Sermon: Maintaining Unity through Humility (Philippians 2:1-4)
Thesis: We must have humility to maintain the unity needed to advance the gospel.This is a sermon I wrote for VLI last quarter. We were required to do at least one sermon from Philippians 2, but I'm a series kind of guy, so all three of my sermons are from Philippians 2. :-) This first sermon was probably my weakest one. I made the mistake of utilizing too much text for a 15 minute sermon. The end result was a very dense sermon that actually lasted 22 minutes. This would have been MUCH better as two separate sermons.
Series: The Worthy Life
Part 1: Maintaining Unity through Humility (Philippians 2:1-4)
Thesis: We must have humility to maintain the unity needed to advance the gospel.
I learned of a man who was out on a walk one day when he saw another man about to throw himself from a bridge into the river. He ran over to save him.
"Why are you killing yourself?" he asked.
"I have nothing to live for!"
"Don't you believe in God?"
"Yes I do"
"What a coincidence - so do I! Are you a Jew or a Christian?"
"What a coincidence - so am I! Protestant or Catholic?"
"What a coincidence - so am I! Baptist or Charismatic?"
"What a coincidence - so am I! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?"
"What a coincidence - so am I! Premillenial or Amillenial?"
"What a coincidence - so am I! Pre-Tribulation or Mid-Tribulation?"
At this the first man pushed the suicidal man into the river shouting "Die heretic, DIE!"
We're starting a three part series called "The Worthy Life". Today we're going to be looking at the book of Philippians and learning about what the Apostle Paul says about how maintain unity through humility.
We'll be focusing on Philippians 2:1-4 today, but I'm going to expand our reading to include the end of chapter 1. There is an unfortunate chapter break. The end of chapter one sets the context for chapter two. It actually serves as a springboard from which chapter two gets its significance. Let's read it together starting in verse 27.
27 Whatever happens, as citizens of heaven live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together with one accord for the faith of the gospel 28 without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you. This is a sign to them that they will be destroyed, but that you will be saved-and that by God. 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have.
1 Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, 2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. 3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Mandate of Unity: "The Why" (1:27 - 1:30)
A. Why are we to have unity?
B. We are citizens of the Kingdom of God. (vs. 1:27)
1. Verse 27 "Whatever happens, as citizens of heaven?"
2. Philippi was part of the Roman Empire and they were Roman Citizens.
3. Paul adopts their understanding of Roman citizenship to show them that through Christ they have entered into a greater citizenship.
C. We are live in a way that is worthy of the gospel. (vs. 1:27)
1. Verse 27 - "live in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ"
2. What is the gospel? It is the Good News of Jesus Christ. It is all that HE IS and all that HE HAS DONE.
3. You guys are citizens and you need to live in a way that is worthy of your citizenship.
4. In other words: By what you do, demonstrate who you are.
D. Since we have strong opposition from without, we must have unity from within. (vs. 1:27-28)
1. Verse 27-28 "Then, whether I come and see you or only hear about you in my absence, I will know that you stand firm in the one Spirit, striving together with one accord for the faith of the gospel without being frightened in any way by those who oppose you."
2. Basically what Paul is saying, is "Since we have strong opposition from without, we must have unity from within."
3. Paul knew first-hand the price that they were paying for the gospel in Philippi. Let's read Acts 16:22-24: "The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks."
4. What do you think? Do you need a support system for that kind of treatment? A little unity wouldn't hurt.
Model of Unity: "The Who" (2:1)
A. Who looks like unity?
B. Verse 1, "Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion"
C. If ... Then ... Before we get any deeper into this verse, I just want to clarify the meaning of the If ... Then. Paul isn't setting up an actual If ... Then. If these things are true, then the following is applicable. Paul is framing his argument for unity with a rhetorical question. We should actually read the passage like this:
D. "SINCE you have encouragement from being united with Christ, SINCE you have comfort from his love, SINCE you have common sharing in the Spirit, SINCE you have tenderness and compassion"
E. Paul has no doubt that they are recipients of these things.
F. Now, what makes this verse the model of unity- Paul has incorporated all three persons of the trinity.
G. Encouragement from being united with Christ. (2 Cor. 1:3-7)
H. Comfort from the love of God the Father. (2 Cor. 1:3; 1 Thes. 2:10-12)
I. Fellowship with the Spirit.
J. What he's essentially saying is, "When you received the good news of Jesus Christ, you were brought into a perfect preexisting tri-unity (or trinity). And not only that, you have experienced encouragement, comfort, and fellowship from this unity."
K. Paul's point is that they now have the capacity for maintaining unity among themselves because as Kingdom Citizens they are perpetually experiencing the unity found in the tri-unity.
Marks of Unity: "The What" (2:2)
A. What is unity?
B. Verse 2, "then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind."
C. Like-Minded. Literally it says "mind the same thing." Let me give you an illustration.
i. In a band, you have one conductor and several musicians.
ii. The musicians share the same music, BUT they all have different parts.
iii. There's melody, there's harmony, there's rhythm, there's all sorts of musical effects going on. When all of the musicians play their part in sync with the conductor, it's beautiful!
iv. Now let's say the person who wrote that beautiful song rewrote it with every musician playing the same melody at the same time for the entire song. If we all play the same notes at the same time all the time, we would have Uniformity, not Unity.
v. When Paul says, "mind the same thing" he doesn't mean we should think the same thoughts all the time. It means we have the same mindset. Different thoughts, same song.
vi. Let's say that one person didn't want look at the conductor and they just buried their head in their music and never looked up to see what the conductor was doing. Sooner or later, this person will become a huge embarrassment for the entire band. The conductor may abruptly stop the music for dramatic effect, and anyone who isn't looking to the conductor will stick out like a sore thumb.
vii. When Paul says, "mind the same thing" he's saying that we need to keep our eyes on the Christ and follow his lead. Christ is the conductor.
D. When Paul says "mind the same thing" he is both pointing back to Philippians 2:1 in which we are "united with Christ" in the tri-unity AND he is also pointing forward to Philippians 2:5ff where he talks about the Mind of Christ.
E. Secondly, we are to have the "same love" Again, this attribute of unity points back to verse 1 on the tri-unity. Since we are the recipients of love from God, we have the capacity to love others. In 1 John 4:19 we read, "We love because he first loved us." We have the capacity to love each other because we first received love from God in our acceptance of the gospel.
F. Love was first DONE to us so we could DO IT to others.
G. One in Spirit and Mind - Literally "minding the one thing."
H. Illustration: Allow me to continue my previous illustration with the band and the conductor.
1. The conductor gives everyone a piece of music to the same song.
2. The conductor raises his baton and at the last second I decide that I don't want to play that song because I wanna play a different song. So I put aside the song that the conductor has given everyone to play and proceed to play my song. What do you think will happen... Disaster.
3. When Paul said "minding the one thing" what he was talking about here was the song that Christ has given us to play. That obviously begs the question, what is the "one thing?"
I. Let's check out a few verses in chapter 1 to see if we can't figure out the "one thing"
1. Phil 1:4-5 - "In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your PARTNERSHIP in the GOSPEL from the first day until now"
2. Phil 1:7 - "It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or DEFENDING AND CONFIRMING THE GOSPEL, all of you share in God's grace with me."
3. Phil 1:12 - "Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to ADVANCE THE GOSPEL."
4. Phil 1:14 - "And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL WITHOUT FEAR."
5. Phil 1:16 - "I am put here for the DEFENSE OF THE GOSPEL."
6. Phil 1:27 - "Whatever happens, as citizens of heaven LIVE IN A MANNER WORTHY OF THE GOSPEL of Christ."
J. The "one thing" is undoubtedly The Gospel.
K. Unity is when we work as a team to keep our eyes on Christ, abounding in love that is given to us by the Father, and (with our whole being) live in a manner worthy of the gospel.
Means of Unity: "The How" (2:3-4)
A. In closing, we're going to look at the Means of Unity. This is where the rubber meets the road. If you follow these means, your end will be unity.
B. Verses 3-4, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."
C. The "How Not"
1. Must not practice selfishness - Well what's that? The Friday following Thanksgiving is Black Friday and it's the biggest shopping day of the year. People are literally camping outside in a line just to get into the building first. Have you ever seen a Black Friday stampede? It's like a wave of people pushing and shoving and yelling at each other trying to find the sale item. Geez, you might hurt someone. Who cares? It's what I WANT!
2. This can also happen in ministry with good intents. You might have a particular idea but the rest of the team doesn't agree. You keep asserting your idea because you really want to see it done a particular way. You may have even convinced yourself that God is on your side and if your team is against you, they're against God. Watch out, that attitude puts unity at risk. Instead, submit to your team, sustain the harmony, so you can effectively proclaim the good news.
3. Vain Conceit - What's that? It's also known as Vain Glory. Vain Glory goes beyond personal ambition. It's actually wanting people to applaud you and recognize you. So I can make a name for myself. If I toot my own horn enough, I'll get noticed by the pastoral staff and maybe even get a position at the church. Watch out, that attitude is definitely putting unity at risk because it's no longer about glorifying Jesus; it's about glorifying myself. Instead, cast off your pride, protect the unity, and become a partner for the gospel.
D. The "How To"
1. Practice Humility of Mind - What's that? Proper estimation of oneself. To use my introduction as an example, the suicidal man's view of the End Times was "Mid-Tribulation" and the other man's view was "Pre-Tribulation". Without going into detail, these views cover the various scenarios of the tribulation period. Each viewpoint has numerous scriptures to support their claim. Practicing humility of mind would not be attacking the other person. Rather humility is engaging in open dialog to better understand where they're coming from. Lower yourself, find common ground, and let your actions be worthy of the gospel.
2. "Interests of the others... " I like how the NASB phrases this one, "Do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." Paul recognizes the tension that exists with humility. Without this final sentence we could have taken humility to the extreme of self-degradation and self-hatred. There is a balance between meeting our needs as well as the needs of others.
We must have humility to maintain the unity needed to advance the gospel.
1. I've been living my life for myself. It's been all about me.
Get Healing from Pride.
2. I've been letting my particular view about non-core beliefs create division in the body.
Humility of Mind
3. I've been rudely pursuing my agenda in ministry and without considering the needs of others.
Looking out for the interests of others.
4. I've been facing persecution because of the gospel and I really need some encouragement and comfort. Maybe your marriage is broken over a religious matter. Perhaps your family has rejected you because of Jesus. First, I want to thank you for standing firm in gospel. Come up to receive prayer for encouragement and comfort.
5. I want to know more about this good news and what it means to be a citizen of the Kingdom. We want to tell you more about Jesus and what it means to begin a relationship with him.