The ICF has completed the book of Acts and is now going through the letter to the church at Philippi. Our text for this Sunday is Philippians 1:27-2:5. The following is taken from my book, “From West Texas to the French West Indies and Back Again,” pages 94-95.
In Philippians 2:1-5, Paul gave clear instructions on relationships. His primary message in this text is, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus” (verse 5). Paul also wrote: “We have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). The more we resemble Christ, and have his attitude, his mind, the more we will have good relationships with others. Paul had seen division in other churches, and he advised the Philippians to seek unity and humility in relating to one another. His appeal to unity is expressed in four conditions, all found in verse 1.
1. “If there is any encouragement in Christ.” When we read: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13), we know we will have His strength for any trial. When we read: “My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19), we are encouraged personally that our needs will be met, and we can encourage (support) others in their time of need.
2. “If there is any consolation of love.” This condition flows out of the first; when we are comforted by Christ’s love, we can comfort others as we show our love to them. Paul wrote in another letter: “For Christ’s love compels us…” (2 Corinthians 5:14 NIV). His love motivates us; our relationship is first vertical (God to man, and man to God) and then, horizontal (man to man). John reminded us, “We love, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19).
3. “If there is any fellowship of the Spirit.” This condition is vital! If we are personally in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, we will always be able to have fellowship with one another. It would end all division in the church! Ask yourself: what is the significance of the fact that we are brothers and sisters in the Lord, and that we share the same Spirit?
4. “If [there is] any affection and compassion.” We see again the need to put the vertical relationship with Christ before the horizontal relationship with others. Christ’s care for us, His mercy, led to our forgiveness! How then can we withhold mercy and forgiveness from others?
Paul gave four results that happen when these four conditions are met: “being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (Philippians 2:2). This does not mean always thinking alike, but it is following the Holy Spirit as He leads us to be unified in purpose and work. If we have the same love for one another that Christ has for us, there will be harmony and peace in our relationships. “Selfishness or empty conceit” will be replaced by “humility of mind.” Paul’s counsel is, “regard one another as more important than yourselves.” We can only live like this by God’s grace, for it is not in our human nature. With Christ at the center of our lives, we can live according to verse 4, “do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” This is the principle that Jesus expressed in the Golden Rule: “Treat people the same way you want them to treat you” (Matthew 7:12).