READ PHILIPPIANS TWO
Today we’re going to study Philippians 2:14-18. I’ve previously read these verses as the “practical tips for spiritual living” portion of Paul’s letter. These verses and commands have always seemed a bit out of the natural flow of the chapter, which makes the commands feel a bit forced in my reading of them. But today, we’re going to look at how they fit into the whole of the book – both in their immediate context and in the context of the overall theme of spiritual friendships.
First, let’s break down what Paul is saying in these verses (particularly 14-16).
What does Paul want the believers to do?
Why are they to do it?
How should they do?
How does this relate to Paul’s primary exhortation in 2:1-11?
More than anything, Paul wants the believers to experience unity in Christ. One of the ways that they will practice this is by doing everything without grumbling or disputing. Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to have unity in a group when you’re grumbling about the task at hand? Even more so when there are disputes! Paul wants the believers to lean into their union with Christ and so experiencing unity in the body.
And he tells them why: so that they will be “blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” As they practice unity, they will stand out! They will be markedly different from the world, and that difference will point the world that doesn’t know Christ TO Christ. Why? Because unity can only stem from union with Christ.
Paul tells them how to do this: by holding fast to the word of life. The Word of God will be their source of unity, their source of strength to push back their own tendencies to grumble and dispute. They will hold fast to the Gospel of God – their shared inheritance.
How does this passage challenge you? What areas does it encourage you to grow spiritually in light of yesterday’s challenge to take responsibility for your own spiritual growth?
Paul concludes this short passage by reminding the believers of all that he has sacrificed on their behalf. If Paul’s life were a cup, everything he has is being poured out before the Lord as a drink offering. A drink offering in the Old Testament was similar to a burn offering – it was freely offered up to the Lord as a sacrifice. Paul has given all his fullness, been poured out on behalf of the believers around the region (including the Philippians) that they might know Christ and walk in Christ. And Paul is saying this: if you walk in the unity of the Spirit it has all been worth it.
Can you think of anyone in your life who sacrificed greatly that you might know Christ? Can you think of any historic figures who did this so that others might know Christ?
PRAY & REFLECT
Thank God for those he has put in your life and in our communal history who gave much that we might know God. Ask Him to drive you towards unity today as you seek to push back your own tendencies to grumble or dispute by the help of the Spirit.