Pass It On

A while back there were these Liberty Mutual commercials on TV. I’ve always really liked them because they depict all these small random acts of kindness, and whenever someone else sees the kindness or receives the kindness, they pass it on to someone else. The basic premise is that people who have been shown love will show love to others.

I’ve been blogging through the book of Philippians, and I have finally made it to chapter 2. In the first chapter, the apostle Paul is encouraging the Philippian church for the way their lives have reflected the gospel, and reminds them of God’s continued plan and purposes for them even in times of suffering in hardship. Here in chapter 2, Paul begins to point them toward and instruct them in ways to act knowing that God is sovereignly working in all things.


Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Philippians 2:1-2 NIV


What we see here in this passage is an important Biblical principle: that knowing love from God stirs us to love others. He says IF we have the encouragement of being united with Christ, THEN we should treat other people a certain way. Paul draws a connection from our love from God to our love to others. He is saying they are connected, and that if we truly understand what Christ has done and have experience the salvation He offers, then our lives should, and cannot help but to reflect that love.

IF

Paul begins his claim with a big “if.” This is an appeal to our knowledge of the truth, and it is an invitation to reflect on the truth. He says in verse 1, “if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion…” These statements are the foundation he is laying, and by framing it this way he is inviting us to evaluate these things. Are these things true? He is saying, if this is the case, then you will live in the ways that that truth demands of you. So with Philippian church, we must look at these things and ask, are these things true?

The first thing he says is, “if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ.” To be united with Christ is to be saved. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” This is to say that in His life, death, and resurrection, Jesus was accomplishing a task. He was completing a mission. That mission was the divine plan to take our sins upon himself, and to give us His righteousness, His right standing before God, in return. If we have put our faith in the saving work of Jesus, we have that righteousness, and the Bible calls us adopted sons of God. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”” (Galatians 4:6 ESV). In this way we are united with Christ. We share in His sonship. We share in His righteousness. He has made us the temple in which His Spirit dwells and works through us. He also says in this verse, “if any common sharing in the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit is given to the believer as a seal for salvation and for the work of renewal. Ephesians 1:13 says, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit” (NIV). The first thing that Paul asks is: is that true of you? Are you saved? Are you united with Christ by placing your faith for salvation in His finished work on the cross and nowhere else? Do you have the encouragement of knowing this truth and believing in it?

The second thing he says is, “if any comfort from his love.” He also says, “if any tenderness and compassion.” What I think that Paul is saying here is more than the salvation he is pointing to in being united with Christ and in the Spirit. If the first aspect of his claim was built on a cognitive knowledge of the truth, then this second portion he points to could be described as an experiential knowledge of this same truth. It is one thing to have good doctrine, and a head-knowledge understanding of Christ’s work on the cross and its implications for the person who believes in that work. It is another thing entirely to experience that truth in a heartfelt way. Paul is asking here: have you felt His love? Do you know the comfort of a God who is a Father? Have you met with a God who would cross heaven and earth, at great cost to Himself, to rescue you because He loves you in such a radical way? Have you experienced His tenderness? His compassion? Has it stirred your heart with affection for Him?

Paul bases everything on this. He says that the Christian life is first about knowing and loving God. It involves head and heart knowledge. It is built on the foundation of Christ’s work on the cross and the radical love displayed there. Verse 1 lays this foundation, but in verse 2 he takes a turn. He points out to us that the Christian life is not just head and heart, but it is head, heart, and hands. There is an active component to it.

THEN

The claim again is that experiencing the love of God stirs us toward a love for others. They are connected. Verse 2 says, “then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.” He says if the cross of Christ has affected you, then you should live in this way towards others. Paul says that to see the Philippians live this way would make his joy complete. Paul joy is not yet complete only knowing that they know the truth, what he says will complete his joy is to see the them live that truth. It is like Jesus said in John 8:32, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (NIV). His discipleship of them does not stop at them merely learning and accepting Christ’s love, but he wants to see that love transform them.

The first part of this is a hope that they would be “like-minded, having the same love.” I used to read this passage as just an encouragement for the unity of believers, but now I don’t think that is what Paul is getting at. I think that when Paul tells the believers to be like-minded, he is not telling them to think the same way as each other, but to have the same mind as Christ. He spends all this time laying a foundation of the work that Christ has done on their behalf and the experience of union with Christ, and now he is saying that they should go forth with the same mind of grace and mercy toward others. This is reflected a few verses later when Paul tells them, “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5 NIV). If this is the command, to have the same mindset and love as Christ Jesus, what mindset did Christ have? Jesus left the comforts of heaven and humbled Himself to reach out to us and show us mercy and forgiveness (Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus showed mercy to the poor, the sinners, and the outcasts of society (Luke 15:2, John 4:9). Even though Jesus is the One through whom the world was created, and the rightful judge of that world, he came to serve those who hated him and sinned against him, to show them mercy, grace, and offer them the salvation of God. This is the mindset of Jesus. This is the love of Jesus. Be like-minded. Have the same love. This is the result of knowing and experiencing that love in our own lives.

The second part of this is actually the unity and community of believers. Those who are united with Christ and sharing in the Spirit as Paul has said, have one spirit and one mind with one another. We have not only been purchased to salvation in Christ, but into community in Christ. The Church is the people of God gathered by the work of God set in motion by the word of God. Paul tells them to have one mind, one spirit. This mind and spirit is united to the mind of Christ mentioned earlier in the verse, and it is motivated by the work and purposes of God. The church is the God-designed structure for Christian growth in Christian community. Believers are told to be a part of the body of Christ, active in building it up and serving it (1 Corinthians 12:12-26, Romans 12:3-8). This community is charged with taking the message and work of God to the world. We are told to be like-minded with Christ, and then united to that mind in active Christian community.


What we see in these first two verses of Philippians 2 is that the love of Jesus transforms us, both individually and communally, to be more like Jesus. If you have known His love, then live His love. People who have known and experienced the love of Christ actively display the love of Christ. The love of Christ changes us in head, heart, and hands.


Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind.

Philippians 2:1-2 NIV

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