Sermon Summary - Love One Another - Philippians 2:1-4
We are called not only to see the beauty of the gospel of Christ, but also to take that and let it overflow to others, especially within the body of Christ. Paul appeals to the Philippians’ (and thus our) vertical experience with God through Jesus Christ (Phil. 2:1), and instructs them to allow that experience to drive them to prefer one another in love. Paul appeals to four aspects of our Christian experience. He appeals first to the encouragement we receive from our union with Christ. He then appeals to the comfort we receive from Christ’s love toward us (comfort of love). Next is the fellowship of the Holy Spirit who dwells within us. And last is the affection and mercy we receive from God.
In verse 2 (Phil. 2:2), Paul tells the Philippians to take the vertical experience of verse 1 and lay it out horizontally toward each other. The main thing is that they have the same mind. This means they should have the same love for one another as the love they have received from Christ. Secondly, they should be in full accord with one another, which means unity as opposed to division. And they should also be of one mind, having one core purpose. In verses 3 and 4 (Phil. 2:3-4), Paul spells out how they are not to have an attitude of rivalry, competition, selfish ambition, conceit, or “vain glory”. The whole letter of Philippians is about glory (Phil. 1:11, 2:11, 3:19, 4:20), so now he says to do nothing from vain glory or conceit. To act that way is in stark contrast to the purpose of the gospel, which is the glory of God. Instead, we should in humility count others more significant than ourselves. We should look to the interest of others, which is a rephrasing of the golden rule (see also 1 Cor. 10:24, Rom. 12:16). And this is to be regardless of societal status, IQ level, or skin color.
So what is it to love each other with affection and treat each other as better than you would yourself? Clearly it is not just actions and external doings, but also includes internal motivations and heartfelt dispositions. The command in Rom. 12:9 that love should be genuine implies that it’s possible to have a love that is not really genuine. The outward manifestations of love and inward affections go hand in glove. This is part of sanctification. God works on our selfish and hard hearts, but he does it from the ground of our justification in Christ. Romans 12:10 says we should outdo one another in honor. This means treating people better than they deserve. We should prefer to honor rather than be honored (see also James 2:1-5).
Paul gives us the highest possible example of humility and looking to the interest of others in Philippians (Phil. 2:5-8). There is no greater example than Jesus going to the cross for our salvation. And Pauls says we are to have this attitude. Why would this be important to the core of Christianity? There are a few reasons why the way Christians treat one another is a big deal. First, this shows the reality of our new nature in Christ. These behaviors are in one sense natural and fitting to those who are truly born again. This doesn’t mean that there’s no need for the command to love one another. But love for God will always show itself in love for other children of God (1 John 5:1). Secondly, the way we treat one another is important because it strengthens and confirms the faith of those we love. Third, it displays the glory of Christ, because it is the fruit of verse 1 (see also Eph. 4:32).
So finally, how do we have the same mindset as Jesus in loving and honoring those who are hard to love? First, we need to know that God commands it, and that it belongs to the very nature of our newness in Christ. We must admit we cannot do this without God’s enablement, and therefore pray daily for God to grow us in love. Secondly, we need to preach to ourselves that other believers are children of God, no matter how imperfect they are. Third, look for evidences of grace in their lives, and don’t just focus on their flaws. And finally, remember that you too were under God’s wrath and without hope, but now have received God’s undeserved love and grace.
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