“Be Known for Forbearance”
INTRODUCTION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.5
Philippians 4. A satire news article “Unsatisfied Persecuted Church Member To Try Out Other Church Just Across Minefield” begins this way … SOMEWHERE IN IRAQ—Stating that he “just doesn’t feel like [he’s] being fed” by the persecuted underground church he’s been attending for the past three years, local man Saleem Haddad reported Wednesday that he’s planning on trying out a competing church just 30 miles across a deadly patch of open desert that is covered with live explosives.
“Pastor Malik is a great guy and everything. But I don’t know. The youth program is just OK, and the refreshments are lacking. And pastor’s a pretty good teacher, but he just doesn’t make the living Word of God really come alive, you know?” Haddad told reporters through an encoded message for fear of giving away the location of the church, which could result in the further persecution or martyrdom of his brothers and sisters in Christ.
“I heard about another Christian church, about eight hours from here by foot, on the other side of the Passage Of Certain Death,” he added. “I think the family and I are going to check it out.”
Haddad described his family’s wishlist for a church as including topical, relevant preaching, contemporary music, feeling like they can “really get connected,” and a casual, laid-back atmosphere that’s warm and inviting despite having to sneak into the building at night for fear of capture and slaughter by Muslim authorities.
“We love Pastor Malik, and we wish him all the best, but I feel like it’s God’s will for us to go church shopping,” Haddad said as he and his family began preparations for their dangerous journey across the mine-laden desert. “We really hope this new church has the vibe we’re looking for.”
The reason this is funny of course, is that you wouldn’t expect the persecuted church to act as do say… selfish, western Christians who demand all their wants and rights. Perhaps, it would do us good to take our ques from the irony of this story at least, and realize that like persecuted Christians, we shouldn’t demand all our wants and even our rights.
Of course, the persecuted church has their rights infringed; they are unjustly persecuted simply for believing the truth. That’s not … fair! Saleem Haddad demanded his wants and his rights and he has his point to make and he’s going to get what he wants!
But that is not to be the case with God’s people! Philippians 4:5 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
Part of standing firm … part of being a strong Christian is to let this gentle spirit of yours be known to all men. Let’s read verses 1-5 now…
Philippians 4:1–5 1 Therefore, my beloved brethren whom I long to see, my joy and crown, in this way stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. 2 [How do we stand firm? Or, how can we be a strong Christian? We need to first live harmoniously with each other…verse 2…] I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord. 3 Indeed, true companion, I ask you also to help these women who have shared my struggle in the cause of the gospel, together with Clement also and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life. [Second, to be a strong Christian we need to …] 4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 [and third to stand firm in the Lord, or to be a strong Christian, …] Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.
Our text is verse 5 and I’m preaching that you “Be known for forbearance.” This attribute is something that you are to be demonstrating to everyone at all times, so it is vital to determine what it is.
The Command: Gentleness made known
I’ve translated it forbearance…that’s about as good as you can do for this word translated “gentleness” in the NASB or reasonableness in the ESV, moderation KJV, gentleness NIV and NKJV, also translated considerate and forbearance in other translations. This word is difficult to translate, but like any translation, you should translate it within the context. Some words have different meanings depending on the context. You can’t insert every nuance of meaning into a word.
For example … “Steam-ironing is decreasing. And when your clothes get crumpled it’s depressing.” If you insert every nuance of meaning to decreasing and depressing, it’s absurd…that’s why it’s funny. But you can’t do that when interpreting the Bible. “Steam-ironing is decreasing. And when your clothes get crumpled it’s depressing.” The pun is funny, but it demonstrates poor interpretation.
I nearly bought a clock today but it wasn’t the right time.
Because there is no context in that statement, you take the double meaning as funny.
Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.
Some preachers and commentaries, because of the difficulty of the word, don’t determine a single meaning for the word “gentle” based on it’s context in Phil. 4:5, and decide to bring in the whole range of meaning of a word into this context. But in Philippians we have a theological, literary, and historical context so we don’t need to make the verse absurd. The historical context is persecution, so we should keep that in mind.
So how do we determine what it means? Usage determines meaning. How a word is used determines what it means, so look up it’s occurrences. In the NT, it is used here and in 1 Tim 3:3; Titus 3:2; Jas 3:17; 1 Pet 2:18 and the noun form is used in Acts 24:4; 2 Cor 10:1.
You can get an idea of what the word refers to by the words that surround it.
1 Timothy 3:3 3 [the overseer is to be] not addicted to wine or pugnacious [argumentative], but gentle [that’s our word I’m translating forbearing], peaceable, free from the love of money.
Clearly, someone who is forbearing isn’t argumentative.
Titus 3:2 2 [not just elders and overseers, but all Christians… they are] to malign [verbally assault] no one, to be peaceable, gentle (there it is), showing every consideration for all men.
Someone who is gentle or forbearing doesn’t malign people or mistreat them.
We have potential synonyms here in…James 3:17 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
1 Peter 2:18 18 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle (or forbearing), but also to those who are unreasonable.
Someone who is forbearing is good and reasonable.
I’ll skip Acts 24:4 because I think we’re in the wrong context… this next passage is weighty…
2 Corinthians 10:1 1 Now I, Paul, myself urge you by the meekness and gentleness [forbearance, our word] of Christ—I who am meek when face to face with you, but bold toward you when absent!
Meekness and gentleness describes Christ. Meekness, or humility, is somewhat synonymous with “forbearance.”
Where was Christ’s forbearance described in Philippians 2? The meekness and forbearance of Christ was described in Philippians 2:1-8. Please turn there, Phil. 2. As we read these verses keep in mind the how Christ is this word “forbearing.”
Philippians 2:1–8 1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
That’s the attitude of forbearance in our passage in Phil. 4:5. Here is the main focus: Forbearance is an attitude that doesn’t demand it’s rights.
Forbearance means a refraining from the enforcement of something (such as a debt, right, or obligation) that is due. You don’t demand your own rights or wants. Christ, when on earth, had every right to demand all the privileges that come with being God.
But he did not regard those divine privileges as a thing to be grasped a hold of verse 6. But instead verse 7 he emptied himself … He emptied “self” from him and became a slave, a human being. He didn’t demand His own rights, His wants, His basic human needs even.
What it is not
Forbearance then is not self-seeking; not contentious or assertive. One Greek lexicon (BDAG) says that this word I’m translating forbearance “does not [insist] on every right of letter of law or custom.”
ARG/ILL: We get the exact opposite picture of this word in Matthew 18:28 in Jesus’ parable of the unforgiving slave. This slave was forgiven an enormous debt, but went out and demanded payment of a very small debt from his fellow slave. “But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’
That’s not forbearance; that’s contention, strife, and a demanding of one’s rights. That’s not Christian.
What it is
Forbearance, because it doesn’t demand it’s own way is yielding. That is humble, selfless, and kind to do that. But the main idea is that it doesn’t demand it’s own way.
ILL: Now, in Phil. 4, we’re in the context of persecution. Not only not demanding your own way when in times of peace, but also when persecuted. Forbearance is the smell that flowers breathe when they are trampled upon. When trampled, forbearance doesn’t spew toxic putrid anger, but blessing. “Bless those who curse you.” That’s not an option!
ILL: Your culture doesn’t exalt this attribute in this dog-eat-dog world. Burger king years ago had as it’s slogan “Have it your way.” You are taught to have it your way by the world. Don’t have it your way in Christ’s kingdom! Insist on not having it your way.
ILL: We’re like my kids too often, “No, it’s mine, no it’s mine! No it should be this way, no your wrong, I’m right, why don’t you think like me?” Go to your room!
APP/ILL: When someone does you wrong, do you demand all your rights? There’s a particular instance in my life and I would have had every right to get all I wanted out of them but didn’t. Another instance was when I had my idea on something I wanted to do, but didn’t demand that I have my way on it and yielded to others’ ideas. Unfortunately, there are times when I didn’t yield, when I should have, I know.
Like I can see that there was a time, knowing me there probably was a time when I felt hurt and humiliated, and so I made my point and demanded people submit to my thoughts and reasons.
If I was someone who demanded my rights all the time, demanded that people let me have my own way and when I didn’t get my way I would cause a fuss… that’s a disqualification for someone in my position.
APP: The elder or overseer is to be known for forbearance, not demanding his rights. 1 Ti. 3:3.
1 Timothy 3:3 3 not addicted to wine or pugnacious/argumentative/a bully, but forbearing, peaceable, free from the love of money.
When he’s caught in a sin, or he’s made a mistake, he doesn’t save face and play the part of macho man, buck at the situation, or dig in his heels, but he yields, and submits to godly wisdom. He’s reasonable.
When he catches someone else in some sin, mistake, or a bad decision, he doesn’t give full vent and find every way possible to give exact justice, but he finds every way possible to be merciful and kind, gracious.
James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle/forbearing, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
The forbearing person is not easily moved when injured, he doesn’t stir up hatred for the one who wronged him, doesn’t easily get stirred over injustice done to him, but submits and trusts God through it all.
APP/ILL: If someone were to use you as their dart board and they throw verbal darts and you, if they stick and you’re forbearing, you’re skin is thick enough that it doesn’t hurt…and if it does hurt, it doesn’t hurt so much that the soul becomes inflamed with anger and hatred, and begins to lash out and injure back, demanding his own way.
APP: Consider Christ! He who died to ransom your sinful soul, who left all His glorious rights in heaven, the praise of the angels, to humble himself to the point of the death on the cross for your soul … He says to you, Matthew 11:29, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.”
Christ is the example of forbearance, not demanding his own rights! Follow Him!
Yet at the same time, He longed to do His Father’s will and set his face like a flint to go to Jerusalem to die for you! No man was ever like this man! He takes children into His arms…He could turn the other cheek when they hit Him and crucified Him all as a display of great strength…he didn’t succomb to the whims of the circumstances but controlled Himself with great power of the soul so as to remain sinless and calm even in the face of danger to His own wellbeing. “Father forgive them!” was His cry!
What strength, what power! So this forbearance is no wimpy quality, but is one that demands amazing power to exercise.
Paul too…could say…
2 Corinthians 11:23–27 23 …beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.
Paul is tough! But he’s tender too. He could also say … 1 Thessalonians 2:7 7 But we proved to be gentle among you, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children.
He’s tender, coming alongside…Paul didn’t demand his own rights, he was forbearing like Christ is, 2 Co. 10:1 says.
TRANS: Forbearance does not demand it’s own way. Not to demand your own way is a selfless, kind, and humble. Not to demand your own way, even when persecuted like the Philippians were, demands patience with others. They yield when peaceable wisdom demands.
Philippians 4:5 5 Let your forbearance be known to all men. The Lord is near.
This is not optional; let it be known…to whom? To all men! Having considered the command to forbear, let’s look secondly this morning at the demonstration of this forbearance. From whom should we not demand are rights?
Demonstration: Known to All men
Philippians 4:5 5 Let your forbearance be known to all men. The Lord is near.
EXP: Your forbearance should be known by all you meet, all who know you. Others’ testimony of you should be that you are this way. All men…not some, not just Christians, not just those at church, all!
The Philippians were persecuted by the unbelievers, property issues perhaps…physical pain, death. Yet, they were not to demand their rights!
APP: If I were to call your employer, your employees, your business partners, schoolmates, extended family, or other lost people in your life, and I ask them, “Does so and so demand his or her own way?” what would they say?
1 Peter 2:18 18 Servants [or employees], be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.
Would your boss, your coworkers, or employees say that you are patient when others are wrong or make too many mistakes? Would they say that you do not consider yourself, …. or would they say that you too often must always have your way?
Taking this to the home, parents would your children testify of you that you are patient, you gently lead, or would they say that you cause them to be on edge, they are scared of you, not knowing what you’ll say next? Are you on the verge of angry outburts…do you demand your way from that silly broken thing that just won’t fix!
If you’ve trusted Christ, you carry about in an earthen vessel the glorious gospel. And you can too easily undo your testimony for Christ with your lack of forbearance. You say you follow Christ, but does your demonstration of your forbearance prove it?
ILL/APP: Now, let me ask you this…what do you want to be known for?
Money, wealth, success? What do you want to be known for? Your extraordinarily good looks, humor, that you are likable, maybe your connections in society… Or maybe your thinking more along the lines of church … do you want to be known for your prayer life, your excellent parenting skills, or your Bible study habits?
Did forbearance cross your mind? …you don’t demand even what is rightly due you.
Philippians 4:5 Let your forbearance be known to all men.
That’s what you’re known for!
Some independent Baptist churches like ours want to be known for their skirts and tie only policy. Some want to be known for their strict standards. Their diligent evangelism…Others still for the separation from the world, false teachers, and disobedient brethren.
It’s hard to say that these things in themselves are wrong, of course, but what should you desire to be known for? Your forbearance! It is basic to the Christian life. Don’t demand your rights, wants, or wishes! This is the cross-bearing life…
Galatians 2:20 20 “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.
I only demand His rights!
APP: You must display this and in fact, Paul assumes you already have it! “Let your forbearance be known to all”…that assumes you have it! This attribute is basic to the Christian life!
And indeed if you follow Christ, you have a measure of this, because Christ’s very incarnation was this! So let’s be known for it! That we are agreeable, not contentious, yielding, not argumentative… Christ didn’t regard His divine nature as something to gain all the privileges from it He could! Instead, he gave up His own rights and didn’t demand that others give Him his rights either! And he was merciful to those who sinned and didn’t exact justice upon them!
ILL: Remember Jesus and the woman at the well in John 8…putting aside the textual issues with that story, remember she was caught in the very act of adultery. Elders of Israel bring her to him and say, “what would you do?” Jesus says, “he who is without sin let him cast the first stone.” And they all left. And Jesus says, “who accuses you?” And the woman says, “no one, Lord.” Jesus replies, “Neither do I, sin no more.”
As Lord of the Law, this is an example of Jesus not exacting judgment.
That’s Christ! Not exacting justice, not always demanding letter of the law, but able to forbear with people…and everyone that day who saw the Lord do that knew He was forbearing, kind, gentle and merciful.
APP: But you say, “Greg, don’t you understand how wrong the other person was? Don’t you understand how obnoxious my children are sometimes? I have a right to pursue what is right in this situation…Yes, to be patient, ok, but I’m a justice kind of guy…or…she was so wrong…I’m so right, doesn’t that matter!
Really…just take your sister in Christ to court then….Really, is that where you want to go?
1 Corinthians 6:6–7 6 but brother goes to [court] with brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you [you lose either way if you do that], that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded?
Paul says you should prefer to be wronged! Instead of Christians suing Christians, you should prefer to be wronged and just to suffer that injustice. Don’t insist so passionately on your own rights! Refuse to insist on your own rights. Christ existed as God and did He insist on his rights before unbelievers? No, He emptied himself.
The prince of Life, dies, the immortal crucified…all for you! And you demand your way, your wants and wishes? Are you following Christ?
TRANS: Now, the Lord knows that we need a bit of motivation. You realize how difficult this is… People walk all over you; they step on you, you have a sin nature, the world, the flesh, the devil, pressure, stress…it’s easy to snap and just demand your own rights!
Motivation: The Lord’s nearness
So Paul motivates us!
Philippians 4:5 5 Let your forbearance be known to all men. [why?] The Lord is near.
Now, this is another difficulty. What does he mean, “the Lord is near.”
Whatever he means it is a motivation to let my forbearance be known to all men. The reason that I should let my …not demanding my own rights attitude… be known to all men is because the Lord is near.
But what does it mean “the Lord is near?”
One, it could mean that he is near to us right now because he’s not far from any one of us. We live and move and have our being in him, Acts 17 says. He’s everywhere present in the entirety of His being.
But two, and probably more likely, Jesus is near in the sense of His coming. Christ’s coming is near… That’s the biblical context we’re in … back a few verses in Phil. 3:20-21.
Philippians 3:20–21 20 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which also we eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ; 21 who will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory, by the exertion of the power that He has even to subject all things to Himself.
When he comes, His glorious promise of resurrection, of righteousness, and of everything being made right is certain. Glorified bodies for all! Christ, the perfect judge, will return and will judge all those who persecute these Philippians. Let that motivate you to forbear with people and not demand your way.
APP: Leave room for the wrath and will of God!
Your trust in Christ and his coming will empower you to be loving, mild, and yielded even in the face of adversity, too.
Jamese 5:8-9, You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.
Perhaps when you demand your own way, you need to take a glance over at the door!
Revelation 22:20, speaking of Jesus…”He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I come quickly.”
And turn to 2 Peter 3…But you say…”Jesus hasn’t come for 2 thousand years, why?”
Because He’s patient, He bears with people, He wants them to repent…
2 Peter 3:8–15 8 But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. 9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. 10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. 11 Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, 12 looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat! 13 But according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth, in which righteousness dwells. 14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation;
Let Jesus’ second coming when He comes in glory motivate you to bear long with people and allow them have their way.
No matter how you look at it, Jesus’ coming is near. If Jesus comes back in our lifetime, we can say that indeed his coming was near. But if you die as a believer before Christ comes back, know that your life is very short, a mere breath James says, and then you’re in eternity with the Lord…and in eternity I’m sure time will be flying by.
And if Jesus is patient, not rushing to come back and demand all the earth for His own…btw…He could have demanded it the first time He came … plus, knowing that when He does come… that’s it, it’s all over…; shouldn’t you be patient with others too, gracious to them, not using them to get your way?
Of course, no one knows the day nor the hour, Matt. 24:36, so let’s be found waiting and watching. 1 John 3:3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Jesus lived on this earth without reference to self; he didn’t demand his God-endowed rights. But that’s not the end… Phil. 2:9-11…
Philippians 2:9–11 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
He didn’t demand what was rightly due Him, and God highly exalted Him. “Humble yourself so that Christ may exalt you, too!” If you’re trusting Christ, you’ll know that you can endure anything because His promises are true, he exalts those who humble themselves, and he will right every wrong.
Know this then regarding the coming of the Lord and let these truths fuel your forbearing spirit. Our time on earth is short, His coming is near. Also, Christ is Judge. He will execute righteousness and repay 2 Thessalonians 1:6 For after all it is only just for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you.
Christ’s coming is near: forbear with people! He is the judge, don’t demand your rights! He will judge them, be patient until that time! And also he rewards…He will glorify you, that’s your eternity. Keep both eyes toward eternity when someone wrongs you!
CONCLUSION What is the Meaning of Philippians 4.5
You are bombarded with opportunities either to show or not show forbearance, to demand or not to demand what is rightly due you.
You need to consider at length the coming of the Lord. That’s what will empower you give up your life for Christ.
You must resolved to be known for this forbearing spirit. The Lord is near. When he comes he will come in rapture and then He will come back to earth on a white horse in full glory, destroying his enemies. Set up his kingdom upon this earth. That is near.
Imagine … That the Lord Jesus Christ the exalted one, ruler over all the nations comes back in full brilliance and you are found in his very presence… Would you consider even for a moment strutting up into his presence and showing off how good you are in the things that you accomplished?… As you see his nail pierced hands and the wound in his side, and that he has died for you, would you demand all of your rights from Him?
Neither ought you from others.
The Lord is near so be known for forbearance. Know it and live it everyday every moment and get ready this week to respond with forbearance, motivated by Christ’s coming.
187 Christ returneth
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