Summary: Paul calls the Philippian Christians, not to be like Jesus, but rather to be Jesus to one another.
Something happened in our country. Do you know what I’m talking about? It’s baseball! Play ball! Take me out to the ballgame. Give me some peanuts and Cracker Jacks. My Brewers didn’t fare to well against the Rockies this week. But that’s OK. There are still plenty of games left. And if they don’t do well, then there’s always the Packers.
So let me ask you this; have you ever heard of Ted Williams? Joe DiMaggio? Bob Feller? What do they have in common? Now, how about Hobey Baker (hockey) & Tim James (basketball)? Enos Slaughter? Or how about Patty Berg? What they all have in common is that they are all sports figures who were some of the best in their craft. But there’s also something else they all have in common. Each one of these people voluntarily left their respective sport in order to enlist in the military. They weren’t drafted. And they weren’t fulfilling some obligation. They volunteered to leave their sports, where they were making handsome sums of money and had fame and popularity to join the military. Why? Why would anyone want to do that? Well, It’s because there was something more to their identities than simply sports. At their core, they were AMERICAN. This was their identity. This was who they were. And they were living out their identities during times in our country when it was more important to be an American and serve the Country, than it was for them to remain in their respective sport. After their service was completed, many of them returned to their former profession where they were recognized for their greatness in the sport, but more importantly for their service to their country.
The Christian Church in Philippi was one of Paul’s favorite congregations, if not his favorite one of all. You can tell that from the way he wrote the letter; with the feeling of joy and closeness that he shared with the Philippian Christians. But, like every community of believers, they too had their challenges, and Paul needed to address them so that the congregation wouldn’t splinter. The fellowship of this church was not broken all the way, but it was fractured. It needed some TLC to heal the fracture that occurred due to the differences that arose out of rivalry, vanity, selfishness and animosity. They were joyful in the faith, but Paul needed to bring them back to their core; back to their identity and who they were in Jesus Christ so that they would live together more properly as God’s people. That’s what’s been an important part of this letter up to this point.
“Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,” (Philippians 1:25, 27, 29 ESV)
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1–4 ESV)
THIS is the mind, or attitude, that Paul calls the Christians to exercise and live out in their lives. In verse 12, Paul writes that they are to ‘work out their salvation’. What this means is that they are to live out their ‘being’. Their identity is in Christ. They have already received salvation. It was a gift, and they didn’t have to work for it or earn it. It was simply theirs for the receiving. With that said, Paul exhorted them to live out that faith; that salvation; that was there’s because of Jesus. He didn’t tell them to BE LIKE JESUS. He called them to BE Jesus to one another and to an unbelieving world who are still God’s precious people. Like Williams, DiMaggio, Slaughter and the others who left their high positions in sports to served their country because they were AMERICANS first and at the core, so too Paul called the Philippians to live out their core being as followers of Christ because Christ lived in them. Where did they receive Christ? The same place that you and I did—in our baptisms.