By Armando Yzaguirre
2 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians is a wonderful epistle that is sometimes called the “Epistle of Joy.” The epistle earns this title because Paul was imprisoned at this time, yet was still encouraging to the saints in Philippi. He also doesn’t rebuke them in this letter, which is very rare. Why is all of this the case?
Paul’s High View of God and Proper View of Man
In the first chapter we see that Paul anticipated not being ashamed of the Gospel regardless of what happened to him in his body (1:20). He understood his suffering was in fact furthering the spread of the Gospel, specifically to the imperial guard (1:13). Paul then transitioned into his hope to see them soon. He gives the disclaimer he may not be able to come to them but they should still live their lives in a manner worthy of the Gospel (1:27). Paul wanted them to know opponents will come, and probably already came. They were not to be frightened but know they had been granted to believe and to suffer. Paul saw that God was worthy of suffering for. Man was not to love his life to the point of being frightened by his opponents.
Leaders’ Joy is Complete in Unity
Paul also knew the importance of unity as believers suffer for the sake of the Gospel. He uses a conditional clause that implies the answer is yes. There is encouragement in Christ, there is comfort in love, and there is affection and sympathy for believers from the Lord. Because of this Paul knew the Philippians should be of the same mind, have the same love, and be in full accord. They were to think the same way, although this did not mean they must believe everything another believed. They did, however, need to be unified in the essentials. They also had to have the same love. This means believers are to love other believers in the congregation in an impartial way. Yes, some brothers and sisters in the Lord will have more of our affection than others, but it should not be based on their circumstances or what they bring to the table. The love must be unconditional and sacrificial. Believers also must be in full accord. John MacArthur says Paul possibly created this word himself in the Greek. It literally means “one-souled.” Believers are called to be so unified that there is harmony in their desires and passions for the church and lost. This would make Paul’s joy complete for he knew that unity would be in the Spirit.
Christ is the Ultimate Example
Lastly we should long for this unity because Christ is our ultimate picture of this. Christ did not look only to His interests. When He prayed in the garden before His death He asked that the cup be passed from Him. Christ was telling the Father His interest because He felt the weight of the wrath of God about to be poured out on Him. Yet, Christ was fully God and man. He was not willing to only look to only His interests. He longed for the Father’s interest to be done also. This is why He said “Not my will but Your Will be done.” Verse 6-11 helps us see this. God the Son is just as valuable and just as good as God the Father. They are equal in worth, yet the Son humbly submits His will to the Father. This is not say that Jesus ever wants something other than the Father. He always is unified with the Father and the Spirit, but we also see that He submits to the Father. In the same way we as believers are called to submit our interests for the interests of others, though we are of equal worth.
When Christ did this the Father exalted Him. The Father gave Him the name above all names. We will not receive that but one thing will be accomplished; God will receive the Glory. Verse 11b to the glory of God the Father.
So we see the importance of unity in the body of Christ. It takes sacrifice and humility to have the same mind, same passions and to be one-souled. It is interesting because Paul describes Epaphroditus as a man of sacrifice for the sake of the ministry. He served Paul on behalf of the Philippians and he also became ill to the point of death. Yet, he did not waver in his goal to encourage Paul. Paul calls him a fellow worker, soldier and a minister to his needs. Yet, he also calls him a brother. That intimacy in unity is found there. Brothers and sisters may we strive for that type of sacrifice and unity.