Rejoice In The Lord
Nick Esch, 8/2/2020 Cornerstone Baptist Church
There’s a story of an unnamed martyr, who during the English Reformation was sentenced to death for preaching the gospel. He was to be put to death by fire, all for his faithfulness to Jesus. When the executioner was about to carry out his sentence, the servant asked his executioner to place his hand on his heart. Then he asked, “Is my heart beating fast? Do I show any sign of fear?” And the executioner said no, none… Then the servant of the Lord told the man, “Now lay your hand on your own heart, and see whether you are more excited than I am…” At once the executioner understood what he was getting at.
This Christian was anxiety free and at peace, even in the face of death, because his joy was in the Lord; while the man who did not know the Lord knew nothing of the peace or the joy that the Christian had… because it was beyond his understanding. The Christian was at peace and joyful to the very end because he knew with full conviction that Jesus is better than anything life could give him or death could take from him… He was able to face his own death with peace and joy. And because he had entrusted his life to the Lord, and because he joyfully poured out his life for the fame of the Lord, though he remains nameless in church history, the name of Christ is exalted all the more. And that gets at what we’re going to see in God’s Word today: that joy and peace are found in Jesus alone, and we are to live the Christian life, a life of self denial and Christ promotion, by rejoicing in the Lord and resting in His peace… So, with that in mind, look with me at Philippians 4:2-7.
Philippians 4:2-7 (ESV)
Our passage begins in verses 2 and 3 with Paul saying, “I entreat Euodia and I entreat Syntyche to agree in the Lord. Yes, I ask you also, true companion, help these women, who have labored side by side with me in the gospel together with Clement and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.” This is the only place these two women are mentioned in the Bible, but, as Paul says, these women have labored with him in the gospel. They have done great gospel work, no doubt evangelizing, teaching, counseling, and discipling others; yet outside of this text they remain unnamed… And in all honesty, I’m sure they would have preferred to remain unnamed here, since Paul is publically calling them out because of the tension between the two of them… Paul lays everything out in the open and calls them to lay aside their differences and agree in the Lord.
The language Paul uses here to agree is actually the same Greek phrase translated in Philippians 2:2 as, “being of the same mind…” There Paul calls the church to complete his joy by being of the same mind, by having the same mindset, the same attitude and worldview in the Lord. And that’s ultimately what he’s saying here. Paul entreats both of them, he doesn’t command them, and he doesn’t single either one of them out, but entreats both of them, he asks, he pleads with, he encourages both of them to agree in the Lord, to be of the same gospel mindset. He doesn’t get into who’s right and who’s wrong, he just encourages them to agree in the Lord, to have the same mind in the Lord, to be unified in and around the gospel.
And this gives us insight into why and what Paul is doing here… Why would Paul publically call out two faithful gospel workers, who have otherwise remained out of sight and out of mind from the church at large? The answer to that seems to be, to show us that the gospel, and the mission of the gospel matters more than our pride or reputation. You see, these women have remained virtually unknown until now, yet they have been Paul’s fellow laborers; they have done good gospel work, and yet have been content to be in the background. You see, they have devoted their Christian life, not to making themselves known, but to making Christ known. And that seems to be why Paul goes public here.
These women have been disagreeing over something; and it would seem that the something they are disagreeing over is some sort of secondary or tertiary issue, because Paul knows they are still united around the first order issue of the gospel, and thus he encourages them to remember that, and agree in the Lord. And he knows that these women are exactly the type of people who will put Christ first, and themselves last, for the glory of God and the good of His people. You see, these women were imperfect just like all of us, and thus they fell into disagreement just like we do from time to time. But, these women had also dedicated their life to making much of Christ. And Paul, knowing that, chooses to call them out publically so that we all can learn a lesson from their lives. And the lesson we are meant to learn is that we are not to be about making ourselves known, but making Christ known. In other words, what Paul is saying here is, let not being known, but making Christ known be what you are known for.
Our passion, our great aim should be to know Christ and to make Him known; and when that is our aim in life we will gladly pour out our lives for the fame of Christ. Like Euodia and Syntyche we can be content to make much of Jesus, even if no one ever knows our name. And we can even graciously and humbly accept correction, even public correction when it’s for the glory of God and the good of God’s people, because our lives are not about making us look good, but about making Jesus look as good as He truly is.
In these first two verses of our passage we hear of Euodia, Syntyche; and Paul mentions an unnamed true companion in the ministry, perhaps Epaphroditus who was delivering the letter; as well as Clement, and numerous other faithful coworkers in the gospel who remain nameless. Yet, Paul says that all of these brothers and sisters have their names written in the Book of Life… that is, the family register of the redeemed; the book of God’s elect whom He has chosen before the foundation of the world to inherit eternal life. Paul is saying that he knows these fellow workers to be true believers, to be those for whom Christ died because they are all truly giving themselves to making much of Christ… They are showing themselves to be Jesus’ true disciples: those who die to self daily, pick up their cross, and follow Christ. So, though some of these laborers in the faith are unknown, and some relatively unknown on an earthly level, their names are written in the Book of Life… God knows them! And that’s better than any earthly fame or renown.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones was, in my opinion, the best preacher of the 20th century. And there are many who feel the same way, and did throughout his ministry as well. So, towards the end of his life, when he could no longer preach because he was dying of cancer, a young man who looked up to him, asked him if he struggled with the fact that he couldn’t preach anymore?… As if to say that he must be depressed or feel as though his joy is lacking because he could no longer preach the way he once did… To which Lloyd-Jones responded by quoting Luke 10:20, “Do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” His joy was never in preaching for preaching’s sake, but in making much of the Lord, because his joy was in the Lord, and in knowing that He would be with the Lord forever, because His name was written in the Book of Life. And that’s what Paul is saying here.
In publically encouraging these faithful, gospel-laboring sisters to agree in the Lord, and in making mention of Clement and these other gospel-laborers who remain nameless, Paul is pointing to a way of life that is humble, gracious, and faithful to the Lord—living for the fame of the Lord, not the fame of self, ultimately because those living and laboring find their joy in the Lord. And when our joy is in the Lord, we can trust that we know the Lord, and that the Lord knows us. And that’s exactly where Paul goes next.
In verse 4 Paul says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” It’s interesting that though Euodia and Syntyche were having a disagreement Paul only encourages them to reconcile instead of commanding it, yet here he is commanding the Philippians, and us, to rejoice in the Lord. This is a direct command… And at first that may seem a little strong… I mean, how can you command someone to be joyful? But, Paul is not over speaking here; he means what he says… He is indeed commanding all with ears to hear to rejoice in the Lord, that is, to be joyful in Jesus. And he’s right to do so because of what’s at stake here… As Jerry Bridges once said, “Christian joy is both a privilege and a duty. To be joyless is to dishonor God and to deny His love and His control over our lives. It is practical atheism…”
You see, God’s Word here is calling us to live a self-denying, Christ-promoting lifestyle out of an overflow of our joy and delight in the Lord. As I alluded to earlier, Jesus once said, “If anyone would come after me (that is, be a disciple of Christ, be a Christian), let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it” (Mark 8:34-35). Becoming a Christian, and being a Christian is turning from sin, turning from self, turning from the world, and turning to Jesus, and following Him all of your days. And no one would do such a thing, no one would abandon self, sin, and the world unless they understood and believed that Jesus is better than self, better than sin, and better than the world. But, when you understand and believe that Jesus is indeed better, you so rejoice and delight in Him, you so treasure Him, that you joyfully let go of, joyfully turn your back on self, sin, and the world. Therefore, a command to rejoice in the Lord always is a command to follow the Lord and live for the Lord and His glory always, and thus makes perfect sense.
But this begs the question, how does anyone get to this point of rejoicing in the Lord? How do we know that Jesus is better than self, sin, and the world? Well friends, this is what Paul has been explaining throughout his letter to the Philippians. In chapters one and three of Philippians Paul taught us that to live is Christ and to die is gain because knowing Jesus and being with Jesus is far better; Jesus is of surpassing value; He is better than anything life could give us, or death could take from us. And all of that is rooted in what Paul laid out in chapter two…
In Philippians 2 we get a glimpse of the gospel that tells us that because we have sinned against the infinitely holy God of the universe, we owe an infinite debt; we deserve an infinite punishment. Every sin, from a white lie, to stealing, to cursing, to unjust anger and hate, and any and everything else we’ve ever thought, said, or done that was sinful… each and every sin is an infinite offense against the infinitely holy God who created us, and has every right to demand that we live for Him.
We were created to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, but instead we have turned to self, to sin, and to the world, and thus we have committed countless infinite offenses against God… Indeed, as Romans 3:23 says, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And thus we are guilty and condemned before Him. But Jesus, who is God, the infinitely holy Son of God, came to earth and became a man, while staying God, and lived a sinless, perfectly obedient life in our place. And He was obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross, where He died in our place. He came to be our representative, our federal head, and live the perfect life we have failed to live, and die a sacrificial wrath-absorbing death we deserve to die… And so He did, and in so doing, because He is the infinite God in the flesh, He took the infinite punishment that we deserve for offending an infinitely holy God upon Himself.
Jesus came to save sinners, lived to save sinners, and died to save sinners… But He didn’t stay dead. On the third day He rose from the grave in victory, and in His death-defeating resurrection He justified all who will turn from their sin and trust in Him. But turning from sin and trusting in Him doesn’t mean simply desiring to get out of hell, but actually desiring Him. We are not only to trust totally in what Jesus has done as Savior, but we are also to believe totally in who Jesus is as God the Son. So, while we will happily accept a free ticket out of hell, we will never forsake sin unless we find something or Someone who is better than sin… That’s why we must understand that Jesus isn’t simply the ticket to the main attraction, He is the main attraction… He is not a ticket out of hell, into heaven; but He is what makes heaven heaven… As the Puritan John Flavel once said, “Heaven is no doubt very desirable, but Christ is more.” And praise God, Jesus didn’t merely come to get us out of hell, but to bring us to Himself.
The God of the universe knows us better than we could ever know ourselves; and He knows of our love affair with self, sin, and the world… He knows that we are so caught up in the false luster of these things that we are naturally blind to the beauty and glory of Jesus. But at the right time, by God’s grace, through the power of the Spirit, through the preaching of the gospel, for all who have their names written in the Book of Life, God causes us to be born again and causes us to see Jesus rightly… As 2 Corinthians 4:6 says, “God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ [shines] in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” In other words, by the grace of God we are enabled to see the Son of God for who He truly is: not merely a means to an end, but the end, who is infinitely good and glorious, that is, infinitely better than self, sin, and the world. And in that moment we are empowered to joyfully turn from sin and trust in Christ, because in that moment He becomes our all in all, our everything, our joy.
So I wonder, has this moment happened for you? Have you come to rejoice in the Lord? Have you seen the truth of the gospel? Friends, what this good news, what this gospel tells us is not only that Jesus is our only hope of salvation, but that Jesus is our only hope of true joy. Any good thing in this world, any joy that we have experienced is only a shadow or a taste of the joy and goodness that is found in Christ alone because as the God and Creator of all, He is the fountain, or the source from which all good things flow. And that so, whatever goodness and joy we’ve experienced in this life does not compare with the goodness and the joy that is found in Jesus, because all good things in this life derive their goodness from Him. He is the source of all earthly joys, and He is the source of all heavenly joys; that’s why Flavel said that Jesus is even better than heaven… And if that’s true in heaven, how much more so here and now? Jesus is where true joy is found, because as Paul said, Jesus is of surpassing worth.
And this great Lord and Savior, Jesus, loved us and gave Himself for us; and in His infinite goodness He not only gives Himself for us, but gives Himself to us. He calls us to trust in Him for salvation; but more than that, He calls us to realize that He is our salvation… He is where true life and joy are found. Therefore, God’s Word commands us to rejoice in the Lord. We are to rejoice in the Lord and thus be saved from our sin, and brought into eternal life. And if you’ve never done that, I’m calling you to do that right now. Repent and believe in the gospel. Stop living for self, sin, and the world; for what does it profit you to gain the whole world but lose your soul? Rejoice in the Lord and be saved…
But, also understand that this command to rejoice in the Lord is not only a call for the non-Christian to become a believer, but for the believer to continue, day by day, to live the Christian life by rejoicing in the Lord—to live a life of self denial and Christ promotion… And again, the only way to continually deny self is to find something or Someone better to live for. And that Someone is Jesus. So you see, the command to rejoice in the Lord always, and the repetition of the command, is the command to repent and believe in the gospel, and then to live an ongoing gospel-centered Christ exalting life. And in God’s kindness, that’s where true joy is found. As we have seen, and as Jerry bridges said, Christian joy is a duty, but it is also a privilege. The world tells us that joy is found in making much of us; but God’s Word tells us that true joy is found in making much of Jesus. Thus we must rejoice in the Lord.
Now, notice the implications that flow from rejoicing in the Lord. In verse 5 Paul says, “Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand…” The idea of being reasonable here is being gentle, kind, gracious, and forbearing. The reasonable person is not quick to judge or short-tempered, but humble, patient, and longsuffering. And it makes sense that a person who rejoices in the Lord would be this way because their joy, their satisfaction, is in Jesus, not in self… They can graciously accept correction, hardship, and even persecution, because they understand that their life is not about them, but about Jesus. And as long as they have Christ, and as long as Christ is being exalted they are content because their joy is in the Lord. So you see, rejoicing in the Lord is the cure for pride and anger, because it produces contentment, and that contentment produces humility, graciousness, and kindness. And I think we can all agree that this world, and we ourselves could all use more of that… We could all use a bit more reasonableness in our lives.
And notice here that Paul also says that the Lord is at hand… That is, He is everywhere all the time, and He is especially with every Christian in all things at all times, and He is soon to return in the flesh to fix all that is broken in this world, and usher in eternity. Therefore, we are to rejoice in the Lord, and to let our reasonableness be made known to everyone, that is to be humble, and kind and gracious to all, because God sees us, is with us, and will soon return to judge the quick and the dead, and we will have to give an account for our lives.
More often than not people live differently in public than they do in private. People will act out and speak out behind closed doors in a way they never would in public. I think that’s why so many people are so angry and hateful on the internet, because they treat it as though they are still behind closed doors where no one is watching. But so many people have made shipwreck of their lives by posting something they regret on the internet, because someone is always watching. And likewise, on a much larger level, that’s what’s being said here; the Lord is at hand, He’s always watching. So be reasonable, be gracious, be kind, and be joyful in the Lord… for you will give an account for your life.
No doubt, verse 5 is a weighty reality, but it is followed by a burden lifting reality. In verses 6 and 7 Paul says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” In life’s hardships, in arguments and disagreements, in the daily fight of faith where we fight sin and seek to pursue holiness and be humble, gracious, and kind, knowing that the Lord is at hand, we are not to be anxious, to worry, or be overly concerned in such things, or in anything… And this is tied to rejoicing in the Lord; that is, joy in the Lord acts as a cure for the anxieties of life. Contentment, satisfaction, and joy in Christ battle against fear, worry and anxiety because in rejoicing in the Lord we know and trust that He is sovereign and He is good.
So, though the Christian life, and life in general is a weighty reality, especially in light of eternity, we are to be anxious for nothing. Now, if you find yourself feeling pretty convicted here because you struggle with anxiety, understand that God’s Word assumes you struggle with anxiety… that’s why it’s here pointing you to the cure for such things. So, instead of wallowing in your sin or guilt, and instead of giving into anxiety, fight it by seeking to rejoice in the Lord. And here we’re told we can fight anxiety and fight for joy by going to the Lord in prayer.
Again, God’s Word says, in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving we are to let our requests be made known to God. By prayer Paul seems to mean the daily routine type prayers of the Christian life; those that follow the pattern of Jesus’ teaching in the Lord’s Prayer. For instance, I get up around 5am each morning and begin my day with prayer and reading God’s Word. I ask the Lord to help me to glorify Him in all things, and to open my eyes to great things in His Word, and then I dive into God’s Word. That’s part of my daily routine prayers. But then, throughout the day different things happen and I’m made aware of different needs and prayer requests, and I lift those up to the Lord. And that seems to be what’s behind the idea of supplications here. So, between the two we’re being told to lift up expected things and unexpected things to the Lord.
And notice we are to lift these things up to the Lord with thanksgiving. It’s not that we are to be thankful for everything that comes our way, or everything that drives us to pray, but that even in our prayers we are to rejoice in the Lord. And when we truly rejoice in the Lord we can truly be thankful in our prayers and supplications, regardless of the outcome, because no matter what happens, no matter if God says yes or no, no matter if God gives us what we ask for or not, He has already and will continue to give us Himself in Christ, and that is more than enough. And, when we pray with thanksgiving, trusting that God can and will answer our prayers, and that even if He doesn’t He is enough, in that we are truly praying believing prayers, faithful prayers, and in that we all the more glorify God.
And that leads us to the last part of our passage: peace… When we rejoice in the Lord, and truly trust in Him, placing everything in His hands by prayer, then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus. This is gospel peace; the peace that only Christ can give. As we have seen, trusting in the Lord and rejoicing in the Lord go hand in hand. And as Romans 5:1 tells us, when we trust in the Lord we are justified by faith in Christ, and thus we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. As 1 Peter 3:18 says, Christ suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God… That He might reconcile us to God, making peace between God and sinner. And when we have peace with God, we have more peace, a greater peace than we could ever fully comprehend… A heavenly peace that out weighs any worldly trouble. For when we know that we have been reconciled to God, and that come what may He is ours and we are His, and that He is supremely better than anything or anyone else, we have joy in the Lord and we have unshakable peace in the Lord, come what may, which alleviates our anxiety and stirs our joy.
Beloved, there’s so much more I could say from this passage, but I hope by now you are seeing the heart of the matter. That here in God’s Word, we are called to not be caught up in disagreements, anxieties, or worldly troubles; we are not to live for self, sin, or the world… We are not to live to make a name for ourselves, but to make much of the name and renown of Jesus Christ. And the way in which we do that is by rejoicing in the Lord. And when He is our joy it changes everything. So rejoice in the Lord, for the Lord is at hand. And rejoice in the Lord, and find true joy, and true peace. Peace that cannot be shaken, come what may.