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. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus. – Philippians 2:1-5.
Although the church at Philippi was exemplary in many respects, and Paul had occasion to commend the saints warmly, there was still an undercurrent of strife. There was a difference of opinion between two women, Euodia and Syntyche (Philippians 4:2) which directly affected his writing. Therefore it is helpful to keep this in mind since in chapter 2 the apostle is dealing directly with the cause and cure of contentions among the people of God.
The “if” that Paul uses is not the concerned with doubt but rather, used as his argument. He lists four great considerations which should draw believers together in harmony and cooperation. The apostle is saying, in essence, “Since there is so much encouragement “with Christ” and since His “love” has such a tremendous persuasiveness, since the Holy Spirit brings us all together in such a wonderful fellowship, “common sharing,” and again, since there is so much “tenderness and compassion” involved in Christianity, we should all be able to get along in happy harmony with one another.”
F.B. Meyer describes these four motives as:
1. The persuasiveness of Christ.
2. The tender care that love gives.
3. The sharing of the Spirit.
4. Humaneness and pity.
It is clear that the apostle is making an appeal for unity based on common devotion to Christ and common possession of the Holy Spirit. With all that there is “with Christ,” the members of His Body should have unity of purpose, affection, accord, and sympathy.
If these foregoing arguments carry any weight with the Philippians, then Paul begs them, on the basis of these such arguments, that they should “make my joy complete.” Up to this time, the Philippians had indeed given Paul much joy. He doesn’t deny that for a moment, but now he asks that they should fill the cup of his joy to overflowing. They could do this “by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.”
You have to be asking yourself though, does this mean that all Christians are expected to think and act alike? The word of God doesn’t give such a suggestion anywhere. While we are definitely expected to agree on the great fundamentals and basics of the Christian faith, it is obvious that on many minor matters there will be a great deal of difference of opinion. Uniformity and unity are not the same thing. It is possible to have unity without uniformity. Although we might not agree on certain minor matters, we can put aside our own opinions, where no principle, especially where salvation is involved, for the good of others. That is the essence of loving others more than ourselves
To be “like-minded” in reality means to have the mind of Christ, to see things as He would see them, and to respond as He would respond. To have “the same love” deserves the same application concerning the Lord’s love, a love that did not count the cost. “Being one in spirit and of one mind” means to work together in harmony toward a common goal and to act so unitedly as to show that Christ’s mind is directing and leading our activities.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” since these are two of the greatest enemies of unity among the people of God. Wherever you find people who are interested in gathering a clique around themselves or in promoting their own interests, there you will find the seeds of contention and strife. There you will find self-centeredness, the root of selfish ambition as well as pride and arrogance, in other words, conceit based in vanity. However, Paul gives the remedy which is in esteeming others, “in humility value others above yourselves.” This simply means that we should live for others unselfishly, putting their interests above our own. It’s fairly easy to read an exhortation like this in the word of God, but quite another thing to appreciate what it really means, and then put it into actual practice. Valuing and esteeming others is utterly foreign to the natural and carnal mind, and we can’t accomplish it in our own strength. It is only as we are indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit that it can ever be put into practice.
The cure, Paul tells us, from the troubles among the people of God is to be more concerned with “the interests of the others,” rather than with our “own interests.” In a very real way the word “others” is truly the key to this chapter. As we give our lives in devoted service for others, like Christ did, that is when we rise above the selfish strife of men.
Paul now is going to hold up before the eyes of the Philippians the example of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Have the same mindset as Christ Jesus.” What kind of attitude did He exhibit? What characterized His behavior toward others?
Guy King, in his book, Joy Way, has well described the mind of the Lord Jesus as:
1. The selfless mind.
2. The sacrificial mind.
3. The serving mind.
The Lord Jesus consistently thought of others and we are to diligently and steadfastly do the same.