Summary: Philippians 2:1-11 teaches us the nature of spiritual unity.
We are in a series of sermons on Paul’s letter to the Philippians that I am calling, “The Christian’s Contentment.”
After the opening greeting, Paul gave thanks to God for them, and prayed for them. As he began the body his letter, Paul wanted them to know that despite his imprisonment, the gospel was advancing. Then, he urged them to live for Christ. However, like every church in every age the Philippian church faced the danger and discord of disunity. So, Paul encouraged the Philippian church to strive for spiritual unity.
Let’s read about Paul’s encouragement to spiritual unity in Philippians 2:1-11:
1 So 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. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:1-11)
Kent Hughes tells the story that when a certain church in Dallas became divided, the rift was so bitter that each side instituted a lawsuit seeking to dispossess the other side from the church’s property—this despite Scripture’s warnings about taking such matters before public courts (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:1–8). The story, of course, hit the Dallas newspapers and garnered considerable interest from the readers. The judge wisely ruled that it was not the province of the court to decide such matters until the case had been heard before the denomination’s church court. So the dispute was remanded to the ecclesiastical court where, eventually, the decision was made to award the real estate and property to one side.
The losers withdrew and formed another church nearby. That is church growth the American way! It was reported in the Dallas newspapers (no doubt with some delight) that the church court had traced the trouble to its source: the trouble began when, at a church dinner, an elder had been served a smaller slice of ham than a child seated next to him.
Lest you think that fights like this only take place in America, let me share a story with you from Wales. Leslie Flynn wrote a book with a fascinating title: Great Church Fights. He tells the story from a Welsh newspaper about a church that was looking for a new pastor. He writes:
Yesterday the two opposition groups both sent ministers to the pulpit. Both spoke simultaneously, each trying to shout above the other. Both called for hymns, and the congregation sang two—each side trying to drown out the other. Then the groups began shouting at each other. Bibles were raised in anger. The Sunday morning service turned into a bedlam. Through it all, the two preachers continued to outshout each other with their sermons.
Eventually a deacon called a policeman. Two came in and began shouting for the congregation to be quiet. They advised the 40 persons in the church to return home. The rivals filed out, still arguing. Last night one of the group called a “let’s-be-friends” meeting. It broke up in argument.
The newspaper article was headlined, “Hallelujah! Two Jacks in One Pulpit.”
These are two humorous—though serious and sad—examples of disunity in the church. We have probably all experienced disunity in the church to know what it looks like. Paul had heard of disunity in his beloved Philippian church, and so he wanted to encourage them to strive for spiritual unity.
Philippians 2:1-11 teaches us the nature of spiritual unity.
Let’s use the following outline:?
1. The Formula for Spiritual Unity (2:1-4)
2. The Model for Spiritual Unity (2:5-11)
I. The Formula for Spiritual Unity (2:1-4)
First, let’s look at the formula for spiritual unity.
At the end of chapter one of Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he urged the Philippian Christians to live for Christ. Because they had received the gospel, they must therefore live in such a way that shows that they are not only united to Christ but also to one another. This spiritual unity includes three necessary elements: the motives, the marks, and the means.