Study Notes

Philippians 2:1-11


As we were finishing up chapter one of the epistle to the Philippians, we saw Paul saying that he was hoping to get word that they were...

Phil. 1:27 ...standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel

There was not as much unity in the church of Philippi as he had hoped. Not huge divisions, but there was some bickering going on between some people, there were some folks who thought they were better than others, and not everyone seemed to be moving in the same direction with a common vision and purpose. And so now, as we begin chapter two, he continues the thought about the necessity of unity.

2:1-2 United Together

This is one of those Bible verses that seems confusing no matter what version of the Bible you read it in. And the translations that seem the most clear really don't get the gist of what Paul actually said as he dictated this in the Greek language.

What is basically written here is another encouragement to them to be bonded together in a spiritual unity. He is rhetorically saying that if four certain things are true, then each of those four truths should result in unity.

Encouragement In Christ

Number one, is he says, "If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ." The first fact is that there is encouragement in Christ. But it is not encouragement like we think of as a father encouraging his son in the little league game, or a teacher encouraging her young student how well she colors inside the lines. This word translated "encouragement" signifies someone coming alongside and exhorting you to do the right thing. More like a father encouraging his son to start caring more about graduating high school, or a judge encouraging someone to straighten up before they become a full-time criminal. It is an exhortation, an encouragement, a conviction to start doing what is right.

And so Paul is saying, "If therefore there is any encouragement in Christ... then be of the same mind." And that kind of encouragement is in fact found in Christ. This is a convicting truth. You see, if we are in disagreement with another Christian, yet we both have the same access to the conviction of Christ, then one or both of us is not tuned in, not listening, not heeding the encouragement that Christ is giving us to be of one mind.

Consolation In Love

The next truth Paul lists is, "If there is any consolation of love." The word "consolation" is similar to our last one, in that it means "persuasiveness." In other words, Paul is saying, "If love can persuade you."

Certainly, love can powerfully persuade us. I am often persuaded by love. If I'm feeling lazy and don't want to get up, all I have to hear is, "Honey, if you loved me, you'd get up and get me the scissors," and I'm off the couch!

And God's love has persuaded me in even greater ways. Knowing how much God has shown love and forgiveness to me challenges me to show it in the same way to others. His loving patience with me when I'm being a fool, or obstinate, encourages me to show the same patience when others are not living up to my expectations.

So Paul is saying, "If love can persuade you, then maintain that same love for one another."

Fellowship Of The Spirit

Next, he says, "If there is any fellowship of the Spirit." Fellowship is that word "koy-nohn-EE-ah" that we examined recently - an intimate sharing of the things of God. Since each Christian in the church has fellowship WITH the Spirit of God, we should be united IN the Spirit of God. Again, if the same Holy Spirit Who is living in me is living in you, then we should not have difficulty being in unity - unless one or both of us is hardening our hearts, grieving the Spirit.

Affection And Compassion

The last truth is,"If any affection and compassion." These words say clearly what they mean. If you are in Christ, you have a love for other Christians, because your God and Savior died for each of them. And if you have that compassion and affection for them, then you should be intent on having one purpose with them.


That being the case, the church of mature believers is united in vision, living in harmony with one another, and heading in one direction to both share the gospel and walk the narrow road to heaven.

Thus, I really like J.B. Lightfoot's translation of this verse:

"If then your experiences in Christ appeal to you with any force, if love exerts any persuasive power upon you, if your fellowship in the Spirit is a living reality, if you have any affectionate yearnings of heart, any tender feelings of compassion, listen and obey... Live in unity among yourselves, animated by an equal and mutual love, knit together in all your sympathies and affections, united in all your thoughts and aims."

2:3-4 Humility, Not Selfishness

If you think about it, every conflict among Christians boils down to one thing: self-centeredness. James wrote,

James 4:1-2 What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; {so} you commit murder. And you are envious and cannot obtain; {so} you fight and quarrel...

Disagreements come about because we so often are just thinking about ourselves. If we admit it honestly, our universes revolve around us.

I'd like to paint a word picture for you. Remember when you were in Junior High School, and at the science fair, there was always a kid who'd made a huge model of the solar system? Papier mache planets suspended by fishing line from a framework of bent coat hangers rotated around the sun.

I want you to picture making a massive hat out of this contraption. Put a skull cap where the sun used to be. Now, you have a picture of being the center of your own universe.

But wait - here comes someone else with the same hat! They are the center of their own universe! And as soon as the two of you get anywhere near each other, you're going to collide - your universes will come crashing down!

And so it is when Christians who are self-centered come into contact with others of the same nature. So often, our solution to solving conflict is avoiding the people we're having conflict with. We move out of the neighborhood, we change churches, we stop going to the service that they attend. We figure that our universes can't collide when we're all by ourselves!

But the right solution, the godly answer, to this problem is to bring the other person into the center of your universe. Paul says,

Phil. 2:3-4 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not {merely} look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.

If you begin to put other people into the center of your universe, and they put you in the center of theirs, then there is unity.

Why should we bother? Why can't we just avoid people we clash with? Read the next couple of verses...

2:5-7 Jesus Did It First

We need to be this way because Jesus was this way. Talk about being the center of your own universe! Jesus is the creator of the universe!

John 1:3 All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

Col. 1:16-17 Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth... all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Just like you have had conflict with other people, God and mankind had a conflict. We made ourselves enemies of God. We turned away from following His rules. We thumbed our noses at His righteousness and went in our own sinful direction.

Eccl. 7:20 Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who {continually} does good and who never sins.

Rom. 3:23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

So, when there was a conflict between God and man, it would have been so easy for God to avoid mankind. To get rid of them and start over. To let them live their own lives by themselves, messing themselves up.

But instead, He left His place on the throne and became a man. Not a rich and influential man, not a powerful king, but a poor carpenter who served every person He came into contact with.

He didn't say, "I have my rights. I have my self-respect. I deserve better than this. These people don't appreciate Me." He just emptied Himself of all His rights and became a servant of man.

2:8 Death On A Cross

So Jesus didn't just live on the earth to serve mankind, but He also died on the cross to serve mankind.

You know, I think that we have heard "Jesus died on the cross" so many times that we become jaded as to what "death on a cross" means.

The death sentence by the cross was called crucifixion, and it was a horrible, torturous way to die, because it was a combination of several tortures.

First of all, the victim was laid down on the wooden cross and one hand was nailed to it. Not through the palm, but through the strong ligaments in the carpal area where the wrist flexes. Then the other hand was stretched tight so that the arms were straight across. The knees were bent and the feet nailed flat against the wood.

Imagine the pain that this must have inflicted. But this was only the beginning. You see, when the cross was lifted up, structural mechanics tells us that literally tons of pressure were put on the arms. It would take every ounce of strength the victim had to keep his arms from tearing out of their sockets. But then the cross was dropped into a hole several feet deep, and no amount of strength could prevent it from happening. At the moment of impact, both shoulders and elbows dislocated and each arm instantly became about 6 inches longer.

You would imagine that this would certainly kill you, but intense as the pain was, the victim's sense of self-preservation would keep trying to keep him alive. But then the third torture began - that of suffocation. You see, the pressure exerted on the arms tightened his chest to the point of being unable to take in a breath. The only way to get oxygen into the lungs was to somehow relieve the pressure - he had to lift himself up. Having only the nail though his feet to use as leverage, he would push against it at a terribly awkward angle in order to slide his body upward to take a breath. Compounding the problem were the open wounds on his back inflicted by the Roman's whips. Those open wounds would drag against the rough wood of the cross. We cannot imagine pain so intense.

Lack of oxygen escalated the levels of carbon dioxide in the blood, causing the prisoner to struggle to breathe even more. As a result, the heart would begin to beat as fast as possible to oxygenate the blood. Instead of its usual 5 liters per minute, it would be pumping out 20 liters per minute. The blood pressure then became so high that plasma was actually forced out the walls of the blood vessels into the area between the thorax and the lung. This fluid lost from the blood and filling this area could amount to a gallon. Dehydration set in, and the tongue began to swell.

The systems of the prisoner's body were in a race to see what would give in to fatigue first - the heart, or the legs. He would either die of suffocation or high output failure.

This is one of the most brutal ways that man has ever invented to kill his fellow human being.

Remember that Jesus did not just experience this torturous death - He chose it. He chose it to bring peace between us and God.

1Pet. 2:24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.

2:9-11 Every Knee Will Bow

When we have a conflict with someone, we have a choice to make - we must decide whether to avoid them or embrace them.

Even thought every human being has made themselves an enemy of God by sin, Jesus has bridged the gap, reaching out to us. He made the choice to embrace.

But now the ball is in our court: now we each have a choice to make. Will we avoid Him or embrace Him?

Now, if you choose to avoid God, understand that you cannot avoid Him forever. Because...

Hebr. 9:27 is appointed for men to die once and after this {comes} judgment,

One day, you will be face-to-face with God. How do you want that meeting to go? A reunion of old friends, or a judge rendering sentence to a criminal? As the Bible says here,

Phil. 2:10-11 the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE SHOULD BOW... and... every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord...

When will you do that? Now, to make peace? Or at the judgment, when it will be the confession of a convicted criminal?

May we each consider this in prayer this morning.

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