Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honest, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure…
I. THE UNION OF STRENGTH AND BEAUTY IN CHRISTIAN CHARACTER.
1. The virtues of this verse are parts of one organic whole; they so hang together that the absence of one goes far to destroy the value of the other. This is especially true of "things honest and just." The world is compelled to respect truth, however lacking in grace. The addition of "things lovely" elevates the righteous into the good man: but the righteous man may be honoured and trusted though he is not admired or loved. The want of grace detracts from the symmetry of character; but in the moral world the beautiful has value only as underneath the outward charm there is the solid foundation of righteousness.
2. There is a certain beauty even about the most rugged forms of moral strength. It is a sign of incompleteness of character when a man takes pleasure in putting the truth in an offensive form, or in enforcing the right with a contempt for the feelings of others. There are those who have no desire to conciliate, and who are too assertive, yet there is in them a strength of principle, a manly resolution, an unflinching devotion to the right which is far more admirable than the amiability which is profuse in outward signs of kindness, but shrinks from the service which justice requires.
3. Still, when we think of things lovely, we refer to qualities by which the more severe attributes of character are softened. Standing alone they are a very poor possession. Those who employ all their art in order to have the outward clothing of gentleness, elegance, and grace have their reward. They are favourites of the social circle; and yet they may be lacking in the first elements of spiritual nobility. In the true Christian ideal the graces are only those elements which add tenderness and sweetness to the more masculine virtues which are essential to the toils and conflicts of this world of sin.
II. NOTE THE VARIETIES OF SPIRITUAL BEAUTY.
1. There is a tendency to find beauty only in the feminine virtues — gentleness, patience, compassion, sympathetic kindness — and to regard those of a more masculine character — courage, firmness, resolution — as belonging to another region. But this is to forget that God has made everything beautiful in its time and place. There is beauty in winter as well as in spring, in the scarred, weather-beaten rock, as well as in the smiling landscape. In God's works there is great variety, but everywhere beauty.
2. Can we not apply the same law to character? Would we have all men of the same character? Can we find the things that are lovely only in peaceful homes and gracious ministries, and not also where hard battles are fought and victories won for Jesus Christ? We recognize the loveliness of simple trust and absolute devotion in Magdalen in Gethsemane; but is there no beauty in the lofty heroism of Peter and John declaring that they would serve God rather than men? Barnabas seems to gather up in himself the things that are lovely, but do we find no spiritual beauty in the lion-like courage of Paul? So with Melanchthon and Luther. There is moral beauty in all — different in type, but alike in origin and end.
III. CONTEMPLATE THE THINGS THAT ARE LOWLY (Colossians 3:12-15). Here is indeed a galaxy of virtues, yet when we come to examine them we find that they all turn on one point — the conquest of self.
1. Selfishness is ugliness and deformity, because it is a violation of the Divine law. It may disguise itself, but when detected it is hated and despised. It is the foe of man, to be crushed by a Diviner force if we are to attain to spiritual beauty.
2. The first lesson we have to learn is humility and unselfishness. So only can we follow Christ. Where His Spirit reigns the life will have this primary condition of true beauty; although at times it may be lacking in features which correspond to the popular ideas of grace.
3. The word chivalry seems to embody most of the virtues included in the phrase of the text: reverence for God and for all that is godlike in man, sympathy for all goodness, pity for all weakness, courage to face all danger, generous consideration for others dictated by true respect for self. These are just the virtues which the Christian should strive by the grace of God to develop.
(J. G. Rogers, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: 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.
WEB: Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things.