Philippians Chapter 4:1-9, 11-13, 15-19 Sunday School Notes

These are some of my notes for Sunday, April 10. 2011 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible series

Books referenced in these notes include:

Craig Keener: IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament

Peter O’Brien NIGTC:Philippians

Frank Thielman: NIVAC:Philippians

New Testament Text and Translation Commentary by Philip Comfort

NKJV Greek-English Interlinear by Arthur Farstad and Zane Hodges

Php 4:1
“Joy and crown” is typically considered to be referring to final judgment, when the Philippians’ faith will be credited to the plus side of Paul’s eternal ledger, as it were. “Crown” probably refers to the crown of parsley leaves awarded victors in the Isthmian Games. (O’Brien)

Php 4:2-9 can be divided into two sections:

Verses 2-3 call on unity between two women of the church. Verses 4-9 speak to how the church as a whole should deal with persecution.(Thielman)

The women’s names, Euodia and Syntyche, are Greek names, so it is just possible they are not native Philippians, which was a Roman colony. (Keener)

The disagreement between the two women may be behind the disunity Paul is fighting in the entire letter. Two reasons to think this:

1) Paul takes the unusual step of naming the women in a letter written to be read before the entire church (pressure, obviously).

2) The Greek behind behind Paul plea to the women “to agree with each other” (to auto phronein) is almost the same as that Paul uses in 2:2 speaking to the whole church (to auto phronete)

That Paul tries to be fair yet is very serious about resolving the dispute is show by:
1) His use of “I plead with” both women.

2) His call for a third party to help settle the dispute

3) His mixing of his plea to the women with a commendation of their service, to “butter them up” a bit.

4) Saying their names “are in the book of life”, a description of honor usede of those persecuted but remaining faithful.(Thielman)

That the women seem prominent in the church may have much to do with the location: Philippian inscriptions indicate women were very prominent in the city’s religious life.(Keener)

That Paul suspects normal means might not smooth over relations between the women is shown when he tells them in v.2 to agree “in the Lord”.(Thielman)

Php 4:3
HCSB: Yes, I also ask you
KJV: And I entreat also

This is a tiny textual variant. The difference between Yes (Greek nai) and And (Greek kai) is only one letter, and meaning is hardly affected either way. But text critics are incurably obsessive about minor details, by training.(NKJV Interlinear)

Verses 4-7 seem to be unrelated exhortations at first, but a closer look at their background reveals they are all concerned with persecution.

Graciousness/moderation (Greek epieikes) is a term for kindness when the more common reaction would be retaliation. Thus in Wisdom of Solomon 2:19 a righteous man is tested to see how gracious (epieikian) he is, or in 2 Cor 10:1 speaks of the graciousness(epieikias) of Christ as the reason he is so gentle with the troublesome Corinthians.

“The Lord is near” also hints of persecution, in that the Philippians will not have long to endure, for the Second Coming is not far off. On the other hand, it may be a reference to God’s attentiveness to His people (Deu 4:7; Ps 145:18)

“Don’t worry”, Greek merimao, is used of being unreasonably anxious about something, but can also be used in conjunction with persecution, as in Jesus’ admonition not to worry about what to say when brought before the authorities in Matt 10:19 and Lk 12:11).(Thielman)

It is no surprise the Philippians are persecuted, for Paul was while there as well (Acts 16:19-24)

In v. 6-7 Paul gives his prescription for handling persecution. Pray and thank God about everything, which will then supply them with a sense of peace which is as unique as their unusual graciousness and lack of worry in the face of persecution. There is practical psychology behind this, as prayer can unburden us of our cares. (Thielman, O’Brien)

Php 4:8 is in line with a common ancient tradition of virtue and/or vice lists. Moral excellence/virtue is the Greek arete, pretty much the central concept in the Greek notion of virtue. Jewish writers used much the same list, common as it was among many ancient cultures.(Thielman, Keener)

Php 4:9 stresses another ancient commonplace, this time the idea that students could learn greatly simply by following the example of their teacher (seen in me), as well as putting his teaching (learned, received, heard) into actual practice. (Keener, Thielman)

Php 4:11,13
Content is the Greek autarkes, a term used by ancient Stoic philosophers to describe the “perfect man”, one who finds everything he needs within himself. Paul thinks otherwise, for in v.13 he attributes his contentment to being supported by Christ, allowing him to endure any circumstances.(Thielman)

Php 4:12
It’s good to remember that ancient economics were not like twenty-first century America. Paul’s “have a little/abased” and “have a lot/abound” both would likely seem poor to middle class Americans. Ancient Cynic philosophers showed their “contentment/self-sufficiency” in all things by habitually being beggars.(Thielman, Keener)

Php 4:13
HCSB:through Him who strengthens me
KJV: through Christ who strengtheneth me

The KJV reading is clearly a later addition, both internally (scribes wanting to specify who “him” is, though the implication is obvious enough) and externally, as “Christ” doesn’t appear in the earliest manuscripts (Alexandrinus, Vaticanus) , except as obvious later additions (the second corrector in both Codex Sinaiaticus and Codex Bezae)(Comfort)

Php 4:15
“Shared/communicated” is the Greek koinoneo, which root also gives the Greek partnership. This term is one Paul tends to use of financial giving.

“Giving and receiving”’s Greek underlying words (dosis and lepsis) are terms used in financial documents but also used to speak of the mutual obligations of friendship. The phrase “matter of giving and receiving might suggest a special account the Philippians had set up to support Paul.(Thielman, Keener).

“For my need” is another term used in ancient financial documents to record an outlay of cash. (Keener)

Php 4:17
Profit/fruit is Greek karpos, “fruit”.

“Increasing/abound” is Greek pleonazo, “increase”. The image is both of fruit on tree growing more and more numerous, but also hinting at a bank account that earns interest.(Thielman)

Php 4:18

received everything in full: This is from a Greek financial term, apecho, used to indicate full payment on ancient receipts. (Keener)

Paul switches to Old Testament language here, describing the gift as “fragrant”, “acceptable”, and“pleasing”, all like language used of Israelite sacrifices (Ex 29:18, 25, 41; Lev 1:3-4;17:4; 19:5; 22:19-20)(Thielman

Php 4:19
Paul, of course, cannot repay the Philippians, but he is sure God will, graciously meeting their needs through Jesus Christ.(Keener)

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