Others: Philippians #12
William Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army. When he became old, they were holding a convocation in the Salvation Army, and William Booth could not attend. So, they said, “Will you send us a word of encouragement? Will you send us a telegram that we can read to the entire convocation?” When the telegram arrived, it had on it one word. The word that William Booth placed on that telegram to be read before the Salvation Army: “Others.”
In Philippians 2:1-4, we read:
Therefore, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if any consolation of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility consider one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.
A wise man said, “There’s no life so empty as a self-centered life, and there is no life so centered as the self-emptied life.” When we’re preoccupied with ourselves, we are miserable. When we let Jesus Christ love others through us, we have the joy that Christian fellowship is intended to give to us all.
The church of Philippi certainly was a source of great joy and satisfaction to its founder, the Apostle Paul. You may recall that Paul made his journey there to the city of Philippi, and there were a series of first conversions which formed the nucleus of the church. As you read this letter of Paul to the church at Philippi, you will find that virtually in every way there is love, appreciation, and gratitude for these wonderful believers in the church of Philippi.
Nevertheless, the church at Philippi was not perfect. Sometimes when we read about the churches of the New Testament, we get the idea that they were perfect, that there were no flaws in the church whatsoever. Yet, there are no perfect churches. I love the church sign that reads, “No Perfect People Welcome Here.”
The church is not a trophy case for the exhibition of perfect saints, but a school for the education of imperfect believers. We are all growing in the Lord. We are all seeking to be what God wants us to be. A church, if it is a good church, is still going to have some difficulties and problems within. Satan is not going to disturb a sleeping church, and he is certainly not going to resurrect a dying church. So, if there are problems in the midst of a church, that’s probably an indication that Satan is at work because something good is going on in that church.
When we study in the book of Philippians, we learn in the fourth chapter that there is a problem in the church of Philippi. Perhaps it is not a major problem at that particular point, but Paul is aware that the problem is there. There is a slight flaw in the harmony of the church. Paul, tenderly and tactfully, in the opening verses of the second chapter, begins to move towards working out that problem.
When you move into these four verses of the second chapter, you will discover that what you have here is a call to unity. It is a call for believers to be together. When we study the Book of Acts and the New Testament epistles, we notice how many times the phrase “come together” occurs. In this chapter, Paul talks to the believers and says, “When you come together.” A church is to be a group of people who share some things in common, who possess great unity and harmony, who have great togetherness of spirit.
The chapter primarily deals with togetherness. We must come to the place where we place “others” ahead of ourselves. He begins the chapter by the word “If.” He’s not raising any doubt about what he’s getting ready to say. You might be able to translate it a little better this way, “Since.”
He is not raising a doubt. He is expressing certainty. In these opening statements where he says, “if” four times, he is basically giving us the four reasons why and the four incentives to spiritual togetherness on the part of the members of a fellowship. For instance, he says, “If,” or “Since there be therefore any consolation in Christ.” That’s a great incentive to spiritual togetherness. “Consolation in Christ,” that is, your relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Christian life is not merely believing a set of doctrines. It is not just going by a set of rules. Christianity is a relationship with a person, the Lord Jesus Christ. Because of that relationship with Jesus and because we are united to the Lord, we are related to one another.
Jesus prayed one time, “Make them one.” The first incentive is our relationship to the Lord. Then, he continues and says, “Since there is a comfort of love,” or the incentive of love. The love which Jesus Christ has for us is an incentive for us to love one another.
When Jesus comes into your heart, He creates love in your heart for other people. The Lord Jesus said in John 13, verse 34, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” Jesus loves us. He puts His love in our hearts. He causes us to love one another.
Then, we have the third incentive. Not only do we have the comfort of love, but he talks about the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. When Christ comes into our hearts, He comes in the person of the Holy Spirit. Every born-again Believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit. It is the Holy Spirit’s fellowship, the communion of the Holy Spirit that brings us together.
It is the Holy Spirit that is the glue that brings God’s people together and unites them. We are in the fellowship of the Spirit. We are in the communion of the Spirit. Then, he says, “If there be,” or “Since there is tenderness and mercies.” In other words, the Holy Spirit and the Lord Jesus put a desire in our heart to be compassionate to one another, to be tender to one another, to be loving toward one another, to be forgiving of one another.
He says that since all of these things are true, in verse 2 he says, “Fulfill ye my joy.” In the Book of Philippians, we know that the word “joy” is a recurring word all through the book. Paul’s cup of joy was already full, but what he’s saying is that there is room for a few more drops. “If you will be one in the Lord, if you will be together, if you will have unity in the Lord, then you will fill my cup of joy to the brim and overflowing.”
When there are problems of unity, it affects our joy in the Lord. But when there is great unity and great togetherness on the part of God’s people, it is a source of great joy. These are days when God’s people need to be together in our fellowship like never before.
I want us to think about what Paul means with, “Make my joy complete.” On the basis of the spiritual realities and incentives, he gives us the ingredients of what will keep a church together.
I. We Should Encourage Harmony In The Church
Ingredient number one is harmony. Look at what he says in verse 2. “Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded.” The word there carries the idea of harmony. To be like minded means to think the same thing. This is an important ingredient in a church. It’s beautiful when God’s people are in harmony together.
In Psalm 133, which is probably the shortest chapter in the Bible, begins by saying, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!” Isn’t it a beautiful thing? When there is love between the Saints, the Lord’s presence will be real among them.
Unity does not necessarily mean uniformity. It doesn’t mean that we all think exactly the same. It doesn’t mean that we are all in lock step. There’s a difference between unity and uniformity. You can take two tomcats and tie them together and throw them over a clothesline. You may have uniformity, but you don’t have unity.
The world wants to make uniformists of us all. The world’s idea is that we all have to be just alike. The world wants us to dress alike. If you doubt that, then go to the average high school campus and see how the kids are dressing. If you question that, go to the average office and see how people are clothed there. The world wants us all to dress alike. The world wants us all to talk alike.
Our God is a God of great variety. If you doubt that, go to the zoo sometime and look at all of the different animals at the zoo. God loves variety. God makes all of us originals. We are all individuals, yet when Christ comes into our life there is the making of a great harmony among the people of the Lord.
When Paul says to be like minded, it doesn’t mean that we have to all think the same and agree on every point, but it does mean that we learn to disagree in a spirit of love. We learn to celebrate our differences, take those differences, and put them together for the greater good of the body of Christ.
In verse 2, after Paul uses, “Be like-minded,” he uses three terms. He says, “Having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” The key is loving the Lord Jesus Christ. “Be like-minded, having the same love.” When you and I love Jesus, and we love Jesus together, you have the makings of a great harmony in the fellowship of the people.
Then he says, “Being of one accord.” Literally the word there means “soul” and “soul together.” Our souls are united together. We are united in spirit.
When we think about an orchestra, there are many different kinds of instruments. We have the flutes and the violins, and the trumpets and the trombones and the percussion. We have a variety of instruments that are played. But the reason why it sounds so good when they play is because they are all in tune with one another. The same thing is true in the fellowship of a church. When we read the Book of Acts, we note how many times it says those believers were all of one accord.
Then he says, “Of one mind.” Literally it means “focused on the same purpose.” In other words, get your goal to be the same.
Do you know why a lot of churches don’t have harmony? It’s because many churches don’t know what a church is supposed to be and what a church is supposed to do. The reason the New Testament church had such tremendous harmony is they knew exactly what they were to be and they knew exactly what they were to do.
I fear there are many churches that don’t have a clue what they are supposed to be doing. They don’t know their purpose. They think they are a glorified social club or a country club. They don’t have any idea what a church is intended to do.
We are here to give every person, within the sphere of our influence, an opportunity to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. If we don’t know what we are here for and if we don’t know what we are supposed to do, we are not going to be in harmony. If we go to the Scriptures and we find out that our purpose is to win people to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and we all get on that together and we all follow that purpose together; there is tremendous harmony in the fellowship.
II. We Should Embrace Humility In The Church
The second ingredient of spiritual togetherness is humility. In verse 3, we read, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.”
We have something stated negatively and something stated positively in that verse. Negatively it says, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory.” Those are negative thoughts. He’s saying that in the fellowship of a church, if you want to stay together, don’t do anything motivated by strife or by empty conceit, vainglory.
D. L. Moody said, “Strife is pulling another down. Vainglory is putting one’s self up.”
The original word for strife was used to describe someone seeking political office, who was willing to do whatever necessary in order to win that office. It’s the idea of a person who is trying to climb the ladder of success and that person doesn’t care how many people he steps on or how many people he pushes aside. He is totally interested in his own personal self-advancement and ambition.
Then, Paul says, “Let nothing be done through strife.” The idea is of a “party spirit.”
A church can develop a party spirit. Sometimes churches get the idea that special groups have to be attended to. If you are not very careful, you can get into that frame of mind in a church. We should not be interested in what age group we are in. We’re interested in being in the family of God together. We need one another. You’ve got to have the old people and you’ve got to have the young people.
Cliques can form in a church. Little groups can get together. Little social clubs can begin to form in the fellowship. There is nothing wrong with having friends. There are some people we enjoy more than others. However, we don’t exist just for our own little group. When we develop the attitude of every decision being how it is going to affect your group, then you are in the realm of strife. You are then into the area of personal ambition and personal advancement.
He said, “Don’t do anything in your fellowship with the attitude of a party spirit or what will it do for us.” Then, he said, “Don’t do anything because of vainglory.” That is pride, being stuffed full of yourself.
Do you what you are doing at your church is for the honor and glory of the Lord Jesus or for personal attention? If you are a member of the choir and you don’t get called on to sing a solo, are you going to still sing in the choir? Not everybody is called to sing solos. I’ve heard some sing that weren’t called to sing solos!
If you are not elected as a deacon, are you still going to be a witness for Jesus on your job? If you are not put on one of the key committees around the church, are you still going to be faithful? Are you still going to pray and read your Bible? It’s not about you and me. It’s about Jesus.
I’m talking about humility. Negatively, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory.” But now he puts it on the positive. He says, “But in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves.” Lowliness of mind is the concept of humility.
The humble person is not just someone who thinks lowly of himself. It is someone who doesn’t think about himself at all. There is too much pride among the people of God. God wants us to be humble before Him. God wants us to be lowly in our attitude before the Lord. Humility is a very elusive virtue. In fact, it is so elusive the moment you think you’ve got it, you’ve lost it.
Did you hear about the guy who won the humility button at church, but they took it away from him because he wore it?
The Christian life starts with humility. You can’t be saved without humility. When you come to the Lord Jesus, the Bible says that you’ve got to humble yourself as a little child. When you come to the Lord Jesus, you have to come to the foot of the cross.
Do you think God saved you because of your greatness and your goodness? You come to the Lord at the foot of the cross and say, “God, I’m a poor hell-bound sinner. I don’t deserve to be saved.” After you are saved, you should stay at the foot of the cross and always keep that attitude that, “I’m the slave. He’s the Master. I’m the child. He’s the Father.” We should always have the spirit of humility before the Lord.
We need that kind of humility. It would solve a lot of problems in our relationships with one another. Too many times we get the idea that, “I have to be first.” But humility says, “I am willing to be second or even last.” God help us to stay humble before the Lord. There are no big shots or little shots in the family of God. We are just all God’s people, sinners who have been saved by a wonderful Savior.
III. We Should Exemplify Helpfulness In The Church
The first ingredient is harmony: be like minded. The second ingredient is humility: lowliness of mind, esteeming others better than themselves.
We have now come to Philippians 2:4. Paul gives us the third ingredient of spiritual togetherness which is helpfulness. We read, “Look not every man on his own things.” In other words, the attitude of looking out for number one. He says in Philippines 2:21, “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.”
Yet the Bible says that if we want spiritual togetherness in our fellowship, there must be willingness not to look on your own things, not to put yourself number one. But he says, “But every man also on the things of others.” Helpfulness is an attitude of considering others.
The world would have you believe that the way to be happy is to take care of yourself. In other words, the world would have you think that the way you spell joy is to put yourself first, put others second, and the Lord not at all. That’s why we’ve got so many people with dysfunctional lives in our world.
The same thing is true in marriage. Do you know why a lot of couples have trouble in marriage? They get into a marriage relationship with the attitude, “What is this going to do for me? What can my mate do for me? If you get into a marriage with that kind of attitude, you are headed for problems in your marriage. You should get married with the attitude, “Not what my mate can do for me, but what can I do for my mate.” It is that unselfish spirit that will cause a marriage to work.
When you join a church your attitude should not be, “What’s this church going to do for me?” But rather, “What can I do for Jesus through the fellowship of this church?”
People say, “I didn’t get a thing out of church today. I heard that song before.” Let me ask you a question. What did you put into the service today? How did you pray today? Who did you encourage today? Who did you bless today?
“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.” Be interested in others. Somebody says, “You’ll be walked on that way. If you don’t stand up for yourself, you are going to get walked on.”
Think about Abraham and Lot. They came to a point that they had to go their separate ways. God was blessing them so much they needed to expand their territory. Uncle Abraham said to Lot, “You take the first pick.” Lot made a selfish choice. He looked on his own things, not on the things of others. He made a selfish choice, and Lot lost his family and fortune, and he almost lost his faith. On the other hand, Abraham was willing to take second place. God said to Abraham, “Look around. Everything you see I’ll give it to you.”
When you are willing to put others first and yourself last, you are on the path to joy. In fact, that’s how you spell joy in this book. Chapter one is about Jesus. Put Jesus first. Chapter two is about others. Put others second. Chapter three is about you. Put yourself last. J-O-Y. No wonder Paul could write, “That my joy may be full.” Paul lived with fullness of joy and wanted others to be filled also!