Lesson 16: "Let Nothing Be Done Through Strife or Vainglory. . ." (Philippians 2:3)
Paul's Prison Epistles. This is lesson #16. Philippians ch. 2 is where we shall be reading in just a moment. In chapter one, the apostle began this letter with his usual cordial greetings, addressed the letter "to all the saints in Christ Jesus" at Philippi. He extended greetings on behalf of God the Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. In the verses that follow, Paul said in effect that he was proud of the Philippians, he thanked God every time he remembered them and he remembered them often. He tried to assure them he was doing O.K. and even in chains he was having an influence in and around Nero's palace. His brethren, what we might call the church at Roman, were being spurred on and encouraged to boldness in Christ . Jesus. This described the spiritual atmosphere around Paul and his co-workers, you see. Yes, Paul was in chains; but, he solicited no pity for himself, calling their attention rather to the positive side. The gospel was being preached (sometimes in strife and pretense he admitted, a little of that nonsense was going on, YES!); however, the truth was still getting out and real conversions were taking place. He did not know exactly where his struggle and affliction in chains would lead him. Nevertheless, Paul was prepared to meet and accept the inevitable, whatever betide. If his imprisonment should end in execution, that would in effect simply transport him to be with Jesus. If he was granted freedom, as should be the case (legally, logically and morally); then, he would visit the Philippians again. How refreshing that would be. Then, down in v.27 (of ch. 1); Paul began as usual to admonish them a little, sound a little warning (i.e.). He said: "let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ." That was really saying, follow my example..."stand fast." Stand fast "in one mind, striving together for the faith...in nothing terrified...not only to believe on him, [i.e. Jesus] but also to suffer for his sake" [i.e for Christ's sake]. Tune-in v.27, look at it close: "Let you conversation be..." this way, adorning the gospel of Christ. "Conversation" as used here, doesn't mean just talk. We ran across this word before, I trust you remember. The ASV uses here "manner of life." Vine says the word means "behavior" and says: "it (i.e. the word "conversation") does not now express the meaning," i.e. that it carried in the King James language. So, the apostle is saying in effect: teach the gospel AND live the gospel with every fiber of your being. Don't just talk about it! This is where our last lesson ended. If you have a good grip on this, then; we're ready to read chapter two. Are you ready? Beginning in 2:1, we'll read down through v.11. Here we go; beginning in v11, let's read. "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. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. 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: who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in a fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
O.K., take just a minute to get this in perspective. You may need to re- read it. You may need to begin back up in v.27 of ch.l and connect that to the verses we just read. Up in v.27, the old apostle said: "let your conversation be..." thus and so; i.e. conduct yourselves this way: "stand fast." Whether Paul came to them or not; made no difference. The instruction was the same: striving with one mind for the faith. Now, what the apostle really said in v.27 was this: the whole congregation at Philippi should conduct themselves as one person, i.e. "in one mind." Do you see that? The whole congregation should "strive together." Do you see that? Not terrified; but willing to suffer. O.K., that's the way (Paul said) they should do it! That accords perfectly with I Cor. ch. 12 and Rom. ch. 12 and many other places. Now, "IF.. .THEREFORE." V.I, get focused in on "therefore?! What does "therefore" mean? That's the tow-bar. Paul is here connecting what he has said (starting up in v.27) with what he is now going to say. Do you get it? There's four "if's" in v.1. IF-this-this-this and this...then, (v.2) "fulfil ye my joy." How could the Philippians "fulfil" Paul's joy? By simply obeying what he asked them to do (beginning up in v.27). Stand fast and strive together for the faith, suffering if necessary. Now, get an eyeball on verse one! IF-#1 "If there be...any consolation in Christ," i.e. Paul is saying to the saints at Philippi, IF you have any brotherly compassion in Christ for me, then, DO THIS! Do what? "Fulfil ye my joy" (v.2). IF-#2, "If any comfort of love," i.e. if you love me enough to want to help me, then, DO THIS! Do what Paul? "Fulfil ye my joy," (v.2). IF-#3, "If any fellowship in the Spirit," i.e. if you want to participate with me through the Spirit, then, DO THIS! Do what Paul? "Fulfil ye my joy," (v.2). Did you find it? And finally (end of v.1), IF-#4, "if any bowels and meicies," i.e. if you have any tender feelings or emotions or sentimentalities, then I (Paul) appeal to you to: DO THIS! Do what Paul? "Fulfil ye my joy," (v.2). You mean Paul appealed to their emotions? Yes sir! Paul appealed to their emotion! You better believe it! Bro. Horsley, do you think it right to appeal to people's emotions? Yes sir! If it will motivate them to save their soul, I'll appeal to their emotions, their pocket book, their friends or what ever it takes. Alright, now, how do we FULFIL your joy, Paul? (v.2). This is what Paul said: "that ye be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." Does that sound familiar? That's a re-statement of v.27 (up in ch. 1). Take a close look! Compare v.27 with v.2 here in chapter two! In v.27, Paul said: "in one mind," here he said: "of one mind." Now, what is Paul saying? "Striving together...likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." What does that mean? You go to your church and I'll go to mine. Is that it? I'll believe what I want to and practice what I want to. You believe what you want to and you practice what you want to, religiously. Is that it? That's just about a far as you can get from what the apostle is saying. In our last lesson we mentioned Jesus' prayer to the Heavenly Father in John ch. 17, "that they all be one." Do you remember? Back in the sermon on the mount, Jesus said this: "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" That is Matt. 6:22-23. Now, what did Jesus mean? "If thine eye be single?" SINGLE? What is that single business? The idea is one purpose. In the next verse, Jesus said: "No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon." Paul and Jesus had it together. Paul's joy was to see the Philippians get it together and keep it together. Striving together (v.27), likeminded, of the same love, being of one accord and of one mind (v.2). This unity in diversity business we hear and read about today is a bunch of bunk. It is NOT a Bible concept. This my church, your church, their church, somebody else's church business is simply NOT (I repeat) IS NOT a Bible concept. One translation I have (by Charles B. Williams) said in paraphrasing the last part of v.2, "fostering the same disposition of love, your hearts beating in unison, your minds set on one purpose." In the next verse, Paul said: "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory..." Nothing? That's what he said! NOTHING! Then, see if you can find that three letter word in the middle of v.3, spelled: B-U-T. Here's the contrast! "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; BUT, [how Paul?] BUT, in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than themselves." That's the way it should be done. Now, that may not be the natural way to do it; but, that's the way to do it: "let each esteem other better than themselves." Let me ask you! Is that a command? That was really a command to the Christians at Philippi AND you guessed it!, that, then is really a command to God's people today in an indirect way. If NOT, then I ask you: why not? Paul was an apostle! Paul was an ambassador; empowered to speak in behalf of God, the heavenly Father and Jesus Christ our Lord. (We discussed that back in 1:2).
O.K., back up a minute, let's talk about Paul's style of writing. Do you remember? Paul usually gives an axiom or a command as we have just mentioned up in v.3; then, what? You know, from our previous study, Paul usually repeats it, discusses it and sometimes illustrates it, sometimes more than once. He even gets repetitive, sometimes. So, v.5 down through v.11 is Paul's discussion of this principle that the apostle just laid down: "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves [v.3]." How do you do that Paul? Jesus is our example! Isn't that what Paul is saying? "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus [v.5]." Then Paul began to discuss the mind that was in Christ Jesus v.6-7-8-9-10-11. In v.9-10-11, the apostle came back to the application. I'm going to let you re-read that. But, take the time to get the principle and the application embedded in YOUR mind. Think about it just a minute! It's the mind-principle. Up in v.27, Paul said: "stand fast in one mind." Then, Paul told us how that should be and how it should be done. Then v.2 of ch. 2, Paul said: "of one accord, of one mind." Repetitive...! reckon! In v.3, Paul stated it in the form of a principle or a command, if you will. In v.4, Paul even repeated the principle. In v.5, he said: let this mind be in you, WHICH WAS ALSO in Christ Jesus. You see it is the mind-principle. Now, if the Philippians were of one mind and that same mind was in Christ Jesus (v.5); then, the Philippians (the whole congregation) had a mind just like Jesus. Right? They were of one mind and that mind was the same mind as Jesus' mind. Now, if you've got that; you've got Paul theology. It all works on that same principle. It's all part of that inner-man principle; (do you remember?) prophesied back in Jere. 31:33, "I will put my law in their inward parts, and write them in their hearts." Do you remember? Then, that's a miniscule form of the sermon on the mount; when it comes down to spiritual principle. We've talked about it before. Paul is still grinding on it. Why? Well, we still haven't got it. It is needed just as bad today; as it was in Philippi. Maybe worse! You see, that's about 10,000 miles from unity in diversity. Go to the church of your choice...Pick out the church that matches you! You see, that's got it in reverse. Paul said, you conform in mind to Jesus' mind. Don't try to make Jesus conform to you as the religious world is trying to do today. It's the same message in every book Paul wrote. Why the religious world today resists that; is beyond me. It's so simple.
You might want to take a moment and think through the things Paul said about Jesus in v. 6-7-8 and compare that to what John said in his prologue in John 1:1-5, 14. It's the same though, just said in a little different way.
Alright, that brings us to Phil. 2:12-18, which again is repetitive somewhat of the principle which we have just covered already in this chapter. However, since our time is largely gone in this lesson; would you permit me to sermonize a moment and hold v.12-18 for our next lesson? I've got about two minutes, three minutes at the most. Let me get to my topic quickly: SELF- CENTERED PEOPLE. What does it mean to be self-centered? Me, my, and mine... those are the key words. Do you remember the parable of the Pharisee and the publican that Jesus gave in Luke 18:9-14? Someone has said the Pharisee had "I-trouble", he said: "God, ! thank thee, that Iam not as other men, are....I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess...", I I I. You and I live in a self-centered world. A lady told me recently about another member calling her on the telephone. She said that member asked: how was your trip? She said she got out about two-thirds of a sentence. The other member said: Oh yes that has happened to me, !_ remember one time, X did this...on and on... that person talked for about 15 minutes and she never did get an opportunity to tell that person about her trip. I-me-my and mine! That person did not call about her trip. They wanted an opportunity to talk about their self-centered self. Someone has said, I don't ask my brethren how they are; because, they'll tell me. I'm sure you know what I mean. Let me repeat! We live in a self-centered world. When you take it to the extreme, it explains rape! It explains burglaries. It explains murder. It explains muggings and bank-robberies and almost every crime. What causes war(s)? Some body is more concerned about I-me-my and mine; than they are about the things of others (Phil. 2:4). Self-centered people are unhappy people. Check it out! Show me a self-centered person and I'll show you an unhappy person. Show me a person that gives, a person that volunteers, a person sincerely concerned about others and I'll show you a happy, well-adjusted person. In v.3, Paul, by the Holy Spirit, said: "let each esteem other better than themselves." Can you imagine living in a world where everybody, EVERYBODY, is trying to help you? They sincerely believe in Jesus' principle that it is more blessed to give than to received (Acts 20:35). Instead of rapists, arsonist and burglars trying to take advantage of you; the same persons are now trying to do what they can to help you.. They lay awake at night trying to figure out how they can help, or make you happy. Can you imagine if our world was really Christian? "Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others," i.e. esteeming others better than themselves (v.3-4). Talk about communes, morals, neighborhood watch, community spirit, Santa Clause, government welfare, communism or any other program; brethren, Christianity is so far above those things; there's just no comparison. Real Christianity can lower your taxes, it can make the neighborhood safe, it will eliminate waste; it's the cheapest and the most practical solution to every problem. Even, if you forget about that built-in, eternal, retirement system called heaven; which is worth it all, many times. WHY do denominations and the man-made religions flourish at the expense of real Christianity? My time's up! That's my SELF-CENTERED sermon. Have a good day.