Philippians 2:1-111Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. 3Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. 5Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. 9Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Our study passage tonight starts with “Therefore…” Remember that the chapter and verse divisions we find in our modern printed Bibles were added by Bible scholars many years after the original texts. Thankfully, ancient Greek manuscripts at least have word spacing and vowels. Ancient Hebrew manuscripts of the Old Testament don’t have punctuation marks, or even spaces between the words, and only the consonants of the words were transcribed!
But since the chapter and verse divisions were added later as an aid to research by Bible scholars, oftentimes the beginning of a chapter (like this one) is actually a continuation of the discussion of the previous chapter. Anytime one of our devotions, a sermon, or any other Bible study starts with a connecting word like “therefore,” we need to backtrack (sometimes quite a way back) to re-establish in our remembrance the context of the discussion. So let’s make a quick review of our passage from last week to remind ourselves what Paul is referring to…
Philippians 1:27-3027Only let your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel, 28and not in any way terrified by your adversaries, which is to them a proof of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that from God. 29For to you it has been granted on behalf of Christ, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for His sake, 30having the same conflict which you saw in me and now hear is in me.
As I mentioned last week, Paul has turned a corner in this letter, and will now spend some time exhorting the Philippians (and us) to stand firm and united in their profession of belief in, and their defense of the Gospel, knowing the persecution and suffering they (and we) must suffer for proclaiming Jesus’ Name. Last week, we focused in on this “gift” of suffering for Christ’s sake.
Now let’s take a closer look at the other main point of this passage as it relates to the upcoming passage in chapter 2…
In verse 27, Paul exhorts us to “stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel…” As we have previously seen, there were already contentions springing up within the church almost immediately in the first century. Remember that Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and John Mark had been sent out after the council of the apostles in Jerusalem, even before the founding of the church in Philippi, to deal with one such contention that arose by the insistence of the Judaizers that new Gentile believers had to be circumcised and follow the Old Testament law. (Acts 15). Later, Paul wrote to the Corinthians very sarcastically concerning contentions that had arisen among them concerning their favorite teachers (1 Corinthians 1:11 & 3:5-7). The history of the church is full of schism and strife among the brethren. Those outside the church see our squabbling among ourselves about petty points of theology or Christian practice, and scoff. Indeed, our bickering among ourselves has often been a significant detriment to our witness of the Gospel.
Both Paul and Peter exhort us to avoid contentions and divisions within the Body of Christ, and encourage believers to strive to be united of one mind and spirit…
Romans 15:5-75Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, 6that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 7Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God.
What does Paul mean when he says “receive one another, just as Christ also received us?”
Romans 5:8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Paul exhorts us here in Romans 15:5-7 to demonstrate our love for our brothers and sisters in Christ by accepting them complete with all their faults, knowing that we ourselves are also sinners whose only hope of acceptance and salvation lies in the blood Jesus shed for us on the cross.
1 Peter 3:8-98Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous; 9not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.
Ephesians 3:20 – 4:620Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, 21to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.1I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
2 Corinthians 12:20For I fear lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I wish, and that I shall be found by you such as you do not wish; lest there be contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, backbitings, whisperings, conceits, tumults;
1 Timothy 1:4…nor give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which cause disputes rather than godly edification which is in faith.
Titus 3:9-119But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. 10Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, 11knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.
Romans 16:17-1817Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. 18For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
Solomon even lists the sowing of dissent among the brethren as one of the seven things that God hates and are an abomination to him…
Proverbs 6:16-1916These six things the LORD hates,Yes, seven are an abomination to Him:17A proud look,A lying tongue,Hands that shed innocent blood,18A heart that devises wicked plans,Feet that are swift in running to evil,19A false witness who speaks lies,And one who sows discord among brethren.
This is not to say that there is never good reason for division. On the contrary, we should never tolerate false teaching. We must stand and speak out against it, no matter what the cost. In these final days, false teachings are multiplying ever more quickly. The enemy knows that his time is short. His ungodly lies are taking on new forms. The “political correctness” of modern egalitarian society is a great ally to him. Tolerance of all manner of abominable sin has become the watchword of our day. The lie has taken on new forms over the years, but it is nothing new, as Paul warned the Galatians…
Galations 1:6-126I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, 7which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. 9As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. 10For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. 11But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Speaking of the end of the age, Jesus also warned His disciples…
Matthew 24:24For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect.
The cost of standing up against false teaching can be high. When Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses of protest against the Catholic church to the church door in Wittenberg on October 31st, 1517, it began a huge upheaval within the church of Europe that culminated in one of the bloodiest wars up to that time – the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). There was a horrendous price paid for Luther’s historic stand for the true Biblical Gospel of salvation by faith in Jesus alone, versus the false gospel preached by the catholic church of salvation by works of ceremony, through the “power” of church officials. Yet taking a stand against the preaching of a false works-based salvation, and the abuse of power by church officials that went along with it was clearly the right thing to do, for Luther and for us.
But let’s be careful. Consider Luther’s brief introduction to his theses…
Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.
In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
By the way, I strongly encourage any Christian to read over the full text of Luther’s 95 theses. I have posted them separately on this blog.
Clearly Luther’s intent was to bring correction to the church, not division. Nevertheless, if a false teacher is unrepentant, and will not accept correction or criticism (not of himself personally, but of his teaching), devoted followers of Jesus have no choice but to separate themselves and abstain from the fellowship with the false teacher and his followers…
2 Timothy 2:14-1914Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to strive about words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers. 15Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 16But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some. 19Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: “The Lord knows those who are His,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity.”
Similarly, willful, unrepented sin must never be tolerated in any believer, and certainly not in a teacher, lest the Name of the Lord be blasphemed among non-believers…
Romans 2:21-2421You, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that a man should not steal, do you steal? 22You who say, “Do not commit adultery,” do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonor God through breaking the law? 24For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” as it is written.
In James 3:1 we see that those who proclaim the Gospel must be held to a higher standard…
James 3:1My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
This applies not only to pastors who preach from the pulpit, but to any who proclaim the Gospel among unbelievers. In my own life, there is nothing more shameful than when one of my workmates says, “That doesn’t sound like something a good Christian would say, Brian!” May God forgive me, and empower me to tame my wicked tongue. May His holy Name never be blasphemed among unbelievers because of me. I claim to be a new creation in Christ. May my words and deeds confirm it always.
Once again, a word of caution needs to be applied. Jesus clearly spells out how any brother or sister (including church leaders) should be corrected…
Matthew 18:15-1715“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. 16But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ 17And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.
By the way, in this passage, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy – His most-quoted book…
Deuteronomy 19:15One witness shall not rise against a man concerning any iniquity or any sin that he commits; by the mouth of two or three witnesses the matter shall be established.
Philippians 2:1-21Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, 2fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind
Paul reiterates his call to unity here in verses 1 and 2. Of course, with these three “if” clauses in verse 1, Paul is not implying anything to the contrary, but rather is saying something like…
…since there is consolation in Christ, since there is comfort of love, since there is fellowship of the Spirit, since there is affection, and mercy
By the way, the Greek word σπλάγχνον splagchnon – translated here as “affection” is an interesting one. The King James translates it more literally from the Greek as “bowels.” It is possibly derived from the Greek word for spleen…
[By the Greeks] “the bowels were regarded as the seat of the more violent passions, such as anger and love; but by the Hebrews as the seat of the tenderer affections, esp. kindness, benevolence, compassion; hence our heart (tender mercies, affections, etc.)”Thayer’s Greek Lexicon
This might seem quaint and curious, but even in our own culture, we speak in terms of having “gut” feelings or instincts, and we speak of being “love sick.” Anyone who has ever experienced a serious loss in life knows how “gut wrenching” deep grief can be.