Live in unity, live in Christ
Preached in Quabbin Valley on 9/7/08
Text: Philippians 2
915. Christian Unity
After the battle of Gettysburg, one of the most disastrous in the American Civil War, a man went into a hospital bearing with him aid and comfort which Massachusetts had sent, and he went around from cot to cot inquiring, "Any Massachusetts soldiers here?" Not a word. Nobody answered. But after a while a voice cried, "No! only United States Soldiers here."…
(from Practical Bible Illustrations from Yesterday and Today Copyright © 1996, 1998 by AMG International, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.)
This simple story illustrates in a small way the idea of unity. These soldiers were United States soldiers. Paul in writing to the Christians at Philippi wanted to remind them of what was important. It seems that there might have been some disunity in the church and Paul delivers a straight forward reminder of the truth that we are united in Christ and what that means.
1. So if there is any encouragement in Christ,
The first thing we read is “So if there is any encouragement in Christ”, Paul doesn’t doubt they have encouragement in Christ by using the word “if” here, Paul is saying that since you have this encouragement in Christ make my joy complete. What encouragement? What encouragement is there in Christ? The encouragement that comes from being united with Christ. That brings about encouragement when we are united with Christ.
If you have been united with Christ you have been, Freed from sin and death. We talked about these things over the last few weeks. The wages of sin is death, all have sinned, we were dead in trespasses and sins, but we were made alive in Christ.
ESV Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
ESV Ephesians 2:5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ--by grace you have been saved--
ESV Colossians 2:13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses,
We are no longer slaves of sin but we have become slaves of righteousness. We are a new creation in Christ.
ESV Galatians 3:27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
Since this is true we have encouragement from being in Christ. If these things don’t encourage you I don’t know what will.
Since we have encouragement in Christ, Paul wants us to keep that in mind that we have encouragement in Christ. He is not saying “if” in the sense of “maybe” but “since” this is true, because this is true.
2. any comfort from love,
He says if you have any comfort from love. Again he is not saying that he doubts they have comfort from love. We see this comfort in love in different ways.
ESV John 3:16 ¶ "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
Does God’s love bring comfort? Yes. John says we love God because he first loved us, and Christ died for us.
ESV 1 John 4:10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
ESV Romans 5:5 … God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
We experience the comfort from love in the church of Christ, his body. We experience the comfort of love as we see and feel the love of God working and overflowing in our lives and the lives of others. God’s love has been richly poured out on us. If you can’t find comfort in the love of God you won’t find comfort anywhere.
3. any participation in the Spirit,
Next he says if they have any participation in the Spirit, or since they have participation in the Spirit make my joy complete. Turn with me to Acts 2:38: (pg 811)
ESV Acts 2:38 And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We read here how a person who repents and is baptized into Christ receives the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Now some at that time were also given miraculous gifts of the Spirit to help the spread and confirmation of the Gospel but not everyone received that but everyone in Christ did and does receive the non-miraculous indwelling of the Spirit. Everyone who is immersed into Christ has put on Christ as we saw and is filled with the indwelling of the Spirit.
We have a participation in the Spirit a share a fellowship with the Spirit. There is one Holy Spirit and he lives in each Christian. When we fight or back bite or do evil things to one another we are doing it to God who dwells in us. That Christian has the same Holy Spirit you have, and you are acting that way? The Spirit is a seal of our redemption. If the Spirit is not in you are not God’s so Paul wants to remind them of the participation or fellowship they have with the Holy Spirit which unites us.
ESV 2 Corinthians 13:14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
ESV Ephesians 4:3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
ESV Ephesians 4:4 There is one body and one Spirit--just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—
ESV 1 Corinthians 12:13 For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body--Jews or Greeks, slaves or free--and all were made to drink of one Spirit.
ESV 1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? …
We have participation, fellowship with the Holy Spirit. That’s wonderful news, that’s something to praise God for. That’s something to be reminded of.
4. any affection and sympathy,
He next talks about affection and sympathy these are actions. Outward manifestations of love in the life of a believer. If a person is united with Christ, if they have the love of God if they are indwelt with the spirit, will there be affection and sympathy? Yes. There will be love and sympathy for one another.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 4 ¶ Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 ¶ Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. 8 ¶ Love never ends….
5. complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love,.
Paul say since you have all these things, encouragement in Christ, Comfort from love, fellowship with the Spirit, affection and sympathy, make my joy complete and he lists four things, Really there are only three because he will basically repeat the first thing at the end.
He says have the same mind and then the last thing he says is to be of one mind, same thing is being said. He wants them to Have the same mind or think the same things. He is not saying I want everyone to be robots and he is not talking about having all our doctrines the same and that we are never going to disagree about anything, no, Think the same thing has more to do with all of us thinking and focusing on Jesus.
It has nothing to do with each of us trying to think the thoughts of others but to keep our attention on Christ and to have his mind as verse 5 through 11 discusses. Have the same mind by having the same love, love one another. Jesus said they will know you’re my disciples by your love for one another. John said if you claim to love God and yet hate your brother you’re a liar. Have the same love that Christ had, laying down our lives for one another. Be humble which means be lowly in mind. Have the same mind; keep your eyes on Christ.
1. being in full accord and of one mind
Being in full accord, being united. Are we going to hold every belief the same? No, on the major or foundational things, yes, we will. God is one in three persons, that is not debatable, that is fact and true, we must all hold to that truth in order to be united. Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life and gave that life up on the cross for the sins of the world and he rose bodily from the grave on the third day. That’s true and un-debatable; we must all believe that in order to have unity. A person who repents and is immersed into Christ will have their sins forgiven, un-debatable. But what about 6 days of creation, or this minute thing or that, or about end times? There might be differences and there is definitely time to sit and study and correct certain doctrines that are wrong but Paul, in this passage, does not have this in mind when he talks about thinking the same thing or having the same mind he means we all are to be focused on Christ Jesus, being in full accord, being united. This is the same thing Jesus prayed for, unity among his disciples and he said:
John 17:20-23 20 ¶ "I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.
2. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others
Paul says “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” This section is all about unity within the body and Paul reminds us that we are called to put others first, to put the needs of others above our own needs and to sacrifice for others. We are to be united in Christ and all have the same mind, focus on Christ and the mind of Christ which is humility. The loving, humble, self-sacrificing mind of Christ.
Petty conceits and squabbles are to be put off, put away. Vain glory, factions, and vanity, are to be put away. The solution to these kinds of attitudes and behaviors is humility. Humility towards God which then expresses itself to human relationships.
It starts by humbling ourselves before God and realizing that we are not God.
James 4:10 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.
ESV 1 Peter 5:5 … Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble." 6 ¶ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
Count others better than yourself, or see others as your superiors. You want to know how to stop being conceited? Consider others as better than yourself.
If you believe that you are superior, or better than someone else or even everyone else are you going to be lowly in mind, humble, serving them or are you going to be looking to be served, to receive praise, to be prideful, and boastful?
Here is some advice for all of us, me included, humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord and he will lift you up.
ESV Matthew 23:12 Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.
Far better for you to humble yourself and God lift you up than to exalt yourself and God have to humble you, because he can and he will.
Unity in the church is what this section is all about and that unity is found in Christ.
Encouragement form being in Christ
Comfort from his love
Fellowship with the Holy Spirit
And affection and love form walking with Christ.
When we realize these truths then we will be of one accord, united in Christ.
There is one more reason for our thinking the same things and being united in love, counting others better than ourselves in humility. We have an enemy. If we are not united in Christ we will be divided and fall. We have an enemy who loves fights and quarrels in the church and in the lives of Christians; Satan is looking for those he can devour. If we are united with Christ and in Christ, we will not fall but if we have disunity in the church he will attack and destroy.
902. Strength in Union
One of Aesop's fables tells of four oxen who were such great friends that they always kept together when feeding. A lion watched them for many days with longing eyes, but never being able to find one apart from the rest, was afraid to attack them. Whenever he came near they turned their tails to one another so that whichever way he approached them he was met by horns. At length he succeeded in awakening jealousy among them, which grew into a mutual aversion, and they strayed a considerable distance from each other. The lion then fell upon them singly and killed them all.
The moral is, "United we stand, divided we fall."
(from A Treasury of Bible Illustrations Copyright © 1995, 1998 by AMG International, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by Permission.)
ESV 1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
We are going to enjoy a time of fellowship and communion with God almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are also uniting together as one as we break the bread and drink the cup of the Lord.
1 Corinthians 10:16-17 6 The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? 17 Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.
We are reaffirming out trust in Christ and our conviction that Christ rose from the dead is coming back. Let’s remember that as we involve ourselves in the Lord’s Supper.