"Make Paul's Joy Complete" Page 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on Philippians)
by John Lowe
Title: Make Paul's Joy Complete by Being Like-Minded, Having the Same Love
Scripture: (Philippians 2:1-2, NIV)
1 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.
Even Paul’s “ideal” congregation contained “difficult” people. Paul was facing his problems with people at Rome (Philippians 1:15-18) as well as with people in Philippi, and it was the latter who concerned him the most. These verses clearly imply some disharmony in the church at Philippi. When Epaphroditus brought a generous gift to Rome from the church in Philippi and good news of the church’s concern for Paul, he also brought the bad news of a possible division in the church family. Apparently there was a double threat to the unity of the church; false teachers coming in from without (Philippians 3:1-3) and disagreeing members within (Philippians 4:1-3). Paul does not state what Euodia and Syntyche were debating about. Perhaps they both wanted to be president of the missionary society or the choir!
The remedy, Paul tells them, is to forget themselves, think of their neighbors, and be humble like Christ. They will do this by “being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind”.
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfortI from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ . . .
Paul begins the weightiest section of the Epistle with an impassioned appeal for unity based on the Christian experience of his readers. He believed that the first aspect of living worthy of the Gospel was the Philippians’ external relationship to the world by their standing fast and cooperating together to advance the Gospel in the face of opposition (1:27-30). He goes on to address the second aspect of living worthy of the Gospel—an internal unity within the body of the church, and he commands them to be like-minded. With this exhortation Paul more fully explains what he meant by “stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel” (1:27). In order to live in a manner worthy of the Gospel, we have to pursue unity with fellow believers.
Christian unity is impossible without spiritual motivation and divine enablement. Therefore, Paul not only commands the Philippian believers to be like-minded but also provides several reasons. First of all, Paul bases his appeal on a theological premise—the unity among the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Paul mentions both Christ and the Spirit plainly, and God the Father is implied in the reference to “any comfort from His love.” Although three distinct persons comprise the Trinity, there is only one God. These three persons experience a perfect unity.
Disunity has destroyed countless teams, companies, churches, and homes. Perhaps you are familiar with a church that has suffered severely from selfish division. The sign in front of the church building professed the Gospel, but the relationships inside failed to apply it. Very few things hinder the advance of the Gospel as much as a church which is not unified.
Thus, the sense of the first clause is “if there are any grounds for exhortation because you are in Christ, as indeed there are . . .” As Christians, they were in a vital union with Christ and this placed obvious obligations on them. They were responsible to heed the orders of Christ as issued by Him either directly during His ministry or through his apostles.
. . . if any comfortI from his love . . .
The second clause, “if any comfort from his love” speaks of God’s consoling love for His people who often face pressure, as did the Philippians.
As sharers in Christ’s life, the Philippians are under an obligation to heed the exhortation (encouragement) of Christ’s apostle to work together in harmony (1 Corinthians 1:10II). For all who are “in Christ” see bottom of page are subject to the rule of Christ, and must therefore listen to the word of Christ in order that they may never behave in a way which is contrary to the mind of Christ (v. 5).
The comfort and encouragement provided by love should prompt the Philippians to join hands in common action. Their love for Christ and for their fellow believers (including Paul) ought to impel them to desist from divisiveness in any form.
. . . if any common sharing in the Spirit . . .
Or “any participation in the Spirit” (RSV). As believers in Christ they are all sharers in the same Spirit, who has made them fellow-members of the one body (1 Corinthians 12:13III). This appeal to their spiritual experience is clearly intended to underline the inconsistency of indulging in that spirit of self-assertion which fosters divisions within the church (vv. 3, 4). They must rather seek “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3).
During their sufferings in Philippi, the believers shared the same spiritual blessings that flowed from their common relationship with the Trinity. The third clause, “if any common sharing in the Spirit” refers to the comfort and encouragement we have as saints “in Christ Jesus” (1:1).
The third clause, “if any common sharing in the spirit” signifies that the Holy Spirit indwells us and brings us into communion with the triune God. The fellowship produced by the Holy Spirit should stimulate the practical exercise of unity. They have been made one by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13III) and thus are partners with Him and with each other. Recognition of this theological truth would find expression in their lives.
. . . if any tenderness and compassion,
The fourth clause, “if any tenderness and compassion,” depicts God’s undeserved and tender compassion for the church, like a mother for her newborn baby. The existence of tenderness and compassion among them would make the unity that was being called for the normal and expected thing.
In a gracious way, Paul is saying to the church, “Your disagreements reveal that there is a spiritual problem in your fellowship. It isn’t going to be solved by rules or threats; it’s going to be solved when your hearts are right with Christ and with each other.” Paul wanted them to see that the basic cause was selfishness, and the cause of selfishness is pride. There can be no joy in the life of the Christian who puts himself above others.
Notice the intense earnestness of these four clauses. The need for unity is so great that exhortation has become appeal.
II. “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” (1 Corinthians 1:10)
III. “For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body--whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free--and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” (1 Corinthians 12:13)