READ PHILIPPIANS TWO
We concluded our study last week by looking at one of the primary exhortations Paul gives the believers in Philippi.
Think back on our study of the second half of chapter one. If you were to summarize Paul’s encouragement to the believers in one word, what would it be? Look back at chapter one if necessary.
Paul wants the believers in Philippi to experience unity more than anything, and chapter two is going to affirm and flesh out this desire. It’s easy as modern Bible readers to give chapter and verse breaks more credit than they deserve. While they are a helpful tool for you and I as we navigate this study (think of how hard it would be for us to have a digital Bible study without them!), they are also a modern addition to the Text. We must remember that this book is a letter – written by Paul to his friends in Philippi. As such, there wouldn’t have been a concrete break between the end of chapter one and the beginning of chapter two.
Read Philippians 1:27 through 2:11 in one cohesive reading. Read it aloud if possible. As you read, focus on Paul’s continuous exhortation to unity.
In what ways does Paul call the believers to unity in the last portion of chapter one?
In what ways does Paul call the believers to unity in the first potion of chapter two?
How are these things related to one another?
Paul desperately wants the believers to experience unity. In fact, he desires this so much that he hinges his call to unity on five things:
1) the encouragement Christ provides
2) the comfort that love provides
3) Christian participation in the Spirit
4) their own affection
5) their own sympathy
But why? How does this call to unity relate to each of these categories?
Paul is using an extreme hyperbole to call the believers to unity. We will look at the specifics of this call to unity throughout this week, but for today, let’s look at how he frames this call. Paul is using seemingly rhetorical questions that beg the answer “yes.” It’s as if Paul is asking, “Do you find any encouragement in Jesus? Then be unified. Do you find any comfort in love? Then be unified. Do you participate in the Spirit? Then be unified. Do you have any affection for me? Do you have any sympathy for me? Then be unified!”
To our ears, this might seem like a drastic statement. But why do you think Paul is tethering the believers’ unity to these things?
Each of these statements either relate to their union with Christ (their salvation) or their spiritual friendship with Paul. Paul is telling the believers that because they experience unity with God – in Christ and through the Spirit – that they should be united to one another as well. And, because they have a spiritual friendship with Paul – they have affection and sympathy for him – they should want to complete his joy. How? By being unified. Unity in community flows out of our union with Christ and our spiritual friendships with other believers.
Are there areas of disunity in your local church? Can you trace any of them back to disunity in the Spirit or a lack of spiritual friendships?
PRAY & REFLECT
Pray about areas of disunity in your own life (in your friendships, workplace, marriage, family, etc). Ask the Lord to give you a renewed vision of your union with Him. Ask Him to build your spiritual friendships in these areas. Ask Him, as a result, to build unity in areas where there is disunity.