The Peace of the Gospel (Phil. 4:2-9)

Publié le 29 mai 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon by Aurelien Duperchy, apprentice pastor

Introduction:

Can we speak of peace in an era when conflict is everywhere in the world? It’s daring, but yes, I believe we can, as the Bible addresses it. But Christians are not immune to conflict, the church is not an atomic bunker. The adversary tries to sneak into the church and unfortunately succeeds. And unfortunately, it happens all too often. If we don’t take refuge in Jesus who is the prince of peace, we are doomed. We need to take refuge in him because he is better than any bunker.

When we hear about peace, we usually mean the absence of war, but in the Word of God, peace goes beyond an absence of evil, of suffering of any kind, and today, we are going to see how peace goes beyond the absence of evil.

Our source of peace is in God and it is because the world does not seek God, that it is not at peace. How can we find peace and become peacemakers in this world depraved by evil?

– READING OF VERSES 4:2 to 9

– PRAYER

1 – Peace with others (v2-5)

In v2, Paul mentions Evodius and Syntyche, two women from the church of Philippi who probably had a disagreement, the nature of which the text does not show us. In v3, Paul asks his faithful colleague to help Evodius and Syntyche so that they can live in full accord in the Lord.

What Paul says in the context of the epistle to his faithful colleague is a lesson for us, we too are asked to help our brothers and sisters to live in harmony in the Lord.

Paul encourages us and tells us how to solve it, and the solution is to live in the Lord. And by living in harmony in the Lord, it follows that we live in full agreement with others. Evodie and Syntyche have worked for the Gospel, so they obviously have a certain spiritual maturity and a certain experience in ministry.

One might think that they do not need help to live in full accord with the Lord, but that is not the case. This text shows us that one can be spiritually mature and still sin. Being committed to God is not a passport on which it is marked that one is too spiritual to sin. Perhaps you have already been disappointed by someone who is very committed to the ministry of the Gospel, even though they are a pastor or an elder. I myself may have disappointed some people, but we are only sinners redeemed at a great price.

What we tend to do when we are disappointed is to leave and change churches. The church in Philippi was a good church, Paul does not make any particular reproach to this church as he did to the church in Corinth for example, Nevertheless, the church of Philippi, like the EBTM, is composed of sinners in the process of sanctification. And we mutually help each other in our sanctification.

Paul asks his faithful colleague to help them to live in harmony in the Lord. Paul shows us here that problems are solved in church and not by running away. That is why he calls his co-worker to help them. Paul says in 2 Cor 5 that God has reconciled us to himself through Jesus Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation and that we can live it out by his Holy Spirit.

It is therefore a duty, if we are reconciled to God through Jesus, we must live out this reconciliation with our neighbor. To live in full agreement with the Lord is to be at peace with God and at peace with others, the one is inseparable from the other. Evodie and Syntyche have the same Lord and that is why they are called to live in full accord with Him and run towards the same destiny for which they are predestined.

We also see in v3 that Paul does not aim to make a negative remark, but on the contrary, he has a really encouraging tone. By speaking of Evodius and Syntyche he gives a strong object of hope: the fact that their names appear in the book of life. He speaks of the book in which the names of God’s children are written. In order to understand what the book of life is, we must place ourselves in the cultural context.

A theologian comments on this subject: « It was the custom of men to inscribe in a book those who were chosen for some job, like soldiers, or chosen for some job, such as soldiers or advisors, who were thus « Senators » in ancient times. Now, we know that all the predestined have been chosen by God to possess eternal life. It is the inscription of these predestined

that is called the book of life. »

It is therefore the book that lists the children of God predestined from all eternity, from whom eternal life cannot be taken away. It creates a hope of peace and joy that we could not have imagined!

a) Rejoice

v4 says « Rejoice in the Lord always; I say again, rejoice! I repeat: rejoice!

How do we respond to this command of Paul, to always rejoice? It is so important that he repeats it to drive the point home.

Philippians 4:4 is the Christian’s four-wheel drive, our all-terrain vehicle that allows us to go on all the roads of life. Let us ask God for the right to rejoice in Him, that we may rejoice in what God rejoices in and that we may be saddened by what God is sad about. We should not be sad about things that do not sadden God.

In order to rejoice, we need to know the object of our rejoicing, which is the Lord, as the verse shows us. God is a source of happiness, a waterfall of joy that nothing can stop. This waterfall of joy allows us to bathe in peace. God wants us to live in his joy, to transcend the difficult moments, the doubts, to rejoice in the Lord, in the eternal Gospel, because he gives us the possibility to do so through Jesus Christ.

When we rejoice in the Gospel, we rejoice in God who becomes man and walks on the earth, and we rejoice in he who brought us peace by dying in the place of poor sinners like us who deserve nothing but hell.

In spite of our totally depraved state, the Holy God came to save us out of love for us, in spite of our sins, our doubts, our fickle moods… He decided to come and offer his peace to us. The text from Philippians shows us that the Gospel is the ultimate peace, even when doubt comes to take away our peace. God is the Gospel!

What does it mean to rejoice? It’s important to understand it well, otherwise we can be troubled by saying to ourselves, « When I’m sad I do not smile, so I’m sinning by not applying this commandment! » Many Christians, as was my case when I was converted, feel frustrated by this verse, if this is your case, I have good news for you, this text does not say that we sin when we are sad.

Otherwise Jesus would have sinned because he wept when the prophet John the Baptist died. When he cried, he was not encouraging others to laugh… and Jesus never sinned, the prince of peace did not lack peace when he cried.

Sadness in itself is not a sin, but it is sin that should make us sad. And the fact that we are not saddened by evil is a sin.

God offers us the possibility to rejoice in the Gospel because he has offered us his only Son.

When we are going through difficult times or times of tranquility, let us strive to take time to meditate on the Gospel of peace and draw strength from it.

The missionary Elizabeth Eliott, whose husband was massacred by members of an Amazonian tribe said « Joy is not the absence of suffering, it is the presence of God. » If we remain joyful, we will live in peace with God and with each other. It is difficult to be angry with a joyful person who emanates gentleness.

b) In the source of gentleness

v5 Let your gentleness be known to all. 

Paul speaks of gentleness after rejoicing, which definitely suggests that gentleness without rejoicing in the gospel is im-po-ssi-ble. One needs the rejoicing of the gospel to fully experience gentleness.

Here, gentleness emphasizes being kind, forgiving, merciful

Paul expresses gentleness as a priority because he emphasizes the importance of gentleness by saying « The Lord is near.” The expression « is near » refers to different important elements of the Christian life such as:

– The promise that Jesus is with us until the end of the world, he is close to us at all times. He is the Prince of Peace who brings us peace in all circumstances 

– The eschatological aspect (i.e. the end of time) of his return and that it is urgent to obey the commandments of God because we do not know the day when we will die, when Jesus will return.

And for that, it is essential to center our thoughts on the peace of God.

2 – Peace of mind (v6–8)

In v6, Paul says, « Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything let your needs be known to God with prayers and supplications in an attitude of gratitude. Worry is the opposite of peace, it prevents us from experiencing the peace of God.

What about when Jesus was so distressed that he sweat blood?

It is important to discern between worrying that God will not do his work, knowing that he always does, and worrying about the evil that may happen.

The disciples of Jesus were worried when they were in the territory of Tyre and Sidon when they had no food, while not long before Jesus fed 5000 men with five loaves and two fish. Jesus, in all his patience, in the desert with his disciples, took seven loaves of bread and fed 4000 people!

We need to discern anguish from anxiety, and how to reconcile anguish and peace, Jesus was anxious to the point of sweating blood, but he was at peace knowing God’s plan would be fulfilled. 

Jesus wanted to give himself for us but he did not want to suffer physically and he did not want what the human body is not made for, it is normal. The human body is not initially created to suffer. And in those difficult times, Jesus prayed to his Father saying « Not my will, but yours ».

And this is exactly what this verse teaches us, we must make our needs known through prayers, being grateful to God.

In practice, how can we apply it to ourselves?

I will give you an example that I experienced recently. My daughter is very premature, she was born at 6 and a half months of pregnancy. In the months that followed, I started to lose hair on top of my head, I had little holes.  At first I thought it was baldness, I was surprised because there is none in my family, but well, sometimes it can still happen. And for the last 6 months, the holes have been filled in. My anxiety for my daughter was subconscious, it is only afterwards that I realized that it had affected me physically.

Did I sin by being affected in this way? Well, no. In fact, we even saw miracles from God worked out through our daughter. We were at peace even though we were deeply afflicted with difficult moments.

We were thankful for Evy, we told God our needs knowing that everything that was happening right now, God knew it from all eternity. And that kept us in Him despite these trials.

V8 commands us to control our thoughts

Paul emphasizes the freedom of action that we have in our spiritual life, he encourages us to control our thoughts. Of course, this is possible for Christians thanks to the Holy Spirit, who is the driving force. We can turn our thoughts to what is true, honorable, just, worthy of love, worthy of approval, synonymous with moral quality and worthy of praise.

In reality, all of these are divine attributes, he alone is good, just and worthy of worship. Paul asks us to focus our thoughts on what comes from God, on his work, on the values we can have here on earth that are consistent with who God is.

The Bible also speaks of God as the God of war because he fights for us, he is our defender.

In Romans 16:20, it says “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” If you want peace, don’t prepare for war, Jesus has already conquered sin and death by his death and resurrection! And the day Jesus returns, we will no longer have to worry about all the difficulties of this fallen world.

In fact, our God of peace will be with us.

3- The God of peace (v7-9)

V7 says « the peace of God, which surpasses all that we can understand ».

Already our understanding of things is limited, when we are not at peace, our understanding is even more blurred and limited. And with the peace of God, we understand more, but it remains very limited in front of the immensity of God. The peace of God surpasses all our understanding because the God of peace surpasses us completely.

Peace in the biblical culture refers to several things and notably to Shalom!

This shalom is quoted in Job 5:24 « You will enjoy happiness in your tent; you will find your flocks and herds complete. » Shalom here means completeness, being complete and enjoying it.

In God’s Word, peace has a broader meaning than we often think, since peace encompasses everything we need in order to be at peace. This is just one Bible verse that shows a larger aspect of peace, but there are many others that I don’t have time to list, which make us understand that peace is beyond our understanding. 

If in the Bible we already find elements that can nourish our understanding until the end of our life, how much moreso, the state of absolute peace exceeds even more our capacity of understanding!

And God is the God of peace, in him is all the resource we need to be at peace, he is the beginning and the end of our peace.

V9 Paul commands us to put everything we have seen from the beginning of the text into practice, and he says the God of peace will be with us. 

If we don’t put it into practice, we won’t have peace. It’s as simple as that.

In James 1:22-25, it says, “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.”

To conclude:

When we have a dispute, sometimes we wonder if God is on our side or on the other person’s side. I would ask simply, what do I have to gain by feeding such thoughts? Let us humble ourselves, let us consider it a loss, as Christ himself humbled himself by coming to earth and experiencing humiliation on behalf of men by dying on the cross.

Let us live in full agreement in the Lord in order to live in peace because we have the same Lord and the same destiny.  We can ask God, what are the things in my life that prevent me from living in full agreement with you? Come and demolish everything in my life that you have not built. And use me to help my brothers and sisters to live in full accord with you.

Let us be, as Paul was, encouraged and challenged to live in full agreement with the Lord! If we are inscribed in the book of life from all eternity, we have all that is necessary to be reassured about our Salvation because we have eternal Life with our brothers and sisters .

Remember that the Lord is near, and so live like him, far from any worry. And when difficulty comes to find us, let him know our needs while remaining grateful. Praying while being thankful is an important key in the prayer life.

Let’s put into practice all the advice of this text because God is the God of peace, in him we find all the resources we need to be at peace. So we have no excuse.