Philippians 4:7
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(7) The peace of Godi.e. (like the “righteousness of God,” “the life of God”), the peace which God gives to every soul which rests on Him in prayer. It is peace—the sense of unity in the largest sense—the “peace on earth” proclaimed at our Lord’s birth, left as His last legacy to His disciples, and pronounced at His first coming back to them from the grave (Luke 2:14; John 14:27). Hence it includes peace with God, peace with men, peace with self. It keeps—that is, watches over with the watchfulness that “neither slumbers nor sleeps”—both “the hearts and minds” (or, more properly, the souls and the thoughts formed in them), guarding our whole spiritual action, both in its source and its developments. It is “through Christ Jesus,” for “He is our peace (Ephesians 2:14), as “making all one,” and “reconciling all to God.” The comprehensiveness and beauty of the passage has naturally made it (with the characteristic change from the “shall” of promise to the “may” of benediction) the closing blessing of our most solemn church service of “Holy Communion” with God and man.

Philippians

THE WARRIOR PEACE

Php 4:7.

The great Mosque of Constantinople was once a Christian church, dedicated to the Holy Wisdom. Over its western portal may still be read, graven on a brazen plate, the words, ‘Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.’ For four hundred years noisy crowds have fought, and sorrowed, and fretted, beneath the dim inscription in an unknown tongue; and no eye has looked at it, nor any heart responded. It is but too sad a symbol of the reception which Christ’s offers meet amongst men, and--blessed be His name!--its prominence there, though unread and unbelieved, is a symbol of the patient forbearance with which rejected blessings are once and again pressed upon us, and He stretches out His hand though no man regards, and calls though none do hear. My text is Christ’s offer of peace. The world offers excitement, Christ promises repose.

I. Mark, then, first, this peace of God.

What is it? What are its elements? Whence does it come? It is of God, as being its Source, or Origin, or Author, or Giver, but it belongs to Him in a yet deeper sense, for Himself is Peace. And in some humble but yet real fashion our restless and anxious hearts may partake in the divine tranquillity, and with a calm repose, kindred with that rest from which it is derived, may enter into His rest.

If that be too high a flight, at all events the peace that may be ours was Christ’s, in the perfect and unbroken tranquillity of His perfect Manhood. What, then, are its elements? The peace of God must, first of all, be peace with God. Conscious friendship with Him is indispensable to all true tranquillity. Where that is absent there may be the ignoring of the disturbed relationship; but there will be no peace of heart. The indispensable requisite is ‘a conscience like a sea at rest.’ Unless we have made sure work of our relationship with God, and know that He and we are friends, there is no real repose possible for us. In the whirl of excitement we may forget, and for a time turn away from, the realities of our relation to Him, and so get such gladness as is possible to a life not rooted in conscious friendship with Him. But such lives will be like some of those sunny islands in the Eastern Pacific, extinct volcanoes, where nature smiles and all things are prodigal and life is easy and luxuriant; but some day the clouds gather, and the earth shakes, and fire pours forth, and the sea boils, and every living thing dies, and darkness and desolation come. You are living, brother, upon a volcano’s side, unless the roots of your being are fixed in a God who is your friend.

Again, the peace of God is peace within ourselves. The unrest of human life comes largely from our being torn asunder by contending impulses. Conscience pulls this way, passion that. Desire says, ‘Do this’; reason, judgment, prudence say, ‘It is at your peril if you do!’ One desire fights against another, and so the man is rent asunder. There must be the harmonising of all the Being if there is to be real rest of spirit. No longer must it be like the chaos ere the creative word was spoken, where, in gloom, contending elements strove.

Again, men have not peace, because in most of them everything is topmost that ought to be undermost, and everything undermost that ought to be uppermost. ‘Beggars are on horseback’ {and we know where they ride}, ‘and princes walking.’ The more regal part of the man’s nature is suppressed, and trodden under foot; and the servile parts, which ought to be under firm restraint, and guided by a wise hand, are too often supreme, and wild work comes of that. When you put the captain and the officers, and everybody on board that knows anything about navigation, into irons, and fasten down the hatches on them, and let the crew and the cabin boys take the helm and direct the ship, it is not likely that the voyage will end anywhere but on the rocks. Multitudes are living lives of unrestfulness, simply because they have set the lowest parts of their nature upon the throne, and subordinated the highest to these.

Our unrest comes from yet another source. We have not peace, because we have not found and grasped the true objects for any of our faculties. God is the only possession that brings quiet. The heart hungers until it feeds upon Him. The mind is satisfied with no truth until behind truth it finds a Person who is true. The will is enslaved and wretched until in God it recognises legitimate and absolute authority, which it is blessing to obey. Love puts out its yearnings, like the filaments that gossamer spiders send out into the air, seeking in vain for something to fasten upon, until it touches God, and clings there. There is no rest for a man until he rests in God. The reason why this world is so full of excitement is because it is so empty of peace, and the reason why it is so empty of peace is because it is so void of God. The peace of God brings peace with Him, and peace within. It unites our hearts to fear His name, and draws all the else turbulent and confusedly flowing impulses of the great deep of the spirit after itself, in a tidal wave, as the moon draws the waters of the gathered ocean. The peace of God is peace with Him, and peace within.

I need not, I suppose, do more than say one word about that descriptive clause in my text, It ‘passeth understanding.’ The understanding is not the faculty by which men lay hold of the peace of God any more than you can see a picture with your ears or hear music with your eyes. To everything its own organ; you cannot weigh truth in a tradesman’s scales or measure thought with a yard-stick. Love is not the instrument for apprehending Euclid, nor the brain the instrument for grasping these divine and spiritual gifts. The peace of God transcends the understanding, as well as belongs to another order of things than that about which the understanding is concerned. You must experience it to know it; you must have it in order that you may feel its sweetness. It eludes the grasp of the wisest, though it yields itself to the patient and loving heart.

II. So notice, in the next place, what the peace of God does.

It ‘shall keep your hearts and minds.’ The Apostle here blends together, in a very remarkable manner, the conceptions of peace and of war, for he employs a purely military word to express the office of this Divine peace. That word, ‘shall keep,’ is the same as is translated in another of his letters kept with a garrison --and, though, perhaps, it might be going too far to insist that the military idea is prominent in his mind, it will certainly not be unsafe to recognise its presence.

So, then, this Divine peace takes upon itself warlike functions, and garrisons the heart and mind. What does he mean by ‘the heart and mind’? Not, as the English reader might suppose, two different faculties, the emotional and the intellectual--which is what we usually roughly mean by our distinction between heart and mind--but, as is always the case in the Bible, the ‘heart’ means the whole inner man, whether considered as thinking, willing, purposing, or doing any other inward act; and the word rendered ‘mind’ does not mean another part of human nature, but the whole products of the operations of the heart. The Revised Version renders it by ‘thoughts,’ and that is correct if it be given a wide enough application, so as to include emotions, affections, purposes, as well as ‘thoughts’ in the narrower sense. The whole inner man, in all the extent of its manifold operations, that indwelling peace of God will garrison and guard.

So note, however profound and real that Divine peace is, it is to be enjoyed in the midst of warfare. Quiet is not quiescence. God’s peace is not torpor. The man that has it has still to wage continual conflict, and day by day to brace himself anew for the fight. The highest energy of action is the result of the deepest calm of heart; just as the motion of this solid, and, as we feel it to be, immovable world, is far more rapid through the abysses of space, and on its own axis, than any of the motions of the things on its surface. So the quiet heart, ‘which moveth altogether if it move at all,’ rests whilst it moves, and moves the more swiftly because of its unbroken repose. That peace of God, which is peace militant, is unbroken amidst all conflicts. The wise old Greeks chose for the protectress of Athens the goddess of Wisdom, and whilst they consecrated to her the olive branch, which is the symbol of peace, they set her image on the Parthenon, helmed and spear-bearing, to defend the peace, which she brought to earth. So this heavenly Virgin, whom the Apostle personifies here, is the ‘winged sentry, all skilful in the wars,’ who enters into our hearts and fights for us to keep us in unbroken peace.

It is possible day by day to go out to toil and care and anxiety and change and suffering and conflict, and yet to bear within our hearts the unalterable rest of God. Deep in the bosom of the ocean, beneath the region where winds howl and billows break, there is calm, but the calm is not stagnation. Each drop from these fathomless abysses may be raised to the surface by the power of the sunbeams, expanded there by their heat, and sent on some beneficent message across the world. So, deep in our hearts, beneath the storm, beneath the raving winds and the curling waves, there may be a central repose, as unlike stagnation as it is unlike tumult; and the peace of God may, as a warrior, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

What is the plain English of that metaphor? Just this, that a man who has that peace as his conscious possession is lifted above the temptations that otherwise would drag him away. The full cup, filled with precious wine, has no room in it for the poison that otherwise might be poured in. As Jesus Christ has taught us, there is such a thing as cleansing a heart in some measure, and yet because it is ‘empty,’ though it is ‘swept and garnished,’ the demons come back again. The best way to be made strong to resist temptation, is to be lifted above feeling it to be a temptation, by reason of the sweetness of the peace possessed. Oh! if our hearts were filled, as they might be filled, with that divine repose, do you think that the vulgar, coarse-tasting baits which make our mouths water now would have any power over us? Will a man who bears in his hands jewels of priceless value, and knows them to be such, find much temptation when some imitation stone, made of coloured glass and a tinfoil backing, is presented to him? Will the world draw us away if we are rooted and grounded in the peace of God? Geologists tell us that climates are changed and creatures are killed by the slow variation of level in the earth. If you and I can only heave our lives up high enough, the foul things that live down below will find the air too pure and keen for them, and will die and disappear; and all the vermin that stung and nestled down in the flats will be gone when we get up to the heights. The peace of God will keep our hearts and thoughts.

III. Now, lastly, notice how we get the peace of God.

My text is an exuberant promise, but it is knit on to something before, by that ‘and’ at the beginning of the verse. It is a promise, as all God’s promises are, on conditions. And here are the conditions. ‘Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God.’ That defines the conditions in part; and the last words of the text itself complete the definition. ‘In Christ Jesus’ describes, not so much where we are to be kept, as a condition under which we shall be kept. How, then, can I get this peace into my turbulent, changeful life?

I answer, first, trust is peace. It is always so; even when it is misplaced we are at rest. The condition of repose for the human heart is that we shall be ‘in Christ,’ who has said, ‘In the world ye shall have tribulation, but in Me ye shall have peace.’ And how may I be ‘in Him’? Simply by trusting myself to Him. That brings peace with God.

The sinless Son of God has died on the Cross, a sacrifice for the sins of the whole world, for yours and for mine. Let us trust to that, and we shall have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ. And ‘in Him’ we have, by trust, inward peace, for He, through our faith, controls our whole natures, and Faith leads the lion in a silken leash, like Spenser’s Una. Trust in Christ brings peace amid outward sorrows and conflicts. When the pilot comes on board the captain does not leave the bridge, but stands by the pilot’s side. His responsibility is past, but his duties are not over. And when Christ comes into my heart, my effort, my judgment, are not made unnecessary, or put on one side. Let Him take the command, and stand beside Him, and carry out His orders, and you will find rest to your souls.

Again, submission is peace. What makes our troubles is not outward circumstances, howsoever afflictive they may be, but the resistance of our spirits to the circumstances. And where a man’s will bends and says, ‘Not mine but Thine be done,’ there is calm. Submission is like the lotion that is applied to mosquito bites--it takes away the irritation, though the puncture be left. Submission is peace, both as resignation and as obedience.

Communion is peace. You will get no quiet until you live with God. Until He is at your side you will always be moved.

So, dear friend, fix this in your minds: a life without Christ is a life without peace. Without Him you may have excitement, pleasure, gratified passions, success, accomplished hopes, but peace never! You never have had it, have you? If you live without Him, you may forget that you have not Him, and you can plunge into the world, and so lose the consciousness of the aching void, but it is there all the same. You never will have peace until you go to Him. There is only one way to get it. The Christless heart is like the troubled sea that cannot rest. There is no peace for it. But in Him you can get it for the asking. ‘The chastisement of our peace was laid upon Him.’ For our sakes He died on the Cross, so making peace. Trust Him as your only hope, Saviour and friend, and the God of peace will ‘fill you with all joy and peace in believing.’ Then bow your wills to Him in acceptance of His providence, and in obedience to His commands, and so, ‘your peace shall be as a river, and your righteousness as the waves of the sea.’ Then keep your hearts in union and communion with Him, and so His presence will keep you in perfect peace whilst conflicts last, and, with Him at your side, you will pass through the valley of the shadow of death undisturbed, and come to the true Salem, the city of peace, where they beat their swords into ploughshares, and learn and fear war no more.4:2-9 Let believers be of one mind, and ready to help each other. As the apostle had found the benefit of their assistance, he knew how comfortable it would be to his fellow-labourers to have the help of others. Let us seek to give assurance that our names are written in the book of life. Joy in God is of great consequence in the Christian life; and Christians need to be again and again called to it. It more than outweighs all causes for sorrow. Let their enemies perceive how moderate they were as to outward things, and how composedly they suffered loss and hardships. The day of judgment will soon arrive, with full redemption to believers, and destruction to ungodly men. There is a care of diligence which is our duty, and agrees with a wise forecast and due concern; but there is a care of fear and distrust, which is sin and folly, and only perplexes and distracts the mind. As a remedy against perplexing care, constant prayer is recommended. Not only stated times for prayer, but in every thing by prayer. We must join thanksgivings with prayers and supplications; not only seek supplies of good, but own the mercies we have received. God needs not to be told our wants or desires; he knows them better than we do; but he will have us show that we value the mercy, and feel our dependence on him. The peace of God, the comfortable sense of being reconciled to God, and having a part in his favour, and the hope of the heavenly blessedness, are a greater good than can be fully expressed. This peace will keep our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; it will keep us from sinning under troubles, and from sinking under them; keep us calm and with inward satisfaction. Believers are to get and to keep a good name; a name for good things with God and good men. We should walk in all the ways of virtue, and abide therein; then, whether our praise is of men or not, it will be of God. The apostle is for an example. His doctrine and life agreed together. The way to have the God of peace with us, is to keep close to our duty. All our privileges and salvation arise in the free mercy of God; yet the enjoyment of them depends on our sincere and holy conduct. These are works of God, pertaining to God, and to him only are they to be ascribed, and to no other, neither men, words, nor deeds.And the peace of God - The peace which God gives. The peace here particularly referred to is that which is felt when we have no anxious care about the supply of our needs, and when we go confidently and commit everything into the hands of God. "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee;" Isaiah 26:3; see the notes at John 14:27.

Which passeth all understanding - That is, which surpasses all that people had conceived or imagined. The expression is one that denotes that the peace imparted is of the highest possible kind. The apostle Paul frequently used terms which had somewhat of a hyperbolical cast (see the notes on Ephesians 3:19; compare John 21:25, and the language here is that which one would use who designed to speak of that which was of the highest order. The Christian, committing his way to God, and feeling that he will order all things aright, has a peace which is nowhere else known. Nothing else will furnish it but religion. No confidence that a man can have in his own powers; no reliance which he can repose on his own plans or on the promises or fidelity of his fellow-men, and no calculations which he can make on the course of events, can impart such peace to the soul as simple confidence in God.

Shall keep your hearts and minds - That is, shall keep them from anxiety and agitation. The idea is, that by thus making our requests known to God, and going to him in view of all our trials and wants, the mind would be preserved from distressing anxiety. The way to find peace, and to have the heart kept from trouble, is thus to go and spread out all before the Lord; compare Isaiah 26:3-4, Isaiah 26:20; Isaiah 37:1-7. The word rendered here "shall keep," is a military term, and means that the mind would be guarded as a camp or castle is. It would be preserved from the intrusion of anxious fears and alarms.

Through Christ Jesus - By his agency, or intervention. It is only in him that the mind can be preserved in peace. It is not by mere confidence in God, or by mere prayer, but it is by confidence in God as he is revealed through the Redeemer, and by faith in him. Paul never lost sight of the truth that all the security and happiness of a believer were to be traced to the Saviour.

7. And—The inseparable consequence of thus laying everything before God in "prayer with thanksgiving."

peace—the dispeller of "anxious care" (Php 4:6).

of God—coming from God, and resting in God (Joh 14:27; 16:33; Col 3:15).

passeth—surpasseth, or exceedeth, all man's notional powers of understanding its full blessedness (1Co 2:9, 10; Eph 3:20; compare Pr 3:17).

shall keep—rather, "shall guard"; shall keep as a well-garrisoned stronghold (Isa 26:1, 3). The same Greek verb is used in 1Pe 1:5. There shall be peace secure within, whatever outward troubles may besiege.

hearts and minds—rather, "hearts (the seat of the thoughts) and thoughts" or purposes.

through—rather as Greek, "in Christ Jesus." It is in Christ that we are "kept" or "guarded" secure.

He adds, as an encouragement to prayer, the peace of God, who was in Christ reconciling the world unto himself, so that upon believing and obeying the gospel, they who really do so are reconciled to him, 2 Corinthians 5:19,20, and at peace with him, Romans 5:1, through Christ, who leaves and gives peace to his, John 14:27. It is then the peace of God, in that he is the object, the donor, the author of it, by his Spirit, to those who persevere in the communion of Christ, as in Philippians 4:9, have the God of peace with them, and a sense thereof in their own spirits.

Which passeth all understanding: how it transcends a finite understanding, may be answered:

1. In that he who hath perceived it, before he had done so, could not sufficiently conceive in his own mind what at length it might be, 1 Corinthians 2:9: hence:

2. After it is perceived, it cannot be that any one should esteem and express the power and virtue of it, according to the worth and excellency of the matter. Not that the peace should affect the heart, the will without the intervention of the understanding; since it is said to keep the heart and mind; and, Revelation 2:17, the white stone given to believers (whereby this peace is signified) is of that kind, which no man knoweth save he that receiveth it; and it is no new thing in Scripture, to say that doth exceed all understanding, which human understanding doth not so distinctly conceive as to be able to express it, as Ephesians 3:19. So man’s mind doth receive that which is taken into admiration, that it perceives something always to remain, which it hath notice of, yet cannot so perceive as to express the whole of it.

Shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; wherefore they who are really interested in this peace shall be kept as in a garrison, 1 Peter 1:5. So their whole souls shall be in safety against the assaults of Satan, their affections and reasoning shall be so kept in order, that, through Christ, they shall not finally fall. And the peace of God which passeth all understanding,.... Not that peace which God calls his people to among themselves in their effectual calling; and which he requires of them to cultivate and maintain; and which he encourages in them by the promise of his gracious presence among them; and which indeed he is the author of, and therefore is so called, Colossians 3:15; and which may be said to surpass or exceed all speculative knowledge, and understanding; for the one puffs up and profits nothing, but the other edifies; and much less that peace which God has in himself, who is all peace and love, and which passes all understanding, human and angelic; but either that peace which is made with God by the blood of Christ, and is published in the Gospel of peace, which passes and surprises all understanding of men and angels, that it should be; that the thoughts of God should be concerning it from everlasting; that a council of peace should be called and held between the eternal Three, and a covenant of peace entered into; that Christ should be appointed the peace maker, and the chastisement of it laid on him; that he should make it by the blood of his cross, and for men, while enemies to God and to himself: or else that peace of conscience, which arises from a view of peace made by Christ; of justification by his righteousness, and atonement by his sacrifice; and which may be called "the peace of Christ", as the Alexandrian copy reads; both because it is founded upon, and springs from him, and is what he is the donor of: and this is what passes the understanding of every natural man; he knows nothing of this peace, what this tranquillity of mind means; he intermeddles not with this joy; it is unaccountable to him how it should be, that such then should have peace, who have so much trouble, are so much reproached, afflicted, and persecuted, and yet have peace in Christ, while they have tribulation in the world; which

shall keep your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ, or "in Christ Jesus": some read these words prayer wise, or as a wish, "let it", or "may it keep", so the Vulgate Latin; but they are rather a promise, encouraging the saints to the discharge of the above duties; as rejoicing always in the Lord, showing their moderation to all men, avoiding anxious care, and betaking themselves at all times, on all occasions, to prayer to God; in which way they may expect peace, and such as will be of that see vice to them, as here expressed; that is, be a means of their final perseverance; for the peace of God, in either sense, is a preservation of the saints: peace made with God secures them in Christ from all condemnation by the law, sin, Satan, the world, or their own hearts; and peace in their own souls, on so good a foundation as it is, keeps them through Christ as in a garrison, from being overset with the troubles of the world, or the temptations of Satan; and is a means of preserving them from being carried away with the errors and heresies of the wicked, having a witness to truth within themselves; and from every evil way and work, from profaneness and immorality; the grace of God teaching them, and the love of Christ constraining them, which is shed abroad in their hearts, to live and act otherwise.

And the {g} peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your {h} hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

(g) That great quietness of mind, which God alone gives in Christ.

(h) He divides the mind into the heart, that is, into that part which is the seat of the will and affections, and into the higher part, by which we understand and reason about matters.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Php 4:7. The blessed result, which the compliance with Php 4:6 will have for the inner man. How independent is this blessing of the concrete granting or non-granting of what is prayed for!

ἡ εἰρήνη τ. Θεοῦ] the peace of soul produced by God (through the Holy Spirit; comp. χαρὰ ἐν πνεύματι ἁγίῳ, Romans 14:17), the repose and satisfaction of the mind in God’s counsel and love, whereby all inward discord, doubt, and variance are excluded, such as it is expressed e.g. in Romans 8:18; Romans 8:28. So in substance most expositors, including Rheinwald, Flatt, Baumgarten-Crusius, Hoelemann, Rilliet, de Wette, Wiesinger, Ewald, Weiss, Hofmann, and Winer. This view—and not (in opposition to Theodoret and Pelagius) that explanation of peace in the sense of harmony with the brethren (Romans 15:33; Romans 16:20; 2 Corinthians 13:11; 1 Thessalonians 5:23; 2 Thessalonians 3:16), which corresponds to the ordinary use of the correlative ὁ Θεὸς τῆς εἰρήνης in Php 4:9—is here required on the part of the context, both by the contrast of μεριμνᾶτε in Php 4:6, and by the predicate ἡ ὑπερέχουσα πάντα νοῦν. The latter, if applicable to the peace of harmony, would express too much and too general an idea; it is, on the other hand, admirably adapted to the holy peace of the soul which God produces, as contrasted with the μέριμνα, to which the feeble νοῦς by itself is liable; as, indeed, in the classical authors also (Plat. Rep. p. 329 C, p. 372 D), and elsewhere (Wis 3:3), εἰρήνη denotes the tranquillitas and securitas, the mental γαλήνη (Plat. Legg. vii. p. 791 A) and ἡσυχία—a rest, which here is invested by τοῦ Θεοῦ with the consecration of divine life. Comp. εἰρήνη τοῦ Χριστοῦ, Colossians 3:15; John 14:27; and, on the other hand, the false εἰρήνη κ. ἀσφάλεια, 1 Thessalonians 5:3. It is therefore not to be understood, according to Romans 5:1, as “pax, qua reconciliati estis Deo” (Erasmus, Paraphr.; so Chrysostom, ἡ καταλλαγὴ, ἡ ἀγάπη τ. Θεοῦ; and Theophylact, Oecumenius, Beza, Estius, Wetstein, and others, including Storr, Matthies, and van Hengel), which would be too general and foreign to the context. The peace of reconciliation is the presupposition of the divinely produced moral feeling which is here meant; the former is εἰρήνη πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, the latter εἰρήνη τοῦ Θεοῦ.

ἡ ὑπερέχουσα πάντα νοῦν] which surpasses every reason, namely, in regard to its salutary power and efficacy; that is, which is able more than any reason to elevate above all solicitude, to comfort and to strengthen. Because the reason in its moral thinking, willing, and feeling is of itself too weak to confront the power of the σάρξ (Romans 7:23; Romans 7:25; Galatians 5:17), no reason is in a position to give this clear holy elevation and strength against the world and its afflictions. This can be effected by nothing but the agency of the divine peace, which is given by means of the Spirit in the believing heart, when by its prayer and supplication with thanksgiving it has elevated itself to God and has confided to Him all its concerns, 1 Peter 5:7. Then, in virtue of this blessed peace, the heart experiences what it could not have experienced by means of its own thinking, feeling, and willing. According to de Wette, the doubting and heart-disquieting νοῦς is meant, which is surpassed by the peace of God, because the latter is based upon faith and feeling. In opposition to this, however, stands the πάντα, according to which not merely all doubting reason, but every reason is meant. No one, not even the believer and regenerate, has through his reason and its action what he has through the peace of God. Others have explained it in the sense of the incomprehensibleness of the peace of God, “the greatness of which the understanding cannot even grasp” (Wiesinger). So Chrysostom, Oecumenius, Theophylact, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Grotius, also Hoelemann and Weiss. Comp. Ephesians 3:20. But the context, both in the foregoing μηδὲν μεριμνᾶτε and in the φρουρήσει κ.τ.λ. which follows, points only to the blessed influence, in respect of which the peace of God surpasses every kind of reason whatever, and consequently is more efficacious than it. It is a ὑπερέχειν τῇ δυνάμει; Paul had no occasion to bring into prominence the incomprehensibleness of the εἰρήνη Θεοῦ.

On ὑπερέχειν with the accusative (usually with the genitive, Php 2:3), see Valckenaer, ad Eur. Hippol. 1365; Kühner, II. 1, p. 337.

φρουρήσει κ.τ.λ.] not custodiat (Vulgate, Chrysostom, Theodoret, Theophylact: ἀσφαλίσαιτο, Luther, Calovius, Cornelius a Lapide, and others, including Storr, Heinrichs, Flatt), but custodiet (Castalio, Beza, Calvin), whereby protection against all injurious influences (comp. 1 Peter 1:5) is promised. Comp. Plat. Rep. p. 560 B: οἱἄριστοι φρουροί τε καὶ φύλακες ἐν ἀνδρῶν θεοφιλῶν εἰσὶ διανοίαις. Eur. Suppl. 902: ἐφρούρει (πολλοὺς) μηδὲν ἐξαμαρτάνειν. “Animat eos hac fiducia,” Erasmus, Annot. This protecting vigilance is more precisely defined by ἐν Χ. ., which expresses its specific character, so far as this peace of God is in Christ as the element of its nature and life, and therefore its influence, protecting and keeping men’s hearts, is not otherwise realized and carried out than in this its holy sphere of life, which is Christ. The φρουρά which the peace of God exercises implies in Christ, as it were, the φρουραρχία (Xen. Mem. iv. 4. 17). Comp. Colossians 3:15, where the εἰρήνη τοῦ Χριστοῦ βραβεύει in men’s hearts. Others consider ἐν Χ. . as that which takes place on the part of the readers, wherein the peace of God would keep them, namely “in unity with Christ, in His divinely-blessed, holy life,” de Wette; or ὥστε μένειν καὶ μὴ ἐκπεσεῖν αὐτοῦ, Oecumenius, comp. Chrysostom, Theophylact, Luther, Zanchius, and others, including Heinrichs, Storr, Flatt, Rheinwald, van Hengel, Matthies, Rilliet, Wiesinger, Weiss. But the words do not affirm wherein watchful activity is to keep or preserve the readers (Paul does not write τηρήσει; comp. John 17:11), but wherein it will take place; therefore the inaccurate rendering per Christum (Erasmus, Grotius, Estius, and others) is so far more correct. The artificial suggestion of Hoelemann (“Christo fere cinguli instar τὰς καρδίας ὑμῶν κ.τ.λ. circumcludente,” etc.) is all the less warranted, the more familiar the idea ἐν Χριστῷ was to the apostle as representing the element in which the life and action, as Christian, move.

The pernicious influences themselves, the withholding and warding off of which are meant by φρουρήσει κ.τ.λ., are not to be arbitrarily limited, e.g. to opponents (Heinrichs), or to Satan (Beza, Grotius, and others), or sin (Theophylact), or pravas cogitationes (Calvin), or “omnes insultus et curas” (Bengel), and the like; but to be left quite general, comprehending all such special aspects. Erasmus well says (Paraphr.): “adversus omnia, quae hic possunt incidere formidanda.”

τὰς καρδ. ὑμ. κ. τὰ νοήμ. ὑμῶν] emphatically kept apart. It is enough to add Bengel’s note: “cor sedes cogitationum.” Comp. Roos, Fundam. psychol. ex sacr. script. III. § 6: “causa cogitationum interna eaque libera.” The heart is the organ of self-consciousness, and therefore the moral seat of the activity of thought and will. As to the νοήματα (2 Corinthians 3:14) as the internal products of the theoretical and practical reason, and therefore including purposes and plans (Plat. Polit. p. 260 D; 2 Corinthians 2:11), comp. Beck, bibl. Seelenl. p. 59, and Delitzsch, Psychol, p. 179. The distinction is an arbitrary one, which applies τ. καρδ. to the emotions and will, and τ. νοήμ. to the intelligence (Beza, Calvin).Php 4:7. Hpt[30]. would put no stop at the close of Php 4:6. Whether there be a stop or not, this verse is manifestly a kind of apodosis to the preceding. “If you make your requests, etc., … then the peace … shall guard,” etc. ἡ εἰρ. τ. Θ. Paul’s favourite thought of that health and harmonious relation which prevail in the inner life as the result of reconciliation with God through Jesus Christ. Cf. Matthew 11:28. It would be an undue restriction of his thought to imagine that he only refers to agreement between members of the Church, although, no doubt, that idea is here included. “This peace is like some magic mirror, by the dimness growing on which we may discern the breath of an unclean spirit that would work us ill” (Rendel Harris, Memoranda Sacra, p. 130; the quotation skilfully catches the spiritual conception before Paul’s mind). To share anxiety with God is to destroy its corroding power and to be calmed by His peace. Peace is used as a name of God in the Talmud (see Taylor, Jewish Fathers, pp. 25–26).—ἡ ὑπερέχ. πάντα νοῦν. “Which surpasses every thought, all our conception.” (So also Chr[31]., Erasm., Weizs., Moule, Von Soden, etc.). This meaning seems inevitable from the parallel in Ephesians 3:20, τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ ὑπὲρ πάντα ποιῆσαι ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ὧν αἰτούμεθα ἢ νοοῦμεν, and Cf. Php 4:19, τὴν ὑπερβάλλουσαν τῆς γνώσεως ἀγάπην τοῦ Χ. Space forbids the enumeration of the many interpretations given. Wordsworth (Prelude, Bk. 14) defines this peace as “repose in moral judgments”.—νοῦνκαρδίαςνοήματα. νοῦς, very much what we call “reason,” in Paul’s view, belongs to the life of the σάρξ. It is the highest power in that life, and affords, as it were, the material on which the Divine πνεῦμα can work. It remains in those who possess the πνεῦμα as that part of the inner man which is exposed to earthly influences and relations. (See an admirable note in Ws[32].) καρδία is “a more undefined concept, side by side with νοῦς” (so Lüdemann, Anthropol., p. 16 ff.). It has to do not merely with feelings but with will. νοήματα are products of the νοῦς, thoughts or purposes. Paul would probably regard them as being contained in the καρδία. The word is found five times in 2 Cor. and nowhere else in N.T.—φρουρήσει. A close parallel is 1 Peter 1:5, τοὺς ἐν δυνάμει Θεοῦ φρουρουμένους διὰ πίστεως εἰς σωτηρίαν. Hicks (Class. Review, i., pp. 7–8) presses the figure of a garrison keeping ward over a town, and observes that one of the most important elements in the history of the Hellenistic period was the garrisoning of the cities both in Greece and Asia Minor by the successors of Alexander the Great. Cf. Galatians 3:23. The peace of God is the garrison of the soul in all the experiences of its life, defending it from the external assaults of temptation or anxiety, and disciplining all lawless desires and imaginations within, that war against its higher purposes.—ἐν Χ. . Christ Jesus is the sure refuge and the atmosphere of security.

[30] Haupt.

[31] Chrysostom.

[32] . Weiss.7. And] An important link. The coming promise of the Peace of God is not isolated, but in deep connexion.

the peace of God] The chastened but glad tranquillity, caused by knowledge of the God of peace, and given by His Spirit to our spirit. Cp. Colossians 3:15 (where read, “the peace of Christ”); John 14:27. The long and full previous context all leads up to this; the view of our acceptance in and for Christ alone (Php 3:3-9); the deepening knowledge of the living Lord and His power (10); the expectation, in the path of spiritual obedience, of a blessed future (11–21); watchful care over communion with Christ, and over a temper befitting the Gospel, and over the practice of prayer (Php 4:1-6).

Here is the true “Quietism” of the Scriptures.

all understanding] “All mind,” “all thinking power.” Our truest reason recognizes that this peace exists, because God exists; our articulate reasoning cannot overtake its experiences; they are always above, below, beyond. Cp. Ephesians 3:19.

shall keep] Observe the definite promise; not merely an aspiration, or even an invocation. Cp. Isaiah 26:3. The Latin versions, mistakenly, read custodiat.

R.V., shall guard. This is better, except as it breaks in on the immemorial music of the Benediction. All the older English versions have “keep”, except the Genevan, which has “defend.” “Guard” (or “defend”) represents correctly the Greek verb, which is connected with nouns meaning “garrison,” “fort,” and the like, and also prevents the mistake of explaining the sentence—“shall keep you in Christ, prevent you from going out of Christ.” What it means is that, “in Christ Jesus,” who is the one true spiritual Region of blessing, the peace of God shall protect the soul against its foes. hearts] The word in Scripture includes the whole “inner man”; understanding, affections, will.

minds] Lit. and better, thoughts, acts of mind. The holy serenity of the believer’s spirit, in Christ Jesus, shall be the immediate means of shielding even the details of mental action from the tempter’s power. Cp. Ephesians 6:16, where the “faith” which accepts and embraces the promise occupies nearly the place given here to the peace which is the substance of the promise.

through Christ Jesus] Lit. and better, in.—See last note but two.Php 4:7. Ἡ εἰρήνη, the peace) Peace, free from all anxiety [the companion of joy; comp. Php 4:9.—V. g.]—ἡ ὑπερέχουσα πάντα νοῦν) that exceedeth all understanding, and therefore every request; Ephesians 3:20.—φρουρήσει) will keep; it will defend you against all inroads (assaults) and anxieties, and will correct whatever is wanting to the suitableness (dexteritati, to the spiritual skilfulness, happiness of expression) of your desires, Romans 8:26-27.—καρδίαςνοήματα, hearts—thoughts) The heart is the seat of the thoughts.Verse 7. - And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding. The peace which God gives, which flows from the sense of his most gracious presence, and consists in childlike confidence and trustful love. This peace passeth all understanding; its calm blessedness transcends the reach of human thought; it can be known only by the inner experience of the believer. The similar passage, Ephesians in 20, "Unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think," seems decisive for the ordinary interpretation. Bishop Light-foot, Meyer, and others take another view of the passage: "Surpassing every device or counsel of man. i.e. which is far better, which produces a higher satisfaction, than all punctilious self-assertion, all anxious forethought." Shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus; rather, as R.V., shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Peace shall guard - "a verbal paradox, for to guard is a warrior's duty" (Bishop Lightfoot). The peace of God abiding in the heart is a sure and trusty garrison, guarding it so that the evil spirit, once cast out, cannot return. The thoughts issue from the heart; for the heart, as commonly in the Hebrew Scriptures, is regarded as the seat of the intellect, not of feeling only. In Christ Jesus; in the sphere of his influence, his presence. True believers, abiding in Christ, realize his promise, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." Peace of God

As the antidote to anxiety, Philippians 4:6.

Which passeth all understanding (ἡ ὑπερέχουσα πάντα νοῦν).

Either, which passes all power of comprehension, compare Ephesians 3:20; or, better, which surpasses every (human) reason, in its power to relieve anxiety. Compare Matthew 6:31, Matthew 6:32. For understanding, see on Romans 7:23.

Shall keep (φρουρήσει)

Lit., guard, as Rev., or mount guard over. God's peace, like a sentinel, patrols before the heart. Compare Tennyson:

"Love is and was my King and Lord,

And will be, though as yet Ikeep

Within his court on earth, and sleep

Encompassed by his faithful guard,

And hear at times a sentinel

Who moves about from place to place,

And whispers to the worlds of space,

continued...

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