Monday, February 13, 2012


   IF YOU have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with 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 purpose. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. 4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1-4).

1 The following exhortation also concerns unity, but this time the focus is turned on problems within the church. To encourage the fulfillment of this injunction, Paul listed four incentives. All are stated as "if" clauses, but the condition is assumed to be true (the "if" becomes almost synonymous with "since"). (1) As Christians, the Philippians 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. (2) The comfort and encouragement provided by love should prompt the Philippians to desist from divisiveness in any form and to join hands in common action. (3) The fellowship produced by the Holy Spirit should stimulate the practical exercise of unity. They have been made one by the Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 12:13) and thus are partners with him and  with each other. (4) The existence of tenderness and compassion among them would make the unity that was being called for the normal and expected thing.

2-4 Paul exhorts the Philippians to make his joy full by "being like-minded" (lit., "minding the same thing"). He was already experiencing joy because of his association with this church (1:3-4; 4:10), but one attitude that was still needed to make his joy "complete" was like-mindedness. Of course, this was not a command for unity at the expense of the truth, for "the same thing" is also "the right thing."

      Paul now elaborates on his enjoinder to maintain unity in their thought and action. By complying with the next four instructions, his readers would create a climate where true unity could flourish. (1) Believers should posses a mutual love. Inasmuch as all were indwelt by the same Spirit (v.1), love as a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22) ought to be demonstrated in every life.

      (2) Believers should set their minds on oneness "in spirit and purpose." This phrase repeats what was said in v.2 and reinforces the conclusion that there was a problem of disharmony within the congregation. It may be unfair to center the problem on Euodia and Syntyche (4:2), but they were at least involved.

      (3) Believers should avoid "selfish ambition" and "vain conceit" and consider others above themselves (v.3). Paul himself had experienced adverse affects from selfish ambition among some unworthy preachers at Rome (1:17). Persons who seek to advance themselves usually enjoy glorying in their success. The Christian attitude should reveal itself in "humility", a concept not highly regarded among Greeks. Believers should be humble toward one another, mindful of their spiritual brotherhood and their ultimate subjection to Christ. In their exercise of humility, they should "consider others better than yourselves." This does not mean that we must have a false or unrealistic views of our own gifts as compared with those of others. Rather, our consideration for others must precede concern for ourselves (Rom 12:10). This will go far toward removing their disharmony.

      (4) Believers should be looking not only to their own interests but also to those of others. (v.4). The self-centeredness that considers only one's own rights, plans, and interests must be replaced by a broader outlook that includes the interests of one's fellows Christians. "Not only . . . but also" indicates that believers should not neglect their own welfare or that of their families (1 Tim 5:8) as they seek the good of others. Instead, Paul calls for a Christian concern that is wide enough to include others in its scope. When each member of the Christian community exercises this mutual concern, problems of disunity quickly disappear.
[NIV BIBLE COMMENTARY Volume 2: New Testament].



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