COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others”(Phil 2:3-4. NKJV)
The Holy Spirit never takes our faith for granted, and neither can we. Even though the Philippian church had conducted itself commendably, and“from the very first” participated in the Gospel, yet they were admonished. The reason for this circumstance is apparent: believers do not live in a moral vacuum. They are regularly subjected to influences that tug at their hearts, luring them away from the Savior. Seeking to impart his own nature to us, the devil entices us to live with ourselves at the center of our consideration. The Spirit, however, contends against Satan, urging us to enlarge our vision to include the brethren with whom we have been united by faith.
SELFISH INTERESTS AND CONCEIT
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit . . . ” (NASB). The world fosters selfishness–that is what of its unvarying traits. Our introduction to the devil finds him tempting Eve to consider only herself, ignoring the Word of her Creator (Gen 3:1-6). The KJV translates the word, with even more clarity, as “strife.” The idea is that of RIVALRY, which is devastating to any congregation. It occurs when people are zealous to maintain their own opinions, even to the point of disrupting the “unity of the Spirit” (Eph 4:1). If believers allow themselves to depart from being “of one mind,” their separate interests will cause strife within the body. The Lord has a single focus, and so must His people. The Spirit will develop this extensively by an in-depth exposition of the mind of Christ (verses 5-8).
One of the traits of love touches on this subject. “Love . . . does not seek its own” (1 Cor 13:5). In Christ, we have been liberated from the domination of self, or the flesh. The principle by which faith constrains us to live is stated in Second Corinthians 5:16. “He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.” All of our personal interests are met in, and satisfied by, the Lord Jesus Christ. All of the sectarianism and dissension that arise in the Christian community are due to someone promoting self-interests. The Spirit does not allow for some expression of selfish concerns within the body of Christ, but strongly admonishes, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition” (NIV).
All of us must remember that Eve fell because of selfishness. Cain also slew Abel due to the same corrupt drive. Satan cunningly tempts believers to shine the spotlight on themselves, seeking their own interests. But God will not allow it. He has held out His Son as the preeminent Person, having exalted Him “above every name that is named”–“FAR ABOVE” (Eph 1:21).
“Empty conceit” is vainglory, or taking pride in the flesh. The Lord does not allow such boasting in His Presence, and it is not to be allowed in the church. The Law of the Kingdom is, “that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor 1:29). Apart from Jesus Christ, “all the glory of man [is] as the flower of the grass” (1 Pet 1:24). Any and every achievement wrought independently of Christ Jesus is destined to futility. It will not be able to survive the ultimate confrontation of the Living God. The only validity that may be found in our persons or accomplishments is found in “the grace of God” (1 Cor 15:10). That is a truth that cannot be effectively contested.
The admonition of this verse is a declaration of war against the flesh. It is a Divine renunciation of the “natural man” (1 Cor 2:14). That is the source of all carnal contention. The fact that we are warned about such intrusions indicates we will have to struggle with them. This is an area where we can expect our adversary to be especially active: “strife and vainglory,” or “selfishness and conceit” (RSV). Conceit is another term for arrogance, egotism, pride, and vanity. It is glorying in what CANNOT survive the end of the world. Such boasting is a dreadfully corrupting influence that pulls men into the quagmire of condemnation and alienation from God. Resolve that such encroachments will not come through you.
HUMILITY OF MIND AND REGARD
“ . . . but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself” (NASB). Humility of mind differs greatly from a mere appearance of humility. True humility is found in how we think. From one point of view, it is simply acknowledging the truth about ourselves. I particularly like the KJV on this verse. It refers to “lowliness of mind.” That assists us in recognizing humility is the oppositive or pride, or having exalted and pretentious views of ourselves.
Notice, there is a single remedy put forth for the infections just mentioned (strife and vainglory). It is “humility,” or “lowliness of mind.” This is a view of ourselves that acknowledges we had to be saved from the course we had chosen. The words and deeds that flowed from ourselves had to be forgiven, because God was not their object. Whatever good is in us has been placed there by our Lord. If His Laws is in our hearts, it was written there (Heb 8:10). If anyone is ever tempted to “think of himself more highly than he ought to think” (Rom 12:2), let him ponder the reality of the case for a moment.” Every advantage we now hold is owing to the working of the Lord. Stated succinctly, “But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God”(1 Cor 6:11). “Lowliness,” or “humility of mind,” is living in thankful and joyful acknowledgment of that reality.
Still, the Holy Spirit elaborates further. “Lowliness of mind” is esteeming oneself as less than others. Someone has said, “Every one has in himself the mind of a king, by claiming everything for himself.” This was the spirit that dominated Cain (1 John 3:12), Herod (Matt 2:13), and Diotrephes (3 John 9). Unless we fight against this mind-set, it will also dominate us.
This is too difficult for the flesh. Considering others better than ourselves is not something that is to occur occasionally, at some unusual moment, or while we are especially tender. This is the normal pattern for believers. The Lord does not call us to occasional humility or to seasons of grandeur.
If we are tempted to think there are deep concerns that cannot be met unless we make ourselves the center of attention, we must believe the Word.“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you”(1 Pet 5:6-7). We have not been cast upon the sea of life alone. God Himself seeks our betterment, and takes up our cause.
This is not a mere passing thought, but a frame of mind that causes us to be mindful of our brethren, and doing good “unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:10). In spiritual love, or regard, we “serve one another” (Gal 5:13). It compels us to “consider one another” (Heb 10:24), even before ourselves. For those who live by faith, it is no inconvenience to seek the welfare and edification of the people of God. Nor, indeed, are we put back if required to “feed” their “enemy when he is hungry, and “give him drink” when he is thirsty (Rom 12:20). If anyone is to be placed into the background, let it be ourselves! Thus will the Lord Himself come to our aid, minister to our needs, and exalt us in due time.
LOOKING OUT FOR OTHERS INTEREST
“ . . . do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” (NKJV). Both ourselves and others have “interests,”or “own things” (KJV). These are not incidental concerns, hobbies, or the likes. This is a frame of spirit that majors on correcting our faults, and being a source of blessing to others. Flesh reasons to the contrary, seeking to correct the faults of others, while lifting up self. This is exactly how our adversary, the devil, conducts his affairs. He not only sought to exalt himself (Isa 14:14), but is the “accuser of the brethren” (Rev 12:10).
The NKJV captures the sense of the text when it says “merely look.” Those in Christ Jesus do not ignore their own needs. Indeed, they are admonished to “Provide things honest in the sight of all men” (Rom 12:17), and “provide” for those of their “own house” (1 Tim 5:8). Their lives, however, are not confined to themselves. They do not live in a small world that centers in their own needs and interests.
The word “look” indicates more than a passing glance. Just as we do not occasionally consider our own needs, so we are not to ponder the needs of others only now and then. Faith is not seasonal! There is a sense in which God’s people are dependent upon one another. As it is written, “so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another”(Rom 12:5). Take, for example, the necessity of speaking “truth” to one another–always speaking with an eternal perspective. The reason for doing this is simply stated. “Therefore, putting away lying, Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Eph 4:25). God has placed us in Christ so that we may be a blessing to each other. If, however, we consider our own interests above those of our brethren, we cannot be an advantage to them. The Lord does not honor such a preference.
This frame of mind is stated another way in 1 Peter 5:5. “Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Submissiveness to one another includes receiving needful admonitions and teaching from others. It is not, however, confined to that type of activity. It also includes submitting our personal needs to those of our brethren. This is, of course, the very thing that occurred when Jesus considered us above “being equal with God,” a subject that is expounded in the following verses.
What are some of the “interests” of our brethren? For what kind of opportunities are we to be alert and watchful? A brief sampling will suffice. Edification (Rom 15:2). One overtaken in a fault (Gal 6:1). Need of food or clothing (James 2:16). Ministration of comfort (2 Cor 1:4). Those over us in the Lord (Heb 13:7,17,24). Brethren that are oppressed (Heb 13:3).
In all of these matters, and more, we are not simply to await some news about the saints, but to “LOOK” upon their interests, seeking to be used by God to meet them. This is something that cannot be legislated–that is the Spirit employs exhortation. We must see that our involvement in this sort of consideration brings us within the circumference of Divine utility–that is, it puts us where God can use us. Thus, we will become a blessing.