Paul's basic concerns about the Philippians' "affairs" have now been addressed; but there is still one remaining item—an appropriate response to their gift. Thus far, in the framework of friendship, Paul has dealt with his affairs and with their affairs—twice. Now he moves toward a conclusion. Typically (in light of his extant letters), he begins his "concluding matters" with a series of brief exhortations (4:4-9). Also in typical fashion he concludes with a series of brief greetings (vv. 21-23). What is atypical, but turns out to be a rhetorical coup, is the insertion of his appreciation for their gift (vv. 10-20) between these two "typical" items (although it is not unlike the much shorter insertion about the letter-bearers in 1 Cor 16:15-18; so what is "typical"?).
The most likely reason for placement here is rhetorical, having to do with the orality of the culture. The letter was to be read aloud among the community gathered for worship. The last words left ringing in their ears before the (very brief) greetings would be the doxology of verse 20, a corporate response to their gift to Paul as a pleasing sacrifice to God, who in turn will "meet all your needs" according to his riches in glory "in Christ Jesus."
But even in these typical—and atypical—matters Paul's central focus remains the same: the Philippians' relationship with Christ as that is evidenced in their partnership with Paul in the gospel (vv. 14-17). Everything is still "in Christ Jesus/the Lord" (vv. 5, 7, 10, 13, 19, 21, 23); yet the brief exhortations themselves conclude by urging them once more to put into practice what they have learned, received, heard or seen in Paul (v. 9). Meanwhile "the peace of God" will guard them (v. 7) and "the God of peace" will be with them (v. 9).
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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