Summary: 1)The Elements of Purposeful Unity (Philippians 2:1) 2) The Essence of Purposeful Unity (Philippians 2:2a), 3)The Expression of Purposeful Unity (Philippians 2:2b)
It’s not too difficult to see the effect of strife. Internationally, we see conflict and hostage taking. In North America, we just came out of a hockey lockout after many months of people not working. In Canada, native blockages have meant disrupted travel, and shipping. In Ontario, many teachers have eliminated extracurricular activities for Children. The more and more we personalize the situation, when we see strife in our communities and families, we must all point the fingers on ourselves. Human nature as it is, is selfish and ultimately destructive. Even when we can somehow maintain outward order, inward strife, begins to rot from the inside.
To be sure, the church of Philippi was characterized by many excellent qualities. By all appearances they were doctrinally and morally sound. Paul calls its members, “my brothers, beloved and longed for, my joy and crown” (Phil. 4:1). Warmly he praises them for their fellowship in the gospel and for their generosity (Phil. 1:5; 4:10, 14–18). But there was some trouble on the Home front. Did some of the members see too much of each other? Were they getting on each other’s nerves? Were some beginning to exaggerate the weaknesses and to minimize the virtues of other church-members? Brothers attacking or even just belittling each other make a sorry spectacle before the world. Their inner spiritual growth is hindered and their witness to the world is weakened. (Hendriksen, W., & Kistemaker, S. J. (1953-2001). Vol. 5: Exposition of Philippians. New Testament Commentary (98–99). Grand Rapids: Baker Book House.)
In Philippians 2:1–2 Paul gives what is perhaps the most concise and practical teaching about unity in the New Testament. In these powerful verses, he outlines a formula for purposeful spiritual unity that includes the necessary elements on which a unity of purpose must be built. We see: 1)The Elements of Purposeful Unity (Philippians 2:1) 2) The Essence of Purposeful Unity (Philippians 2:2a), 3)The Expression of Purposeful Unity (Philippians 2:2b) Through them, he clarifies why believers should be of one mind and spirit, what is meant by one mind and spirit.
1) The Elements of Purposeful Unity (Philippians 2:1)
Philippians 2:1 [2:1]So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, (ESV)
The “So/therefore” connects what Paul has just said at the end of chapter 1. The point is that, “Because we have the divine injunction to be of one mind and spirit (1:27), So/therefore, something must occur.
The Greek particle ei (if) here introduces a first-class conditional clause, which is the translation of a conditional particle referring to a fulfilled condition. One could translate “since,” or “in view of the fact.” The four things mentioned in this verse are not hypothetical in their nature. They are facts (Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest's word studies from the Greek New Testament: For the English reader (Php 2:1). Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.).
So/therefore looks back to the principle that, because they have the divine injunction to be of one mind and spirit (1:27), believers must … If looks forward to the divinely bestowed realities of encouragement in Christ, … comfort/consolation from love, … participation/fellowship in the Spirit, … [and] affection and sympathy/compassion. This should motivate believers to desire and actively seek the unity of mind, love, spirit, and purpose mentioned in the following verse (2:2). Paul is not speaking of theological abstractions but of personal relationships between Christians.
The first reality that motivates purposeful unity is encouragement in Christ. Paraklçsis (encouragement) has the root meaning of coming alongside someone to give assistance by offering comfort, counsel, or exhortation. It is precisely the kind of assistance exemplified by the Good Samaritan, who, after doing everything he could for the robbed and beaten stranger, “took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return I will repay you’ ” (Luke 10:35; vv. 30–34).
Using a closely related word, Jesus referred to the Holy Spirit as “another Helper [paraklçton],” whom He would ask the Father to send to all who would believe in Him, so “that He may be with [them] forever” (John 14:16). The most important and powerful encouragement in Christ comes directly from the indwelling Spirit. Paul’s admonition here is that, in light of that encouragement, the Philippians should “conduct [themselves] in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27) by endeavoring to be of one mind and spirit with each other. This profound spiritual principle demands pursuing unity as a grateful response to the believer’s union with Christ. Paul asks, in effect, “Shouldn’t the divine influence of Christ in your life compel you to preserve the unity that is so precious to Him?”
The second reality that motivates purposeful unity is the comfort/consolation from love. Paramuthion (comfort/consolation) has the literal meaning of speaking closely with someone, and with the added idea of giving comfort and solace. Its basic meaning is close to that of paraklçsis (encouragement); both words involve a close relationship marked by genuine concern, helpfulness, and love. The comforting and consoling love is that which the Lord grants to unworthy sinners in the grace of salvation. He continuously bestows that love on believers (Rom. 5:5), who in turn show love for fellow believers. That demonstrates gratitude for God’s love for them (Hawthorne, G. F. (2004). Vol. 43: Philippians. Word Biblical Commentary (84). Dallas: Word, Incorporated.).