Summary: The focus on unity is to be able to think the same thing, have the same love, joined in soul, and thinking one thing.
Make My Joy Complete
Oct 31, 2010 Phil. 2:1-4
What would it take to make you truly happy? I don’t presuppose in the question that you are unhappy at the moment, but I want to get you thinking for a moment about that question, and locate at least the beginnings of an answer. And don’t worry, I won’t ask you to speak it publicly. What would it take to make you truly happy?
That question leads us into our passage of Philippians, as we reach the formidable milestone of finishing chapter 1 (insert cheers!). We don’t leave chapter 1 behind completely, because Paul’s command in 1:27 continues to set the topic – “Above all, as citizens of heaven conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.” Remember that when we looked at this verse, I explained that it was uncharacteristic for Paul to write of one thing “above all”, and that he usually piled up ideas and phrases together to make his point – this morning you will see what I meant… In chapter 2:1-4, Paul starts a new sentence and continues to explore what it means to live “as citizens of heaven” and “conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ.”
Phil 2:1-4 (NLT):
1 Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ? Any comfort from his love? Any fellowship together in the Spirit? Are your hearts tender and compassionate? 2 Then make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one mind and purpose.
3 Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. 4 Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.
I want to re-read the passage now, but rather than doing what our translators have done in writing the sentence so that we could best make sense of it, I want to show you more literal translation that better captures how Paul wrote it:
if any comfort in Christ
if any encouragement of love
if any fellowship of the Spirit
if any affection and compassion
make my joy complete
that you may think the same thing
having the same love
joined in soul
thinking the one thing
nothing according to selfishness or empty conceit
but with humility regarding one another as more important than yourselves
not looking out for your own things
but also for those of others.
(from Silva, M. Philippians (2nd ed.) Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 2005. p. 85-86.)
The passage begins with “therefore”, which takes us back to the “big idea” in the previous passage, of how to live as Christians. The main verb comes in the middle, our verse 2, with Paul saying “make my joy complete”. He leads up to that, and then flows out of that, and we see the overarching idea being the essential nature of unity that comes from choosing to put others ahead of ourselves. That is the main point of the passage – the unity that needs to characterize our life together as fellow citizens, and what that means in really tangible terms in verses 3-4.
But let’s start with the phrases Paul piles on leading up to the main verb, “make my joy complete”. There are four phrases, and Paul wrote them with an incredible rhythm – each phrase begins with the same two words “if any”, and then there are two nouns. What this does is create an energy, a build, a ton of emotion as he piles on these incredible, lofty, packed ideas, and it would have caught the Philippians up and been incredibly inspiring. Paul is tapping into the things they have experienced in Jesus – he is reminding them of the realities they have known and been deeply, deeply impacted by – comforted in Jesus, experiencing His love, being filled with the Spirit, knowing affection and compassion, and he gathers these up and writes them with this flow and rhythm and I can hear them shouting “yes! comfort in Christ!! yes! encouraged by his love!! yes! fellowship with the Spirit!! yes! affection and compassion!!”
And like a great writer/leader/motivator, Paul connects with those powerful forces deep inside and says, “ok then, since you identify with those things and they resonate deeply within you, come together for the sake of the Good News about Jesus. Be united, deeply – and again Paul launches into another list of four things, “that you may think the same thing, having the same love, joined in soul, thinking the one thing”.
This focus on unity sounds a lot like Jesus, both in the characterization of what the people of God are to be as joint citizens of heaven, and also the purpose for which we are to be united. “20 “I am praying not only for these disciples but also for all who will ever believe in me through their message. 21 I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me. 22 “I have given them the glory you gave me, so they may be one as we are one. 23 I am in them and you are in me. May they experience such perfect unity that the world will know that you sent me and that you love them as much as you love me.” (John 17:20-23).