Today we continue in our series, “Jesus Our JOY,” and we’re starting probably the most important chapter in the book of Philippians, chapter 2. The verses we’re looking at today are really there to lead us into verses 5-11, which we’re going to look at on Christmas Eve in two weeks. But these first four or five verses reveal a few truths that are so good, so important for understanding how we can live as truly humble people.
It’s easy to hear, “Put others before yourself,” and want to do that even, and take that seriously, and yet never actually have in our minds and our hearts our main reason and motivation for living in such a way. Why would we put others first? Yes, God told us to, but what’s our primary fuel in putting others first? In this text, we see our great fuel for humility. Ashley Spicer is going to come forward to read our text. She is the head volleyball coach at Calvary University right down the road, and she was very excited when I asked her to read. So, Philippians 2:1-5. Take it away.
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus.
Thank you, Ashley. This passage may not seem like THE most critical of texts, but there are some really crucial truths here that we just can’t miss. Paul is giving us a foundation of why and how we can be humble people. Why and how we can truly consider others more important than ourselves. Why and how we can be the exact opposite of our natural tendencies. What’s natural for us is to be selfish, right? What’s natural is to, maybe want to serve others, but really to do it for selfish reasons, so that we can feel good about ourselves, and therefore, in a very real sense, it’s still about us. Even in serving others, it can be about us.
It’s just easy to be most concerned with our own desires, and ambitions, and happiness. And this is natural, because I am me. I’m living my life. Therefore, what takes most of my attention, is MY life, and my happiness. As Christians, though, we’re called to something quite different, aren’t we? Verse 3 tells us: “in humility, to count others more significant than ourselves!”
Literally, we’re to consider others as more important than ourselves! Their needs, their desires, their everything: more important than me. How in the world do we do that? Frankly, we can’t do that without being overwhelmed by what we’ve been given.
It makes sense to us that those that have been given much would probably most often be those who also give away much, right? You have a lot of something; you’d probably likely give away a lot of that something. At least that would make sense. Ironically, though, oftentimes the people most stressed about, say, money are not those in poverty, but those that have 6-digit salaries or higher! And so, oftentimes, it’s not the case that those with much give away much. But, as Christians, this should never be the case, especially having in mind what we’ve been given.
So, what have we been given? Look at verse 1:
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy…”
When Paul says “if” there, he’s not implying doubt that those things are reality. It’s just an expression. “If” could also be translated, “since there is encouragement in Christ…” etc., etc. There’s no doubt in Paul’s mind that these things are part of the Christian life, including for the Philippians. So, “Since there is any encouragement in Christ.” The New International Version explains it well: “If there is any encouragement from being united with Christ.” That’s what it means to be “in Christ.” We’re united with him, which is the first part of our answer under #1:
- What we’ve been given: First,
a. We’ve been united with Christ. Talk about being people to whom MUCH has been given. Ponder this for a moment. Do you realize what this means that we’ve been united with Christ. Do you realize to what lengths God was willing to go to bring us to himself, to unite us with Christ?
This is really the whole point of chapter 2, is to show us exactly what God was willing to do. God became a man (we see this in the verses after this), emptying himself, taking the form of a servant, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross! What lengths God was willing to go to bring us to Himself. I don’t know of anything that could possibly bring us more encouragement.
That’s what Paul mentions here: “any encouragement from being united with Christ.” I don’t know what kind of pains and sufferings you’re going through today. I know several in our church are going through some of the hardest times in their lives. I don’t know what kind of estranged relationships you have with family or friends. But, listen, THE most deeply estranged relationship you have ever had, that between you and God Almighty, your Creator, has been wildly redeemed because of a glorious Mediator named Jesus. That should never stop bringing us encouragement. We’ve been united with Christ. And with Christ, we’ve been reconciled to God the Father, which brings us to the second thing we’ve been given:
b. We are comforted by the Father’s love. “If you have any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love…” We’re comforted from love. Now, the reason why I specifically have “the Father’s love” in your notes is because of 2 Corinthians 13:14. This is the last verse of 2 Corinthians. Paul is closing out these letters. You don’t have to turn there; I’ll read it to you: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
It’s a Trinitarian closing to his letters to Corinth. He covers the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It seems like, here in Philippians 2:1, that he is mimicking this order to show us how the entire essence of who God is— the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit— his entire essence is involved in our salvation. We’re in Christ, we now experience God’s love, and now his Spirit lives within us! He’s referring to the Father’s love.
God, our heavenly Father, loves us. Some of us in this room have great earthly fathers who loved us dearly. Some of us don’t. But we know how many issues that can cause, not having a dad that truly loved us and loved us well. It’s such a weighty thing to know not only that we’ve been united with Christ, but that we have the comfort that comes with love from a heavenly Father. We can rest in that love, no matter the craziness of our lives. Then, thirdly, what we’ve been given, to finish out the benefits of being brought back to our Trinitarian God:
c. We have fellowship with the Holy Spirit. “If there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit…” That’s how the English Standard Version reads. The word there for “participation” is koinonia, which means “fellowship, communion, sharing.” We’ve been united with Christ. We have love from our heavenly Father. And we even have the Holy Spirit living in our hearts.
We’ve been given salvation from the penalty of our sins, but we’ve also been given salvation from the power of sin now, today, in THIS life! In John 14, Jesus talks about obedience and how you can’t love Him without keeping his commands (how those two things always go together), and in the midst of this, Jesus brings up the Holy Spirit. John 14:26- “But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”
We have the Helper, God Himself, sent by the Father in Jesus name (love that Trinitarian language there again), to help us remember what Jesus taught, and to help us obey! This same Spirit that brought Jesus back to life, that brought us life by convicting us of our sin, and drawing us to God, He now dwells in us. That’s how we have fellowship with the Spirit. Because he’s with us all the time. If you’ve trusted in Jesus alone for salvation, God Himself lives in you.
I know everything we’ve said up to this point you already know. Maybe you’re thinking, “Gosh, Ryan, this is old news. Come on, give me new insights.”
But, I have to ask, do we recognize, this morning, the weight of what we’ve been given? I think that’s why Paul actually brings us at the end of verse 1, “if you have any affection and sympathy.” That’s how he closes out what we’ve been given: “any affection and sympathy.” The Greek word for “affection” there can be understood like “tender feelings.” It’s the seat of the emotions, our heart maybe is a good way to understand this. His point in bringing this up is to point out the softness of heart that should come from what we’ve been given. Stopping just for a moment, at least every Sunday morning when we gather, if not far more often, stopping to ponder what we’ve been given, and especially having in mind that we deserved none of it. That should be an overwhelming thought.
The Gospel. The Good News. We were hostile to God, rebellious, living as our own Kings, in place of the true King. And while we were yet sinners, Christ died on our behalf, taking upon himself God’s wrath which we deserved. Then rising again defeating death altogether. This gift of a Substitute that we’ve been given. A gift that shows us the depth of the Father’s love for us. And then the Spirit dwelling in us, fellowshipping with us. All of this should overwhelm us. One of my modern hymns that just ponders the awe of the Gospel:
How deep the Father’s love for us, How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son, To make a wretch His treasure
How great the pain of searing loss, The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the Chosen One, Bring many sons to glory
Why should I gain from His reward? I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart, His wounds have paid my ransom
That should overwhelm us. How deep his love, the lengths he was willing to go. And if it does overwhelm, if it brings about these tender feelings, just a softness of heart. We’re not like a feelings-driven church. But listen, feelings and emotion, Paul says “affection and sympathy”—those are real and appropriate responses to GRADN truths, in particular, what we’ve been given. You start with truth, God, the Gospel, and if you don’t respond from the bowels (the King James actually translates this word “affection” as “bowels”), but if we don’t respond in a way that reflects the weight of what we’ve been given, it maybe hasn’t yet clicked for you: how deep the Father’s love for us, specifically that he gave his son, whose wounds have paid our ransom.
When we see and understand the WEIGHT of what we’ve been given, then these commands that Paul gives next should come very naturally. Since we’ve been given this incredible gift of the Gospel, then…verse 2: “complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.” That’s what he says.
Paul starts here in verse 2 with what this means for the Church, what this great Gospel means for all of us together, corporately, and then moves on in verses 3-4 to what it means for each of us individually. So,
- What this means for the Church. The second question in your notes.
Be united in the same purpose and love. It’s remarkable to me that Paul says that this is what would complete his joy. Be united, have the same love, be of one mind. He’s in prison as he’s writing this, and what does he say will be the one thing to complete his joy? That this local church would be united in the same love and purpose! He doesn’t bring up being released from prison, or receiving more provisions to make it easier while he’s in prison. No, he cares so much for the church, that this is what he says would complete his joy. Paul really is a great example of humility, or considering others more important than himself, isn’t he?
“Complete my joy” by being of the same mind, meaning like-minded. If there’s one thing that could effectively bring people from completely different backgrounds together, it certainly is the Gospel! You have Jews and Gentiles, very different people in the church at Philippi. How can they be like-minded? By having in mind what they’ve been given. By keeping the Gospel at the forefront of their hearts and minds.
By having the same love! I don’t think Paul is saying there that we have the same thing that we love, meaning God (we all love God, so that brings us together), though that’s certainly true and does unify us. He’s saying, though, we have received the same love! God has bestowed on US his love. Yes, we all love the same God, but MORE that, we’re all loved by the same God! That’s even better! Why? Because if our unity was contingent upon our love for God, then our unity would be unstable! We don’t always love God like we should! But if our unity is instead based on the fact that we are loved by the same God, that unity is stable. Because his love for us does not change. I love that.
The heavenly Father adds to our unity as a church in a similar way that an earthly father’s love adds to the unity of earthly families. Even if we don’t necessarily get along with our families, there’s just something about seeing them and being with them, yes? There’s still a unity of sorts. We’re brought together by something. Most of the time that’s the love of the parents that we’ve all received over our lives. That adds to unity. That brings you together.
Maybe you have a family member you know you would NEVER ever be friends with in real life if you weren’t related. Maybe multiple family members are coming to mind right now. Maybe you could not be any more different, and yet, there’s a unity there. Or at least there’s supposed to be. We have the same love, namely, the love of our parents. That’s a rough parallel. But in the church, this is certainly the case. We’ve been united with Christ, we have the love of the Father, we have the Holy Spirit, the same Holy Spirit living in each of us.
We’re to live “in one accord” and “be of one mind,” according to Paul. We have one purpose, namely to live in light of what we’ve been given, live in light of the Gospel. That’s what we saw last week in the previous passage: living worthy of the Gospel, worthy of this gift we’ve been given.
But Paul doesn’t leave it at what it means for all of us together, the church. He also brings out application specific to us as individuals.
- What this means for each of us, individually. The 3rd question in your notes.
Think of others as more important than ourselves. Some of the most challenging words in the entire Bible: verses 3 and 4: “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
What a challenging command: “count others more significant than yourselves.” The New International Version puts it like this: “value others above yourselves.” New Living Translation: “think of others as better than yourselves!” Wait a minute!
Are certain people better than others, or more important than others? Is that reality? No! Genesis 1:27- “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” It is clear from the Scriptures that every man and woman is equal in God’s sight; we were all made in God’s image. So what is Paul saying here?
He’s saying that, though we’re equal, we’re to live our lives as if others are better, as if they’re more important. Yes, we’re all equals. But we’re not to treat each other as equals. We’re to treat other as more significant. That’s the true definition of humility, which is why Paul says, “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Then, he elaborates in verse 4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Do you realize that THE fuel that we have for giving and giving and giving and giving giving, our time, money, energy, everything, our FUEL for giving and focusing on others instead of ourselves, even when people don’t appreciate it, even when people don’t notice, even when we’re exhausted and we feel like we don’t have anything left to give. Our fuel for still doing it, for truly thinking others are better and more important than us, our fuel is what we ourselves have already been given, namely, Christ.
I got to be part of my brother’s wedding back in May, which was such a privilege. They actually got married on our anniversary (Lauryn and me), which is pretty cool. I didn’t officiate the wedding, but I got to give the charge to the couple, which is like the wedding message. What I said was based on Ephesians 5, and is certainly geared toward marriages, but these truths are also so applicable for just how we treat all people, and go right along with today’s text. And so, I want to quote myself, which I realize is probably a pretty lame thing to do, but I’m going to do it anyway. It’s just the last few sentences of the charge I gave my brother and his now-wife. This is how it went:
The Gospel. Christ our Substitute. There is no greater news in the history of the world, and the Bible says that if we repent, in other words turn from being our Kings, and place our faith in Jesus our Substitute and true King, we are saved from death and sin. So what does it mean for that grand truth to be your pursuit in marriage, to reflect it?
It means, Allison, that your fuel for loving and giving yourself to Nathan, no matter what he gives in return, is the fact that Jesus loved and gave Himself for you even when you could give nothing in return. Nathan, your fuel for loving and giving yourself to Allison, no matter what she gives in return, is the fact that Jesus loved and gave Himself for you even when you could give nothing in return.
This is why we love our spouses, and those in the church, and those outside the church. We don’t only love as much as they love us. No, no, no. We love and serve like Christ loved and served us. What kind of pickle would we be in if Christ decided only to love us as much as we loved him? Like trying to get this so-called “healthy” 50-50 relationship. No. Christ fills us so much that we overflow.
We’re not empty cups trying to give water. Whether we realize it or not, we are so overflowing with water that we don’t even have to tip over for the water to pour out! Whether people like it or not, whether they ask for it or not, we’re pouring water on them. The only thing keeping us from pouring out is not realizing how much we’ve been given!
It’s like we’re putting a sealed lid on the cup because we think, “Oh, we can’t lose any of this, we only have a little in there!” The truth of the matter is that you’re about to bust at the seams! No wonder you might be miserable; you’re not giving! You’re not letting the lavishness of God’s love pour out of you. Listen, realize that you are full’ we’ve been given more than we can fathom. Ponder the gospel; grow in the gospel and in your love for God, and at the same time, let it overflow. Give, serve, treat others as more important than yourself.
Such a common hesitation in giving of our time and energy, and just giving of ourselves, is the thought that, “I’m just not in a place to give. I need to receive. I need things. I need to be built up. And I need investment before I invest into others.” Listen, this is a totally legitimate thought. It IS! You cannot truly give from the heart if you have nothing to give! That’s true! But listen, if you are in Christ. If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you’ve been given far, far more than you can even fathom! It’s time to give!!!
This encouragement in Christ, this love from the Father, this fellowship with the Spirit, THAT is the treasure chest from which we give, give, give! Why treat others as more important than ourselves? Why put others first? Because we need from others nothing more than we’ve received from our Lord! We don’t need to receive, because we have everything. Our debt has been paid. We’ve been reconciled to God. God himself dwells in us. What else do we really need before we give?