Tucked away in the midst of rejoicing in verse four and not being anxious from verse six, enabling us to pray about everything andhave the God of peace which surpasses our understanding guard and keep our minds in Christ Jesus, we find this command ~ Let your moderation be known unto all men.
Let’s consider this word, moderation and see how we can work to develop some “sweet reasonableness” in our lives. Paul said, “Deliver me from wicked and unreasonable men, for all men have not faith.” Meaning some have never learned how to take the words of the Lord and make them the words of life.
A definition of “moderation” from E.W. Bullinger, in his‘A Critical Lexicon and Concordance to the English and Greek New Testament (Fifth Edition, Revised, 1908., p. 317). London: Longmans, Green, & Co. - reads ἐπιεικής, fitting upon, i.e. fit, meet, suitable; hence, fair, reasonable, esp. opp. to δίκαιος (righteous), i.e., not insisting on the letter of the law, considerate, forbearing, kind, fair, (occ. Phil. 4:5; 1 Tim. 3:3.)
The often quoted J.H.Thayer states in his work (1889). A Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: being Grimm’s Wilke's Clavis Novi Testamenti (p. 238). New York: Harper & Brothers. Comments ~ ἐπιείκεια mildness, gentleness, fairness, [‘sweet reasonableness’ ](Matthew Arnold)]:
We are looking at our ability to process thought to the end that achieves sweet reasonableness. That isn’t held or insisting on holding to the “letter of the law” but each situation is allowed to be judged by the Spirit of God so the words that come are filled with life, hope, edification, comfort, correction all delivered from the right heart (the Father’s) and not from our religion.
I’m keenly aware it was the Pharisees and Sadducees that Jesus rebuked for making their converts twice the disciple of hell. Hebrews 4:12 reminds us it is only the word of God that has the ability to rightly divide soul and spirit and discerns the thoughts and intent of the heart.
We may know what the word says, but it is knowing the right word to use in the right way that is proof of moderation. The woman caught in adultery, John 8:27, exposed before Jesus was met with the indisputable wisdom of God in a moderate, gentle, fitting, way. Jesus states, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone.” The law said stone her. The scribes and pharisees wanted to kill her. Jesus gave her life.
Just as in every circumstances there is a right response, there is a right thought that we are to hold. I like to remind myself about Isaiah 55. While his ways and thoughts are above mine, they are not impossible to know or hold. We have the mind of Christ and it is always, according to 1 Corinthians given and discerned through the Holy Spirit.
Discovery Bible ‘Word Study Helps’ offers this insight from the Greek word # 1933 epieikēs(an adjective, derived from 1909/epí, "on, fitting" and eikos, "equitable, fair"; also see the noun-form, 1932/epieíkeia, "equity-justice") – properly, equitable; "gentle" in the sense of relaxing strict standards when that is necessary to keep the "spirit of the law."
1933/epieikēs ("justice beyond ordinary justice") builds on the real intent (purpose) at stake (note the epi, "upon") – hence, true equity that fulfills the spirit (not just "the letter") of the situation.
1933/epieikēs ("in true equity") expresses "sweet reasonableness" that takes into account "the whole picture" and does not enforce a standard that would be "unjust because of its generality" (Wm Barclay). 1933/epieikēs ("equitably fair") then suggests what is suitably lenient or strict. This works in accordance with all the facts of the individual situation, i.e. as it stands on its own (unique) merits.
1 This root (epiek-) is difficult to translate with a one-word equivalent because it expresses justice (equity) that goes beyond the strict letter of the law, to keep the true intent (spirit) of the law (Wm Barclay, G. R. Berry). 1933 (epieikēs) conveys elevating substance over form, i.e. the spirit of a matter strictly over the letter.
1933/epieikēs ("appropriately reasonable") treats a situation on its own merits, and hence is "appropriately (aptly) yielding" when the case truly calls for it (note the epi, "upon its own merits").
1933/epieikēs ("truly equitable") relates to weighing the facts according to God's perfect standard of justice (see also the LXX at Ps 86:5). The Holy Spirit reveals true justice through faith ("God's inbirthed persuasion," 4102/pístis). Here God leads (persuades) us on how to "match up" the letter of the law with its inner reality (the spirit of the law). Without this, people ruin opportunities and relationships – like when "shooting a flea with an elephant gun" (acting disproportionately).
True justice is always divinely-determined, i.e. beyond the parameters of human justice. God's justice comes by hearing His voice and obeying it.
Reflection: Thomas a Kempis, "It is easier to be silent altogether than to speak with moderation.”
As I considered all of this, I couldn’t help but think of 1 Corinthians 2.14 “The natural
person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is
not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual
person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has
understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.”
Let’s strive for some of this “sweet reasonableness” in processing of all our
judgments. Let us make sure if we err, we err with mercy being exalting above
judgment, knowing it is with the same measure we meet that it is measured
back unto us.