Philippians 4 Bible Commentary

John Wesley’s Explanatory Notes

(Read all of Philippians 4)

Verse 1

[1] Therefore, my brethren dearly beloved and longed for, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, my dearly beloved.

So stand — As ye have done hitherto.

Verse 2

[2] I beseech Euodias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord.

I beseech — He repeats this twice, as if speaking to each face to face, and that with the utmost tenderness.

Verse 3

[3] And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellowlabourers, whose names are in the book of life.

And I entreat thee also, true yokefellow — St. Paul had many fellowlabourers, but not many yokefellows. In this number was Barnabas first, and then Silas, whom he probably addresses here; for Silas had been his yokefellow at the very place, Acts 16:19.

Help those women who laboured together with me — Literally, who wrestled. The Greek word doth not imply preaching, or anything of that kind; but danger and toil endured for the sake of the gospel, which was also endured at the same time, probably at Philippi, by Clement and my other fellowlabourers - This is a different word from the former, and does properly imply fellowpreachers. Whose names, although not set down here, are in the book of life - As are those of all believers. An allusion to the wrestlers in the Olympic games, whose names were all enrolled in a book. Reader, is thy name there? Then walk circumspectly, lest the Lord blot thee out of his book!

Verse 5

[5] Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

Let your gentleness — Yieldingness, sweetness of temper, the result of joy in the Lord.

Be known — By your whole behaviour.

To all men — Good and bad, gentle and froward. Those of the roughest tempers are good natured to some, from natural sympathy and various motives; a Christian, to all.

The Lord — The judge, the rewarder, the avenger.

Is at hand — Standeth at the door.

Verse 6

[6] Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

Be anxiously careful for nothing - If men are not gentle towards you, yet neither on this, nor any other account, be careful, but pray. Carefulness and prayer cannot stand together.

In every thing — Great and small.

Let your requests be made known — They who by a preposterous shame or distrustful modesty, cover, stifle, or keep in their desires, as if they were either too small or too great, must be racked with care; from which they are entirely delivered, who pour them out with a free and filial confidence.

To God — It is not always proper to disclose them to men.

By supplication — Which is the enlarging upon and pressing our petition.

With thanksgiving — The surest mark of a soul free from care, and of prayer joined with true resignation. This is always followed by peace. Peace and thanksgiving are both coupled together, Colossians 3:15.

Verse 7

[7] And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

And the peace of God — That calm, heavenly repose, that tranquility of spirit, which God only can give.

Which surpasseth all understanding — Which none can comprehend, save he that receiveth it.

Shall keep — Shall guard, as a garrison does a city.

Your hearts — Your affections.

Your minds — Your understandings, and all the various workings of them; through the Spirit and power of Christ Jesus, in the knowledge and love of God. Without a guard set on these likewise, the purity and vigour of our affections cannot long be preserved.

Verse 8

[8] 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.

Finally — To sum up all.

Whatsoever things are true — Here are eight particulars placed in two fourfold rows; the former containing their duty; the latter, the commendation of it. The first word in the former row answers the first in the latter; the second word, the second and so on.

True — In speech.

Honest — In action.

Just — With regard to others.

Pure — With regard to yourselves.

Lovely — And what more lovely than truth? Of good report - As is honesty, even where it is not practised.

If there be any virtue — And all virtues are contained in justice.

If there be any praise — In those things which relate rather to ourselves than to our neighbour.

Think on these things — That ye may both practise them yourselves, and recommend them to others.

Verse 9

[9] 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.

The things which ye have learned — As catechumens.

And received — By continual instructions.

And heard and seen — In my life and conversation.

These do, and the God of peace shall be with you — Not only the peace of God, but God himself, the fountain of peace.

Verse 10

[10] But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at the last your care of me hath flourished again; wherein ye were also careful, but ye lacked opportunity.

I rejoiced greatly — St. Paul was no Stoic: he had strong passions, but all devoted to God.

That your care of me hath flourished again — As a tree blossoms after the winter.

Ye wanted opportunity — Either ye had not plenty yourselves, or you wanted a proper messenger.

Verse 11

[11] Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.

I have learned — From God. He only can teach this.

In everything, therewith to be content — Joyfully and thankfully patient. Nothing less is Christian content. We may observe a beautiful gradation in the expressions, I have learned; I know; I am instructed; I can.

Verse 12

[12] 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 know how to be abased — Having scarce what is needful for my body.

And to abound — Having wherewith to relieve others also. Presently after, the order of the words is inverted, to intimate his frequent transition from scarcity to plenty, and from plenty to scarcity.

I am instructed — Literally, I am initiated in that mystery, unknown to all but Christians.

Both to be full and to be hungry — For one day.

Both to abound and to want — For a longer season.

Verse 13

[13] I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.

I can do all things — Even fulfil all the will of God.

Verse 15

[15] Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated with me as concerning giving and receiving, but ye only.

In the beginning of the gospel — When it was first preached at Philippi.

In respect of giving — On your part.

And receiving — On mine.

Verse 17

[17] Not because I desire a gift: but I desire fruit that may abound to your account.

Not that I desire — For my own sake, the very gift which I receive of you.

Verse 18

[18] But I have all, and abound: I am full, having received of Epaphroditus the things which were sent from you, an odour of a sweet smell, a sacrifice acceptable, wellpleasing to God.

An odour of a sweet smell — More pleasing to God than the sweetest perfumes to men.

Verse 19

[19] But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

All your need — As ye have mine.

According to his riches in glory — In his abundant, eternal glory.