READ TEXT. Churches do many things to try to unify their members. Fellowship meals, group activities, small group Bible studies and visitation are all examples of how leaders of churches try to get their members to be like-minded.
The church at Philippi was a good church. They brought joy to Paul. (1:3,4) They were a loving church. (1:8,9) They were also a generous church; supporting Paul while he labored in Thessalonica (4:15), and while he was a prisoner in Rome. (4:18)
But Paul knew that they had weaknesses and he points to these weaknesses in 1:27-30. Paul worried about their conduct; whether it would glorify Christ. He worried if they would stand fast in spite of opposition. He also worried about there unity as well; would they be of "one spirit, with one mind."
Paul knew that true unity has only one source. It doesn't come externally from church activities like church activities. Instead the true force that promotes unity in the church is internal in nature. It comes from each member's experiences in Christ. so, here in our text, Paul points to four things that each believer should experience in our relationship with Christ. And if indeed we have experienced these four things in Christ; then these should provide the motivating force to maintain unity in the body of Christ.
The first of these motivating experiences is have we experienced any consolation or encouragement in Christ? Does the fact that He died for me give me any sense of encouragement? It should. After all "While we were still sinners Christ died for us." Rom. 5:8 But Christ doesn't leave us alone to falter in our daily life. Instead He "advocates for us before the Father". (1Jn. 2:1) Literally He pleads our case before the Father. So Paul reasons if we have received any consolation in these things Christ does for us, then it should motivate us to seek unity in the church.
Secondly, have we found any comfort or love in Christ? Does it comfort you when you read in Jn. 14:1-3, that Christ has left this world to "go and prepare a place for you"? That you might be with Him for all eternity? Do you find love and comfort knowing that absolutely nothing "can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus?" (Rom. 8:37-39) If it truly gives you comfort, then again you have every reason to strive for unity in the church.
Have you experienced fellowship of the Spirit in Christ? For the believer the Holy Spirit illuminates your study of God's word. (Eph. 1:16-21) The Holy Spirit also convicts us when our behavior is NOT what it should be. (Gal. 5:22-25) This work of the Spirit should cause us to bear fruit. If we have, then there is more motivation for us to be of "one accord" with our brethren.
Have you found any "affection or mercy" in Christ? Affection as used here is not a casual emotion. It is a deep felt love for one another. Again Christ loved you enough to die for you. The Father showed you affection and mercy in a most incomprehensible way. In Rom. 8:32, "He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for all of us, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?" That's mercy! If you have experienced this in Christ then you will strive for unity in His church.
So this is the internal force of our experience in Christ that will cause us to preserve unity in the church. Paul then goes on to show us in vv.3, 4 the "marks" or evident behaviors that can be observed in a church that has unity from Christ and through Christ. They are attitudes that are displayed to other members of the church.
"Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit." Life in the kingdom of Christ is about serving and not about our ambitions. Jesus made this lesson clear to the disciples in Jn. 13, when He washed their feet. Read what the Lord told them afterward in Jn. 13:12-17. A church filled with servants will be a strong and united church.
"Esteem others better than yourselves." This is humility. Paul says of Jesus in Phil. 2:7, "He made Himself of no reputation." It is human sinful nature that wants to be recognized as the best. Jesus had every reason and right to be served, but instead He served us by dying on the Cross for our sins!
Finally a church with unity will "look out for the interests of others." Paul in Gal. 6:2 reminds us, "Bear one another's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." Bearing one another's burdens is not simply praying for another person, but helping them. Have you ever served someone else's needs?
Maybe helped an elderly member clean their home? Have you ever shared your Thanksgiving meal with a brother who had no family? Have you mowed the lawn for someone who is handicapped or elderly? Have you ever invited a new family over to your home to have dinner? These are all great ways to "bear one another's burdens." When you do this you also "fulfill the law of Christ." It's an attitude that leads to unity in the body of Christ. Actions speak louder than words.
1. What three concerns did Paul have about the church in Philippi?
2. Who does John say is "our Advocate with the Father?
3. What are the three "marks" of unity in the church?
4. What are three ways that you can "look out for the interests of others": in your church?
5. What did Paul tell the Philippians that they could do that would fulfill his joy?