STUDY 4: PHILIPPIANS 2:1 – 5

© Rosemary Bardsley 2020

In 1:27 Paul wrote: ‘Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.’ Now in chapter 2 he begins to teach us what that means.

A. IF ...

Read 2:1. Answer these questions:

What four beneficial outcomes of the gospel does Paul mention?

 

 

 

 

What do you think Paul means by the following phrases?
United with Christ

 

His love

 

Fellowship with the Spirit

 

Tenderness and compassion (his, not ours)

 

 

In all of these Paul is talking about the impact of the gospel on the believer.

 

A.1 United with Christ.

From the moment when we first believed in Christ we are ‘united with Christ’. This is something that Paul teaches at length in other letters.

Check these texts about being united with Christ:
In his death:
Romans 6:6, 8

 

Galatians 2:20

 

Colossians 2:20; 3:3

 

In his resurrection:
Romans 6:11

 

Ephesians 2:4 - 6

 

Colossians 3:3

 

Being united with Christ means that all that is his is reckoned as ours. For example:

His death, by which he paid the full penalty for all our sins, is reckoned ours.

His resurrection, which affirms the validity of his sin-bearing death, is reckoned ours.

 

Because of this we are acquitted of all guilt: his righteousness (his legal innocence) is reckoned ours.

Because he took all the condemnation, there is no more left to be held against us.

Because he is beyond the judgement, we also, united with him, are beyond the judgement.

Because he is seated at the right hand of God, we also, united with him, are seated with him in the very presence of God.

 

Never again will he be separated from God: never again will we, united with him, be separated from God.

 

The significance of being ‘united with Christ’ is immense. So Paul says ‘If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ ...’

Reflection:
What ‘encouragement’ do you have from being united with Christ?

 

 

How does this ‘encouragement’ motivate you to live a life that is ‘worthy’ of the gospel?

 

 

A.2 His love.
Paul’s next phrase is ‘if any comfort from his love’.

What ‘comfort’ do you get from the love of Christ described in these verses?
John 3:16

Galatians 2:20b

Ephesians 3:16 – 19

1John 3:1

1John 4:16 – 18

Suggest how this ‘comfort in his love’ could be expressed in the way you live so that your life is ‘worthy’ of the gospel.

 

 

 

 

A.3 Fellowship with the Spirit.
Here the Greek text is literally ‘fellowship of the Spirit’. The word is koinonia – a word that refers to a common participation, a having things in common, a sharing, a togetherness of many grounded in one common element. Paul is talking here about two synergistic truths that are in place for every believer:

Each individual believer is connected with the Holy Spirit: it is he who has brought them to new life in Christ and set them apart as God’s possession. He is the Comforter, sent by the Father and the Son to indwell everyone who believes, and to be with them forever. It is he who teaches them about the Son. It is he who assures them that they are the children of God. It is he who seals them as God’s eternal possession. It is he who intercedes for them when their suffering is too great to be spoken in words. It is he who is at work transforming them into the image of the Jesus Christ.

All believers are thus united to each other, by their common relationship with the Spirit. The same Spirit is with them all, binding them together. What he does for one he does for all.

From these verses, identify this fellowship of the Spirit in which all believers participate.
John 3:6

 

1Peter 1:2

 

John 14:16, 17

 

John 14:26; 15:26

 

Romans 8:16

 

2Corinthians 1:22

 

Romans 8:26, 27

 

2Corinthians 3:18

 

Reflection: If all believers have all of this in common, what attitudes and actions towards ourselves and other believers are ‘worthy of the gospel’?

 

 

 

 

A.4 Tenderness and compassion.
These two words express the attitude of God towards us. They express the essence of his deep love.

It is ‘tenderness’. The word is literally ‘bowels’ – which were considered the seat of the emotions. Whenever you read that Jesus was ‘moved with compassion’ it is almost always using the verbal form of this word. It refers to the deep, overwhelming feeling within him that recognized both our need and our helplessness. Jesus also used it in parables to communicate the deep love of God for the lost. (It is sometimes translated ‘mercy’; it is sometimes translated ‘pity’, but this English word is far too minimal to convey its deep meaning; sometimes ‘affection’ – as in Philippians 1:8.)

It is ‘compassion’ – the word is oiktirmos. This is used only five times in the New Testament. It is variously translated ‘mercy’, ‘pity’ or ‘compassion’.

Similar deep feelings to this ‘tenderness’ and ‘compassion’ are referred to in the Old Testament by the words ‘loving kindness’ and ‘tender mercy’.

Consider these texts:
Matthew 9:36

Matthew 18:27

Mark 1:41

Luke 15:20

Suggest why Paul refers to God’s ‘tenderness’ and ‘compassion’ as a motivation for right attitudes to each other.

 

 

 

B. THEN ...

Paul writes ‘if ...’ – if you have benefited in these ways from the gospel, and you have – ‘then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.’

Paul would have reason for complete joy if these truths of the gospel found expression in the relationships of the Philippian believers with each other.

The mind that moved God to save them, should be the mind that they have for each other.

The love that God has towards them, should be reflected in their love for each other.

Their common relationship with the Spirit should unite them in spirit and in purpose.

Suggest how each of these would look in your relationships with other believers.
The tender, compassionate mind/attitude of God:

 

The love of God:

 

The unity of the Spirit:

 

All of this outlaws pride and selfishness. In our relationships with other believers, ‘selfish ambition’ and ‘vain conceit’ are totally out of place. Paul commands ‘Do nothing’ that arises from these two attitudes. On the contrary we should, in humility, be actively looking after each other.

 

What three commands does Paul give about our attitudes and actions towards others?
Verse 3b:

 

Verse 4:

 

Verse 5:

 

‘... but in humility consider others better than yourselves’ (3b).
The word translated ‘humility’ is tapeinophrosune, which is a combination of tapeinos (an adjective meaning base, lowly, of low estate, cast down, humble) and phren (a noun that refers to the mind, but in a way that includes feelings and attitude. It’s about the way we think and feel about life – about ourselves and others). The related verb is tapeinoo. It is used of Christ in Philippians 2:8 (see Section C of Study 5).

Check these texts in which the words ‘humble’ and ‘humiliation’ are used of Jesus. What do they teach us about Jesus’ attitude?
Matthew 11:29:

 

Acts 8:33

So what is Paul asking of us here? He is pointing us to a mindset that is not full of itself and its own importance, that is not busily focused on ensuring its own perceived rights and needs are all met. This mindset is willing to put aside its own benefit and position in order to achieve the well-being of the other person. It is a mindset that prioritizes the other.

 

‘Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others’ (2:4).
This is an expansion/explanation of the previous command. It rules out self-absorption and self-centredness. It rules out demanding one’s rights at the expense of the rights and well-being of others. It rules out doing anything that is going to harm another.

Check these texts. How do they express this priority of the other?
John 15:12

 

Romans 12:10

 

Romans 14:21

 

Romans 15:1 – 3

 

1Corinthians 8:9 – 13

 

1Corinthians 10:24, 32, 33

 

Galatians 6:2

 

1John 4:21

For further comment on the priority of the other, check this study.

 

What changes would obedience to these commands require in your attitude to ...
Your partner or parents?

 

Your friends?

 

Your close relatives?

 

Your school or work mates?

 

Your teacher or employer?

 

Your neighbours?