Therefore, my brothers dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.
I. STEADFASTNESS. "Wherefore, my brethren beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my beloved." As in the first chapter our performing our duties as citizens is followed by the exhortation to stand fast, so here our possession of the privileges of heavenly citizens is more formally made the ground of the same exhortation. We are to stand fast so as has been pointed out, i.e. as heavenly citizens. There might be a standing fast against becoming heavenly citizens. And even as heavenly citizens they were to stand fast in the Lord, i.e. within the limits and to the extent prescribed by Christ, and in the strength offered by Christ. But the duty of steadfastness is almost lost sight of in the wealth of epithets of endearment with which it is surrounded. The Philippians were his brethren beloved; he cherished the warmest feelings toward them. They were his longed for; he had in absence a great desire to see them. They were his joy; he had a great delight in their Christian excellences. They were his crown, or wreath of victory round the diadem; they were evidence that he had not run in vain. And, having stated the duty with all brevity, he falls back on the first epithet, as if he had difficulty in breaking away from affectionate expression. Let them not, then, grieve such love by neglecting to stand fast.
II. THE RECONCILIATION OF EUODIA AND SYNTYCHE.
1. Direct appeal "I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche, to be of the same mind in the Lord." It is a strange destiny by which the names of these women have been handed down from generation to generation in God's Book, in connection with a difference which existed between them. It is well that our differences are soon forgotten, as even our names will be after we are gone. And yet the record is kept of our differences, as of our names, in God's book of remembrance. It would be a surprise to these women to be thus referred to by name in the apostle's letter, read before the assembled congregation. And so it will be a surprise to us to hear many things in connection with our names read out before the assembled universe. The apostle appeals to each separately, as being both to blame, though not necessarily equally to blame. Their own conscience would tell them how much they were each to blame; and so our conscience, appealed to at the last day, will tell us how much we are each to blame. It would be humbling to these women to have public notice taken of their difference; and so we ought to be humbled now on account of our differences, that we may not be humbled by publicity hereafter. The difference between these women arose from their not being in the Lord in the matter concerned, i.e. not following Christ's leading, not cherishing Christ's spirit. And so it is when we are not true to Christ that differences arise between us. The way in which these women were to be of one mind was by returning to the leading and influence of Christ; and there is no other way in which a reconciliation can be satisfactorily effected.
2. Assistance of the apostle's yokefellow at Philippi solicited. "I beseech thee also, true yokefellow, help these women, for they labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow-workers, whose names are in the book of life." The true yokefellow not being named, we are to understand the one to whom it properly belonged to grant assistance in the work of reconciliation, viz. the minister of the Church at Philippi. Had Paul been present he would have undertaken the work; but, in his absence, it fell to him who was set over the Church and over these women in the Lord, and who was of like spirit with him, to undertake it. The ground on which the apostle was so anxious to have the reconciliation effected was that they were deserving women. And it was satisfactory that, when their names were to go down to all ages in connection with a difference, there was also something to be added which was to their credit. They had labored in the gospel, and in honorable company. That is the testimony that is borne regarding them. The influence of women seems to have been a feature of the Macedonian Churches. At tnessalonica it is said, "Of the chief women not a few." At Beroea, "Many of them believed: also of the Greek women of honorable rank not a few." And in connection with the start of the Philippian Church, it is said, "We spake to the women that were gathered together." "The extant Macedonian inscriptions," says Lightfoot, "seem to assign to the sex a higher social influence than is common among the civilized nations of antiquity. In not a few instances a metronymic takes the place of the usual, patronymic; and in other cases a prominence is given to women which can hardly be accidental. But whether I am right or not in the conjecture that the work of the gospel was in this respect aided by the social condition of Macedonia, the active zeal of the women in this country is a remarkable fact, without a parallel in the apostle's history elsewhere, and only to be compared with their prominence at an early date in the personal ministry of our Lord." We can think of Euodia and Syntyche as of the number of those who assembled at the riverside, It may have been in connection with their work that they differed. The Greek word translated "labored" suggests that, while they strove with each other in a way that was not to their honor, they at the same time strove, as in the games, in the sphere of the gospel. Of the honorable company in which they thus nobly strove, the first was Paul. The next is Clement, whose identity with Clement of Rome is very doubtful. Of the others, the names are not given, but the honorable thing is said regarding them that they, as well as Clement, were Paul's fellow-workers, and that their names are in the book of life. Not known now to men, they are known to God, written among the living in Jerusalem. Their names are in the register of the covenant people kept in the heavenly Jerusalem, and will yet be read out before the assembled universe as among those who have title to all covenant privileges.
III. THE DUTY OF REJOICING. "Rejoice in the Lord alway: again I will say, Rejoice." The apostle takes up the parting address which was broken off at Philippians 2:1, strengthened here by the addition of "alway," and repeated with emphasis in a form which points to the maximum of deliberation, "Again I will say, Rejoice." All wish to rejoice, but mistakes are made even by Christians as to the object. According to the teaching here, we are to rejoice in the Lord. Or, as Christ says, bringing us back to the pure fount of joy, "Howbeit in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." We are not to rejoice in ourselves, or in any of God's creatures, as though they were the first cause, the primal source of joy. Nay, we are not even to rejoice primarily in works which God may do by us. When one is eminently successful in conversion-work, we say, perhaps not without a feeling of envy, "What a joy must fill that man's soul!" If we were the instrument of converting sinners like him, we think we could rejoice too. But it is to be noted that the most successful laborer in the vineyard is not before the humblest Christian in the deepest source of his joy. What we have all alike to rejoice in is this, that our names are written in heaven; in other words, that we ourselves are the children or people of God, that we have God as our Portion, that he regards us individually with judicial favor and fatherly love. There is thus a very humble, self-excluding element in our joy. The ground of rejoicing in the Lord, for us who were born in sin, is the atoning work of Christ. To atone for sin entailed great sorrow on our Substitute. From eternity having joys most exalted in himself, he endured pains which, considering their cause, were infernal The pains of hell got hold upon him. Think of Gethsemane; think of Calvary. But he never veered a hairbreadth from the purpose of our salvation. He set his face like a flint, and so the work was done, and done for ever. And now, in Christ, God stands in a gracious relation to his people. He has entirely altered their relation to him, from being objects of his regard to being objects of his complacent regard. Double reason, then, have we for rejoicing in God. "O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me." Ours, then, should be a deep and a perennial joy. Even under depreciation of earthly comfort, there should be more gladness in our heart than men of the world have in the time that their corn and their wine and their oil abound. God, in Christ, is more to us than corn, or wine, or oil; ay, more than the dearest earthly friend, and One who will never fail us; and therefore we may alway rejoice.
IV. DUTY OF FORBEARANCE.
1. Stated. "Let your forbearance be known unto all men." Forbearance is reasonableness (to which the derivation points) on its gentle side. It is the opposite of rigorism. It is "considerateness for others, not urging one's own rights to the uttermost, but waiving a part, and thereby rectifying the injustice of justice. The archetype of this grace is God, who presses not the strictness of his Law against us, as we deserve, though having exacted fullest payment for us from our Divine Surety." It was a grace especially to be "known" unto their persecutors. It was a grace to be "known" unto the worst offenders. As inseparable from them, it was to be "known" unto all men; i.e. in all their dealings with men.
2. Enforced. "The Lord is at hand." Rigorism "would be taking into our own hands prematurely the prerogative of judging, which belongs to the Lord alone; and so provoking God to judge us by the strict letter of the Law." Let us think kindly of men, even of the worst of men, as those who are still under trial, and who, by our forbearance, may be won over to the Lord's side. And, as judgment lingereth not, let us fully embrace the opportunity.
V. MEANS TO BE USED AGAINST ANXIETY.
1. The evil to be avoided. "In nothing be anxious." "Nothing" has the emphasis. To not one thing is our anxiety to extend. Anxiety is harassing care, very different from the providential care of God. We cannot help having cares in the world - cares about getting a livelihood, cares about health, cares about higher matters, cares about those who are near and dear to us, and cares, beyond our immediate circle, for men generally and for the Church. But, though we cannot help having cares in this world, we are not to be harassed by cares, as though we had to bear them ourselves.
2. Means to be used against the evil. "But in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God." Over against the "nothing" of anxiety is the "everything" by prayer. Every part of our life is to be connected with prayer. There is nothing too small to be connected with prayer. Specially on every occasion of care are we to pray. And, while we pray generally, we are to make our prayer turn upon our special need. We are to supplicate to be relieved from care, or to be strengthened under care. And while we thus supplicate for relief or strengthening, we are to be thankful for our freedom from other cares, for the number of our mercies, for the special mercy that is mingled with our care. In our supplication we are to have special petitions which we are to make known unto God. For though known unto God are all our wants, yet it is good for the work of communion, for the exercise of faith and of other graces, that we should make our wants known in the proper quarter. If we have cares, what more natural than that we should go with them to him from whom they have come as their First Cause? That must be more satisfactory than going to an intermediate cause or burdening ourselves with them. We can feel assured of his thoroughly understanding our case, of his power to help as having inexhaustible resources at his command, and of his being invested, not with a mere earthly greatness such as might repulse us, but with a greatness which is fitted to be a home and a shelter to us. He will not cover himself with clouds, so that our prayer shall not pass through. He will not turn away our prayer nor his mercy from us.
3. Blessed results of using the means. "And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." This is the peace of God, i.e. of which God is the source and origin. It is not the peace of unfallen beings, but the peace of those who have been sinners and are now reconciled, the sweet sense of sin forgiven, the blessed feeling that the condemnation which was resting upon us is now removed. More than that, it is, in its essence, a holy tranquillity, that comes from resting in God, such a tranquillity as fills the mind in God. It is a peace which passeth all understanding, which has a mysterious, unspeakable sweetness about it, so that he who has once felt what it is would never like to lose it. This peace is to guard our hearts and our thoughts, is to be stationed as a strong guard, so that no disturbing influence shall pass through to the center of our being or into the workings of our mind. So effectually is anxiety to be excluded. Our wisdom, then, is to seek repose by prayer. "If your mind be overcharged or overwhelmed with trouble and anxiety, go into the presence of God. Spread your case before him. Though he knows the desires of your heart, yet he has declared he will be sought after; he will be inquired of to do it for you. Go, therefore, into the presence of that God who will at once tranquillize your spirit, give you what you wish or make you more happy without it, and who will be your everlasting Consolation, if you trust in him. He will breathe peace into your soul, and command tranquillity in the midst of the greatest storms." - R.F.
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.