Philippians 2:1-2 - Striving For Christian Unity

Dr. Steve Viars July 8, 1995 Philippians 2:1-2

- so far we've studied five major sections in this book.
- I only want to take a minute to review this morning, but as we've
   saying all along---we hope that everyone of us is seeking to have a
   good understanding of the basic "flow of thought" in this great book
   of the Bible.
- on the white board, I've listed a brief summary of the five major
   sections----however, I've purposely put them out of order.
     - let me ask you to work with someone next to you, and try to
        "unscramble the argument."

(in order)

#1 - v. 1-7 - Introduction, their fellowship in the gospel, Paul's belief
              that God would continue to work in them.

#2 - v. 8-11 - Paul's prayer that they would continue to grow in
               discerning love.

#3 - v. 12-18 - The ways Christ was being manifested and preached because
                of Paul's bonds.

#4 - v. 19-26 - Paul's concern that he would testify faithfully before
                Nero, and his consideration of the 2 options that lay
                before him.

#5 - v. 27-30 - Exhortation to unity, so they would not be afraid of
                their enemies, and not be overwhelmed by trial.


- we said that verses 27-30 were about church unity.

    - that’s exactly what the beginning verses in chapter 2 are about.

    - in fact, the chapter break in chapter two is an unfortunate one.
    - Paul completed one major thought at the end of 1:26.
        - that would have been the more natural place to break the

- the verses we're going to study now are a natural extension of what
   Pastor Goode studied with us last week.

- we're talking this morning about "Striving For Christian Unity"

- Read Phil. 2:1-2  (that’s as far as we'll get this morning)

- so we're talking about striving for Christian unity.
   - please notice that is different than trying to "make unity"
      - an important parallel passage is Eph. 4:3 -- read and develop

- in the time we have left, let's study:

  I. The Problem of Disunity in the Philippian Church
II. The Basis of Christian Unity
III. The Characteristics of Christian Unity

I. The Problem of Disunity in the Philippian Church

    - now, we've already said that:

    A. In many ways, this was a good church

        INPUT - how was that true?

        1:5 - their fellowship with Paul in the gospel
        2:25, 4:10 - the financial gift they had sent through
                     Epaphroditus, and the good report he brought
- so it was a good church in many ways---but there's a big difference
    between a good church and a perfect church.
      - and of course there is no such thing as a perfect church, and the
        Philippians were no exception.

- so it was a good church...

    B. But there were problems/challenges.

        1) possibly a lack of discernment on the part of some

           - Paul said he was praying that they would be growing in
               discerning love in 1:9
           - that's probably because there were some in the church that
               were weak in that area.

        2) the apparent misunderstanding on the part of some about Paul's

           - we've studied the whole "but rather" issue in verse 12
           - apparently some were all agitated because the conditions of
              Paul's imprisonment had gotten worse

        3) pressure from false teachers

           - we'll study this in chapter 3, but just like in practically
             every other NT letter, there is an exhortation to beware of
             false teachers (an idea that seems to be foreign/offensive
             to some today)

        4) (the most important one for our purposes today) disunity

           - let me ask you to glance over the book, and look for
              references to unity//disunity
                (assign different chapters to different sections of the
                  class--tell what verse, and what words from the verse)

              cf. 1:27, 2:2, 2:3, 2:4, 2:12, 2:14, 2:21 (?), 3:15,
                  3:17-19, 4:1-3

- so, yes, this was a good church in many ways--but there were still
    problems---especially the problem of disunity.

- and we could move this one step further and say:

    C. Disunity is a formidable foe!

        - If a church that was operating historically this close to the
          time of Christ (within 30 years) was having trouble with unity
            -- think about how big an issue that could be today.

        - Prov. 6 tells us that there are certain things that the Lord
           especially hates---and one of the items on that list is "he
           that sows discord among the brethren."

        - INPUT - many of us have either been involved in situations in
                  other places, or heard stories from other places about
                - what kind of things often divide churches, or become
                  issues over which division occurs (not so much the
                  heart issue at this point -- as the "flash point"//the
                  issue over which the lack of unity was manifested?
- I hope everyone of us would react to what we've been studying so far
  with thoughts like:
     1) Lack of unity is a terrible thing
     2) I would never want to be the cause of ungodly division in a
             (ungodly division in the sense that there might be an
              occasion when a person should be the source of division, if
              the church is clearing going in a liberal direction)

- The Lord has helped us greatly in verses 1-2 of chapter 2 by giving us
   principles of how to "strive for unity in the church"

- verse 1 gives us the:

II. Basis for Christian Unity

    - before we talk about the individual phrases in the verse, let's
      "fly over the whole verse" for a moment

    - Warren Wiersbe said of this verse:

        "Paul knew what some church workers today do not know, that there
         is a difference between unity and uniformity. True spiritual
         unity comes from within; it is a matter of the heart. Uniformity
         is the result of pressure from without. This is why Paul opens
         this section appealing to the highest spiritual motives. Since
         the believers in Philippi are `in Christ,' this ought to
         encourage them toward unity and love, not division and rivalry.
         In a gracious way, Paul is saying to the church, 'Your
         disagreements reveal that there is a spiritual problem in your
         fellowship. It isn't going to be solved by rules and threats;
         it's going to be solved when your hearts are right with Christ
         and with each other."

    - with that in mind, let's look more specifically at the verse.
    - INPUT - there are four items that are given as the "basis of unity"
              What are they?

    A. Exhortation in Christ

        - the word "consolation," or "comfort" can also be translated as
          "exhortation." (paraklasis)
        - cf. Acts 13:15, Heb. 13:22 (note connection with the "Word")

        - Paul's point here is -- "because there is exhortation in
             - because you and I trusted Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord,
               in our hearts we were submitting ourselves to His
               guidance, His leadership, His Lordship mediated through
               His Word.

             - INPUT - what does that have to do with divisiveness?
                        (have forgotten who the Lord is, and what the
                         Lord has said in His Word about this matter---
                         there's something wrong with the heart of the
                         divisive person)

        B. Comfort of love

           - the point there is -- think how comforted we have been by
               the love of God.

           - when a person recognizes that God loves him/her--so much
               that He sent His Son.
           - and when that person trusts Christ---the turmoil and the
              guilt are gone.

           - that’s why unity in relationships is possible because the
               wrestling and the turmoil are gone.
           - in that sense, we've been comforted by His love.

    C. Fellowship of the Spirit

        - the same Holy Spirit that convicted us of our sin before we
           were saved begins to produce peace (Gal. 5:22) in us after
           we're saved.

        - having fellowship with God is a wonderful blessing of the
           Christian life.  (cf. I John 1:3)

    D. Affection and compassion

        - in Christ we have experienced the wonderful grace and mercy of

           - Lam. 3:22-23

           - I John 4:19 - We love Him because He first loved us.

    - the overall point of these verses is that a person who is striving
      for unity in the church is a person who's heart has been moved by
      what Christ has done for them.

    - they are so in love with Him, and so in love with His people, and
       so in love with His church -- that they wouldn't possibly want to
       be a source of disunity.

    - I think that’s a big problem for many of us---our hearts have not be
       impacted//moved//softened near to the degree that they should have
       been by what God has done for us in Christ
          - as a result -- perhaps we haven't been motivated like we
              should have to discard:
                 1) our ideas
                 2) our agenda
                 3) our preferences

     - there's too much harsh, "my way or the highway" living in
        Christian churches and in Christian homes.

     - we could ask ourselves -- why hasn't God's grace impacted us as
        much as it should have?
          - I wonder if for some of us, our baseline of expectation has
            been so high that we don't recognize God's grace even when
            it's staring us in the face.
               (develop the idea of setting the baseline of expectation
                 so high -- that we become unthankful, and bitter--saying
                 words like "unfair")
                   - instead of recognizing that every day is an
                     outpouring God's grace---we've never even
                     experienced "fair," much less "unfair" treatment
                     from the hand of God.

- Paul is appealing to the Philippians sense of how wonderful God has
    been to them in Christ---and then asking -- Has it moved you?
INPUT - how can you and I develop a more thankful heart and attitude
           toward the kinds of blessings mentioned in verse 1?


III. The Characteristics of Church Unity - v. 2

    A. Produces joy in others

        - church unity (and unity in the home) is a joy to behold!
            (cf. mailing Wednesday evening)

        - III John 4

    B. One mind

        - minds that are submitted to Christ through the Word

        - INPUT - opposites?

    C. One love

    D. One spirit

    E. One purpose

Dr. Steve Viars


Senior Pastor - Faith Church

Director - Faith Legacy Foundation


B.S.: Pre-Seminary & Bible, Baptist Bible College (Now Clarks Summit University)
M.Div.: Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min.: Biblical Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary

Dr. Steve Viars has served at Faith Church in Lafayette, IN since 1987. Pastor Viars leads and equips Faith Church as Senior Pastor with a focus on preaching and teaching God’s Word and using his organizational skills in guiding the implementation of the Faith Church mission and vision. He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith Church ministries. Dr. Viars serves on the boards of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, Biblical Counseling Coalition, Vision of Hope, and the Faith Community Development Corporation. Steve is the author, co-author, or contributor to six books and numerous booklets. He and his wife, Kris, were married in 1982 and have two married daughters, a son, and three grandchildren.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video