A CALL TO UNITY - Philippians 2:1-11

Isn’t this a great portrait of Jesus Christ? Many Biblical scholars believe that this is the best Bible passage for defending Jesus’ divinity.

However, it is quite clear that Paul didn’t write this as a lesson in Systematic Theology or teaching in Christology.

The Philippian church was close to Paul’s heart – he loved them dearly. Ch1:3-5 “I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now.”

They were his family – not only had he had planted this church - the first church in Europe, he also uses them as a model church for other churches to follow, especially in the unique in the way they supported him.

So what leads him to pen this famous hymn of praise of Jesus – its because there was a problem. Word has come to Paul that there has been divisions and disharmony. That is what Paul is addressing here.

So my title this morning is ‘A Call To Unity’.

My headings are

  1. Disunity the problem

  2. Unity is found in Partnership

  3. Unity is found in Selflessness

  4. Unity is found in Humility

  1. Disunity the problem.

V1. THEREFORE if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ,….. then make my joy complete by being like-minded…

What is the therefore there for?

Back in ch1: 27 he admonished them to “conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ”.

This was a great Church, but they were under a great deal of pressure. They were a suffering Church.

You may remember that this was a Church that was born out of suffering. It was at Philippi that Paul and Silas were beaten up and locked in jail, which led to the conversion of the jailer.

However, the suffering hadn’t stopped. The Christian church was experiencing severe persecution under Nero the despotic Roman emperor, who torched Rome and then blamed it on Christians.

Now Paul was in prison, in Rome, and on death row he writes to them, “don’t be frightened because of the suffering you (& I) are experiencing, because just like belief, suffering is gifted to us when we all become united to Christ.”

It seems that the church’s patience and resilience under the persecution was starting to wear thin. The word frightened in ch1 v28 is a strong word – it means terrified. The pressure of it had resulted in grumbling, bickering and disharmony, so Paul says if you’re going to live the gospel and cope with the pressures you need to pull together.

He starts in chapter 2 by asking these rhetorical questions.

I want you to imagine you were a church member in Philippi when this letter was read to them. In the congregation with you is Lydia – the first convert with members of her household, then there is the former demonised fortune telling slave girl, and the Philippian jailor and maybe other former prison inmates who had been converted, and there are many other people all relatively new converts, Jews who have stepped out of Judaism and gentiles many saved form pagan idolatry.

As you hear the words of ch2 V1. Imagine your congregation’s response as Paul asks these questions:

V1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, (You would say yes Paul, of course),

is there any comfort from his love? (Oh yes to that too)

is there any common sharing in the Spirit? (of course there is Paul, but what are you getting at?)

and finally Paul says, now to summarise, is there any tenderness and compassion in Christ? (Amen, Amen, Paul but what are you on about?)

  • then make my joy complete by being like-minded. Oh!!

This church was a huge encouragement to Paul, from the first day they believed to the continuing growth, but now Paul’s joy is not complete. The external pressure was affecting some of them and there were signs of dissent and disharmony. In chapter 4 he mentions a couple of church members who were having some sort of disagreement. Paul admonishes the church in ch2 v14 to do everything without grumbling or arguing.

So Paul is calling them to Unity in Christ. His call to unity has an emphasis on partnership and attitude. So my second point.

2. Unity is found in Partnership

This whole book is about partnership in the gospel. I read earlier ch1: 5 where Paul thanks them for their partnership in the gospel. Then in In ch1:7-8, he says, all of you share in God’s grace with me – that is in his preaching and in his imprisonment. In ch1: 19 he talks about their prayer partnership with him.

1: 27 Paul says he wants to know that they stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together as one for the faith of the gospel.

Paul is emphasising this partnership they have.

As Christians we are part of the body of Christ. We are not individuals - we are a part of the community of God.

Our world today doesn’t work this way. It is more about looking after number one. Our world is all about personal satisfaction of our individualistic wants and needs. The church is not supposed to be like that. The Church is a body with many parts working together. Going off to do your own thing is not Christian – it is sin – it is divorce which God hates. Individualism is not God’s way whatever the problems with disharmony.

Judy and I have some friends who have left the church they attended because of a dispute and they haven’t been back to any church consistently for years. Unfortunately they are part of a growing number of people today who have no idea about striving together for the gospel.

Actually striving, side by side for the gospel is language of conflict.

Kingston street, did you know we are at war – a great cosmic battle against the hords of the world, the flesh and Satan. Do we think that somehow we can go off and fight the war by ourselves and succeed? Of course not. We can only win the war when we are in partnership with God and God’s people. Satan knows that if he can separate us he can win – divide and conquer.

We need to pray with and for one another. We need to open our homes and share our lives with each other. We need to sacrifice for one another. Bear one another’s burdens. We are to “look out not only for our own interests but also for the interests of others,” ch 2:4.

Paul is really calling the Philippians to repentance. There are unresolved conflicts going on, so Paul uses these strong words, make my joy complete by being of one mind. Its time to fix the broken relationships, to bury the jealousy and resentment.

How do we fight the good fight if we harbour sin and then try to go off to do our own thing.

We all know that conflicts are part of human life, and yes that’s includes us in the church. Just like the Philippians, we are a rag tag mix of people, of disparate ages, personalities and cultures all joined together in Christ. So what is the solution to this conflict. As I have said the first step is to repent and ask for for forgiveness. However if we don