Philippians 4:8: “…If there is any Virtue…think on these things.” (New Heart English Bible )
If we are to “take every thought captive” (2 Cor. 10:5, NASB), then we need to know what kinds of things deserve to be let into the doors of our minds. Everything else gets entry refused. Philippians 4:8 gives us a checklist of things we should be thinking about: true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, worthy to be repeated, virtuous, and praiseworthy things. Today we will be looking at the seventh in this list: virtuous.
This is another hard word to translate from Greek into English, because there’s no one-to-one equivalent. Zodhiates explains this Greek word as “denot[ing] in a moral sense what gives man his worth, his efficiency. In the NT: virtue, excellency, perfection (1 Pet. 2:9); the virtue as a force or energy of the Holy Spirit…human virtue in general (Phil. 4:8); courage, fortitude, resolution (2 Pet. 1:5), moral excellence.”
I learned something new this week, when I “happened” to research virtue in my new Bible Dictionary that I hadn’t even used before! 😊 Traditional Catholic philosophy focuses on four virtues that are “hinge” virtues: Prudence (practical wisdom), fortitude (courage), moderation (self-control), and justice (righteousness). The Catholics distinguish these most important Cardinal virtues from others, both intellectual and supernatural. Intellectual virtues are wisdom, science, and understanding; supernatural virtues are aimed at God: faith, hope, and love (Dictionary of Christianity in America, “Virtues, Cardinal,” p.1226-7).
Most of these come down to the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). As we turn more toward God and acknowledge Him in every area of our lives (Proverbs 3:5-6), we will be conformed, made more into the image of His Son (Romans 8:29), not to the world (Romans 12:2).
2 Peter 1:3-7: “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us toc his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love” (ESV).
Titus 1:7: “For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain…” (ESV).
For older women:
Titus 2:3: “Tell older women to live their lives in a way that shows they are dedicated to God. Tell them not to be gossips or addicted to alcohol, but to be examples of virtue” (God’s Word Translation).
For all wives:
Proverbs 12:4: “An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who brings shame is like rottenness in his bones” (ESV).
For all Christians:
Proverbs 21:29: “The wicked bluff their way through, but the virtuous think before they act” (NLT).
Psalm 11:7: “For the righteous LORD loves justice. The virtuous will see his face” (NLT).
Psalm 94:15: “Judgment will again be founded on justice, and those with virtuous hearts will pursue it” (NLT).
Romans 12:1-2: “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect” (ESV).
Romans 6:5-18: “For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness” (ESV).
So, when Philippians 4:8 tells us to think on virtuous things, I think it means to think about things that are good and right and holy, morally the best there is; the ultimate would of course always be God. It’s always good to think about God and His Word.
Which fruit of the Spirit do you struggle with most? I struggle with patience, which is weird, because I used to be such a patient person; that somehow stopped when I had kids. 😉 I constantly force myself to remember that “Patience is a Virtue.” What about you? Do you have an example of someone who demonstrates virtue in their lives? Please share in the comments below!
Next and the last in this series on Philippians 4:8: "Whatever is Praiseworthy."