Philippians 2:3-4 - Steps to Christian Unity

Dr. Steve Viars July 15, 1995 Philippians 2:3-4

- this morning we're going to study verses 3-4, and study three:

"Steps to Christian Unity"

- before we read the verses, let's talk about a coupled of things in an
introductory way:

1) The reason we titled the lesson the way we did is because this
material applies to more than just "local church relations."
- Of course that’s what the immediate context is about and that’s what
our first applications ought to be about as we study it together,
but there are some very important implications of these verses to
marriage, relationships at the workplace, and all other areas of

2) Another thing I'd like to do in an introductory way is to just talk
about division, and divisiveness, and divisive people.

- INPUT - let's put this in the form of a question. When does
divisiveness tend to "show itself?"
- or, in what kinds of situations will a divisive person
be divisive?

- (many possible answers, but should include:

a. When there's a difference of opinion. When
there's more than one way to "view" a particular
issue or situation, the divisive person will
often say, "My way is the only way."
(not talking about clear issues of doctrine)

b. When there's a difference in direction. One
person says, "we should go this way," another
says, "we should go that way."

c. ????

3) Here's another question that should help us "get our arms around this
INPUT - what words would you use to describe a divisive person?

- opinionated, unyielding, proud, selfish

4) One more thing before we look at the verse:

- Are you ever divisive?

- Before you answer, let me give you the alternative:
- Do you always contribute to perfect unity, harmony, and oneness in
your church, your marriage, your home, your office, etc?

- As we study these verses, most if not all of us will see plenty of
ways we can grow.

- read Phil. 2:3-4.

- we're going to talk about three steps to Christian unity from these
1) having the right motivation.
2) having the right mentality.
3) having the right focus.

I. Have The Right Motivation

- the first half of verse 3 talks about what we have to put off in
order to avoid being divisive. (what you can't have)

- "let nothing be done through strife or vainglory"

- those are issues of motivation. Why we say what we do, why we act
like we do, issues of motivation.

A. Don't act out of selfishness.

NASB - selfishness
NIV - selfish ambition
KJV - strife

- think back to the kind of situations we said often are times
when divisiveness shows itself:

- a good question to ask during those times is:

- "Am I taking this position to further God's agenda, or
- "Am I really concerned about what's best for the
church family (or marriage, family, office, etc) or
am I operating out of selfishness?"

- the next phrase in the verse builds on that thought:

B. Don't act to receive vainglory.

- this is a very important part of the verse.

- the word vain glory means "empty praise, or empty credit."

- we're talking about the person who is so interested in getting
credit (or so unwilling for anyone to get credit) than they
would rather do the wrong thing (and be in control and get the
credit) than do the right thing and let someone else get it.

- a humorous example of what we're talking about is the husband
who won't stop to get directions when he's lost.
- he'd rather drive 100 miles out of the way (we're not lost, I'll
get us out of this) than to stop and ask questions, admitting
he needs help from someone else.

- the problem is -- that kind of thing can happen in a church, or
a family, or at work... where a person would rather
tenaciously hold on to their opinion instead of giving in to
someone else's opinion (even if the other person's
idea//opinion) is clearly better.

- of course that’s the height of selfishness---and you can see how
that would promote all sorts of disunity.

- so we're saying -- we must have the right motivation.
- key question here -- do I ever end up being a divisive
person because my motivation is selfish, seeking vain
(empty) glory instead of pursuing God's agenda and what's
best for the group?

- (beware -- Jer. 17:9)

II. Have The Right Mentality

A. A humble mind. "lowliness of mind"

- of course the natural question is, "what is that?"
- the good news is, "the verse answers that question."

B. Considering others better (more important) than self.

- we're talking about how we think about others...
- how we think about their ideas
- how we think about their suggestions
- how we think about their priorities
- how we think about their desires

- Paul says, "in humility of mind, let each of you regard one
another as more important than himself."

- now we've got to be careful to balance this off:

C. What this isn't

- this verse can't be saying that we should always conclude "the
other person is always right."

- for example, if someone stood up in one of our church business
meetings and said, "I think we should stop preaching from the
Bible and start preaching from TIME magazine,"...
- its not like in order to obey this verse we would all have
to say, "we'll esteem that person better than ourselves so
we'll go along with it"
- or if someone said, "let's borrow 2 1/2 million dollars to build a new
auditorium so we don't have to have two services," it's not like we
all would have to "esteem that person and their idea better than

- that’s obviously not what Paul is saying.

D. What this is

- we're talking about:

1) starting with the assumption that the other person has
something to say/contribute, too.

2) a willingness to carefully listen, consider other person's

3) an openness to believe that your way may not be best.

4) if it's a "toss-up," a willingness to happily go the other
person's way.

INPUT - Opposite of this?

INPUT - How would this mentality affect a church, a marriage, an

- Can I ask you -- Is your lifestyle in line with what we're studying
this morning?

III. Have The Right Focus

- verse 4 - Look not every man on his own things, but also on the
things of others.

- when you and I have the right motivation, and the right mindset...
then it becomes it becomes a matter of training ourselves to focus
on the things of others.

- its very important to note that Paul doesn't say that the problem
is thinking about your point of view---the problem is thinking
about your point of view exclusively.

- (if time) -- contrast what we're studying with the world's
perspectives on these subjects:
1) codependency
2) self-image

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 four grandchildren.

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

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