Summary: A sermon on unity from Philippians 2:1-11 (Material adapted from Daniel Overdorf's book, Rediscovering Community, chapter 12 Graciously United, pages 308- 314)
Read to the congregation If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
No, I haven’t lost my mind. This book illustrates “if... then” statements. If you give a mouse a cookie, then this and that will happen. These are called conditional statements, if this is true then this naturally follows. In our Scriptures today Paul gives us a conditional statement.
Last time we talked about unity from a negative viewpoint: 4 barriers to unity. 3 out of the 4 points came from 1 Corinthians where there was much disunity, division and discord. This morning we are talking about unity from Philippians. Paul letter to the Philippians is one of my favorites because it can be called the epistle of joy. The Philippians church was much the opposite of the Corinthian church, much unity, harmony and serving together. No church is perfect, however, and we find this in the Philippian church: “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord.” Philippians 4:2
To combat this Paul presents church unity as an outgrowth of a Christian’s unity with Christ. In the original Greek, the opening words of verse one include a “therefore (find it in NASB).” See therefore then find out what it is there for. This therefore connects the opening paragraph of chapter 2 with the closing paragraph of chapter 1. In the closing paragraph of chapter 1, Paul encouraged the Philippians believers to remain faithful in the face of difficulty. “Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel” Philippians 1:27, NIV. Paul challenged them to remain faithful, and to remain faithful together.
Thesis: Discuss the “if” of this conditional statement, the “then” of this statement, and from this the attitude that leads to joy and unity
The “If” of this conditional statement (Vs. 1)
Paul reminds the Philippians of the basis for unity- their relationship with Christ. Paul introduces 4 convictions concerning relationship their with Christ, each beginning with “if.”
1. If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ. Reminds me of: “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” Romans 6:3-5, NIV.
2. If any comfort from his love
Hatred is full of misery; love is full of joy. “Love makes the world go round.”
Paul knew that Christians are hard to get along with. Paul also knew that the Christian had a duty to see more than the other Christian’s faults. We must also see the person, and we must love him with a love patterned on the love with which God the Father loves us: “his love.”
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” John 13:34, NIV. Our love for other Christians must be like Christ’s love for us. Our love is to be an outpouring of His love through us as we are transformed by the presence of the HS.
3. If any fellowship with the Spirit
Fellowship means more than sharing things here. Our fellowship is not man centered. The fellowship that exists between Christians is a fellowship created by God. It means a partnership and that partnership is secured by the HS. The HS is the Great Unifier in the local church. He alone can bring order out of chaos and persevere harmony in the body of Christ
4. If any tenderness and compassion
“The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” James 5:11, NIV.
If someone is unconscious and has poor vital signs, medical staff will try many ways to rouse that person to find signs of life. If no response then the situation is grim. Might bring out defibrillator and shock them back to life. Does not respond to this then death
If a “Christian” shows no signs of spiritual life then the situation is serious and grim. We have to conclude that that person is spiritually dead.
However, if we are in Christ, then we are alive. “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins,” “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions--it is by grace you have been saved.” Ephesians 2:1, 4, 5, NIV. In Christ we respond to spiritual stimuli. The absence of this is proof of spiritual death.