In this summary of Philippians chapter 4 we come to the final chapter of this epistle. Here we see that Paul has learned the secret of finding contentment in all circumstances. We also find some practical ways to stand firm in the Lord and learn some important biblical principles for giving.
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What is the Main Message of Philippians 4?
Let’s begin with a quick overview of chapters 1-3.
In chapter 1 we learned that Paul and the church in Philippi were all suffering persecution. Paul wrote this letter from prison. We also see how the Lord used these sufferings and trials for the advancement of the gospel.
In Philippians 2, we saw a glimpse into the depth of Christ’s humility. He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death on a cross. Then, God highly exalted Him and gave Him the name above every name and authority in heaven and earth.
We then saw Paul move from talking about the work of Christ, to instructing the Philippians on what their proper response should be to all that the Lord had done for them.
In Philippians 3, we see Paul giving instructions for how they were to conduct themselves as followers of Christ.
Now, in chapter 4 we see Paul encourage the Philippians with some practical ways to stand firm in the Lord. We see the importance of living in harmony with each other and also how to maintain the right attitude through prayer and thanksgiving. Paul also thanks them for their faithfulness in giving.
Summary of Philippians 4
This chapter is divided into five different sections. Let’s take a look at each of these sections as we study Philippians 4 verse by verse.
Meaning of Philippians 4:1 – Stand Firm in the Lord
Therefore, my beloved brothers and sisters, whom I long to see, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.
To start off this chapter we see Paul exhorting the Philippians to “stand firm in the Lord”. He then takes the next few verses to give them some practical advice on how they are to stand firm.
First, we need to notice the word “therefore” at the beginning of this chapter. Let’s go back and see the context from the end of chapter 3.
For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our lowly condition into conformity with His glorious body, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself. Philippians 3:20-21
Here we see Paul encouraging his readers to remember that Jesus is coming back. This is the first command Paul gives them as a way to stand firm.
Then if we continue on in chapter 4:2-8 we see other commands that Paul gives which are also directly linked with how we are to stand firm in Christ.
- Philippians 3:20-21 – Remember the Lord is coming
- Philippians 4:2 – Live in harmony with each other
- Philippians 4:4 – Rejoice in the Lord
- Philippians 4:5 – Let your gentle spirit be known
- Philippians 4:6-7 – Pray with thanksgiving
- Philippians 4:8 – Think right thoughts
- Philippians 4:9 – Practice what you have been taught
These commands are important for us to know and understand because they teach us how we are to practically stand firm in the Lord and, as we continue looking at this chapter we will see that contentment is the fruit of standing firm.
Meaning of Philippians 2:2-5 – Live in Harmony
I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also, help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement as well as the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all people. The Lord is near.
These were women who had served alongside Paul. Based on his description of them, they seem to have loved the Lord.
There are so many things that we can be in disagreement over, especially as women who love to serve the body of Christ. Sometimes these disagreements can be small and petty. However, other times they can be more substantial.
What Bible study should we go through next? Should we use this event as a means to build up the body of believers or to reach the lost?
There are times when we need help (input and perspective) from others in the body to help us walk through these disagreements.
And that is ok! As long as all parties maintain humility and the right motives.
Meaning of Philippians 4:6-8 – Prayer, Supplication, and Thanksgiving
Watch the Bible Study Video of Philippians Chapter 4
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
The first thing I noticed in this section was the word “but”, which, many times, is used for contrast. In verse six we see that being anxious is contrasting with being prayerful. Prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving are the opposite of anxiety.
Let’s also do some word studies for the words “prayer” and “supplication”.
- Prayer – general prayer
- Supplication – specific requests
According to this verse, we begin with general prayer. General prayer turns our focus off the circumstances and towards God.
Then, supplication brings our request to God and connects our need to His kingdom resources.
A great example of this kind of prayer and supplication is modeled for us in 2 Chronicles 20. A large army was coming against the Israelites and King Jehosophat’s prayer illustrates Paul’s exhortation in Philippians 4:6.
and he said, “Lord, God of our fathers, are You not God in the heavens? And are You not ruler over all the kingdoms of the nations? Power and might are in Your hand so that no one can stand against You…10 Now behold, the sons of Ammon, Moab, and Mount Seir, whom You did not allow Israel to invade when they came out of the land of Egypt (for they turned aside from them and did not destroy them), 11 see how they are rewarding us by coming to drive us out from Your possession which You have given us as an inheritance. 12 Our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude that is coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.” – 2 Chron 20:6, 10-12
Jehosophat first turned his attention to God and who God had already revealed Himself to be. Then, he brought before Him the specific request for help.
The final component we see in this verse is thanksgiving. Prayer brings us to God, supplication brings us to the request, and thanksgiving brings us to faith.
Thanking God ahead of time is an act of surrender. It springs from a heart of trust and hope in God’s sovereignty.
Often, we are more prone to become anxious than we are to become prayerful. We must remember, in these moments of anxiety, to cast our cares upon the Lord instead of trying to carry them. When we do this, we station peace as a guard to our hearts and minds.
Finally, in Philippians 4:8, Paul is exhorting the believers to train their minds to think the right thoughts. Our thoughts shape what we believe and how we behave. We must be diligent to keep our minds fixed in heavenly places.
Meaning of Philippians 4:9-13 – Learning to Be Content
9 As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. 10 But I rejoiced in the Lord greatly, that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned before, but you lacked an opportunity to act. 11 Not that I speak from need, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with little, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.
This section starts off with one more exhortation. Paul is telling the Philippians to practice the things that they have heard and seen in him, especially those things he outlined in chapter three and also in the first section of chapter 4.
Paul has learned to be content.
He knows that if the Philippians align their motives, behaviors, and thoughts in accordance with all he had just written, they will also discover the secret of being content in all circumstances.
Meaning of Philippians 4:14 – Giving
14 Nevertheless, you have done well to share with me in my difficulty. 15 You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving except you alone; 16 for even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs. 17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek the profit which increases to your account. 18 But I have received everything in full and have an abundance; I am amply supplied, having received from Epaphroditus what you have sent, a fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God. 19 And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. 20 Now to our God and Father be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Here we see one of Paul’s main reasons for writing. The Philippians had sent a monetary to gift to Paul via their messenger, Epaphroditus. Paul wanted to thank them for this gift and their generosity.
We also get some great insight into the discipline of giving.
Let’s also take a look at a passage in 2 Corinthians 8:1-7.
Now, brothers and sisters, we make known to you the grace of God which has been given in the churches of Macedonia, 2 that in a great ordeal of affliction their abundance of joy and their deep poverty overflowed in the wealth of their liberality. 3 For I testify that according to their ability, and beyond their ability, they gave voluntarily, 4 begging us with much urging for the favor of participation in the support of the saints, 5 and this, not as we had expected, but they first gave themselves to the Lord and to us by the will of God. 6 So we urged Titus that as he had previously made a beginning, so he would also complete in you this gracious work as well. 7 But just as you excel in everything, in faith, speaking, knowledge, and in all earnestness and in the love we inspired in you, see that you also excel in this gracious work. – 2 Corinthians 8:1-7
We see Paul praising the churches in Macedonia (that’s the Philippians) to the church in Corinth because of their participation in this “gracious work”.
He explained how they first gave themselves to the Lord, then gave beyond their ability and in the midst of great affliction. They gave out of urgency because they wanted to participate in the support of the saints.
We too, must be diligent to participate in this gracious work. We must first give ourselves to the Lord, asking Him how we are to give, then obey. Giving is another way that we not only support God’s kingdom work, but also an expression of our faith in God to provide for our every need according to His riches in glory in Christ.
Final Thoughts on Philippians Chapter 4 Summary
I love how this final chapter pulls the whole book together. We see that Paul had learned the secret of contentment. This secret we see threaded throughout the book within the exhortations and commands that he gives this church. These principles for contentment are just as true for us today as they were for the Philippians.
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