VERSES1-4:  Unity of Christian Love

{If there be} therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies.”

         “{If there be} therefore any consolation in Christ,”

Literally:  “Then if {there is} any comfort in Christ.”–This, with what is said in the remainder of the verse, is designed as a motive for what he exhorts them to v. 2–that they would be of the same mind, and would thus fulfil his joy.

        IF:   (Gr.-ei)— The if” does not express any doubt here, but rather is to be considered as a strong affirmation; as there is consolation in Christ, as there is comfort of love, etc.

One would be hard pressed to find any word in which the Greek meaning and the present-day English meaning differs more than this word.  In English, “if” denotes a condition may, or may not, be true; however, in Greek, the “if” clauses as used in this verse assumes the condition to be true.  Therefore, we might read this verse to say, “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, (and there is), or possibly even, “Because there is consolation in Christ.”

        CONSOLATION: (Gr.-paraklesis)—This word literally means “encouragement,” or “exhortation.”  As used here it involves more than comfort or consolation. 

         This word is related to the one used in referring to the Holy
(Gr.-parakletos),  which means “helper,” or more literally, “the one who walks alongside.”  Sometimes the help we need is comfort, while at other items it may be conviction or rebuke.  Whatever may be the need, the Holy Spirit is able to supply it.  Because all of this is available in Christ, Paul saw this as the basis for appealing to the Philippian believers for their spiritual unity.

         What Paul may be saying here is: “I am now persecuted and afflicted. In my trials it will give me the highest joy to learn that you act as become Christians. You also are persecuted and afflicted, (vv. 28-30); and, in these circumstances, I am asking that the highest consolation may be sought; and by all that is tender and sacred in the Christian religion, I challenge you to so live as not to dishonor the gospel. So live as to bring down the highest consolation which can be obtained-the consolation which Christ alone can impart.”
         The consolation in Christ is that which Christ Himself provides.  Paul regarded Christ as the source of all comfort, and earnestly prays that they might so live that he and they might avail themselves in the fullest sense of that unspeakable enjoyment. The idea is, that Christians ought at all times, and especially in affliction, so act as to secure the highest possible happiness which their Savior can impart to them. Such an object is worth their highest effort; and if God sees it needful, in order to that, that they should endure much affliction, still it is gain. Religious consolation is always worth all which it costs to secure it.

“If any comfort of love”
Literally:  “If any consolation of love.”              If there is any comfort in the exercise of tender affection. That there is, no one can doubt. If the followers of Christ, by giving proofs of their ardent love to each other in cases of distress, alleviate the sufferings of the persecuted.  Since the comfort (encouragement or consolation) of love is available, this too is a basis for spiritual unity.

         Our happiness is almost all centered in love.  It is when we love a parent, a wife, a child, a sister, a neighbor, that we have the highest earthly enjoyment. It is in the love of God, of Christ, of Christians, of the souls of men, that the redeemed find their highest happiness.
         Hatred is a passion full of misery; but love is an emotion full of joy.  By this consideration, Paul appeals to them, and the motive here is drawn from all the joy which mutual love and sympathy are fitted to produce in the soul. Paul would have that love exercised in the highest degree, and would have them enjoy all the happiness which its mutual exercise could furnish.

        LOVE: (Gr.-agapēs)—This word emphasizes an act of the will whereby the individual seeks the highest good of another. 

Even though there might be matters in the local church that Christians might be in disagreement about, they were responsible to seek each other’s highest good in whatever they did.  This kind of love produces comfort, or consolation, and thus honors Christ.

        “if any fellowship of {the} Spirit”–If there be an intimate relation established among all Christians, by their being made mutual partakers of the Holy Ghost.

        FELLOWSHIP:  (Gr.-koinōnia)–means that which is common to two or more; that of which they partake together (1:9; Eph. 3:9).  This is fellowship that has its origin in the Holy Spirit, the One Who brings about spiritual unity. Partnership in the Holy Spirit “whose first fruit is love” (Gal. 5:22).

         The idea here is that among Christians there was a participation in the influences of the Holy Spirit, and that in some degree, they shared the feelings, views, and joys of the Spirit Himself; and that this was a privilege of the highest order. By this fact, Paul now exhorts them to unity, love, and zeal, so to live that they might partake, in the highest degree, of the consolations of the Spirit.
         It seems that the one real danger which threatened the Philippian church was that of disunity.  In a sense, that is the danger of every healthy church.  When people are really serious, and their beliefs really matter to them, then they are in their greatest danger of coming into conflict.  The greater their enthusiasm, the greater the danger of collision.  It is against this danger that Paul is attempting to set up safeguards among his friends.

“if any bowels and mercy,”
Literally:  “if any tenderness and compassions”–Resulting therefrom; any tender affection towards each other.

If you, as persons whom I have brought to God at the hazard of my life, feel sympathetic tenderness for me now, in a farther state of suffering.

         Whereas today it is common to regard the heart as the seat of emotions, in Biblical times the bowels, which included the upper intestines, the heart, the liver and lungs, was considered to be this.  The Greeks believed this to be the location of the emotions and affections. Paul here is saying, “If there is any affectionate bond by which you are united to me, and any regard for my sorrows, and any desire to fill up my joys, so live as to impart to me, your spiritual father and friend, the consolation which I seek.”
         Paul was appealing to the affections that the Holy Spirit had placed within the believers in regard to other believers.  Thus having a concern for others is one of the great indicators that a person is in a right relationship with Christ. The believer who has no concern for others is a carnal Christian (I Cor. 3:3), for he is living to satisfy his own fleshly desires rather than seeking to please Christ by being considerate of others.

“Fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love,
[being] of one accord, of one mind.”

After stating the basis for spiritual unity, Paul now appeals to the believers to fulfill his joy by expressing the unity in specific ways.

         “Fulfill ye my joy,”

Literally:  “Fulfill my joy.”–You ought to complete my joy, who have suffered so much to bring you into the possession of these blessings, by being like-minded with myself, having the same love to God, His cause, and me, as I have to Him, his cause, and you. Paul appealed to these believers to fulfill his joy by expressing their unity in some specific ways.

        FULFILL:  (Gr.-plerōsate)—“Fill full; complete.”   Paul's cup of joy will be full if the Philippians will only keep on having unity of thought.  Fill up my joy so that nothing shall be wanting to complete it. This, he says, would be done by their union, zeal, and humility. Comp. Joh 3:29.

Paul took joy in these believers, and wanted them to fill his joy full by evidencing their spiritual unity.  The thought seems to be to “fill full” or “complete” his cup of joy, which is already almost running over, by their many manifestations of love toward him, and he goes on to name some way that they could do this.

        JOY: (Gr.-charan)—This is a word that Paul uses often in this letter to the Philippians, even though he was writing from a Roman prison.  He was able to have joy even in the midst of such adverse circumstances because he knew that God was going to accomplish His perfect will.  Also, he was thrilled with the response of the Philippian believers, but he urged them to fill his joy full by displaying spiritual unity.

“that ye be like-minded,”
Literally:  “That you think the same.” This is in the Greek perfect tense, which denotes continuous action.  Paul was exhorting them to continue thinking alike.  Perfect unity of sentiment, opinion, and plan would be desirable, if it could be attained. It may be, so far as to prevent discord, schism, contention, and strife in the church, and so that Christians may be harmonious in promoting the same great work-the salvation of souls. (See II Cor. 13:11).

“having the same love,”–That is, love for the same objects, and the same love one for another. Though their opinions might differ on some points, yet they might be united in love (cf. I Cor. 1:10).  

Having the same love,” and “being like-minded,” are so closely related that it is really impossible to conceive of how there could be unity in thinking if they did not posses the same love,  for as the believers made it a way of life to seek each other’s highest good, they would also have unity in thinking.

[being] of one accord,”
Literally:  “One in soul;  having your souls joined together.”  The word used here does not occur elsewhere in the N.T.  It means a union of soul; or an acting together as if but one soul actuated them.

        OF ONE MIND: (Gr.-to auto phronēte)—Literally: “Thinking the one thing; minding the same thing.”

Paul is using a great variety of expressions to express the same thing. The object which he was aiming for was union of their heart, of feeling, of plan, of purpose. He wished them to avoid all divisions and strife; and to show the power of religion by being united in the common cause. Probably there is no single thing so much insisted on in the New Testament as the importance of harmony among Christians. Now, there is almost nothing so little known; but if it prevailed, the world would soon be converted to God  (John 17:21).  Faced with the danger of disunity, Paul has set down four considerations which ought to prevent disharmony in a local church
1.      The fact we are all in Christ should keep us in unity. 
         No one can walk in disunity with other believers and in unity with Christ
2.      The power of Christ’s love should keep us in unity. 
Christian love is the unconquered goodwill which never knows bitterness and never seeks anything but the good of others.  It means an unconquerable goodwill even to those who hate us, to those whom we do not like to those who are unlovely.
3.      The fact that they share in the Holy Spirit should keep Christians from disunity. 
The Holy Spirit binds individuals to God, and thus to one another.  It is the Spirit Himself Who enables us to live the life of love, which is the life of God; if we live in disunity with others, we thereby show that the gift of the Spirit is not ours.
4.      The existence of human compassion should keep people from disunity. 
As Aristotle said long ago, human beings were never meant to be snarling wolves, but were meant to live in fellowship together.  Disunity breaks down the very structure of life.


{Let} nothing {be done} through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind [let] each esteem each other better than themselves.”

{Let} nothing [be done] through strife”
Literally:  {Doing} nothing according to party;  rivalry spirit.” –The italicized words are not in the original Greek text. See v. 2), "Thinking nothing in the way of strife" (or rather, “factious intrigue,” or “self-seeking.”). It is the thought which characterizes the action as being good or bad before God.

Never be opposed to each other; never act from separate interests; for you are all brethren, and of one body; therefore let every member feel and labor for the welfare of the whole. And, in the exercise of your different functions, and in the use of your various gifts, do nothing so.  True humility doth not consist in lowliness of expression, but in lowliness of mind and opinion: not the man that speaks meanly of himself, but he that thinks so, is the humble man.

        STRIFE: (Gr.-eritheian)—This has the sense of “selfish ambition.” This word was used by Paul in Gal. 5:20 as he listed in some of the works of the flesh:  idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife (eritheian), seditions, heresies.”

         Believers who pursue selfish ambition are carnal Christians (see I Cor. 3:3–“for ye are yet carnal:  for whereas {there is} among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?”  This command of Paul’s forbids us to do anything, or attempt anything, as the mere result of strife.
         This is not the principle from which we are to act, or by which we are to be governed. We are not to form any plan, and aim at any objective, which is to be secured in this manner. The command prohibits all attempts to secure anything over others by mere physical strength, or by superiority of intellect or numbers, or as the result of dark schemes and plans formed by rivalry, or by the indulgence of angry passions, or with the spirit of ambition.


There is always the danger that some might work not to advance the work, but rather to advance themselves.  We are not to attempt to do anything merely by outstripping others, or by showing that we have more talent, courage, or zeal. What we do is to be by principle, and with a desire to maintain the truth, and to glorify God.
1.      And yet how often is this rule violated!

2.      How often do Christian denominations attempt to outstrip each other, and to see which shall be the greatest!
3.      How often do ministers preach with no better aim!
4.      How often do we attempt to outdo others in dress, and in the splendor of furniture and equipage!
5.      How often, even in plans of benevolence, and in the cause of virtue and the faith, is the secret aim to outdo others.

This is all wrong. There is no holiness in such efforts. Never once did the Redeemer act from such a motive, and never once should this motive be allowed to influence us. The conduct of others may be allowed to show us what we can do, and ought to do; but it should not be our sole aim to outstrip them. Comp. II Cor. 9:2-4.

“or vainglory;”
Literally:  “Or self-glory.”— It means, “empty pride,” or “empty glory,” and is descriptive of vain and hollow parade and show.  “Strife,” and “vainglory,” are actually closely related because believers who pursue selfish ambitions really achieve only an empty glory.

        VAINGLORY:  (Gr.-kenodoxian)–This word occurs nowhere else in the N.T., though the adjective form (kenodoxos), which means, “vain pride,” does occur once in Gal. 5:26.

         The idea here is mere self-esteem; (“fleshly” or egō), a mere desire to honor ourselves, to attract attention, to win praise, to make ourselves uppermost or foremost, or the main object. The command here solemnly forbids our doing anything with such a purpose, no matter whether it be in intellectual attainments, in physical strength, in skill in music, in eloquence in song, in dress, furniture, or religion. Self /is not to be foremost; selfishness is not to be the motive.  
         EGO is a very interesting little word, with a powerful meaning.  It is used in both Latin and Greek, and it has the same meaning in both languages–it means:  “I Am.”  It is interesting because this is the same name that God told Moses was His Name (Exodus 3:14).  In the KJV we read Moses asking whom should he tell the Children of Israel had sent him to lead them out of Egypt.  The reply that he got from was God was: “And God said unto Moses, ‘I AM THAT I AM…”  Then God continued and said, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, ‘I AM hath sent me unto you.”
         The serpent told eve that if she did eat of the forbidden fruit, “That you should be as gods”—that you should be as the I AMi.e., that you should be as the EGO.  And ever since people have been striving toward that same end–to be like the great EGO; to be  like, “I Am,”  to be as God. Another interesting fact about this word EGO is that it makes a very interesting (and most telling acrostic):


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       Prestige for many people is an even greater temptation than wealth. Far too many preachers fall to this temptation of being known as a “big name” preacher–to be admired and respected; to have a seat on the platform; to have one’s opinion sought; to be known by name and appearance:  the temptation of prestige.  But the aim of Christians ought not to be self-display, but self-obliteration.  We should do good deeds, not in order that others may glorify us, but that they may glorify our Father in heaven.  We should focus people’s eyes on Christ, not on ourselves. There is probably no command of the Bible which would have a wider sweep than this, or would touch on more points of human conduct, if it were fairly applied.
1.      Who is there who passes a single day without, in some respect, desiring to display himself?
2.      What minister of the gospel preaches, who never has any wish to exhibit his talents, eloquence, or learning? 
3.      How few make a gesture, but with some wish to display the grace or power with which it is done!
4.      Who, in conversation, is always free from a desire to show his wit, or his power in argumentation, or his skill in repartee?
5.      Who plays at the piano without the desire of commendation?
6.      Who thunders in the senate, or goes to the field of battle; who builds a house, or purchases an article of apparel; who writes a book, or performs a deed of benevolence, without altogether uninfluenced by this desire?  If all could be taken out of human conduct which is performed merely from “strife,” or from “vain-glory,” how small a portion would be left!

“but in lowliness of mind”
Literally:  “But in humility.” Have always an humbling view of yourselves, and this will lead you to prefer others to yourselves; for, as you know your own secret defects, charity will lead you to suppose that your brethren are more holy, and more devoted to God than you are; and they will think the same of you, their secret defects also being known only to themselves.

        LOWLINESS OF MIND:   (Gr.-tapeinophrosunēi)—Is rendered as “humility” in Acts 20:19, Col. 2:18, 23; I Pet.. 5:5; “humbleness,” in Col. 3:12; and “lowliness,” in Eph. 4:2.  This Greek word is not found in the O.T. (LXX) or early Greek writers. 

The word here literally means “humility,” and it stands opposed to that pride or self-valuation which would lead us to strive for the ascendancy, or which acts from a wish for flattery or praise. The best and the only true correction of these faults is humility. This virtue consists in estimating ourselves according to truth.  It is a willingness to take the place which we ought to take in the sight of God and man; and, having the low estimate of our own importance and character which the truth about our insignificance as creatures and vileness as sinners would produce, it will lead us to a willingness to perform lowly and humble offices that we may benefit others.

[Let] each esteem other better than themselves.”
Literally:  “Esteeming one another to surpassing themselves.”  Comp. I Pet. 5:5. This is one of the effects produced by true humility, and it naturally exists in every truly modest mind.

        ESTEEM:  (Gr.-hēgeomai)—has the meaning of “think, consider,” or “regard.”  This was Paul’s way of telling them that they should put others first in all of their relationships.  In I Cor. Paul shows the affect on a church when it is filled with self-seeking Christians.

        SURPASSING: (Gr.-hyperechō)–This denotes the element of superiority, for it means “to surpass,” or “to excel.”  The Christian who is in a right relationship with Christ, treats others as if they were his superiors. 

When He was on earth, Jesus told His followers:  “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:  even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:27-28).


“Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”

These words are closely linked to those in the previous verse.

         “Look not every man on his own things,”
         Literally:  “Each not looking at the things of themselves.”–That is, do not be selfish.

Do not let your care and attention be wholly absorbed by your own concerns, or by the concerns of your own family.  Display a tender interest for the happiness of the whole, and let the welfare of others lie near your hearts. This, of course, does not mean that there is to be any improper interference in the business of others, or that we are to have the character of "busy-bodies in other men's matters,
1.      Do not let your care and attention be wholly absorbed by your own concerns, or by the concerns of your own family.
2.      Do nothing through self-interest in the things of God; nor take to yourselves gifts, graces, and fruits, which belong to others.  

You are all called to promote glory of God and the salvation of men. Work for these, and every one shall receive the honor that comes from God; and let each rejoice to see another, whom God may be pleased to use in a special way, acquiring much reputation by the successful application of his talents to the great work.

        LOOK:  (Gr.-skopeite)-Literally: “looking, fixing the attention upon, with desire for or interest in.””  Not keeping an eye on the main chance for number one, but for the good of others.

“but every man also on the things of others.”
Literally: “But each also the things of others.”–It is the duty of every man to do this. No one is at liberty to live for himself, or to disregard the wants of others. The object of this rule is to break up the narrow spirit of selfishness, and to produce a benevolent regard for the happiness of others.

In respect to the rule we may observe:
1.      We are not to be “busy-bodies” in the concerns of others.We are not to attempt to pry into their secret purposes.
        a.      Every man has his own plans, and thoughts, and intentions, which no other one has a right to look into. 
        b.      Nothing is more aggravating than one who meddles in the concerns of others.
2.      We are not to insert our advice where it is not sought, or at unseasonable times and places,   even if the advice is in itself good.
         No man likes to be interrupted to hear advice; and we have no right to require that another should suspend his business in order that we may give him counsel
3.      We are not to find fault with what pertains exclusively to him.
         We are to remember that there are some things which are his business but  not ours
4.      We are not to be gossips about the concerns of others.
5.      Where Christian duty and kindness require us to look into the concerns of others, there should be the utmost delicacy.

The believer who is living in fellowship with Christ is not self-centered but rather has a genuine concern for others.  It is contrary to one’s basic nature to be concerned for others, inasmuch as the old nature, the adamic nature, is selfish.  But the one who has trusted Jesus Christ as Savior is to be characterized by a genuine concern for others, and that concern will have an impact on non-Christians.  Rather than promoting himself, the believer is to be genuinely concerned about others and to promote their interests.  Because this is so different from human nature, such an attitude will be a witness to unbelievers.

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