Philippians 4:1-7(HCSB)So then, my brothers, you are dearly loved and longed for—my joy and crown. In this manner stand firm in the Lord, dear friends. 2 I urge Euodia (ee-oo-dah) and I urge Syntyche(syn-ta-kee ) to agree in the Lord. 3 Yes, I also ask you, true partner, to help these women who have contended for the gospel at my side, along with Clement and the rest of my coworkers whose names are in the book of life. 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your graciousness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth, the Garden of Eden, and Adam and Eve. He put Adam in the garden and gave him the authority to name all the animals. Afterward, God made Eve as a helper to Adam. This is an important concept because Paul refers to the order of creation in his epistle to Timothy when he discusses the relationship between men and women in the church context. Let’s take a look.
1 Timothy 2:12-14(HCSB)12 I do not allow a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; instead, she is to be silent. 13 For Adam was created first, then Eve. 14 And Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and transgressed.
1 Timothy 3:15(HCSB)15 But if I should be delayed, I have written so that you will know how people ought to act in God’s household, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.
At the very least, there is an authority structure set up by God. The woman is not to have authority over the man (1 Timothy 2:12) in the church context, “the household of God,” (1 Timothy 3:15). This verse is not about political, social, or economic aspects of the secular realm. It is not about a “patriarchal society” at the time of Paul. This is the instruction to the household of God and anchors its teaching on the doctrinal truth that Adam was created first.
While the Bible does not support the practice of women serving as pastors, numerous passages speak clearly and forcibly to the inherent worth and value of women. Women in the New Testament engaged in significant ministry, performing valuable service in sometimes-difficult situations. This is readily seen in the Acts of the Apostles. Both Priscilla and Aquila spoke privately to Apollos at Ephesus (Acts 18:24-26), correcting his incomplete and flawed theology. Further, women clearly played a significant role in the work of the Apostle Paul. In his letter to the Romans, Paul identified sixteen significant helpers in ministry (Romans 16:1-16), and at least ten of them were women. Who knows what the health of the church at Philippi would have been were it not for Lydia (Acts 16:13-15), apparently a benefactor to the church, and others such as Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2-3)? And of course, women made a significant contribution to Jesus’ ministry. Luke recalled with appreciation their financial support and company with Him (Luke 8:1-3).
Near the end of his life, ten to fifteen years after the writing of the Epistle to the Galatians, Paul wrote to both Timothy and Titus, giving them pastoral instructions about how the church is to be organized. Both 1 Timothy and Titus provide clearly for a hierarchical approach to church order in which men rather than women were to occupy that role.
Some have pointed to Galatians as justification for women serving as pastors. Galatians 3:28(HCSB)28 There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. However, it is a misuse of Scripture to produce church hierarchy from passages on salvation. While Paul clearly affirms the equality of men and women in salvation, he equally and just as clearly affirms the priority of men in church leadership. There is no conflict. The contextual issue is crucial for an accurate exposition in this, as in all areas of scripture. Readers must exercise great care to determine the nature of the passage to properly contextualize what exactly the scripture is meant to convey.
Biblical exegesis requires sensitivity to the context of a passage. When Scripture is taken out of its context, faulty conclusions and blurred perspectives result. Two matters impact this discussion significantly – the issues of literary context and cultural context.
An example of the importance of correct contextual analysis occurs in Galatians 3:28(HCSB). In explaining the meaning of justification, Paul said that in Christ there is “neither Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female.” The outstanding social characteristic of Christianity is that ethnic (“Jew nor Greek”), economic (“bond nor free”), and gender (“male nor female”) distinctions have no bearing on salvation, nor upon equal standing among all Christians. It is obvious that the context of the statement is its explanation of the impact of justification(salvation). This is a soteriological statement: it speaks to the doctrine of salvation. The teaching is that all believers, without regard to social distinctions, have equal access to God through Christ, and, consequently, are to be unified in the Body of Christ.
God has ordained that only men are to serve in positions of spiritual teaching authority in the church. This is not because men are necessarily better teachers or because women are inferior or less intelligent (which is not the case). It is simply the way God designed the church to function. Men are to set the example in spiritual leadership—in their lives and through their words. Women are to take a less authoritative role. Women are encouraged to teach other women.
Titus 2:3–5(HCSB)3 In the same way, older women are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not addicted to much wine. They are to teach what is good, 4 so they may encourage the young women to love their husbands and to love their children, 5 to be self-controlled, pure, homemakers, kind, and submissive to their husbands, so that God’s message will not be slandered. The Bible also does not restrict women from teaching children. The only activity women are restricted from is teaching or having spiritual authority over men. This precludes women from serving as pastors to men. This does not make women less important, by any means, but rather gives them a ministry focus more in agreement with God’s plan and His gifting of them.
Many women excel in gifts of hospitality, mercy, teaching, evangelism, and helps. Much of the ministry of the local church depends on women. Women in the church are not restricted from public praying or prophesying, only from having spiritual teaching authority over men. The Bible nowhere restricts women from exercising the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Women, just as much as men, are called to minister to others, to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, and to proclaim the gospel to the lost.
Philippians 4:6(HCSB) 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. This does not mean “If you’re anxious, try prayer; it works.” Rather, it means, “If you’re anxious, examine either your lack of faith in the living God, who has promised to supply the basic needs of His children.” Or, “Examine your focus, whether you’re living for Christ and His kingdom or for yourself.” Whatever the root cause, anxiety is sin that must be confessed to God and put off. Proper concern turns to sinful anxiety when we lack faith in God’s role as the Sovereign Lord and provider, and when we put self at the center instead of God’s kingdom and righteousness. So the first step in dealing with anxiety is to examine whether it is due to lack of faith or to a wrong focus on self. Confess the sin to God and yield to Him.
“Be anxious for nothing.” In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus made it clear that anxiety stems from a lack of faith and from a wrong focus on the things of this world instead of on the kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:25-34(HCSB)25 “This is why I tell you: Don’t worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Isn’t life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the sky: They don’t sow or reap or gather into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Aren’t you worth more than they? 27 Can any of you add a single cubit to his height by worrying? 28 And why do you worry about clothes? Learn how the wildflowers of the field grow: they don’t labor or spin thread. 29 Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these! 30 If that’s how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow, won’t He do much more for you—you of little faith? 31 So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. 34 Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. If we excuse our anxieties by saying, “Well, it’s only human to have these emotions,” or, “Anyone would feel anxious in this situation,” we will not overcome it because we are not confronting the root cause of it,we are excusing it. What is the sin? It is the sin of not believing God and of not seeking first His kingdom and righteousness.
This means that when it comes to the matter of dealing with our anxiety, we must confront our motives for wanting to have peace. If our reason for wanting to be free from anxiety is so that we can live a peaceful, pleasant life, our focus is self-centered and therefore wrong. There are many people who come to Christ because they are anxious and they want the peace He offers. But if they do not confront the fact that they are living to please themselves rather than God, they will simply settle into a self-centered life where they “use God” for their own peace and comfort. Jesus said, Mark 8:35(HCSB)35 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me and the gospel will save it. The peace Christ offers is the by-product of enthroning Christ as Lord over your life and living for His kingdom.
Philippians 46(HCSB) 6 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
*Prayer—a general word for prayer, always used with reference to God, with the distinction of deep respect or reverence. When Paul says to make our requests known “to God,” the Greek word means “face to face with God,” to come directly before Him. This means that when we pray, we must stop to remember that we are coming into the very presence of the holy God, where even the holy angels cover their faces and cry, Holy Holy Holy, Isaiah 6:2-3(HCSB)2 Above him stood the seraphim. Each had six wings: with two he covered his face, and with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. 3 And one called to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”. Yes, He welcomes us into His presence as a father welcomes his children. Through our High Priest, the Lord Jesus, God invites us to draw near with confidence to the throne of grace to receive mercy and grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:16). But we must remember that it is to the throne of the universe, to the Sovereign, Eternal God that we come.
This means, of course, that we must always examine our hearts and confess and forsake all sin when we come to God in prayer. The psalmist says, Psalm 66:18(ESV) If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened. But we also have the assurance that if we confess our sins, the blood of Jesus is sufficient to cleanse us. 1 John 1:7-9(ESV)7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Please notice that the believer is told to come directly to God in prayer. Christ is our mediator, our High Priest. The Holy Spirit who dwells in every believer prompts and moves us as we pray, interceding for us (Romans 8:26-27). Thus prayer is a personal drawing near to the Triune God.
*Supplications–This word gives prominence to the sense of need and also looks at specific requests. Sometimes people ask, “Why pray, since God already knows what we need?” John Calvin has some of the most profound and practical words on prayer that I have ever read (Institutes of the Christian Religion [Eerdmans], ed. by John McNeill, III:XX). He points out that whatever we need and lack is to be found “in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the Father willed all the fullness of his bounty to abide” (III:XX:1). It is through prayer “that we reach those riches which are laid up for us with the Heavenly Father” (III: [Eerdmans], ed. by John McNeill, III:XX). He points out that whatever we need and lack is to be found “in God and in our Lord Jesus Christ, in whom the Father willed all the fullness of his bounty to abide” (III:XX:1). It is through prayer “that we reach those riches which are laid up for us with the Heavenly Father” (III:XX:2). Prayer is not so much for God’s sake as for ours. It shows us our total need for God Himself, and not just for certain temporal benefits. It casts us in dependence on Him, so that we will “seek, love, and serve Him, while we become accustomed in every need to flee to Him as to a sacred anchor.” It purifies our desires, since we must bring them to God Himself. It prepares us to receive thankfully what He gives, being reminded that it comes from His hand. It helps us to meditate on His kindness as we delight in what He has given. It confirms to us our own weakness and God’s great providence and faithfulness in meeting our needs (Calvin develops these points in III:XX:3).
This means that our supplications must be in line with God’s will and purpose. In the Lord’s Prayer, we learn that the first focus of our prayers should be on God’s kingdom and righteousness, and only secondarily on our personal needs (Matthew 6:9-13(HCSB)5 “Whenever you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, because they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by people. I assure you: They’ve got their reward! 6 But when you pray, go into your private room, shut your door, and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 7 When you pray, don’t babble like the idolaters, since they imagine they’ll be heard for their many words. 8 Don’t be like them, because your Father knows the things you need before you ask Him.9 “Therefore, you should pray like this: Our Father in heaven, Your name be honored as holy.10 Your kingdom come.Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.11 Give us today our daily bread.12 And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.13 And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.
*Thanksgiving–When you’re anxious, presumably you’re in a situation that gives some cause for anxiety! At such times, thankfulness is not automatic or spontaneous. You have to do it deliberately by faith. Thanksgiving in a time of trials reflects three things: (1) Remembrance of God’s supply in the past. You think back over His faithfulness to you up to this point and realize that His mercies have sustained you. He has been with you in every trial. He never abandons or forsakes His children, even if we face persecution or death for His sake.
(2) Submission to God’s sovereignty in the present. To thank God in the midst of a crisis or trial is to say, “Lord, I don’t understand, but I submit to Your sovereign purpose in this situation. I trust that You know what You’re doing and will work it together for good.” We are not just to thank God when we feel like it, but also when we don’t feel like it (1 Thessalonians 5:18(HCSB)Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(3) Trust in God’s sufficiency for the future. A thankful heart rests upon the all-sufficient God, knowing that even though we don’t see how He is going to do it, He will meet our every need as we cast ourselves on Him.
Philippians 4:7 (HCSB) And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. This is not some psychological peace gained through coping techniques. Some Christian psychiatrists give all sorts of “common sense” and psychological methods (alongside the “spiritual”) that you can use to alleviate your anxiety, including picking a phrase (any phrase will do, they say) and repeating it over and over! This is just thinly disguised Transcendental Meditation!
No, what Paul is talking about is the peace that comes from the God who is never subject to anxiety because He is the sovereign, omnipotent Creator and Lord of the universe. Nothing takes Him by surprise or makes Him bite His nails, wondering how it will turn out. This is the peace that Jesus promised, “not as the world gives.” It is humanly not explainable. But, praise God, it is real, and every child of God has known it and has known that it comes from God alone, not from psychological insights.
John 14:27(HCSB)27 “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Your heart must not be troubled or fearful.
Note that this peace stands guard like a sentry over our inner person, our hearts (the comprehensive term for our whole person) and minds (specifically, our thoughts which threaten to trouble us) in Christ Jesus. We are in intimate, permanent union with Him, and to get to us, anxiety must go through Christ Jesus! So what God promises isn’t just a quick fix, where prayer is a technique that will bring you calm until you get through the crisis. Paul is talking about an ongoing, deepening, intimate relationship with the God of peace, where you seek to please Him with all your thoughts, words, and deeds. In a time of trial, you draw near to the God of peace, you focus on His grace to you in Christ Jesus, you pour out your heart to Him, and the result is, His peace stands guard over your heart and mind. Matthew 11:28-29(HCSB)28 “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
What kind of peace does He give those who trust in Him? It is a quiet confidence that, since our sovereign, loving, all-powerful God is in control, we have nothing to fear. Jesus gives us peace with God through the forgiveness of sin. He provides peace of mind through an unhindered relationship with Him. He shows us how to have peace with man by teaching us how to love others. When He is in control, no situation, heartache or sorrow can ever disturb that peace. It is true peace, a peace not found anywhere else, no drug, alcohol, sex, pornography, spouse, money, gambling, tv preacher, self motivation will ever be able to give you the kind of peace that comes from knowing Jesus Christ.
Tragedy, heartache and sorrow will come into your life, but Christ, the Prince of Peace, will sit upon the throne of your life and He will give you His pardon, His purpose and His peace.