Summary: We were united with Christ so we can unite with each other
Someone said, “The greatest argument for Christianity is Christians. There is nothing more compelling than those who live the life of Christ.” But do you know that the greatest argument against Christianity is Christians also? There is nothing more discouraging than Christians who don’t live the life of Christ, believers who follow a “me” rather than a “we” mindset.
In my last message, I said that if we want to enjoy our best life now, we must shift from a “me,” “my” and “mine” mindset and focus on a “we,” “our” and “us” mentality. How can we make that shift? And how can we show that we already made that shift?
According to Philippians 2:1-4, we were united with Christ to unite with each other: “If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being likeminded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This morning we will talk about “Made One To Be One.” Let us pray…
Unity in the church is one of the major topics of the book of Philippians. If we go a few verses up, we find that Paul commanded the believers in Philippi: “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 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you.” We conduct our lives worthy of the gospel when we stand united in the face of forces opposing us from inside and outside of the church. “The emphasis in [Philippians] 1:27-30 is on unity in the face of pressure from without. In [Philippians] 2:1-4 Paul continues to urge the church to maintain unity, but now in the face of problems from within… It is of little value to be unified against opposition from without and then fail to be unified within.” There will always be threats to unity from all directions. But we must remain united no matter what.
For example, in Acts 20:29-30 Paul warned us: “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” Note the words “come in among you” and “from your own number”. False teachers will attack the church from inside and outside. But we are to stand united for the truth. Also, persecution from outside the church can shatter our unity. Bitterness or hatred against each other inside the church can fragment us. But always remember that united we stand, divided we fall.
Verses 1 to 4 of chapter 2 are actually one long sentence in Greek. Probably Paul was so carried away in his appeal for unity to the Philippian believers that he almost forgot to place a period. We see the only command and the main point of the passage in verse 2: “make my joy complete by being likeminded”. The word “complete” means “to make full, to fill up, to complete, to finish or accomplish.” Paul experienced joy with the Philippians. But he will be more joyful if they are united or “likeminded.”
In the NASB, “likeminded” is translated “of the same mind”. Paul was not saying that we think the same way. “It does not mean that Paul wants the Philippians to hold to exactly the same opinion on every issue… The expression is focused on an attitude… It is a call for the church to focus on what they have in common in Christ and their relationship bound up together with him.” In short, we need to have an attitude of unity, not just acts of unity.
For Paul, there is unity in diversity. We don’t have to agree on everything. We may have to agree to disagree. Someone wrote, “In the essentials, let there be unity. In the non-essentials, let there be liberty. In all things, let there be charity” or love. We must agree on the principles or the essential teachings like the Trinity or that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. But on preferences, we can disagree, as long as we disagree agreeably. We don’t have to divide over non-essential issues such as our choices of music or our tastes for clothing or hairstyle. Let us major on the major and minor on the minor. “Kung hindi mo na rin lang ikamamatay, hayaan mo na.”