Exegesis of Philippians 4:6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mag. Claudia R. Wintoch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction to Biblical Greek

Ken Lundeen

 

 

 

 

 

 

World Revival School of Ministry

Spring Trimester 2003

 


1. The Passage

 

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (NIV)

 

mhde;n merimna'te, ajll# ejn panti; th'/ proseuch'/ kai; th'/ dehvsei meta; eujcaristivaß ta; aijthvmata uJmw'n gnwrizevsqw pro;ß to;n qeovn.

 

2. Context Study

 

2.1. General Context

This letter is addressed to the church in Philippi, which was founded by Paul on his second missionary journey around 51 A.D.. Verse 1 states Paul as the author, and it is assumed that he wrote this letter during his Roman imprisonment around 61 A.D.. How remarkable, then, that the major theme of the letter is joy. Paul also appeals for Christlikeness and unity among them. Paul’s writing style is noticeably different from his other letters, as his words show affection and warmth.

Hayford[1] outlines the book as following:

 

1.      Introduction – 1:1-11

a.       Salutation – 1:1-2

b.      Thanksgiving – 1:3-8

c.       Prayer – 1:9-11

2.      Circumstances of Paul’s imprisonment – 1:12-16

a.       Had advanced the gospel – 1:12-18

b.      Had brought assurance of blessing – 1:19-21)

c.       Had created dilemma for Paul – 1:22-26

 

3.      Exhortations – 1:27-2:18

a.       Live worthy of the gospel – 1:27-2:4

b.      Reproduce the mind of Christ – 2:5-11

c.       Cultivate the spiritual life – 2:12-13

d.      Leave off murmurings and questionings – 2:14-18

4.      Commendation of and plans for Paul’s companions – 2:19-30

a.       Timothy – 2:19-24

b.      Epaphroditus – 2:25-30

5.      Warnings against error – 3:1-21

a.       Against the Judaizers – 3:1-16

b.      Against sensualism – 3:17-21

6.      Conclusion – 4:1-23

a.       Final appeals – 4:1-9

b.      Acknowledgment of the Philippians’ gift – 4:10-20

c.       Greetings – 4:21-22

d.      Benediction – 4:23

 

Philippians 4:6 is part of Paul’s final appeals to the Philippians, as he exhorts them one more time, telling them how to live in a way pleasing to God.

 

2.2. Immediate Preceding Context

Paul addresses a disagreement between two sisters, encouraging them to settle the issue. He then exhorts them to rejoice at all times and display the character of Christ, interjecting that the Lord’s coming was not far off. It is right after that reminder that Paul commands them not to be anxious about anything.

 

2.3. Immediate Following Context

The following verse describes the fruit resulting from obeying Paul’s command in verse 6 – peace beyond all understanding that would protect their hearts and minds. He then continues by listing in detail the good things to be thought upon instead of the things causing them to be anxious. 

 

2.4. Internal Connection

Philippians 4:6 is one complete sentence in the Greek language. It is a contrast divided by the word but, which is preceded by the only comma, both sentences containing an imperative in the present tense. The first command tells the readers what not to do, while the second command tells them what to do, with many more details than the first command, which is only two words long, compared to 16 for the positive command. The reason for its length is that Paul tells them, using three nouns, how to present their requests to the Lord.

 

3. Word Possibilities

 

3367 anything (NIV), nothing (KJV): mhdeivß

adjectival noun

 

1. nobody, no one, anybody                Acts 4:17

2. nothing, anything                              Acts 4:21

 

 

3309 be anxious (NIV), be careful (KJV): merimnavw

verb – present imperative active

 

1. to be anxious, to be troubled with cares, to worry                Mt 6:34                      

2. to care for, provide for, look out for                                    1.Cor 7:33

 

 

235 but: ajllav

conjunction

 

1. nevertheless             1.Cor 2:7

2. but (objection)                     1.Cor 4:14

3. but (exception)                    1.Cor 7:4

4. but (restriction)                    1.Cor 2:5

5. rather, moreover                  1.Cor 1:17

 

 

 

 

 

1722 in: ejn

preposition

 

1. in                                         Lk 1:1

2. by                                       Lk 1:77

3. with                                     Lk 1:25

4. among                                 Lk 1:1

5. at                                        Acts 7:13

6. on                                       Acts 1:8

7. through                                Lk 1:78

 

 

3956 everything: pa'ß

adjectival noun

 

1. individually: each, every, any, everyone,                               Acts 1:8

2. collectively: all, the whole, all things, everything                    Acts 1:1

 

 

4335 prayer: th'/ proseuchv

definite noun

 

1. prayer addressed to God

2. a synagogue

3. place in the open air to pray, e.g. by river

 

 

2532 and: kaiv

conjunction

 

1. and              Lk 1:2

2. also              Lk 2:35

3. even             Lk 1:2

4. both             Lk 1:6

5. then             Lk 3:10

6. so                Lk 1:21

 

 

1162 petition (NIV), supplication (KJV): th'/ devhsiß

definite feminine noun

 

1. need, want, privation, penury                                                                      Lk 1:13

2. a seeking, asking, entreating, request, petition, supplication, prayer  Lk 2:37

 

 

 

3326 with: meta;

preposition

 

1. with             Mt 1:23

2. after             Mt 1:12

 

 

2169 thanksgiving: eujcaristivaß

feminine noun

 

1. thankfulness                                     Acts 24:3

2. the giving of thanks, thanksgiving                  1.Tim 2:1

 

 

155 request: th; ai~thma

definite neuter noun

 

1. petition                    1.Jn 5:15

2. request                    Phil 4:6 (only occurrence)

3. requirement              Lk 23:24

 

 

5216 your: uJmw'n

personal pronoun 2nd person plural

 

1. you              Mt 5:11

2. your             Mt 5:12

 

 

1107 present (NIV) let be made known (KJV): gnwrivzw

verb – present imperative active

 

1. to make known                               Eph 3:3

2. to know, gain knowledge of 1.Cor 12:3

 

 

4314 to (NIV), unto (KJV): provß

preposition

 

1. to the advantage of                                      Lk 1:13

2. at, near, by                                                  Lk 2:18

3. to, towards, with, with regard to                  Lk 1:43

 

 

 

 

2316 God: o& qeovß

definite masculine noun

 

1. a god, goddess                                                                   Acts 7:37

2. the Godhead, trinity                                                 1.Jn 1:5

3. godly, anything referring to the only and true God     2.Cor 7:10

4. anything likened to God                                                      Acts 8:2

 

 

4. Word Choice

 

anything (NIV), nothing (KJV): mhdeivß

 

Nobody is a thinkable translation in this context, since Paul has just addressed an issue among women in the previous verses. However, it restricts the application significantly, since Paul is really meaning anything. In addition, grammatically, the object your request in the latter part of the verse suggests “issues” rather than people. My choice is therefore anything, since it is stronger than the word nothing.

 

 

to be anxious (NIV), be careful (KJV): merimnavw

 

Care for can immediately be excluded because of common sense, since Paul would not tell us not to care for anything, or not to provide for anything. Only option 1 can fit in this context, as Paul makes a strong point of telling us not to be anxious for anything, which he emphasizes by telling us what to do instead in the rest of the verse.

 

but: ajllav

 

Paul is making a contrast between the first phrase and the second, which rules out nevertheless. Since the second phrase is not an exception to the first, 3 can also be ruled out. The same is true for option 4. Option 2 is a possibility, since Paul is making an objection. However, rather is more expressive in making the objection and is therefore my choice.

 

 

in: ejn

 

At, among and on can be ruled out on the basis of English grammar and common sense. By would not be a correct choice, since it would not be distinguished from the following phrase by prayer and petition, where Paul uses a different grammatical structure translated by. I eliminate through since it implies an object of means which it is not. The remaining words in and with are both a possibility. With suggests that together with everything they should present their requests. Therefore, in is the best choice, since it implies that in the midst of every situation they were to obey that command.

 

 

everything: pa'ß

 

The word is used in a collective sense here, since Paul has every possible situation and issue in mind where requests have to be presented. Nothing is excluded from God. The whole suggests limits that do not exist here. All, all things and everything all have the same meaning, yet the first can be excluded grammatically. All things has a stronger emphasis than everything and is therefore my choice.

 

 

prayer: th'/ proseuchv

 

This noun is in the instrumental case and therefore has to be translated with a preposition like by or with. The instrumental case gives the means by which to present the requests, so that any location can be ruled out. Option 1 is therefore the only possibility.

 

 

and: kai;

 

This word connects two nouns with a similar meaning. Also, both, then and so can grammatically be ruled out. The difference between and and even is a rating. Since the second noun petition is stronger than the first noun prayer, I’m choosing the conjunction even.

 

 

petition (NIV), supplication (KJV): th'/ devhsiß

 

The first option does not make any sense in the context. Only the second option is contextually possible, so that I choose the translation supplication.

 

 

with: meta;

 

The most common use for this word is in the sense of with. However, after is certainly a possibility here since theologically, thanksgiving should always precede the petitions we bring to God. I therefore choose the less frequent translation of after.

 

 

thanksgiving: eujcaristivaß

 

The translation of this noun is very closely related to the one of the preceding preposition. Choosing with as the preposition, both options are possible in the context. However, since after has a temporal aspect, thankfulness can be ruled out since it is supposed to be a constant state of mind. Thanksgiving is an act of speech and therefore has a temporal aspect, making it my choice.

request: th; ai~thma

 

The context and person addressed rules out the translation requirement. The only difference between the other two options is that petition has a stronger sense of urgency than request. Since this word is never translated request anywhere but here, the stronger and more frequent translation petition seems more appropriate.

 

 

your: uJmw'n

 

Because this is a possessive pronoun and not a personal pronoun, your is the only possible translation.

 

 

present (NIV), let be made known (KJV): gnwrivzw

 

Only the first option allows for an object in the dative, so that the second option can be ruled out. I choose the more contemporary translation of present.

 

 

to (NIV), unto (KJV): provß

 

God does not have any advantage when we bring Him requests, so that the first option can be ruled out. The second option does not make any sense or is grammatically incorrect. Only the third option is possible, with to being the best translation.

 

 

God: o& qeovß

 

Paul is addressing believers, and theologically it is unthinkable that he would tell people to address a god. The third option is for use as an adjective and must therefore be ruled out grammatically. Since God Himself is the one addressed and not anything like Him, the fourth option is also ruled out. Therefore only option 2 is left and since the trinity isn’t specifically in mind here, I choose the most frequent translation which is God.

 

 

5. Translation

 

Do not be anxious about anything, rather, in all things, with prayer, even supplication, after thanksgiving, present your petitions to God.

 

6. Significance

 

Do not be anxious about anything

People worry.

        The Bible is full of examples of people who are worried about all kind of things.

        Worrying is part of our carnal nature we have to fight.

        Jesus told people not to worry.

Nothing is excluded.

        Jesus did not fear anything, even physical death. We are to be like Him.

        There is no fear in love. God is love.

        God wants us to trust Him in everything

 

rather in all things

Every possible situation is included.

        God wants to be involved in every aspect of our lives.

        God is interested in everything, every situation, every problem we have.

They didn’t pray in all situations.

        There are many examples in the Bible where believers did not consult God.

        Situations had arisen in their midst that could possible have been prevented by prayer.

 

with prayer even supplication

God wants us to pray.

        God has always wanted His creation to communicate with Him.

        Many passages command us to pray, including Jesus Himself.

        Jesus, the Son of God, prayed, how much more do we need to.

God wants us to plead with Him.

        He was pleased when Abraham pleaded for Sodom and Gomorrah.

        Even the Holy Spirit in us pleads and groans in intercession.

        God is always looking for intercessors who will stand in the gap for others.

 

 

 

after thanksgiving

Thanksgiving must be a constant in our lives.

        Jesus lived a life of continual thanksgiving to His Father.

        Paul was content in every situation and told others to imitate him.

        Jesus gave His life for us – how could we ever forget that and not be thankful!

Thanksgiving should come before petition.

        We have no right of ourselves to bring petitions to him, but by the blood of Jesus we need to be thankful for.

        God is not a prayer-answering machine, but wants relationship. Relationship involves much more than asking for things.

 

present your petitions to God

We must go to God first.

        God should be first in our lives, we should run to Him.

        Jesus went with His problems to the Father, e.g. Gethsemane

Don't presumptuously demand His intervention.

        God listens to the humble, not the proud.

        God is the one who knows what’s best for us, whether and when to grant our request.

        We have no right whatsoever to demand anything from God. It’s all grace.

 

7. Synthesis

 

The Philippians had many reasons to be anxious – for Paul in prison, because of problems among themselves, false teachers and threats from the outside. Yet Paul commands them not to be anxious and gives them the antidote. Instead of worrying about everything and losing sight of God and His faithfulness, they should come to Him. And they were not to forget all God had done for them, but thank Him for everything. They were not to blame God or demand things from Him, but remember the great sacrifice of Jesus and be thankful for the life God had given them. Thanksgiving and praise would already change their outlook and change their heart attitude as they were approaching God with the burdens on their hearts. It was with a thankful, humble heart they could present their requests to the Lord in a way worthy of Him. And not just requests, but with the right heart attitude they were invited to plead and supplicate with God. As a loving Father He wants His children to come to Him with every aspect of their life, instead of running to their friends or gods of the world. It is so easy for us to have other people before God in our lives and consult them first when we have a problem, asking God to help last. How we grieve Him by doing that!

Let us, therefore, be thankful at all times, never being anxious for anything, but trusting Him for everything, and humbly coming with our needs to our heavenly Father, who loves us and will answer our every prayer for our very best.



[1] Hayford, Jack W. (ed.), Hayford’s Bible Handbook, Thomas Nelson Publishers: Nashville, TN 1995