Faithlife Sermons

Rejoice! The Lord of Peace Comes to You!

Advent 3  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
0 ratings

That the hearers repent of living their lives as though the Lord has not appeared in their midst and, instead, seeing his presence among them, rejoice always, show forbearance, and be anxious about nothing, by requesting all things from God.

Sermon Tone Analysis
View more →
Liturgical Setting
Rejoice! The Lord of Peace Comes to You!
Other Lessons: ; ; (29–35)
Sermon Theme: Rejoice! The Lord of peace comes to you!
Sermon Goal: That the hearers repent of living their lives as though the Lord has not appeared in their midst and, instead, seeing his presence among them, rejoice always, show forbearance, and be anxious about nothing, by requesting all things from God.
Rejoice, Rejoice, Believers LSB 515
Hark! A Thrilling Voice Is Sounding LSB 345
Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord LSB 352
Jesus Came, the Heavens Adoring LSB 353
Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri
Liturgical Setting
The Third Sunday in Advent continues the theme of preparation for the coming of the rule and reign of God in the advent of the Lord, the messianic Son of God. The Gospels from the first two Sundays in Advent in Series C focused upon the coming of the Lord to Jerusalem (), the coming of the Son of Man at the end of the age (), and the preparatory voice of John the Baptist () announcing the advent of the Lord’s reign in Jesus’ ministry. On this Sunday, the focus is upon the recognition that the rule and reign of God, as John prophesied, has arrived in Jesus, as the dead are raised up and the poor have good news preached to them.
As Advent developed in parallel to Lent as a penitential preparatory season for Christmas and Epiphany, it became a period for fasting, reflection over sin, and confession. While this penitential mood often overwhelmed the season, crushing the joy out of expectant hope for the Lord’s return, the Third Sunday in Advent became a respite in the penitential discipline. The antiphon for the Introit, drawn from this Sunday’s Epistle (), sounds the note of joy in the midst of penitence: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (v 4). As Advent colors and the Advent wreath developed (the wreath being a practice of piety originating in the home), the third Sunday adopted the color of rose, in parallel to Laetare, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, which also sounds a joyful theme in Lent’s midst. Thus, a pink candle appears among the purple. (Adopting blue as the color for Advent, though, usually entails maintaining blue on all four Sundays.) Continuing to highlight the theme of joy on this Sunday, especially if a congregation has practiced some form of penitential discipline in Advent such as fasting, would be appropriate, especially in Series C when the Introit’s antiphon is still .
The Old Testament Reading, , evokes the theme of joy as well. The prophet calls Israel to rejoice and exult with all her heart because her King is in their midst to save them. The advent of the King of Israel, the judge of the nations, will be a day of salvation and restoration for those whom he will gather in among his people. Unexpectedly, the King will gather the lame and the outcast, a sign that he has truly come into the midst of his people. In the Gospel, in answer to the question whether Jesus is the one who is to come, Jesus says to John’s messengers that “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up” (). In Jesus, the Lord is restoring the fortunes of Israel (). The advent of Christ is good news for those who are not offended by him. John the Baptist, the very messenger promised beforehand in , prepared his way. But many are offended because Jesus proclaims release to sinners. The offense he causes will lead him to pain, suffering, and death. Yet wisdom, Christ himself, is justified by her children, among whom he will be the firstborn from the dead.
The Epistle proclaims the peace that is the condition of life for all who receive the advent of the King. As Paul says, the Lord is at hand; he will come again soon. And as with his first advent, his coming will bring peace to his people, gathering both Jewish and Gentile sinners to himself. So Paul calls his church, as Zephaniah did the church of Israel, to “rejoice in the Lord always.”
In order to express liturgically the interrelationship of today’s texts, an interesting consideration arises. It is appropriate to restore the Maranatha, “Come, Lord Jesus” (), as a liturgical cry of the Church. We use it at Concordia Seminary throughout the season of Advent, usually at the beginning and end of worship services. Another likely occasion for the Maranatha cry occurs in the Lord’s Supper liturgy as the conclusion to the Proclamation of Christ in LSB Divine Service Settings One and Two. The use of that option for the Lord’s Supper liturgy is therefore also encouraged.
Relevant Context
Philippians is Paul’s call to the Church to live in faith as people of joy. The rejoicing of the people of God is grounded in the incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and, finally, the second advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus, the epistle begins with Paul’s thanksgiving, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now” (1:3–5). He thanks God, remembers the Philippians, and prays for the advance of the Gospel, all with joy that cannot be diminished.
Paul makes his first direct appeal to the Philippians to rejoice in the Lord in 3:1, although he advocates for them to live joyfully in chs 1–2. Such rejoicing is possible in all circumstances, even in the midst of conflict and suffering, because the Philippians know Jesus Christ the Lord (3:8). So Paul encourages them to strain toward the goal, their citizenship in heaven, and to await the Savior, who will transform their lowly bodies. On that basis, he encourages his beloved Philippians to stand firm in the Lord. For this reason, he appeals to his fellow workers to agree in the Lord. Their names are written in the Book of Life. This foundation that is Christ Jesus, the Lord of life, is the basis for Paul’s appeals in the text: Rejoice, be reasonable/gentle, and do not be anxious, but pray with thanksgiving. The peace of God will guard them without fail.
Following the peace he proclaims in 4:7, Paul encourages the Philippians to think only about what is true and excellent, following his own example. In all circumstances, the God of peace will be with them. In this way, Paul, throughout the epistle, describes the shape of the lives of those who rejoice in the Lord always.
Textual Notes
V 4: The substance of these textual notes will reflect the insights provided by the socio-rhetorical assessment of Philippians from Ben Witherington in his commentary, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2011), and by commentaries by Peter O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians, The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1991), and Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1995).
This section of Paul’s epistle is a form of peroration that represents a new turn in the letter, but a new turn that returns to the primary themes of joy and forbearance. Throughout this peroration, which includes vv 8–10, Paul’s exhortations are entirely positive. And this positive encouragement affects not only Christian piety (joy) but also the life of the Christian in light of Christ’s presence (prayer and virtuous living). Fundamentally, this epistle focuses upon the sanctified life of the Christian community as formed by the expectancy of the return of Jesus. The sanctified life does not reject the better virtues of the culture but shapes and norms them by Christian virtues such as joy and humility. Paul is concerned with forming a particular character and habit in Christian life.
Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians to “rejoice in the Lord always” is independent of their life circumstances (see also ). Paul most likely writes this letter while in prison in Rome. His imprisonment did not diminish his joy in the Lord. He had already modeled this to the Philippians when he had prayed and had sung hymns to God while in prison there in Philippi (). The Philippians’ joy is grounded in Christ Jesus, who is himself the object of their joy. As Paul notes elsewhere, joy is characteristic of the Christian, a gift of God that comes from the Spirit () and is reflected in the individual Christian within the joyful Christian community (see Gordon Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 403). This command to rejoice in the Lord is the ongoing state of the Christian within the community.
V 5: Each of the exhortations in this pericope is expressed independently of one another and thereby each is made emphatically. With epieikēs, Paul is exhorting the Philippians to demonstrate reasonableness or forbearance with all people. The word conveys humility and patience with a determined steadfastness that willingly trusts God even though one might be mistreated and maligned. Thus, some translations translate it with gentleness or graciousness. But it is a firm and confident gentleness that is characteristic of God himself (). It implies the willingness to meet others in the middle (Witherington, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, 243). Jesus embodies this gracious reasonableness, as Paul indicates in : “by the meekness and gentleness of Christ.” Paul lists this habit as one of the fruits of the spirit in . Paul also exhorts bishops/pastors to be gentle in the same way (). Retaliation is not appropriate for one who is in Christ (see ).
One should exhibit such graciousness because “the Lord is at hand.” He is near both in a spatial sense, within the Church (; ), and in a temporal sense (); he is coming soon. For Paul, the phrase emphasizes that the Lord is among them and is coming soon and will vindicate their cause. It thus provides the impetus for fulfilling all the exhortations in this pericope.
V 6: Paul’s final exhortation, urging the Philippians to stop being “anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let [their] requests be made known to God,” entails the surrender of their wills in everything to God. Being anxious is the natural condition of human life. But Paul’s appeal simply echoes Jesus’ own words to the disciples in the Sermon on the Mount: “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (see ). In praying for all things, one demonstrates that one is striving not to be anxious about anything. And Paul shows the comprehensiveness of prayer by using three synonyms for petition/intercession, along with the term for thanksgiving, eucharistia, in this section. All the terms, proseuchē, deēsis, and aitēma, emphasize that the Philippians should let their requests for themselves and others be made known to God and that they should do so with thanksgiving to God as the one who guards their lives (v 7). In so doing, they manifest their dependency upon the Lord. Making their requests to God with thanksgiving is simply part of their identity as Christians, as Paul also makes clear in and . Because of the righteousness that “comes through faith in Christ” (), the Philippians can live with thanksgiving.
V 7: The final verse reveals the significance of the knowledge that the Lord is at hand: the peace of God belongs to the Philippians, a peace that surpasses all knowledge and understanding. Whether God answers their prayers as they might hope or expect, in all circumstances they can live without anxiety, because the peace of God belongs to them. It is a peace that guards them in any and all anxieties and fears. Like sentries or soldiers who guard a city gate, the peace that is in Christ Jesus protects the Philippians’ hearts and minds, their entire lives! God gives them this peace within their relationship with Christ, and he is himself their peace (see ; ). Then this is a peace that also shapes the life of the entire Christian community. The entire Philippian church lives together in this shared peace in Christ Jesus.
Sermon Outline


It is the Sunday of joy. Advent, in parallel to Lent, acquired a penitential cast in preparation for the coming of the Messiah, the return of Christ to reign over his creation and his Church. Reflection over sin, confession, and fasting have all been helpful disciplines to focus the Church’s preparation for the one who will “supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (). Yet such penitence and abstinence cannot restrain the joy of the coming of the Lord full of grace and truth. So the church, in its penitence and waiting according to St. Paul’s exhortation, cries out:
Philippians 4:19 ESV
And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Rejoice! The Lord of Peace Comes to You!
I. You are and always will be facing opposition.
Paul, in writing to the Philippians, recognizes that the Gospel is facing obstacles and opposition that burden both the Church’s hope in the promise of Christ and the joyful witness to the Good News by the Church (). Obstacles and opposition are no less true in our own day and age, even if in different cultural form and substance.
A. Conflict in the Church.
1. The Philippian congregation faces opposition to its freedom in the Gospel from Judaizing legalists who would seek to impose the Mosaic Law on the Church (3:2–3). The Church today faces legalisms of all kinds that attack our freedom in Christ.
2. The Philippian congregation faces internal con­flict that is dividing God’s people and creating unrest (Euodia and Syntyche, 2:2–3). Congre­ga­tions today face divisions of many kinds that cre­ate unrest.
B. Opposition from the unbelieving world. Hardship and suffering are expected for those who confess Christ as Lord (1:29).
1. Christ himself suffered “even death on a cross” (2:8).
2. Those who are in Christ will suffer for his name’s sake: “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have” (1:29–30).
a. Paul is in prison “for Christ” (1:12–14).
b. The Philippians are called to imitate Paul in his suffering—and in all things (3:17).
II. Stop living as though nothing big has happened. The Lord is here!
In the face of this conflict and opposition from both without and within, the Philippians are living in an unsettled state, anxious and without peace. Their hope in Christ is being undermined by the external circumstances of the Church’s life in the unbelieving world. Paul’s exhortation in this text is intended to build them up and to demonstrate what it means for them to “join in imitating [Paul]” (3:17) and, ultimately, to “have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus” (2:5).
A. What have you seen and heard? “The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” ().
1. The Philippians have seen through Paul and the other apostles’ proclamation what Jesus manifests and proclaims to John the Baptist’s disciples in the Gospel from .
2. The fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy means that, as Paul says in our text, “the Lord is at hand” (v 5). He has come and is here among his people, even his people in Philippi and in every place where the Church assembles.
B. The ministry of Jesus that displays the prophetic fulfillment of the arrival of the Messiah is the very shape of the life of Messiah Jesus. As Paul recounts in , Jesus takes on the form of this very mes­si­anic servant and suffers death, even death on a cross, and therefore God highly exalts him by rais­ing him from the dead and bestows upon him before all of creation the very name of God himself, Lord of all in heaven and on earth (2:6–11).
III. Live, trusting that he is here and will return.
Christians do live differently than the rest of the world, and that should be evident to everyone. The basis for living differently is the knowledge that Christ is present with his people now through his Word and will someday return to call his own to himself in the resurrection of the dead. As Paul says,
That by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained. (3:11–16)
Living in this truth, Paul calls us, the Church, to imitate him by:
A. Rejoicing always! Rejoicing is not to be limited. For those who live in Christ, joy is constant. Always!
1. It is the gift of God that comes from walking by the Spirit (). It is one of the many gifts that God gives to those who belong to Christ and upon whom the Spirit has been poured out. Along with other gifts of the Spirit (love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control), constant joy distinguishes the Church from the world.
2. It is independent of life’s circumstances, such as conflict and opposition. Since joy is a gift of the Spirit in Christ, it does not arise from life’s circumstances. No matter the conflict that arises in a congregation that confesses Christ and the opposition that the unbelieving world brings to bear upon the Church, joy is a constant of the Church’s life in the present age. And that joy will shape how we respond to conflict and opposition. We respond as those who live with hope in Christ. (Here it would be appropriate to exhort the congregation to joy in the face of any specific actual conflicts and oppositions that the congregation may be facing.)
B. Showing forbearance, or reasonableness. In a very politicized society like the United States, it is easy for the Church to conform to the world rather than to Christ. American political and social life is not known for its reasonableness and forbearance. The Church should be different, and Paul exhorts the Church living in Christ to do so.
1. This is to show humility and patience with stead­fastness to everyone. Reasonableness and for­bear­ance is to be shown not only to believers but to everyone, including unbelievers, those who oppose and persecute the Church. Forbearance is a gracious gentleness that attends to others wherever they are in life and in understanding. This is what Euodia and Syntyche are called to do.
2. This is to be done in the midst of suffering and conflict. The Church is to demonstrate such forbearance to those who oppose and persecute the Church. Opposition is to be met with gentleness, not with equal opposition. Likewise, conflict within the Church is to be handled with patience and kindness (). Hatred and derision between brothers and sisters in Christ has no place in the Church. All conflict within the Church is to be handled by brothers and sisters who love one another in Christ, with humility in themselves and with gentleness toward their brother and sister.
C. Being anxious about nothing. Paul’s exhortation concludes with a call for the Church not to be anxious about anything. Recognition that the living Lord is present among his people means that anxi­ety and fear have no place among God’s people. (The illustration presented on p 4 could be inserted here.)
1. Instead of being anxious, we pray with thanksgiving to God the Father about all things and all people. The Church is shaped to strive to live without anxiety by praying for everything. Praying for everything demonstrates that one’s trust is in the Lord, who will attend to every need and every request of God’s people. Entrusting everything to God through prayer means that there is nothing about which God’s people need be or should be anxious.
2. Instead of being anxious, we know through the Word, lived out in prayer, God’s peace, which will indeed guard hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Through the prayer that the Church offers in the Word, the Church will know and experience that peace of God. Peace in Christ is our divine sentry, the soldier who guards our hearts and minds our entire lives.
Conclusion: It is easy for Christians to be taken captive by the anxieties that fill our earthly lives, especially the fear as to whether the Lord of all creation is in our midst. He is risen from the dead and exalted above every name in heaven and on earth. He is at hand, here, in the presence of his people. Don’t be anxious about anything. On this day, during this season of Advent, of coming, rejoice! The Lord of peace comes to you! Amen.
Related Media
Related Sermons