By: Brent Joseph, transcribed from Live Conference in Bungoma, Kenya
Ok, well good morning, this is going to be our last time together before we depart this afternoon. I want to begin in the book of Philippians. There are a few themes and concepts in the book of Philippians that I thought would be very appropriate to end our time together. In this letter we find so much information that can be learned about being a servant. As we discussed earlier this week, the word “minister” means “one who serves others.”
Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons.
Here we do not see the designation of “apostles of Jesus Christ.” Their prestige and their honorable position in the church is not mentioned. Here, they are simply referred to as “servants.” In the opening of the other letters of Paul, he frequently refers to himself and others as apostles right from the introduction. In Philippians, that designation is left out intentionally. They are called “the servants of Jesus Christ.” The verse concludes with “with the bishops and deacons.” This is the only epistle that Paul wrote to the churches that includes bishops, deacons, ministers, or any other leadership group in the opening address. So what we can immediately learn from reading the book of Philippians, right from this first verse, Paul is trying to make a very strong point about being a servant. This was not only directed at the church, but this emphasis on service was to the bishops and deacons at Philippi.
Philippians 2:1 and 2:
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.
Paul so badly wanted the Philippians to understand the sacrifice and the denying of oneself that is required in being a servant. He wanted this not only for the church but he also wanted this understanding for the bishops and the deacons. Again, in chapter 2 verse 1 we see this word “therefore.” Verse 29 and verse 30 of chapter 1 that we referred to yesterday is specifically referring to the suffering and the conflict that the church at Philippi was enduring at this time. In the midst of this conflict, if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any ease, warmth and comfort that comes from love, and in the midst of all this conflict and the suffering that was facing the church, if there was the fellowship of the spirit and bowels and mercies (which is having compassion on one another), Paul adds to these things and says, in addition to these things, it would be better if you were also “likeminded.”
You see, the church at Philippi did have encouragement in Christ. They had comfort from love and experienced the fellowship of the spirit with bowels, or compassion in mercy. But one thing that they lacked is that they were not “likeminded.” And this likemindedness is expressed in three ways. The likemindedness is: having the same love. In addition to having the same love we are to be of one accord, and we are to be of one mind. The reason that this was difficult to accomplish in the church at Philippi is because there was a lack of self sacrifice. There was a lack of denying oneself as a servant of God in the church. Yes, they would encourage each other in Christ, they would love one another, and they enjoyed the fellowship of the spirit energized among one another. But their lack of self-denying sacrifice prevented them from being likeminded.
Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.
Paul acknowledged and recognized that the Philippians were doing many things right. He acknowledges this in verse 1. In verse 2 he shows them what they lack. The likemindedness which is evidenced by the same love, the one accord and the one mind, these three things, and then immediately in verse 3 Paul begins to show the church how to get to this likemindedness. He doesn’t just tell the church what they are doing right. He goes the step further by telling them what they lack. But he doesn’t just tell them what they lack, he goes even further, he goes beyond and tells them how to get there, how to complete what is lacking in the church.
Paul says in verse 3, “let nothing be done through strife or vainglory.” We are not going to accomplish this likemindedness as a church if we have strife. Paul even says, let “nothing” be done through strife. He adds to this, “and vainglory.” Though they had all these great qualities and characteristics in the church as mentioned in verse 1, it was this strife and vainglory that was preventing them in going the step further and fulfilling the joy of Paul mentioned in verse 2. To be likeminded we cannot strive with one another. We are not to fight with one another. Do you remember yesterday from Second Timothy? The servant of the Lord must not strive (2 Timothy 2:24). There are many occurrences in the New Testament where envy and strife are listed together as a unit. It is common for people to have strife because of envy. “Vainglory” in this verse refers to people who desire to be perceived and to be seen as a great one. Having the desire to be seen as one who is great, as one who is glorified, this mentality and the mentality of strife prevent likemindedness in the church.
The solution to strife and vainglory is lowliness of mind. With lowliness of mind we esteem the other better than ourselves. To achieve likemindedness we must have lowliness of mind and view our brothers and our sisters as better than ourselves. This state of mind and this mentality is so important for everyone in the church. This mentality could be called “the Christian mentality” or “the Christian mind.” Christians may have words of encouragement in Christ. Christians may have spiritual energizings in their church displaying the fellowship of the spirit. They may have all the characteristics in verse 1. And yet, still with all of these characteristics of verse 1, they lack the lowliness of mind and the esteeming others better than themselves, and therefore, they cannot achieve likemindedness. This is the mindset of the Christian. And it is the mindset of the Christian because it was the mind of Christ. Christ did nothing through strife. Christ himself did nothing for vainglory. Christ himself had a lowliness of mind and clearly, by way of his life and his sacrifice and the giving of his life, he esteemed others better than himself.
Philippians 2:4 and 5:
Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus.
When we all put on this mind, this specific way of thinking, and you have to put this specific way of thinking into your mind, then we are sharing the mind that was in Christ Jesus. When we are sharing the mind that was in Christ Jesus we become “likeminded.” Everybody may not agree with what is in my mind. But those who love God and love the Lord Jesus and love the Word of God, we should all be able to agree on the mind that was in Christ Jesus. And when we are all in agreement on the mind that was in Christ, and we have that thinking in our heads, at that time we become likeminded.
Then we will all have the same love because we are doing nothing through strife or vainglory. We will have the same love because we will have lowliness of mind and therefore will view each other better than ourselves. This mind is the very beginning of having “the same love.” This is not referring to just one individual having love and sharing love in the church. This is saying “the same love.” It is each member of the church having this love shared with one another because all of us having the same love is far greater than verse 1, simply referring to “the comfort of love.” And the same can be said for being of “one accord” and “one mind.” When we are likeminded because we have the mind of Christ we can then be in one accord, we can move as one man. We will have one mind because we are sharing those same thoughts that were in the mind of Christ.