Philippians on Friday: Unity’s Blessings and Benefits

Thanks for joining me for our Philippians on Friday devotion. Today we’re moving on to chapter two!

Philippians 2:1–2: 1If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (KJV)

Unity_TreatedChapter two opens with an appeal by Paul for unity among the Philippians. Paul knows all too well the negative impact that disunity and strife have in the church. He’s admonishing them to be likeminded, to love one another and to be of one accord and one mind. As we saw in chapter one, Paul had personally experienced the hurt and pain caused by Christian “brothers” who opted for personal gain and notoriety at the expense of Paul and unity within the church. Paul wants the best for the Philippians and he knows that unity in the church will invite an outpouring of God’s blessings.

The wording in the King James version can be a little difficult to understand. Let’s take a look at it in the NIV:

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Paul begins his appeal for unity by asking a series of questions. He isn’t asking them because he or the Philippians don’t already know the answer. They are rhetorical questions. The answers are obvious:

Is there any encouragement from belonging to Christ?

Is there any comfort from His love?

Is there any fellowship together in the Spirit?

Is there any affection and compassion in your spirit?

The answer to all the questions is clearly, “Yes!”

Paul is using a series of rhetorical questions to drive home the point that there is encouragement, comfort, fellowship, and love found in Christ. And how are those things brought out and experienced to the fullest? – Through love and unity among believers.

Paul is asking if these things can be found in Christ.  The answer is obviously, “Yes!” And how are they experienced? By being:

“likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.3

When the church is in unity and agreement, loves one another and is working together with one mind and purpose, then all the encouragement, comfort, fellowship of the Spirit and love of Christ is accentuated. The opposite is certainty true as well. Disunity will undermine and erode the joys of the Christian life.

Paul also reminds the Philippians that their unity in the church will bring him joyPhilippians as well. He said to “fulfill ye my joy” by being of one accord and one mind. When a church is working together in unity, it brings joy to the pastor and spiritual leaders of the church. Few things burden a pastor or are more taxing on his peace of mind than a church that is full of strife and division. And it goes to reason that if unity among the Philippians, brought Paul joy then unity in the body of Christ causes our Lord joy! Let’s fulfill our spiritual leaders joy by nurturing unity within our local church. Let’s fulfill our Savior’s joy by promoting unity in the body of Christ!

Not only does disunity and strife erode our joy, the joy of our spiritual leaders and the Lord’s joy, it makes enduring suffering so much more difficult. 

There’s another encouraging truth in this passage that is easily overlooked. Paul is connecting the end of chapter one with his call to unity in chapter two. He begins chapter two with the word “therefore.” Remember, he has just finished up chapter one by talking about suffering. He lets the Philippians know that, as followers of Christ, they will suffer for the cause of Christ. Then he starts chapter two with, “Therefore….”

It’s much easier to keep a good attitude during times of adversity and suffering when you are experiencing the blessings that come from unity with the body of Christ. It is the encouragement from belonging to Christ, the comfort from His love, the fellowship together in the Spirit, and the affection and compassion of our brothers and sisters in Christ that enable us to endure suffering. Imagine how difficult it would be to endure suffering without having the strength that comes from being unified with other believers!

Not only does disunity and strife erode our joy, the joy of our spiritual leaders and the Lord’s joy, it makes enduring suffering so much more difficult. It makes it nearly impossible to keep a good attitude during affliction. It’s like Paul is telling the Philippians:

You are going to suffer for Christ – make sure you stay in unity with your brothers and sisters, because that’s how you’ll make it through your tough times!  That’s what will bring real encouragement and comfort.

I’ve seen many Christians, pull away from the body of Christ or local church and isolate themselves when going through difficulties. That is the worst thing you can do during times of suffering. When we are going through tests and trials we need the body of Christ all the more – we need the strength of our local church all the more!

I’m out of time for today. Next week we’ll look a little deeper and see that Paul actually tells us how to have unity in the body. He gives us the recipe for unity – a recipe so needed in this day where division, strife, and disunity are not only rampant in our world, but ever encroaching in the church.

Until next week,

~Matthew Ball

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