Friday, 17 February 2017
Therefore, my beloved and longed-for brethren, my joy and crown, so stand fast in the Lord, beloved. Philippians 4:1
Paul has just been speaking of the resurrection of our earthly bodies and their being conformed to Christ’s glorious body. With that thought still in mind, Chapter 4 begins with “Therefore.” As always, when encountering a “therefore,” one must go back and see what it is there for. In this case, as noted, he is summing up the thought of the resurrection. From that, he now provides practical advice concerning this issue.
In this, he is amazingly consistent. He followed the same pattern in both Romans and 1 Corinthians. Immediately after speaking of the resurrection in these books, he penned for us the following –
“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1, 2
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 15:18
In this beginning of his practical application, he states, “…my beloved and longed for brethren.” It is a touching note of endearment which is all the more necessary based on what he will instruct for them in the coming two verses. They are in his heart, and they are brethren in the Lord. For this reason, it is for his comfort, and for their favor to accept his words as they will be given. The words “longed for” certainly are based on his current status as a man in chains. His inability to come to them personally has only pulled his heart strings even more. The word for “longed for” is epipothétos. It is found only here in Scripture, and it signifies “to long for with great affection.”
He next calls them “my joy and my crown.” Again, he uses words and ideas which he uses elsewhere. Two examples of such honorific words are found in 1 Corinthians and 1 Thessalonians –
“If I am not an apostle to others, yet doubtless I am to you. For you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 9:2
“For what is our hope, or joy, or crown of rejoicing? Is it not even you in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ at His coming? 20 For you are our glory and joy.” 1 Thessalonians 2:19
For the Philippians, they are his joy even in suffering, and his crown which awaits in glory. The work that he has done, and the fruit which has been realized through his labors make both of these things true. Because of this, and because of his hopes for this to continue in them, he next says, “…so stand fast in the Lord.”
These words certainly are given because of the hope of the resurrection (see the note on “Therefore” above), but they are exhortations based on the content of all of chapter 3. He wants them to stand in Christ and not get drawn into legalism through an insertion of the law, nor get drawn into license by assuming grace allows and promotes sin. With this in mind, he again calls them “beloved” to close out the verse. The scholar Bengel notes that, “This word is twice used with great sweetness; first as at the beginning of the period; and then, for strengthening the exhortation.”
Life application: Because of our hope in the resurrection, we should be all the more willing to stand fast in the Lord. How often this is turned completely around! We tend to think, “I am on the heavenly highway, and so I don’t need to worry about my actions as much.” This is a 180 degree turn from what is actually appropriate.
Lord God, how often do we who trust in Christ get our bearings out of whack. We assume that because we have a sure hope in the resurrection, we don’t have to be as determined in pursuing the goal as those who have no hope. But it is just the opposite. Exactly because we have this hope, we should stand even more determined to live for Christ, to emulate Christ, and to strive to finish the race as He has called us to do. Help us not to head in the wrong direction, but to demonstrate our hope in eternal life by living that hope out now. Amen.