The first portion of Philippians 4 (verses 1 to 9) is all about peace. Paul talks a lot about peace and we are going to take his points in reverse order because my mind works from the general or theoretical to the specific or practical.
Verses 8 and 9
Paul says tells us to let our minds dwell on what is true, noble, pure, right, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy. What, to your mind, are things that fit that bill? Then he gets really dangerous, he says whatever they have seen him do or heard him teach, they should do those things. Paul was a very brave man.
As an aside, allow me to tell you not to follow me. I am a poor example. I am one of those Paul calls someone with more light than practice, one who understands more than he obeys, to my shame.
But Paul uses himself as an example and promises that if the Philippians follow his teaching and life and think on good things that the peace of God will be with them.
Lets talk about the what the peace of God is and is not (these are not my original ideas, but combed from a number of sources). First the peace of God is not the same as peace with God. Peace with God comes when we quit being at war with God and, by grace, accept the salvation He as provided for us. At that point we are “justified” and at peace with God.
Nor does it exactly mean the inward peace that comes from God or the peace we get when we are assured of God’s presence because of our salvation. Instead the Greek here suggest Paul means the “tranquility of God’s own eternal being, the peace which God Himself has, the peace that characterizes his nature.” In short this peace is the attribute of God in the sense that God is Peace just as he is Love and Truth.
He talks more about that peace in verse 7 where he says it is beyond understanding and surpasses anything we can do to make peace in our lives and provide for our security. Paul says that it is by this attribute of His being, by peace, that God guards the minds and hearts of those who are saved.
In 4-6 Paul give some practical advice about achieving peace internally. Since I’m doing this backwards I’m going to say that since we are at Peace with God and have the capability of knowing the Peace of God, how do we achieve that inward peace from God? Paul’s answer is Rejoice. Always. And in the Lord. Not in what God has done, although those are great, but in God Himself. Can we do that? Are we really happy God is who He is regardless of what He may have done for us or the circumstances of our lives?
He also says we are to let our gentleness be evident. I must confess, there is not a lot of evidence I am gentle (except to dogs and babies). One commentary calls this “living graciously, focusing on giving love and patience to the very people who threaten our chance of getting what we want.” Its that paradox again, lose to gain. Our peace does not come from demanding what is ours by right.
And then he says, in the well know 6th verse that we are to present everything, all our joys, sorrows, troubles, hurts, everything with thanksgiving by means of prayer to God. And in that process, from His own person, He will give us Peace.
And last, by my ordering, that peace should translate in practical peace an agreement among believers. Paul asks Euodia and Syntyche, two women of the church to agree with each other and for the rest to help them to agree. How agreeable are we? One commentary says,”Peace can never be thought of as an individualistic possession.” Our peace cannot and will not come outside the context of harmony with fellow believers.
What does peace mean to you? Have you found, first, Peace with God through the sacrifice of Christ? If you have, are you allowing His Peace to Guard you?