Philippians 2:1-11
To Become One

Authored By Rev. Takao Kiyohiro, Tokyo, Japan

1. "Fulfill my joy by being of the same mind, holding on to the same love, joining hearts, being one mind," (verse two). Piling on the words so as to press them on, Paul demands that the church at Philippi become one.

2. But, how difficult it is to unite heart and mind as one! Even though we are family as parents and children, brothers and sisters related by blood, or even as husband and wife with our vows before God, we know that it is hard to do. Even when it is just two people, it is hard to become one. It is [harder] still when there is a diverse people. What's more, all kinds of people assemble in churches. To put it more accurately, they "are gathered together" by the Lord. Even though they have assembled, they did not gather together, rather a diverse people is present because "they were gathered together" [by the Lord]. If the church back then had Jews in it, it also had Greeks. If there were slaves in it, there were also free people. It had both men and women in it. If there were healthy folks, there were also sick folks. That's the church [for you]. It was to this type of church that Paul had said, "Fulfill my joy by being of the same mind, holding on to the same love, joining hearts, being one mind." When you give it some thought, it seems an odd thing to say.

3. But, the reason Paul is requiring this of [the church] is the presupposition that goes with it. Paul was telling [them], "Therefore, if you have any amount at all - of encouragement from Christ, of comfort of love, of fellowship in the Spirit, and of mercy and compassion besides them ...," (verse one). The text says, "if you have," but he is not thinking in the slightest that "it be possible that they don't have." It is a phrase [we] could definitely translate even [better] as "because you do have." They were already having a part in Christ's encouragement. They were already having a part in the comfort of love. This obviously means "the comfort of God's love." And, they were partaking of the fellowship that comes from the Holy Spirit. There it is talking about the blessing of salvation that comes from a triune God. They should be partaking of these blessings together. That's the church. Therefore, as partakers in the same blessings and gifts, "becoming one" is important for the church as per its true essence.

4. Think about it. Look at [this]. Paul is in jail at this time. When we read this epistle, we see that [Paul] has a hunch even of his own martyrdom. Thus, while he was in a place of either living or dying, the desire he had, more than anything, was that the Philippian disciples "be of the same mind, hold to the same love, join hearts, and be one mind." In the process of their realizing this, his joy begins to be fulfilled.

5. But, on the other hand, he could not keep from writing that divisions and hostilities existed in the real world [among them]. In chapter four, the same exhortation is written with the calling out of [specific] names. "I exhort Euodia, and I exhort Syntyche. Hold to the same mind in the Lord," [he] said [to them], (4:2). After receiving their baptisms, they were not disciples close to each other. They were leaders at the church at Philippi; they toiled hard with Paul for the sake of the gospel. These [two] just couldn't get into the same mind [about matters]. I think for Paul these two [women] not being able to be of one mind was a greater pain in his heart than even his imprisonment.

6. We should also recall the last prayer that Jesus prayed with his disciples (John chapter seventeen). When Jesus was about to be crucified and was practically arrested right after the prayer, he had prayed for his disciples and for those who would believe in him later after hearing their messages. That is, he had prayed for us. What did he pray? That they would become one, and that we would, [too]!

7. I will recapitulate. "Being of the same mind, holding to the same love, joining hearts, being one mind" has substantial significance for the church. It is not about whether each individual person should be saved or if the people one by one should take part in the blessings of God.

Don't Act Out Of Selfishness And Personal Glory

8. So, how should we act? [What should we do?] Then, Paul puts forth the following specific words of exhortation on paper. "Don't do anything out of selfishness and vain glory, but humble yourselves, consider others as better than you, don't pay attention only to your own matters, but pay attention to the matters of other people as well," (verse three and four).

9. What do you think about this? The scripture has written in it something that is just so plain and ordinary, so much so that it loses momentum. When it comes to a statement like this, no matter where it was written, even if it weren't the scripture, wouldn't you agree that [this doesn't need to be said as it is already a plain and ordinary fact?] If everybody acted out of selfishness and vanity, we'd never become one, [a people,] or anything. That is an obvious fact [of society]. Anyone will know [this], that a pride in which one thinks he or she is better than others causes division to the community. What the scripture says here is not a unique exhortation at all.

10. But, I would like for us to think about this. Yes, what is written here may be plain and ordinary. But, in a real sense, isn't it in the sight of God where plain and ordinary matters can become a problem? The [part] that the light can expose and embarrass in these words is in the area of deepest motives that lie inside a person's actions. [But,] in many cases we can normally make adjustments in this area. We can claim, "I didn't do this for me, but for you, you know." We can claim, "This is for the people in society." We can claim, "[It's] for God, for Christ." But, what may really be there and motivating the person is probably selfishness and personal glory. We may be able to show forth a humble attitude. But, what really may be present within is arrogance and high-minded pride. The place where this deep area in a real sense can become a problem, the place where light can hit and hurt is not in relationships between people. It is in the sight of God, it is in [one's] relationship with God.

11. Therefore, we cannot separate the words of the exhortation that is written here from the fact that the recipient is "the church" which believes in Christ and worships God. We, too, are hearing these words in worship and in the presence of the Lord. This very fact makes the difference and gives them significance.

As Persons Saved By Christ

12. Therefore then, Paul quotes from a song of praise, which used to be sung during worship in the church back then. Please look at verses six and following.

13.

"While himself being God, not wanting to insist that he is equal to God, instead, Christ made himself nothing, he made himself a servant, he became the same thing as a human. He appeared in human form, he humbled himself, it was an obedience till it reached death, till it reached even to death on the cross. For this reason, God lifted Christ high and gave him a more excellent name than any name. Thus, everything in heaven, on earth, under the earth will bow to the name of Jesus and every tongue will publicly proclaim, 'Jesus Christ is Lord' and will praise God the Father," (verses six through eleven).

14. [That] is a quite beautifully arranged Christological hymn. The connection of this hymn with the exhortation just before of "Don't do anything out of selfishness and vain glory, but humble yourselves ..." is evident; for, in this hymn the words "he made himself nothing" and the words "he humbled himself" are found in the text. The figure of Christ is presented as truly "the one who never ever lived selfishly" and "the one who completely humbled himself."

15. But, you just can't say that Paul was quoting this song with the mere intent, "Let's follow the pattern of Christ." We ought to take note of the statement from verse eight "till it reached even to death on the cross." As we see right away by reading this song, the first half is divided from the second half. The first half is from verses six to eight. The second half is from verses nine to eleven. The first section is actually a little longer. This part with "till it reached even to death on the cross" throws off the rhythm of it as a song. They say as Paul quoted this [song], he added on these words. The fact of his being so ready to add these words to the song means this, that this was where the point of Paul's emphasis was to be.

16. As we see even by looking at his other epistles, when Paul speaks on "[Christ's] death on the cross" what is on his mind is not that "he died as an example for us," but that "he died for our sins." What is being sung here is not that "Christ was a fine fellow who humbled himself." God's marvelous deeds of salvation are being sung, which have been fulfilled both through Christ's obedience and through his death on the cross. Therefore, at the ending, it comes to the statement "Every tongue will publicly proclaim that 'Jesus Christ is Lord' and will praise God the Father."

17. Christ did not want to insist that he was equal to God. He made himself into nothing and turned himself into a servant. He turned into the same thing as humans. Then, as he lowered himself to the uttermost, he reached his death on the cross. What was his purpose in that? For whom [did he do it]? [He did it] for me and [he did it] for you. He did it to save us sinners. He did it to save sinful us, who operate out of the selfishness lying at the bottom of our bellies, who attempt to satisfy our conceits, who cover up our pride through the pretext of legitimate reasons. He did it to save us in this condition of ours, smug and satisfied to look down on others and seeking hard and fast only for self-elevation. Giving up the glory of God for himself, he obeyed the will of God, he followed to the point of his death on the cross in order that he might atone for our sins, that we might be forgiven and live with God.

18. This was a praise song that the people of the church at Philippi had probably sung over and over. When they had worship services, during their worship as they broke the bread, shared the wine, and remembered the death of Christ, they had probably sung this song. They were probably singing that Jesus, indeed, is our savior, who truly hung on the cross for us. So, Paul is now pointing out to them the song that they had been reciting, the beliefs that they had been reciting. He said, "This is what you believe."

19. Yes, we too are in the presence of God as singers singing like [they did], as expressers of the faith like [they did], as partakers of the body and the blood of Christ like [they did]. As this kind of person, we receive the words of the exhortation given: "Don't do anything out of selfishness and vain glory, but humble yourselves, consider others as better than you, don't pay attention only to your own matters, but pay attention to the matters of other people as well." It is in this very place where we can first become one.

 
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