The need of Spiritual Unity:2:1.
Paul continues the exhortation he started in chapter one and pleads for unity among the believers. They were facing persecution for the sake of Christ. So Paul emphasizes the importance of unity among the believers. The unity among believers comes from our union with Christ. It is a blessed reality in Christ. It already exists because believers share one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all ( Eph 4:4-6). Paul exhorts believers to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. So in Christ they have encouragement, comfort of love, fellowship of the Spirit, affection and sympathy. These are the result of spiritual unity. Paul appeals to the Philippians that they may complete his joy by expressing unity among them. Someone has said "To dwell above is glory but to dwell below is another story". The Holy Spirit is our greatest comforter and helper. Encouragement is the loving incentive that leads to action (2 Cor 5:14). Comfort of love helps a person in trouble. Love is the agape love that is the self-sacrificing attitude that seeks the highest good of others. We are responsible to seek the good of others. The fellowship of the Spirit is more than agreement in doctrines. It is active participation and interest in the things of the Lord. Organizational unity without spiritual unity is dangerous. Affection is the love and regard for other believers. Sympathy in Christ is compassion that leads to action. Those who lack these virtues are carnal Christians (1 Cor 3:3). When believers express these virtues, the differences among them will be dissolved and unity will be realized. Someone has said “In essential unity, in doubtful liberty and in all things charity”. "Behold, how good and how pleasant for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Psalms 133:1).
Fulfill my Joy: 2:2-4.
Paul appeals to the believers to fulfill his joy by expressing unity among them. Even in adverse circumstances believers can enjoy unity in Christ. Paul urges them to be like-minded in all things. It is normal to have different opinions but we must agree on important doctrinal issues to become like-minded. How do we express our unity? By expressing our different views with lowliness, gentleness ad patience. This happens when believers love each other and seek the highest good of others. Christian harmony is a good thing in this divided world. We should do nothing through selfish ambition to impress others (Gal 1:10). Believers who pursue selfish ambition are carnal Christians (1 Cor 3:3). Paul wanted believers to evidence humility in their relationship to others. They should regard others better than themselves. The humility is the pathway to unity and the test of leadership . It is the Christ-like attitude (Mat 20:27-28; John 13:14-15). We should look out, not only our own interest but also the interest of others.
Have the same Attitude of Christ: 2:5-11.
Philippians 2:5-11 describe the humiliation and exaltation Christ endured for sinners. Despite his equality with God, he emptied himself, taking the form of a servant and humbling himself to the point of death on the cross. The believers should think the same way because they have the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16). Mind speaks of our thinking process. When the believers have the attitude Jesus, they will not fight for rights to promote their selfish interests. Verses 6-8 reveals, what kind of mind or attitude Jesus had. This passage is known as the “Kenosis” or self emptying passage. This illustrates the humbling steps, Christ took to save sinners. In this passage we see the majesty, manhood and the mind-set of Jesus. He was willing to humble so that others may be served.
Follow Christ’s Example: 2:12-14.
Salvation is by grace through faith in Christ. But christian life is not an event but a process. The spiritual transformation does not happen over night. It demands commitment and sacrifice. We should pattern our life after Christ whether anybody notices or not. We must work out our own salvation with deep reverence to God. Paul explain the interaction between God's sovereignty and human free will. God does not say we should work for our salvation. We must work out what God has worked in. We have in Christ all that we needed for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3). The believer should have the passion to please Christ. Salvation cannot be earned by our good works (Rom 3:20; Gal 2:21). Christ's sacrificial death should motivate us to live a godly life. The obedience is produced by God. Fear should not rob our spiritual vitality. Godly fear gives us victory in matters of faith and life. For it is God who is working in us. God gives us the desire and power to do what pleases him (2:13). We are God’s master-piece, and he uses his word effectively both to will and to do his good pleasure. Believers should cooperate with the Holy Spirit to live a life that pleases God. Paul makes no attempt to reconcile divine sovereignty and human free will here because both are in the plan of salvation. All believers have to go through this growing pain. Dead orthodoxy and formalism will not bring any blessing in Christian life. Christ is the sovereign ruler and master of all things. He has the absolute authority to do whatever he pleases, whenever he pleases and in whomever he pleases. The world saw him as the suffering one dying on the cross. There was nothing beautiful or majestic about his appearance to attract us to Christ (Isiah 53:2). But now Christ is the exalted one who is crowned with glory and honor. The believers are captivated by his love for them to obey him. For he is the source of all things and all things exists by his power. And all things are intended for his glory because he is God (Rom 11:36). One day every knee will bow before him. Do you know this Jesus as your Lord and Savior?
Be Light Bearers: 2:15-18.
Christians should live a blameless and harmless life before the watching world. Christians are not perfect in this life but they should not give unbelievers a reason to blame Christ. They should not have mixed motives. They are the children of God and expected to resemble their heavenly Father. They should do everything without complaining and arguing. We live in a world that has turned away from truth and lost in their sin. Christ is the light of the world and Christians are the reflectors of that light (2 Cor 4:6). They should shine like stars to guide the people to Christ. The believers can become effective witnesses only when they continually holding forth the Word of God. Paul wanted Philippians to progress in faith so that he does not feel that his labor was in vain at the judgment seat of Christ. He labored to the point of exhaustion for them. Paul had no regret, if he had to give his life for the sake of the gospel. He was ready to be poured out as a drink offering to God for the faith of Philippians. He considered it as an act of worship (2 Tim 4:6). Paul considers his life as a living sacrifice (Rom 12:1-2). Now he considers his death as a drink offering. The drink offering was the secondary offering of pouring out the wine on sweet smell sacrifice to complete the ceremony (Ex 29:40; Numbers 15:1-10). The Philippians are the priest and their faith is the sacrifice. Paul's life-blood is the accompanying drink offering". It will immediately evaporate. Paul wanted the Philippians to rejoice with him because their faith is far more important than his sacrifice. Paul was willing to give himself for the church. Paul knew that at death he is more alive than he ever had been. From God’s viewpoint, Paul's death is a triumph rather than defeat. How about you?
Timothy, the like-minded fellow worker: 2:19-24.
Paul planned to send Timothy to Philippi because he was unable to visit them. Timothy was with Paul and Silas when he was imprisoned in Philippi (Acts 16:1). He was one of Paul’s closest companions and fellow worker. Timothy means "One who honors God". Timothy had the pastoral concern for believers and there was none qualified like him. He was a proven character in the service of God (2:22). There was none like Timothy who genuinely cares about them. He was willing to do anything and go anywhere to help believers. Paul was concerned over the spiritual state of Philippians even though he was in the prison. He longed to hear about them and be encouraged. Paul always wanted to visit the churches he established (Acts 15:36). Paul was troubled by Christians who are seeking their own interests and not the interests of Christ (2:21). They cause strife and division among believers. These are marks of carnal Christians (1 Cor 3:1-3). Timothy was a trusted servant of God. He served Christ with Paul as a “son with the father”. The words “my son” and “my beloved son” may suggest, Paul led Timothy to the Lord (1 Tim 1:2; 2 Tim 1:2; Acts 14). But we are sure Timothy was trained by Paul and they had a father-son relationship. Paul is ready to send Timothy as soon as he learns the outcome of his trial. Those who go to world mission should prove locally that they are committed to the gospel. Paul was confident that he would be released from the prison and would be able to visit Philippians soon. Do we have a burden to visit churches in need of encouragement? This is one of the ministries lacking among the Christians today. The early Christians community was a caring community, visiting the sick and the hurting. Ask God to give you a single-minded devotion to Christ and to his gospel. What a privilege to preach the gospel and serve others!
The Example of Epaphroditus: 2:25-30.
Epaphroditus was sent on a mission to minister Paul on behalf of the Philippian church. Epaphroditus mean "Charming". His name is mentioned only twice in the New Testament (2:25; 4:18). He is called “My brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier, your messenger and the one who ministered to my needs” (2:25). These titles speak of Paul's affection toward him. He demonstrated Christ-like attitude towards gospel and apostle. He got sick and almost died due to long journey and hard work. He was willing to travel 800 miles journey that took almost six weeks to minister Paul. He brought a gift from the church to help the apostle. There was oneness of purpose in their mission. They fought the spiritual battle together and successfully (2 Tim 4:7). Philippians were concerned when they heard that Ephaphroditus was sick and nigh unto death. He became ill while ministering the needs of Paul. God had mercy on Paul and healed him. This spared Paul from added burden and sorrow. There no immunity for servants of God from trials and sickness. Ephaphroditus was a godly and committed solder of Christ. Someone has said "soldiers always have scars". He was miraculously healed. He is also a decorated soldier (2:29). Apostle was not indifferent towards the physical needs of fellow believers (2:27; 1 Thess 4:13). Paul sent him back to Philippi because he longed to go back and minister them. Paul asked them to hold and welcome such men with highest honor. We should follow such priority and value for the sake of Christ. Paul was deeply grateful for his service. Epaphroditus risked his life to complete his mission. Someone has said "Our cleverness and eloquence will be forgotten but the kindness shown in Christ’s name will be remembered for generations to come". Paul, Timothy and Epaphroditus had the attitude of Christ. They were serving others. They did not seek their own interests but put the interest of others first. Pray that God may grant us such devotion to serve others. Let Christ's example shape us the way we live. Good examples always inspire.