As he approached the end of his letter to the Philippians, Paul was anxious that the theme of joy which marks its pages (1.4,18,26; 2.16,28; 3.1) should be continued. That the epistle was written when he was under house arrest in Rome made this theme all the more remarkable. Circumstances could not dim the joy of the man who had met the Risen Lord on the Damascus Road. The rigours of service would not cloud the brightness of his prospects!
The exhortation to "Rejoice in the Lord alway" (4.4) is followed by the plea to be careful, or anxious, about nothing. Again this must be seen in the light of his circumstances. By this means the peace of God would keep, or guard, their minds and hearts (4.7). The question is, "What do you do with a guarded mind?". Is it left empty of thought? Does it simply become inactive? The answer is given in v.8. Fill this mind with what is true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report. The guarded mind, rather then being empty, has much with which it can be occupied, and occupied for the profit of the individual.
Where could the Philippians see this high standard? Where was it possible to see an example of one whose mind was so used? Paul has the answer to this from the confines of his house in Rome. "Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you."
Paul had taught them. They had learned from that teaching, they had willingly received the instruction, they had heard it from his lips. All that is important, but the most important fact is left to the end. What he had taught, what they had received, what they had heard, they had also seen in his life. It all had been "seen in me" he states, without fear of contradiction. He knew that following this teaching would result in them enjoying the presence of the God of peace. What he taught others he had practised himself. It was not theoretical teaching; it was his personal experience.
Three lessons have to be learned. First, those who teach the Word of God must not act in a way that contradicts their teaching. What they impart to others must be part of themselves, in the sense that they have made it part of their own lives. This gives power to teaching and raises it to a level higher that a mere lecture. It is conviction born out of experience that makes the teaching grip the listeners. May all who aspire to teach the Word of God ensure that they do not do so outside of their experience of God and of His Word.
The second lesson, closely connected to the first, is that those who teach must expect their lives to be scrutinised. They must be prepared to be examples of their own teaching. The words "seen in me" are telling. As he taught, the listeners would understand what he was teaching because they had seen these features in him.
The third lesson is that this exhortation does not only apply to teachers. Those who are taught must listen with a view to the teaching being put into practice and being seen in them.
But what a range the apostle embraced. To what does he refer when he writes of "Those things"? Clearly he is writing of the teaching of the whole epistle. What authority this gave to his words. Nothing left his lips that was inconsistent with his actions, and when he writes, "Those things do", there is weight behind his exhortation which surely would make others determine to put Scripture into practice.
Conferences and ministry meetings are not platforms for preachers to project themselves. They are not for demonstrating how much "knowledge" one has. Neither is it appropriate for those who listen to fail to understand that their lives must be adjusted in the light of Scripture. Rather it is an opportunity, for those who are gifted to teach, to impart instruction from the Word of God, and for that instruction to be taken seriously by others.
May all, therefore, who open the Book with a view to teaching, examine their hearts and ask the searching question, "Can what is about to be taught be seen in me?", and may those who listen seek to ensure that what is taught will, in turn, be seen in them.