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Summary: Unity in name of Christ occurs when believers humble themselves as he did; yielding their interests to the needs of others as Christ yielded his for our sake.

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It’s April 1865, and the Civil War is coming to a close. Robert E Lee surrenders to Ulysses S Grant. Lee later begs the southern states to join the Union and be one nation again. Johnson finally surrenders to Sherman, leaving one major Confederate general to surrender, which he eventually does. Lincoln is assassinated, and the nation wonders who will lead the reconstruction; most importantly, how to do it.

The how question is answered May 2 at St Pauls Church in Alexandria, VA. At the close of Sunday worship, Holy Communion is served. People come the altar to pray and receive communion. Blacks, sitting in the back in their own section, do not participate.

The war over, an elderly black man gets up, walks down the aisle, kneels at the altar, and prays. This is simply not done—and everyone, including the minister, has no idea what to do. After a minute of awkward silence and confusion, a white man with flowing white hair and beard rises. He is a commanding presence with a confident stride. He makes his way to the altar, kneels next to the black man, and prays with him.

The older white man with the commanding presence and confident stride is Gen. Robert E Lee, former leader of the Confederate Army.

I. INTRODUCTION

1. In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul shares his desire to see the church united in love and servant-hood. We presume from his letter that he is concerned about their well-being as a group.

A. Perhaps his call for unity is based on (1)persecution they may face;or (2)problems the believers in Philippi have with each other. (3)Perhaps he has other reasons?

B. In any event, Paul encourages the Philippians to be united, arguing that unity will grow from humility, using to Christ as their consummate example. OYBT Philippians 2.

[Unity in name of Christ occurs when believers humble themselves as he did; yielding their interests to the needs of others as Christ yielded his for our sake.]

2. Here Paul turns his attention from theology to ethics: chapter two is a wonderful discourse on how Christians in the church should live in light of Christ’s example.

A. I wrote a short article on this passage some years ago for a class in Hermeneutics (the science of interpreting a text). Of particular interest in my research was the literary structure of the chapter, which fascinates me.

B. Before we examine the text, let’s outline its structure. If you make notes in your Bible as I do, grab a pencil and bracket the following groups of verses: Bracket #1 is vv. 1-4; #2 is v.5; #3 is 6-11, #4 is 12-18. Collectively, the groups compose a structure of rhetoric we use to this day: the “IF—THEN” means of argument. (If this is true, then this must result…)

II. THE [IF] STATEMENT OF PAUL’S INSTRUCTION (1-4)

1. Paul opens with four successive clauses, each beginning with if; [1] If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ [2] If you have any comfort from his love [3] If you have any fellowship with the Holy Spirit [4] If you are recipients of Christ’s tenderness and compassion…

2. Understand—Paul is not questioning whether or not they experience these gifts. This is a device used to make his point. We might substitute the phrase “Since there is…”

3. Paul appeals to them to strive for unity and harmony. To be “like-minded” does not mean they agree on everything, but rather they work to remain “one in spirit” (1:27). This demands humility.

A. It means that I surrender my will to God’s will; I find agreement with someone when I’d rather disagree; I work beside one whose personality doesn’t match well with mine; I learn to find comfort and joy when I can’t have my way.

[Unity in name of Christ occurs when believers humble themselves as He did; yielding our interests to the needs of others as Christ yielded his for us.]

III. THE TRANSITIONAL PHRASE (5)

1. Verse five serves two purposes: [1] it summarizes the prior verses and [2] serves as a transition to the basis of Paul’s teaching?the example of humility as portrayed by Christ.

2. Paul answers the question on his reader’s minds: “why should we feel compelled to act in this way?” by directing them to the supreme example of godly behavior found in Christ.

IV. CHRIST’S HUMILITY AS AN EXAMPLE FOR THE PHILIPPIANS (6-11)

1. Verses 6-11 are collectively known as the “Christ Hymn”. The hymn, positioned quite intentionally between the two other parts of chapter two, becomes a looking glass of sorts for the believer. Through this looking glass our words and actions must reflect those of Christ, who suffered greatly for our benefit without regard for His own desire.

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