COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (Phil 2:1,2. NKJV)
In Christ Jesus there are spiritual realities that are only apparent to faith. When ministering to the saints, men of insight consistently draw attention to these verities, calling upon believers to focus upon them, and occupy their minds with a consideration of them. The reason for this action is apparent: they have a sanctifying affect upon the soul. When these unseen verities dominate our thinking, we are lifted higher, and enabled to live in a manner consonant, or in harmony, with heaven. Only then do proper attitudes and expressions become pleasant, and therefore doable. This is a sort of Kingdom secret that is not at all common in our time.
CONSOLATION AND COMFORT
“Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love”(NKJV). Here are two Kingdom realities that are indispensable to living by faith. Note, two effects and two causes. The affects are “consolation” and“comfort.” The causes are “Christ” and “love.” The affects are experiences–conscious experiences. They are ministries for the household of faith. Other versions translate the expressions “encouragement in Christ” and“consolation of love.”
By saying “If there is any . . . ” the Apostle is not suggesting there may not be such a thing. It is a rhetorical way of saying, It is abundantly evident there IS consolation in Christ and comfort of love–therefore, we should proceed with the ministration and reception of it.
This is not the statement of a theological position, but an appeal for the Philippians to continue their ministry to Paul while he is in prison. The humility of the Apostle is seen in this text. His lofty position in the Kingdom did not exclude him from the ministry of God’s people.
Some, basing their opinion on possible meanings of the word translated “consolation,” say this is an appeal, or exhortation: i.e., If there is any exhortation or strong attraction in Christ. Young’s literal translation takes this view. The strength of the passage, however, is neutralized by this view.
“Consolation in Christ” refers to encouragement, cheer, and inspiration. It involves the gathering of strength under duress, and the lifting of the human spirit in conflict. It is true, God has given us “everlasting consolation” in Christ Jesus (2 Thess 2:16). However, that consolation, or encouragement, is often ministered THROUGH the people of God. The fatigued human spirit is refreshed and renewed by the consistency of those to whom that individual has ministered. That is the point of Paul’s words. The spiritual constancy of the Philippians would bring refreshment to Paul. That is one of the indispensable benefits of being “in Christ.” This speaks of the REALM of consolation, which is Christ.
“Comfort of love” also addresses the matter of consolation, relief, or solace. This phrase, however, emphasizes the MEANS through which the balm is ministered–“Love.” This occurs when the life of Christ finds expression in the believer–when the child of God has a preference for God and the people of God. In this case, the devotion of the Philippians to Christ and His salvation moved them to faithfulness. It also constrained them to consider Paul, and do their best to minister to him. Those expressions brought relief to Paul’s spirit. They reduced the hardship he was experiencing, and made him equal to grievous circumstances laid upon him.
There is no way to accurately estimate the adverse affects unfaithfulness and inconsideration have upon the servants of God. Many a soul has nearly fainted because of the meager efforts of professed believers with whom they labored. But this need not be the case. Great “consolation,” encouragement, and renewal, can be ministered through consistent believers. Those who live with an acute awareness of Christ, and who express their devotion in thoughtful and considerate love, bring great advantage to Kingdom laborers.
FELLOWSHIP, AFFECTION, AND MERCY
“ . . . if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy” (NKJV). These are Kingdom realities that are indispensable to the faith-life. They are not luxuries to be experienced by a select few, but common graces provided for all who are in Christ Jesus. The language of the text confirms this to be the case. By saying, “If there is . . . ,” the Apostle is saying: The sure existence of these things makes what I am saying possible.
“FELLOWSHIP OF THE SPIRIT” refers to our union with Deity. Elsewhere, this is called “the communion of Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:14), and points to Divine involvements with the redeemed. In this “fellowship,” the work of the Spirit is the preeminent work. He sheds the love of God abroad in our hearts (Rom 5:5), making us capable of serving God and ministering to His people. The “fellowship of the Spirit” is the means through which God“abides in us” (1 John 3:24). This is how we are brought into the work of the Lord, and equipped to bring encouragement and edification to the saints. The“fellowship” is enjoyed by both the Spirit and ourselves.
“AFFECTION.” The KJV translates this “bowels.” That is an archaic term that means “the seat of pity, tenderness, or courage.” It goes much deeper than the ordinary perception of “affection,” which means fondness, attraction, or strong feeling. The Holy Spirit uses the word to identify a CAPACITY for preference and attraction, and the DOMINANCY of that capacity. It does not lie on the surface of feeling, which is not at the heart of our persons. Other uses of the word are found in 2 Cor 6:12, Phil 1:8, Col 3:12, Phile 7,12,20, and 1 John 3:17. It deals with our “hearts,” or the deepest part of our persons. In this text it means a strong heartfelt preference for God and the people of God. It is a reality granted in the new birth.
“MERCY.” The word means pity and compassion, or godly consideration. It is the capacity to tenderly and effectively minister to God’s people when they are oppressed. “Mercy” is a more noble and higher emotion. It is not simply doing something, like casually offering a gift. It proceeds from a heart that has seen a need, and has a fervent desire to meet it in the power of the Spirit. It also implies tenderness, where great care is taken not to complicate the condition of the oppressed. It should be apparent that this is a Divine quality, enjoyed by those in Christ Jesus.
The people of God must learn to reckon upon the reality and availability of the mentioned resources: “Consolation in Christ,” “comfort of love,” “fellowship of the Spirit,” “affection,” and “mercy.” All of them come from God. All have to do with the new creation. All are experienced by faith. We cannot meet the need of our brethren through fleshly means. The “flesh,” or that which is natural about us, is impotent when it comes to giving the advantage to the people of God.
We must perceive and grasp the manner in which Paul wrote. He counted on Divine resources being employed by the saints, and exhorted them with this in mind. He did not simply urge them to be better and work harder. Rather, he enclosed his exhortation in the envelop of Divine provision, calling upon the Philippians to think in terms of what they had in Christ.
WHEN JOY IS FULFILLED
“ . . . fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind” (NKJV). The Apostle was NOT brought to his highest state by convenient and pleasant personal circumstances. If this were the case, he would have asked the Philippians to pray for his release, for merciful guards, and an understanding political ruler. While he would surely have received such benefits thankfully, he did not place the highest priority on his own welfare. His heart was brought to its most joyful state when the people of God were growing in grace and truth. The maturity of the work of the Lord made his joy full, bringing it to its highest level. To put it another way, the failure of the people of God to grow up into Christ in all things contributed to Paul’s sorrow, and made life more difficult (2 Cor 11:28). It should be apparent that this is an exceedingly rare frame of mind.
As the Philippians drew upon the resources made available in Christ, the desired results would occur. When Paul said, “If there be any . . .” he was saying, these are the things that will produce my desire for you.
Even though there is diversity in the body of Christ, it is not divided. There is a vast difference between diversity and division! Division involves competition, conflict, and opposing views and action. Diversity speaks of differing activities that blend together to meet a common objective. Thus we read, “For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another . . . For as the body is one and has many members, but all the members of that one body, being many, are one body, so also is Christ” (Rom 12:4-5; 1 Cor 12:12).
“Like-minded,” “same love,” “one accord,” and “one mind” have to do with working toward a common goal or objective. The latter three expressions are an explanation of the first one (“like-minded”). Being “like-minded” does not mean we merely believe the same thing, or embrace the same creed. It goes deeper than that! It is much like clocks of different looks and sounds all sounding the hourly chime at the same time. They sound different, they look different, but they are in synch with one another. In our text, that unity is preeminently with the Lord Jesus Christ. That is what produces the desired conditions “same” and “one.”
“Same love” addresses the focus of our affection. “One accord” speaks of simultaneous and united effort. “Like-minded” (Rom 15:5; Phil 2:20), refers to the manner in which the believers think. They are all motivated by their love for Christ and the truth. They work together because they are engaged in a common effort. They are like-minded because the same considerations dominate their minds.
These conditions would bring Paul’s cup of joy to its fulness. It would confirm the effectiveness of his work, and the validity of the Philippians profession. All of this was God’s work, in which Paul found great delight.
Behold what a ministry our spiritual maturity can have! Many a Kingdom laborer, fainting under oppression, may be revived by hearing of our like-mindedness, same love, and being in one accord.