This short passage of Holy Scripture is very rich in what it teaches us concerning how we should live as Christians. Nearly every phrase included in it could be the subject for a message on its own. For instance verse 5 alone easily provides the inspiration for at least two different sermons. Letting your moderation, or reasonableness as some translations put it, be known to everyone is an important principle that could be expanded upon much, and the phrase “The Lord is at hand” almost begs for more to be said on that subject. In fact, I can quite easily count 20 different sermons on interrelated subjects that could written with the contents of these 5 verses acting as a springboard.
Today, however I will take just take two words from this passage to consider, though even that will demand that it be a superficial look at them. The two words I have chosen are ‘rejoice” and “thanksgiving.”
The first verse in our passage says “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.” It probably does not surprise you to hear that this is not the only place in this letter from the apostle Paul to the church at Philippi that speaks of rejoicing, given the letter was written for their encouragement and to commend them for their faithfulness.
In chapter one Paul states that he will rejoice in the fact that Christ is proclaimed whether the one proclaiming him did it for the right motivation or not. In chapter two Paul speaks of their mutual rejoicing over his being used by God as the means of bringing the Philippians to the faith of Christ. Later in the same chapter Paul speaks of the rejoicing that they would rightfully take part in when their fellow churchman Epaphroditus was able to return to them. Chapter 3 begins with the exhortation to “rejoice in the Lord”, which is reinforced and expanded here in chapter 4 to “rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say Rejoice!”
Clearly rejoicing was not just an afterthought in this letter which Paul sent to the Philippian church. But even though the work thanksgiving is used only once in Philippians, I would suggest that it carries just as much weight. In fact, all of the things that we can properly rejoice over, are things that we should be thankful for.
Consider the verses we previously mentioned in Philippians which speak of rejoicing. When Paul said that he rejoiced that Christ was being preached, he was at the same time thankful for that fact and doubtless his prayers included thanksgiving for it. Likewise when Paul spoke of the joy that came from his ministry among the Philippians, that joy reflected thanksgiving to God for allowing him to be used in that manner. Again, is there any doubt that the rejoicing which would take place when their brother Epaphroditus returned to Philippi would be accompanied by thanksgiving to God for his providence?
Finally, rejoice in the Lord, rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice! We have so many reasons to rejoice in the Lord and all of them are reasons for giving thanks to God.
Eighteenth century pastor and theologian John Gill said this about rejoicing in the Lord, and keep in mind that every reason he gives for rejoicing is a reason for thanksgiving:
Quote: “A believer has always reason to rejoice in Christ; in the greatness of his person, he being in the form of God, and equal to him, and therefore able to save his to the uttermost by his obedience and death, and has interest enough in heaven to make his intercession prevalent and successful and power to keep safe all that are committed to him; and in the fitness of his person to be a Mediator, and daysman, to take care of things pertaining to the glory of God, and to make reconciliation for sin; and in the fulness of his person, he having all grace in him for his people, which is all theirs, and with joy may they draw water out of the full wells of salvation in him; and in the beauty of his person which surpasses all others, a sight of which fills with joy unspeakable, and full of glory. They may, and should rejoice, as they sometimes do, in his salvation; in the contrivance of it by infinite wisdom; in the impetration of it by himself; and in the application of it by his spirit; and that because hereby justice is satisfied, the law is magnified and made honourable, sin is finished, and an everlasting righteousness brought in. Also they are called upon to rejoice in his resurrection, which is for their justification; in his ascension, seeing he then received gifts for men; and in his session at the right hand of God, which is in their nature; and in his intercession which is to their advantage; and in all the relations he stands in to them, as head, husband, father, brother, friend; and in everything that is his, and that belongs unto him, as his Gospel, ordinances, ways, and worship,…” End quote.
I would like to point out that this quotation began with these words; “A believer has always reason to rejoice in Christ.” Though one might argue that even an unbeliever may experience joy and give thanks for any number of these superlatives rightly attributed to Christ, realization of full joy and thanksgiving is only possible for those who have come to understand their sinfulness and utter hopelessness outside of the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ, wherein he took upon himself each and every one of our sins in his bloody death on the cross, paying the penalty demanded by perfect justice. In return we are looked upon by God as having the righteousness of Christ.
If you are a believer, then you cannot help but join in rejoicing with thanksgiving! If not all you need to do is believe, and join us in rejoicing in the Lord always: and again I say, rejoice!
(this is the message I preached on November 17th as part of the monthly service ValleyView Baptist provides for Friendship Manor nursing home in Shakopee, MN)