“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”
Having expressed his great love for the Philippians for their faithfulness to his ministry, assuring them of the advance of the gospel in Rome during his imprisonment, Paul in Philippians 1 also emphasizes the importance of Christian unity. This theme of oneness carries over from chapter 1 into chapter 2 as the Apostle begins outlining how to achieve unity in the faith.
Although news of dissensions among the Christians in Philippi was likely one of the reasons Paul wrote to the church in that city, it seems that the disagreements had not reached a boiling point at the time the Apostle sent this correspondence. After all, as one commentator notes, Paul does not use severe words in his exhortation for oneness. His tone is gentle, based on his own joy and on several reassuring graces we enjoy as believers. We see, for example, his reference to the “participation in the Spirit” — that indwelling presence of the third person of the Trinity who unites us to Christ Jesus and to one another, assuring us of our salvation and comforting us in our times of need (John 14:15–17; 1 Cor. 12:13). Paul also mentions love, affection, and sympathy, those dispositions and actions that foster community by enabling us to put ourselves in others’ shoes.
Yet even though the tone of Paul’s appeal for unity is gentle, the actual theological content of what he says makes his words more exacting than they appear at first glance in the English translation of the original Greek. The “if” in Philippians 2:1 is better rendered as “since,” indicating that having one mind and one love necessarily follows everything mentioned in verse one. Since there is encouragement in Christ, comfort from the Father’s love poured into our hearts (Rom. 5:5), mutual participation in the Spirit, and brotherly affection and sympathy, there must be Christian unity grounded in love and truth. Everything mentioned in Philippians 2:1 belongs to those who enjoy salvation — comfort from the triune God (Isa. 40:1–11); the possession of the Spirit who enables us to confess that “Jesus is Lord” (1 Cor. 12:3); and affection for the brethren (1 John 4:20). Since those who belong to Christ possess such things, they strive to put dissensions to rest, and those who do not work for unity in the gospel prove that they profess their salvation falsely.
Coram DeoLiving before the face of God
Scripture often warns the people of God about those who cause dissension for dissension’s sake — people who cause problems not because they stand firm for the truth but because they are factional and generally disagreeable (Titus 3:10–11). Those who behave in such a manner reveal hearts that do not know the Lord. If we are inclined to be divisive unnecessarily, we must repent of this sin, for in so doing we prove our salvation.