It’s All Good! God will Give you Peace!
Paul wrote his letter to the Philippians to a church that was in danger of losing its joy. There were many things for them to be sad and worried about. Their founding missionary was being held prisoner in Rome. He had already lost four years of his life and ministry locked away from the general public. They were concerned that his trial before Nero might result in his execution.
This would be enough to make them sad in and of itself. However, they had their own worries. Philippi was a Roman colony and there was a lot of support for the emperor. Nero commanded an almost god-like devotion; he was called Lord and Savior. The Christians at Philippi would have refused to acknowledge him in such terms. This would have, at the very least, caused ostracism and brought on economic reprisals, but at the worst could have subjected them to charges of treason.
I can see how they might have longed for the days when they could safely reside under the legal umbrella of Judaism. I can even understand the temptation to leave their freedom in Christ and embrace the burdens of circumcision and other legalistic rituals for safety’s sake. Perhaps, this was behind the internal unrest caused by Euodia and Syntyche. There was selfish ambition and political posturing going on between and because of these women. Maybe their disagreement was over competing strategies of dealing with Roman persecution and conformity (for self preservation) to a more “Jewish” lifestyle.
Paul addresses all these worries by pointing them to the cross. Jesus, who was in the form of God, voluntarily took on the form of a servant to die on the cross for our benefit. Because of his obedience, God exalted him. Our obedience as Christians is to take on a cruciform (i.e., taking the form of the cross) life/death and embrace suffering as participation in the sufferings of Christ. God will reward our obedience with our participation in the exaltation and resurrection of Jesus at the last day.
Paul recognized this in regard to his own sufferings and encouraged the Philippians to follow his example, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
Paul also directly addressed their worry and peace of mind in our lesson text for Sunday (Philippians 4:4-9).