A Study of Philippians 2:1-8

The church, the community of believers in Philippi, came into existence when God opened their hearts and they believed and responded to the message Paul preached. (Acts 16:13-15) From the beginning this church supported Paul in his ministry. (Philippians 4:14-16) And his correspondence shows the loving relationship they enjoyed. However, all was not well within the community. Tension existed, bad attitudes had surfaced and humility was in short supply. The spirit of servanthood needed to be restored.

The Problem Identified

From Paul's instructions we get an insight into the kind of problems that must have existed in Philippi.

"Make my joy complete by being like-minded, have the same love, being one in spirit and purpose." Tension, disagreement and possibly division will erupt when Christians are not like-minded and when the power of love is absent. Communities fragment. Wounds are inflicted on the body of Christ that can take a long time to heal. In such cases harmony will not be restored until the church becomes "one in spirit and purpose."

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit." Ambition is fine as long as it has an honourable goal. (2 Corinthians 5:9) But when a Christian exhibits selfish ambition then the harmony of the church can be disrupted and the doing of the will of God is no longer a priority; personal gain has taken precedence.

"But in humility consider others better than yourself." Pride will never give consideration to anyone else. Pride dominates: what I want, my rights, what I can gain. Pride operates according to its own agenda and it doesn't include anyone else unless something is to be gained by such inclusion. We are as Paul says to "consider others better than ourselves." How do we do that when we know we are more talented than somebody else, better educated than another, more spiritually mature than most, etc.? We must never deny what God has given us remembering it has been given so we can serve others.

We consider others better than ourselves, not by denying our own talents, but by having the right attitude towards people. We must see all people as being important to God, loved by him. We must elevate all people to the status of "important." We see how this works in everyday situations. We give honour, respect, deference to people whom we deem to be important. We open the door for them, we offer to buy them coffee, we are pleased to do what they ask. Why? Because we deem them important. The composition of the church is diverse: it includes the rich, the poor, the educated, the uneducated, the weak, the strong, etc. We must view all people, irrespective of status or social standing, as being more important than ourselves. Then, and only then, will we serve them.

"Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." Selfishness views life through the lens of 'me'. But God would have us take the interests of others into our vision. And when our vision embraces them, not only must we consider them better than ourselves, we must also look out for their interests.