Scripture reading – Philippians 2
Philippians 1 concluded with Paul urging Philippian believers to live worthy of the “gospel of Christ,” and strive for unity (1:27a). Setting aside petty differences, he exhorted them to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (1:27b). “Striving together” was an athletic term that implied not only discipline, but teamwork. What was the goal or coming together as a team? “For the faith,” meaning the doctrine, “of the gospel” (1:27b).
Knowing believers in Philippi faced adversaries, Paul encouraged them to not be afraid of those who opposed them, but to follow his example, “not only to believe on [Christ], but also to suffer for His sake” (1:28-30). Paul was passionate the believers in Philippi would encourage each other, knowing the enemies they faced were those who had opposed him (Acts 16).
Four Conditions for Spiritual Unity (2:1)
Philippians 2:1 presents us with four realities that motivate believers to pursue spiritual oneness. The first, “consolation in Christ” (2:1a). In other words, like Christ, we should comfort and encourage others with our words and actions. Secondly, the love of Christ motivates us to extend love to others (2:1b). Believers also share in the “fellowship of the Spirit,” for we are by one Spirit…baptized into one body” (2:1c; 1 Corinthians 12:13). Finally, out of “bowels and mercies,” we extend grace and forgiveness to one another (2:1d). After all, we are to be “kind…tenderhearted… forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Four Essentials for Spiritual Unity (2:2)
Motivated by four conditions necessary for unity (each beginning with “if” in verse 1), Paul prayed four essentials would be true of the believers: “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (2:2).
To be “likeminded” does not mean believers agree on everything. Paul encouraged the congregation at Philippi, not to strive for uniformity (attained only by pressure from without), but for unity (which is a matter of the heart, and attainable by pressure from within). Like-mindedness is attained when we submit our will to a cause greater than ourselves (for the believer, that cause is to glorify the Lord, the salvation of souls, and the welfare of the congregation; but never at the sacrifice of truth and spiritual integrity).
Three other essentials follow the mandate to be likeminded (2:2b). Spiritual unity exists only when believers have “the same love” (loving the same things—the Lord, the Word, and one another), are “one accord” (acting in harmony), and “one mind” (having the same heart, purpose, and intent).
Sinful Attitudes that Hinder the Unity of Believers (2:3-4)
Mentioned in verses 3-4, are three negative attitudes that hinder harmony among believers, and two positive attitudes that contribute to unity. “Strife” (a selfish, quarrelsome spirit) and “vainglory” (pride) were the first two of three attitudes Paul identified as contributors to disharmony. The apostle wrote, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory” (2:3a). Sadly, too many churches are known more for their quarrels and conflicts (James 4:1; 2 Corinthians 12:20), than their love and harmony. Pride, of course, is the rotten root that impedes unity, and is arrogant, self-sufficient, and unteachable (Proverbs 16:18).
The third hindrance to unity was a selfish, self-seeking spirit. Paul urged believers, “Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (2:4). Too many churches and institutions are destroyed by people who focus on what they might gain, rather than on what is honoring to Christ, and best for others.
Closing thoughts (2:3-11) – I conclude our devotion inviting you to consider two attitudes that are essential for peace and unity with other believers. The first was humility. Paul encouraged, “in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves” (2:3b). The ancient Greeks considered humility to be a sign of weakness, and I am afraid the same is true of 21st century societies. Humility is the nature of a Spirit-filled believer. Humility is slow to pass judgment (Matthew 7:1), and charitable toward those at fault (Matthew 7:2-5). Humility is ready to forgive, and overlooks offenses (“Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins,” Proverbs 10:12).
Finally, Paul commanded believers to follow a selfless spirit, writing: “Look…every man also on the things of others” (2:4b). To put the good of others ahead of ourselves is the essence of a selfless spirit. We conclude our study by considering the greatest example of self-sacrificing love and humility: Jesus Christ (2:5-8).
Philippians 2:5–8 – “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
To be great in God’s judgment we must identify with Christ’s humiliation, humble ourselves, and be obedient.
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