Christian Harmony and Humility – Philippians 2:1-4 (Pt. 6)

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.

–//–

Section A (2:1) – This section constitutes the foundation for the apostle’s exhortation. It is a fourfold appeal of synonymous parallelism linked to section C, whereby the relationship is the latter (2:2b-2e) being produced out of the former (2:1).[1] Interestingly, as one can see in the literal translation noted above, there is not one verb in this series of clauses. Some translations seek to fix this – e.g NASB inserts ‘there is.’ This fixing, however, is misleading, because the apostle is not declaring general propositions; rather Paul is seeking for the Philippians to particularly experience these qualities. He is not merely stating, ‘there is encouragement in Christ, consolation in love, fellowship of the Spirit, affection and compassion.’ More so, being that this section is the grounds for Paul’s exhortation towards unity and humility, he is calling for a specific connection: ‘if you have (NIV) encouragement in Christ, etc.’ then be united and act humbly. The essential meaning is that these four clauses function to provide a connection to the apostle’s imperatives. These items are the grounds for calling fellow believers to be unified and act humbly. “Although, this construction is conditional, Paul presumes that the resources are already present in the community for the members to bring about the result desired in the “then” clause (e.g., Phil 1:3-11; cf. 2:5 below).”[2] Therefore, because there is encouragement in Christ, consolation in love, fellowship in the Spirit, and affection and comfort, Paul is permitted to call the Philippians to be of the same mind.

Many scholars seek to identify the rhetorical details of this passage, for there are many nebulous terms.[3] Silva, however, says it well: “The clauses are deliberately compressed and vague, since the appeal is primarily emotional. That is, verse 1 is not intended to function as a set of four rational, theological arguments but rather as impassioned pleading.”[4] Nonetheless, it is easy to see the connection between these clauses and the call to Christian unity and humility. Believers have received encouragement in Christ; He has stirred the church to pursue this goal. Believers have received consolation in love, whereby the very love that they have received becomes their presentation to others in the gospel. Believers have received the fellowship of the Spirit, where they can trust the empowerment of Spirit to work in and through them. And believers have received affection and compassion from their heavenly Father; how then can they not extend this same compassion towards their fellow men? God’s grace is their supply, and this grace actively empowers the church body to be unified and humble, pointing the world to the salvation of God in the gospel of Jesus Christ.


[1] Parallelism is used frequently in the Old Testament, whereas chiastic arrangements (section C) are more typical of Greek literature. Paul is not confined to one syntactical structure, and both ends of his cultured-ness shines forth.

[2] Allen, “Philippians 2:1-11,” 72. The ei tis/ti construction “may be understood as expressing the apostle’s confidence that these matters are already realities in the lives of the Philippians, and it should therefore be rendered ‘if, as indeed the case is, there is any.’” Black, “Paul and Christian Unity,” 301.

[3] “Does ἀγάπης (agapes) refer to God’s love, or Paul’s, or the Philippians’? Are παράκλησις (paraklesis) and παραμύθιον (paramythion) to be distinguished or not – and do they have an objective or subjective reference here?” Silva, 87.

[4] Silva, Philippians, 87-88.

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