- Lesson 5 in the BaptistWay Press Connect360 unit “Pure Joy” focuses on Philippians 2:1-4.
Opponents, unbelievers who held to a mixture of Jewish and Christian customs, began to infiltrate the church. As the Apostle Paul charged the believers at Philippi to be brave, not shying away for even a moment so these opponents would supernaturally sense their coming destruction, he describes the present condition of the Philippian church (1:27-30). His depiction of the church reveals an atmosphere of bewilderment because of his imprisonment and doctrinal diversity. Such challenging times, in any community, can cause people to surrender core beliefs and selfishly look out only for their own benefits. Such was the case in the church of Philippi as Paul penned words of deepest challenge. How do the believers find comfort?
As Paul reflects on the Philippian church members’ vulnerability in the face of enemies internal and external, he first makes a heartfelt plea in the form of a heart-wrenching question. He asks, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ” (2:1)? How can Paul ask such an intrusive and offensive question—the equivalent of asking if a brother has any thought of comforting his sister? The structure of the question in verses one and two is that of an “if-then” model. The “if-then” pattern assumes the answers to the statements to be “yes,” with Paul rendering the intrusive questions in order to grab the attention of the believers. Paul asks, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ [and, yes, there is], any comfort from love [and, yes, there is], any participation in the Spirit [and, yes, there is], any affection and sympathy [and, yes, there are] (2:1), [then] complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (2:2).
Continuing struggle for unity
The Philippian church members likely have a degree of encouragement (solace in Christ), comfort (supporting one-another), participation (partnership in the Spirit), affection (the language in which the text originally was written says, “warm bowels of mercy”), and sympathy (pity), yet they continue to struggle for unity. In daily living, the believers in the Philippian church likely witnessed wonderful examples of care interrupted by episodes of pride by well-meaning individuals. Pride was the fly in the soup, spoiling the whole experience. Indeed, pride—the most chameleon of attitudes—can trick its purveyor into believing he or she is helping the fellowship when actually Christ’s love flows best through humble hearts. Believers must think twice before pointing a cold finger at anyone, for the Spirit brings this fellowship into being (2:1), not human pride or careless striving.
Love, participation, affection and sympathy are the qualities that solidify familial bonds and bring Paul’s great joy. However, these believers’ bonds of family trust were tested. This has tested Paul’s joy as well. Thankfully, churches, like families, can endure if they are willing to come together in unity of mind (2:2). Paul wants believers to become one-souled, minding one purpose.
Compiled by Stan Granberry, marketing coordinator for BaptistWay Press.
To learn more about BaptistWay Press and the Connect360 Bible study series, or to order materials, click here.