Thank you once again for joining our current study of biblical peace.
If you’re new to this study, please feel free to start with “Peace In: Part I.”
Last week we read Philippians 4:4-9, and in just six verses we saw two beautiful promises of peace. But we also saw that peace is conditional, because along with these two promises we find two significant lists of conditions. We looked at the first item on the first list last week and will study the second item this week – moderation.
Peace In: Part III
Thanks to the KJV, this verse has often been misunderstood by modern readers. How does one make his moderation known to all men?
Do I wear a shirt that says, “I only eat chocolate on Thursdays”?
Do I vote for the Green Party?
2. Our Responsibility to Men
“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.” Philippians 4:5
I really like the way the New American Standard Bible translates this verse:
“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.”
The Greek word is question is epieikes. This particular word is used five times in the New Testament, but this is the only time it’s used as a noun. The NASB translates the adjectival forms as “gentle” and adds the word “spirit” to the noun in Philippians for clarification.
Here’s another rendering of the verse:
“Be gracious to all men. The Lord is near.”
“Be fair to all men. The Lord is near.”
This little verse with this simple word is so incredibly packed with power – the implications of which will revolutionize our every relationship if we take it seriously.
Let’s look at the other passages that feature epieikes.
“An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not addicted to wine or pugnacious, but gentle, peaceable, free from the love of money.” I Timothy 3:2-3
“Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men.” Titus 3:1-2
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.” James 3:17
“Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.” I Peter 2:18
Wow. We could camp out here for weeks. Instead, let’s quickly sketch out the type of person who let’s his gentle spirit be known to all men.
Before we do so, we must remember that when we encounter lists like these in the Bible – I like to call them Sanctification Lists – they are not trail-mix passages where you pick out what you like and leave the rest.
Every item on these lists is a necessity in a Spirit-filled life.
The Stuff He Does
An individual who is gentle is also to be the following things to all men:
- Above reproach
- a good teacher
- prepared to do right
The Stuff He Doesn’t
In like fashion, there are certain things a gentle man will not do to or around all men.
- not enslaved to alcohol
- not argumentative
- not greedy
- not causing harm
- not hypocritical
Can you picture in your sanctified imagination the type of person who can be categorized as “gentle”?
Really think about this for a moment.
No, seriously. For a longer moment.
How do you think most people would approach this individual? How might he be treated? What types of relationships would she have? What kind of mom would she be? Would you like to work for this man?
Who would dislike her?
Who would argue with him?
Are you getting this?
The conversations and actions of a gentle person are vibrantly and dynamically beautiful. Because this person makes God their greatest joy, they deliberately choose to make His precepts the foundation of their every word and deed. Because of the relationship they have with God they choose to have right relationships with everyone God bring into their life.
“He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 22:37-40
I find it hard to believe that this type of person wouldn’t constantly be at peace. Not only would their enemies be few and far between, but when anyone who hates God turned that hatred onto this gentle man, their response would provide a spiritual barrier between them and the effect of the hatred. Peace would reign.
Beyond the intentionally sanctified life choices the word gentle implies, we need to make sense of the last part of the verse – “The Lord is at hand.”
Last week we saw our responsibility to God, but even our responsibility toward man is rooted in our responsibility to God.
- I cannot be a biblically gentle man outside of a saving relationship with God.
- One of the main motivations for my gentleness toward others is the fact that Jesus and His return are imminent.
There are two important concepts involved in Christ’s imminence.
1. Jesus Himself is near. We know that God is spiritually present in all places due to His omnipresence. We also know that as believers God indwells us in a dynamic way that He does not exist in every other part of creation (including unsaved people). This truth reminds me that my Lord sees all I do and hears all I say. He even knows my thoughts and ambitions. It also brings to mind the special injunction to avoid sin because our bodies have been consecrated to God as a place of worship and service.
“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” I Corinthians 6:19-20
2. Jesus’ return is at hand. The Lord’s return to collect His children is imminent. No man knows the hour of His return. The gospels are filled with parables concerning the nature of His return and the responsibilities of His people in His absence. Mark 13 provides us a short version:
“But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. “Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert—for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning— in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, ‘Be on the alert!’ [emphasis mine]” Mark 13:32-37
Because we do not know when Jesus will be back to claim His own, and because the Spirit indwells us with His presence and power, we are repeatedly admonished to be faithfully working for the glory of God in this world so that when He returns He may bestow on us rewards for our love and loyalty.
Before we finish today’s study on peace, please take note again of the second divine generality used in this passage. Just as we were admonished to rejoice in God all of the time, so we are commanded to be gentle with all men. This includes not only our family and friends, but also our enemies and strangers. Let us look again at the words of our Lord Jesus Christ:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doingthan others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:43-48
We have no right to withhold our moderation from anybody. No excuse on the planet is strong enough to undo this all-binding decree of God.
Do they hate you? Love them.
Do they ignore you? Treat them beautifully.
Do they aggravate and annoy you? Be gentle toward them.
Did they stab you in the back? Forgive and be peaceable.
As staggering as the the requirement to be gentle to all men seems, we must believe that it is accessible through the power of God in our lives. Because if it’s not doable, then two things become true:
- We are impotent to obey most of the commands in Scripture.
- We cannot have real peace.
For the Christian, both of the statements above are lies because at the end of our Philippians 4 passage is the famous assertion that we “can do all things through Christ which strengthens us.” In addition, the very beginning of II Peter informs us that the Holy Spirit Who indwells us “has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness.”
WHAT AN AMAZING PROMISE!
- Peace is only attainable when we find our deepest sense of fulfillment in God and His plan for our lives.]
- Peace is only attainable when we allow the plan of God to be worked out through our lives to everyone else.
- If we do not do this, we will not have the unimaginable soul rest that God has promised us.
Please continue to Part IV.