27 July 2009

Verse-by-verse through Philippians (2:2-2:4)

Paul is reminding these believers that they have been given the gift of believing in Christ and yes even suffering for Christ. Therefore, he tells them, don’t just let that gift sit on a shelf. Don’t just pack it away and forget it. He’s saying “You all are one in Christ—act like it.” There had apparently been some friction in this part of the body. In chapter 1 we read that some were preaching Christ—not so that they could glorify God, but rather out of selfish ambition. Yes, they were preaching the true Christ, but not for the right reasons. Paul’s response? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Somehow, somewhere, this church that had supported him so much with so many gifts had started to get a little off track, and had lost their focus. So Paul writes to them in order to remind them to take their eyes off of themselves and set their eyes on Christ and on building up the body.

And in Philippians 2:2, he pours out his heart to them to make his joy complete. Fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. All these sound very much the same but they're actually not repeating one another. They actually work together to show how the complete person is to act:

  • The mind—be like-minded.
  • The heart—having the same love.
  • The soul—being of one accord.
  • The spirit—of one mind.

So let’s take these one at a time. Be of the same mind. It’s one of those Greek words that how you define it depends on the context. Kinda like the phrase, “wrap it up.” If you buy someone a Christmas present, and you say you're going to “wrap it up”— you're going to cover it with fancy paper. But if somebody is going on talking for a long time, and someone asks them to “wrap it up,” it means, basically, “Let’s finish here!” And in the same way, the word for “minded” depends on if you're talking to one person or a group. And in fact there are several places where the word is used twice in the same verse, in both ways. And, BTW, this word is used 12 times in 8 verses in Philippians—more than any other book of the NT.

If the word is being used in reference to a group, it means, “to be of the same mind i.e. to be agreed together, to cherish the same views, to be harmonious.” If there is a group of believers, our mind should be set on Christ. But if we’ve all got different ideas about how things should be run and so on, and if we take these ideas and run in different directions, what’s going to happen to that body? It’s gonna be split. Now, we’re always going to have different opinions about some things. We’re human. But if all we ever think about is how different we all are from each other, we’re not putting our focus on the One we should be focusing on. We’re taking our gaze off of Christ, and we’re putting it on others and how we disagree, and Paul is saying, “Don’t do that!” Romans 12:16-18 (NASB)Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind—that’s one of those times where this same word for “mind” is used in two different ways—but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation…If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.

If we remember that Paul had been in the custody of the Roman government for quite some time now, and he had seen how ordered they were. When it cam to efficiency, the Roman army was a model for centuries to come. They would always march in step, they kept regular guard, very scheduled, very disciplined, very precise in everything they did. And all for one goal—the glory of Rome. So it had to kind of grieve Paul somewhat that this church in Philippi—a city under Roman control, with a Roman culture—there were some who were marching to their own beat, if you will. He’s saying, “Don’t keep thinking about what you want. You should all think on one thing.” And what should that one thing be? Fulfill my joy by being like-minded.

Fulfill my joy by...Having the same love. What should be the number one action a group of believers should be known for? As much as we must have faith in Christ and repent of our sins, we are commanded to love one another. 2nd Thessalonians 1:3We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other. 1st John 3:14We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. And of course these are simply echoing the command Jesus gave us in John 15:12“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” We can know every word of Scripture. We can doo all kinds of “good things.” We can sing in the choir and teach and preach and do all kinds of “churchy” things.

But what is the one thing we must all have? 1st Corinthians 13:1-3Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. That’s not just a flowery little poem to read at a wedding. That’s a command. But, are we to love only the brethren? Matthew 5:44-47“But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven…For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?” In other words, every person has it in them to love people that agree with them. But WE are commanded to love people who DO NOT agree with us. I could go on all day, but I think we get the idea. Fulfill my joy by...having the same love.

Fulfill my joy by...Being of one accord, of one mind.
Of one accord. This is one of those words that only happens once in the whole NT. So many times we focus on the big words, “We see this word used 500 times in the NT.” But I think the ones that you only find once are a lot more interesting. Because many times they are words that didn’t exist until then. This is one of those words; Paul had to create it. We have words like that in English. If you asked your secretary 20 years ago to “Google” something, you would probably have a lawsuit on your hands. The Greek word is συμψυχος (sympsychos). It literally means “having united souls.” To not just “get along” with each other. Not just tolerate each other. “Aw great. It’s what’s-his-face again. I guess I ought to say ‘hi’ to him.” But to be so together that calling the other person “brother” should be as natural as if you came from the same mom and dad. Because we do have the same Father. Do we not? Of one accord.

Of one mind. Literally, “thinking the one thing.” You know doggone good and well that there a lot of people sitting in churches everywhere thinking the same thing—“When is this gonna end? We gotta beat the crowd to Shoney’s.” In chapter 4 Paul gives us a glimpse of what he’s talking about. In Philippians 4:2-3, we read about one of the disagreements that led Paul to write this letter. I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the Book of Life. Here were two women who had helped Paul greatly in spreading the gospel and they were having a dust-up about something. We don’t know what it is; Paul doesn’t let us in on any more than that. First he pleads with these women to patch things up. Whatever it is they're fussing about, he says, basically, “Knock it off and set your mind on Christ.” But then he turns his gaze toward the reader and he says, “Help these women stay focused. And not only them, but there are so many others who have been such great help to me. God knows who they are. Help them too.” Fulfill my joy by...being of one accord, of one mind.

So, to wrap up these first two verses. If our consolation for living in this miserable world is that we will see Christ in the next; if we take comfort in the love we have as brethren; if we have been given gifts by the Holy Spirit; if we have any compassion and mercy whatsoever—then let us keep our minds on Christ, love one another as Christ loved us, and let our souls be one and let us think the one thing. And by doing so, make our joy complete.

Philippians 2:3-4--Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. We don’t like to hear stuff like that do we? What’s all this talk about thinking about others more then ourselves? That word translated “selfish ambition.” The KJV says, “strife.” Ironically, it is the same word Paul uses in Philippians 1:16, talking about those who preach Christ from selfish ambition. This is how one source describes έριθεία (epitheia): “It is used of those who run for office, courting popular applause by trickery; it is derived from a word that means ‘working for hire’ or ‘a hireling.’ In the NT…a desire to put one's self forward, a partisan and divisive spirit.” Basically he’s saying “Don’t do something just to be popular and draw a big crowd. Don’t divide the brethren just to make yourself look better.”

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit. But in lowliness of mind. Don’t be puffed up. Romans 12:3For I say, through the grace given to me, to everyone who is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think soberly, as God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. There are some who like to go around bragging that they had some “mountain top experience” and that if you don’t have that same experience, that you're not spiritual enough. These are people who think way too much of themselves and their “experience.” Listen to what Paul told the Romans: God has dealt to each one a measure of faith. My faith isn't any more special than your faith. Your faith isn't any more special than anybody else’s faith. Nobody else’s faith is any more special than your faith. If you have faith it was given to you by God.

But in lowliness of mind let each esteem others as better than himself. Oooh! No! I don’t want to! I'm important! It’s all about me!!! Capital “M”. Capital “E”. Capital “ME”. It’s all about MY best life now! It’s about being a better ME. It’s all about MY purpose, and why I’M here! No, it ain't! It ain't about me. It ain't about you. It ain't about your best life or your purpose. Let each esteem others as better than himself. The word translated “esteem” is ήγομαι (hegomai). It literally means “to lead” and it also means “to consider; to think.” You want to know how to translate this phrase literally? Let others lead you. Think of others as being more important than you are. Appoint the other person as your commander. In other words, let go of your royal scepter and give it to somebody else. And while you're at it, put their needs ahead of your own. You can “look out for #1” if you want to. Just remember that you ain't #1!

Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Don’t gobble up all you can and let others do without. That’s not Christian love. You got all these clowns on TV going around telling you to get all you can, confession is possession, “Money Comin!” and all this other nonsense. And that if you want Gawd to bless you financially, you got to “sow a seed” into the ministry of one of these snakes. These are people that set their minds on things of the earth.

We are to set our minds on things above, and on the needs of others. James, the brother of our Lord Jesus, said it best in James 2:14-17If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. How many times do we do that? We hear of a brother or sister in need. We have the thing they need. Or we have the time it would take to help them. But what do we say? “I'll pray for ya.” It’s kinda like a code for saying, “I really hope someone else helps because I’ve got tickets for the ballgame, and I really don’t want to miss it.” Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. In other words, don’t just believe. Believe and act on it. That whole verse in James is about love. How it doesn’t just look out for its own interests, but rejoices when others rejoice.

And we are gonna see next week how Christ came to show us how to do just that. We think we give up so much when we follow Him. We’re gonna see starting next week how much He gave up so we CAN follow Him. If you think about it, we give up the things we shouldn’t be doing in the first place. Some people think of themselves as being so wonderful because they gave up this sin or that sin. We don’t give up sin. God gives us the strength to overcome it. But we will still have faults. We will not be prefect. And because we still have our faults, we are to help others who are going through the same thing. Galatians 6:1Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Think about somebody finding a bag of money and giving it back. “Oh, that’s so wonderful.” No, that’s just the thing we’re supposed to do. But we will see next week that when we give up some sin, we don’t give up nearly anything considering what Christ laid aside to come here.

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