Read – Philippians 1:27-2:11
Key Verse – fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (Philippians 2:2 NKJV).
Key Thought – The single mind is our goal, and will bring joy.
In this section, Paul begins developing a secondary theme. He’s still stressing his main theme of joy, but he’s now telling them a major way they can bring him joy, and no doubt experience it themselves – by being likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (Philippians 2:2).
Unity… one mind… the single mind… is a thought that Paul continues to hammer on throughout the remainder of the letter.
Some have suggested that he mentioned it often because lack of unity was a problem at Philippi (cf. Philippians 4:2, where he singles out a couple of women concerning this very problem.)
Whether disunity was overly problematic in the the church at Philippi, or whether they were just illustrative of the church everywhere, the importance of unity… of likemindedness… of a single purpose, single love, single mind, that Paul stressed to them applies equally to us.
And oh how we need it. How we need unity… how we need the single mind.
Paul begins by describing the unity, or the “single mind” he desires for them. We’ll divide his thoughts into 3 main sections:
- The single mind described
2. The single mind encouraged
3. The single mind in action.
There is a 4th point to his argument, and that is the single mind exemplified by Christ. We will save that 4th point for next Lord’s Day, but now let’s notice:
The single mind described.
His first statement sets the tone for this entire section. He says that we are to live as citizens of heaven (1:27). That’s the literal meaning of his phrase let your conduct be worthy of the gospel, and it was a word that would have meant much to the Philippians who were citizens of Rome as a result of Philippi being a Roman colony. It was a reminder that their true citizenship was not in Rome, but in Christ. Neither is our true citizenship in the United States of America, but in Christ.
The old gospel song song says it well:
This world is not my home I’m just a passing through
> My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue
> The angels beckon me from heaven’s open door
> And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.^[Mary Reese Davis, “This World Is Not My Home”, © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC]
Paul made this same point to the Ephesian believers – Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God… (Ephesians 2:19 NKJV). He will stress it more later on in this letter to the Philippians – For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, (Philippians 3:20 NKJV).
Getting our allegiance straight in our mind, determining that we will first and foremost live as citizens of heaven, is the first step in developing the single mind.
Such living will be seen in our standing fast in one spirit. Christians stand together. To the Ephesians, Paul wrote, I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1-3 NKJV). We are not to be divided. We are to stand fast. We are to be one.
Such living will be seen in our striving together for the gospel. I see a couple different things in this phrase.
Striving together for the faith of the gospel speaks of aggression… of fighting. We’re pretty good at fighting amongst ourselves in our churches, but too often the reasons for our infighting are trivial. Paul says here that we ought to stand and fight for the gospel and for its advance. Jude, in his short letter which is the next to the last book in your Bible, wrote, Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saint (Jude 1:3 NKJV).
Striving together for the faith of the gospel speaks also of advancement… taking it to the enemy… taking it to the world. I love to quote God’s words to Moses when the children of Israel thought they were trapped at the Dead Sea and were watching the Egyptian army closing the gap between them. And the LORD said unto Moses, Wherefore criest thou unto me? speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward (Exodus 14:15 KJV). I’ve always felt this is a key thought for our church… a key thought for my ministry among you – GO FORWARD. We ought to be advancing the gospel… taking it to our dying world… and we ought to be doing it together, arms linked, advancing as one.
E. Stanley Jones wrote: “The early Christians did not say in dismay: ‘Look what the world has come to,’ but in delight, ‘Look what has come to the world.’ They saw not merely the ruin, but the resources for the reconstruction of that ruin. They saw not merely that sin did abound, but that grace did much more abound. On that assurance the pivot of history swung from blank despair, loss of moral nerve, and fatalism, to faith and confidence that at last sin had met its match, that something new had come into the world, that not only here and there, but on a wide scale, men could attain to that hitherto impossible thing—goodness.”^[E. Stanley Jones, Abundant Living (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1942), 183.] And they took that belief to the world… advancing… aggressively.
Paul said if we’re going to live as citizens of heaven, then it will be seen in our standing fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel (vs. 27).
Of course, there’s a cost associated with living that way, and it’s seen in vss. 28-30).Persecution and trial comes to those who stand for Christ… to those who advance the gospel of Christ. Paul doesn’t shy away from pointing out to the Philippians that what he was going through is not unique to him, but something all Christians need to be willing to face. There is a cost to serving Jesus.
Often we wonder why God allows persecution. Paul gives a wonderful answer to that question here. When the Christian bears up under such trial, it is evidence of their salvation (vs. 28) as well as evidence of the persecutor’s lack of salvation. Evidence!
I doubt I’ll ever forget the images of those men in their orange prison attire, being marched to the sea shore by their executioners. They were to be beheaded for the cause of Christ, and their captors were going to film the entire thing and show it to the world. It was broadcast on news media worldwide… not the actual execution, but the moments leading up to it. The men marched ahead of their knife wielding executioners… they knelt in the sand… you could see their lips moving in prayer, but other than that there was no sign of terror or distress. They simply knelt and prayed and went out into eternity at the hand of their persecutors. I marvelled then and marvel now at their testimony.
Boice wrote, “It is not possible for a Christian to stand firm under persecution and for the world to dismiss it as nothing. It is evidence of a supernatural power. Consequently, it is a token of salvation to the Christian and of destruction to those who will not believe.”^[James Montgomery Boice, “Philippians: An Expositional Commentary” (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 93.]
Living as citizens of heaven… letting your conduct be worthy of the gospel of Christ is seen when we stand fast in one spirit… when we strive together for the faith of the gospel… when our salvation is made evident to the world. That’s the single mind described.
The single mind encouraged.
In Philippians 2:1, Paul gives four reasons why we should stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel. Those four reasons are the encouragement of Christ, the comfort of love, the fellowship of the Spirit, and affection and mercy.
Christ’s encouragement is the first reason. Jesus certainly encouraged us to have this single mind, didn’t He? His example and teaching were filled with it. And He prayed for it for not only His disciples, but for all who would believe through their witness. that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me (John 17:21 NKJV). Paul said that Christ’s encouragement toward unity is the first incentive for our living in unity.
He also wrote that our love for one another ought to be an incentive to unity. After all, loving one another was and is one of the greatest evidences of the faith. We are to love each other. Jesus said, A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. (John 13:34 NKJV). From time to time we sing the gospel song:
And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love
> Yeah they’ll know we are Christians by our love.
If we truly love one another, we will strive for unity as a result. A husband who loves his wife will strive for unity in that relationship simply because he loves her. A wife will do the same. Christians are to love one another, and in so loving, work toward unity.
Paul’s third reason why we should stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel had to do with fellowship of the Spirit.
From time to time it’s good to think about just what happened to you when you got saved… when you realized you were a sinner in need of the Savior, confessed your sin and need and trusted Christ as your Savior, asking Him to come into your life and save your soul… when you took that step some things happened:
– You were forgiven of every sin…
– You were not only forgiven, but cleansed… made whole…
– You were justified in the mind of God…
– You were sanctified (i.e. made holy) in the eyes of God…
– You were adopted into the family of God…
– You were given eternal life…
– You were given a new citizenship in heaven… a new address…
– You were immediately and forever indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God.
That’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good one. It’s wonderful what happens to a person when they are saved! But the last one mentioned in that list is what Paul appeals to here as a reason for unity… for the single mind – we are all indwelt by the Spirit of God. The SAME Spirit of God. Paul wrote about this same thing in his letter to the Ephesians. I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all (Ephesians 4:1-6 NKJV).
The Holy Spirit that indwells us is not divided. If we are in submission to the Spirit, we will not be divided as believers, either. Where division exists, it is because we are not in submission to the Spirit. We are ignoring the Spirit.
Finally, Paul gave one last reason why we should stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel – affection and mercy. We have received both from God. He loved and loves us. He showed and shows mercy to us. We ought therefore to do the same to our brothers and sisters, drawing near to them rather than dividing from them. The love and mercy shown us by God should lead us to have love and mercy toward others.
So we are to be ONE (2:2) in mind, in purpose, and in love. Paul said such would bring him joy – fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind (Philippians 2:2 NKJV).
Paul has described the single mind, and given us encouragement to live with that singleness of mind. Notice now:
The single mind in action.
If we have a the single mind Paul is describing in these verses, it will show up in some very concrete ways. Basically, it will show up in selflessness… in putting others and their interests first… in not demanding our own way. I can’t improve on Boice’s words, so let me just quote them:
The principle that Paul is stating here is found throughout the New Testament. The unbeliever naturally puts himself first, others second, and God last. He thinks he merits the order. The Bible teaches that we should reverse the series: God is to be first; others must be second; we must come last. The Bible says: “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2); “Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.… I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Cor. 9:19, 22); “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves” (Rom. 12:10); “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Rom. 15:1–2).
> This is the heart of Christian conduct. Jesus gave himself for others. Followers of Christ are also to give themselves for others. Jesus said that his own would feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the prisoner, make welcome the one who is lonely (Matt. 25:31–46), and he added, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me” (v. 40).^[James Montgomery Boice, “Philippians: An Expositional Commentary”, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000), 103.]
Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit (vs. 3).
Perhaps Paul was referring back to those who had preached the gospel from these very motivations (1:15-16). They were an example of the opposite of the single mind… the opposite of unity. And Paul said “don’t be like them. Don’t strive to advance yourself… don’t think of yourself as anything special.”
Basically, the sin he was warning against here is pride. When we promote our own agendas… when we demand our own way… when we think we are all that, it is because we are proud. And we know pride is never right… always sin. By pride comes nothing but strife, But with the well-advised is wisdom (Proverbs 13:10 NKJV).
Pride produces anything and everything BUT the single mind. But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there (James 3:14-16 NKJV).
So Paul’s first word on putting the single mind into action was to get rid of the selfish mind… to kill pride… to squash conceit… to quell selfish ambition… to admit that your way is not the only way, and maybe not even the right way.
Lack of unity shows up in all kinds of ways in churches. Some are more prevalent than others.
Music, for example is one that always causes division. “This church should only sing hymns,” cries one. “This church sings too many hymns,” says another. “We should only sing the old songs… those we know. I don’t like having to learn new songs,” whines another. “If we’re singing songs older than 20 years old, then we’re not with it,” says yet another. I had a faithful member of this church (who is no longer here for his faithfulness apparently had a limit), tell me once, “I’ll stay here until the day you get geetars and drums, then I’m gone.” And he is.
None of that is the single mind. All of that is selfishness and sin. All of that is pride. All of that is the sinful mentality of the toddler Christian, who if things aren’t done exactly his / her way all the time, then they’ll take their ball and go home.
Brothers and sisters, we ought to pray for one another… praying that we will not be this way… praying that others also will not be this way… that we will have a single mind, rather than a conceited and selfish mind. Pray for one another. Pray for me, for it is hard to fulfil this role without becoming conceited and selfish. Not only that, but it is challenging and humbling to minister to those who are themselves, conceited and selfish. Pray for our music leader(s). Pray for Beth, our worship leader. I have served in Christ’s church as pastor, assistant pastor, Sunday School teacher, deacon, elder, singer, choir member, choir director, piano player, and worship leader. I can tell you from my own experience that serving in the music ministry I saw more of this conceit and selfish ambition than anyplace else. I’m reminded of the old joke that says “When Satan fell from heaven, he landed in the choir loft.”
One day when we get to heaven, we will sing. We will sing old hymns. We will sing wonderful new choruses. We will sing worship songs. We will sing psalms of praise. We will sing with Andrae Crouch. We will sing with Johann Sebastian Bach. We will sing with King David. We will sing with Keith Green. We will sing with Bill and Gloria Gaither, and we will sing with Casting Crowns. We will sing southern gospel music, blue grass music, contemporary music, and liturgical music. We will sing it together. We will sing it with one voice and one mind and one heart.
What a day! Paul said, Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit (vs. 3). Of course, music is only an example of how we sometimes don’t have that single mind.
Bible versions are another area where division and lack of unity shows up. This is not really a problem in this church, but it is within American Christianity as a whole. There are those who refuse to worship with anybody who uses an English translation other than their preferred translation. Such is conceit and a selfish mind, rather than the single mind.
The list of things we argue and fuss over is endless! Churches have split over the color of their carpeting, or the paint on their walls. Pastors have changed the order of their service and had people leave because that order was changed. A few years back we removed the antique pews from this room and replaced them with the chairs that are here now. We had people leave over that. Ridiculous.
ILLUS – “All this church ever does is fight.” I tell that story again in hopes that we will have such a reputation again. Oh how I thank God that such is not now the case. May it never be again!
We ought to highlight Paul’s words – Let NOTHING be done through selfish ambition or conceit. But Paul wasn’t done. He put it even more pointedly.
Let each esteem others better than himself (vs. 3). Let each look out… for the interests of others (vs. 4).
Others before us. That’s a key to having the single mind.
Jesus told a parable along these lines. So He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: “When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; “and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man,’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place. “But when you are invited, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you. “For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 14:7-11 NKJV).
Peter wrote, Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5 NKJV).
Let each esteem others better than himself (vs. 3). Let each look out… for the interests of others (vs. 4). That’s a key to having the single mind.
In the next few verses, Paul wrote of the greatest example of this that ever lived – Jesus Christ. We’ll turn our attention to that next week. You might want to read ahead and pray through vss. 5-11 in preparation.
One of our most-beloved old hymns describes the church with these words:
Elect from ev’ry nation,
> yet one o’er all the earth,
> her charter of salvation
> one Lord, one faith, one birth;
> one holy name she blesses,
> partakes one holy food,
> and to one hope she presses,
> with ev’ry grace endued.^[Stone, Samuel John, “The Church’s One Foundation”, 1866]
Oh my brothers and sisters, let us be as one! Let us pray for the single mind… one mind… His mind.
Let us pray that we would live as citizens of heaven… that we would stand fast and strive together for the gospel.
Let us pray that we squash selfish ambition in all its forms… that we would kick our conceits to the curb and put others ahead of ourselves in everything.
Let us pray that we would be likeminded, have the same love, be of one accord, of one mind (2:2).
Paul said such would bring him joy. It will bring us joy, too.