Sermon Follow Up - Week 9, 2022
I’m sure you can relate to the reality of relational strife and conflict in the church. Even when you are just aware of conflict between others in the church doesn’t it hinder your joy? It certainly affected Paul’s joy. And Paul knew that it would not take long for the seeds of disunity to threaten the mission of the church and eventually its very existence. With this in mind, Paul encourages the Philippians toward gospel unity and experience the fruit of gospel unity – indestructible joy.
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:1–4, ESV)
Our joy increases as we humbly strive for gospel unity in the church
SUBPOINTS AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
1. The Basis and Motivation for our Unity
This passage begins with the word “so,” or “therefore,” which directly connects it with the previous section in which Paul encourages the Philippians to be united and courageous against those who oppose their church. By connecting these sections Paul helps us see that our gospel unity in the church is directly connected to our gospel witness to the world. Paul here is appealing to the common experience they share together in the gospel. Because of the common experiences, Paul defines the basis of their unity and also uses them to motivate them to strive for unity. Here are the four common experiences the Philippians shared because of the gospel which reflects our common experience as well.
- Our common experience of encouragement in Christ
Whether it is being elected by God before the foundations of the world, or being forgiven of our sins, or being adopted into God’s family, or the hope of being with him forever. Paul is reminding them that share in a common experience of the blessings of the gospel through their union with Christ.
- Our common experience of comfort from God’s love
Paul is saying, you know what it means to experience comfort from God himself when you were afflicted! Paul is reminding them, that just as your afflictions have increased, so has the comfort that you all have received from God! And we both share this in common! (2 Corinthians 1:7)
- Our common experience of fellowship in the Holy Spirit
This blessing of fellowship in the Spirit naturally follows from the first two blessings because it is though the Spirit, we are united in Christ, and it is through the Spirt that the comfort of God’s love is made known to our hearts. This is not just an individual fellowship with the Holy Spirit that Paul is talking about here, although that is certainly the case. But Paul is emphasizing the corporate fellowship we have with God and with one another because of the work of the Spirit
- Our common experience of affection & sympathy for one another
Paul is referring to the affection and sympathy that the Philippians have for Paul and Paul has for them. Remember how the Philippians have eagerly sent one of their own, Epaphroditus, to encourage Paul and bring him gifts. They remembered Paul’s affliction in prison and were moved in their affection and sympathy for him.
- Have you experienced these realities of the gospel?
- How can the fact that we share these common experiences help you strive for unity with other believers?
2. The Nature of our Unity
Unity in the church is critical. It is something that does not happen automatically, it is something we must strive for together. Unity in a church is hard fought, hard to gain, and easily lost. These four terms describe two dimensions of gospel unity: unity of mind and unity of affection. (Philippians 2:2, ESV)
- Unity of Mind
The first and last of these words, “same mind”, and “one mind” are focused on what we think and believe about one another. Another way to describe what Paul is talking about here is having a certain mindset or attitude toward one another. The focus here is not having the same views on doctrine. Although the core doctrines of our faith are a substantial source of unity among us. Rather, the unity of mind is an attitude of humility that he wants the Philippians to develop. (See Philippians 2:5, ESV)
- Unity of Affection
Between the “same mind” and “one mind,” Paul uses two terms, “having the same love and being in full accord.” The word for “full accord” might better be understood as souls in harmony. So, Paul is calling the Philippians to a type of unity that is evidenced in their love and affection for one another. There is a genuine warmth towards one another in the type of unity that Paul is advocating for.
- Why is theological unity, although foundational, not sufficient for gospel unity?
3. The Threats to our Unity
Paul then describes two significant threats that can hinder our unity (Philippians 2:3). Paul suspects that these selfish ambition and pride were likely the root cause of some of the disagreements in the church. These two vices are dangerous in any church and can cause division and disunity if left unchecked. Selfish ambition is an attitude of the heart by which we evaluate situations and circumstances in terms of how it benefits us. How well it aligns with my views and what I think should happen in a situation. Selfish ambition can rise up when want to be seen as important in the church. It can rise up when we think our opinion on a disputable matter should be adopted by the whole church. Conceit refers to when you think of yourself too highly. Conceit can rise up with you are generally impressed with yourself. Your giftings, your intelligence, your theological aptitude, your wisdom and insight. In the context of the church, selfish ambition and conceit cause us to demand that others recognize our importance.
- How have your selfish ambition and conceit hindered unity in your relationships?
- How can you spend time praying and surrendering these temptations to the Lord?
4. The Key to our Unity
After Paul warns them about the threats to their gospel unity, he gives them the key ingredient to achieving unity – humility. By considering others more important than themselves and looking to the needs of others, Paul says we can preserve our common bond of unity. (Philippians 2:3-4, ESV). Paul sees humility as a key medicine that the Philippians need to grow in to achieve gospel unity. Not intelligence, not skill, not knowledge, not experience, but humility.
- How does the gospel enable you to consider others more significant that yourself?
- How does the gospel enable you to look to the needs of others?
5. The Fruit of our Unity
We have considered the basis and motivation of our unity, the nature of unity, the threats to unity, and finally we will consider the fruit of gospel unity which is completing our joy. (Philippians 2:2, ESV) Paul is saying, if our common experience of the benefits of the gospel has expressed itself in your love for me, then complete my joy by having the same love for one another! Another way to say it is, if you have experienced deep affection and sympathy toward me as I have toward you, then complete my joy by having that same affection and sympathy for each other! And if you do, you will complete my joy. And by implication you will complete your joy as well.
When the gospel of Jesus transforms our hearts, our joy is inextricably linked to the joy and well-being of other believers. We know that the path of selfish-ambition and conceit lead to emptiness and disappointment. But we can experience a deeper, richer, more fulfilling joy and satisfaction when our hearts are drawn to one another in humility and love. We have considered a few different sources of joy in the life of Paul and we can end with this big idea again from this passage that would be another source of indestructible joy for us as a church.
1. Be the kind of person that finds joy in gospel unity
- Can you say with Paul that your joy finds its completion when you see others growing in gospel unity?
- How can you guard your heart from being a person that craves controversy that Paul warns about? (1 Timothy 6:4-5, ESV)
2. Be the kind of person that strives to resolve disagreements with humility
- How can we maintain gospel unity amid persistent disagreements? Here is a helpful quote and some practical tips from Bobby Jameison. He says, in these situations we must:
Pursue a common mind, and where that fails, preserve a common love. – Bobby Jameison
- Pursue a common mind
- Pray for a common mind
- Get together in person
- Listen and try to understand their position
- Ask what good the other person is trying to obtain or preserve by their position
- Consider together the biblical basis for your positions
- Be open to have your thinking on issues reshaped by others
- If all that fails, preserve a common love
- Pray for a common love
- Consider together that you disagreements are superficial compared to the realities that unite you.
- Ask the other person if you have wronged them in any way
- Commit your affection and love for them despite your disagreements
SONG TO ENCOURAGE