Motives for Unity (Theology for Living from Philippians)

Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. (Paul’s letter to the Philippians, chapter 2, verses 1 and 2)

At our church we recently asked the men of the church to consider if they really loved their pastor and if so, to come hear him speak at a men’s breakfast and communicate that love to him.  We’ll often do things for people we love and respect that are over the top in order to make it abundantly clear how much they have meant in our lives.

In a similar fashion Paul is asking the Philippian believers to do something that would top off the level of his joy.  He already had a lot of joy when it came to this church (see 1:4), but his joy would be maxed out if they were to be like-minded (literally, think the same thing), have the same love, be one in spirit (literally, one-souled), and of one mind (literally, think the one thing).  His choice of words seems to beg the question, “Thinking what one or same thing, having the same love for what, being one-souled about what?”

Actually, Paul has already answered this question.  He has already made it clear that the one thing that every believer should have the utmost devotion to and the highest priority for is the advancement of the gospel (1:5,7,12,14.16.25,27).  He has spoken of this advancement of the gospel in terms of its advance in winning individuals to its message (1:12-14) and in terms of its progress in transforming the individual’s spiritual life (1:25,26).

He has already commanded the Philippians, and thus, by extension, us, to a militant kind of unity behind this powerful, unstoppable gospel.  He has given them one motivation already, that it is essential to have this kind of unity in order to withstand the opposition of the enemy.  But now he is adding a relational motivation.  They can effectively add to Paul’s personal joy over them and they can live out the passion Jesus has given them for one another.

This is the meaning of the opening phrases of verse one.  Paul is assuming that they would agree that they have encouragement in Christ (motivation that comes from knowing him, all of us, together), comfort from his love (motivation to love others because of the love Jesus has for us), common sharing in the Spirit (the fellowship the Holy Spirit has produced among us by making us one body in Christ), and the tenderness and compassion that Jesus has put in our hearts for one another.

These realities should motivate us to desire unity with one another and to make our spiritual leaders more joyful as they seek to help form Christ in us.  Who would be spiritually thrilled to see you giving such priority to the gospel’s advance that you made unity with all believers your additional priority.  Who do you know who disagrees with you on some aspects of the gospel but who nevertheless needs your backing as a follower of Christ for the sake of the gospel?  How long will we continue to demean and dismiss other believers because of disagreements we have with them on matters incidental to the gospel?  How long will we assault the joy of those spiritual leaders of ours who long for us to be in unity with all of God’s children?  Is it possible to assault the joy of God who saved us that we might be one in Him?

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