A Call to Unity & Humility: Implications of the Gospel
“1So 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. 3Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of your look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1-4 ESV)
Having seen the five realities of the Philippians’ relationship with God through Christ and the Holy Spirit and to one another as the church, Paul expresses that his joy would be satisfied seeing the implications of these realities demonstrated in their lives. These implications are: (1) being of the same mind, etc. – v2, (2) the absence of rivalry or conceit – v3a, (3) considering others more significant than themselves – v3b and (4) being concerned about the interests of others – v4.
When we read these exhortations, it should be readily apparent that Paul is calling for the demonstration of unity by way of humility displayed through selflessness or being others-centered. Also, it should be apparent that these exhortations are linked to one another for a glorious reason.
As previously mentioned, redemption not only reconciles believers to God, but also to one another. We are members of one body (Rom. 12:5), where Christ functions as the head (Eph. 4:15). Redemption also calls us away from autonomous rebellion and into loving submission to Christ and the mission of God, which is to call a people to Himself through the proclamation of the gospel. The church is a product of God’s mission and is also called to be His agent of mission until the 2nd advent of Christ. If the church is going to carry that out by the power of the Spirit, and manifest the wisdom of God (Eph. 3:10-11) and the Lordship of Christ (Phil. 2:11), then we must understand the significance of Paul’s exhortation to be of the same mind, maintaining the same love, being united in spirit and intent on one purpose.
Countering his positive command in verse 2, Paul offers a negative command at the beginning of verse 3. To fulfill Paul’s desire, the Philippian church is also called to move away from their natural propensity to be self-absorbed. For rivalry, Paul used the Greek word eritheia, which carries the idea of promoting oneself as in a political election through unfair means. For empty conceit, the Greek word kenodoxia literally means a groundless vain opinion of oneself. These two sins are nothing more than two types of pride. The former being destructive and the latter being deceptive. How can the church be effective in its mission if we are more concerned about promoting ourselves, demoting others and insistent on thinking unjustifiably more highly of ourselves than we do of Christ? Posturing oneself for personal glory is antithetical to the faith. Essentially, it’s satanic. For this is what ushered the fall of man – a desire to be like God. James’s epistle gives us some added insight to rivalry as the same Greek word is used in 3:14 and 3:16 for selfish ambition.
14But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.
How sobering is this? Selfish ambition is unspiritual, demonic and the source of disorder and every vile practice. Wherever we see the lack of fruit in our lives or in the church collectively, be sure that selfish ambition is a reason. Wherever we see a pattern of sin in our lives or the in the church collectively, be sure selfish ambition is a reason. When we have set our faces against God in rebellion, a host of rebellions will surely follow. This is why James says that that kind of “wisdom” is not from above and this is why Paul is exhorting the Philippians to not conduct themselves that way. Instead, wisdom from above looks like James 3:17-18 and shows itself not standing in contradiction to the the sum of the Law, but identical to it.
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
In carrying out these two commands by the power of the Spirit, we will not be rivalrous or conceited, but indeed make manifest the beauty of the gospel.
Grace & Peace,