Philippians 2:1-5; 13-15
Bible Studies for Life, May 24
Wayne Woods, pastor
First Baptist Church, Moultrie
“I am in them and You are in Me. May they be completely one, so the world may know You have sent me and have loved them as You have loved Me.” – John 17:23
“Just one thing: live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ….standing firm in one spirit, with one mind, working side by side for the faith of the gospel.” – Philippians 1:27
As a pastor, I continue to be amazed at how easily we Christians will allow our church families to become divided, not over issues of doctrinal substance, but of personal preference. Satan’s greatest weapon used to diminish our fruitfulness for the gospel is not an attack from external forces such as slander and persecution, but from internal forces such as arrogance and pride and selfishness.
For years I have made it a point in my premarital counseling to make sure the couple understood that the greatest single force that will work against them experiencing the kind of marriage God intends is their own “selfishness.” If it is true in the marriage relationship, it is also surely true in all other relationships that will endure and become stronger along the way.
Joy and gospel humility
Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi is commonly known as the “epistle of joy.” That’s because “joy” is the chord Paul repeatedly strikes as he writes to encourage this band of believers.
One of the amazing things to note is that Paul says his own “joy” would be made “full” (2:2) by the proper expression of their unity in Christ. That unity was not uniformity, but a realization that as different as they each were individually, the one thing that they held in common was the gospel, the Good News of Jesus Christ. When the gospel becomes the priority of our daily lives it will be the necessary resource to fuel our humility and produce genuine joy.
The gospel prompts humility
In verses 1-4, Paul reminds them of four specific works of the gospel in their lives as motivation to humility. Proper attitudes will produce proper actions. These four realities flow from the fact that as believers we are “in Christ,” Paul’s favorite way of expressing what it means to be a Christian.
The language Paul uses here could be best understood to say “since,” rather than “if,” so you would read each of the four works as reality, not possibility.
These four things happen when a person believes the gospel: the encouragement (“to draw alongside of”) we have “in Christ” is a direct reference to the work of the Holy Spirit to “come alongside” us in our time of greatest need, as we should then do for others; the love we experience “in Christ” is His unconditional love for us, His unique kind of love that “will not let us go,” reminding us of how we should then love each other; the fellowship that we have “in Christ” is derived from the indwelling presence of God the Holy Spirit in every believer, partnering us with Him and with each other for the work of the gospel; the affection and mercy we experience “in Christ” is given to us for the purpose of showing that same affection and mercy to others.
All that the gospel has done in us is then supposed to flow out of us.
How to respond
A proper response to the gospel’s work in our lives demonstrates our humility. That proper response will be seen by our unity of mind and heart and soul, all focused on one goal – that of the gospel! Can we not see in our churches today that when the gospel is truly our “one” goal, we will have neither the time nor the energy to be selfish? We will cherish and guard the unity we have in the gospel above all other things, fulfilling the prayer of Jesus for us in John 17.
A proper commitment to gospel unity will change the way we treat each other. Do nothing out of “rivalry” or “conceit.”
“Selfish ambition” and “conceit” have always been part of the world and its systems, but Jesus said, “It must not be like that among you. On the contrary, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant”(Matt. 20:26). A properly focused ambition, a deep desire to stand firm in the gospel, is praiseworthy; but a self-focused ambition is deadly within the body of Christ.
Conceit is as “an empty glory,” like a balloon that as it becomes larger on the outside becomes emptier on the inside. In “humility” (lowliness of mind) we must consider others as more important than ourselves.
Before Christ, the word used for “humility” was rarely seen in Greek literature because it was considered a sign of weakness, a negative character trait. But, it has been transformed by the supreme example of Jesus Himself.
An example to follow
A proper example to follow has been clearly given to us in Christ Jesus. Verses 5-11 are a study unto themselves, some think used as a hymn of worship in the early church. The main point for us today is to realize we will only be effective for His gospel to the extent that we seek, by His grace and power working in and through us (2:12, 13), to emulate His example before a watching world.
As His people, changed by His gospel, we simply must treat each other differently. If we are going to let His light shine out of us into our ever-darkening world, we must live lives of genuine humility. This will become increasingly more critical as the world continues to attack us. God help us!