Think These Things – Whatever is Excellent
Throughout our 3Ts – Think These Things study we have endeavored to expand our thoughts beyond our limiting routine.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.Phil.4:8 NIV
WHAT EVER IS EXCELLENT???
That’s a question. What ever IS excellent? Before your study of Philippians 4:8 you may have described many of the virtues listed as equivalent to excellent. Following the dictionary definition of excellent: very good, extremely good that may be true. But let’s refine our thinking a bit more.
IT’S ALL GREEK TO ME!
The Greek word translated excellent in Philippians 4:8 looks like this: ἀρετή and carries the idea of “uncommon character worthy of praise, excellence of character, exceptional civic virtue (a term denoting consummate ‘excellence’ or ‘merit’ within a social context.) Exhibition of ἀρετή invites recognition, resulting in renown or glory.”1
Strong’s Lexicon puts it this way: ἀρετή [arete /ar·et·ay/] 1 a virtuous course of thought, feeling and action. 1a virtue, moral goodness. 2 any particular moral excellence, as modesty, purity.2
Did any of that translate for you? Reading Greek lexicons (think dictionaries) concerning arete is even more confusing! Here’s my theory: When you are describing excellent, you are describing God. How is it possible to be comprehensive in describing an excellent God?
For who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord?Ps. 89:6 NKJV
Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the Lord?
Only as we diligently seek to think whatever is excellent may we begin to see a glimpse of His glory.
Open my eyes, that I may seePs. 119:18 NKJV
Wondrous things from Your law.
Wonderously “… His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3 NASB).
Because of His excellence we are to supplement our faith with a generous provision of moral excellence.
In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.2 Peter 1:5–7 NLT
1 Peter 2:9 exemplifies the iProcess of understanding our identity as we are connected in intimacy producing a natural overflow of industry.
But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.1 Peter 2:9 ESV
Notice that we are to proclaim His excellencies. But, we must see God’s excellencies before we can proclaim them.
JONATHAN EDWARDS ON GOD’S EXCELLENCIES
According to Sam Storms, “[Jonathan] Edwards preached his sermon, “God’s Excellencies,” in the summer of 1722. It was based on his meditations on Psalm 89:6, “For who in the heaven can be compared unto the Lord, and who among the sons of the mighty can be likened unto the Lord?” Edwards decided to take up the challenge and do precisely that: compare things in heaven and earth with the Lord, thereby demonstrating the inferiority of the former and the foolishness of yielding our hearts to them.
“Don’t be afraid of diving into the deep end of the knowledge of God. It is, says Edwards, “a bottomless ocean of wonders that we can never comprehend, but yet may with great pleasure and profit dive further into” (417). Although we are profoundly unworthy of such knowledge (Edwards describes us as “worms and insects, less than insects, nothing at all, yea, less than nothing,” but I’m [Sam Storms] trying to be a bit more politically correct about it), yet “so has God dignified us, that he has made [us] for this very end: to think and be astonished [at] his glorious perfections” (417).
“Edwards’ approach is “to show how vastly God is exalted above all the highest and most perfect of created being” (418) in regard to seven things.
First, “God is infinitely exalted above all creatures in duration” (418)….
Second, “God is infinitely exalted above all created beings in greatness” (419)…
Third, “God is infinitely exalted above all created beings in excellency and loveliness” (420)….
Fourth, “…in power” (421)…. Fifth, “… in wisdom” (422). Sixth, “… in holiness” (423) and, seventh, in his “goodness” (424).
[Sam Storms] “I’ve been necessarily brief in my summation of Edwards. I agree with him that “all that we can say is but clouds and darkness to the reality: the attributes of God, these infinite perfections, cannot be set forth by the eloquence of an angel, much less by mortal tongue. How much too little is the space of one sermon, to speak of that which angels spend an eternity in! . . . So glorious and so excellent is our God; such a being is he that made us, that made these bodies and these souls, and continually upholds us, that keeps us alive, keeps our breath playing in our nostrils; that continually sees us, is present everywhere, is present here now, and sees all our thoughts and knows whether we have any fear of him or love to him, and how we are affected by the consideration of his glorious perfections and wondrous works, and whether or not we regard his holy commands, or are moved by his gracious promises, or terrified by his dreadful threatenings” (424-25).
In Part 2 of Sam Storms sermon on the Excellencies of God he quotes Jonathan Edwards:
“How hath he honored us, in that he hath made us to glorify and enjoy him to all eternity; how are we dignified by our Maker, who hath made us for so high and excellent an end! He has made other creatures for his own glory, but they are passive in it: the sun glorifies God by shining, and the trees by growing, and all things by performing the laws of nature which God has given them. But God has made us actually to glorify, to behold his excellencies and to admire them, and to be made forever happy in the enjoyment of them” (427).
[Still Sam Storms] “…If you ask the average Christian, “How do you know God loves you?” they will often be heard to say something along the lines of: “Because he goes to such great lengths to make much of me. He enhances my sense of self-esteem;” etc. This is the typical notion of love: you are loved when someone makes much of you, when they make sacrifices or toil to elevate you and honor you.
“But listen again to what Edwards said. Let me paraphrase it. “Here is how God has honored us: he has made us and gone to indescribable lengths with great pain to himself to enable us to enjoy him forever. This is the dignity God has bestowed on us, not that he makes much of us but that he graciously supplies us with all things necessary so that we might find unending delight in making much of him!”
When we think and proclaim whatever is excellent we easily move to think and proclaim whatever is praiseworthy. Join us for that conclusion to the 3Ts – Think These Things study next week!
This blog post is part of a series on Philippians 4:8 – Think These Things: Whatever is True , Whatever is Honorable, Whatever is Right, Whatever is Pure, Whatever is Lovely, Whatever is Admirable, Whatever is Excellent, and Whatever is Praiseworthy.
1 William Arndt, Frederick W. Danker, and Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 130.
2 James Strong, Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2001).
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