These concluding exhortations, very like what one finds elsewhere (e.g., 1 Cor 16:13; 2 Cor 13:11; 1 Thess 5:12-24), are tailored to the situation in Philippi. Among other things they are to rejoice in the Lord, to let their "gentle forbearance" be evident to all (including those who oppose them) and to not be anxious about anything (given the present opposition and suffering), but let prayer and thanksgiving lead them to experience God's peace. The exhortations fall into two clear parts: verses 4-7, in which Paul appropriates his Jewish heritage, and verses 8-9, which reflect both his Hellenistic Jewish background (Jewish wisdom) and the best of Greco-Roman philosophical virtues.
The heart of the first set reflects the threefold expression of Jewish piety—rejoicing in the Lord, prayer and thanksgiving—which are basic to the Psalter: "the righteous rejoice in the LORD" (Ps 64:10; 97:12) as they "come before him with thanksgiving" (Ps 95:2; 100:4) to pray in his sanctuary (Ps 61:1-4; 84:1-8). For Paul these are the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer and especially of the believing congregation. They are expressed as imperatives because, in keeping with the Old Testament, devotion and ethics are inseparable responses to grace. The truly godly person both longs for God's presence, where one pours out one's heart to God in joy, prayer and thanksgiving, and lives in God's presence by "doing" the righteousness of God. Otherwise piety is merely religion, not devotion.
Also in keeping with the Psalter, these (second-person plural) imperatives exemplify the conjunction between individual and corporate piety (see commentary on 2:4 and 13). For Paul joy, prayer and thanksgiving, evidenced outwardly by gentleness (v. 5) and inwardly by God's peace in their midst (v. 9), have first to do with the (gathered) people of God; but the fact that God's peace will serve as a garrison for your hearts and minds reminds us that what is to be reflected in the gathered community must first of all be the experience of each believer.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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