Philippians 2 v 1-4
Division is the greatest destroyer of joy (cf Mark 3:24-25).
Paul is giving a whole series of exhortations with regards to how to live the Christian life, not only as individuals, but also together as the Lord’s people.
We see the divisions among Evangelicals. People have lost count of how many groupings there are, and they are still growing, because old ones are being split in two. It is always sadness and sorrow that is the result – that unity that produces joy just goes. It’s a very serious indictment against the Lord’s people, because it means that there is serious spiritual ill in and among the Lord’s people when that is the case.
This is Paul’s second exhortation, in which he describes three aspects of unity that produces joy:
- The foundation (v 1)
a. Encouragement/consolation in Christ
Paul does not doubt that there is, but he is stating it as a hypothetical a-priori. He says that because it is there, something else should follow.
It is similar to what we find in Gal. 3:29 where Paul said “if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise”.
The ‘if’ does not suggest that he doubted they were, because in the previous verse he said that they were Christ’s. The ‘if’ means the same as ‘since’, meaning that something must follow. Paul is saying that there is much consolation / comfort / encouragement to be found in Christ – of course there is, and it is the first stone in the foundation of the unity that produces joy.
How we need this encouragement and consolation now!
In Christ we are being remade in His image, which is a great encouragement.
So it means that since we do have this consolation, we must have this unity.
He also wrote it to the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 1:5 – Such consolation abounds, even in the midst of tribulation – for us even in the midst of the Covid-19 crisis, and since it is there, we must be one.
b. The comfort in love.
Does not the love that comes from God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit and our brethren provide any comfort? It does – to those who would receive it. Because we do have the comfort from love we will have this unity that produces joy. We will not let anything drive us apart.
c. Participation in the Holy Spirit.
All who have been baptised in Christ have received the gift of the Holy Spirit, and as the Church, the temple of God, the Spirit dwells within us and among us. Evan our individual bodies, the Word tells us in 1 Cor 6:19, are temples of the Holy Spirit. We’ve also been made to drink of the one Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13).
There is a true participation in the Holy Spirit available for Christians and it is part of the foundation of the unity that produces joy.
d. Caring affection and mercy / sympathy
Sadly, we cannot always with certainty say that it is there – it’s often absent, but it ought to be there among the Lord’s people. It’s the affection that comes from the Lord Jesus and other brothers. There’s the mercy that comes from our loving Father in heaven.
Enjoying all these benefits, should they not serve to encourage us to have the unity that produces joy? Are these not wonderful things that we have in common, and that would drive them in order to make them joyful? It drives us together in a way that makes us happy from the oldest to the youngest among us.
- The nature (v 2)
We become more like-minded the longer we walk together. The more we learn together, we become of the same mind, having the same mind-set, motives and strivings, thinking the same things. That doesn’t mean that we do not differ from one another on non-essential things here and there, but on the main, on the fundamental things of the Gospel, we think the same – there’s no room for disagreement. That’s what unity does.
b. Having the same love.
Loving the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and our neighbour as ourselves. We love the same things in all matters pertaining to Christ and His Church, loving one another with the same kind of love. If that unity is there, our love for one another will be of the same kind, sincere, fervent and from a pure heart, as Peter teaches us in 1 Peter 1:23. Our love for one another will be mutual – not one sided, as is often the case.
c. We are of one accord.
We always resolve conflicts and things that make us differ from one another. Paul says that we are of one soul – having our very souls joined together. It suggests acting together as if one soul is driving them, because one soul is – it’s the Lord Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, God the Father, so working together in complete harmony, not as separate entities, going our separate ways.
d. Being of the same (one) mind
To be intent on one purpose (NASB) – not only working together outwardly, but inwardly – having the same purpose, intentions, ambitions and motives.
It’s what our Lord prayed for in John 17: “I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as You loved Me.” (verse 23).
- The attitudes required (vv 3-4)
If the attitudes are not right, we will not arrive at unity that produces joy.
a. Humility instead of selfishness.
There are two kind of people on this planet, prideful and faithful. Paul here takes up on that, saying ‘Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit’. We should not have these attitudes, because it will destroy unity, because both involve a self-centred, rather than a Christ centred attitude. It is required that we rid ourselves of the desire of exalting self – selfish ambition – and an improper estimation of oneself, conceit, narcissism.
Instead of that we should substitute it with lowliness of mind (humility). That will effectively replace the problem of conceit. Humility should be easy to maintain if we remember our own faults.
Jordan Peterson said: “If I had to remove all my bad parts, there would be very little left of me.” That’s humility. It should be easy for us to do, because we are aware of our defects, frailties, faults and fallenness. But we do not have the same clear view on the defects of others – seeing only their outward conduct. We see inside ourselves and know what’s in there that we hide so well from other people. We see our own hearts with all its faults. We cannot so look into the hearts of others.
Paul said to the Roman brothers that in honour they had to give preference to one another.
b. Looking out to the interests of others
This attitude eliminates the problem of selfish ambition. It’s the attitude of maturity, was the attitude of Christ and should be the attitude of every single Christian.
We see so much sadness around about us because these attitudes are not always present. It is not to suggest that these attitudes alone will bring about such unity, for the unity that produces joy comes only when it is unity based upon the truth that our Lord Jesus taught. These attitudes without His truth will only produce a false sense of joy. But without these attitudes, holding to the Truth itself, we won’t have the joy that we seek.
Let’s fulfill our joy, the joy of Paul by making sure that we manifest these attitudes as we in the midst of this crisis attempt to live according to the Truth that is in our Lord Jesus Christ.