The Situation: There were apparent conflicts and divisions in the church at Philippi. In Philippians 2:1-11, Paul urges believers in Christ to consider two facts that should form the basis and motivation for their unity:
- Their union with Christ and Fellowship with the Holy Spirit.
- The example of Jesus Christ
- Union with Christ and fellowship with the Holy Spirit (vv.1-4)
Believer’s union with Christ and fellowship with the Holy Spirit should be the real cause for christian unity. This divine union brings blessings to the body of Christ. As a matter of fact it should make Christ-followers to:
- Be like-minded, and agree with one another (certainly this does not mean uniformity of thought but plurality and diversity with overarching a singular goal and purpose).
- Have same love.
- Be one in spirit and purpose.
- Act not out of selfish ambition but in humility.
- Look not only at self interests but also interests of others.
A question for reflection: Why is it that in most cases our union with Christ and fellowship with Holy Spirit does not help us much as Christians in bringing unity in churches and society today? A good question for another day…
2. The Example of Jesus Christ (vv. 5-11)
Apostle Paul points out the example of Jesus Christ as the motivation and model for our unity. In Christ we see attitudes that bring true unity. Following Christ means living just as he lived.
Here are three attitudes that build/bring unity:
A). Attitude of Humility– Jesus Christ was in the very nature God but gave up his prerogatives due to his unselfishness. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). This attitude made Jesus to consider humanity in their helpless estate and to offer himself as a sacrifice and ransom for the salvation of many.
He took human body/nature without ceasing to be God; setting aside the right to his glory and power.
An attitude of humility will enable us set aside our rights and privileges in order to serve others.
Jesus implored, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matt. 11:28).
B). Servant Attitude– Christ had a servant attitude. He came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as ransom for many, Mark 10:45. Servanthood came out of his love. As true servant he (temporarily) emptied himself (kenosis)of many things, for example:
- He gave up his riches-he became poor (2 Cor. 8:9).
- The Glory (Jn. 17:4, 5).
- He gave up some of the joy of heaven, to become a ‘man of sorrows’ and familiar with weakness (Isa. 53:3).
- He gave up his omnipresence for the geographical limitation of time and place.
- He gave up the separation of sin and misery; which is part of life in heaven.
- He came in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering Romans 8:3. Although sin was alien to his nature, He became sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21).
- He gave up his immunity from temptation so as to be tempted in every way. He learned obedience through what he suffered (Heb. 5:8).
- Taking the very nature of a servant, a person who has no rights at all.
- He became servant of all yet remained a master.
Believers should have/develop an attitude that makes them servants after Christ. Paul wrote, “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Eph. 5:1-2).
C). Attitude of Submission– Jesus Christ submitted himself to carry out the will of the Father. In his attitude of submission he became obedient to death- even death on a cross! Of course, he had within his jurisdiction, divine powers to unleash whatever fate he chose to those who crucified him; but he submitted himself to the will of the Father.
Jesus was humble, submissive, and obedient.
These are attitudes that build relationships and bring true unity. They are winning attitudes. It is what made Christ: to be exalted to the highest place, and be given a name above every name. The name that every knee will bow and every tongue shall confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. We should pray God for grace to constantly develop these attitudes.