Christian Harmony and Humility – Philippians 2:1-4 (Pt. 2)

1 Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, 2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; 4 do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

–//–

It appears best to follow Silva’s example and address 2:1 (section A) after one analyzes 2:2-4 (sections B, C, and D), being that the grammatical structure reveals a progression – better said: hierarchy – of thought stemming from 2:2a (section B).

Section B (2:2a) – This entire section (2:1-4) is one sentence, and the main clause of this sentence is this imperative, πληρώσατέ μου τήν χαράν (plerosate mou ten charan, make my joy complete). The grammar is only comprehensible by each phrase’s connection to this clause; it contains the only main verb of the paragraph. As noted, it would be incorrect to conclude that Paul essentially entreats the Philippians as to ‘make his joy complete.’ Though the syntax reveals that this is the main clause of the sentence, the chief thought of the paragraph is for the Philippians’ unanimity, not Paul’s joy. Nonetheless this will be reinforced in the analysis of the subordinate clauses. For now, one must determine the function of this clause, and moreover, the purpose for it being the main clause.

Regarding the latter question, it may be determined that this is simply the way Paul syntactically fashioned his thoughts together; maybe that is all there is to it. There may not be some deep theological discovery in grasping for a profound resolution to the apostle’s syntactical details. The diminutive syntactical niceties ought not divert the believer from the more apparent imperatives of the paragraph. Nevertheless, still one must ask: what is the function of this clause to the paragraph?

“Fill my cup of joy to the brim,” Paul entreats them.[1] He is seemingly bringing the affairs of the congregation into a relationship with himself, providing another profitable motive for his imperatives. It is yet another instance of the very personal nature of this letter. The apostle is not some detached ‘life coach’ for the Philippian believers. He is striving alongside them, encouraging them. One can taste the unity between the apostle and the Philippians. Just as Paul is calling for them to be united with each other, so he emphasizes that he is united with them. He is united to Christ, and thus united to those who are united with Christ. Their sanctification is his joy (1:22-26); as they grow in holiness, so he grows in his delight of God’s work in them. He is linking himself to them, showing his unity with them, appealing to their humility, and therein expressing the very focus of his paragraph. Moreover, Paul notes the tension, in that his joy is “dependent not only upon the Lord but also upon the Philippians’ response to Paul’s call in vv 1-4.”[2]

How often does another brother’s sanctification stir my joy? How often am I envious rather than joyful? Whatever the answer may be, I can know that humility and unity are necessarily tied to those answers.


[1] F. F. Bruce, Philippians, 176.

[2] Black, “Paul and Christian Unity.” 303.

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