COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” (Philippians 4:8, KJV)
The nature of spiritual life is challenging. It does not allow for casualness or a lack of involvement. The whole person is embraced by faith–particularly the heart and mind. This text will summon us to the holy work of thinking, contemplation, and meditation. What we think about actually determines what we will be, as well as identifying what we really are. Thinking is the process whereby honey is drawn out of the rock (Deut 32:13). It is what converts the truth into life, and makes sound doctrine profitable. Since men think with the mind (Ezek 38:10) and with the heart (Prov 23:7), both are to be sanctified to the Lord–given to the contemplation of things acceptable to God. Other words for thinking are meditation, consider, cogitations, and ponder.
THINGS THAT ARE TRUE, HONEST, AND JUST
“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just . . . ” The word “finally” means more than simply a conclusion, or the last thing said. It carries the idea of building upon what is declared, as though he said, “In view of what I have written, from now on do this.” These are matters in which faith can work, and love can express itself. They provide a sort of spiritual environment in which the soul can be nurtured and prepared for the glory to come. We must not view them as simply areas of obligation–things that must be done if we are to be accepted. Rather, they are outlets for spiritual life–things for which regeneration prepares us. The Spirit will not approach them philosophically, but will urge us to become involved with the “things” He will mention.
“Things that are true.” Truth is the first matter we are called to consider. This is more than doctrinal statements that are supported with Scripture–although they are surely included. “Things that are true” are objects characterized by reality–that is, they are substantive or genuine. Intellectually, they are “facts.” Spiritually, they are matters that are trustworthy, and upon which character and hope can be built. Truth is the opposite of delusion, or imagination. It is the antithesis of the lie and misrepresentation. In this case, the Spirit is speaking of things that have been revealed from heaven. They are “The things that are not seen” (2 Cor 4:17-18). These are realities that are unchangeable and dependable. They include“the world to come” Heb 2:5; 6:5), your “inheritance” (1 Pet 1:4), and your“house from heaven,” or resurrection body (2 Cor 5:1-2).
“Things that are honest.” As it is used here, the word “honest” means venerable or honorable–worth pondering. It means of good character and worthy of respect. Other versions use the word “noble” or “honorable.” The idea of sanctity and excellence are also found in this expression. This is the same word translated “grave,” “reverent,” or “serious” in 1 Timothy 3:8 and 11, and Titus 2:2. “Things that are honest” are the opposite of “filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting” (Eph 5:4). There are thoughts that are unworthy to be entertained by the people of God–thoughts that tend to degeneration and separation from God. We are living in a period of time when such things have been exalted and given undue prominence. While it is not in order to made unreasonable demands of people, our thoughts should tend toward serious matters rather than levity and humor.
“Things that are just.” These are matters that are righteous, faithful, and befitting of contemplation. They include the idea of fairness and equity, together with what promotes goodness and fellowship with God.
“Things that are just” are not injurious to others, offensive to God, or harmful to our faith. They include consideration of others, the glory of God, and the edifying of the body of Christ. Such thoughts will provoke us to “do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). The Law spoke of “just” balances, weights, and measures (Lev 19:36). “Just” includes the idea of no deception or inconsideration. There is no conniving or plotting in “things that are just”–no seeking for self-glory. The character of God Himself is reflected in “things that are just.”
THINGS PURE, LOVELY, AND OF GOOD REPORT
“ . . . whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report . . . ” The Spirit is focusing our attention on realities which are profitable for contemplation. There is a sharp contrast between these “things” and those the world emphasizes.
“Things that are pure.” These are things that are clean, holy, and innocent. No defilement or contamination results from being exposed to them, or thinking upon them. Like Jesus, they are free from sin, blameless, and harmless (Heb 7:26). This is the word used to describe the church to be presented to Christ–“a chaste virgin,” or “pure bride” (2 Cor 11:2). The wisdom that comes “from above is FIRST pure” (James 3:17). There is nothing about it that contributes to weakness, defilement, or transgression. In view of the fact that we are admonished to keep ourselves “pure” (1 Tim 5:22), it is imperative that we master the art of pondering and meditating upon“pure” things. There are thoughts that elevate themselves above God–imaginations that must be “cast down” rather than entertained (2 Cor 10:4-5). While thinking of pure things is necessary for all believers, it is particularly required of our younger brothers and sisters. The world inundates, or engulfs, them with impure considerations. When these things are thought upon, they introduce moral and spiritual poison into the soul, provoking them to wrong choices. For this reason, it is imperative that we develop an appetite for “things that are pure.” One of the strongest motivations for purity of thought is anticipating the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 3:3).
“Things that are lovely.” These are things that are pleasing and acceptable to the “new man.” The “new creation” (2 Cor 5:17) is attracted to such things. Like the Lord Himself, they are “altogether lovely” (Song of Sol 5:16). There is nothing about them that is loathsome or repulsive. They are gratifying to the soul, bringing joy and relief to the human spirit. “Lovely”things are warmhearted and useful to us. They are not the objects of sinful lust, but of holy satisfaction. Like Mount Zion, they are “beautiful for situation” (Psa 48:1). That is, their loveliness is the reflection of the Lord Himself. It is their association with Him that makes them beautiful. A picture of this kind of loveliness is given by Isaiah. He describes the Savior Himself and His glorious reign. “In that day the Branch of the LORD shall be beautiful and glorious; And the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and appealing . . . ” (Isa 4:2 NKJV). Thank God for an appealing Savior!
“Things that are of good report.” Things that are of “good report” are well spoken of, having a good reputation among the godly. They are uncontaminated with a sordid past or a questionable future. These are realities held in high regard by the godly. They are the opposite of evil reports, which are spread by the ungodly (2 Cor 6:8). A “good report” not only contains a message that is good, but produces good results in those who receive it. As Solomon said, “a good report makes the bones healthy” (Prov 15:30). The Gospel is the preeminent “good report” (Rom 10:16). Ultimately, all other good accounts have resulted, in some form, from the embrace of that glorious Gospel. How we must covet to hear good messages.
VIRTUE, PRAISE, AND THOUGHT
“ . . . if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” This verse is one of the most extensive of all practical exhortations.
It summons the believer into the arena of judgment, requiring discernment and decision. The Spirit is
challenging us to the proper use of our minds and hearts. It is ever true of man, and we do well to consider it, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov 23:7). Couple that with an awareness that the Lord knows our thoughts (Matt 9:3-4; Lk 5:22), and you have a strong incentive to think upon proper and profitable things.
“If there by any virtue.” “Virtue”speaks of intrinsic excellence, goodness, and uprightness. This is not mere human goodness, but moral superiority. It has to do with the choice of right and the rejection of wrong. There are matters highly regarded by men that are not virtuous–not good, excellent, or worthy of acceptance. Jesus said such things are “abomination in the sight of God” (Lk 16:15). “Virtue” is the very first quality that is to be added to our faith (2 Pet 1:5). It is a moral excellence made known in holding fast what is good, and abstaining from all appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:21). By saying “IF there is any virtue,” the Spirit is calling us to survey the things about us, deliberately choosing what is acceptable to God.
“If there be any praise.” This is something commendable, worthy of the praise of God Himself. It is possible to so live as to be praised by God (Rom 2:29; 1 Cor 4:5). They are also things for which God is praised (Eph 1:6,12; Phil 1:11). There are things that cause men to think favorably and with thanksgiving of God and Christ. They provoke praise to God. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God” (2 Cor 4:15NASB). He also mentioned the impact of using our resources for the work of God.“Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness, while you are enriched in everything for all liberality, which causes thanksgiving through us to God” (2 Cor 9:10-11). As we ponder such marvelous things, we ourselves will be provoked to give praise to our God.
“Think on these things.” Institutionalized religion speaks more of doing than of thinking. In fact, it cares very little how its constituents think–just as long as they contribute measurably to the organization. In the Kingdom of God, however, thought plays a central role. Thoughts are the substance from which character is formed. They shape a person for either earth or heaven. The word “think” does not refer to fleeting reflections, but to meditation and rumination. This is nearly a lost art among professed believers, and needs to be revived. Meditation, or thinking, involves extended pondering and musing. It is a process whereby the truth gets into our hearts and becomes a part of our persons. The word “think” literally means “take an inventory of, estimate, and conclude.” It is the same word from which “numbered,” “counted,” and“concluded” are taken (Mk 15:28; Rom 2:26; 3:28). Such thinking brings us to valid conclusions and provokes holy determination. Thanksgiving and praise spring from these thoughts, moving us closer to the Throne. This is a large exhortation, indeed: “Think on these things.”