Whatever is Noble

The second type of virtuous thought Paul tells us to have in Philippians 4:8 is that which is “noble” or “honorable.” This is the Greek word semnos, which is used only four times in the Greek New Testament, all by Paul.

Here are the four uses (copied from the teknia.com website in the Greek Dictionary entry for semnos):

Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable (semna | σεμνά | nom pl neut), whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
1 Timothy 3:8 Deacons, likewise, must be dignified (semnous | σεμνούς | acc pl masc), not gossips, not addicted to wine, not greedy for gain,
1 Timothy 3:11 Wives likewise must be dignified (semnas | σεμνάς | acc pl fem), not slanderers, clear-minded, faithful in all things.
Titus 2:2 Older men should be clear-minded, dignified (semnous | σεμνούς | acc pl masc), self-controlled, healthy in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.

So we are to be like deacons, wives, and old men! What does that mean? Well, Paul doesn’t elaborate much, but we can assume that the word refers to a type of honorable countenance – the overall attitude you sense from someone of high nobility. And I don’t mean the mean type of attitude that comes from an evil king or queen. I mean the kind of dignity you sense from Queen Elizabeth. She is proper, humble, gentle, and kind. Yet at the same time she is strong, confident, and carries with her a sense of noble responsibility (that I hear she carries very well).

How do we think about such things? We fill our minds with things that surround us in all the senses. So if we view ourselves as noble sons and daughters of the King of heaven, then we will surround ourselves with noble things – things that bring honor to our noble family name. I’m not talking about sitting in gold thrones or driving Bentley cars. I’m talking about being generous with our resources towards others, being wise in our decision-making, being humble in our attitudes, thinking about how our lives affect others and not just ourselves, and watching and listening to things that help us grow and not rot away.

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Jesse Joyner travels nationwide performing a comedy juggling act for family and kids events. He is also working towards his PhD in Educational Studies at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Deerfield, IL). He enjoys playing the piano, bird watching, and old houses. He lives in Richmond, VA with his wife, Sarah, and their daughter, Kezzie.

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