Php 2:1-9 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, (2) Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (3) Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (4) Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. (5) 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:
An Army and A Family
We are coming to a section that is not always the most comforting to read (especially if you are under accusation). At different times in my Christian life this section bothered me because it was used in a manipulative way. The enemy loves to feed this passage to you when you are in an environment where the virtues it describes are not appropriate. Then he likes to condemn you for not exhibiting these virtues. I thank the lord that I can see this more clearly now.
In Chapter 1, Paul has been talking about their outward stand as a Church. He has been exhorting them to walk in a manner worthy of the Gospel. That is a walk of boldness, in “nothing terrified of the adversaries” (Ph 1:28), contending for and preaching the Gospel, standing fast in one spirit and with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel (Ph 1:27). This is a “militant” stance towards the adversaries. It is a strong stance; the unity of an army standing in rank facing opposition. There is suffering and conflict there as well because it is warfare. He is speaking of a militant kind of unity in the Gospel.
Chapter Two also speaks of a unity, but it speaks more to an atmosphere in the fellowship. He is speaking of the inward, environmental unity of the Church, “under the armor”. There is the armor that we are wearing to face the adversaries, but then under the armor there is our real heart. There is a unity there too in the fellowship. It is the sweet atmosphere of a family. You can be an army and a family at the same time in God’s house!
These Exhortations Are for a Certain Situation
Here he describes certain virtues which can be a source of condemnation to someone with a sensitive conscience. You may be tempted to look at these verses and says, “that’s not me at all!”
Php 2:1-2 If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, (2) Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
This sounds similar to the exhortation in chapter one where he told them to stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the Gospel. However, this is more in the living and in the fellowship. He is not talking about the fight here; he is talking about your relationships to each other where you are not dealing with the adversaries but with the family in Christ.
Php 2:3-8 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (4) Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Usually, when I have heard this taught at a Church, it starts at about verse three. “Don’t do anything through strife and vain glory but in lowliness of mind esteem everyone else better than you. Do not look at your own affairs but consider everyone else. Humble yourself….” This is always from the Pastors’ perspective. A lot of times it is presented in a manipulative way where you are told, “stop being selfish and considering your own needs when there’s so much work to be done around here.” It simply does not match your feeling. You think, “that’s not me. I do not feel any of these things. I do not think of these other people as better. They are strangers. I guess I cannot walk in love. There must be something wrong with my love-walk.”
In these situations these verses are misused to call you to unity with people that in many cases are adversaries of the Gospel! This is not what God wants. Typically, this is in a context where there is no one to stand with who is similarly equipped with the Gospel and contending for your freedom of Christ. You are all alone and surrounded by a system that pretends to be the Church, but is in opposition to the Gospel and the genuine fellowship. The system is telling you to be humble, stop thinking about yourself and walk in love towards others for the sake of unity. It is often said, “look what happened in Acts 2 when they all came together. Think what we could do if we were all united and all the petty bickering would stop! We’d have the biggest revival in the history of the world!” These exhortations are guilt trips and manipulation!
Paul is writing to people he assumes are fighting the same fight he is fighting and experiencing the same conflict that he is experiencing! They are fellow partakers with him of grace (Phil 1:7) and they are defending and contending for the Gospel. They are not ashamed or afraid in the face of their adversaries. They are bold.
Then he says, “if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort in love, and if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill my joy that you would be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord and of one mind.” In the exhortation in Philippians 1, he was urging them to fight and he talked about being of one mind. But here he is talking about being of “one love”. This is a “heart” thing and it comes out of the comfort in Christ. He says, “if there is any consolation in Christ.” The word, consolation, is based on the word paraclete which is Christ as our comforter or encourager.
When you are fighting for the Gospel if you are standing it is because Christ is comforting and encouraging you. You may not realize it because you’re so focused on the fight, but afterwards when you sit down and look back at what you did, you will say, “wow! Christ was standing with me and encouraging me through that. Otherwise I would have backed down.” Based on that encouragement, there is a comfort of love. It is not your love; it is His love for you. There are bowels and mercies, and “fellowship of the Spirit”.
An Environment Supplied from Satisfaction in Christ
This is an atmosphere of fellowship, based on the encouragement and comfort. There is an atmosphere of comforted hearts who are satisfied with Christ. Regarding “bowels of mercies”, remember he already said, “God is my witness how I long after you all in the bowels of Jesus Christ” (Phil 1:8). He is not talking about their affections. He is talking about their experience of Christ’s love now flowing towards each other. This has to be there. Do not even read on to the next exhortation if it is not. You are not in the right environment. Something is not right. So, these virtues are predicated on an environment that is supplied by the Spirit of Jesus Christ in the fellowship and each person is being comforted by the Lord.
Many people might be in the “right” environment, but they do not know how to draw from Christ as their strength yet, so they look to men to fill their needs. That is not fellowship. That is codependency. Then they tend to get mad when you do not meet those needs. It is a psychological need for a certain kind of attention. This is not why we are here. We need to weep with those who weep and comfort one another, but if you are looking for something other than Christ, I really do not have it. I am bankrupt. That is why I came to Christ in the first place.
We are learning to not come expecting to receive from people, but we learning to be comforted by Christ. As a result, we are not coming to get supply, but we are coming as supply. We know that we cannot do anything of ourselves. We know our source is Christ, not the people.
This is really important because a lot of people try to fulfill their social needs and emotional needs with so-called fellowship and it just turns into a therapy group. Eventually those things break down into strife because insecurities are not ministered to in that situation, they are actually enhanced and strengthened. It starts to dissolve into a kind of a paranoia and strife and backbiting and little side conversations about each other. That is not fellowship.
What Paul is talking about here is based on consolation in Christ for each person, comfort of love and fellowship in the spirit and bowels of mercies (Christ’s affections). Then there is a like-mindedness and having the same love as you are joined together with others who have the same comfort, same consolation, same fellowship and same affections, but perhaps to different degrees (because of growth). but we understand that Christ is the source and we are learning to lay hold of Him. That is why we are together. We want to encourage each other to lay hold of Christ. Colossians says, “holding the head, out from the whom the body grows” (Col 2:19). It is not holding each other to be built up, its holding to Christ.
Fellowship comes from the Lord, not from people, but it does spill out to people and include them. In a healthy situation you are not on the “receiving end” but the “giving end”. You come to Him and drink, and out from your innermost being flows rivers of living water. It flows out from you, not into you. This living water is already in you when you come to Him and drink. You are coming to a fountain that is already there (John 4:14).. You have access to Him Then when you are with people or when you are alone you do not need other people as your source of supply.
I am not saying, “don’t be selfish”. I am saying recognize the source of your supply. You will not receive adequate supply from people. You will receive it from the Lord, and you can have Him at any time. You are not in bondage to having to go to the temple in Jerusalem or to the mountain in Samaria or a local church; you can have Him at any time as comfort, consolation, love, fellowship and then when you come to others in that Spirit, something is flowing out of you. When you gather people out from whom the Spirit is flowing, there is a rich comforting supply that is the atmosphere of Christ in our hearts corporately (not individually). Paul’s admonition is not for the individual, this is corporate.
The institutional Church has set itself up as substitute to adulterate your affections and your heart to try to make you feel that you have to develop these virtues towards things that are not the body of Christ. Either you are compelled to give your heart to enemies of the Gospel or a system. The system substitutes for the Body of Christ, and you need to love it, forgive it, not judge it, give to it, come to it, and sit in it. The problem is that it is a system and not people. Or perhaps it is a group of enemies of the Gospel and adversaries who tell you that you are not walking in love (toward them), or you are prideful and arrogant for contending for the truth. When it comes to the adversaries, we are instructed in nothing to be terrified, and to have a militant stance toward them. You do not get the fellowship unless you are in the fellowship!
The Gospel produces the fellowship. In fact, remember in Chapter 1 he says, “you are fellow partakers of my grace because you are contending for and defending the Gospel.” You will find that it is when you contend for the truth of the Gospel that you grow and become strong in the comforts of the Lord. You really start to know the comfort of Christ and the encouragement and the fellowship of the Spirit. Then, when you come together with the saints its just a totally different atmosphere. You might be tempted to say “I’m not a Gospel preacher, so I will not experience this.” The most important person to preach the Gospel to is yourself! Every day we have to contend to believe the truth rather than accusations from the enemy. As we learn to encourage ourselves in the Lord by speaking the truth concerning what He has accomplished for us, and fight to believe this rather than anything contrary, we will experience the comforts of Christ.
The good news is that when you find the right environment (a Gospel focused environment) the Lord does bring you into fellowship with others. In that fellowship, you will find that this atmosphere that Paul is describing is there. This is not for you to measure yourself or try to figure out whether you are walking in love or humility. He is talking about a corporate atmosphere. As the saying goes, “It takes two to tango!” It takes the whole Church, or the fellowship, to produce this kind of atmosphere, and it is based on Christ. It is not based on you and what you can produce by trying to “be humble.”
This is talking about people who are satisfied with Christ. They are not trying to get satisfaction from others. They know how to come to Him, and they realize that men are all going to let them down. They learn not to expect anything from others but the testimony of Christ. They do not look to men to meet their needs. It is not because they think they are worthless, but they have learned that Christ is everything. They have the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ right now. Even your fellowship can work out to salvation through the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This is a kind of corporate salvation where Christ is magnified.
This is not to say that we do not receive those that are weak and comfort one another, but the comfort has to be based on Christ, or what do I have to give? As a family there are sometimes practical needs as well, and we should help meet those and be practical. We are talking about the core principle though, and the “root” of the church gathering. Why are we here? Some people come but they are not ultimately here for the Gospel. They are here for themselves. This is what Paul is addressing in this admonition. The admonition is not “don’t be selfish” but “realize how rich you are in Christ and let Him be a source for you!” Men will let you down, but He will never let you down.
I have found for the first time in my Christian life a number of people who are like-minded in the Gospel. We are striving together in the faith and facing adversaries. We are resisting steadfastly and not giving in. We are not taking off our armor and we are not making peace with them. Yet we also have a fellowship that is very sweet, and these virtues are just present. I see myself in this fellowship very differently than I have seen myself among Christians in the past. It is not because something was necessarily wrong with me, but because the environment was not the right environment for this kind of fellowship. There was no consolation of Christ, there was no contending for the Gospel, it was not even allowed! There was no comfort in love. There were people pretending to be loving. That is not the same thing. They were not drinking from Christ as the source. They were seeking to satisfy their flesh with each other. The Pastor was feeding himself. The worship teams were feeding themselves. Everyone else was starving. Nobody was being fed with Christ. Nobody was feeding anyone with Christ. Again, the environment is really the key. It is an environment generated from contending for the Gospel and partaking together of grace and being filled with the Spirit of Jesus Christ through the rich supply.
Even in the “right” environment, Paul still admonishes to “let nothing be done in strife and vainglory.” Strife and vainglory are much easier to put aside when the basics are there. When the fellowship is there as the base, it is easy to recognize strife and vainglory. It is easier to set things aside because you are strengthened within. However, the possibility is still there, because the flesh is still there. You still need the admonition, “every man not looking to his own things but the things of others.”
The Mind that Was in Christ
Php 2:5-8 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
Christ did not lose His glory or remove Himself from it. He essentially hid the glory in the form of a man. We know from the transfiguration that His glory was still there able to radiate out. However, he had clothed it in the tabernacle of His flesh, just like the glory in the wilderness was hidden in the tabernacle. If we could see what we are since we have been regenerated, we would see the same thing. Our glorification will be our transfiguration. The glory that God sowed into us as a seed is in us today, and will blossom in that day and our whole being will be clothed with life. The only difference is that we have sin and Jesus did not. Our flesh still needs to be crucified. It was crucified with Him, but it needs to be mortified as we walk by the Spirit (Rom 8:13).
: (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.
This is amazing. We tend to think just of His death, but we have to remember that He spent 33 years clothed in flesh, living among the common things of human life. This is the Ancient of Days who had angels ministering to Him before He incarnated. Yet He endured a whole life of human living. That boggles my mind. It is hard for me to understand. As a musician, I cannot tolerate the mundane. I always need something interesting happening. The “day in, day out” grind is what wears me down more than the fights and the drama. Especially as we know that the Lord is coming, the plodding along day by day is what seems to “kill us”. Jesus endured that. I think that is every bit as trying. Not only that, but He endured it alone with no one to fellowship with except the Father because no one would understand Him. He was rejected of men. Even the ones who wanted to love Him could not understand Him. He was totally alone, a “man of sorrows” (Is 53:3). He gave Himself over to death and this is the pattern Paul presents to us.
However, Paul does not say, “copy Him”, he says “let this mind be in you which was also in Christ.” He was in the form of God. He knew it would not be robbery to be equal with God. This was His position, even though He was in the flesh. This kind of mind comes from knowing your position in Christ.
We are not talking about false humility where you grovel because you think you are worthless. This is, “I know I’m seated in the heavenlies in Christ, and I am complete in Him lacking nothing. In the essence of what I am in Christ, I am glorious. I do not think its robbery to be considered a co-heir with Christ. I do not exercise that privilege and power. I am happy to be clothed with humanity and humility among the saints and not think only of my own things and even serve to comfort others”.
We do become a source of comfort as we admonish one another to turn to Christ and not look to us. A lot of people want to comfort others, but they want to make themselves the source of comfort and make the people who are comforted their followers. We do not want to do that. No, we are complete in Christ. We do not need something from each other. We are free.
This is a different attitude than the kind of self abasing humiliaty that says, “I am nothing I can do nothing and I’m not even worthy to be here. Sorry guys I shouldn’t have opened my mouth every time I open my mouth it’s the wrong thing to do because I’m so stupid.” This is an attitude that comes out of the realization that we are rich in Christ. We can see Jesus acting this out in John 13:
Joh 13:3-4 Jesus knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he was come from God, and went to God; (4) He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.
Jesus, knowing who He was (that the Father had given all things into His hands, that He came from God and was going to God), girded Himself and proceeded to wash the disciples’ feet. This mind comes from an acknowledgement of your position in Christ. “I’ve got everything. I do not need anything from these. I do not need their adulation; I do not need them to praise me and say great things about me. I am full of the love of Christ and I want to see them washed too!”
Undercover Boss and Pinocchio
There is a show called “Undercover Boss” where business owners will disguise themselves as employees and go and work alongside their employees. For example, if they own a chain of restaurants, they will disguise themselves as an entry level worker and get to know the people and learn how they work. It’s fun to watch them think, “I’ve got everything. Now I am learning to live like they do on their kind of wage. I know their situation and I know their needs and I know their struggle. Yet, they keep a positive attitude and come and help me learn my job and encourage me.” At the end of the show there is usually an unveiling where they reveal that they are the owner. They tell the employees how thankful they are to know them and know what they go through and often give out things like cars or scholarships for the kids to meet needs they discover while associating at that level. This is the kind of attitude we are talking about. We are talking about coming from a position of wealth and putting on the form of a servant. That comes from the comfort of the Spirit. That comes from the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. It comes from being rich already. It comes from knowing your position in Christ.
The consolation in Christ, the comfort of love, the fellowship of the Spirit and the bowels of mercies are the base. In the right environment with people who are contending for the Gospel you’ll also find the fellowship among them and find these virtues springing forth. What is amazing is that you will realize, “oh my Gosh, I’m really a real Christian!” I do not know how to describe this feeling. It is like you have been “Pinocchio” and you finally become a “Real boy”.
There are only certain environments where this thing works. When you are in a wrong environment, an adulterated environment, where things that belong to Zion are being demanded of you by your captives in Babylon, you feel like something is wrong with you. “Well, I guess I’m not a real Christian. I’m not really one of God’s people because I just don’t feel it.” No, you are in the wrong environment! You are not in Jerusalem; you are in Babylon. When you get to Jerusalem which is the place where the Gospel is contended for and where there is consolation in Christ and comfort of love and fellowship in the Holy Spirit, things will flow out of you that you didn’t even know where there. You will not realize it until you come to a passage like this. You will say, “wow, this passage you used to condemn me, but I actually recognize it in myself to a degree.” What brought it out? The fellowship.
You can say, “No, devil, I’m not the arrogant blowhard. I was contending for the Gospel back then in that environment where you were saying I was arrogant and did not love people. You caught me among my adversaries. Look how I am with my family.” Then you realize that the admonitions in the scriptures do not feel alien to you. It feels like it is describing you and your family. It is so gratifying to say, “wow, this is true!” Just as 1 John says, there is a new commandment which is true in Him and in you because the darkness is passing, and the true light now shines (1 John 2:8). As He is, so also are we in this world. That is not something that you try to do. That is something that we are.