Quest for the Philippian Love


Brother David Green

Philippians 2:1-8  1)If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, 2)fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of on accord, of one mind. 3)Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 4)Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. 5)Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus: 6)Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7)But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men: 8)And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

Dear Christian, can there be any imaginable blessings while in our natural state better than these described by Paul (vs.1-4)? To know and feel the comfort of Christ and the passion of his love for us in all things without doubt; to embrace a personal communion of the Spirit of God in our prayers and meditations; to feelingly rejoice in new mercies each day of our lives whose heights cannot be scaled! These blessings are not notional rhetoric by Paul. They are fully attainable or else they have no use to be spoken. Now, carefully and reflectively read the following verses 2-5. These are the divinely appointed means, as also exampled in Christ (vs.6-8), to procure these blessings: that ye be likeminded, having the same love, etc. In addition to being a means, these requirements of the Lord test the true condition of the soul and exposes its real development of character. This beautiful and yet searching that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the exhortation of Paul strikes at the very center of the greatest trophy of practical godliness within the saint and the church: The unity of love. Christ’s love. Supreme love. Not in word, but in practice. Without which there is no genuine spiritual unity.

Paul’s epistle to the Philippians is the only church epistle that bears no form of chastisement or reprimand. After having commended and encouraged the church in the first chapter with much thanksgiving and prayer, he begins in the second chapter to introduce a powerful compendium of the portrait of true Christian character. In addressing this need, the apostle exhibits just how profoundly he desired to see the love of Christ practiced among the saints at Philippi evidencing a very special benevolence towards this particular church (see also chapter 1:3-8). But, we might observe no matter how pungent Paul’s affection is for the saints in Philippi, it only served to represent the love and desire he had for all the churches of Christ. While writing to one, Paul often appears to have them all consciously in his heart (2Cor. 11:28; 2Thess.1:4; Rom.16:4). And it cannot be over emphasized that regardless of the problems within any one church and the consequential harshness and severity of his letter, Paul’s love never wanes toward them. It is this very attitude that provides the dynamics of the lesson taught in our passages under consideration. In these passages, Paul applies the same principle of His master’s earlier exhortation to His disciples in Luke 9:23, “if any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.”  How difficult it is for the soul of saint and sinner alike to prefer not the preeminence of themselves, their pride, their opinions, their accomplishments. However, our Lord instructed this to be done first before the daily service of bearing the load of our cross can be achieved. To truly be of the same mind and love to others as prescribed requires this same denial of self. Earnestly desiring to more highly extol each brother and sister more than self and present ourselves as their servant out of genuine Godly love are the values for the equation to Christian unity. The difficulty is not found in the mental acquiescing that it should be so, but the conviction to practice it in every occasion especially amidst bitter conflict. Paul told the Ephesians they must never allow the sun to go down upon their anger (Eph.4:26). No doubt saints will become angered or upset and engage in differences towards one another. This can be a disagreement of scriptural understanding and practice, practical nonessential differences, or just personality conflict. But no matter what these differences and contentions might be, true Christian love will not allow the sun to set on this anger and turn to sin. That is, it must have an ending before the daylight of peace turns into the darkness of division. Paul and Barnabas disagreed on whether, or not, to allow John Mark to accompany with them to visit the brethren in different cities. This difference was so great between these two godly men, that they were unable to resolve it as follows, “And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other…” (Acts 15:39). Most indubitably, each man was extremely angry toward the other. But so great was their love for the Savior, His people AND one another, that rather than allow the anger to develop into hatred and then foolishly bar one another from future fellowship and love, they did the right thing and departed. Note, and this is very important, “departing” was not the sole solution. Both men turned themselves away from the contention and toward the work of God. They “put off the old man with his deeds; and…put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him” (Col.3:8-10). They needed not only to turn away from sin, but, turn towards righteousness. They were angry, but they sinned not. The sun did not go down on their anger. That is, it was not allowed to continue and transition into anything worse. No festering or continuing to think and speak with bitter contempt of the conflict privately or publicly. Paul kept to his own instruction he gave the saints at Philippi. He removed the danger of “strife and vain glory” (vs. 3), and he looked not only on his own things, but that of Barnabas’s as well (vs.4) and did not continue to drive the contention to a dissolution of unity between them. And so, their unity in Christ was preserved even though they went their different ways. They both still did the Lord’s work alike. Both men were convicted that their own decision was right, and consequently the other to be wrong. However, even in that they did not suppose themselves in thought or deed to be superior and the other lesser, but did humbly “esteem other better than themselves” as is evidenced by Paul who speaks of Barnabas in Colossians 4:10, 11 with great respect and as one of his fellow-workers and one who had been a comfort to him.

Paul continues, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.” How? By harboring no reputation for ourselves, but rather lifting-up others in our place. Christ had a reputation, indeed. But he neither sought it nor desired it. And it should be the same with us. This is a very delicate truth for within us all lies the desire to be highly and favorably considered. However, our prayer is always that Christ has the preeminence and we are the servant of both Him and all men. If we are praised, let another man praise us and not our or own mouth or mind (Proverbs 27:2; Phil.2:2,4,7). May all our accomplishments be done so that if we are approved of men it is done to God’s glory and directed towards Christ (I Cor. 11:1). As Christians, we are followers of Christ Jesus, not men, or organizations, or titles, or denominations. The example of Christ in conduct of life and in imitation of Him is humility and obedience in the form and attitude of a servant…”and he took upon Him the form of a servant… humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross” (ref. vss. 6-8). Is it so with us dear reader? Especially, in the moments when the flesh refuses it to be so. In anger and conflict, in depression and sadness, in pride and arrogance, or even in exhilarating joy, Paul’s commandment is: be of like mind; be of one accord; let nothing be done in strife or vain glory; in lowliness of mind esteem others better than ourselves. In this, the blessings of God are possessed by His people in like manner as their Savior.

The purposed portion of any doctrinal instruction is its personal and practical application. What is it that the church must accomplish to enjoy all the blessings described and assure the wonderful effect of joy in the heart of Paul or any saint? The unity of love, says Paul, “that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind”. This “like-mindedness” is so imperative and deeply important to the saints that the apostle repeats it in the same breath four times using four different analogies of it for ultimate emphasis: be likeminded, same love, one accord, one mind. How much more important should it be then to us! How visceral the meaning of this exhortation needs to be in our own heart and minds! There has long been a vital need for this lesson of Paul’s. For too many generations world over, Christians and church bodies alike have debated and argued and barred fellowship because of positions of doctrinal controversy. Yes, doctrine, itself, is never to be compromised and minimized of its importance. Paul warned the Galatian church of being removed from the gospel of the grace of Christ which was not a gospel because it was not the true gospel of Grace (Gal.1:6-9) because it was not preaching GRACE. The gospel is taught through doctrine. Doctrine is vital! But not for leveraging one’s superiority over another to prove who is right and who is wrong, but rather for edification through a loving spirit (Eph.4:16, 1 Cor. 14:26, Rom.14:19). I Timothy 6:3 speaks of the “doctrine which is according to godliness.” Without this the teaching of Christ is not the scriptural image of Christ. Godliness defines the nature and purpose of true doctrine. True doctrine is pure and purifying. It effects a godly temper of mind and manner of living. This is exactly what Paul taught to the church at Philippi in the passages under consideration. There is no doctrine in Scripture that was inspired for merely speculative and intellectual thinking. All scripture is given to influence the conduct of our lives (II Tim.3:16,17). There is absolutely a vital connection between doctrine and obedience. Godly doctrine does not approve or induce carnal hatred and unkindness and speaking with the bitterness of guile…for any reason (I Pet.2:22; Psa.34:13). Those who have doctrine without also teaching Godly character are “vainly puffed up” by the flesh (Col. 2:18). Note in I Tim.1:9-10, the things here registered as “contrary to sound doctrine” are those same things that are contrary to sound doctrinal conduct. In so many cases, controversial points, right or wrong, are adopted more from a traditional view-point rather than a conviction wrought from personal study and fervent prayer hammered out on the anvil of one’s own soul from thoroughly searching the scriptures whether these things are so (Acts 17:11). The child of God must ALWAYS have an open mind and heart to be taught and instructed more perfectly about any and all truths (Acts 18:26; Prov.3:5; Prov.5:1-13; Prov.1:5).