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Thinking Throughout Philippians: More Thoughts on Philippians 4:8

14 October, 2009

corcpicsmallLast week I posted about Philippians 4:8 and its call to theology and thinking theologically:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

Today I want to tie this theological thinking into having the mind of Christ, or the Christian mind.

Paul has a lot to say in Philippians about thinking. Twice he uses the language he uses here (also in 3:13, where he ‘does not consider’ that he has already attained full possession of the perfection which is his in Christ). Most often, however, he uses the language of chapter 2, which seems to me to be the heart of his exhortation to having a Christian mind:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (2:1-11)

The language Paul uses in this passage at the heart of his letter to the Philippians (and the heart of the gospel of God’s free redeeming love) is repeated throughout the letter.

In chapter 3, Paul contrasts the righteousness ‘of his own’ he had according to the law, with the true righteousness he has through faith in Christ (3:9) — in fact, seeking out the knowledge of Christ and participation in his death and resurrection is the ‘one thing’ Paul does (v. 13). He therefore exhorts us byhis own example to think in such a way that,

forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (3:14-16)

Significantly, all this is contrasted starkly with the thinking of the ‘enemies of the cross of Christ’ (v. 18), with their ‘minds set on earthly things’ (v. 19).

In chapter 4, Paul uses this same language regarding two very practical and pastoral situations. The first is some sort of dispute between two women who labored with Paul in the work of the gospel: ‘I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord’ (4:2). This calls up the language of chapter 2 for the purposes of exhortation — ‘have this mind among yourselves, Euodia and Syntyche, which is yours in Christ Jesus…’. Finally, Paul ‘rejoices in the Lord greatly’ because the Christian mind and mindset which he has described repeatedly throughout the letter to the Philippians has been shown by them toward him:

I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. (v. 10)

Paul is speaking of their support for him in the very real, day to day needs of his gospel ministry, from which they have benefited and for which they are now sharing in Paul’s suffering (v. 14). Here we see how the mind which is ours in Christ Jesus comes full circle in the mutual concern and thoughtfulness of the Church, being of one mind and one accord in the Lord who made himself nothing in order to serve and save us, to the glory of God and his own exhaltation. ‘Think about such things.’

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One Comment
  1. 15 October, 2009 3:26 pm

    Good thoughts. You may also notice that in addition to focusing on “thinking” and “mind”, Paul also emphasizes joy. consider this excerpt from Journey to Joy (www.amzn.com/144218776X):
    “He uses the Greek “phroneo” 10 times in this letter. It’s a word that means to think, to set one’s mind on, or to have a certain attitude. The word occurs only 16 other times in all of the rest of the New Testament, but turns up 10 times in this one letter. It is found only 8 times in the 16 chapters of Romans compared to 10 times in just 4 chapters here. Obviously, Paul was calling their attention to a key concept: attitude is important. How we think and what we think are critical to whether we have happiness.
    The letter isn’t just about attitude, though. Paul also focused on joy in Philippians. The Greek word for joy (chara) is used 12 times in this letter. In four of those occurrences, Paul uses an imperative verb to call on his readers to rejoice – to be joyful. Being happy is a choice they, and we, can make. And Paul insists that we choose joy.”

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