Philippians 4:6-9

In this section, Paul adds two more exhortations to the first three in 4:1-5. These are: 1) anxiety and peace, and 2) thought-life and practice.

Anxiety and peace (6-7): For the believer,[1] there is never an excuse for anxiety. We are actually commanded to "be anxious for nothing."[2] But the reality is that anxiety can feel like a snare and we don't feel we can escape it. But God has a remedy, and it is continual prayer.[3] It's not enough to tell yourself "stop being anxious." We must also "let [our] requests continually be made known[4] to God." We are to take those things that worry us and turn them into prayer requests we keep on voicing to God. But, this isn't just prayer alone. It is prayer with thanksgiving! This is to say: Prayer + Thanksgiving = Peace. This means peace is a guaranteed outcome.[5] Yes, God promises peace to those who thankfully pray! "[T]he peace of God… will guard your hearts and your minds." This is a promise that God's peace will protect us from inner turmoil. When we express our requests to God, His peace will always insulate our hearts and our minds from our fears. And in case we might question whether this peace can in fact overcome our anxiety, Paul points out: "the peace of God… surpasses all comprehension." God's peace can calm us beyond what our minds can grasp. We need not be concerned that His peace is no match for our distress. God has given to us a potent remedy for anxiety. With thanksgiving we ought to avail ourselves of this effective antidote. For the believer, prayerlessness and thanklessness are what will perpetuate his worries. And prayerfulness (with thanksgiving!) will always squelch his fears.

Thought-life and Practice (8-9): Paul then concludes[6] this section with a focus on the Christian mind. Paul calls us to continually[7] set our minds on these Christian virtues: whatever is true (vs. false), serious[8] (vs. flippant), righteous[9] (vs. unrighteous), pure (vs. defiled[10]), lovely (vs. offensive[11]) and of good repute (vs. disgraceful[12]). Paul then summarizes these qualities as morally excellent[13] and worthy of praise. With these words, he also expands the traits to include "anything" beyond the six that are listed. Now, we should bear in mind that these are not farfetched ideals—though they may at first sound this way. They actually make up concrete and practicable patterns in real life. And so, in verse 9, Paul reminds the Philippians that they have heard and seen these qualities taught and modeled by none other than himself![14] These are the virtues they learned from Paul (teaching), and received from him (exhortation), and heard and seen in him (example). They must now give attention to what they know and put them into practice.

[1] The peace of God guards us "in Christ Jesus." Outside of Christ, this peace provides no protection.

[2] Paul places the emphasis on the word "nothing [mē-deis (μηδείς)]" by placing it in the forward position.

[3] This imperative is in the imperfective tense. The command here is to keep on making them known to God.

[4] The text reads: "Be made known to God." This may seem at first that God is being told something He doesn't know, but other Scriptures tell us that God already knows all our needs (cf. Matt. 6:8, 32). The reason why Paul chooses these words is to confront the keeping of worries/needs to oneself and not voicing them to God.

[5] God promises peace, not a "yes" to all our requests. Sometimes God says no (cf. Matt. 26:39; 2 Cor. 12:8-10).

[6] This last exhortation is marked by the adverb "Finally."

[7] The imperative lo-gi-ze-sthe (λογίζεσθε) is in the imperfective tense. This is a continual practice.

[8] This is the word sem-nos (σεμνός) which depicts the serious demeanor of deacons, godly men and women.

[9] The Greek word for NASB's "right" is di-kai-os (δίκαιος). This is better rendered as "righteous." Paul has in mind here his example of conduct (cf. connection to verse 9), not rightness/correctness about an issue.

[10] The word hag-nos (ἁγνός) means "pure," as in innocent and undefiled. The opposite is "defiled."

[11] The word pros-phi-lēs (προσφιλής) means lovely, as in pleasing or agreeable. The opposite is "offensive."

[12] The word eu-phē-mos (εὔφημος) means "of good repute," as in commendable/praiseworthy. The opposite is condemnable or shameful or disgraceful.

[13] The word a-re-tē (ἀρετή) is often translated as "excellence," "moral excellence" or "virtue," and is applied both to God and men. Given the context of personal character, this is best seen as "moral excellence."

[14] Paul begins verse 9 with a relative pronoun and connects "The things you have learned" to the "these things" of verse 8. These traits are grammatically connected to Paul's teaching, exhortation and example.