Skip to content

Philippians 4:8-9 – Part 1

Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” Solomon was describing how a miserly man is controlled by his thoughts. No matter how generous he talks, his greedy thoughts will control his actions. That proverb is true for us as well. The way that we think will affect our motivation, desires, and eventually our actions.

As Paul comes to the conclusion of his epistle to the Philippians, he was concerned about the way the believers there were thinking. If their thoughts were not kept in check, they could go in the wrong direction and become people who were not pleasing to the Lord. So, in verses 8-9, he tells the believers to meditate on the right things and to follow his example. In today’s message, we will cover verse eight.

  1. Meditate on the right things (Phil. 4:8)

    In this verse, Paul tells us to meditate on good things. While there are many biblical admonitions to meditate on the Scriptures (Josh. 1:8; Psalm 119:97; 143:5), the command to meditate in Philippians 4:8 is not limited to what is found in the Bible. Instead it is reminding us that what we think about on a regular basis should be governed by principles that please the Lord. This week, we will think about our job, family, finances, and current events. And some of these things may take up most of our thoughts. So as we think about different things, let us consider a few thoughts based on what this verse says.

    Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.

    These things are meant for Christians.

    The verse begins with the words, “Finally, brethren.” Who is Paul talking to? He is addressing Christian men and women who have been born again through faith in Jesus. This is not addressed to the average person in the world who does not know the Lord. We live in a world where people don’t respect life anymore. Young people are filling their minds with wicked ideas proposed in movies, music, books, and even schools. While the US has a few people who still think morality matters, most do not care about anything other than what is best for themselves. Until individuals are changed by God, will these principles make any sense to the world?

    Coach Jim Tressel wrote a book about life principles seeking to help his football players to become better men. When I bought the book, I was under the impression that he was a believer and that he would be sharing principles from the Bible based on the gospel. But I was disappointed. His book was more about Bible-based proverbs for being a better person. As I recall, there was no mention of sin and God’s judgment, the gospel of Jesus, or any mention of the need to be born again. That was disappointing. He seemed to be promoting principles without the power of God being involved.

    When we look at this verse and see what God wants for us, we must remember that this way of thinking is designed for people who have been spiritually born again and indwelt by the Holy Spirit. While the world could implement and benefit from following the things mentioned in this verse, the real power for a changed mind is found in the new birth which is given only to those who repent of their sins and place their faith in Jesus.

    These things cover a wide variety of good.

    In this section, Paul lists eight characteristics of good things to focus on. Six of them start with “whatever is _____” and the last two start with “if there is any ______.” The first thing we should notice is that whatever and any include a lot of things. When we are considering whether to include something in our constant focus, there are many things that are good and acceptable to the Lord. As long as they are described by the following characteristics, they are good. The second thing we should notice is that there are many things that do not fit these characteristics. Whenever we are considering whether to meditate on something, there are many things that are not good and acceptable to God. If they are not described by these characteristics, they are not good.

    Reliable things (ἀληθῆ) – “true, genuine, reliable, trustworthy, valid”1

    The first category is reliable things. These are things that can be verified as trustworthy information. Nowadays, we are bombarded with information. If you plop down and start watching random YouTube videos or even watch certain television programs, you will quickly notice that much of it is based on hearsay or half-truths. It would be easy to get caught up with the latest political battle based on what one party says without knowing whether it is actually true. This doesn’t mean that certain things should be ignored. But it is often better to think about the things you know to be true rather than to speculate on what might be true.

    While you might be very interested in the stories presented in magazines and on television, stop and consider whether you are thinking about something that is verifiably true. Can you think of any literature that would give you an honest report on the world and life? Yes, the Bible is reliable and trustworthy. It is filled with God’s wisdom that applies to yesterday, today, and tomorrow. While it may be difficult to find something that is verifiably true on the internet, you can always count on the Bible to give you the honest truth about the world and life.

    Reputable things (σεμνά) – “worthy of respect, noble, … honorable, reputable”1

    The second category is reputable things. The word here is used three other times in the Bible to describe how deacons (1 Tim. 3:8), wives (1 Tim. 3:11), and older men (Titus 2:2) should be known. They are all to be honorable. To become known as an honorable person, you have to prove yourself over time. After time has passed, your life is examined and you are given respect for having a good reputation.

    The same must be true of the things that we choose to think about. Whatever has a good reputation and is known for being honorable. These are the things that we should be thinking about. The opposite is also true. When we know something to be dishonorable, not respectable, or to have a bad reputation, we should avoid those things. I recently started listening to an audiobook of one of the Classic novels. However, I stopped listening to it when a woman began to second guess being married to her husband. I quit reading that because it was dishonorable.

    Righteous things (δίκαια) – “in the NT this refers to God’s proper standards and actions”1

    The third category is righteous things. God has a standard for what is right and wrong which is clearly spelled out in the Bible. As His children, God wants Christians to be thinking about things that line up with God’s standards of right and wrong. In the Old Testament, God confronted the Israelites for not doing what was right. Some people were using trick scales to measure what they were selling for their own advantage (Micah 6:10-11). But that wasn’t right. It was the opposite of God’s righteousness and He was not pleased.

    When it comes to our thoughts, we need to think about righteous things. As you read an article, listen to the news, watch a movie, or interact with someone at work, we need to be careful that our thinking is right according to God and not just what is acceptable to the world. I recently read about a man named Niccolo Machiavelli. In his book, The Prince, he stated that it was okay for a ruler to be violent or deceptive if it benefited him. Christians should avoid things like this and ask God for discernment when something doesn’t meet up to God’s standards of right and wrong.

    Pure things (ἁγνά) – “pure … chaste, modest, innocent, blameless”1 “not mixed with moral impurity.”3

    The fourth category is pure things. The most common application of this category is sexual purity. But it is not the only way this word is used in the Bible. It is also used to describe purity from sin (2 Cor. 11:2), pure wisdom (James 3:17), as well as a wife’s chaste behavior toward her husband (1 Pet. 3:1-2). In each case, there is the idea of keeping something from being contaminated with sin.

    Our thoughts must be kept pure for the Lord. If we allow a little bit of sin to gain a foothold, it won’t be long before we are tolerating thoughts that are contaminated with things that please the Lord. Steamy romance novels and movies are not designed to keep your mind pure. They are designed to fill your mind with longings for something you don’t have. Don’t fill your mind with impure thoughts.

    Lovely things (προσφιλῆ) – “lovely, pleasing, friendly, grateful, acceptable”1 “Lovely (prosphile…) speaks of what promotes peace rather than conflict.”3 “pleasing, amiable. … Grace should make gracious.”6

    The fifth category is lovely things. At first you might think of flowers and scenery. But the word used here refers to things that are pleasant, amiable, and gracious. This is the kind of thinking that is always looking for the best in people. It is looking for the solution instead of the problem. Perhaps you have met people like this. They are always very positive because they are always thinking graciously.

    On a recent flight, someone had taken my seat. I had paid for a seat next to the window so that I wouldn’t have to worry about bumping against the other passengers in my row. But when I arrived, a woman had taken my seat and the seat next to it. Although she removed her bag from the middle seat, I was a bit miffed at not getting the seat I had paid for. At the time, I was rather bothered by this. But now that time has passed, I realize that it really wasn’t that big of a deal.

    The internet is filled with videos about people fighting for their rights. These people are often looking for reasons to be offended instead of ways to be at peace. While events can change the way we think, it is good to be thinking graciously toward others to begin with. When we do that, our response will be more like the way Jesus responded.

    Commendable things (εὔφημα) – “admirable … praiseworthy, … of good report, commendable”1

    The sixth category is commendable things. Here are things that godly people would consider to be good. These things are “positive and constructive rather than negative and destructive.”3 While we can’t always trust the majority to be right about something, it does say something if many good Christians recommend the same thing to you. Their commendation of a good book, Christian movie, or organization is helpful. These are the kind of things that we should be thinking about.

    What are some commendable things that we can be thinking about? Perhaps we could start reading another missionary biography about George Mueller, Hudson Taylor, or John Paton. Thinking of how God used them during their lives is a big help to our faith as we go through our own lives. When we see how God used them, tested them, and blessed them, our mind are filled with courage to keep pressing on for the Lord.

    We have covered six categories of good thinking now. If we were to sum up everything covered so far, it would be the next two categories.

    Virtuous things (ἀρετὴ) – “(moral) goodness, excellence, virtue, … goodness, good quality”1

    The seventh category is virtuous things. What exactly is virtue? Virtue describes something that makes you better than you were before. It is what helps you to develop excellence of character. The opposite of virtue is vice which is “weakness of character or behavior; a bad habit.”9 When our thinking is not controlled by what will make us better, we are more susceptible to what will make us worse.

    Does this make you think about what you are putting into your mind? After a busy day, it is easy to sit down and turn on the television to see what’s on. While there are some decent programs on television, we should be careful that what we watch is virtuous instead of the opposite.

    Praiseworthy things (ἔπαινος) – “ground or reason of praise or commendation”1 and “pleasing, agreeable, lovely, amiable”2 “It is right to praise what is rightly done, and such praise has a moral beauty.”7

    The eighth category is praiseworthy things. When something is worthy of praise (in a biblical sense) it is something noted by God as well done. Do you remember when certain Jewish rulers believed in Jesus but wouldn’t say so openly for fear of the Pharisees? In the passage (John 12:42-43), John concludes that these men were more concerned with receiving praise from men than God. With that in mind, what kind of things would earn God’s praise or commendation?

    I think this gets to the crux of the matter. God commends those thoughts and actions that cause a Christian to press on and to accomplish the things God wants us to be doing. So any good thing that motivates us to fulfill our God given purposes is praiseworthy. Does it make me want to tell people about Jesus? Does it make me want to proclaim the truth to others? Does it make me want to live righteously for the Lord? These are the things that are praiseworthy.

    These things are what Christians should meditate on.

    The final thought in verse 8 involves meditation. Today meditation sounds a bit odd because of transcendental mediation. We hear the word and think of someone sitting on the floor, humming, and trying to clear your mind of everything. Biblical meditation is the exact opposite. Instead of emptying the mind, God wants us to fill our minds with good things. As we think about what God has taught us and think about it again and again throughout the day, we are meditating on good things. This is God’s prescribed method for renewing our minds. As we meditate on this list of good categories, we will have a mind that is closer to the Lord and more like Jesus.

Conclusion

I think that many of you are thinking right now. You are wondering if what you have been putting into your mind is good and pleasing to the Lord. Perhaps the Holy Spirit has brought to mind some thoughts that should have no place in a Christian’s mind. One old preacher said, “The reason we have so many weak Christians is that they spend their time with the things of the world, filling their minds and hearts and tummies with the things of this world. Then they wonder why there is no power in their lives.”4

Let me ask you two questions: (1) Are you currently meditating on things that are not helpful to you as Christian? It is not wrong to listen to the news or to read books or watch television. But are those things becoming what you meditate on throughout the day? Make sure that you keep your focus on things that God has ordained to be helpful to you instead of things that will tear you down. (2) Are you currently reading the Bible, studying it, and thinking about it throughout the week? Meditation on what the Bible teaches will be helpful in keeping you from becoming conformed to the world. So, take some time this week to think about and think again about good things especially those good things that are found in God’s Book, the Bible.

Foot Notes

1 Mounce, Bill
2 Bauer, Walter
3 Lightner 664.
4 McGee 325-26.
5 Hendrikson 198.
6 Moule 114.
7 Moule 115.
8 Moule 116.
9 Oxford Languages

Bibliography

Bauer, Walter, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, (BAGD), Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1979.

Hendriksen, William, Philippians, Colossians and Philemon, Grand Rapids: Baker, 1994, pp. 198-201.

Lightfoot, J. B., St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1975, pp. 161-62.

Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary New Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 664.

McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, 1 Corinthians through Revelation, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, p. 322-25.

Moule, H. C. G., The Epistle to the Philippians, Cambridge; The University Press, 1889, pp. 114-16.

Mounce, Bill, Greek definitions found at https://www.billmounce.com as viewed on 6/3/2023.

“Niccolò Machiavelli” as viewed at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Niccolò_Machiavelli on 6/3/2023.

Rienecker, Fritz and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand rapids: Zondervan, 1980.

THAYER’S GREEK LEXICON, Electronic Database. Copyright © 2002, 2003, 2006, 2011 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission. BibleSoft.com