Unity can be hard to maintain in the church. How do we get past our differences, let alone our grievances? How do we avoid the patterns that threaten to tear us apart? In Philippians, Paul teaches the church how to preserve real and lasting unity. In one sense, the letter to the
Philippians is an extended thank you note from the apostle to a group of Christians he loves with all his heart. He has shared a relationship of affection and mercy with them.
Paul also tells them that he is not only well, but that he is rejoicing. Because of his imprisonment, the gospel is going forward. And the believers in the Philippian church can learn from his example and rejoice in their own sufferings. In chapter 1:27, he tells them to “stand firm in one spirit – striving side by side with each other for the gospel.” “Don’t break ranks,” he says to them. “Furthermore, your refusal to be divided will be a clear sign to your enemies that they cannot win, but rather that the gospel will prevail.”
Then in chapter 2:1-2, he says, “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.”
Towards the end of this passage, the word “same” is repeated twice. Paul mentions the “same mind” and then the “same love.” Then he adds the phrase, “full accord,” meaning, “you are in complete unity with each other.” After that, the phrase “one mind” is simply a restatement of the idea of “same mind.” Paul is telling them, “Think the same way. Be unified. Be in step with each other.” In Ephesians 4:3-6, which appears as a parallel passage, he says, “maintain the unity of the Spirit…”
Notice that the Spirit has already brought a unity that binds all true believers together and we are to safeguard that unity. People need to do all they can to not break what the Holy Spirit has already established. So, when Paul wants to encourage the Philippians in their love and unity for one another, he reminds them of four great truths they have already experienced (according to Philippians 2:1):
• Encouragement in Christ
• Comfort from heartfelt love
• Participation in the great work of the Holy Spirit to reach the lost for Christ
• Compassion and mercy for those who were most severely afflicted “Since these things are yours,” says the apostle, “Now make my joy complete.” He wants to hear these four things being said about this church.
Did you notice that unity comes to us when we are about the Master’s business? When evangelism and advancing the gospel becomes our focus, unity is maintained. Personal holiness becomes a necessity. Furthermore, were it not for the power of the Spirit, we would be defeated in an instant! It is only when believers understand this truth, are motivated by the same purpose, and are willing to pay the ultimate price together, that real unity actually begins to happen.
APPLICATION: Pray for the unity of your church. Strive for this unity by relying fully on the Holy Spirit. Pray that He would draw us towards one another, bringing unity out of a common focus and desire.
DID YOU NOTICE THAT UNITY COMES TO US WHEN WE ARE ABOUT THE MASTER’S BUSINESS?
Dr. John Neufeld
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