Summary: Exhortations, and a very important promise.
A CONTEXT FOR THE CALL TO REJOICE
‘Our conversation is in heaven,’ said the Apostle in the previous chapter, ‘from whence also we are awaiting (as) Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ’ (cf. Philippians 3:20-21). “So, my brethren… stand fast in the Lord” (Philippians 4:1).
Paul calls his addressees, “my brethren”, "beloved”, “longed for”, “my joy” “my crown…” and again, “beloved.” The exhortations which follow are addressed in family love to one of his beloved churches, and the individuals within it. Paul has already expressed his longing for them in Philippians 1:23-24, and Philippians 2:24.
Just as Paul has owned the Philippians as “my joy”, so he will later exhort them to “Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). The Apostle also calls them “my crown” - or perhaps “my wreath” - an athletic metaphor that would be familiar to those dwelling in a Roman colony. The reference to standing fast, or standing firm, may also introduce a battle metaphor, which also would be familiar in a colony settled by war veterans!
The exhortation follows, naming two female members of the staff in the Philippian church. Paul beseeches them to “be of the same mind” - “in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2). There is an echo here of the exhortation in Philippians 2:2.
‘We are God’s fellow-workers,’ says Paul elsewhere (1 Corinthians 3:9). The word for ‘fellow-workers’ gives us our English word, ‘synergy’, which speaks of a combined effort, a co-operation with God if you will. Paul uses this word four times in Philippians 4:3 -
“I ask you also, true (a) YOKE-FELLOW, (b) ASSIST these women who (c) STROVE TOGETHER with me in the gospel; with Clement also, and the rest of my (d) FELLOW-WORKERS, whose names are in the book of life.”
‘Joy’ is one of the fruits of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23): it is ours from the very first day that we put our trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. What the world calls ‘happiness’ depends upon happenstances.
So, Paul insists, “Rejoice in the Lord ALWAYS” - whatever the circumstances - “and again I say, Rejoice!”
It is because “the Lord is at hand” that Paul goes on to exhort the Philippians - and ourselves - to let our “patient self-control” be manifested to all men (Philippians 4:5). The outward look towards all men is part of letting the mind of Christ Jesus be in us (Philippians 2:5).
The Lord is at hand in two senses. First, Jesus has promised that where two or three are gathered together in His name, He is right there with them (Matthew 18:20). Secondly, He is on the sidelines, waiting for the Day that the Father has set for His return to the earth (Mark 13:32).
In saying, “Be careful about nothing” (Philippians 4:6), the Apostle echoes Jesus’ teaching about anxiety (Matthew 6:25-33). Prayerfulness is the cure to carefulness. Our supplications should be seasoned with “thanksgiving” - knowing that our heavenly Father hears and answers prayer.
Elsewhere, Paul encourages us to ‘renew our minds’ (Romans 12:2). The exhortation in Philippians 4:8 offers guidance as to how this might be accomplished: “Whatever (things) are true, whatever honest, whatever pure, whatever lovely, whatever of good report; if any virtue and if any praise, these things consider.”
The last instruction of this section is that the Philippians should remember, and emulate, Paul’s own example (Philippians 4:9). Which is, incidentally, the example of Christ (cf. 1 Corinthians 11:1).
Finally, there is one very important promise: “the peace of God, which is beyond mortal comprehension, will keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). “The God of peace shall be with you” (Philippians 4:9).