Philippians 4:8 (NKJV)
8 Finally, 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.
In Philippians 1, Paul prays that we “may approve the things that are excellent” (1:9b). In order to do so, we must be able to identify these excellent things and Paul catalogues some of them in our text. So let us meditate on whatever things are of good report.
This is the only time in Paul’s letters that this particular Greek word is used. Some versions translate it “commendable” and Louw-Nida’s Greek Lexicon defines it as “deserving approval or good reputation—‘worthy of praise, worthy of approval.’ … ‘what people should praise.’” As such it is closely related to the word that Paul will use in his summary statement – if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.
As with the other virtues we have considered, this one finds its foundation in God our Lord: He is worthy of praise. As the Creator of all, He is worthy of praise. “You are worthy, O Lord, To receive glory and honor and power; For You created all things, And by Your will they exist and were created.” (Rev 4:11) “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised; And His greatness is unsearchable.” (Ps 145:3)
God is worthy of praise not only as the Creator of all but also as the Redeemer of His people. So David calls upon the Lord in trouble. “I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies.” (Psalm 18:3) And the elders and angels cry out with a loud voice saying, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” (Rev 5:12) The Triune God is worthy of praise and we are called to meditate upon Him.
But Paul’s words call us not only to meditate on the Lord who is worthy of praise but also to become like Him ourselves – to become worthy of praise. Matthew Henry notes that the command to meditate on whatever things are of good report summons us to embrace whatever “will render us beloved, and make us well spoken of, as well as well thought of, by others.”
So Peter commands us to have “your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation.” (1 Pet 2:12) Our calling is to be men and women of integrity, conviction, and virtue. To conduct ourselves in such a way that others observe our conduct and say, “Those people live honorably and consistently, they truly love their God and one another.”
This means, of course, that we must beware hypocrisy. Hypocrisy “is behavior that does not agree with what someone claims to believe” (Merriam-Webster). So God speaks to the prophet Ezekiel about Israel, “So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain.” (Ez 33:31) With their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. “Oh, yes! We love the Lord! We wish to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness!” But, in truth, they lived for themselves, not the Lord. Their conduct, far from of good report and commendable, was reprehensible.
So what of you? Are you endeavoring to live a life that is worthy of praise? Are you reflecting the character of Your God? Reminded that this is our calling and that we often fail at it and that much of the Church in our day is guilty of hypocrisy, let us kneel and confess our sin to the Lord. We will have a time of silent confession followed by the corporate confession found in your bulletin.