Thursday, May 19, 2011

Unity within Christ's Church

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. (Philippians 2: 1-4)

Many people - even Christians - live only to make a good impression on others or to please themselves. But "selfish ambition or vain conceit" brings discord. Paul therefore stressed spiritual unity, asking the Philippians to love one another and to be one in spirit and purpose. When we work together, caring for the problems of others as if they were our problems, we demonstrate Christ's example of putting others first, and we experience unity. Don't be so concerned about making a good impression or meeting your own needs that you strain relationships in God's family.

The Philippians’ biggest battle was not with their external circumstances but with those internal attitudes that destroy unity. Paul had demonstrated his own refusal to let external circumstances control his attitudes (Philippians 1:12–18). In Philippians 2:1, the "therefore" ties together his conflict and their conflict. The conditional clauses in this verse indicate certainties, not “maybes.” Each "if" here expresses the idea of “since,” and each following clause may be considered to be true. Scripture teaches that our fellowship is not only with God the Holy Spirit as seen here, but also with God the Father (1 John 1:3) and God the Son (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:3), as well as with other Christians (1 John 1:7). The Greek term for "mercy" means compassionate desires that develop in response to a situation and that stimulate a person to meet recognized needs in that situation.

In Philippians 2:2, the Apostle Paul sets forth a fourfold appeal, an appeal that expresses one major idea—namely the unity of the church.

like-minded: This expresses Paul’s concern for humility (Philippians 4:2). Paul illustrates this attitude in Philippians 2:3, 4 and then describes the greatest example of humility, Jesus Christ Himself, in Philippians 2:5–8.

same love: Philippians 1:9.

one accord: Paul here is stressing a unity of spirit between Christians (Palms. 133), literally “a togetherness of soul.”

one mind: The words Paul uses to indicate one mind are virtually identical to the words translated like-minded earlier in this verse. Paul was strongly emphasizing the unity that should exist between believers and how they must single-mindedly strive together to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Selfish ambition can ruin a church, but genuine humility can build it. Being humble involves having a true perspective about ourselves (Romans 12:3). It does not mean that we should put ourselves down. Before God, we are sinners, saved only by God's grace, but we are saved and therefore have great worth in God's kingdom. We are to lay aside selfishness and treat others with respect and common courtesy. Considering other's interests as more important than our own links us with Christ, who was a true example of humility?

In Philippians 2:3, the Apostle Paul attempts to correct any misunderstanding that may arise from what he said earlier in the letter about some preaching out of selfish motives (Philippians 1:15, 16). He was concerned that someone might think he was condoning selfish ambition, so long as the gospel was being preached.

conceit: Paul uses a Greek term meaning “empty pride,” or “groundless self-esteem.” Pride should not be a Christian’s motivation; instead everything should be done in the power of the Holy Spirit.

lowliness of mind: The Greek word suggests a deep sense of humility. Although the pagan writers used the word negatively, in effect to mean abjectness or groveling, Paul did not. What Paul was calling for was an honest evaluation of one’s own nature. Such an evaluation should always lead to a glorification of Christ. For without Him, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

let each esteem: This verb indicates a thorough analysis of the facts in order to reach a correct conclusion about the matter. In other words, each Philippian Christian was to properly assess himself or herself. Such an assessment would lead to valuing others.

others better than himself: The honest self-examination that Paul was calling for leads to true humility. This enables a person to hold others above himself or herself, to value people over material possessions or personal plans.

Philippi was a cosmopolitan city. The composition of the church reflected great diversity, with people from a variety of backgrounds and walks of life. Acts 16 gives us some indication of the diverse makeup of this church. The church included Lydia, a Jewish convert from Asia and a wealthy businesswoman (Acts 16:14); the slave girl (Acts 16:16, 17), probably a native Greek; and the jailer serving this colony of the empire, probably a Roman (Acts 16:25-36). With so many different backgrounds among the members, unity must have been difficult to maintain. Although there is no evidence of division in the church, its unity had to be safeguarded (Philippians 3:2; 4:2). Paul encourages us to guard against any selfishness, prejudice, or jealousy that might lead to dissension. Showing genuine interest in others is a positive step forward in maintaining unity among believers.

In the Christian churches today there is a lack of unity among believers. All churches where Jesus is the Head should strive to fulfill the Apostle Paul's joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, and of one mind. Would the church that you attend bring joy to the Apostle Paul?

References: NKJV Holy Bible, Life Application Bible (NIV), the Nelson Study Bible.


RCUBEs said...

A timely reminder here as unity is hard to achieve because of self-interests that abound among believers. Thank you for your continued prayers and encouragement bro. Lloyd. It is a tough battle I'm in and it would be a very long process. But I don't want to give up knowing that this particular acts from some at work done in darkness should be brought to Light. God bless.

Michael Wright said...

How true. We must stop in this silly game of who's better than who in the church today. This is a needed reminder to me that I must be careful to mortify any pride that may try to rise up within. Wonderful post.

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I'm so sorry to read about your son. It must have been hard.

Peaches Ledwidge said...

I do believe there should be "a unity of spirit between Christians," though I'm not a practising one.

Clint said...

It seems to me that the church is more divided now than ever. I believe it will take serious world calamity for people to realize how far we have separated ourselves from Him and begin to unite.

Geoff Maritz said...

Children, all I ask of you is to play nice. You are friends and you are my children. Come now, play nice and you will see how much better life can be, love one another, be good to each other and look out for everyone, God.
I agree with you my friend. Love, Geoff.

Billy Joe said...

My question is: Is this the way to behave towards believers only or everyone, even people of other religions or atheists? I realize this is an epistle to a church, a group of believers, but how is this not love in all aspects, whether believers or not? Is this not the way to unity between all peoples?

Or have I decided to be God and decide who is worthy of love and who is not? If so, Saul who became Paul, may not have been worthy of love. I think he was probably drawn to Christians because of their love and not their condemnation.

Lloyd said...

Billy Joe - First of all, I what to thank you for your visit and comments.

To answer your first question "Is this the way to behave towards believers only or everyone, even people of other religions or atheists?"

In this particular epistle, it is as you have stated... Paul was addressing the unity of the church (believers). However, Jesus commanded that His followers (Believers) love other people. The following scriptures are just a few that show how Christian should treat others:

"But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you," Matthew 5:44

"Honor your father and your mother,’and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” Matthew 19:19

"And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Matthew 22:39

“But I say to you who hear: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, and pray for those who spitefully use you." Luke 6:27-28

Also the Apostle's Paul, Peter, and John indicated in several of their epistles God's love and how Christians should treat other people that were non-believers:

"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

"Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law." Romans 13:10

"Let all that you do be done with love." 1 Corinthians 16:14

"Honor all people. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the king." 1 Peter 2:17

"My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." 1 John 3:18

Now as for your second question, " Or have I decided to be God and decide who is worthy of love and who is not? If so, Saul who became Paul, may not have been worthy of love. I think he was probably drawn to Christians because of their love and not their condemnation." I think the above scriptures pretty much answers that too.

SweetMother ;) said...

Love this post. That is the bottom line with regard to unity, isn't it? Loving and respecting one another. Our society has fallen so short with this concept, particularly in the church.
Thank you for the wonderful reminder!

Meyerdrk said...

HI Lloyd...thanks for inviting me over to visit your blog. May God continue to bless your efforts to exalt His name and share Him with others. I read a number of your posts and appreciate the work you are doing here!

Mike said...

HI Lloyd - Thanks for paying a visit. Despite the blogging issues last week - Keep blogging, you send a great message out into the world!

bibelaventyr said...

Today is the Manifestation of Jesus, where thousands of Christians meet in Stockholm, to celebrate that Jesus is :) I'm going there with my church. it will be a wonderful conference!

This is home to Jesus Manifestation!

Bless / Ellen

Mari said...

Great verse to keep in mind. Wonderful post Lloyd. It is something many churches need to revise.

Thanks for sharing this.

Clarence Heller said...

Thanks for your post. My understanding of Paul is that his desire for unity (koinonia) within the community of believers was perhaps his strongest desire for them. I think that the desire for unity is universal to all people, the desire to feel like we belong, that we are accepted, to live in harmony, for communion. Our egos and sinfulness thrwart this unity, now as in the time of Paul. But with God, all things are possible.

dfish said...

I Corinthians 3;3 makes it clear the divisions are the result of not yielding to the Holy spirit. If we look at the fruit of the Holy Spirit in Galatians 5;22-23 we find it refers to the attitudes the Holy Spirit produces. The proper attitude makes the proper actions almost automatic.

Great post.