A look at Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things”Philippians 4:8
The commandment to “think on these things” from the word of God is relevant to the current climate. There are so many things that can fill up our minds; the worst of which are worry, doubt, and fear. However, as believers in Christ, there is something far greater that should occupy our minds.
The Context of the Verse
The mental state of every believer takes important consideration in this epistle to the Philippian believers. For example, the word “rejoice” is an important word in this letter appearing 9 times in the entire epistle, and mentioned at least once in each chapter. In addition, the “mind” is also a vital topic in Philippians. The Apostle Paul begins the letter by thanking God for “every remembrance” of the Philippian believers (Phil. 1:3). In Chapter 2, the apostle Paul encourages the believers to “let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 2:5). In chapter 3, after speaking of his desire to “press toward the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus,” (Phil. 3:14), he motivates the believers to have the same mind. (Phil. 3:15-16). Finally, in chapter 4, he calls on the Philippian believers to meditate on things that are true, honest, just, etc., in order that they might enjoy a “peace…which passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7)
Which brings us to Philippians 4:8. In the previous verse, Paul is reminding the believers of the “peace of God, which passeth all understanding” that “shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). Immediately after verse 8, Paul exhorts the believers to do those things which they have “both learned, and received, and heard” of him. In doing so, the “God of peace shall be with” them (Phil 4:9). Our verse, then, is surrounded by “peace.” The peace that is found in verse 7 is a peace that comes from having a mind that is not burdened with the cares of this world, but rather with a knowledge that God knows and hears all that is needed (Phil 4:6). The peace of verse 9 stems from a life that is lived in accordance with the moral and upright standard of God’s Word. What, then, is the connection? The Christian whose mind is stayed on the concepts mentioned in verse 8 are sure to experience the peace that God promises. The Christian whose mind is occupied with these things will surely be focused on the Word of God and the Person of Christ, who as we will see fits the very essence of each characteristic found in verse 8. Let us take a closer look at what the Word of God encourages us to consider. The apostle Paul identifies eight characteristics of the things which should be occupying our mind.
The Call to Occupy our minds with:
Things that are true
This word, “true,” (Greek alēthḗs) is used 26 times in our New Testament. It can be found 13 times in the Gospel of John. It has the idea of something that is consistent with fact or reality; not false. As a believer, are my thoughts focused on things that are consistent with fact? Am I consistently meditating and concentrating my thoughts on the absolute truth of God’s Word and the beauty of the Lord Jesus Christ?
The Lord Jesus Christ Himself could say, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6) As we consider things that are true, our minds are drawn to not only the person of Christ, but to the Word of God as well. In his lovely prayer, the Lord Jesus asks God to “Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth” (John 17:17)
Things that are honest
What things are worthy of being honored? The Word of God compels us to think on things that are honorable. Who is more honorable than the Lord Jesus Christ? As we think on the significance of this Word (other translations would use venerable, or reverend), we can consider the Lord Jesus Christ in all His glory and majesty. In chapter 2, Paul reminded the believers that Christ was in “the form of God” and still “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7), Such is the love of Christ that he willingly “humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” (Phil. 2:8) Here is One who is worthy of our honor!
Things that are just
This word has the sense of being right morally, in conformity with justice, law or morality. It was used in Acts 4:19, when Peter and John answered the scribes who charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus (Acts 4:18). Peter and John could say, “Whether it is right (just) in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20 ESV). When it comes to our Savior, we cannot help but think how righteous he was. He could say, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17 ESV). Are our thoughts in conformity to God’s law?
Things that are pure
The word “pure” (hagnos) comes from the root word “holy” and denotes having the characteristics of moral purity. When we consider “things that are pure,” we are considering things that are morally upright and unblemished. The Lord Jesus Christ will immediately come to the minds and hearts of every believer. The Bible reminds us of the absolute impeccability of the Lord Jesus Christ, this One who “knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21) and “in [whom] is no sin” (1 John 3:5)
Things that are lovely
This is the only occurrence of the word lovely (prosphilē) in the entire New Testament. One commentator speaks of it as referring to the thought of promoting peace rather than conflict. When meditating upon this word, one cannot help but think of the Lord Jesus Christ. The bride in the Song of Solomon, after extensively detailing her beloved, reaches a crescendo and states, “…yea, he is altogether lovely” (Song of Solomon 5:16). It is so to every believer, upon considering the lovely Savior, that they cry out with adoration unto to the One who “loved…and gave himself” for them (Gal. 2:20)!
Things that are of good report
This phrase literally means sounding well, and so can be translated as winning, gracious, or commendable. Here, then, is another word that is only found in this passage in the entire New Testament. Consider the report of the people who crossed paths with Jesus while He was here on this earth. It could be said of Him, “Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46) and “He hath done all things well” (Mark 7:37).
Things of virtue
The apostle Paul continues the command by stating that “if there be any virtue,” we should think on such things. What is virtue? In other versions of the Bible it is translated as “excellence” and is often used to describe moral excellence. In 1 Peter 2:9, Peter reminds the believers, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises (excellencies, virtues) of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.” Truly, as Paul commands us to consider if there be any virtue, our minds will immediately consider the One who demonstrated the height of moral excellence – our Lord Jesus Christ.
Things of praise
This is something worthy of high commendation – a praiseworthy thing. Paul states that we are to consider such things. As has been the case with all of the other “things” from this verse, the Lord Jesus Christ is the only one who can fulfill such a lofty characteristic. He’s worthy of praise because of who He is – the Son of God. He’s worthy of praise because of what He has done – the work of redemption. He’s worthy of praise because of the place that He will one day occupy – reigning as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16).
…Think on These Things
Now, more than ever, our minds need to be focused on the Word of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Let us not fill our minds with doubts, fears, or anything that will take the place only the Lord deserves. We have considered each aspect of Philippians 4:8 and shown how they can apply completely to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is our prayer that as the days continue, we would channel our minds to “think on these things.”