My dad was a computer programmer for Columbus Auto Parts. On Saturdays, we would visit him and play text games on the expensive company computers. Later, when I was in junior high school, our family acquired a personal computer called the Timex-Sinclair ZX80. At the time, it was incredible to have a computer in our home. It couldn’t do much because it had 1k of memory; not 1 GB or 1 MB but 1k of memory. That little computer could only remember 10 lines of Basic code. But I do remember typing in a few lines of code that would accomplish simple tasks. One of the Basic lines was an IF THEN clause. IF someone typed in the letter Y for yes, THEN the computer would respond with “You are a wonderful person.” But IF someone typed N for no, THEN the computer would respond with “I will visit you in jail” or whatever funny thing we wanted it to say.
The same is true in the English language. The words if and then are used in a sentence to show that IF something is true, THEN this will be the result. For instance, IF you stick your finger in the electrical socket, THEN you will receive a jolt. The IF is asking whether something is true while the THEN is showing what will happen because of the IF. The Bible also contains some of these if then sentences. One of them is found in Philippians 2:1-4. There we are presented with two thoughts. In verse one, we are asked to consider IF several things are true. THEN, in verses 2-4, we are encouraged to act a certain way because of those truths.
- IF you have experienced these things… (1)
In the Christian life, we have experienced many things. In this verse, we are asked to consider IF certain things are true, and if we have experienced them. As we examine these things, you will quickly see that Paul is not “iffy” about any of them. It is assumed that all of these IF statements are true. So what are these assumptions?
a. Is there any consolation in Christ?
παράκλησις – “encouragement, exhortation, comfort, consolation” (BAGD 618)
The same word for consolation is used by Jesus to describe the coming Holy Spirit. He is the Comforter, the One who would comfort us. How would the Holy Spirit do that? He would encourage, exhort, comfort, and console us. But in this context, Paul is asking whether there was any encouragement found in Christ. Is there? When you think of all that the early Christians had to face, the answer would certainly be yes. Knowing Jesus made all the difference in their lives. No matter how bad things got, they still had Him.
Think about that for yourself. Is there any encouragement found in Jesus? Yes, we are encouraged by His example in the gospels, by His substitutionary death for us on the cross, by His resurrection from the dead and promise to raise us. There is great encouragement in Christ!
b. Is there any comfort of love?
When someone is grieving the loss of a loved one, what do they need? They need to be consoled. When someone loses his job, what does he need. He needs someone to alleviate his bad situation.
παραμύθιον – “encouragement, esp. as consolation, means of consolation, alleviation” (BAGD 620)
The word used here means consolation. Where does the best kind of consolation come from? It comes from God’s love. We know that He loves us because the Bible says so many times.
John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world…”
John 16:27 – “the Father Himself loves you…”
Rom. 5:8 – “God demonstrates His love toward us…”
Rom. 8:39 – Nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
2 Cor. 13:11 – “the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Eph. 2:4 – “But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us…”
2 Thess. 2:16 – “our God and Father, who has loved us…”
1 John 4:7 – “for love is of God”
1 John 4:8 – “God is love.”
1 John 4:10 – “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
Do you believe that God loves you? If you were to think about your own failings and past sins, you might be tempted to doubt God’s love. But after reading through all of those verses about God’s love, can you still doubt His love? God’s love is what gives us the consolation we need when we are down.
c. Is there any fellowship of the Spirit?
κοινωνία – “association, communion, fellowship, close relationship… sharing in something” (BAGD 438-39)
Fellowship is a word which we don’t always understand completely. We have used it to identify a meal which follows a morning service. But is that what fellowship means? Yes and no. Fellowship is a common bond, close relationship, or association that Christians have. You may have heard of the Ohio Bible Fellowship which is a group made up of Christian pastors and churches that associate together because of common beliefs and practices.
But where does this fellowship come from? It comes from the Holy Spirit. In this morning’s Sunday School lesson, we looked at 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. There we learned that every believer is the temple of the Holy Spirit. He lives within each of us. As He works in our hearts, he develops the same characteristics in our lives so that when we meet another Christian, we often have a good relationship because we are part of the same family and have the same working in our hearts.
d. Is there any affection and mercy?
σπλάγχνα – “inward parts, entrails… fig., of the seat of the emotions, in our usage heart… of the feeling itself love, affection” (BAGD 763)
When talking about the seat of the emotions, Americans think of the heart. But Greek people thought about their intestines. It sounds weird at first, but when you don’t feel good, you often clutch your belly not your heart. So, it makes sense.
Paul is asking here is there is any emotional attachment to the Lord because of what he did for us? And has the Holy Spirit been developing love in our lives? Yes, He has been doing that. Our emotions are affected by the love of God for us.
οἰκτιρμοί – “pity, mercy, compassion” (BAGD 561)
When we think of mercy, we think of someone who has pity on those who are suffering. It is a compassionate response to those who are in a bad spot. This is what God did for us. “When we were still sinners” God showed His pity for us by sending His Son to die in our place. This kind of pity is beyond what most would expect. But with God, everything is at a higher level.
- … THEN act this way (2-4).
IF all of those things were true, THEN the Christians in Philippi were supposed to respond appropriately. In verses two, Paul exhorts them to fulfill his joy. This is another way of saying, “Make me joyful.” In other words, IF these believers were to do what Paul said, it would bring him joy. So what would bring him joy?
“The terms the apostle used reveal an underlying problem in the church at Philippi. The situation Paul addressed evidently was prompted by self-centeredness among certain Christians” (Lightner 653).
What would bring Paul joy is a change in the way the Christians were treating each other. Instead of being opinionated, proud, and self-centered, he wanted them to change their mindset to match the example of our Lord.
a. Be like-minded (2).
Paul wanted them to be “like-minded, have the same love, be one in spirit, and be one in purpose” (Lightner 653). Apparently, there was something dividing the Christians at Philippi. Perhaps one had a different idea about how things should be done. There have been times when the color of the new carpet has caused a church split. Why does this happen? It happens because the people are not like-minded. They are not focused on the same things.
What is it that will bind a church together? Do we all have to vote for the same candidates? Do we all have to root for the Cleveland Browns? No, we will have differences on things like that, but there ought to be a uniformity of thinking, love, and purpose. We ought to have the same desire to see people saved. We ought to have the same love for others. We ought to be focused on glorifying God.
Let us be careful that we don’t become divided by things that don’t really matter. And instead, let’s be unified together on the things that really do matter. Paul takes this a step further in verse 3.
b. Be humble (3).
What Paul says here, under the inspiration of the Spirit, is that strife and selfishness will always cause problems in the church. “I would say that most of the difficulties in the church today are not due to doctrinal differences. They are due to strife and envy” (McGee 300). When we become so focused on what we want, this will always lead to fighting and disagreements. I have heard that some deacons’ meetings (at other churches) have erupted into fist fights. Yikes!
Instead of fighting about what we want, Paul tells us to be humble, lowly in our thinking. When we do this, we will think of others better than ourselves. It is the idea of considering that our opinion or desires are not as important as others. We don’t have to have our way. So, let us think less of ourselves and think about others. “This will go far toward removing disharmony (Homer A. Kent)” (Lightner 653).
c. Care for others (4).
We are not to neglect our own needs. We have to look at our own needs. In fact, if we don’t take care of our families, we are worse than an unbeliever. But often taking care of ourselves is what becomes our focus. We think so much about ourselves, that we neglect those who are needy around us.
“‘Others’ is the key to this passage” (McGee 301). “Instead of concentrating on self, each believer should be concerned for the interests of others” (Lightner 653). Along with our needs, we should think about the needs of the others in our church. If I have a need, it may be that someone else also has that need. If I struggle with something, perhaps there is someone else struggling with that same thing.
Rom. 12:10 – “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another”
This is at times a difficult thing. We are so consumed with our budget, our health, our happiness, that we neglect the ones that are part of our spiritual family.
The Philippians church is not the only church that has these struggles. Although we may not be struggling with disharmony or strife at the moment, it could easily happen if we don’t take heed to what the Bible tells us here. Let’s take a moment and think about how we are doing. Start with the example of God who consoles, loves, unites, and has mercy on us. Then follow His example by being like-minded, humble, and focused on others.
Bauer, Walter, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, Chicago: The University of Chicago, 1979.
Lightner, Robert P., “Philippians,” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary, Old Testament, USA: SP Publications, 1983, p. 652-53.
McGee, J. Vernon, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Vol. V, Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1983, pp. 300-01.
Rienecker, Fritz, and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1976, p. 549.