St. Paul had already much joy in contemplating the spiritual prosperity of the Philippians ( Philippians 1:4 ). One thing only was wanting to make that joy complete. There was some danger lest a spirit of faction should creep in and mar the family unity of the Church, especially among the women ( Philippians 4:2 ). If this danger were averted and harmony established, the joy of the apostle would be full
I. BROTHERLY UNION IS THE CROWNING GRACE OF THE CHURCH . Many other graces may be attained before this is realized—knowledge as in the Corinthian Church, a faithful martyr spirit as in the Philippian Church. But the chief grace is brotherly love. The idea of the Church is essential to Christianity. The gospel does not simply offer individual salvation and call to isolated missions. It brings men into a family and unites them in close bonds. The ideal Christian is not the lonely hermit, but the large-hearted, sympathetic, social man. Close union, however, is only possible on conditions of deep sympathy. We may differ and yet be at peace while we live apart, with sufficient "elbow-room" for our several crotchets. But Church fellowship necessitates internal harmony for the maintenance of peace. Intellectual unity, unity of thought, is impossible to thinking men. The essential unity is unity of purpose and of sympathy—the one mind and the one love. Christians above all men must realize the duties of a democracy—how to subordinate private ends to the general good, how to yield individual opinions in obedience to the general voice of the community. Party spirit, personal ambition, self-will, domineering self-assertion in the leaders, and obstructive self-assertion in the rank-and-file, are the dangers that threaten such communities as were founded by the apostles. Only a spirit of love can conquer them.
II. GREAT CHRISTIAN MOTIVES URGE US TO BROTHERLY UNION .
1 . Our living union with Christ. "Any comfort"— i.e. practical experience, help, grace of fellowship—"in Christ." Christians are united together through a common union with Christ. Connection with the Head leads to harmonious co-operation of the members of the body.
2 . The blessedness of love. It is found to be a joy, a strength, and a comfort. In trouble and persecution especially it is happy and helpful to unite our individual feelings in love one to another.
3 . The fellowship of the Spirit. The one Spirit of God that inhabits the whole Church is a mystical bond of union and inspiration of love.
4 . Natural affection. "Tender mercies and compassions," which are natural to humanity, are never so well employed as in Christian brotherhood.—W.F.A.
If there be therefore, any consolation in Christ . Mark the fervor of the apostle. ὅρα πῶς λιπαρῶς πῶς σφοδρῶς πῶς μετὰ συμπαωείας πολλῆς (Chrysostom). He appeals to the Christian experience of the Philippians; if these experiences are real, as they are; facts verified in the believer's consciousness; not talk, not mere forms of speech,—then fulfill ye my joy. Consolation ; perhaps "exhortation" is the more suitable rendering in this place: if the presence of Christ, if communion with Christ, hath power to stir the heart, to stimulate the emotions, to constrain the will. If any comfort of love; comfort springing out of love. Love is the subjective result of the presence of Christ as an objective reality, and with love comes comfort. If any fellowship of the Spirit . If the indwelling of the Holy Ghost be true, a felt reality in the Christian life. Not, as some understand, "If there be any fellowship of spirit among themselves." If any bowels and mercies . Bowels (see note on Philippians 1:8 ), the seat of the feelings of compassion; mercies, those feelings themselves. The pronoun "any,'' according to the reading of all the best manuscripts, is masculine singular; the word "bowels," being neuter plural εἴ τις σπλάγχνα If St. Paul really wrote thus, we must suppose that the warmth of his feelings suddenly led him to substitute σπλάγχνα for some other word originally in his thoughts. "Under any circumstances," says Bishop Lightfoot, "the reading εἴ τις is a valuable testimony to the scrupulous fidelity of the early transcribers, who copied the text as they found it, even when it contained readings so manifestly difficult."
Exhortation to unity.
I. St. PAUL 'S ERNEST DESIRE FOR THE UNITY OF THE . PHILIPPIAN CHURCH .
1 . He desires that unity because he loves them. His happiness is bound up with their spiritual welfare. "Fulfil ye my joy," he says; he had learned to look upon the things of others; his deepest joy depended, not on his own personal comforts, but on the spiritual progress of those whom he loved. The remembrance of the Philippians ( Philippians 1:3 , Philippians 1:4 ), the thought of their Christian love, brought joy to his heart. He asks them now to fulfill his joy, to increase , to complete it; and that not by gifts (gifts they had sent again and again), but by living together in holy love, by keeping "the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
2 . He desires that unity because Christ desires it. He longed for the Philippians "in the bowels of Jesus Christ." His life was Christ, "Christ liveth in me," he said; therefore he loved with the love of Christ, and Christ prayed for the unity of the Church. That unity (the Lord Jesus said) should be the mark and badge of his disciples ( John 13:35 ); it should be the means of leading the world to believe in his mission, in his gospel ( John 17:21 , John 17:23 ).
3 . He shows the earnestness of his desire by dwelling on the thought of unity. He repeats his exhortation again and again. "Mind the same things," he says; have the same motives, the same desires, the same circle of thoughts. Have the same love; set your love on the stone Lord Jesus Christ; regard for his sake with a common love all who are called by his Name. Let your souls be knit together in a similarity of affections, wishes, feelings. Let the central thought, the aim of your lives, be one; the one thing needful, the excellency of the knowledge of Christ.
II. THE MOTIVES WHICH SHOULD URGE CHRISTIANS TO FOLLOW AFTER UNITY . These are to be found in the inner experiences of the Christian life.
1 . The indwelling presence of Christ. That presence stimulates, quickens, encourages. It is the life of the Christian soul; and that life is diffused through all the members of the out body, through all the branches of the one Vine. Their spiritual life is one; unity aids its development; discord checks its growth.
2 . The felt comfort of Christian love. Love is the bond of unity; the mutual love of Christians binds together the Christian Church. the truest joy springs out of love. Love comforts, blesses with a holy joy, the heart that entertains its sacred influences. The experience of the blessedness of Christian love should draw Christians nearer to one another in ever closer union.
3 . The gift of the Spirit. The one Holy Spirit of God, in whose gifts and graces all in varying degrees participate ( 1 Corinthians 12:4-12 ), knits together all the members of Christ into one communion and fellowship. The presence of that one Spirit in each individual Christian constitutes the inner unity of the Church. That inner unity should find its natural expression in outward agreement.
4 . The tender feelings of the Christian heart. The life of Christ in the soul, the presence of the blessed Spirit, lead the disciple to imitate his Lord, to learn of him tenderness and compassion. St. Paul asks the Philippians to show their love, their compassion for him by living in unity. If these spiritual truths are real facts to you, he says, verified in your own experience, fulfill ye my joy; be one in spirit and in heart.
III. UNITY IMPLIES HUMILITY . It is pride, self-conceit, that leads to strife and debate; avoid party spirit, avoid vain-glory.
1 . Party spirit ( ἐριθεία ) is one of the works of the flesh. ( Galatians 5:20 .) Party spirit arrays men in factions against one another; they think more of their party than of Christ, more of party triumphs than of the progress of the gospel. This evil tendency soon found a place in the Church. Christians began early to say, "I am of Paul, and I of Cephas." "Is Christ divided?" St. Paul asks in indignant sorrow; there is one body in Christ.
2 . Humility is essential for preservation of unity. Vain-glory must be wholly excluded f rom the motives and thoughts of the true Christian. Human ambitions are empty and vain; the one true ambition is to please God. We are ambitious ( φιλοτιμούμεθα ), says St. Paul ( 2 Corinthians 5:9 ), to be well-pleasing unto him. It is vain-glory that distracts the Church and rends the body of Christ. So far as it intrudes itself into the motives, it destroys the truth and inner beauty of the religious life. Humility is a Christian grace, a product of Christianity. The example of Christ has shed a halo round a word which to the heathen spoke of meanness and cowardice . Holy Scripture has taken it and filled it with a new and blessed meaning; it suggests to the Christian the deepest piety, the inmost reality of personal religion. Humility lies at the very basis of the Christian character. "Blessed are the poor in spirit," is the first of the beatitudes. There is no true holiness that is not grounded on humility; for "God giveth grace to the humble." Therefore "let each esteem other better than themselves." The highest saints feel and own themselves to be the chief of sinners. The nearer they draw to the Sun of righteousness, the more clearly they see their own guilt and unworthiness. "He that abaseth himself shall be exalted." Hence the value of St. Paul's rule to esteem others better than ourselves. We are templed to magnify our own virtues and the faults of others. True wisdom reverses this. We are to consider others, not for self-exaltation, but for self-abasement. We are to look on our own faults to correct them, on the good points in others to imitate them.
3 . True humility i mp lies unselfishness. T he Christian must not put himself first; he must not regard his own wishes, his own interest, as the one thing to be thought of. He must consider the feelings of others, their desires, their wants. Only true humility will enable him to do this. But it is a hard lesson; there is need of more than words; there is need of a strength not our own; there is need of the stimulating influence of a great example.
1 . Learn to search your heart for the realities of Christian experience; you will find them there, if you are indeed living in fellowship with Christ.
2 . Pray for grace to feel real joy in the religious progress of others.
3 . Endeavour to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 . Be on your guard against party spirit and vain-glory. Strive to be first in humility and self-abasement; it is the secret of Christian joy and Christian growth.
It seems strange that the apostle, knowing the difficulty of getting a thousand minds to agree in the reception of intellectual truth, should yet counsel them to seek a unity of opinion. There is nothing strange in the fact when we consider how much the intellect of man is influenced by his moral nature.
I. THE NATURE AND CONDITIONS OF THIS LIKE - MINDEDNESS . "That ye be like-minded, having the same love, with accordant souls minding the one thing."
1 . It must include a certain intellectual agreement as to matters of doctrine. It is not possible to understand what may have been the diversity of opinion on points of doctrine which made this counsel necessary. The Philippians are not censured for heresy; but the apostle knows that the "men of the concision" are not far off, and the warning to keep to "the sound doctrine" is neither premature nor unnecessary.
2 . It includes an agreement as to methods and aims. There were symptoms of jealousy, leading to quarrel, manifest in the conduct of two ladies of this Church ( Philippians 4:2 ), and it is difficult to say how far these women, holding an influential place in the little community, may have disturbed its unity.
3 . It implies an agreement working along the lines of a common love. Love is a bond—"the bond of perfectness"—just as hatred separates man from man. It produces that harmony of feeling and interests that leads to unity of service.
II. THE TRUE GROUNDS OF THIS LIKE - MINDEDNESS . "If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies." The apostle grounds his appeal to the Philippians upon their undoubted possession of certain spiritual experiences.
1 . "Consolation in Christ." What stores of consolation are in Christ! "I will not leave you comfortless."
2 . "Comfort of love." Love has comfort in it, especially when it has a sure resting-place.
3 . "Fellowship of the Spirit." This fellowship involves "the fellowship of the Father and the Son," and carries with it all the experiences and fruits of the Spirit ( Galatians 5:22 , Galatians 5:23 ). It involves unity as one of its essential ideas.
4 . "Bowels and mercies." A tender and compassionate spirit is helpful to unity.
III. THE MINISTER 'S JOY PROMOTED BY THE LIKE - MINDEDNESS OF HIS FLOCK . "Fulfil ye my joy." As nothing so depresses the mind of a minister as intellectual or social dissensions among the members of his flock, so his joy is fulfilled alike in their unity of thought and in the harmony of their feeling and affection.—T.C.
Paul has been speaking of the gifts of faith and of suffering which the Philippians had received, and now he proceeds to state further the practical outcome of the Christian spirit. It is really an altruism of a more thorough character than that provided by the schools. We have altruism paraded at present as the high outcome of that morality which is independent of God. But there is no consideration of the case of others so broad or so deep as that which is secured by the gospel.
I. THE FOUNTAIN - HEAD OF A CONSIDERATE SPIRIT IS THE GRACE OF JESUS CHRIST , (Verse 1.) We are not asked in this matter to go upon our own charges; God does not, like an austere man, expect to reap where he has never sown. So far from this, he only looks for consideration of conduct towards others from those who have received "comfort in Christ," "consolation of love," "fellowship of the Spirit," and "bowels and mercies." These are the forerunners of the true altruism. And they amount to this, that God has led the way in consideration. His gospel means that in the person of Jesus Christ he has not looked on his own things, but on the things of others. It is Divine altruism. It is the seed of disinterestedness sown in a kindly soil, and it is sure to produce a harvest.
II. THE UNITY OF THE PHILIPPIANS WAS THE JOY OF THE APOSTLE . (Verse 2.) He made it a matter of personal comfort to secure unity of mind and of heart among his converts. If we laid the unity of believers thus to heart, how we would use all lawful means to bring it about! Are we not open to the charge sometimes of living too self-containedly, so that when unity is broken we are not inconvenienced and pained by it as a Paul would have been? Christian union should be made by each one of us a personal concern: let us with Paul say honestly, as we urge men to see eye to eye and feel as heart to heart, that in so doing they are fulfilling our dearest joy!
III. LOWLINESS OF MIND MUST BE THE ANTIDOTE AND DEATH OF STRIFE AND VAINGLORY . (Verse 3.) Nothing so separates souls and breaks the unity of spirit as vainglorious strife. Competition, be it ever so generous, cannot be tolerated in the Church of God, except it Be competition for the lowest place and the severest service. The competition for the chief seats in society, in the world's market, in the sphere of power, is always prejudicial to the Christian spirit and the unity which comes from Heaven; But the competition which contemplates the severest service, the lowliest ministrations, the most humiliating role, is wholesome, Christ-like, Divine. Now, this lowliness of mind which esteems others Better than ourselves can be secured only by severe self-scrutiny in the light of God's Word, above all, in the light of Christ's perfect life. Then our sins and shortcomings become appalling, and we walk softly before the Lord. On the other hand, no such knowledge of our neighbor's sins and shortcomings is open to us; we judge him so charitably as to esteem him above ourselves, and so we sit in the independence begotten of humility. No longer do we complain of any lot God gives us; we accept it as better than we deserve; and in the panoply of humility we are safe from all assault.
IV. WE CAN THUS MAKE PUBLIC SERVANTS OF OURSELVES IN THE TRUEST SENSE . (Verse 4.) We hear a good deal of "public men," as they are called. They profess to serve the public, but the most of them, while professing to serve the public, are suspected of serving themselves. With some of them the public spirit is doubtless genuine, and they do serve their sovereign and country with singleness of heart. But the gospel is the great means in God's hand of making men and women the servants of others. Since Jesus came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many, many have learned to make the welfare of others their chief care. And so Christian consideration and charity break forth on the right hand and on the left. Men and women thrust themselves into work for others which can have no selfish aim or selfish issue, and the world becomes "Paradise restored." We are not right in heart until we thus are made public servants by the dynamic force of the Christian spirit. The law of love regulates us and carries us out of the narrow circle of personal interests into the broader one of the common weal. We sacrifice much to serve others. "We stoop," and think nothing of the effort, "to conquer" souls and circumstances in the interest of Christ. We have got unmoored, and are out to sea, where we have room and are in no danger from the lee shore. It is the life of real liberty which we secure when we look no longer on our own things, but have an eye for those of others.—R.M.E.
Exhortation to unanimity and humility.
I. HE APPEALS TO PHILIPPIANS BY FOUR COMMON ELEMENTS IN THEIR COMMON CONFLICT TO FULFIL HIS JOY .
1 . By the comfort there is in Christ. "If there is therefore any comfort in Chris The connecting word has reference to the duty which was enjoined in the twenty-seventh verse of the last chapter, and is again enjoined in the second verse of this chapter. But there is also reference to the circumstances under which unity is enjoined. They were enduring the same conflict at Philippi which Paul had once endured at Philippi, and was then enduring in Rome. Under circumstances of common conflict, what had they to fall back upon, and by which they could appeal to each other? It is this which leads to the introduction of the subject of comfort. Some would substitute exhortation for comfort." But "comfort" is certainly the word appropriate to the occasion, and the following of it up in the second clause by a word of similar import only serves to emphasize the tone of the appeal. The form of the appeal is noticeable. It is under a supposition, being simply, "If any comfort in Christ." He knew that he was touching a chord to which there would be a ready response on the part of the Philippians. Any comfort in Christ? Yes; that was the quarter to which he and they in common looked for comfort. As oppressed by the troubles of this life and the question of our destiny, we need to be comforted. All the comfort that philosophy affords amounts to this—that such is the constitution of things, that we must bear what we cannot mend, that complaining only makes our case worse. In Christ there is this all-sufficient comfort, that, from his own experience of suffering, he can enter sympathetically into the suffering of each soul, and, while for good ends he may see fit to continue it, he undertakes to support under it and to make it productive of good. As Christians they had a right to expect and to ask of each other a conveyance of the Master's sympathy with them in their afflictions. Paul extended loving thought, as from the Master, toward the Philippians in their conflict; and it was his desire that they should extend loving thought as from the Master toward him.
2 . By The consolation of love. "If any consolation of love." In the previous clause the idea was that they were to take of what was Christ's and show it to each other. The idea here is that they were to take of their own love and show it to each other for consolation. They had a common hate from the world; the antidote for that was the refreshing influence of mutual love. Paul would have the Philippians in their conflict know, for their consolation, that they were loved by him; and he looks to them to let him know in his conflict, for his consolation, that he was loved by them.
3 . By the fellowship of the Spirit. "If any fellowship of the Spirit." They were partakers of a common life of strength, of gladness, of hope in the Spirit. As thus alike favored of the Spirit, they were bound to make it their aim to promote their common life. He was prepared to do his utmost for the Philippians, that in their conflict they should partake more largely of the strong, glad, hopeful life of the Spirit; he locks to them to do their utmost, so that in conflict he shall have reciprocity in the same life.
4 . By tender mercies and compassions "If any tender mercies and compassions.'' The first seems to point to tender feelings confined to the heart; the second to tender feelings going out in compassion to others in their need. Paul was no stranger to tender feeling and compassionate yearning toward the Philippians in their conflict; he wishes to have from them in his conflict reciprocity in the same luxury. "Fulfil ye my joy." What they had a right to ask of him, he, in the exercise of his right, asks of them. They had given him joy in the past; it was not yet made full. Let them from the common source fill up his joy.
II. HE ASKS THEM TO FULFIL HIS JOY BY ATTENTION TO TWO DUTIES .
1 . Unanimity. "That ye be of the same mind." This has been explained as thinking, willing, and seeking the same thing.
2 . Humility.
III. CHRIST THE GREAT EXAMPLE OF HUMILITY .
1 . Humiliation.
2 . Exaltation.
Genuine socialism apostolically urged.
"If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love," etc. Notice—
I. GENUINE SOCIALISM . Man is a social being, and his normal social condition is unity. Society is one body, and all men are members thereof, all animated by one life, and contributing to the good of the whole. This is the social ideal; but.. he alas! sin has created a schism. Instead of unity there is a division everywhere, and the divided parts become antagonistic. The mission of the gospel is to remedy this and to restore to perfect social unity. This unity, we infer from the text, includes three things,
1 . Harmony of feeling to one another. "That ye be like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." Having noticed this point in the preceding article, we have only to repeat that the harmony can only be realized by all having the one same object of reigning love. Two men, however different in the kind and measure of native talent, in the nature and measure of information, in the degree of culture, in the character of their opinions and beliefs, are indissolubly united in soul if their greatest love is centred in the same object. So of any number. The design of the gospel is to center all men's love on God in Christ. There is no other way of producing this harmony; no theological system, no ecclesiastical organization, no legislative enactment can do it; it is simply by this love that it can be done.
2 . Humility of deportment among one another. "Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." "This verse expresses the negative result of this unity of soul—that nothing will be done in strife, that is, factiousness (the word used in Philippians 1:17 ), or 'vain-glory;' nothing, that is, with the desire either of personal influence or of personal glory. For, he adds, each will esteem other better than himself, or rather, will hold that his neighbor is worthy of higher consideration, and a higher place of dignity than himself (compare the use of the word in Romans 13:1 ; 1 Peter 2:13 , of temporal dignity), for the idea is of the ascription to others, not of moral superiority, but of higher place and honor. Self-assertion will be entirely overborne. So he teaches us elsewhere that 'charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own' ( 1 Corinthians 13:4 , 1 Corinthians 13:5 )" (Dr. Barry). The proud, the haughty, the supercilious, are not only the disturbers or' social unity, they are the destroyers of it. According to the law of souls, they loathe and recoil from all arrogance and pretension in others, hence the exhortation, "Let nothing be done through strife or vain-glory."
3 . Generous concern one for another. "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." This does not mean, of course, that you are to neglect your own things. There are things that every man must attend to for himself—his own physical health, intellectual culture, etc., he but it means that we are not to attend to our own things chiefly , and in such a way as to neglect the concerns of others. There is no real antagonism between the interest of self and the interest of others; on the contrary, we can only secure our own individual well-being or happiness by promoting the interests of others. It is only as men become generously engrossed in the interests of others that they can realize their own individual happiness and perfection. The man rises only as he becomes self-oblivious; thus Paul felt, "I am crucified with Christ, never-the-less I live." The ego must be swallowed up in the non-ego—the spirit of universal benevolence. This is genuine socialism, and it is here urged by—
II. APOSTOLIC PERSUASION . "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be like-minded." "There are here four influencing motives to inculcate the four Christian duties corresponding respectively—that ye be like-minded, having the same love, of one accord, of one mind.
1 . 'If there be [with you, as I assume] any consolation in Christ,' i.e. any consolation—but Ellicott, to avoid tautology, 'comfort' following, translates ( parakless ) 'exhortation,' Romans 12:8 —of which Christ is the source, leading you to console me in my afflictions borne for Christ's sake, ye ought to grant my request.
2 . 'If there be any comfort of [ i.e. flowing from] love,' the adjunct of consolation in Christ.
3 . 'If any fellowship of [joint participation of] the Spirit' ( 2 Corinthians 13:14 ). As 'pagans' meant those who were of one village and drank of one fountain, how much greater is the union which conjoins those who drink of the same Spirit ( 1 Corinthians 12:4 )!
4 . 'If any bowels [tender emotions] and mercies' ('compassions,' Corinthians Romans 2:12 ), the adjuncts of fellowship of the Spirit. The first and third mark the objective sources of the Christian life—Christ and the Spirit; the second and fourth, the subjective principle in believers. The opposites of the two pairs into which the four fall are reprobated in Romans 12:3 and Romans 12:4 " (Fausset). A man like the apostle would not have urged this true socialism with such mighty earnestness had he not been impressed with its importance; and what can be of greater importance than this unity among the race? For this Christ prayed the night before his death, "that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us."—D.T.
Exhortation to unity:
I. 1 . What consolation ( or , exhortation ) is there in Christ without this desire ? What growth in the knowledge of him or in union with him?
2 . What comfort of love ? How can the royal law of love of the brethren be fulfilled without this?
3 . What fellowship of the Holy Spirit ? It is the office of the Holy Ghost to bind together. How can we be partakers of him unless he is working in us his peculiar work?
4 . What tender mercies and compassions ? Even natural loving-kindness prompts the desire for unity.
II. How much nearer to unity should we be if all who profess to love the Lord Jesus would dwell on these points, rather than on the points about which they differ!—V.W.H.