The Summation Of Pauline Counsel
“Finally, my brethren…”—Ephesians 6:10
When Paul employed a prefatory “finally,” it did not necessarily denote the end of a series, the climax of an argument or the termination of an address. It was the keynote to a Spirit-inspired appeal.
Plea For The Propagation Of Truth
“Finally, brethren, pray for us that the Lord’s word may spread rapidly and be extolled as it was among you.” These pioneer “seed-sowers” were propelled in their onward course by the breath of prayer. The reinforcement they desired for each new offensive was not so much the presence of more soldiers in the field as it was for more suppliants at the throne. They knew whence came the power to cope with stubborn resistance. They recognized the value of earnest, consistent, and prevailing heavenly communion. Thus, the solicitation was submitted with solemn seriousness. It was directed to those of like experience in matters of grace—those who looked upon prayer in the light of its incalculable importance and were willing to reverently and regularly engage in its sacred exercises.
While personal prayer was sought, it was for an objective purpose. Paul’s aim was to spread the Word of God as rapidly as possible. The rush against time was motivated by the great need for the Gospel. Delay could prove disastrous; souls were hanging in the balance. The earlier he arrived at a given place, the sooner the populace heard about salvation. The more rapid his advancement, the more communities he could reach. The Thessalonian assembly was requested to pray that his party might enjoy bodily strength, spiritual understanding, travelling mercies, open doors, and ready reception. The Thessalonian church was signally successful. He thought their prayers might produce like results in other fields. It was this assurance which prompted Paul’s appeal.
Plea For The Preservation Of Unity
“Finally, brethren…be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace, and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” This is a prescription which assures the maximum of spiritual blessing. It is a prescription with promise—“and the God of love and peace shall be with you.” That is to say, when the conditions are met, God will somehow manifest His presence. How very necessary it becomes for God’s people to know and to cultivate those conditions.
First, Paul urged the brethren to be perfect. An impossibility? No, not when we once grasp the essential truth. Imperfect humans may have perfect hearts toward God. Job was perfect by divine declaration and by human demonstration. He proved that his devotion to God was not dependent upon people, possessions or prosperity. To be perfect would seem a sufficient stipulation. But had Paul merely said, “Henceforth, this is the order of the day for the brethren—but [sic] ye perfect,” his statement may have lacked clarity. They could well have queried, “Of what does this practical perfection consist?” Thus, it was not with needless repetition that Paul enlarged upon the matter, extending it to a point of comprehensive completeness. Being perfect toward God should result in personal satisfaction with the divine will, a unification of minds to comply with the divine purpose and disposition [of] heart to live together amiably. Comfort, oneness of mind and peace are evident results of the very thing for which the apostle was pressing.
Then, there is the objective aspect, the result—“the God of love and peace shall be with you.” How sorely the church militant needs the presence of Him whose love and peace furnish and invigorating and elevating atmosphere. For so long a time the work has bogged down due to the cluttering empedimenta of wood, hay and stubble, the product of careless unspirituality. For so long a time, also, the atmosphere has been kept tense and unwholesome by the introduction of personal temperaments—varied and sometimes vicious—into church activity. The presence of the Lord would prove a veritable breath from heaven—an air-conditioning to dissipate some of the foulness existent among believers. This is the stimulating experience which the beloved leader of the early church coveted for all true believers.
Plea For The Pursuit Of Power
“Finally, my brethren, strengthen yourselves in the Lord and in the power which His supreme might imparts.” Preparedness was more than an axiom with Paul. Facing life with its varying and inevitable vicissitudes bodes ill for the one who drifts aimlessly in the current of indifference. Nor can one, through self-determination, must up sufficient stamina to fight the good fight of faith. No, there is no substitute for the power which His supreme might imparts. We must have it. Indeed, without it, we present all the sab abjectness of Ephraim—worthless, weak, willful, and wandering.
The plea of Paul’s for the pursuit of power finds synonymous support in many New Testament passages. The young believers at Colossae, Hierapolis and Laodicea were plagued by the insurgence of a three-fold subversion; namely, Judaism, asceticism and agnosticism. The only successful antidote was strength to withstand, for malignancy cannot flourish in healthy tissue. With swarms of parasitic cults and isms daily attacking, it is most essential that Christians be bulwarked by divinely imparted power.
Plea For The Purity Of Thought
“Finally, brethren, let your minds dwell on what is true, what is worthy, what is right, what is pure, what is amiable, what is kindly—on everything that is excellent or praiseworthy.” Paul was not proposing psychic exercises or advancing a formula for mental hygiene. It is more basic than that. To captivate the thoughts approvingly is to cultivate character appropriately. “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” Words are thoughts expressed, but many thoughts do not issue in expression. Yet, the Lord knows even our thoughts. Some thoughts, if expressed, would humiliate others and embarrass ourselves. But does it not concern us that the altogether pure One knows them?
Concepts, clear and confused, are being formed continually. Wrong training, perverted desires, diabolical encouragement—all produce questionable impressions. These issue in waywardness and folly. Hence, the apostle urged that our thoughts be led captive unto Christ. The imagery is not that of wild and wiry steeds being driven into a corral. It is not that kind of a struggle. Rather does it consist of making Christ the object of our life and allowing His magnetic power to draw our thoughts to Him. It is letting the mind of Christ be in us.
The six things delineated in the text—truth, honesty, justice, purity, loveliness, and good reputation—fall into two categories. The first is truth; the second is purity. Truth is the basis of orthodoxy. There is no straight thinking (orthos doxa) if the well-defined lines of truth are not adhered to carefully. When one thinks in terms of truth, it is obvious that there will be both honesty and justice in one’s conduct. But Paul thought it necessary to advise purity as well. Some things are true but not necessarily wholesome. “The words of the Lord are pure.” This is why He requests purity in our thinking. Just as thoughts of purity result in personal loveliness and favorable reputation.
Surveying the whole field of mental activity, the apostle waxed eloquent in his counsel. “Think on everything that is excellent and praiseworthy,” he added. Here is elevation and worthwhileness. This becomes the one who is positionally seated with Christ in the heavenlies. “Think on these things.”
Plea For The Permanence Of Rejoicing
“Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you, to me indeed is not grievous, but for you is safe.” This faithful counsellor admits that no endeavor is irksome which in any wise contributes to the well-being of others. He shares with the apostle Peter the pedagogical principle of constantly reminding. What is worthwhile is worth learning well. Repetition, therefore, is profitable.
This fifth “finally” is, in many ways, the capstone of all Paul’s similarly introduced counsel. If the saints are prevailing in prayer for the propagation of the Word; if they are enjoying the presence of the God of love and peace; if they are growing strong in the power which His supreme might imparts; if their minds are filled with truth and purity; then, what can suppress an exuberant spirit or hinder an outflow of praise? The apostle knew well what he was recommending when he said, “Henceforth rejoice.”
The kind of joy he had in mind was not superficial outbursts of hilarity. It was not an intermittent display of gladness. It was not a temperamental ray of sunshine which forces its way through when the clouds part for the moment. It was not the chorus of childish glee which ceases with suddenness at the stub of the toe. It was not the chant of a temporarily charmed beneficiary pitched in a minor key. No, it was none of this. It is, rather, the sweet melody of the new song in the heart of one brought out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, with feet set upon a rock and the goings established. It is the tuneful praise of an ever-appreciative soul for unfailing compassions, enduring love and abounding grace. It is the joybells of the heart which peel forth clear notes of praise to a beneficent God in a continuous display of gratitude. He had in mind deep-seated gladness which will enjoy expression in spite of circumstances. This is what he urged upon the Philippians and upon us.
What did he mean when he added, “This to you is a safe precaution?” A precaution against what? Rejoicing is a safeguard against discouragement both for ourselves and for those about us. One cannot be morose or melancholy while rejoicing. Gladness dissipates despondence. It brightens the gloomiest atmosphere. “Sing and shout the clouds away; night will turn to day” is more than lyrical imagination. Then, too, rejoicing is a safeguard against the wiles of the wicked one. The devil soon discovers that a rejoicing saint is not very susceptible to his attacks.
The main reason for the “finally” in the foregoing instructions of the apostle is that there is no changeableness about these principles. They are fixed and effective—a workable formula for the Lord’s people in every age, backed by the integrity and power of Him who is the same yesterday, today and forever.