This week we continue in our understanding of how to walk in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ by focusing on our unity through an attitude of humility.
1Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
Paul was not looking for happiness or joy directly from his circumstances. For what joy could there be from looking down on his chains, hoping for freedom. Rather, Paul chose to look up for his Joy. We saw that previously his joy stemmed from the spread of the gospel due to his imprisonment. However, now his joy is broadened to include joy through the unity of believers. Believers who he had personally known and led to the Lord.
Paul begins verse 2 with instructing the Philippians to “make my joy complete” or as other translations put it: “fulfill my joy” or “complete my joy”. Paul is absolutely joyful and rejoicing over the Philippian church; however, he still encourages them to make his joy completely full. Think of this like a glass almost filled to the brim with water. Paul wanted his glass to be filled to the brim with no room for more. This is the complete joy Paul sought from the Philippians.
How could the Philippians fill such a tall order as to make Paul’s joy complete? He answers this in the next part of verse 2. Be of the same mind or be like minded he says. To fill Paul’s joy to overflowing the Philippians must be of a single mind. Paul goes on in this same verse to explain what this single mindedness looks like.
To possess a oneness of mind the Philippians needed to continue to have (or maintain) the same love for one another. This “same love” harkens back to verse 1 where he says, “if there is any consolation [comfort] of love”. The Philippians needed to maintain this same love (note too that this is the agape love) that has comforted and consoled them. This is a love that only Christ brings to His church body. This love we, in turn, share with one another. Paul is saying here in verse 2 to maintain this comforting love with one another. But the Philippians (and us, here and now) must also maintain this same love united together in one soul, or as Paul says, “united in spirit”. This is not the Holy Spirit that Paul is talking about here as this word in the original Greek is a different word that means essentially to be united in their affections and desires. Just consider a church body that is united in one mind, united in both affections and desires towards one another. Think of the joy and maturity of a church such as this. Truly this is what we should strive for today in our church, in every church!
Paul adds one last participle to explain how we are to be single minded, that of being “intent on one purpose”. Again this points us towards the singleness of mind, the unity of the church body. We must be intent on being unified in mind and purpose. This is something Paul says that we need to work and strive for. For this does not come easy.
3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
You might think Paul is done with explaining how to be unified in mind, unified in spirit, and striving for one purpose, but you’d be wrong. Here Paul continues to show how we are to be unified on an individual, personal level. Paul says, “regard one another as more important than yourselves”. That is the key to unlocking humility in ourselves (note that he doesn’t state that this will unlock humility in others as we cannot force humility on anyone else). This is a powerful verse to memorize, even if you only memorize the second part, which is to regard others as more important than yourself. Keeping this wisdom at the forefront of our thinking will only benefit the unity of our church and the relationships therein.
Paul adds to this by stating that we should always be looking out for the interests of others. If you regard others as more important than yourself it logically follows that you will also look out for their interests too. This can be a proof or a mark that we are considering others above ourselves and possess this true Christlike humility. But note that Paul doesn’t say to ignore our own personal interests. He says don’t just look out for your own interests, look out for other people’s interests as well. There must be a good balance here. We shouldn’t look out for our own interests and no one else’s interests. Likewise, we shouldn’t fully ignore our own interests. We do have needs of our own that must be met (e.g., food, clothing, shelter, etc.). How will we continue to feed others if we don’t also feed ourselves?
5 Have this attitude 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 grasped, 7 but 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 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.
This is one of the key sections in Philippians. Paul finishes his explanation of how those at Philippi can bring joy to him and themselves by expounding on Christ’s example for us. In these verses Paul explains the perfect humility of Christ. A perfect humility founded upon obedience to the Father. A perfect humility that opened the way for salvation through Him. But just as important, it led to Christ’s glorification as God exalted Him above all others. Christ’s glorification leads to all bowing before Him and declaring with one voice that Jesus Christ is Lord! And all of this glory does not stop with Christ, but He further glorifies God the Father through His own glorification.
Notice that as we have been studying the letters of Paul that he wrote while imprisoned we are given these glimpses of who Christ really is. In Ephesians 2 we see what Christ has done for us, which should overwhelm us as we read it.
1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved — 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.
Next, read about the supremacy and all sufficiency of Christ in us in Colossians 1:15–23:
15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. 21 And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, 22 he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, 23 if indeed you continue in the faith, stable and steadfast, not shifting from the hope of the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and of which I, Paul, became a minister.
These poignant glimpses of Christ should give us pause to think about what He did for us at Calvary on the cross. What He continues to do for us in His supremacy at the right hand of God the Father. How He continues to care for us with His all sufficient power. And now in Philippians, how we should model Christ’s character, His humility. All of this for the glory of God the Father!
Truly Paul is giving us a solid argument for Christlikeness or, put another way, maturity in the faith. How could we not strive to be like Christ after what He has done for us? We know Christ is supreme and sufficient for all our needs, how could we be afraid to strive to be like Christ? Now we have discovered that Christ glorified the Father through His humility on earth. If we truly desire to glorify God the Father, how could we not consider others as more important, just like Christ did for us even as we were dead in our own sins?
As we become more like Christ our joy becomes rooted in Him. Therefore, we must mature in Christ in order to take hold of this same joy that Paul speaks of in this letter.
All glory be to God the Father!