Philippians 4:8-98Finally, 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. 9The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
As I considered these verses in preparing for this study, it occurred to me – are these not all attributes of God? What Paul is really saying here is to meditate on the Lord and on His Word. Another aspect of this passage that strikes me is that human beings tend to be naturally drawn to these things – drawn to the Lord that is – and repelled by their opposites – injustice, impurity, ugliness, disrepute, unrighteousness, unworthiness. We have a built-in attraction to things of beauty, and a near-universal agreement about what is good and what is bad. Interestingly, humanity seems to possess this sense apart from the tenets of the written law. There is good reason for this…
Genesis 1:27So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.
Since God created us in His image, it stands to reason that the attributes of God and the things which are pleasing to Him also appeal to us. In his book, Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis cites this universal sense, inborn in mankind, as proof that an objective standard for what is good and what is bad must exist (see handout). Of course, he goes on to give that objective source for the moral nature of the universe the name by which we know Him – God!
Furthermore, we know that meditating on God’s Word brings with it a blessing…
Joshua 1:8 (God speaking to Joshua)This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Paul also gives a similar exhortation to Timothy…
1 Timothy 4:12-1612Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. 13Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. 14Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. 15Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. 16Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.
So let’s take a look at these aspects of God’s nature…
True – ἀληθής alēthēs – Our God is the very creator of truth, and its fulfillment…
Deuteronomy 32:3-4 (Moses song of farewell before his death)3For I proclaim the name of the LORD:Ascribe greatness to our God.4He is the Rock, His work is perfect;For all His ways are justice,A God of truth and without injustice;Righteous and upright is He.
Psalm 146:5-65Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help,Whose hope is in the LORD his God,6Who made heaven and earth,The sea, and all that is in them;Who keeps truth forever,
Even the Pharisees plotting against Jesus recognized the truth of God when they saw and heard it, but continued in their rebellion and enmity with Jesus. Hmmm… Sounds like someone I know. (;~)}}}
Matthew 22:15-1615Then the Pharisees went and plotted how they might entangle Him in His talk. 16And they sent to Him their disciples with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that You are true, and teach the way of God in truth; nor do You care about anyone, for You do not regard the person of men.
John the Baptist affirmed the truth of Jesus’ testimony…
John 3:31-3431He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. 32And what He has seen and heard, that He testifies; and no one receives His testimony. 33He who has received His testimony has certified that God is true. 34For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.
Jesus reiterates John’s testimony in…
John 5:31-3431If I bear witness of Myself, My witness is not true. 32There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the witness which He witnesses of Me is true. 33You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34Yet I do not receive testimony from man, but I say these things that you may be saved.
John – the disciple whom Jesus loved – also testifies to Jesus’ embodiment of the true light…
1 John 2:8Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining.
Jesus also testifies of His own truth – that is the truth of God…
John 7:18He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.
When the Pharisees challenged Jesus’ testimony of Himself asserting that the truth of a testimony must be verified by two or three witnesses under the law, here is how Jesus responded…
John 8:14-1914Jesus answered and said to them, “Even if I bear witness of Myself, My witness is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going; but you do not know where I come from and where I am going. 15You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one. 16And yet if I do judge, My judgment is true; for I am not alone, but I am with the Father who sent Me. 17It is also written in your law that the testimony of two men is true. 18I am One who bears witness of Myself, and the Father who sent Me bears witness of Me.”19Then they said to Him, “Where is Your Father?”Jesus answered, “You know neither Me nor My Father. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also.”
Isaiah 65:16-1716So that he who blesses himself in the earthShall bless himself in the God of truth;And he who swears in the earthShall swear by the God of truth;Because the former troubles are forgotten,And because they are hidden from My eyes.17For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;And the former shall not be remembered or come to mind.
Noble – σεμνός semnos – This word (translated “honest” in KJV) can mean august, venerable, reverend, venerated for character, honorable. Surprisingly, this is the only instance in the New Testament where it is used in that way.
Just – δίκαιος dikaios – can also be translated as righteous or right. Much as we might wish it were otherwise, only God is truly righteous and just at all times. On the coming day of judgment, there won’t be any not guilty pleas. The Lord will judge in perfect righteousness the living and the dead. No one will be able to claim ignorance. God’s justice will be perfect. God is indeed the very concept of justice in and of Himself.
Zechariah 9:9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem!Behold, your King is coming to you;He is just and having salvation,Lowly and riding on a donkey,A colt, the foal of a donkey.
Luke 23:44-4744Now it was about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over all the earth until the ninth hour. 45Then the sun was darkened, and the veil of the temple was torn in two. 46And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.'” Having said this, He breathed His last.47So when the centurion saw what had happened, he glorified God, saying, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”
Romans 3:21-2621But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
2 Timothy 4:6-8 (Paul’s farewell to Timothy)6For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.
Indeed, Jesus is named The Just One…
Acts 7:51-53 (Stephen testifying before the council)51You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. 52Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, 53who have received the law by the direction of angels and have not kept it.
Acts 22:12-15 (Paul’s testimony to the crowd at Jerusalem)12Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, 13came to me; and he stood and said to me, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.” And at that same hour I looked up at him. 14Then he said, “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. 15For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard.
1 Peter 3:18For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,
Psalm 11:7For the LORD is righteous,He loves righteousness;His countenance beholds the upright.
1 John 1:9If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
Psalm 71:14-1614But I will hope continually,And will praise You yet more and more.15My mouth shall tell of Your righteousnessAnd Your salvation all the day,For I do not know their limits.16I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD;I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only.
Revelation 19:11Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.
Pure – ἁγνός hagnos
James 3:17But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
1 John 3:2-32Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. 3And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Psalm 18:25-2725With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful;With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless;26With the pure You will show Yourself pure;And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd.27For You will save the humble people,But will bring down haughty looks.
Psalm 12:6The words of the LORD are pure words,Like silver tried in a furnace of earth,Purified seven times.
Psalm 19:8The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes;
Psalm 119:140Your word is very pure;Therefore Your servant loves it.
Proverbs 30:5Every word of God is pure;He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him.
Lovely – προσφιλής prosphilēs – acceptable, pleasing. This word is found only once in the Bible.
Psalm 84:1How lovely is Your tabernacle,O LORD of hosts!
Of good report – εὔφημος euphēmos – sounding well. This word also is found only here.
Proverbs 15:30The light of the eyes rejoices the heart,And a good report makes the bones healthy.
John 12:37-4137But although He had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, 38that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke:“Lord, who has believed our report?And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” [Isaiah 53:1]39Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again:40“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts,Lest they should see with their eyes,Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,So that I should heal them.” [Isaiah 6:10]41These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him.
Virtue – ἀρετή aretē – moral goodness or a particular morally excellent act or character. There is no Old Testament analog.
1 Peter 2:19But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; [NASB]
2 Peter 1:2-82Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, 3as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, 4by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.5But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Praiseworthy (KJV – if there be any praise) – ἔπαινος epainos –
Ephesians 1:3-143Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, 4just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, 5having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, 6to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.7In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, 10that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him. 11In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.13In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.
Philippians 1:9-119And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
The Hebrew word for praise is תְּהִלָּה tĕhillah. It is found 57 times in the Old Testament – over half of them in the Psalms…
Exodus 15:2The LORD is my strength and song,And He has become my salvation;He is my God, and I will praise Him;My father’s God, and I will exalt Him.
Deuteronomy 10:21He is your praise, and He is your God, who has done for you these great and awesome things which your eyes have seen.
Psalm 22:3But You are holy,Enthroned in the praises of Israel.
Psalm 48:10According to Your name, O God,So is Your praise to the ends of the earth;Your right hand is full of righteousness.
Psalm 100A Psalm of Thanksgiving.1Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!2Serve the LORD with gladness;Come before His presence with singing.3Know that the LORD, He is God;It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.4Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,And into His courts with praise.Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.5For the LORD is good;His mercy is everlasting,And His truth endures to all generations.