World English Bible translation
4:8Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report; if there is any virtue, and if there is any praise, think about these things. 4:9 The things which you learned, received, heard, and saw in me: do these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
Paul has written several times in this letter about two themes. First, he has written about the need for examples of Christian behavior. He has reminded the Philippians about the example of Christ. He has told them that they should be examples for those around them and has told them to follow his own example. Second, Paul has returned time and again to the theme of being "of the same mind." He began the famous passage in chapter 2 with, "Have this in your mind, which was also in Christ Jesus…" He has appealed to the Philippians to be of the same mind and in particular has called on two women, Euodia and Syntyche, to think in the same way. But, what kind of example is Paul seeking and what unity of mind does Paul want to achieve?
In this passage Paul directs the Philippians to the kind of example they should be and the kind of unity of mind that they should achieve. Paul tells them to think of the things that are honorable, just, pure, lovely, virtuous and of good report. This short list is similar to the attributes that Paul has listed in other writings that he has called the fruits of the Spirit. Each one of them is an attribute that Paul also assigns to God and Christ as well. He is, in effect, telling the Philippians to think about the sorts of things that God thinks about and the kinds of things that God is.
Paul is not giving the Philippians some vague suggestion toward positive thinking. He is not advocating that they divorce themselves from the reality of their lives and live in a more pleasant, dreamworld in which they refuse to acknowledge any negative ideas. What Paul is trying to tell the Philippians, what he has emphasized throughout this letter, is that the things that we think about are very important and that our thoughts dramatically affect our lives. Our thoughts CAN be controlled by our will and we are responsible to God for the thoughts that we allow ourselves to dwell on. We cannot allow ourselves to dwell on thoughts that work against the purpose and will of God.
What we can do is ask God to help us to focus our thoughts in ways that will draw us closer to Him. We already have the mind of Christ for Christ is in us. What we need to develop is to have the thoughts of Christ. The thoughts of Christ are not something that will come to us automatically or that we can call up completely at a moment's notice. Thinking in the same way as God takes a lifetime of growing in grace and maturity in Christ. As we experience life in Christ, through failure and success, our thoughts are conformed more and more into the image of the thoughts of Christ.
Paul uses himself as an example once more, "The things which you learned, received, heard and saw in me: do these things." Paul can instruct the Philippians in these things because he has had to learn for himself what it means to think in the same way as Christ. He has had to learn to think of the things that are true and honorable and virtuous. Paul can tell the Philippians to follow his own example because Paul has first had to learn to follow the example of Christ.
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