Intro: I read one politician’s recent comment (maybe a commentary) “If you are not worried, you are not reasonable.” I thought of Phil 4:5-6 – Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, Paul seemed to believe that it was unreasonable to worry at anytime. We have already discussed the reasons why we should not be anxious about life. But I do want to consider verse 5 this evening, and discuss the command to be reasonable.
- Phil 4:5; Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand…
I. What is commanded? The virtue mentioned in this verse is difficult to pin down. The word translated as reasonableness in ESV we read from is epieikes (ep-ee-i-kace’). Strong’s Greek-Hebrew Dictionary tells us that it means, appropriate, i.e. (by implication) mild; gentle, moderation, patient. It is one of the most untranslatable words in Greek. Consider the various translations given it in this verse:
- KJV – moderation
- Tyndale – softness
- Rheims – modesty
- RSV; ASV – forbearance
- ESV – reasonableness
- NIV; NET – gentleness
- NLT – considerate
A. Although there is little solidarity among the translators, a broad look at all of these translations may help us form a more composite and comprehensive picture of what God wants.
B. Let me share this compilation of comments on the meaning of epieikes (ep-ee-i-kace’) from several different sources…
1. It describes that courtesy and graciousness which should characterize a Christian gentleman. The term indicates something of “the power of yielding”; the ability to give way to the wishes of others. It is the spirit that enables a man to bear injuries with patience, and not demand all that is rightly his due, for the sake of peace. It is the poise of soul which enables one to sacrifice his own rights, not by necessity, but out of generosity and sympathy. It is the opposite of stubbornness and thoughtlessness. Is the opposite of contention, rigor and severity.
C. Let YOUR gentleness (reasonableness) be known to EVERYONE. These words indicate 2 important elements of my responsibility.
1. This quality must be developed in me. I am responsible to react to the people and circumstances in my life with gentleness and forbearance. I have a choice. This is not just a matter of personality, or doing what comes “naturally”. I learn to be reasonable.
a. Elders especially must display this virtue – 1 Tim 3:3 – “be gentle, not quarrelsome…” this is an essential quality in the life of the leader. Although he does not use the same word, Paul says the same about teachers in 2 Tim 2:24 – must not quarrel but be gentle to all,
b. Titus 3:1-2 – Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to obey, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. – ALL Christians are to display this virtue. James uses the term to even describe the mind or wisdom of God (from above) James 3:17 – But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield…
2. This attitude and action must be known to everyone.This is the difficult part of the exhortation. It is easy to be considerate, kind, and gentle toward some persons. There are others, however, toward whom it is difficult to show a spirit of gentleness. This is the challenge. How well do you do at this?
3. We are not without examples to follow.
a. Paul describes Jesus with this word… 2 Cor 10:1 – Now I, Paul, myself am pleading with you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ — Paul makes his plea to the Corinthians to accept his apostolic authority and avoid any need for him to exercise discipline when he comes, on the basis of the gentleness of Christ. Jesus had every right and the ability to bring justice to the evildoers who mistreated Him. But He restrained His power and reacted with kindness.
II. David and Saul: Consider with me a powerful example of this discipline in the OT character of David. 1 Sam. 18 – David’s victory over the Philistine giant, Goliath, was not received by everyone the same. The people of Israel were pleased with David. King Saul’s servants were pleased with him. The women were pleased with him, so much that they praised him in song. King Saul’s daughter, Michal, was pleased with him, so much that she married him. King Saul’s son, Jonathan, was pleased with him, and gave him a place to stay and his own robe. But all this caused Saul to be angry and to view David with suspicion. He sought to kill David. He was suspicious; thought David might take over the kingdom.
- Have you ever felt that way about someone… they were out to get you?
- Have you ever felt like David here, no matter what you do, there is no making peace with this person?
A. Saul was an unreasonable person… “there is no reasoning with him” There are a number of terms used to describe Saul’s attitude toward and treatment of David.
1. He was very angry (18:8).
2. He looked with David with suspicion (18:9).
3. He raved in the midst of the house (18:10).
4. He was afraid of David (18:12) and removed him from his presence (18:13)
5. He dreaded him (18:15)
a. Saul’s approach to David was murderous. He sought to kill David on multiple occasions (ex.18:10; 19:10). Both Michal and Jonathan save David’s life, and he flees for his life (Chapters 21-22) among the Philistines.
B. How would (should) David react to such a dangerous and unreasonable man? 1 Sam. 24 is a case study on epieikes (ep-ee-i-kace’) – reasonableness. Saul takes 300 men and hunts for David on a tip. He winds up in the same cave as David and his men, and David has the opportunity to rid himself of this problem. 1 Sam 24:4-7 – Then the men of David said to him, “This is the day of which the Lord said to you, ‘Behold, I will deliver your enemy into your hand, that you may do to him as it seems good to you.'” And David arose and secretly cut off a corner of Saul’s robe. 5 Now it happened afterward that David’s heart troubled him because he had cut Saul’s robe. 6 And he said to his men, “The Lord forbid that I should do this thing to my master, the Lord’s anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, seeing he is the anointed of the Lord.” 7 So David restrained his servants with these words, and did not allow them to rise against Saul. And Saul got up from the cave and went on his way. How would you have reacted? Do you think David mulled over this very long?
1. Why cut off the tip of the robe? What was his intention? I used to think of this as a prelude to a taunting… “Do you see what I could have done? “ I’ve got one up on you” You will never catch me, I am too clever”.
2. But notice what David does with that piece of Saul’s robe: 1 Sam 24:8-12 – David also arose afterward, went out of the cave, and called out to Saul, saying, “My lord the king!” And when Saul looked behind him, David stooped with his face to the earth, and bowed down. 9 And David said to Saul: “Why do you listen to the words of men who say, ‘Indeed David seeks your harm’? 10 Look, this day your eyes have seen that the Lord delivered you today into my hand in the cave, and someone urged me to kill you. But my eye spared you, and I said, ‘I will not stretch out my hand against my lord, for he is the Lord’s anointed.’ 11 Moreover, my father, see! Yes, see the corner of your robe in my hand! For in that I cut off the corner of your robe, and did not kill you, know and see that there is neither evil nor rebellion in my hand, and I have not sinned against you. Yet you hunt my life to take it. 12 Let the Lord judge between you and me, and let the Lord avenge me on you. But my hand shall not be against you.
a. My Lord and King… he bowed down with his face to the ground. Do you think Saul deserved this kind of respect from David?
b. You are listening to those who say I am against you… but look at this piece of cloth. Your eyes can see I did not and will not hurt you (v. 9-10)
c. I am harmless… why do you seek me? – 1 Sam 24:13-14 – As the old proverb says, ‘Wickedness comes from wicked people.’ My hand will never be against you. 14 Who has the king of Israel come after? What are you chasing after? A dead dog? A flea? Notice the humility and self-abasing approach. David had the upper hand, but he chooses to focus on the moral imperatives at stake. He is not a wicked man who uses wickedness toward others. Who is he? To Saul he says I am a dead dog, or flea. I am harmless to you. Why do you seek to kill me?
d. I will let the Lord settle this issue between us and seek revenge (justice) in my behalf.
e. David showed Saul something about himself that day… Unlike Saul, he was a reasonable Even Saul concludes… 1 Sam 24:17 – You are more righteous than I, for you have done what is good to me though I have done what is evil to you. He was letting everyone see that he was a reasonable man. We cannot but notice that David’s willingness to make this difficult decision to return evil with good was based on his faith in the power and promises of God. He did not make this choice lightly or without a basis for hope.
III. Why should we be reasonable? Return to Phil. 4:5 – “The Lord is at hand” There are two possible thoughts here.
A. The Lord is nearby, and is there to help and support you. David certainly was aware that God was with him, and would not abandon him in the decision to be gentle and reasonable. So the person who returns good for evil is not abandoning justice, or ignoring righteousness. He is simply putting that in God’s hands Rom 12:18-21 – If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. 19 Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. 20 Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. He is not faraway and unconcerned. He is “at hand”.
B. The Lord is at hand, and ready to judge. He who is our Judge is ever watchful, ever aware of our conduct and treatment of others. One day we will have to answer to this Judge!
Conclusion: This virtue has much to commend it.
What would the world be like if everyone learned to be reasonable and gentle?
How much more success would God’s people have at spreading to gospel if we learned to be reasonable and gentle toward all people?