Calvary Road Baptist Church

“SWEET REASONABLE”

Philippians 4.5

 

We are engaged in a consideration of the final portion of Paul’s letter to his beloved Philippians. The apostle of Jesus Christ has laid the groundwork to solve the problem that troubled him, which was the conflict between two normally wonderful Christian women, Euodias and Syntyche, and now he is winding things up and setting before the congregation his final exhortations.

We previously saw Paul turn from the two estranged Christian women, and those who would help them reconcile, to a general directive to the entire congregation to rejoice in the Lord. We now look at another directive issued by Paul. And this one, too, plays an extremely important role in the church’s testimony.

Shall we stand and read Philippians 4.5 together?

 

“Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.”

 

There are three items of particular interest in this verse that I’d like to draw your attention to.

 

First, WE FIND THE COMMAND

 

“Let your moderation be known”

 

Rightly understood, this directive is a command to be cooperative. With no directly corresponding word in English, you might say that this word “moderation” refers to “sweet reasonableness.” Rienecker defines the word as “reasonableness in judging. The word signifies a humble, patient stedfastness, which is able to submit to injustice, disgrace, and maltreatment without hatred and malice, trusting in God in spite of all of it.”[1]

You can’t really command a guy to cooperate, since even cooperative people find there are things that cannot be tolerated when dealing with some people. However, you can insist that someone be willing to cooperate with those who will cooperate. And that’s really what Paul does here. He commands folks to be sweetly reasonable. I want you to notice two things about Paul’s command:

First, notice the verb. The Greek verb is translated by the English words “Let . . . be known.” It’s one of the typical Greek words for knowledge, ginosko, so there is nothing unusual about it. And the verb is an imperative, which means it’s a command, so there is nothing unusual there. What is interesting is the fact that the verb is a second person singular. Which means, that although Paul is writing to the entire congregation, this command is issued to each of the members on an individual basis. It’s like he is saying, “You, let your moderation be known. And you, let your moderation be known. And you, do the same thing.” So, the person and number of the verb shows it to be directed to each of the individuals of the Philippian congregation.

Next, notice the pronoun. The pronoun is simple. Nothing complicated about it at all. It’s the normal and typical Greek word for our English word “your.” Only in English the word “your,” referring to something that you possess, which in this case is “moderation,” can refer to both one person and to a number of people. You might say to me, “Your pen,” while I might say to all of you, “Your church,” using the same word. However, in Greek it is quite clear that this word translated “your” does not refer to just one person who possesses “moderation,” but to a group of people.

Therefore, here is what we have in this opening phrase, which is a command: We have a word, the word “moderation,” which speaks of being cooperative, of being sweetly reasonable. Next, we have a verb which shows that Paul is issuing a command to individuals in the church to let this moderation be known, to publicly demonstrate it. However, that which is to be demonstrated by individuals is a characteristic which is possessed by the entire congregation. In other words, they were all to do something which could only be done by each individual in the church doing it. Church member, each of you has been directed to personally show how reasonable and cooperative we are as a congregation. That can only be done if and when no one sits on the sidelines, but everyone of us shows that he or she is sweetly reasonable. Let me give you an example: Let’s say one of you hires another of you to do some work. After all is said and done, neither of you is happy with the situation. The one who hired the worker is not happy with the work and the one who was hired for the work is not happy with the pay. So, what should you do? Do not bicker about it. Do not complain about it. Do not tell others how unhappy you are about the situation. Get together and get it resolved in a sweet and amicable way. And while you are resolving the problem, show how reasonable and cooperative you are.

 

Second, WE FIND A CONCERN

 

“Let your moderation be known unto all men”

 

There are two circles of concern implicit in this command:

First, there is concern for the congregation. What has Paul written this letter to accomplish? To bring about the reconciliation of two church members who were out of sorts with each other. Let us grant that each wanted to glorify God with her life. Still, however, the fact remained that a situation existed that needed resolution. So, for the purpose of enabling the entire congregation to be like-minded, minimizing interpersonal conflicts that might give rise to open disputes that would undermine the church’s unity, moderation needs to be exercised for the benefit of the church members. That means you, sir, or you, ma’am, need to seize the opportunity before you to be humble enough to demonstrate your moderation to your fellow church members and to get your differences resolved to the mutual satisfaction of all parties. The spiritual health and vitality of the church depends upon each one of you taking this approach to your Christian life and service, either with other church members or with unsaved people.

However, there is more. The phrase “unto all men” must also refer to the surrounding community. Don’t you ever think that interested outsiders don’t know what’s going on in this church. They always know what’s going on in this church, just as they did in Philippi. And every time they are aware of a fuss or a tiff between church members they chortle and chuckle. Still others observe with wonder at how these people can be saved and on their way to heaven and not get along with each other. Therefore, for the testimony of the church as an instrument God will use in bringing about the conversion of the lost, we must recognize a proper concern, not only for our church members, but for unsaved onlookers. And when we are properly concerned for our testimony among the lost, how can we not muster up whatever moderation is required to resolve any and all disputes we might have with each other? And why should you demonstrate concern by being moderate? Think about it. How can you be 100% sure that somewhere in this issue that you have with another person there is not an unsaved person watching, judging, evaluating, pondering, or weighing? Are we epistles known and read of men? Yes, we are.[2] Understand then, that some people will evaluate all of the claims of Christ in light of how insistent you are on making sure that every “i” is dotted and every “t” is crossed, instead of just getting your differences with that other person resolved once and for all. And some of those watching us are our own children.

 

Finally, WE FIND A COMFORT

 

“Let your moderation be known unto all men, the Lord is at hand.”

 

My, but how comforting it is to the child of God to know that the Lord is at hand. But there is a question about what, precisely, “the Lord is at hand” means.

Option #1 is that “The Lord is at hand” refers to the nearness of place. By nearness of place I am referring to the presence of the Lord. Psalm 139.7-10 describes, in the most comforting way, the omnipresence of the LORD:

 

7      Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

8      If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

9      If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

10    Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me.

 

Is this what Paul meant by “the Lord is at hand,” that you should “let your moderation be known unto all men” because the Lord is always nearby, close at hand, in close proximity? Possibly. It’s sure comforting when you feel alone to know that the Lord, in the person of the Holy Spirit, is always there.[3]

But option #2, while option #1 is certainly true, strikes me as more likely. Option #2 holds that “The Lord is at hand” refers to the closeness in time of the Lord’s return. Some have protested that this can’t be what the phrase means, because it’s been almost 2000 years since it was written and 2000 years, by anyone’s measure, isn’t close at hand. I answer that objection with two verses: James 5.8 and Romans 13.11:

 

5.8       Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.

 

13.11   And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

 

It has always been that God has sought to motivate His children to do right, to live right, and to fight on, because of our anticipation of the Lord’s soon return. I believe the same approach is being used to motivate the saints here in this verse, as well.

 

Beloved, you are a wonderful and precious people in the sight of God and to me. However, we have finally come to that in Paul’s letter to the Philippians which I strongly believe is the area where each and every one of us needs improvement. I believe many of you are energetic. Several of you are very faithful. A number of you are studious. Still others hunger and thirst after righteousness. And still others demonstrate great joy. However, we are not the moderate people we need to be. We do not always demonstrate “sweet reasonableness.” It is possible to insist upon the letter of the law, in a matter, and for that letter of the law to be adverse in its effects on the cause of Christ. By the same token, it is also possible to play fast and loose with truth and principle, which is also adverse in its effects on the cause of Christ.

Moderation is a characteristic which urges a cooperative spirit among the brethren. It’s an approach to problem solving and reconciliation which asks the question, “Do I really need to insist upon my rights here, must I have my own way, or would the cause of Christ be advanced by me yielding on this matter?” Understand, moderation is not compromise. Neither is moderation weakness. What it is is humility seeking to accomplish the greater good by not insisting on personal rights. It’s a spirit of willingness to yield under trial that will refuse to retaliate when attacked.

Why should you strive to be this way? First, the command to you. Each one of us is responsible to exhibit this trait. Second, the concern of you. If you care about the lost around you coming to Christ you will exhibit moderation. Finally, the comfort of the Lord. Either His close proximity or the nearness of His coming. Either way, for Christ’s sake, we are prompted to let our moderation be known unto all men.

Now, with heads bowed and eyes closed, how many of you have an issue with someone in this church that needs to be resolved? Just raise your hand. Thank you. Heads up. After the service is over, perhaps after you arrive home, make contact with that person and arrange a face to face to tell him or her that you want to resolve this matter once and for all. If you need my help in providing for you a mediator, whose judgment you will both rely on, I will be glad to help in any way I can.

I close with some final remarks: We read in our text that the Apostle Paul urged his readers to show that they were moderate, to demonstrate that they were reasonable. Does it need to be said that the model for our sweet reasonableness is the Lord Jesus Christ, Himself? Does it also need to be said that God the Father is sweetly reasonable? Before we wrap the service up I would like to pass by your attention some things that are reasonable:

 

#1,    IT IS REASONABLE TO ESTEEM THE BIBLE (Psalm 119.105; Second Timothy 3.16)

#2,    IT IS REASONABLE TO STUDY THE BIBLE (Psalm 119.105; Second Timothy 2.15)

#3,    IT IS REASONABLE TO PREACH THE BIBLE (Second Timothy 4.1-4; Romans 10.13-14)

#4,    IT IS REASONABLE FOR GOD TO HATE SINS (Isaiah 6.1-5; 59.2)

#5,    Then, IT IS REASONABLE FOR GOD TO JUDGE SINS (Genesis 18.25; Hebrews 12.23)

#6,    IT IS REASONABLE FOR GOD TO PUNISH SINS (Psalm 51.4; Romans 12.19)

#7,    Then, IT IS REASONABLE TO PREACH AGAINST SIN (Romans 6.23)

#8,    IT IS REASONABLE TO PREACH AGAINST SINS (Acts 2; 7; First Corinthians)

#9,    IT IS REASONABLE TO PREACH AGAINST PROMINENT SINNERS

Jesus Christ named the Pharisaical party, the Sadducees, and the scribes. John the Baptist cried out against Herod by name. Paul named Hymenaeus and Alexander. He wrote against the Cretians.

#10, IT IS REASONABLE TO PRESS UPON YOU THE CLAIMS OF CHRIST (1 Corinthians 1.18)

#11, Then, IT IS REASONABLE TO PRESS UPON YOU THE CONDEMNATION OF YOUR SINS

(John 8.32; Galatians 4.16)

#12, Finally, IT IS REASONABLE TO PRESS UPON YOU CONSIDERATION OF YOUR DESTINY (Hebrews 12.14; First Corinthians 6.9-10; Revelation 21.8)

 

These things are reasonable.

 

I urge you, do not be unreasonable.



[1] Fritz Rienecker & Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key To The Greek New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Regency Reference Library, 1980), page 560.

[2] 2 Corinthians 3.2

[3] Hebrews 13.5; Ephesians 1.13-14

Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org