Worthy Citizens Part 4: Radical Humility Philippians 2:1-4

Worthy Citizens Part 4: Radical Humility Philippians 2:1-4


1) Gospel community is created by mutual restoration at the hand of God. (1-2)

Paul continues in chapter two with what in the original language is rightly translated in the NIV and NASB as “Therefore”. So in light of the Church’s call to be on the same team, fighting together for the Gospel and Christ’s glory, now these elements are yours, encouragement in Christ, comfort from love, participation in the Spirit, and affection for one another as well as for Paul.

So if there is any encouragement in Christ,: The Philippians have just received encouragement from Paul by knowing that their opposition in Philippi has been given to them by Christ. They are being opposed because they follow Christ and it is He who allows their persecution. This is given to them so that their faithfulness attests to their salvation and the destruction of their foes.

any comfort from love,: From the text there is disagreement as to where this love comes from. However, in light of the situation and the context of Chapter one and the coming exhortations, Paul is most likely reminding them of the overwhelming love that God has showered upon them; almost certainly Paul has in mind the love that they showed him in his imprisonment.

So the Philippians were comforted by God’s love; they comforted Paul with their love; now show that love to one another. Love is not only a fundamental affection of the Gospel Citizen but also its implications, which Paul will speak to in a couple of verses.

any participation in the Spirit,: Paul is reminding his audience that it is the Spirit who unites them. The Spirit is the person of the Trinity who applies Christ’s work to them. It is through the Spirit in which Christ indwells them. Therefore, the same Holy Spirit who inwells you and I indwelt our brothers in Philippi. He indwelt Paul and the saints of old.

any affection and sympathy,”: The original language speaks to a deep level of brotherly affection that can be felt in the guts. This is a level of affection for one another that surpasses what is possible outside of the Church. We cry and laugh with one another. When one is in pain we all feel it.

Silva rightly states, “These Christians, no doubt, constitute a healthy church, but the seeds of dissension had been sown and they were not to be allowed to sprout.

The Philippian Church wasn’t perfect, neither are we. The exhortation by Paul is a high bar, but later on he will share with us Christ’s example. Christ’s example as shared by Paul later on in the Chapter is to inspire us to care for one another. However, we are expected to fall short. Due to our sinful nature we will lack love at times, we will forget the comfort from God, we will lose sight of the Spirit uniting us together, and sometimes those affections just aren’t there.

Christ’s sacrifice frees us from God’s wrath. We can now repent of that sin, be encouraged by Paul’s words, and begin to act like the Gospel community that God has restored by His own hand.

2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”: Paul now appeals to their affection for him. They loved Paul, they looked to him as their spiritual father. So he appealed first to what is available to them in God and now appeals to their emotions.

Being of one mind in incredibly important for Paul. He knows that the division that had been stirred up in Philippi was on account of their losing site of their purpose and their first love. Their first love was Christ, but He’d been lost in the everyday shuffle of life. As people began to jockey for power, influence, and preference they neglected their Savior. They neglected all that Paul had taught them.

One reformer points out that, “he (Paul) reckons the chief indication of a prosperous condition of the Church is—when mutual agreement prevails in it, and brotherly harmony.” (Calvin) Must the Church agree on everything? That depends on the item. Should they agree in the Gospel? Yes! Must they agree what to wear to weekly services? No! But we must be on the same page that our purpose is to proclaim Christ and not ourselves. We must agree that our love for one another should never falter. 

2) Radical humility reflects God’s restoration within the Gospel community.  (3-4)

3 Do nothing from selfish ambition: Paul eagerly points to two issues that have undoubtedly caused friction within the Philippian Church. Likewise, I’d suggest that these two issues are all to often at the heart of most local church frictions and divisions.

The first of which is selfish ambition. Ambition is not sinful nor is it divisive in and of itself. However, when ambition is paired as an unholy partner with selfishness you have a recipe that is sweet to the taste of the enemy. Paul shares the problem of those preaching Christ out of selfish ambition earlier in this letter. Their selfish ambition seeks to harm Paul yet Paul decides to rejoice in the proclamation of Christ no matter the motives.

Paul’s perspective doesn’t negate the divisive nature of those who preach or pretend to serve Christ, he simply decides to find joy in Christ crucified. If your ambitions are self-centered then you must reject your flesh, putting it to death by the Spirit. You are dividing the Church. You are causing strife. You are hurting your individual witness and our collective witness to the Gospel of Christ Jesus. If you are witnessing this selfish ambition then first proclaim Christ then seek to correct your brother.

or conceit,: Secondly Paul admonishes those who are found to be conceited. This refers to those who focus on themselves rather than the Lord. An important value of the 1st Century Grec-Roman society is to actually be full of oneself. To be conceited was a virtue rather than a vice. So this admonishment from the Apostle is quite counter-cultural.

Such is the case today as many who like to toot their own horn are often rewarded. Those who tell you about their exploits and make themselves the hero or all are often given great attention and fanfare. How great a need we have to heed the counsel of Christ through Paul to reject our vanities.

but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”: The opposite of selfish ambition and conceit is humility. To be humble and count others as greater than yourself was a great character flaw in their context. They would’ve been labeled as weak. But that’s the paradoxical nature of the Gospel. God who is all powerful set aside His privileges to die to save sinners. A humble Savior came to those who were expecting an apocalyptic warrior to overthrow the Romans. No wonder this became such a struggle to our first century brethren.

There truly is no room for strife among us in the Church. How do we protect our witness? How do we best reflect our restored nature on account of Christ? We humble ourselves. We count others as more significant than ourselves. We care for one another in such a way that we are characterized by true humility.

People shouldn’t be afraid to disagree with you, but welcome constructive dialogue. 

People shouldn’t be concerned that you will assume the worst of intentions, but the best. 

People should assume that you will welcome their input, not be afraid of how you might react. 

People should assume that if things don’t go your way that nothing will change in your relationship to them or others.

Why? Because you count others as more significant than yourself. It’s not about you it’s about the Kingdom of God and this restored community.

4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.”: Our natural inclination, like Adam, is to our own interests. Most of our decisions and actions are based on whether it benefits us. But this is of our old nature that wars with the new. And on account of Christ we are able to see this old nature pass away as we grow into the newness of Christ.

This is apparent in many who decide to follow Jesus. They follow Jesus because they don’t want to go to hell, they want to go to heaven. They follow Jesus because it is part of their culture and it would be weird if they didn’t. In their eyes their life will just be easier if they follow Jesus. This same mentality pervades the Church at Philippi as much as it does today.

One joins the local church because it has the music that they like, the preaching isn’t too long, there are lots of kids or youth. Rarely do we encounter someone who wants to follow Christ because He promises them Himself. Rarely do we encounter the person who joins a church because she wants to serve on the frontlines of the War for the Gospel.

Some will grow out of this childish mindset because the Spirit stirs their affections for Christ and their fellow believers. Others will remain in their state of selfishness and ignorance because their counting themselves as most important blinds them to not fully understanding the cross of Christ.

In Paul’s exhortation he assumes that many in the Church have neglected one another. Many have counted themselves as most important. He calls us to look at Christ, our Savior, who counted others as more important than Himself even though He is God. Therefore, brothers and sisters, let us gaze upon the cross, the work of Christ, and as we behold God’s rich mercy count others as greater than ourselves. Let’s serve one another, gladly. Let’s serve our community, humbly. Let’s proclaim Christ, fervently.


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