter, etc. without murmuring or complaining. This peace, this state of mind, does not come naturally folks it has to be learned. Paul said, “I have learned” through life’s experiences, i.e. every kind of trial and tribulation known to man and yet he was unaffected by them. Negative situations didn’t produce anger or bitterness in him, instead, Paul “rejoiced in the Lord alway.”
Paul wasn’t a victim of his circumstances because he learned to take on an eternal perspective. He focused not on temporal things and the struggles of life, but on his eternal rewards (2 Timothy 4:8).
“For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Corinthians 4:17-18).
“And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us” (Romans 5:3-5).
If our Apostle Paul could view his afflictions as light (2 Corinthians 4:23-28), what is this saying to every Believer in Christ Jesus? It means you and I are more than the sum of our fears and woes. In light of eternity, it means our physical adversities are momentary and temporal, but the service we do as the Lord’s ambassadors here on earth “worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory” which is eternal.
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