The Face of Christ -- detail from the Crucifixion from the Isenheim Altarpiece, c. 1512-16
Philippians 2 (New International Version)
Imitating Christ’s Humility
“Therefore” points back to what Paul has said in chapter 1, telling the Philippians how to stand strong for the Lord against external conflicts. Now he tells them how to act against internal conflicts in the body of Christ.
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,
“If there is any consolation in Christ”: Is there any consolation in Christ? Of course there is! Every Christian should know what it is to have Jesus console their soul.
- Luke 2:25 says that one of the titles for Jesus as the Messiah is the Consolation of Israel. Paul could say in 2 Corinthians 1:5, For as the sufferings of Christ abound in us, so our consolation also abounds through Christ. In 2 Thessalonians 2:16, Paul says that God has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace. Of course there is consolation in Christ!
“If there is any . . . comfort of love”: Is there any comfort of love? Of course there is! Every Christian should know what it is to have Jesus give them the comfort of love.
- 2 Corinthians 1:3 says that God is the God of all comfort. There is no way He cannot comfort us and no circumstance beyond His comfort. But this is more than comfort; this is the comfort of love.
- The word comfort in this passage is the ancient Greek word paraklesis. The idea behind this word for comfort in the New Testament is always more than soothing sympathy. It has the idea of strengthening, of helping, of making strong. The idea behind this word is communicated by the Latin word for comfort (fortis, the same root as for “fortitude” and “fortress”), which also means “brave.” The love of God in our loves makes us strong and makes us brave. Of course there is comfort of love!
“If there is any . . . fellowship of the Spirit”: Is there any fellowship of the Spirit? Of course there is! Every Christian should know what it is to have the fellowship of the Spirit.
- Fellowship is the ancient Greek word kononia. It means the sharing of things in common. We share life with the Spirit of God that we never knew before. The Holy Spirit fills and guides and moves in our lives in a powerful and precious way. Of course there is fellowship of the Spirit!
“If there is any . . . affection and mercy”: Is there any affection and mercy? Of course there is! Every Christian knows something of the affection of God, and the mercy of God.
Paul mentions these things in a manner that suggests to us that they should all be obvious parts of the Christian’s experience. To make his rhetorical point, he could have just as easily said, “If water is wet, if fire is hot, if rocks are hard” and so forth.
Each of these gifts – consolation in Christ, comfort of love, fellowship of the Spirit, affection and mercy – are communicated to us both in a direct, spiritual way from Jesus, and from Jesus through His people. But there isn’t any doubt that these are real gifts for Christians to really experience.
2 then make my JOY complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
If I consider you above me, and you consider me above you, a wonderful thing happens: We have a community where everyone is looked up to, and no one is looked down on!
Psalm 138:6 (English Standard Version)
For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly,
but the haughty he knows from afar.
5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Zechariah 9:9 (English Standard Version)
Behold, your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is he,
humble and mounted on a donkey.
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.
Isaiah 43:11 (English Standard Version)
I, I am the LORD,
and besides me there is no savior.
Chris Tomlin and “Name of Jesus.”
Do Everything Without Grumbling
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.
from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw
REMEMBER THE FUTURE
In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul tells the people in Philippi to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling, for “it is God who works in you.” He never indicates that God will work redemptively in our lives in spite of us. God wants to work with us for our future, transforming us into the people he desires us to be.
Do you ever feel uneasy about the future? One of the best antidotes for that uneasiness is to look back upon the past and see the miracles of God’s prevenient grace: how he worked in your life even before he brought you to himself. It helps to consider how many strings he pulled and what power he used to bring us to the place where we found Christ. Notice his providential, sovereign hand on you since that day, and remember that God’s will toward you has not changed. His will toward you is just as good today as it was yesterday, as good as it was when you were a sinner who did not know him and he was lovingly working to bring you to himself. And he will continue to work and bring you to ultimate, final, and full salvation.
That is why Paul can joyously look at circumstances that seem negative. When he is in prison (Phil. 1:7) and when he is in need of financial support (Phil. 4:12), he can rejoice. He knows what the will of the One who is sovereign over all is toward him. It is good, and it will not change. How appropriate to work with that will.
14 Do everything without grumbling or arguing, 15 so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky 16 as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain. 17 But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am GLAD AND REJOICE with all of you. 18 So you too should BE GLAD AND REJOICE with me.
Timothy and Epaphroditus
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. 20 I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. 21 For everyone looks out for their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. 23 I hope, therefore, to send him as soon as I see how things go with me. 24And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon.
25 But I think it is necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, co-worker and fellow soldier,
“My brother, fellow worker, and fellow soldier”: Paul gives these important titles to Epaphroditus. He was a man Paul valued as a partner in the work of ministry. Brother speaks of a bond to be enjoyed; worker speaks of a job to be done; soldier speaks of a battle to be fought. It is precious and rare when God grants to us relationships which operate on each of these three levels.
who is also your messenger, whom you sent to take care of my needs. 26 For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, and almost died. But God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. 28 Therefore I am all the more eager to send him, so that when you see him again you may BE GLAD and I may have less anxiety. 29 So then, welcome him in the Lord with great JOY, and honor people like him, 30 because he almost died for the work of Christ. He risked his life to make up for the help you yourselves could not give me.
The ancient Greek phrase for not regarding his life uses a gambler’s word that meant to risk everything on the roll of the dice. Paul says that for the sake of Jesus Christ, Epaphroditus was willing to gamble everything.
In the days of the Early Church there was an association of men and women who called themselves the gamblers, taken from this same ancient Greek word. It was their aim to visit the prisoners and the sick, especially those who were ill with dangerous and infectious diseases. Often, when plague struck a city, the heathen threw the dead bodies into the streets and fled in terror. But the gamblers buried the dead and helped the sick the best they could, and so risked their lives to show the love of Jesus.
"Heart of Stone" by D. Goth
I think of how much Christ has done for me, and how often I am — oh, my hard heart! — reluctant to give my all for him. For further meditation and encouragement to be a gambler for Christ, with a heart that is not made of stone — read my friend Sue Awes’ blog on the subject: click HERE.
New International Version (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica
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