8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things. 9Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.
Paul begins here, "Finally, brothers"; and so here, we have the final exhortations to the Philippians of this letter. Appropriately, these final exhortations concern all aspects of life, the internal and the external, what we think and what we do.
First, concerning what we think, Paul exhorts: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things" (vs 8). The mind is never idle. It is always occupied with something. Given this, it requires effort to constantly feed the mind with wholesome food. And though the amount of unwholesome food for the mind is rife, there is much wholesome food for thought to chew on as well. Paul lists the wholesome food for thought: "Whatever is...," that is, anything and everything that is "true... noble... right... pure... lovely... admirable... excellent... praiseworthy..." Let's look at each of these:
* "Whatever is true" - Truth should be sought and thought upon first. Truth is so important. There is so much that is false in the world. May God be praised that we know and understand the truth of the gospel. May He be praised that we can seek truth and find it in the gospel. The scholar can pick up the Bible, tear it apart (analytically speaking), and come to the realization that it is the truth of God. All that is in the Bible is worthy of meditation. It is the truth of God.
* "Whatever is noble" - By "noble", Paul is speaking of those persons and things that are worthy of veneration for reasons of character and honor. Oh, that we Christians would lead the way in venerating those who are "noble" in this way, rather than the ignoble, who are most often venerated these days by the world: the movie stars with twisted values, the rock stars with twisted minds, the English "nobility" with twisted lives, etc. Consider "noble" those who are truly honorable, and who have moral character. May they occupy your thoughts, and may they be your heroes.
* "Whatever is right" - David would "meditate on [God's law] all day long" (Ps. 119:97); so should we. God's law is a statement of all that is right, and worthy of constant meditation. The motive, of course, for meditation on "whatever. . . is right" is that it would overflow from our thoughts into our lives. "Our character takes on the complexion and hue of our inward thinking."[Footnote #2]
* "Whatever is pure" - Purity is the previously mentioned "right"ness acted out in life. Thus, meditation upon what is "pure" is a continuation of meditation upon what is "right". It is the meditation on how best to apply in one's own life what is "right".
* "Whatever is lovely" - There is much that is beautiful in this creation. Need I enumerate all the magnificent natural wonders? Need I describe the daily beauties of sunrises and sunsets, cloud formations, a night sky full of stars? Not to mention the beauty of the design of the natural laws of science and the design of the human body and its functions. There is much here to meditate upon.
* "Whatever is admirable" - Paul here is speaking of things and people who are (rightly) spoken well of. We personally come into contact of much that is worthy of meditation, but we also hear second-hand of much that is "admirable". We must focus on that which is "admirable" when reading what others have experienced and written, and when listening to what others are saying. Stick to the "admirable". Avoid gossip of every kind. We should apply this also to what we read in the newspaper, what we watch on TV, what we browse on the internet, what movies we see, etc. Stick to the "admirable". Avoid the trash.
* "If anything is excellent or praiseworthy" - Paul, knowing that in his enumeration of things to think upon he was not close to being exhaustive, includes here a catch-all, so as not to exclude anything that is "excellent or praiseworthy".
So, there is much that is approved by God with which to fill our minds. When you find your mind wandering into the trash of this world, turn to this verse, take it to heart, and fill your mind with the "excellent" and "praiseworthy".
Having spoken of what to think, Paul turns to what to do: "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice" (vs. 9). Thinking right thoughts is one thing, doing right things is quite another. To meditate upon that which is "excellent" is important; to "put it into practice" is a necessary follow-up. To paraphrase Thomas Brooks: "If it be not strong upon thy heart to practise what thou [meditate on], to what end dost thou [meditate]? To increase thy own condemnation."[Footnote #3]
Paul put these things into practice. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he holds himself up as an example to follow: "Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me--put it into practice." The most important trait of any teacher or preacher of the Word of God is to exemplify his own teaching. "The first thing in a preacher is that he should speak, not with his mouth only, but by his life, and procure authority for his doctrine by rectitude of life."[Footnote #4] Paul practiced what he preached, and so, held himself up as an example. Oh, that we too would be able to truly hold ourselves up as an example to be followed! Note also the different ways that the Philippians received their teaching from Paul: They "have learned... received... heard... seen..." Teaching need not be confined to preaching in a pulpit ("heard"). It can and should be "learned" through the study of the Bible; "received" by meditating upon and taking as one's own what is "learned" and "heard"; "seen" by observing the example of others.
The result of all this is: "And the God of peace will be with you" (vs. 9). In verse 7, Paul told us that, through "prayer and petition, with thanksgiving" the "peace of God will guard our hearts and minds." Here, we learn, through meditaton upon wholesome things, and putting sound teaching into practice, "the God of peace will be with us." So we may have the shield to both our hearts and minds in the "peace of God", and the joy of the presence in our lives of the God of peace. May the Lord be praised!
Yes, we praise You Father for Your peace and Your presence. What more could we ask for? We thank You for this teaching of Paul's. May we follow it, and learn to fill our minds with wholesome thoughts, all that is excellent and praiseworthy. May these thoughts then overflow into our lives, as we put the teaching of Your Word into practice. In the name of Christ, who is our supreme example, we pray these things.
2. F. B. Meyer, Devotional Commentary on Philippians, pg. 231.
3. Thomas Brooks, Precious Remedies Against Satan's Devices, from the Introduction.
4. John Calvin, The Epistles of Paul the Apostle, pg. 291.