Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
You will notice that this passage begins with the word “therefore” and as we know, this word is used when one is drawing a conclusion from what had come just before. In this case, you’ll recall that Paul has been exhorting the Philippians to behave in a manner that is “worthy of the Gospel”. If we are going to behave in this way, the way Jesus Himself behaved, then we need to do certain things, to make some adjustments, and in this passage, Paul tells us what they are.
Paul sets out an “if – then” statement here as a manner of encouragement for the readers. Here’s the “if”:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, (v. 1)
It is as if he was saying, “Look people, if you’ve gotten anything from your relationship with Christ…” If we’ve received any encouragement, comfort, common sharing, tenderness and compassion… Then:
then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. (v. 2)
So, if you’ve received any of those blessings, then here’s what Paul wants you to do. You’ll notice that these are all things associated with unity as believers. He could have simply told them to quit fooling around, arguing and disputing amongst themselves and be like Jesus!
Verses 3 and 4 carry on his thought: We are not to do things out of selfish interests, self-centeredness or conceit. We should be humble, and put others ahead of ourselves. We should not be concerned with our own interests, but with the interests of others. Can you think of a shorter way of saying this?
Good, I thought you’d see it: Love one another. Yep, that’s the key!
OK, remember in the last section where I said that being imitators of Christ was the sign of the New Covenant?
That means that we should love our neighbor as ourselves. It doesn’t mean follow the rules, for rules are way too shallow; it means love your neighbor as yourself. If we do that, we won’t need to worry about any rules, we’ll be in no danger, for the whole Law is fulfilled if we love God and love our neighbor.
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Paul continues to describe what it is like for us to be humble and “worthy of the Gospel” using in this instance the very example of Jesus Himself.
Jesus was by His nature God. Imagine what it could be like for Him to set aside the glory of heaven to be born in a stable; what earthly prince would so lower himself? He took on the very nature of a servant when He became a man. Now many of us might not be used to thinking of ourselves that way, but in God’s sight, that’s what we are: His servants and all of the riches on earth cannot change that simple fact. So, Jesus took on our form, that of a servant, was born in the humblest pf circumstances into a working man’s family. No privileges, no fancy title, no big name, just a working class guy.
As if this were not enough, Jesus, by nature God, became the servant of all, taking this to the point where He was willing to sacrifice Himself for the rest of His servants. Yet not only did He give Himself up for us, He gave Himself up to be crucified, of all things, the most terrible painful method of execution I know of. Think about it: There He was, beaten, ridiculed, tortured, stripped naked and nailed to a cross and then lifted up for all to see as He bore our sins. The people in the crowd, and there were plenty there, hurled insults at Him while He died very slowly in agony: A barbaric scene to say the least. And what had He done to deserve such treatment?
Nothing at all.
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
When it was all over, He was placed into a borrowed tomb. When they could finish His burial some 36 hours later, He had already risen from the grave! He returned to His glory and as a result of His remaining faithful to God’s purpose, His is the name at which every knee should bow.
The reason that Paul has written this is that this is how we should live as Christ’s followers. It is this kind of humility, purpose and selflessness that we should strive for. There is no greater example of love in action that the example of the life of Jesus− He is our role model.
Oh yes, how could I forget to mention that because of what He did in all of this selflessness, you and I have eternal life, and as His co-heirs, we too will arise in glory when the great day comes.