If you have any encouragement in Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any participation with 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 purpose. Philippians 2:1-2(NIV)
Paul’s exhortation to unity
First we should notice that Paul is making of list of things that are ALREADY true. These are not things that we, as Christians, simply hope for. If we have known and believed the gospel then we ARE encouraged in Christ and comforted in love; we DO participate in the spirit; we HAVE been given affection and sympathy. What Paul says is that these truths should push us to unity. Let’s look at each one.
1. encouragement in Christ for the sake of the gospel
This phrase is probably better translated “consolation or comfort” in Christ. The thought flows from previous verse about being consoled and satisfied with Christ even in the midst of persecution and suffering, but it also flows from the main point of the letter: the gospel.
The gospel is the ONLY thing that can console and comfort a lost world. People of the world who do NOT have the gospel and do NOT know Christ may think that they are blessed – they may have money, family, security, reknown – but if they do not know and believe the gospel they are NOT blessed. They are cursed.
But we DO know the gospel. Therefore, we ARE blessed! Even if we do NOT have money – we have the glorious riches in Christ; do NOT have family – we are in the family of God and members of the family of believers here and now; do NOT have physical security – we have eternal and sure spiritual security, which is FAR better; do NOT have reknown – we are known by God! We may not be known and flattered by men, but we are known and loved by God. WE. ARE. BLESSED. Many of us not ONLY have these blessings of God, but we DO have family, money, security, etc. How very generous is our God with His blessing to His people! So if we are, indeed, all unified under the comfort we have in Christ, let us be unified in actions and involvement
2. comfort from love for the sake of the gospel
This is a statement much the same as the last. What love is it that comforts us? – The love of God FOR us! If God loves us, then what can man do to us? If God loves us, how can we be discouraged in persecution? If God loves us, how can we be unsure that He will give us all we need? Brothers and sisters, He DOES love us!
Let us, then, because of the comfort in Christ and the comfort of His love, glorify His name by living in continual and deep unity with one another! We cannot minister to a lost world if they perceive us as a people who bicker and argue amongst one another.
3. participation in the spirit for the sake of the gospel
Moreover, as we participate in the body of believers and live as God’s loved people, we commit ourselves to being used for the kingdom! We participate in the work of God in the world. We are His ambassadors imploring the world on His behalf. We are His laborers being sent out into the fields, for the harvest is abundant though the laborers are few. If we are all Christians we ALL have His spirit. We have a common bond of Spirit and calling.
We, as His people all have one single goal; the same goal that God has been pursuing since eternity past – glorify His name in all the earth. And if we are all working towards the same goal, how can we be anything else but unified? The problem comes when we allow ourselves to be distracted by our own intentions and plans. When we begin to fight amongst ourselves, it is because we are fighting to pursue our own agendas rather than the one single agenda of Christ. We often lose sight of the one goal of Christ and our participation in the pursuit of that goal, and thus we fall to arguing about other things which are incredibly inferior to the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
What goal are you pursing today? Is it the spread of the gospel? Is it being the river of life to a lost and dying world? Is it honoring Christ by participating in the work of the Spirit as He calls people from every tribe, nation and tongue to know and praise God? If that’s not your goal, then you have different goals than your Savior.
But do you see how Paul is framing unity? If we are all participating in what God calls us to participate in – the healing of the nations – then we WILL live in unity. Restated: the work of the Spirit is to glorify God among the nations, and that is the work we participate in from the moment we are saved, and if we are living simply as obedient, Biblical Christians we will ALL be doing this, and therefore WILL be unified.
4. tenderness and compassion for the gospel
This tenderness and compassion mentioned by Paul is not the affection and sympathy WE have. It is the tenderness and compassion that God has shown to us! We have ALL received the mercies of Christ through the gospel.
So then, if we have all received the tender mercy of God, should we deny tender mercy to one another? “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” It is unthinkable to NOT show mercy to others when Christ has shown mercy to us!
Should we look on others with disdain, disgust, or hateful disagreement when Christ has looked on us with such compassion? This, also, is completely foreign to the outline of Christianity in the NT.
So, as we ALL receive the tender, compassionate mercy of God, let us show these things to one another! We are unified in the fact that we have received compassion. Let us be unified in GIVING compassion.
All of what Paul says in this particular passage is an attempt to get us to see the need for unity. And his desire to get us to see the need for unity is all for the purpose of calling us to this:
“Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel…” 1:27
Unified striving for the gospel….FOR THE GOSPEL – that everyone might know and understand the glorious riches of mercy in Jesus Christ and so praise His now from now until eternity.
Are you striving for the gospel? Are you unified with other believers who are striving for the gospel?