The Starting Point for Fellowship
Php 2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
We have been speaking concerning the virtues for the Church and fellowship. We are talking about how fellowship works. Healthy fellowship is based on a certain kind of mindset, the “mind that was in Christ”. We tend to think of humbling ourselves first. But actually, the mind of Christ first acknowledges position. All things are yours and that you are complete in Christ (Col 2:10). This is the place where we want to learn to stand for fellowship. Fellowship, ideally, is not two “needy” people coming to each other to draw strength out of each other. Fellowship is two “complete” people (or more) who have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ (Eph 1:3). They are complete in Him and they lack nothing. They are seated in the heavenlies in Christ (Eph 2:6) and they are the image of Christ. They are the new man and they are in the new creation (Eph 2:15). They are part of the masterpiece of God (Eph 2:10), and God has revealed Christ to them (Mt 16:17). They realize that He dwells in the spirit and He is in their spirit, and they are regenerated of Him (Rom 8:10; 1 Peter 1:3). They are receiving each other on the basis of their standing in Christ. This is the ideal of what fellowship is.
A lot of times, Christians get together and talk and talk, which is fine. But it is not all fellowship. Fellowship is a partaking of Christ. Any any time I think of fellowship I have the priesthood with the offerings in view. It has just been drilled into my head. That was the picture of fellowship that God gave us from the Old Testament. In the priesthood, man was required to bring something to God. What is it that man brings? Nothing of himself! He brings something that God requires, the sacrifices, which are pictures of Christ. In the priesthood with the offerings we see that man brings Christ forward and is accepted because of Christ. It is really Christ that is accepted, represented by the offerings. Additionally, there is a portion for God and a portion for man to eat as food. There was a portion set aside for the priests to eat of most of the offerings (Lev 6:26 for example). Their eating was a picture of a fellow partaking (fellowship) of what God has received, which is Christ, and what God has given, which is also Christ. God does not receive anything that He has not first given.
Remember when Abraham was going to offer Isaac, Isaac said, “here is the wood, here is the fire, but where is the lamb for the offering?” (Gen 22:7). And Abraham answered, “God will provide Himself a lamb for an offering.” This is actually a play on words because it literally means He will provide Himself as the lamb. I remember Chuck Missler brought this point home. God provides Christ as our substitute, which we acknowledge by offering back to God. This is a mutual appreciation of Christ. Our believing in Christ as our substitute is our appreciation of what God has provided, and God’s acceptance of that offering is His appreciation. We are brought to appreciate the same thing God does, which is Christ. This is fellowship!
When we consider the offerings, we think mostly of sin. But the purpose of the tabernacle and the offerings was not only to deal with sin. The purpose of the tabernacle (at least in a picture) was to be brought near to God to fellowship. But under the law, the conscience could not be made perfect and the enjoyment was not made available yet so most of the energy was spent on sacrifices, ordinances and washings. Now, we have the Spirit. The offering has been made once for all and we can come boldly forward. However, our approach to God is the same in principle as the priests in the Old Testament. It is focused on Christ. He is offering God has presented and we are brought near to God through Him.
God only looked at what the priests brought forward (the offering). He did not acknowledge the flesh of the offerers. Every square inch of their flesh was covered in the priestly garments. Their flesh was not allowed to partake. Their flesh had nothing to do with what was going on. This is a good thing because it means we don’t have to spend our time thinking about our condition in the flesh in order to fellowship with God! We need to get our attention off ourselves and onto Christ, which is what God is paying attention to. Christ is everything!
In the priesthood, it is all Christ, represented by the offering. This shows us the purpose and real significance of fellowship – to partake of Christ. Christ is satisfying. He is a rich banquet. He is not the “crumbs under the table” (Mt 15:7). So, you are not a “dog” if you are partaking of Christ. You are not alienated. You are not far away. You are not a stranger. You are not an orphan. You are a member of the household of God (Eph 2:19). You have been reconciled by the blood and brought near (Eph 2:13). You are a member of God’s own household and a son. You are a brother with Christ and a co-heir (Rom 8:17). You are complete. That is your position and fellowship. This is the starting point for fellowship!
Seeing That We are Richly Supplied
What significance does this have for our fellowship in the Church? We do not come to each other as needy, poor beggars or even as slaves outside in the field. We come in the feasting house with the fatted calf as our potion and God’s portion. We are here to drink, eat, and enjoy. That is the fellowship. Do you see how rich we are? That is why this atmosphere has to be based on the consolations of Christ, the love of Christ, the comforts, the fellowship, and the bowels of mercies (Phil 2:1). That is what we want to stir up, the Spirit of Jesus Christ in us. Then, when we come together, we come as full people to enjoy our rich supply.
I don’t want to be coming as a poor beggar hoping that you will do some kind of “dance” in front of me that will make me feel better about me! That is what 90 percent of Christians are looking for, which is why they are upset and offended. They think that you have something you should be giving them other than Christ. They do not see Christ as supply. They do not see that the Christian life is a supplied life fully furnished by God. We are already at the table. We are rich. We have everything!
I remember last year I was in my Ephesians study, and someone got really angry at me. They sent me an email that said I made them sick because I sound like a rich brat bragging about my inheritance. I though, “exactly! Remember Paul said in Romans that the glory of the Gentiles was to provoke the Jews to jealousy” (Rom 11:11). That was one of the reasons why he boasted in his ministry to the Gentiles. Yes, we should be boasting about the riches in our Father’s house and what we have.
We received our position as a free gift and cannot take any credit for it. It is freely available to anyone else who would believe in Jesus Christ. So, it does not say anything about our merit. We have been adopted into the household. Of course, we are going to boast about that! There is nothing else to talk about! This is our fellowship. Our fellowship in a sense is a boasting about the spread that has been set before us.
Right now, we are in the time of Laodicea, the “lukewarm”. What did He promise to those who hear His voice? He will come in and dine with them (Rev 3:20). remember in the parables the Lord said that at the end there would be an invitation to a feast and people would reject that invitation (Mt 22:4). His servants are talking about a feast. The Spirit and the Bride say “Come, and drink freely of the water of life” (Rev 22:17). We are at a feast. We have a boast. It is our advertisement and our Gospel.
When we come together as Christians we should learn to boast in Christ, which is just to exalt, magnify and partake of Him together. God bears witness to all of this and draws near. Wherever there is a party where Christ is the host, the guest and the food on the table, God shows up to the party! He loves it! That is the fellowship. Fellowship is not just with each other, but with the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:3).
This is a good way to view fellowship. We are talking about something far better than we think. We are not coming needing something from each other, we are coming together to enjoy our portion. That is our fellowship. This is the mind that Paul is speaking of. “Let this mind be in you…” Because we have everything, we are free to take on the form of a servant.
I gave the example of Undercover Boss in the last message. Another example of a show that my wife and I liked was called “Secret Princes”. This was a show with four genuine European princes who would come to America, stay as roommates in an apartment, get a job and live like “Regular guys”. They would try to meet a spouse who would love them for themselves and not their money and their status. It was so awesome when they finally get to reveal who they are to their spouse. They fall in love and then they reveal who they really are and take them to their castle and are “blown away.” That is the pattern in the Divine Romance – Jesus the King condescended to become like us, the poor “country girl”. That is the romance of the Bible. He descended, stripping off His garb of royalty and became like us to win us, His “country girl” who comes from nothing. He exalts her to His status.
Apparently, people who have this kind of status enjoy dressing up like servants and coming down and being with the “commoners” where no one is treating them like royalty. They can really know them as friends. We are going to have the ages of judging angels and being enthroned with Christ. We should enjoy this aspect of time where we have our “humiliation.” It is our humiliation that we are never going to have again. We have a unique opportunity to be “normal”. We are going to be grandly displayed for the rest of eternity.
Considering How Far Christ Condescended
Php 2:5-11 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (6) Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (7) But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (8) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (9) Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: (10) That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; (11) And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
It is just amazing that He condescended to such a low place. Christ went as low as you can possibly go. He was as He could be, and He went as low as He could possibly go! This is the death of a cross. Crucifixion is one of the most ignoble deaths devised. It is the death of a criminal. Furthermore, He was rejected by His creation, rejected by His own nation of called people that He led out of the wilderness personally into the good land. This is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who said “before Abraham was, I am”. This is the one in the Burning Bush. He gave Himself over to be mistreated and mocked and spit on and beaten, crowned with thorns, and rejected. Then He was hanging on the cross, disfigured, thirsty and weak and the “bulls of Bashan” were around Him (Ps 22:12). These are references to the demons and principalities who had a go at Him too. Finally, He became sin for us and became the curse for us (2 Cor 5:21;Gal 3:13). You literally cannot go as low as Jesus went.
There is no status as low as that in humanity! This was a long journey of humiliation that began with His incarnation and 33 years living clothed as a servant. He did not just take a part time job, moonlighting at the carwash while knowing he was royalty. No, this was 33 years of selling Himself to slavery to be a man, live the mundane human life among people that did not understand and rejected Him, while He knew fully who He was.
In a sense we are called to the same thing in the Church. Aa members of the Body of Christ, we have been exalted. He was highly exalted and given a name above every name. That is His position right now in His exaltation. But we started in that position. We got regenerated and were seated with Him in the heavenlies (Eph 2:6) blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Eph 1:3). That is called “identification truth.” That is called “positional truth” – what is true of us in Christ is what is true of Christ! We are co-heirs together with Him and positions as sons. As Father has sent Him, He says He has sent us into the world (John 20:21).
We need to have a recognition that our citizenship, conversation, life, righteousness, and Person is in Heaven at the right Hand of God. That is who we are – it is “Christ in us, the Hope of Glory.” That is our position, our status and how God reckons and receives us. He is in us. We are branches, members of the vine and members of His body. He who is joined to the Lord is one Spirit (1 Cor 6:17). We are from Heaven. We are “Heaven Sent.”
I am not just the Person that was born in the Adamic human race and fell into ruin and then got saved out of my “patheticness”. That is true, but when I was regenerated the person that God knew from the foundation of the world “came into being” in my spirit out of Christ. We came out from Him the same way He came out from the Father. There is a part of us that is of the Eternal Life. It is hard to understand because we only understand ourselves as having a beginning, but Christ knew that He had come from God and was going to God when He was serving and He served from that kind of position and knowledge of Himself.
Knowing Paul and his ministry, we should eventually have the same perspective. Paul’s ministry is all about showing us the riches of the grace in Christ and the inheritance we have in Christ. Paul shows us who we are in Christ and how we are positioned in Him. If Paul is going to talk to you about taking the form of a servant, he is going to talk to you from the perspective of one who is seated in the heavenlies talking to someone seated in the heavenlies. When he talks to the Church, he says “do you not know that you are going to judge angels? Why do you walk as mere men” (1 Cor 6:3; 1 Cor 3:3)? That is his perspective.
If Paul talks about humility, he is talking to people who are enthroned. We get this one turned around and think about the humiliation before we understand our enthronement. Watchman Nee wrote a book on Ephesians called “Sit, Walk, Stand”. He said you cannot walk out the Christian life until you see you are seated. You start from a position of sitting and then you walk. We want to walk before we sit, meaning that we do not understand who we are. Then we try to grab a few exhortations and start from our lowly status as servants and exalt ourselves to the throne through works! That is not it at all! We were crucified with Christ. We were raised together with Him. We were seated with Him in the heavenlies, far above all rule and authority and everything is under our feet in Him. We have clothed ourselves in flesh to fellowship with men. We are told not to mind high things but to condescend to men of low estate (Rom 12:16).
Working Out Your Own Salvation
Php 2:12-18 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. (13) For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (14) Do all things without murmurings and disputings: (15) That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; (16) Holding forth the word of life
Here we come to the verses that many people misuse and worry about. What does it mean to “work out your own salvation?” Again, the answers to these questions are typically found in the same epistle you were in when you had the question. Doesn’t Paul talk about salvation? We have been discussing it. What is the salvation Paul is referring to? Is it the Eternal Salvation? No, it’s this situation turning out “to salvation through your petition, and the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, so that as always, even now with all boldness Christ will be magnified in my body. For me to live is Christ” (Phil 1:19-21). What is salvation in Phillippians? Salvation is living Christ for the magnification of Christ for His testimony. Paul was the pattern and now he is asking them to do the same thing.
What does it mean to work out your salvation? It means that you understand that God is working in you. You are doing things without murmuring and complaining because you understand your position. Your discernment is sharp, and you are able to “approve that which is excellent”. You are fellowshipping unto the furtherance of the Gospel. You are contending for it and you are standing together in one mind, in nothing afraid of the adversaries. You are also filled with the bowels of Christ towards each other and so there is a love fellowship there as well.
All of this is salvation. You are being brought into the enjoyment of Christ, in contrast with murmurings and complaining. You could just be miserably complaining and murmuring which is like the children of Israel in the wilderness. “Did you bring us out here to die” (Ex 14:11)? Why did they say this? Because they could not discern God by His promises. Unbelief caused them to lose their view of the good land. Thy did not have their eyes on the power of God. They were in unbelief. That is what it means to be “offended”.
Remember Paul prays that they would be able to approve that which is excellent so that they can be sincere and without offense until the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ unto the praise and glory of God (Phil 1:10). It comes down to what you are approving of and what you are looking at. Are you looking with the eyes of faith at who you are in Christ, or are you in unbelief, and now you are offended, murmuring, and complaining? It is the difference between whether or not you are in offense or filled with the fruits of righteousness. If you are filled with the fruits of righteousness, you will be blameless. This blameless is the same as “sincere and without offense.” It is the same word in Eph 5:27 that is translated “without spot” and “without blemish.” Blemishes and spots are related to offenses due to unbelief (and false teaching).
In contrast to being offended because of unbelief, there is being full of faith and praise because you have been able to approve of that which is excellent. You have been supplied with the Spirit. You are feasting on Christ and enjoying Him in the fellowship and contending for the faith. You are shining as the sons of God as luminaries without spot in the world. You are holding forth the word of life, the Gospel.
The Goal of Paul’ Ministry
Phil 2:16 that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain. (17) Yea, and if I be offered upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I joy, and rejoice with you all. (18) For the same cause also do ye joy, and rejoice with me.
Here we see the goal of Paul’s ministry. His goal was not just to get people saved and “going to heaven”. His goal was to present the saints to God as a kind of offering full of the enjoyment of Christ, shining as luminary lamp stands, holding forth the word of Christ. Even if he dies, the testimony goes on. If they had become like the churches in Galatia and fallen short of grace and gone back to law, biting and devouring one another, walking in the flesh, and losing their assurance, that would have been vanity for Paul. Paul says in Colossians, “we preach Christ and we announce Him to every man, teaching every man and warning every man in all wisdom that we may present every man full grown in Christ”(Col 1:28). Ministry should not just get you started; it should move you along the way in Christ. That should be the goal, the perfecting of the saints.
We saw that in Ephesians 4. God gave gifts; the evangelist, apostle, prophet, shepherd, and teacher for the perfecting of the saints unto the work of the ministry by holding forth the word of life. The way this ministry works is that it shows us who we are in Christ and what He has given to us. The New testament ministry is just a display of the riches that have been bestowed on God’s children as an inheritance through the death of the testator, Christ, and have now become part of the will which is called the New Testament. The Minister of the New Testament is someone who opens up the will to show you the riches of Christ that are yours. That vision transforms you, where you are no longer like Mephibosheth hiding down in your weakness in Lodebar, but you are brought up to sit to the table of the king. If you do not know what I am talking about, this story is in 2 Samuel 4. He was one of Saul’s descendants and because of the covenant David made with Jonathan to take care of his seed, he took Mephibosheth and sat at the table in the king’s house. He was lame and had no “business” being in the king’s house. However, eventually he became acclimated to it and it changed his personality. That is what happens. We were lying in a pit of our own “filth” and then the New Testament ministry came to us and declared to us that there is an inheritance, the salvation of our salvation, the riches of Christ. Our eyes were opened, and we began to see. We saw that we were cleansed and washed, and a robe was put on us and a ring was put on our finger and we were brought into the feasting house to have the fatted calf. Now we are the sons of God. That is what the New Testament ministry is for. It transforms you. It changes your vision of who Christ is and who you are. That is what produces transformation. That is what produces the building of the Church. That is what produces the maturity of the sons of God. That is what Paul was after.
For them to “Work out their salvation in fear and trembling” is merely speaking about knowing who you are in Christ and walking accordingly. If there is fear and trembling, it is not because you are afraid of God (because you are secure in Him). Rather, you are in fear that you may spoil your witness, be found in murmuring and complaining.
There was also some concern there with Phillippians about Euodia and Syntyche that had some strife, which he mentions later. These are not wolves and lorshippers. These are “grace people” who fully embrace the Gospel of grace, but someone was being tempted to move because of vanity in the flesh. It was possible to damage the fellowship. These exhortations are necessary. All of us need to heed it. But the main thing is that if you are swallowed up and murmuring and complaining and full of offense it is because you lack supply of the Spirit and you lack vision. You are walking as “mere men” because you are not discerning spiritual things and not approving that which is excellent. You are not living worthy of your calling. That is all he is talking about.
The salvation in Phillippians 2 is the same as in Chapter 1. “This shall turn out to my salvation through your petition and the bountiful supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, that as always, even now with all boldness Christ will be magnified in my body whether through life or death. For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” That is salvation – to live Christ and be “saved from yourself” and saved from your disposition in your situation and be saved so that you are actually magnifying Christ in what everyone else may say is a miserable situation. It may even just be a normal situation. You can be abased and content, and you can be abounding and content. You are able to do all things through Christ which strengthens you. That is what this book is about. That is the salvation. It is not eternal salvation from the lake of fire that Paul is speaking about but a present tense, dispositional salvation. It is a deliverance from being a person that is just walking in the flesh and judging everything according to the flesh. It is a deliverance from being offended, murmuring, and complaining, in unbelief and walking in vanity and other fleshly things.