The Blessing of Repetition
“Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you.”- Philippians 3:1
In our study of Paul’s epistle to the Philippians thus far, we have seen the Apostle move back and forth between news of his own situation and various points of instruction that the Philippian Christians needed to hear. He has covered various topics, such as the progress of the gospel in the city of Rome while he was in prison (Phil. 1:12–18a); the role of suffering as an evidence of faith (vv. 27–30); service to one another in imitation of Christ (2:1–18); and his interactions with and plans for Timothy and Epaphroditus (vv. 19–30). But this is not all that Paul has to tell the Philippians and the Christians who would live after their era. Thus, he moves on in today’s passage to additional teachings that are essential to living before the face of God in a manner that pleases Him.
We should not read the term finally in Philippians 3:1 as if Paul is bringing his letter to a conclusion immediately. Instead, the word functions more as a transition, as if the Apostle is saying something like, “Here are some further and final matters I need to discuss.” These final matters are summed up in the phrase “rejoice in the Lord,” and what follows in the rest of Philippians 3–4 are some of the ways that believers can express their joy in Christ. Although Paul is undoubtedly basing his language on the Psalms and their frequent linking of rejoicing in the Lord with verbal expressions of praise (Pss. 32:11; 40:16; 97:12), the Apostle’s presentation of rejoicing in the Lord includes a specific manner of life. This is not surprising, of course, because Scripture, the Psalms included, is never concerned merely with what we say but also with what we do and the attitudes of our hearts.
As for the outworking of joy in the Lord that Paul commends in the remainder of the epistle, we read that he is writing “the same things” (Phil. 3:1), that is, the same things he has taught the Philippians before. Essentially, the Apostle is telling his original audience that what he is about to say is nothing new; he has already conveyed these matters to them on past occasions. Just like us, the Philippians struggled with sins that dulled their minds, and they needed a reminder of past teachings lest they forget them. Like the Philippians, we need to be reminded again and again of what we have been taught, for we are quick to forget.
God is gracious to us in our weaknesses, and, understanding that we are quick to forget, repeats Himself often in Scripture. In many ways, the Bible is a very repetitive book, and that is a good thing. Thus, we should never tire of hearing and reading the same lessons again and again, whether it is in our own personal Bible study, time spent reading Scripture with others, or hearing the preached Word of God week after week.
Passages for Further Study