“Because there is a sustaining encouragement that comes through union with Christ, the incentive to love, communion with the Spirit and affectionate tenderness, then make me truly happy by knowing that you are living in harmony and that your hearts are beating in unison. Cease to act from selfish motives, conceit and petty ambitions, but in true humility let each of you regard one another as more important than himself. Have less concern for personal interests and let every one seek his neighbor’s welfare.” (paraphrased)
By writing such an emotional appeal, Paul indicates the Philippians need to progress and mature in Christ. He seeks to shake them loose from any self-complacency as he pleads for humility and harmony.
The word “if” in all four appeals in this verse can be translated “since,” “because” or “in view of the fact.” This two-letter word is sometimes used to connect thoughts. Paul is not proposing hypothetical situations (as the word “if” might seem to suggest) but rather uses each aspect of his appeal to define a specific reality in the lives of the Philippian Christians. These four rhetorical questions actually form one single appeal—that any divisiveness among them be completely resolved. All four facets challenge the Philippians to live and work together in unison.
He lists four distinctive reasons why unity is so essential:
The word paraklesis can be translated “exhortation” or “encouragement.” It is interesting that this is the same root word as “Comforter” which Jesus uses to refer to the Holy Spirit in John 14-16. Our consolation in Christ should be a great incentive for unanimity of purpose. There is no room for schism, cliques, factions or isolationism. The Spirit of God consoles us, and our spouse should be the first human being we turn to when we are in need of consolation.
A more accurate rendering might read “love has the persuasive power to move you toward unity.” Because the love of God is a comfort to them, they are under obligation to comfort one another. Paul exhorts the Philippians to settle any differences they may have, for their sacrificial love should mirror the sacrificial love of Christ. Believers should constantly edify and encourage one another.
“Fellowship” here is better rendered “partnership.” The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit should sweeten our communication with others. Christians should seek innovative ways to improve their communication skills.
The compassion Paul refers to here is not mere human sympathy. He rejects the superficiality of everyday courtesy, stressing the necessity for tenderness and empathy. “Mercies” (oiktrirmoi) signifies deep feelings of compassion for those in need of our love and attention. The combined terms of “bowels and mercies” (KJV) refer to deep and affectionate sympathy. Disciples must exhibit tenderness and compassion for one another.
The phrase “in Christ” is the connecting link in all four clauses of this verse, for all these appeals hinge on the Philippians being one in Jesus Christ. Paul never allows their minds to drift from the One whose teachings bind all believers together. It is because of our unity with Jesus that we experience encouragement, comfort and fellowship in the Spirit. Recipients of these blessings should in turn bless others.
Through this four-fold illustration, Paul expresses confidence the Philippians will fulfill his joy and solidify their unity through harmonious fellowship. Those who read Philippians today should be stirred by his appeal to settle all differences. Paul takes them from human disconcertedness to a higher level of unification through compassion for fellow Believers.
Having given his four-fold appeal for unity, Paul sets the stage for its practical application. Despite the world’s external hostility outside the church, he pleads for internal peace within the church. This quadruple exhortation is written to move them toward joy through like-mindedness.
By writing, “fulfill ye my joy,” Paul is not encouraging the Philippians to encourage him, but motivating them to encourage each another. Paul asks that his cup of joy be filled to the brim by knowing the Philippians are united in purpose by complete unanimity. The phrase “of the same mind” literally means “to be together in soul, contemplating and directing all thoughts on one thing.”
The title of an old chorus reads, “Jesus, Others and You, What a Wonderful Way to Spell JOY.” This song helps children learn priorities. While the world tends to think of self first, others second and God last, Paul points out that the reverse order applies to Believers. God must be first, others second and self last.
To downplay personal honor and prestige is a concept that does not come naturally. Such egocentricity is exemplified in the life of Diotrephes, who loved to promote himself (3 John 9). Christianity does not encourage selfishness, conceit, egotism, self-aggrandizement or pride. Christians are to have an honest and modest estimate of themselves and seek to comprehend their own insignificance. To “esteem each other as better than ourselves” is the secret of a blessed Christian life.
Strife is putting others down and vainglory is puffing up oneself. We are to “do nothing through strife and vainglory.” “Strife” (eritheia) is literally “friction.” The same word is rendered “contention” in 1:16, where it describes the intention of Paul’s enemies. Here it is used to point to the petty squabbles than can arise within a church family. Bickering is self-destructive in any congregation.
We are encouraged to be concerned for the well being of others. Paul knows the church will maintain a harmonious disposition as they stay in accord with God’s Spirit.
The Greek word “look” here depicts a runner who has fixed his eye on the goal. We are not to set our sights on our own interests, but rather to promote the welfare of others. Believers must follow “The Golden Rule” rather than “The Law of the Jungle,” where only strong ones survive. We are to search and find the good in others, rather than their faults.
he word “mind” occurs four times in verses 2, 3 and 5. We are to be our brother’s keeper by looking out for each other (Gen. 4:9). In Paul’s day, the Pharisees were egotists and the Romans felt they were superior to everyone. Paul seeks to preclude any type of partisan spirit before it infects the emerging church at Philippi. The selfless worldview Paul describes is only possible through “lowliness of mind.”
CONSOLATION – STUDY QUESTIONS
1. What does Jesus teach concerning humility in Luke 18:14?
A. leadership is a gift
B. you can’t please everybody
C. have patience with those weaker than yourself
D. those who humble themselves will be exalted
E. none of the above
2. In 2:2, what does Paul say will bring him joy?
A. if they were like-minded
B. if they had the same love for one another
C. if they were in one accord
D. if they were circumcised
E. A, B and C
3. In John 12:13-14, what does Jesus do that exemplifies servanthood?
A. washed His disciples’ feet
B. fed the multitudes
C. healed the sick
D. raised the dead
E. healed leprosy
CONSOLATION – REFLECTION
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR COUPLES
1. What specific things do you do for your spouse to demonstrate his/her needs are more important than your own?
2. How do you settle differences when you disagree?
3. List and discuss some of the sweetest memories of fellowship with your mate.
4. List some ways you can help to develop a stronger unity in your home.
ESSAY QUESTIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS
1. What specific things do you do for others that demonstrate their needs are more important than your own?
2. How do you settle differences between you and another person when you disagree?
3. List some of the most significant memories of fellowship you’ve had with others.
4. List some ways you can help to develop a stronger unity with friends and co-workers.