“Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to live together in unity!”
This Psalm of David probably had its inspiration around the time the nation had come together, unified, at his coronation. It NOT ONLY praises unity; it shares two very picturesque qualities of it, as seen in the remaining verses. The oil and the dew seem to be a picture of spiritual and material blessings that come forth as a by-product of true unity among brethren.
Which one of us can deny that unity with others: our families, church, and friends, is a great blessing to us and very pleasing in the eyes of our Heavenly Father? Paul expressed it well when he said: “Be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness (humility) of mind let each esteem others better than himself” (Philippians 2:2-3 NKJV). Unity through humility!
How much different would our lives be if such unity was the norm throughout our lives? How much more robust and fulfilling would our relationships be if such peace, love, and like-mindedness were a predominant reality in them?
As sweet as they would be, they are only a faint picture of what believers have and experience in Jesus Christ (John 17:21)! Because of Jesus, we have full participation in all the attributes and essence of God through the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit(MacArthur).
We may not always share a like-mindedness with others in our lives, but there can always be like-mindedness of Spirit and focus, which comes through Jesus Christ.
BRIEF INTRO: Now that Paul has addressed the issue of disunity within this local church and especially the two women at its heart, He signals that he is coming to an end of his writing. Yes, he appeared to signal this before (3:1), but with approximately (according to one commentator) 40% of his letter yet to come, it seems logical to deduce that he does not mean to signal “finality,” but rather is using the term in the sense of “furthermore,” or “adding to that.” In our text, he is using the exact Greek phrase to signal the true final words of his epistle to them.
In our previous study, we observed the apostle exhorting this church (Rejoice, be anxious for nothing, and make known, are all in the imperative – commands) to practice specific positive biblical virtues. Today, in our study, he continues with this appeal by directing them to the things their minds should be dwelling on. Paul desires that these Christians “keep on thinking and doing what is morallyand spiritually excellent.” This involves meditating on such higher and nobler things and then putting them into practice. And, as we will observe again, they are encouraged to follow his example.
8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is [a]lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, think about these things.9 As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
FOCUS ONE: In these verses, we find six adjectives that are to lead Christians into a higher, more reflective sense of thinking, introduced by the word whatever. Some view these things as “old-fashioned ideas,” while others view them as a “Charter for Christian Thought.” Either way, Paul is reminding them AND us “that careful, logical, and noble thinking produces noble living; high thinking produces high living; and holy thinking produces holy living,” as a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7). Such things were exemplified in Jesus Christ (2:5-11) and are produced within us by the working of the Holy Spirit, who indwells each believer.
So, let’s put them in order, and I will give a brief definition of each that I hope will help us grasp the greater sense of each and help us engage the obvious battle for the mind that such thinking elicits (Hebrews 5:16-26).
We are to dwell on:
Whatever is true
Whatever is honorable
Whatever is right
Whatever is pure
Whatever is lovely or lovable
Whatever is good repute or attractive
We should notice that Paul changes the sentence structure to conditional clauses at the end of the verse (if there), so those things are not included in this list but will be discussed later.
Truth is reality, in it is a sense of validity, reliability and is the opposite of what is not. It exemplifies God’s character and should characterize the Christian as well. Honorable is dignified, worthy of reverence, and seems to combine a sense of gravity with dignity. Paul used this word in his pastoral epistles, referring to the qualifications of a church leader.
Right refers to what is upright, conforming to God’s standards, and worthy of His approval.
Pure emphasizes moral purity, that which, in KJV language, is “unsullied.”
Lovely is used in the sense of what is pleasing, agreeable, or amiable. Not to be confused with what is pleasing to the flesh, but the Spirit!
Good repute directs us to what is praiseworthy and rings true to the highest standards—God’s standards, not ours or our cultures.
Some people become discouraged when they read things as we have in this epistle. “have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ” (2:5).” “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (2:12). And, “let your mind dwell on these things” (4:8). But we shouldn’t because, in all these exhortations to Christ-like-ness, God is actively working within us to conform us into the image of His Son (1:6; 2:13; 4:7,9)!
FOCUS TWO: Paul has changed his sentence structure at the end of verse eight to conditional clauses (if there), “A rhetorical device that forces the reader to exercise his own discernment and choose what is excellent and praiseworthy.” It appears that the apostle would have these believers, and us secondarily, focus our minds on these things because when we do, we will be living in obedience to Gods Word, we will be walking in unity, and we will “appear as lights in the world” (2:15)!
Dear reader, these are things that should occupy our minds. These are things that occupy our Lord’s mind. How can we grow in holiness, serve one another, be effective witnesses for Christ, or have intimate, powerful prayer lives if we allow our minds to be engrossed with things that are opposed to the things the inspired Word of God teaches us?
We often struggle with applying the knowledge we acquire, so our loving Heavenly Father provides us godly examples to imitate (3:17; 4:9). No, we are not to imitate men who walk in the flesh, but we are graciously encouraged to emulate those whose lives are imitations of Christ! Such people exhibit the application of such truths in their daily walk, which, in turn, helps us visualize what conformity to God’s word looks like when it is fleshed out.
9 As for the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.
FOCUS THREE: Paul had become their teacher shortly after his arrival in Philippi (Acts 16). What they had learned, what they had observed in his life, took place in the short period he was with them (Acts 16:40), and he wanted them to continue practicing these things.
He uses four verbs that are formed into two pairs (Exegetical Commentary). The first pair, “learned” and “received,” describes the Philippian’s instruction by Paul. He is the person who taught them Christian doctrine and Christian living. The next pair, “heard” and “saw,” depicts their personal observation of the apostle – both his speech and his conduct.
In my meditation on these things, it became clear to me just how much we need both. As Christians, we can’t lead balanced lives if we only have one avenue of personal growth absent of the other. Preaching and teaching are essential, but if it is lacking any application to my daily life, to my walk of faith, it will serve to wound me more than aid me. Let me explain my thinking: I can fill my head with all kinds of bible facts, doctrine, and theology, but if that “knowledge” sits in my head, if I don’t know what it is supposed to look like in applying it in my life, or I’m not encouraged by observing it in others, what use is it to me?
Real-life illustration: Many years ago, I was a member of a small local church in my hometown. I was a member there for many years and also preached and taught there often. I often overheard a few gentlemen express their disgust at the topic the pastor would be preaching or teaching on that Sunday. Many times I would hear one or the other say: “Why doesn’t he teach on Romans 7 and 8 or Hebrews 5,” I already know all about 1 Corinthians 13.”
Do you see the problem? What good was the “knowledge” about Christian love to them? I observed their rudeness, pride, and self-focus all too often while I was there. They didn’t need more knowledge; they needed to apply what they knew in their own lives and relationships with others.
Paul lived what he preached. His life spoke more eloquently than his lips, I read somewhere. Life examples like that are models that we can follow, confidently trusting that “the God of peace will be with you!”
BRIEF INTRO: In my last post, we studied Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians regarding their obedience to the revealed Word of God and his plea for them to “continue” in such obedience. In verse twelve, we saw words of affirmation, “just as you have always obeyed”. . . “much more in my absence,” and, words of exhortation, “work out your salvation with fear and trembling.”
In this study, we are going to continue to focus on what Paul is telling these people in regards to their salvation and, I believe, answer some questions that some of you may be struggling with currently as you seek to “rightly divide the word of truth.”
So, welcome back. Let’s dive in! Are you ready?
13 for it is God who is at work in you, both to [a]desire and to work for His good pleasure 14 Do all things without complaining or arguments; 15 so that you will [a]prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you [b]appear as [c]lights in the world, 16 holding firmly the Word of life, so that on the day of Christ I can take pride because I did not run in vain nor labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. 18 You too, I urge you, rejoice in the same way and share your joy with me.
FOCUS ONE: GOD’S PART (13)
What a great thought, “God is at work in you,” Christian!!
Paul said this much back in 1:6 (He began a good work in us and will perfect it).
The writer of Hebrews said: (13:21 that “He is working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ.” So, Christian, be encouraged! You are not alone; even if you feel that way sometimes, God is working in you!!
Now, in our text, we see that Paul states two ways in which this is true. First,
To Desire or to Will, depending on your translation. God reveals His will unto us and coaxes us into adopting His will as our own.
Second, we read, “to do OR work.” Not only are we energized to know His will, but we are empowered to do His will as well. (The Holy Spirit is the key – John 14:16 “And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, (Paraclete, one who comes alongside) that He may be with you forever. (God works in, through His Spirit, so that we can work it out!)
God doesn’t just save us and leave us to sort out His will. He moves in our lives and brings us into His work. Before we were saved, God worked on us, John 16:7-11. Now that we are saved, He works within us, John 16:13. The Holy Spirit gives us understanding as to what the will of God is for our lives, and He creates within us a desire to carry out that will.
One commentator makes this point: “That is how the Christian life operates! God reveals His will to us, and we follow Him in obedience, John 5:19-20! The Christian life is not one of passive involvement. We don’t just sit around watching God do all the work. No, He places within us a desire to be involved in that work. God shows us what to do, and we go and do it. That, after all, is why He saved us – Ephesians 2:10! God saved us to work, and He has equipped us for that work, 1 Corinthians 12:7, 11. Obviously, then, there should be natural reverberations of this in our daily lives.
Such reverberations manifest themselves in private and corporate living – living out our salvation in our daily lives. Reread 14-16.
Becoming—blameless and innocent, cr. 1:10 (crooked, perverse generation).
Being—-lights in this world (gospel witness)
Both of which have a strong emphasis on our personal and corporate testimony for Christ. Christian, our testimony of Christ, should be uppermost in our thinking so -as- to affect all our attitudes and behaviors.
Is that true of you and your testimony?
A. Are you careful how you speak to others?
B. Are you mindful of what you do and do not participate in?
C. Are you a complainer?
“Complaining seems to be the American way of life. Most conversations are complaints about the government, the economy, the taxes we pay and even about the weather. Among Christians, we hear complaints about the sermon – too long, too dry and too pointed. Or there are complaints about the congregation – too large, too cold, too small, too emotional or too impersonal. Complaining is not just an American pastime. It is a human race pastime because all men do have a sin nature which tends towards the negative rather than the positive. Complaining is a spiritual problem and it has to be dealt with and spiritually defeated.” (Arnold)
The Philippians were commanded not to be complainers (14). They were not to complain about the difficulties they would experience or the persecutions that will come upon them as they worked out their “own salvation in fear and trembling,” in carrying out God’s good pleasure in their own lives.
They were to live their lives in such a way that no one would be able to criticize them. Their lives should be clean and innocent before a watching world!
A specific Old Testament passage is behind Paul’s words. In Deuteronomy 32:5, in the song of Moses, in referring to the grumbling and unbelief of the children of Israel in the wilderness, Moses says, “They have acted corruptly toward Him, they are not His children, because of their defect; but are a perverse and crooked generation.” Paul here refers to them and all Christians as “children of God.”
Paul turns that around here and says that we are God’s children, living amid a crooked and perverse generation. So we must be careful not to grumble and dispute, as Israel did in the wilderness, (because) as God’s people we are supposed to shine forth in this dark world as lights, holding forth the Word of life, the gospel of Christ.
Paul says in 2:16: “Holding firmly (fast, forth) to the word of life, then on the day of Christ’s return, I will be proud that I did not run the race in vain and that my work was not useless.”
Now, in case you missed it, the gospel is central to all of this! It is the gospel and the Jesus of the gospel that saved them. It is the gospel that produces godly behavior in them. The gospel makes any fruitful witness to a lost world (1 John 1-4).
These dear people whom Paul loves so much, whom he brought the “word of life” to, this healthy church is to offer the Word of life to the lost souls around them, and for that to be effective, their lives need to be conformed to the gospel. They are to imitate their savior!
5. Put sinners above Himself
Friends, Jesus Christ, left the splendor of heaven, temporarily laid aside His privileges as the Son of God, to take on the body of a human being. Humbling Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross, to publicly be the propitiation for sinners, like us, by shedding His lifeblood for the forgiveness of our sins. You see, we are all dead in our trespasses and sins until God, being rich in mercy and because of His great love for us, took our place and paid our debt. Jesus took upon Himself our sin so that we can, by faith, receive His righteousness!
It is by His grace that anybody is ever saved and forgiven. Do you know of that grace, dear friend?
So, it seems for Paul that if these folks would continue in their obedience
And pursue Christ-like-ness, faithfully living out and sharing the “word of life” Paul’s joy would be complete (vs.2), and he would have cause to rejoice that all his sacrifice and service for these people was fruitful and not in vain or purposeless.
Such a life. Living by faith, walking humbly and obediently before the Lord daily, serving others, shining as lights in a sin fallen world is not easy. There is a price to pay as a faithful follower of Christ.
FOCUS TWO: Cost of our salvation (Read 17-18) (not salvific, but that which is incurred daily living it out).
c. A joy
What does Paul mean by being poured out as a drink offering, and what does that have to do with His exhortations up to this point?
The first recorded occurrence of a drink offering was given by Jacob in Genesis 35:14, right after God changed his name to Israel. Drink offerings were also included with burnt and grain offerings in God-ordained sacrifices, including the morning and evening sacrifices of Exodus 29:40. A drink offering was common in Jewish worship. There was a primary animal offering on the altar and then the secondary drink offering, which was poured out, usually on top of the primary offering.
At the writing of this letter, the Apostle Paul was waiting for the verdict from the Roman court as to whether he would be executed or set free. The possibility of being martyred was very present for him. Paul sees his own life possibly coming to an end, and it is a picture of this drink offering that is poured out on top of a sacrifice. He sees the faith of the Philippians being a sacrifice, and he sees his own life being poured out (sacrificed) on top of it.
He views the shedding of his blood secondary to the Philippian’s primary offering of sacrifice and service, which flows out of their faith in Christ. Their service and sacrifice for Christ were more important than Paul’s martyrdom. Yet, Paul rejoiced in the privilege and honor of dying for Christ if he was called upon to do so.
Paul, In 2 Timothy 4:6, used this metaphor as well. He sensed the end of his ministry, again compared his efforts to wine poured out of a vessel onto an altar. Paul sees his own “pouring out” as a thing of joy, a good thing, something that might be sweet to God. His testimony for Christ was paramount in his thinking and affections. Paul was showing true humility in that the service of the Philippians was more important than his death. He tells the Philippians that such sacrifice should be counted as joy, and they can rejoice in it together!
Dear reader, our testimony of Christ should be uppermost in our thinking to affect all our attitudes and behavior, whether that is unity in the church or a faithful gospel witness to a lost world. It will shine brightly when we are filled with joy, even amid trials.
Are we ready to serve the Lord even to the point of imprisonment and death if the Lord should ask it?
Are we ready to sacrifice everything if the Lord should ask us to reach the world with the truth of Christ?
If your answer is “yes,” then you have the mind of Christ in the area of service.
But if your answer is no, what has to be confessed, put off/on, what has to become a priority in your life for your answer to become a “yes?”
Dear Christian, our obedience to the Word and Will of God, is the difference between:
Unity or disunity within the church
Selfishness or self-less-ness
Humility or arrogance
Complaining or praising
Holding fast the Word of life or neglecting the Word of life
Being lights put under a basket or lights placed on top of a stand to shine forth Joy rejoicing or grumbling and complaining
How will you walk away from this post today after hearing God’s Word to us?
We left our study last time with this statement: “Jesus, figuratively and literally, “bled” himself out for others as He took upon himself the role of a slave. He voluntarily set aside His rights for the salvation of His people for their eternal well-being. And the Apostle Paul is saying to the Philippian church and to us dear Christian, that that is how you ought to live, in a selfless, humble, others serving, God honoring way within this congregation.”
Moving forward, we will learn that there is more to all this than just the examples of humility (8). We are also brought to remember the incarnation of Jesus. By that, I mean, When God the Son became a man—The God-man, fully God and yet fully man!
The word: “fashion” or “appearance” or “being,” depending on your translation, is significant. John MacArthur writes: “The word “being” denotes that which a person is in his very essence – that which a person is in his nature. In other words, that which is true of a person that cannot be altered, it cannot be changed. That which someone possesses inalienably and unchangeably that cannot be removed. It refers to the innate, changeless, unalterable character and nature of a person. For example, men may look different, but they’re all men – that’s their nature. They all have the basic same elements of humanness, the functioning of breathing, and the heart, organs, mind, will, thought, emotion. These are the elements of humanness. You can change his clothes. You can do things to the physical form. But you never change the humanness. That is the being of man.”
And that is the meaning of this term. And it says of Christ that He is in the being of God. He is, then, unalterably and unchangeably, God in His essence, in His essential being. That is the basis of our faith. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word” – what? – “was God.” But along with that, He was at the same time fully man. But don’t think of Jesus as less than fully human. Quoting MacArthur again: “He was fully human. Did people come into this world through the natural process of birth, through the womb of a mother? So, did He. Had others been wrapped in swaddling clothes? So was He. Had others grown up? So did He. Did others have brothers and sisters? He did. Did others learn a trade and work? So did He. Were other men at times hungry, and thirsty, and weary, and asleep? So was He. Were others grieved and angry? So was He. Did others weep? So did He. Did others rejoice? So did He. Were others destined to die? So did He. Did others suffer pain? So did He. Were others loved and hated? So was He. He was a man, in the form and the fashion.”
Luke tells us how this happened. Turn to Luke chapter 1:26 (read). In verse 34, Mary Asks, “how can this happen or be?” The angel tells her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her, and with His power, with no sinful human male involved, He will grant this conception within her, and her child will be called the Son of God (vs.36).
Matthew tells us that this miracle, this salvation, was prophesied long ago. Matthew repeats what Isaiah wrote in 7:14:
“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign, behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (God with us). Paul is speaking from a position “after” the death, burial, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus.
1 Peter 2:21,22 – We are told He lived without sin. In Hebrews 4:15,16 – We are told Jesus was tempted in all points like we are, but He did not sin.
Jesus was the only man ever to live without committing even one sin, so He is the only one who truly deserves to be counted righteous before God. Later we will see that this sinless life was necessary for Him to be a perfect sacrifice for our sins.
He taught with authority, healed many, delivered many from demons, served the multitudes, refuted pseudo-religiosity, pointed many to the Father in Heaven, and because of that:
Matthew 26:1-4,14-16 – Jewish leaders determined to kill Jesus because He had revealed their sins to the multitudes. Judas, one of Jesus’ disciples, agreed to betray Jesus to His enemies for thirty pieces of silver.
Matthew 26:36-41 – After teaching His disciples how to partake of the Lord’s Supper in memory of His death, Jesus went to Gethsemane. There He prayed that He might avoid the suffering of the cross, but even so, He was willing to obey the Father’s will.
Matthew 26:47-56 – Judas came bringing soldiers to capture Jesus and showed the soldiers who to arrest by kissing Him. When Jesus refused to allow His disciples to defend Him, they all forsook Him and fled.
Matthew 26:57-67 – In the Jewish trials, Jewish leaders sought grounds to kill Jesus but could not find valid proof even with the help of many false witnesses. They ignored all the evidence that he was the Christ and convicted Him of making a blasphemous claim! Finally, they convicted Him of blasphemy because He claimed to be the Christ.
Luke 23:8-11 – Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, who mocked Him and sent Him back to Pilate. Pilate (vv 13-16) then told the people that neither he nor Herod found any fault in Jesus worthy of death.
Matthew 27:15-26 – Pilate repeatedly stated that Jesus was innocent and tried to release Him, but the Jews refused. Pilate’s wife sent him a message saying she knew Jesus was innocent. But the Jews said they and their children would bear responsibility for His death, so Pilate called for Jesus to be crucified.
So what? Everyone dies eventually. To many people, Jesus’ death may not seem extraordinary. But His was the most important death ever to occur. It is essential to our salvation.
Hebrews 2:9 – Jesus tasted death for every man. He did not die for His sins – He didn’t have any sins. Nor was His death simply a miscarriage of justice. Jesus died for our sins.
1 Peter 2:24 – He bore our sins on the cross so that we could live to righteousness. He was a sacrifice. He was the sinless Son of God dying as a penalty for those of us who were guilty, so we could go free.
That is why Jesus needed to live a sinless life. If He had sinned, He would have to be punished for His sins. But because He lived a sinless life and did not deserve to die, He was able to suffer for others, people like us who did deserve to die.
Impressive as all this is, it is even more amazing to realize that He came to earth knowing all along that He would have to die for the sins of others. The Creator took the form of that which He had created to suffer as a sacrifice to save His own creatures. If Jesus had not died, none of us could be forgiven of sins. We would all have to die for our sins (Rom. 6:23). We can be saved (only) because Jesus died for us!
And what was God the Father’s response to this?
3. Glory in Christ (9-11)
a. God the Father exalted Him
Why? Because Jesus has taken upon himself a humble servitude that leads Him to death, even death on a cross, in which He willingly embraces degradation and misery, in which He willingly embraces humiliation of the most profound and most unique sort. And because of this (therefore), God highly exalts Him. And perhaps Paul is drawing our attention to the fact that there is a different kind of exaltation in God’s
One writer comments: “We see human beings, appropriately or inappropriately, exalted all the time around us, and usually it is because they possess certain qualities that set them apart from other people. They may be really smart, and so we praise them because they’re smarter than other people. Or maybe they’re better students, they work hard. It’s not that their brain cells are more blessed than somebody else’s brain cells, but they study really hard. And we set them apart, we give them titles and we give them degrees, and we give them honors for their academic prowess. And so, through their efforts and their native abilities, they are set apart.”
Paul wants these folks to notice how Jesus, who in all of those categories, was more worthy than anyone who ever lived, did not promote himself on that basis. And God did not exalt Him on that basis. He exalted Him because He embraced humility, and He embraced servitude of the most profound sort.
He was given a name above every other!
There is sooo much to this, but we don’t have the time to mine it all this morning. Let me make a few things clear. Dear reader, Jesus has always been the Son of God. Jesus did not become the Son of God for the first time in the resurrection or the ascension. Jesus has always been Lord. He has always been the second person of the Trinity. There was never a time when He wasn’t Lord, and then He became Lord. That’s not what the Apostle Paul is saying here. It’s just that now in the flesh, He has appeared, and in His flesh, He rendered such a service that God publicly owned and acknowledged Him and pronounced Him to be Lord. And Paul is telling the Philippians and us here that God does this precisely because of what Jesus has done in His humble service.
And then we notice: Everybody will confess He is Lord.
Not only does Paul reveal in these words that every being in the universe will submit to Christ, but He also shows that there will someday be a universal confession that HE IS LORD, to the glory of God the Father!!
This fact was prophesied by Isaiah Back in Isaiah 45:23, and Paul is thinking about that prophecy and directing his readers to reflect on it.
To not willingly submit to Him put’s you, dear sinner, in an awful position. We are all equally rebels against him, whether we oppose him as Lord or whether we refuse to submit to his righteousness or his government. What will you answer to him when he calls you to account for usurping his office and making void all that he has done and suffered for you? — He has sworn, that unto him every knee shall bow; and, if you don’t do it willingly, you will most certainly do it against your will, to your everlasting sorrow.
But how different an outcome for those who submit to His rightful rule.
You are committed to his care, and he will not lose one of you; “not one shall ever be plucked out of his hands,” is the promise of scripture. Whatever you need, “his grace is sufficient for you.” “if you suffer with him. you shall also reign with him,” and “be glorified together with him [Note: 2 Timothy 2:12. Romans 8:17.]” in his kingdom forevermore!
Dear reader, because of the effectual working of the gospel in our own lives, as undeserved as it is, and all that we enjoy because of it, shouldn’t that lead us to walk in unity, fellowship, and like-mindedness around this gospel within our local church family?
Christian, Christ is our supreme example; his selfless love is an example to us. His humility and obedience are our encouragement, given by Paul, to strive for unity within their /our local church.
Friends, like all those who have gone before, you are undeserving of His love, His forgiveness, and His fellowship. You, like the rest, are a vile sinner in His eyes and should be cast off into outer darkness.
But, you have hope in this same Jesus! He came to this earth, endured the cross, despised the shame, died the death you should have died, bore your sins on that cruel tree, so that you, through Him, could be declared righteous and forgiven!
Philippians 2: 5 “Have this attitude [a]in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be [b]grasped,7 but [c]emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death [d]on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In my last post, we were studying the first four verses of this chapter, chapter two. And I walked us through the letter and showed you how Paul felt about these people and why, so I won’t revisit that in this post. But as a reminder, we saw that all of Paul’s thoughts about this church were positive; his feelings toward them were warm. In 1:5, he is noting for us that they were genuine believers. Verse 7 speaks of their great courage because even in Paul’s imprisonment and “defense and confirmation of the gospel,” they stood with him as “partakers of grace.” But with all the positive things Paul said about them, we also noticed that. “There was a very obvious lack of doctrinal exhortation in this epistle because there was apparently no doctrinal deviation. These folks had not gone astray in terms of theology. They didn’t need to be corrected. There is no immorality in the congregation which is confronted in the epistle.” So, what we saw, generally speaking, was that this is a quality group of people. They were a devoted, consistent, doctrinally true church.
But, despite all of that, there was hanging over that church a troubling cloud, thickened with poisonous gases. And that problematic cloud is dripping drops of disunity, discord, and conflict within their fellowship, the likes of which have poisoned so many churches.
I remind you of all that because I think we are prone to assume that disunity and conflict wouldn’t be a problem in a strong church. That is not necessarily the case. One commentator made this point. I shared this with you last time:
“There is a sense in which this is the danger of every healthy church. You see, it is when people are really in earnest, when their beliefs really matter to them, when they are eager to carry out their own plans and their own schemes that they are most apt to get up against each other. The greater their enthusiasm, the greater the danger that they may collide” (William Barclay).
Paul is writing these words in chapter two, continuing the appeal he began in verses 27-30 of the previous chapter. He is building upon the theme of unity. Remember, he used the terms “standing firm in one spirit,” “with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
In 2:2, he uses the same language. He says: “be of the same mind, maintain the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.” Paul wants these believers he loves dearly to express (live-out) the power, influence, and fellowship of the Spirit (benefits of the gospel) they received at salvation within their local fellowship. Paul is very aware of the situation between Euodia and Syntyche, and he addresses it later (4:2).
Paul expressed his joy over their salvation and participation with him in the gospel (1:4). He rejoiced at being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of their faith (2:17). BUT what would bring his joy to it fullness? What would thoroughly complete Paul in his ministry to this church — unity among their fellowship!
And so we saw in verses 2-4, two themes emerge:
Both are vitally important to have if there is ever to be true unity within a body.
Last time I was only able to give an overview of verses 5-11, and I promised we would return to these scriptures, so here we are. May God grant us through His Spirit, humility, wisdom, and obedience to His Word.
Read verses 5-11
Think like Christ
Paul isn’t about to leave these people he loves dearly, thinking that unity and love, God-honoring fellowship, self-less-ness are things they can do on their own in the flesh. He is not about to move on in his letter continuing this appeal, leaving these beloved people contemplating his exhortation without giving them an example to follow.
So, to enforce the earnest exhortations he had just given as to lowliness of mind and unselfish consideration of the things of others, Paul sets forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the supreme example of this. His voluntary self-abasement, His incarnation, His obedience even unto the death of the cross. The immediate connection is between the principle in Phil 2:4, of having regard to the condition and needs of others, and this sublime example of Christ.”
Paul begins to present before these believers the Lord Jesus Christ! He wants them to understand the mind and heart of Christ as it pertains to His coming to earth to redeem fallen humanity from their sin.
Would you please notice that Paul again uses the imperative voice in the original language in verse five? He used the imperative or “command” language earlier in verse two when he said, “make my joy complete, or fulfill my joy,” depending on your translation. Then, it was a general exhortation to begin something at that very moment. Begin, right now, living in harmony or unity with one another.
But here, Paul is using the imperative voice differently! Here it is in the “present active” voice, which means, my paraphrase here, “Beloved, take this example of Christ I am laying out before you, understand why he did what He did, and be like Him, think like Him, from this day forward.” Paul does something like this in Chapter 4, verse 8.
Paul wants his readers to understand that the mindset, or attitude he wants them to retain in themselves, it was also in Christ Jesus! These are the very things Christ Himself thought upon. These are the very things that led Him to humble Himself and take upon Himself the role of a servant, become a human being, honor the father, and redeem wretched sinners like all of us.
Dear Christian, what’s your mind thinking these days? Are your thoughts cased in humility or pride? Are you thinking in ways that will help you be obedient to Jesus or disobedient? Are you thinking along the lines of “how can God be glorified in this,” or “how can I be glorified in”. . . whatever it is you’re involved in?
Perhaps you are not a Christian and are reading this post. I am thankful that you are here. Are you beginning to understand the amazing love of Jesus toward you? A love that, as we will see in our following verses, led Him to voluntarily humble Himself and take upon Himself humanity so that He could rescue us, rescue you, from your worst nightmare. Facing Him as a holy, righteous judge, guilty of heinous crimes against Him.
His mindset was one of a humble disposition that led Him to Submit Himself to the father in obedience, even obedience that led to His death. The innocent, spotless lamb of God, put to death for guilty, blemished, vile, sinners – of which we all are.
Live like Christ (6-8)
Here Paul opens before us the mind of Christ. Here Paul explains what led to Jesus laying aside, temporarily, His divine privileges. “Jesus Christ, God the Son, decided not to continue enjoying or to “cling to” His heavenly existence. Jesus enjoyed the same divine lifestyle, if you will, in heaven that God enjoyed (because He is God). Even though the Son could have lawfully maintained this heavenly existence, HE DID NOT! Rather, He assumed or took upon Himself a servant’s role and appeared in the likeness of men.
That’s why Paul takes us to the deity (heavenly side) of Jesus first before he shows us His humility (human side). So that we might see His humility in the grandeur of who He is and realize that no matter how far we stoop in this life to serve, we will never even begin to approach the depth to which He has condescended to serve us!
And that ( Ligon Duncan writes)— “as humbling a thought as it is, is also a very encouraging thought, because it reminds us again of that grand truth that we have encountered so many times in the Bible: that God never asks us to do what He himself is not prepared to do, and in fact what He has not already done in greater degree and dimension in time than He asks us to do.”
Paul is NOT talking about Jesus dismantling, unloading, or disinheriting himself of deity in these verses: He couldn’t do it if he wanted to. So, the Apostle Paul underscores the fact that Christ has always been and He continues to be God by His very nature. But despite that fact, and even because of that fact, for our salvation, He does not insist upon the manifestation of that majesty of His deity.
There’s something else that Paul is saying in these verses as well (7-8). He’s saying that when Christ came into this world, He did not claim His privileges and prerogatives. How Jesus accomplished our salvation was not to stand on those things but to give them away, to forego them, to veil His majesty, and to deny himself the rightful privileges and prerogatives that were His.
Jesus, figuratively and literally, “bled” himself out for others as He took upon himself the role of a slave. He voluntarily set aside His rights for the salvation of His people for their eternal well-being. And the Apostle Paul is saying to the Philippian church and us Christian, that is how you ought to live, in a selfless, humble, others serving, God-honoring way within the body of Christ (His church).
Are you following the example of Christ in the way you live out your faith within your local church body? Is Christ’s selfless, humble, others serving, God-honoring mindset, example, yours? If not, what is it that keeps you from following in His footsteps?
In our last study we noticed Paul’s approach with the Philippians. He’s not only warm and pastoral, but he’s also quick to first mention the blessings of the gospel before giving certain exhortations to help them understand the importance of striving for unity within their church. In this post we will continue our study of these first couple verses and look at his exhortations to these believers.
2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Fellowship unites us (2-4)
That is an interesting statement for Paul to make, “make my joy complete.” He expressed his joy over their salvation and participation with him in the gospel (1:4). He rejoiced at being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of their faith (2:17). BUT what would bring his joy to it fullness? “unity in the bonds of peace.” What would thoroughly complete Paul in his ministry to this church is unity among their fellowship!
In these verses, 2-4, I see two themes emerge:
In order for there to be biblical fellowship, within a church, there has to be like-mindedness, there has to be expressions of love, there has to be an understanding and grasping hold of “one purpose.” ALL of these things begin with what Paul was talking about in verse one: The saving, changing work of the Holy Spirit! We cannot have true God honoring fellowship with one another, if we do not have fellowship with the Spirit ourselves! Gratitude affects attitude!
It is very clear in these verses that selfishness and empty conceit are polar opposites to self-less-ness and humility.
Perhaps Paul’s mind is on Euodia and Syntyche. Later he writes urging them to be of the same mind. They were not maintaining their love for one another. They did not have the same purpose at heart. Selfishness or empty conceit may have been playing apart in their discord, and it was wreaking havoc within this church. It was so bad that Paul, many, many miles away, in prison, hears about it from Epaphroditus, most likely, when he was sent to serve Paul on their behalf.
So, Paul, and it is an interesting observation, in the Greek, uses the imperative here. “Make my joy complete,” is a strong exhortation to begin doing something they were not presently doing.
It could read: “Right now work at being of the same mind, right now begin maintaining your love for one another, right now start esteeming others better than yourselves. Right now stop being so selfish, stop being so prideful and share the benefits of your fellowship with Christ and His Spirit with your brothers and sisters in the Lord.”
vss. 2-3 explains how Paul’s joy would be complete-Fellowship is fostered by people whole-heartedly agreeing with each other, loving one another, and working toward the same goal (Gospel unity, gospel witness). It necessitates self-less-ness, humility and a true regard for others that places their needs above our own.
Selfishness, empty conceit, double-minded-ness, always stifles gospel centered unity, always hurts others, always is disobedience to the Lord.
This is what is burdening Paul; unity and the lack of it in this otherwise GOOD church. It seems that he frames the letter, with that issue. For example, in the first chapter he speaks of it, verse 27, when he says, “I want you to stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” In chapter 4, the last chapter, he speaks of it in verses 1 and 2 when he says, “stand firm in the Lord, my beloved. And I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to live in harmony in the Lord.”
So, in chapter 1 we see an urging toward one mind and one heart. In chapter 4 another urging toward one mind and one heart -And then in the middle is this second chapter, and the opening verses of chapter 2 also deal with the issue of unity in the church. This is a plea for unity.
3. Unity strengthens us (2-4)
Can you imagine a church where the Christians in that fellowship are working and striving together to make the gospel known to the lost as well as living it out in community with one another?
Can you imagine a church where the Christians are humble, serving one another allowing their Lord to encourage and comfort and show mercy to others through them?
Can you imagine a church where the Christians in that fellowship are obedient to Christ even when their feelings get hurt, or their ideas for ministry are not acted upon or done to their satisfaction?
Can you imagine a church where the Christians in that fellowship are “standing firm in one spirit, steadfast in their opposition to the enemy, unrelenting in their humility before God and others?
How strong would such a church be? It is true: “united we stand, divided we fall.”
Christian, have you noticed any potential areas of disunity in your congregation? Have you sought to bring unity in that situation?
Maybe there is someone in the congregation that you personally are in conflict with, how can the Elders help you through that?
Talk with another mature believer about it and work towards maintaining “unity within the bonds of peace.”
Paul, in a way, is giving them, giving us, a blueprint for a strong, healthy, vibrant, fruitful fellowship within the local church, and it has everything to do with UNITY!
BUT, this unity is all wrapped up in the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ! We see that in verses 5-11. That will be my focus in my next post!
Paul isn’t about to leave these people he loves dearly thinking that unity and love, God honoring fellowship, self-less-ness is something that they can do on their own in the flesh. He is not about to move on in his letter leaving these beloved people contemplating his exhortation without giving them an example.
So, in order to enforce the earnest exhortations he had just given as to lowliness of mind and unselfish consideration of the things of others, Paul sets forth the Lord Jesus Christ as the supreme example of this. His voluntary self-abasement, His incarnation, His obedience even unto the death of the cross. The passage combines Christian doctrine and Christian practice. The immediate connection is between the principle in Philippians 2:4, of having regard to the condition and needs of others, and this sublime example of Christ.”
All that now follows declares how Jesus looked upon our dire needs as sinners. We are the “others” whose “needs” were the great object of His acting in grace. And it is His mind, as thus expressed, that is to be our mind.
His “attitude” was one of: self-denial (6-7) Humility (8) Obedience (8)
And Paul lays before these loved ones the greatest example he could ever give. No one was more undeserving of love, forgiveness and fellowship than they were, then we are as vile sinners. Who were we that God should become man, lower Himself for a time, in order to redeem us and qualify us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light? (Colossians 1:12)
And yet, He did. “fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith. Who for the joy set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you may not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:2-3).
Dear Christian, Christ is our supreme example, His selfless love is an example to us. His Humility and obedience even to the point of death are our encouragement, given by Paul, to strive for unity within their /our local church.
Friend, just like all those who have gone before, just like all of us sitting here today, you are undeserving of His love, His forgiveness, and His fellowship. You as the rest, are a vile sinner in His eyes and should be cast off into outer darkness.
But, you have hope in this same Jesus! He came to this earth, endured the cross, despised the shame, died the death you should have died, bore your sins on that cruel tree, so that you, through Him, could be declared righteous! Forgiven!Reconciled! At peace with God, your creator! Please believe in Him and you “will” be saved!
In preparing for this post, I read about a church that split, and that split began over an argument at a potluck supper when a lady brought a congealed salad she made with Cool Whip instead of real whipping cream. Can you believe it?
In googling further, you can find where churches have split over whether the pianist should sit to the right or the left side of the podium; over whether the Lord’s Supper is served from the front to the back or the back to the front. Even over trying to decide whether a kitchen should be a part of the church building or not!
We chuckle at these things but more googling revealed a story about a church that split over who was the actual pastor. They had two pastors. Two groups thought they each had their guy, and both of them got up to lead a service on Sunday. Both led the singing. Both groups tried to out-sing each other. Then both pastors started preaching, trying to out-preach each other. Finally, it just broke out into fistfights, and the police had to come in and break it up.
That’s outrageous. And it just goes to show how “intentional” we must be at building and preserving unity among ourselves. These examples reinforce just how important our daily walk with Christ is. We need the help of the Holy Spirit to walk in holiness, love, and unity.
After Paul shared the fantastic work that the Lord was accomplishing in his imprisonment for “the greater progress of the gospel” (back in 1:11-26), He turned his attention off himself. He directed it towards them, the Philippian church.
We saw in Chapter one, verse twenty-seven, that Paul was concerned about their conduct, that they, as regenerated sinners, now “in Christ” through His substitutionary atoning work, would conduct themselves or behave as citizens of Heaven should behave themselves. He exhorted them to live out their new salvation, in his words: “in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.” And that is to be done even amidst conflict and suffering (1:29-30).
I want to point something out here as we prepare to examine Philippians 2. This congregation of Christians at Philippi was a good church, and as Paul thought about them and even as he wrote to them, his thoughts and feelings were positive. The Philippians had a special place in his heart and he in their hearts. We see that throughout the letter.
For example, in chapter 1, verse 3, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you.” “Every time I think about you I’m thankful.” Verse 4, “Every time I pray for you it is with joy.” Verse 5, “Grateful for your participation in the gospel, from the first day until now – consistency, endurance.” And then you’ll also notice in verse 8, he says, “I long for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.” There was genuine love between the apostle and this church.
Chapter 1, verse 19, Commends them for their prayers. He mentions his fond memories of them. In chapter 2, verse 12, he says, “You have always obeyed, and I want you to continue to obey.” And he commends them for their obedience. They had a pattern of obedience. When he was there, they obeyed, and he wanted them to continue doing it even in his absence.
Chapter 4 verse 16 he says, “It not the first time you sent me an offering; even in Thessalonica you sent a gift more than once for my needs.” (generosity)
All of his thoughts about this church were positive; his feelings toward them were warm. In 1:5, when he affirms their participation in the gospel, he notes that they were genuine believers. Verse 7 speaks of their great courage because even in Paul’s imprisonment and “defense and confirmation of the gospel,” they stood with him as “partakers of grace.” Add to all this what John Macarthur points out: “There is a very obvious lack of doctrinal exhortation in this epistle because there was apparently no doctrinal deviation. They had not gone astray in terms of theology. They didn’t need to be corrected. There is no immorality in the congregation which is confronted in the epistle. So generally, this is a quality group of people. This is really a devoted, consistent, doctrinally true church.”
But, despite all of that, there is lurking in that church a deadly snake with venom. And that deadly snake is the snake of disunity, discord, and conflict, which has poisoned many churches.
I mention all of that because I think we are prone to assume that disunity and conflict wouldn’t be a problem in a strong church. That is not necessarily the case. One commentator made this point:
“There is a sense in which this is the danger of every healthy church. You see, it is when people are really in earnest, when their beliefs really matter to them, when they are eager to carry out their own plans and their own schemes that they are most apt to get up against each other. The greater their enthusiasm, the greater the danger that they may collide,” (William Barclay)
And that is why Paul’s writing to these believers is so helpful to us today. We do not want to be deceived into thinking disunity and discord cannot happen among us.
We need to recognize the danger and be reminded of how we can promote unity and combat discord among ourselves as individuals and a church body.
So, open up your bibles with me, and let’s read Philippians 2:1-4 together.
2 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in Spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
The first thing I want us to take notice of is this:
1. Redemption changes us (1)
Paul is writing these words in verse one, continuing his appeal in verses 27-30. He is building upon the theme of unity. Remember, he used the terms “standing firm in one spirit,” “with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
In 2:2, he uses the same language. He says: “be of the same mind, maintain the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.”
Paul wants these believers he loves dearly to express (live-out) the power, influence, and fellowship of the Spirit (benefits of the gospel) they received at salvation within their local fellowship. Paul is very aware of the situation between Euodia and Syntyche, and he addresses it later (4:2).
Listen to how two other translations read in verse one:
Barclay: “If the fact that you are in Christ has any power to influence you, if love has any persuasive power to move you, if you really are sharing in the Holy Spirit, if you can feel compassion and pity,”
Phillips: “Now if your experience of Christ’s encouragement and love means anything to you, if you have known something of the fellowship of his Spirit, and all that it means in kindness and deep sympathy.”
Do you get the sense of what Paul is doing here? Notice Paul’s approach with the Philippians. He’s not only warm and pastoral, but he’s also quick to first mention the blessings of the gospel before giving specific exhortations to help them understand the importance of striving for unity within their church.
Often we have that backward and see little results. We can learn from Paul’s example.
But, we need to grasp the point Paul is making and the way he is making it. The “if” in these statements refers to certainties, not possibilities, and could be translated “since.”
Let’s look at each one:
The first reminder (Blessing) is that there is encouragement in Christ. We have the blessing of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:10) and being found in Him (Philippians 3:9). We have been given the gift of faith (Philippians 1:29). Does anything lift our spirits more than knowing we are in Christ? In any trial and suffering we go through, we find encouragement in our relationship with Jesus.
Second, we have the consolation of love. This is presumably a reference to the love of Christ that comforts us. He is ours, and we are His. What comfort! It may also reference mutual love for one another that flows from this relationship with Jesus. This connection was made in Philippians 1:7-8. Paul loves the church “with the affection of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:8). We know God’s love, and His love makes us love others.
Third, we’re reminded that we share in the fellowship of the Spirit. The Greek word translated “fellowship” (koinonia) is the same word as in Philippians 1:5. The Spirit unites us as brothers and sisters (Philippians 1:27), partners in the gospel, and the Spirit helps in our weaknesses (Romans 8:26). Later Paul says that Christians worship God “by the Spirit” (Philippians 3:3). Paul is aware that disunity threatened the Philippian congregation, so he reminds them of the Spirit-produced fellowship they share.
Fourth, we share affection and mercy. This affection (cf. Philippians 1:8) or “tenderness” (NIV) flows from our union with Christ. Christ has loved us with amazing tenderness. He has shown us infinite affection. Mercy or “sympathy” (ESV) or “compassion” (NIV) has also come to us from the source of all compassion- our great God (see Psalm 103; Romans 12:1; 2 Corinthians 1:3). We share in a common experience of being the objects of God’s compassion. This tender care should cause us to look out for the interests of others (Philippians 2:4) and serve sacrificially as illustrated by the life of Epaphroditus (Philippians Php 2:25-30; 4:18).
So, Paul, so concerned for their unity, their love for one another, and an unhindered gospel witness from them reminds them, and in a way, I think, challenges them, to unselfishly share these benefits of the gospel with others. Freely they have been given, so freely give!
Dear Christian, because of your being “in” Christ, you too share in these blessings (encouragement in Christ, comfort of love, fellowship in the Spirit, mercy, and compassion).
How are they equipping you and aiding you in your daily walk?
Freely, by His grace, they have been given to you. Are you unselfishly sharing these benefits with your brothers and sisters in Christ?
Perhaps you are reading this today and do not know Jesus as your Lord and savior. You are not enjoying these blessings we are talking about. Your life may be in shambles, depression your only friend, why not look to Jesus? He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother. He can take the mess of your life and make beauty from the ashes. What keeps you from Him?
Paul’s appeal to these folks seems to be this: “If life in Christ has changed you at all, and you are experiencing these blessings in your own life because of Jesus, Make my joy complete…”
BRIEF INTRO: As we continue with our study, take notice that Paul writes to them: “Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” This ONE thing was so important for Paul to get across to them.
Remember, Paul just finished sharing with them how much he loves them, prays for them, is thankful for their participation in the work of the gospel. He just shared with them what was going on in prison so that they would be encouraged and trust the Lord more fully. He just let them know of the uncertainty he had regarding whether or not he would die in prison and go to be with their Lord or remain on and serve them for their further progress in the faith. And this is what concerns Paul, this is his first instruction to these believers in this letter, and it is the foundation for all other teachings that he will deliver to them.
So, what are some ways “in a manner worthy of the gospel” would play out in their/our lives?
2. Obedience to the word of God
3. Walking in love, unity 4. Forgiving others
5. Pursuing godliness
6. Evangelizing, etc., etc.
The gospels’ influence in our lives, dear Christian, doesn’t end at salvation. The gospel saves us, but it also is what we are to be living (in) light of and (for) as we sojourn through this place.
So how in Paul’s mind does that play out for these believers? He goes on to write that: “Standing firm (one spirit, one mind).”
Now, this verb “standing firm” that you see there means “to be stationary.” It means “not to be pushed around,” “not to be moved around.” The idea is that you are anchored in a place, and there is no reverse gear in you. You have taken your stand, and you are immovable because of your convictions in the gospel, and you are standing firm.
It is a military term, actually, and it pictures a soldier’s duty in the battle to hold his position. He has been assigned a place on the front lines. And wherever there is a breakdown, the enemy can slip through. The enemy is always looking for the weakest soldier in the army. And if they can defeat the weakest soldier, it becomes the entry point to break the ranks, and to penetrate, and to infiltrate, and to be able to bring about a devastating defeat.
Take notice of those two qualifiers in that sentence? One Spirit, one mind. Paul is writing to “all the saints at Philippi,” not one solitary individual. He is speaking about these believers being “unified,” having unity among themselves. If there is a weak link among them, you can be sure, disunity and strife will enter their local fellowship.
They needed this warning. Already in this church, we have two ladies who are not getting along, and it never stops there, does it? Two ladies bickering among themselves then become two husbands arguing among themselves. That then becomes two families and then adds all the friends of the families taking sides, and on and on the disunity and strife grows.
If we are, as we will learn later in Philippians, seeking to have the “mind of Christ,” the whole body pursuing Christ-like-ness, disunity and strife would not be able to disrupt or destroy our fellowship. It would not be able to weaken or destroy our witness for Christ. It would have no place!
Dear Christian, are you pursuing unity with your church family? Are you seeking to esteem them more important than yourself? Are you actively practicing forgiveness rather than harboring bitterness and unforgiveness?
Paul also uses the word “striving.” Striving together (for the faith of the gospel)!
Striving together is just one word in the original language. And it is a primary root word with a prefix put at the beginning. The primary root is athleo; from that, we get our English words “athlete,” “athletics.” And the idea is to compete in a contest, and specifically, commentators tell us that it is the contest of wrestling.
And then, the prefix “with” is put at the front, meaning that we are to be
wrestling together. We are to be contending together. We are to be competing together. And the idea is we are on the same team. We are not wrestling against one another. We are wrestling on one team in trying to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ (Dustin Benge). One body, one Spirit…one Lord, one faith, one baptism… one God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4: 4-6) A team under the banner of Christ!
Christians, we have a robust gospel that saves sinners from God’s wrath and judgment. We have a beautiful gospel that reminds us of the grace and kindness of God toward mankind. The good news that: God made you and me and wants to have a relationship with us. But mankind fell into sin in the garden of Eden, and that sin has been imputed to all of us ever since. We are by our very nature children of wrath. Our sin separates us from God who is holy by His very nature. But God sent forth His only begotten son, Jesus, and He took the punishment our sins deserved on the cross. He died, was buried, and rose again, God the Father accepting His son’s sacrifice in our place. So, if you, with repentant faith, trust in him for your salvation, you will be forgiven, justified, and accepted freely by His grace and indwelt with his Spirit and one day will be with Him for all eternity.
This is the message that we are to be “striving” together to promote, live out, model, teach, preach, proclaim.
Fellow Christians, are we contending together for the “faith of the gospel? Are you, dear brother, dear sister, a part of the team, competing together for the sake of the gospel with the rest of the family of God? Now, all these things may seem daunting to you right now, but take courage Christian, God is working in us to do and be what He desires us to do and be, Amen!
Now take notice of some pretty incredible results of our obedience and unity within the church, the body of Christ.
Not alarmed by your opponents (the affect of such living) (28)
Paul continues in his thoughts about unity and perseverance in the gospel. He says if the Philippian believers would be of one mind and one Spirit, contending together for the faith of this amazing gospel, they would “in no way” be alarmed by their opponents.
In other words, he is saying, using powerful language here, that he does not want them to be frightened. KJV uses the word terrified in any respect by their opponents. Fear would prevent effort. Fear of the enemy would stifle gospel witness and hinder the very unity Paul was calling for.
Rather than fear, the church’s failure to be intimidated by its enemies is a sign of the ultimate failure of the enemies of God! Unity in the gospel, striving together, standing firm in the body, leaves no “weak link,” no way for the enemy to break through the ranks. And so that is a sign to them of at least two things: (28)
1. Sign of destruction for their enemies
2. Sign of salvation for you
What Paul probably means here when he says “a sign of salvation for you,” is the fact “that believers have been granted courage from God to stand firm in their struggles and in doing so are demonstrating their salvation.” These words from Paul would have been very convicting (considering what is going on in their local fellowship) but, I think, encouraging as well, especially when they read the following verses.
Paul says that two things have been “granted” them. (29)
1. To believe in Him (Salvation)
2. To suffer for His sake
It has been “granted” them, or we could say graciously given to them their salvation. That we understand, right? Nobody should have a problem understanding how gracious God is in granting vile sinners forgiveness and newness of life. But they are graciously given suffering from Him as well? That’s a harder nut to chew.
According to one commentator: “suffering for Christ was not to be considered accidental or a divine punishment. Paul referred to a kind of suffering that was really a sign of God’s favor. The Greek word translated “granted” is derived from a word which means grace or favor. Believing on Christ and suffering for Him are both associated with God’s grace.” (Lightner)
James says that we are to count it all joy when encountering various trials, knowing that there is a God-ordained, just, and good reason behind it. We can trust Him in the hard times! Brothers and sisters, I would guess that we don’t count our sufferings as God’s favor upon us. I would also think that we do not count them a joy when we encounter them, and I would also guess that for these Philippians to be experiencing the same conflicts Paul was, it was pretty challenging for them.
But what we have to remember is that just as they shared a similar struggle as Paul, Paul encouraged them, just like they did him. They wanted to know how he was doing in prison, and so he told them all those things to encourage them as they faced hardships. So, as Paul calls for unity and perseverance within the body of Christ amidst opposition, so do I:
Will we behave like the citizens of Heaven that we are?
Will we be found to stand firm in one Spirit with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel?
Will each of us stand firm to not give a foothold to the enemy without, and will we be at peace with one another so as not to let division begin within?
Will we trust God to lead us, aid us, empower us and work in and through us?
In the following 11 verses, Paul gives many appeals to the Thessalonians regarding their conduct moving forward. Some of these are concerning their leaders, some direct their behavior as a congregation, and a few are aimed at their own individual Christian life but are relatable to the church body as a whole. Our focus in this study will be only on verses 12-13.
“But we request of you, brethren, that you appreciate those who diligently labor among you, and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instruction, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Live in peace with one another.”
FOCUS ONE: We must remember that Paul is writing these instructions to a very young church (Acts 16-17). It seems that Paul would have appointed its Elders shortly after its formation and his sudden, unexpected need to leave them. Persecution began quickly, so Paul and Silas went to Berea. These Elders would be men who lived lives that were above reproach (1 Timothy 3:1-7). Men who would be keeping watch over their souls, giving an account of their service to the Lord one day (Hebrews 13:17). Men who were not to lord it over anyone but who would humbly recognize and acknowledge that it is by the Holy Spirt that they have been made “overseers” to the church of God in Thessalonica.
These men worked hard at caring for the people, and their labor was added to their usual 9-5 workday. So, their efforts were indeed a “labor of love” towards their brothers and sisters in Christ!
In verse 12, Paul requests this church body to “appreciate,” or some other translations may use the words “know” or “recognize,” those men who labor among them as Elders. Paul does not mean that they should be able to point them out at a church service or when walking down a street, although they certainly should be able to do that. Paul is speaking in more of a personal, relational aspect. They should personally know their leaders by interacting with them; through co-laboring among them. He wants them to take notice of their labor among them and to recognize their efforts for the sake of Christ and His body. To acknowledge God’s calling and gifting for this work and the sacrifices they are making daily on their behalf.
FOCUS TWO: He mentions three ways in which these Elders minister to them:
They diligently labor among you.
They have charge over you.
They give you instructions.
To labor means that they give a continuous effort at unending care for the body. Having charge over or “overseeing,” implies that these men lead them in a God-honoring direction. Their instruction would come through preaching, teaching, counseling, and exercising discipline through the proper use of the word of God.
And, it is as essential for us today as it was for them to recognize how Paul qualifies their leadership; “in the Lord.” Their salvation and ministry among them are all a result of the grace of God in their lives. That is why leaders are not to act superior to those they serve (1 Peter 5:3).
FOCUS THREE: And so, because of all the above mentioned, Paul requests that the church body “esteem them very highly in love.” He wants them to respect these men, NOT because of their talents or personality, But because of their faithful ministry to them in obedience to Christ Jesus their Lord!
So, just as Paul clarified the character of their service (in the Lord), He now does the same regarding how the body is to esteem these men (in love.) There may be no personal reason for the respect of a brother or sister. There may be no “perceived” personal benefit from their labor; even so, Paul is saying, respect or appreciate them anyway because of the nature of their calling and its benefits to others!
Lastly, in verse 13, Paul writes, “live in peace with one another.” This may appear to be off-topic, but I assure you Paul had a purpose for writing these words. When spiritual leaders live and serve in these ways and the congregation submits to their leadership, in love, and with respect, peace is the result!
FOR FURTHER THOUGHT:
1. How well do you know the spiritual leaders within your church? In what ways do you show your support for them?
2. According to 1 peter 5:1-3, what is the primary function of a pastor or Elder in the local church?
3. How has your understanding regarding the relationship between Elders and the congregation been informed or changed as a result of these scriptures? How? If so, how will it affect your relationship with your Elders moving forward?