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

For instances:

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.

Paul is using this “if” rhetorically. He assumes that these Christians indeed have unity with Christ, comfort from His love, fellowship with the Spirit, and tenderness and compassion.

Next talk about the “then,” since this is the case, then we will find Christians striving for these things. This goes against the modern idea of Christianity: it is just a personal/ private thing, just Jesus and me and that is all that matters, church and people do not matter to my faith.

The “then” of this conditional statement (Vs. 2)

Because of their relationship with Christ, Christians should be:

Like-minded- This is not an easy thing, especially where people have active minds and independent spirits. It is like when my wife and I will say: “I was just thinking,” and we will say the same thing at once. Not that we always think alike on everything but that we be harmonious in promoting the same great work--the salvation of souls

Having the same love- There should be unity of affections. “two hearts that beat as one.” If this were true, preachers would remain longer in a specific place, churches would be more fruitful in good works, and there would be fewer losses in membership.

Being one in spirit and purpose- “All the believers were one in heart and mind.” Acts 4:32, NIV. This suggests hearts that are in a perfect key. One man described this by thinking of a room full of pianos: “Has it ever occurred to you that one hundred pianos all tuned to the same fork are automatically tuned to each other? They are of one accord by being tuned, not to each other, but to another standard to which each one must individually bow.”

From this we find the attitude that leads to joy and unity (Vs. 3- 11)

Our attitude vs. 5

Vs. 3- Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit “I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us.” 3 John 1:9, NIV.; Vs. 6

Vs. 3- in humility consider others better than yourselves- Watchman Nee, a Chinese evangelist, tells of a Christian he once knew in China. He was a rice farmer, and his fields lay high on a mountain. Every day he pumped water into the paddies of new rice. And every morning he returned to find that an unbelieving neighbor who lived down the hill had opened the dikes surrounding the Christian’s field to let the water fill his own. For a while the Christian ignored the injustice, but at last he became desperate. What should he do? His own rice would die if this continued. How long could it go on? The Christians met, prayed, and came up with this solution. The next day the Christian farmer rose early in the morning and first filled his neighbor’s fields; then he attended to his own. Watchman Nee tells how the neighbor became a Christian, his unbelief overcome by a genuine demonstration of a Christian’s love for others; Vs. 7

Vs. 4- Notice that we should attend to our own business. If we do not do our own work and ministry, no one else will do it for us. Neither is Paul is advocating our being busy bodies and putting our noses in other people’s business. His use of “also” shows this. He means that we must not fix our eyes upon our own interests to the exclusion of others. A Christian cannot look out simply for “number one.”; Vs. 8

When we follow this example of Christ in our actions and attitudes, we exalt Christ (as mentioned in vs. 9-11) and lift him up. “But I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself.”” John 12:32, NIV.

Bob Russell wrote of a church who, years ago, bickered over the use of a piano. Some wanted to use a piano during Sunday worship, others did not. The disagreement grew sharp, and the church divided into two sides over the issue. One Sunday, when members arrived for church, they discovered a new piano on stage. To the horror of half the congregation, someone played the piano during the service. The furious members marched out of the building in protest. The following Sunday, everyone returned to church, but the piano no longer sat on the stage. Those who bought the instrument could not find it, and immediately pointed fingers toward those who did not want the piano. For months, the piano remained lost. Accusations flew and tempers flared. Six months later, someone finally found the missing piano... in the baptistry, where it had sat undiscovered the entire time. When a church fights, baptistries remain unused. “I doubt,” Russell lamented, “that God ever blesses a bickering church.”

“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” Acts 2:44-47, NIV.