Unity In Humility
Key Verse 2:3
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.”
There is something beautiful about this church in Philippi. They are truly a remarkable church full of all the great attributes that makes a church truly a church in Christ Jesus. And Paul commends them throughout the letter for all that makes them such a truly wonderful church that they are. He is in prison. But when he thinks about them he cannot but feel joy welling up in his heart. They had always been his partners in the gospel. They had weathered some strong opposition together with Paul. They had struggled together through hardship. And they had not grown weaker over the years, but they had actually grown stronger in the faith. Indeed the thought of them brings him joy. But Paul also hints that they could make his joy complete. And the issue of how they could make his joy complete is the subject of this next passage we are looking at today. Paul tells them how they could make his joy complete. They could do so by becoming unified. And he tells them how they could become unified, which is through the only means possible— through humility.
Read verses 1-4. “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
After calling them to live a life worthy of the gospel (1:27) among those who opposed them and the gospel, Paul now calls the Philippian believers to the life that they should live among themselves as believers. In this case he calls them away from a life of selfishness and vain conceit (2:3), and to a life of unity— in other words, to having the same love, being one in spirit, etc— (2:3). And this calling can only be fulfilled or attained through humility (2:3) and through them (the Christian believers at Philippi) being grounded in the encouragement, love, compassion and fellowship they experienced in Christ Jesus.
Paul really wants them to complete his joy by being united. To him their unity is crucial. And he will do what it takes to help them understand the importance of their unity in Christ Jesus. And he begins with the words of verse 1 because they needed to be firmly grounded in them. Let’s read verse 1 again. “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion.” Don’t let the word “If” in this statement confuse you. It may be used in lieu of the word “Since”. There is no doubt that Paul was reminding the believers in the church of Philippi of what they actually have in Christ Jesus. What he mentions here in this verse is the standard and absolute Christian experience. Every Christian who has made the good confession of faith in Christ Jesus has all that Paul mentions here and more.
So Paul reminds the believers in Philippi of what they have in Christ. He also reminds believers everywhere of what they too have in Christ. We are all united with Christ in his death and in his resurrection. Therefore, Paul says that we are encouraged. Actually we have great encouragement from being united with our Lord. We are sinners who deserve to be punished for our sins against God and against each other. But since we are united with Christ in his death and in his resurrection, we are ever encouraged to know that our sins will not count against us, because Christ has taken them upon himself to the cross. Paul also said we have something else. If we have any comfort from his love. Yes, indeed. We are dearly loved by Christ Jesus our Lord who loved us beyond measure and who continues to love us ever so much. And that comforts us greatly, to know that we are loved by Christ and that nothing in heaven or on earth can separate us from the love of God that we have in Christ Jesus our Lord. This comfort is sometimes the only comfort we have in times of difficulty and trouble. Paul also tells us this: If any fellowship with the Spirit. Surely, we have a sharing in the Spirit, and that is common to all of us. This is the common fellowship we have in the Holy Spirit, who gives us eternal life. Indeed we share the same fellowship with the Spirit who also works among us to serve God’s purpose in our lives. Paul also said: If any tenderness and compassion. Of course, they had tenderness and compassion, but they did not have it because they themselves possessed any such virtues. Christians who are tender and compassionate are so because of Christ and his indwelling in their hearts who constantly reminds them of God’s concern for others.
So whatever we have in Christ is given us by his grace for a purpose. It is for our good of course, but it is also for the good of the church. When we have so many blessings and privileges in Christ, as listed in verse 1, as did the Philippian fellowship of believers, the apostle surely had something to say to them and us about what blessings we have been given. So we have been given all these things, then what?
Read verse 2-4. (2) “Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. (3) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (4) Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
“Then make my joy complete by…” Then, or “In view of all these things already present in you lives…” Paul now pleads with them to make him all the more happy. It is as if Paul was saying to them: “I would rejoice a whole lot more if I knew that the gospel is working in you lives to transform your church into a gospel powerhouse. You have got all these blessings and privileges from the Lord. It’s time you let these very things bear the fruit that they are supposed to bear in your lives and in the church. And here’s what the gospel does among you. Here’s the fruit that it bears. That you would be like minded. That you would have the same love. That you would be one in spirit. That you would be of one mind. In other words, be united. Be united in all things.”
This call to Christian unity is not the first nor will it be the last. The Lord Jesus was the first to call us all to be united. Then throughout the NT the call for the believers to be united is far-reaching. No true Christian can ignore it. No true Christian can despise it or dismiss it as unimportant. No Christian, no matter how great he or she may be can downgrade this charge to unity to some obscure corner of their Christian faith to be dealt with at random some time some day. Unity is at the forefront of the Lord’s desires for his church. Those who despise it are not really worthy of him. But those who cherish it will make every effort to whatever it takes to see that they are playing a major part in building unity in the church. The church needs this unity, Paul says. It’s the natural fruit that comes from all that we have from the Lord— all that he listed in verse 1.
Every Christian who has worked the field will tell you that it’s truly hard to achieve unity. I know it’s hard to be united, especially among the closest ones in the church let alone among the not so close. But it’s what the Savior wants. It’s what the Lord who redeemed us desires. It’s what Paul his ambassador relays to us when he says in verse 2. “Then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.” Let’s look at all the items that he lists here that should unite us as a body of believers.
Be like minded, he says: Think the same way. An exhortation repeated many times in the new testament. What’s it like to be different minded versus like minded? Sometimes in churches there are two or three or four groups of people who think differently from one another. Some think that things ought to be done this way and others think that things ought to be done that way. For the most part it’s politics. It comes down to how things are done and whose doing things the old fashioned way and who wants to see changes take place. When the church is divided along political lines or along social lines or otherwise, they are not like minded. But to be like minded does not mean to be clones of one another either, nor to be of one political or social view. Nor does it mean to be yes men to the eldership of the church counsel. It means having the mindset of Christ. And when you have a group of people with the mind of Christ then they can certainly disagree on some things but they have the same mind. They think the same way when it comes to God the kingdom work. They think that the gospel should be preached to all people and not just to students. They think that the church should be open for everyone, they think that marriage is between man and woman only, that life is sacred and that no one is take life regardless of circumstances. This is unity.
Paul also says to them that they should be united by “having the same love”. I’m not sure what different love might be. Maybe unequal love or prejudiced love or showing some love to one person and much love to another. But Paul does say unite in having the same love. The only love worth having among ourselves is the love shown us by Christ— the love that can be shared among the fellowship of believers and exercised not only by one or two members but by the whole community of believers towards one another. That’s having the same love! That’s the kind of love emanating from the Master whose love had ransomed them and brought them together in the shelter of God’s love. It is the shared love of the Master that also calls them and us to love each other in the same way. Having the same love doesn’t only mean that we share the same love of the Lord who loved us but that we also share in the same calling to love one another in the same way as we have been loved. Having the same love is a calling to love the same way as we have been loved, to share in that love with one another. Love is indeed a great unifying factor.
Paul also called them to be united in “being one in spirit and purpose”. This “one is spirit and purpose” may mean that we are of one accord, in harmony with one another, not divided nor in disunity but gathered together and acting as one. And of one purpose as well. We have one purpose as a church, our purpose is to honor the name of Jesus and to expand his kingdom, to share his gospel and to bring the light of Christ to the world.
Read verse 3-4. (3) Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. (4) Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
Now he will be begin to talk about how to make this unity possible. To make this unity possible we need humility. That is the Bible truth. Ultimately, the best example of that humility is Christ, and he will give us his example in verses 5-11 because apart from Christ none of us can actually really be humble.
But first let us look at verse 3. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” What gives the cause of Christianity bad rep more than anything is this world? Selfish ambition and vain conceit! He has already talked about it in chapter 1, there were those who were preaching out of selfish ambition and vain conceit. We are born with a tendency for selfish ambition and vain conceit. We are born with a desire to preserve and advertise and elevate and magnify the self. We are born with a deception that we need, we want recognition, we are entitled to be given what we deserve. In that sense the church is usually divided and broken up by those who have been hurt because they have not been recognized, or who think they needed to be given some glory but were not. by those who think they deserve something they did not get. We think that it’s our human right to defend our rights and claim our privileges. we think this belongs to me and its mine. I should keep it and it should never have gone to you. Who are you to have gotten it when I worked so hard to get it. Let these words ring in our ears every day so that the church of our Lord may live and not die. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” Every time my “self” tells me that I have been cheated out of a position, out of recognition, out of a compliment, out of glory, out of a part out of money, let these words ring in our ears. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.” Do nothing out of…. tells us that we must be careful always about the intention of our heart, about the motive by which we do things in the Lord.
Sometimes intents and purposes seem good and holy and seem to be for the benefit of the church. But a closer examination of them tells otherwise that they promote the agenda of a self promoting and conceited man or woman. Today there are many such preachers whose agenda seems to be focused on Christ but is done in vain conceit. Eventually their conceit brings the church down while the world watches and mocks Christ as Christian disparages and denigrates Christian. Paul himself had no hidden motives. When he established the church in Philippi, he had no selfish ambition no vain conceit.
Verse 3. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” Humility is the key point of the gospel of our Lord. his life is shrouded in humility. it’s only natural that the calling of every Christian is also a calling to humility. Paul here calls the Philippians to humble themselves in a most difficult but most practical way. humble yourself in your own heart. Then you will achieve the unity that is necessary to make the church a most powerful church for the Spirit of God to work. Anyway, as I as I said, humble yourself in a most difficult way— but practical way— in your own heart. This is not a show of humility. This is not a call to an act of humility. This is a call to one’s own heart to humble itself away from the eyes of others where no one can see, where no one knows except God who sees all things. This is a call to consider in your own heart that others better than yourself. They don’t have to know. You don’t have to make a show of it. you must have to convince your own heart that this is so— they are better! and that’s that.
Now how on earth are you supposed to be able to do that— consider others better than yourself? how are you supposed to value others above yourself? He says the secret to this impossible task is found in humility. it is found in the humility of one’s heart. And I think this kind of humility that Paul calls for here cannot be forced on oneself or practiced to improvement. I think this kind of humility that Paul calls for here comes from a deep intimate knowledge of the grace of God in one’s life. If I know I’m a sinner redeemed by grace then I also know that I am deeply indebted to the Lord. And as such I am humbled enough to see the value of others above myself. Paul saw that clearly. He wasn’t just pretending. He genuinely valued others above himself. as a Jew with Gentiles.
Also based on what he said in verse 1 the foundation brings on such humility because it brings blessings that are not deserved. We must think of others above ourselves. More than that, we must also look to their interest rather than our own. (4) “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This word “own” in the original is open ended as in own “anything”. Own interest, life, financial affairs, property, family, health, reputation, education, success, happiness. Don’t just think about that for yourself, don’t just have desires about that for yourself, don’t just work for that, but look for the others’ interests as well. This really requires radical love on our part! How can I today look not to my own interest, not to my self, my plans, my pleasure, my desires, my things, and what interests me, and look to yours even for one day to think about you and your needs and interests! This command is not easy at all. But it’s crucial if a church community is going to survive and grow to be a light to a dark generation. We represent Christ. But how can we cannot represent him if we don’t Imitate him. He is the model by which we live our lives. (5). “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus”.