Having spoken of the need for followers of Christ to imitate other believers whose lives exhibit godliness, he turns to a quarrel within the church between two women which was providing an example of just the opposite. If the church at Philippi had any problem at all, it might have been peace within their fellowship, hence Paul’s referencing of an early church hymn of our Lord’s humility in 2:6-11. We wish we knew more about who these women were and what precise role they played in the church and what their disagreement was over. We must acknowledge that they were leaders within the church at least among the women and that they were important enough that such a heated disagreement needed attention and even the mediation by a third party. They had even “labored side by side with [Paul] in the gospel,” as Priscilla did in the Book of Acts. Women played a prominent role in the early church, and of course, still do today. What this passage teaches us is that sometimes others in the church have to step in to remedy a situation that peace may reign and the witness of the church be not hindered.
The rest of chapter four in this letter provides some of the best loved verses in all of Scripture. Paul commands us to “Rejoice in the Lord always,” and his repetition, “again I say, Rejoice,” speaks to the importance of expressing joy before the brethren and the world over our salvation in Christ Jesus. A glum Christian is a contradiction. Granted that life has its trials, still how can those whose names are written in the Book of Life be continually downcast? We are to let our “reasonableness be known to everyone.” The Greek word for “reasonableness” could also be translated, “magnanimity.” The prevailing idea is to be genuine, merciful, ready to listen, courteous, and not insist on one’s own way (WBC, 244). Then Paul quickly adds, “The Lord is at hand.” In other words, in light of the coming of our Lord, we should be the most magnanimous people in the world. We have every reason to rejoice and to be patient with people as we look forward to an eternal kingdom of joy and peace. Our chief concern is with the kingdom of God, not with the things of this world. And even though we do have struggles in this life, we are reminded that we are not to bear them alone but to make our requests known to our loving God, only with the proviso, “with thanksgiving,” for there is no circumstance so large that it should overwhelm the joy of our heavenly reward. Indeed, we are to do this “in everything,” every circumstance in this life is our Father’s business. Only in this way can we know that peace that keeps our hearts.