Biblical Perspectives Magazine, Volume 24, Number 12, March 13 to March 19, 2022

Side By Side:
Gospel Partnership in Philippians

Have This Mind

By David Strain

June 22, 2014

Philippians 2:1-11

Now, if you would, take your copies of the Holy Scriptures in your hands and turn with me to Paul's letter to the Philippians. We're reading the first eleven verses of the second chapter. Though our attention will be on verses 1 to 5 this morning. Page 980 if you're following along in one of the church Bibles. Philippians 2. Before we read the Word of God, let's turn together in prayer for his help. Let us pray.

O Father, how we need you to come in the person and power of the Holy Spirit. To take up the Word of God and drive it into our hearts and down into every pore and crevice in our souls that we might be changed to be more like Christ who purchased us with his blood. Would you work among us? Wield the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God with power and effect in every heart. For the lost, we pray, oh Lord, that this morning you would save them. For the backslidden, we pray, oh Lord, that you'd restore them. For the weak and weary that you would strengthen them. And as you move among us grant that every eye, everyone's attention, every heart would be riveted on Christ and his grace that he may have all the praise. In his name, Amen.

Philippians chapter 2 from verse 1. This is the inerrant Word of Almighty God:

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Amen. And we give thanks to Almighty God that he has spoken to us in his holy and inerrant Word. May he write its truth on all our hearts.

A Christian Mind

In tragic analysis, really a tragic analysis of our culture, James Montgomery Boice has written, quote, "We live in mindless times. Days in which millions of people are drifting along through life manipulated by the mass media particularly television and hardly know it. Few give to thought to their eternal souls and most, even Christians, are unaware of any way of thinking or living other than that of the secular culture that surrounds them." We live in mindless times, he says. As we turn to Philippians 2:1-5, the apostle Paul is offering something of a remedy to that sickness in our culture even in our churches. Here we have help in developing a Christian mind. A Christian mind.

If you cast your eye over the first five verses, you'll see standing out very clearly how often Paul mentions our mindset, our reasoning, our way of thinking. Look at verse 2, "Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord of one mind." Verse 3, "Count," or reckon or consider, "others more significant than yourselves." Verse 5, "Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ Jesus." For Paul, if we are going to begin to live out the Christian life as he is going to call us to do in humility and unity and community and godliness, the place to start is not first with behavior modification, but with the depths of our thinking, with the way that our mind is shaped and oriented and structured. Holiness and unity and community which are very much the twin foci of this part of Paul's letter—holiness in community have its roots in a Christian mind.

Some of us have struggled—haven't we?—with besetting sin. We've wept over it. Prayed for deliverance from it. We've read books about it. We've talked, sought counsel concerning it. We've sought to deal with our persistent patterns of sin. Still, it seems to us almost like no matter what we do it keeps reappearing like a weed. I think Philippians 2:1-5 would say to us that actually that is a great analogy: that besetting sin is like a weed. And, if all you do is address the behavior, all you do is merely chopping the head off the weed. You have to deal with the root in your thinking, in your mind, at the very roots of your psyche and personality and who you are. Your whole mind-set has to be made over and made new. The roots of godliness sink deep into our thinking, into our minds.

We need Christian minds. And that is precisely what the apostle Paul is calling us to in these first five verses: Christian minds. And to help us see his prescription, I want you just simply to ask a number of questions of this passage along with me.


And the first of them is: What is a Christian mind? What do you have in view, Paul, when you call us to have this mind among ourselves that is ours in Christ? What mind precisely? Look at verse 2. Paul uses two phrases, one at the beginning of the verse and one at end, virtually identical in meaning. The Philippians, he says, should fulfill his joy by being of the same mind and, at the other end of the verse, they are to be of one mind. They stand as bookends and they tell us that the Christian mind is essentially corporate in its orientation. It is concerned with unity, not with ourselves alone, but with one another. To think Christianly is to think about the Christian life in the context of the community of God's people, the church. And, it is an emphasis he will repeat again and again in various ways in these verses and, indeed, throughout the book of Philippians.

Our Need: Christian Unity and Gospel Fellowship

We need each other. We need each other if we are to live for the glory of God before the eyes of the watching world, in gospel partnership, striving side by side for the faith of the gospel. We need each other if we are to have Christian minds. If we are to see how we are to begin to think faithfully and biblically about the various challenges that confront us, we need each other. A Christian mind is a mind lived in community. It is the same mind. It is one mind that we cultivate together. And, between those two bookends on either side of the verse, Paul explains, he unfolds a little more what it means to have oneness of mind. He says, we are to have to have the same love being in full accord. The phrase "the same love" is simply saying our love is not to be variegated and selective. Sometimes turn toward you, but not you. No, our love is to be evenhanded. It is to be generous and equal and available to all and shared between us. And, to say that, as our version translates it, that we are also to live in full accord if we have one mind, really misses much—I think—much of the beauty of the original. What he says, literally, is that "we are to be of one soul." Isn't that beautiful? Here's Christian unity: it is a unity that is so profound it is as though we had one soul between us. Intimate, profound connection like all of our faculties in a single person: that is how profound Paul wants our unity of mind and purpose and thinking to be.

A mind that thinks Christianly is a mind that thinks about the brothers and sisters around you. Take a look. You need each other if you are to live for the glory of God, if you are to have a Christian mind. A Christian mind is a mind, as Paul will go on to say to us, that does not seek self first but seeks the good of your brothers and sisters. This is what is to mark our fellowship. This will be the great evidence of sanctification that penetrates right to the depths of our thinking and not just to our doing. There is, as you know, no such thing as a personal relationship with Jesus if by personal you mean something private, something individualized, something kept secret. We are to live with each other, for each other, resting upon one another as we seek to live the Christian life.

And, then, in verses 3 and 4, Paul elaborates still more on how this deep unity of mind and soul and love and life should work itself out, first, negatively and, then, positively.

Christian Unity working itself out: Negatively

Look at verses 3 and 4. Negatively, he says, we're not to live from rivalry or conceit. Rivalry is a word that he's used already in chapter 1 and verse 17 to describe those who preached Christ out of envy seeking to bring the apostle Paul down a rung or two, to compete with him out of jealousy. Similarly, the word conceit is a compound word that means empty glory, vain glory. That's what motivated those jealous preachers. They wanted to make a name for themselves. And, Paul is warning us that in the church of Jesus Christ anything that seeks to promote self at the expense of others is fundamentally a contradiction of our profession of faith in Jesus. That's the larger point he'll make as he points us in verse 5 to verse 11 to Christ himself to Christ's example and to our union with him. It is inconsistent with say that you follow Jesus, that you love Jesus, are united to Jesus to seek first your own glory and your own praise. Don't let your lives together in the fellowship of the church be characterized by the kind of manipulative action that puts self and selfish agendas first. The church is no place for interpersonal political gains or to engage in power plays. It's not about having your own or getting the recognition you think you deserve or about being given place to. That's what Paul would say to us.

Christian Unity working itself out: Positively

And, then positively, he says, we are to count others more significant than ourselves. He doesn't mean that we are to wallow in self-pity or to imagine that we are useless and worthless. He explains exactly what he means by "counting others more significant than ourselves." Look at the text. He says, "Let each of you look out not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others." We are to value one another so much that we willingly place ourselves at a disadvantage for their welfare. When was the last time you did that? When you disadvantaged yourself so that someone else--with no glance at what you get out of it—you disadvantage yourself that someone else might be benefited, might be directed to Jesus, might be helped in the path of Christian obedience? That's what Paul is saying. We are to look out for others interests not only to our own. Disadvantage yourself that your brothers and sisters may have every advantage as they seek to make progress in the Christian life.

Humility: The Source of the Renewing of Our Minds

And, Paul tells us where all this comes from; again, he points us to our minds, to the renewing of our minds. He says, in humility--or as sometimes it is translated in lowliness of mind—count others more significant than yourselves. Humility is not just about actions. It is about a deep-settled commitment and direction, orientation of your mind, a framing of your thinking whereby you put others first, a determination to serve. Pecking orders are an unavoidable fact of life sometimes, aren't they? A pecking order. In Philippi it was very much that way in the Roman colony of Philippi. Society was shaped by rank and prestige and position. A social pecking order was extremely important and climbing the social ladder was how one got on in the world in Philippi. The root from which Paul draws his term for humility or lowly-mindedness here, in Philippi, was used to describe the mentality of those at the very bottom of the social ladder. It was used to describe a slave's mindset. It evoked images of someone shabby and of no account. In Philippi, this word for humility was not a virtue. It was a liability. This kind of humility was a liability. Where we do not look out for our own interests but we seek to serve others.

And while, I'm sure you'll agree, in our culture we use the word humility as a virtue. The practice is something that largely alludes us. Are we so very different from Philippian culture and Philippian society? Where we want to make a name for ourselves and climb the ladder and social status is important to us. Where we are inclined to vainglory. Paul is saying to follow Jesus, to be in Jesus, is to have a different mind. It is to look increasingly like Jesus who "did not consider equality with God a thing to be grasped," but who emptied himself, divested himself of the paraphernalia of majesty and came among us as a slave. He took the form of a slave and became obedient all the way to the cross to save us and love us and redeem us. If we are followers of Jesus, but vain glory rather than servant-hearted humility is the dominant character of our lives, we have wandered far from the path of obedience and Paul is calling us to repentance.

Ken Hughes tells the story of a conductor of a symphony orchestra who was once asked, "What is the most difficult instrument to play?" And, he responded, "Second violin. I can find plenty of first violinists. But, to find someone who can play second violin with enthusiasm, that's a problem. And if we have no second violin, we have no harmony." Paul is saying to us here in these five verses, "Second violin is not something I want you to settle for; it's something I want you to make your ambition. It's something I want you long for and work to be. Second violin. Second fiddle. Make it your ambition. For when we take second place for the sake of others, we have harmony. We make a beautiful sound that glorifies God and reaches the world." And, yet, it's true that if we have this kind of humility it is going to cost us. It is going to mean the death of pride. It's hard.


So maybe you're asking, "Why? If it's going to cost me so much then why should I do that. Adopt this slaves posture, humility, servant heartedness, not seek my own glory? Why?" Notice the four "if" statements in verse 1. Here's why. "If any encouragement in Christ." "If any comfort from love." "If any participation in the Spirit." "If any affection and sympathy complete my joy by being likeminded." Having this kind of mind, having this sort of humble, one-another mindset rests on these considerations in verse 1. The fourth "if statement" is a summary statement. Stands on its own, does not have a possessive particle. Look at the text. "If any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, if any affection and sympathy, fulfill my joy by having the same mind." Affection and sympathy are sort of summary statements. And, the other three really are an echo of Paul's profound Trinitarian thinking.

Rooted in the Fellowship of the Trinity

In many ways, this is a parallel verse to the great doxology with which we're all so very familiar, and often closes our worship services, in 2 Corinthians 13:13: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God the Father and the communion [or fellowship] of the Holy Spirit be with you all." Paul is using a Trinitarian formula. He's saying, if there is any encouragement or consolation that you now enjoy in union with Jesus, if there is any comfort flowing to you from being beloved by God the Father, if you enjoy the fellowship and partnership and communion of the Holy Spirit in your life, if, in summary, there is any affection and any sympathy, any spiritual blessing flowing to you from fellowship with Almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit—that ought to show in the way that you and in the way that you act. He's saying something quite glorious, quite extraordinary. He's saying that if you're a Christian you have been swept up into fellowship with the Father and with the Son and the Holy Spirit who are turned toward one another in an unending exchange of mutual delight and love. And, we, weak, sinful, foolish, ordinary people, are swept up by his grace through Jesus Christ into that marvelous fellowship and communion. He's saying to be a Christian is to belong to the community of love that has existed eternally in the Godhead. It is to share in it, to participate in it, be made the recipient of it.

Expressed in the Fellowship of the Church

And, if you're a recipient of it on the vertical plane it out to show itself on the horizontal plane. If, to be a Christian is to participate in that glorious communion, it also must mean we begin to live it out in our communion with one another. You can't know the triune God and not love your brothers and sisters. That's why the apostle John will say to us in 1 John: "If anyone says he loves God and hates his brother he lies and the truth is not in him." To know God involves fellowship in the community of three persons in the unity of the Godhead and propels every child of God out into community and unity in the fellowship of the church. You can't do it.

A Christian Mind, a Community Project

Do you see? You can't be a Christian on your own. You can't do it. It's a contradiction. God has redeemed us to be community people. And, having a Christian mind is a community project. The triune God himself is involved in reconfiguring, rearranging as it were, all the furniture of our minds. And, he wants that to be something we're all involved in as well. There is no privatized Christianity.

When we were at General Assembly in Houston this week, one of our waiters overheard us talking about Christian things and began to ask us questions and it turns out he makes a profession of faith in Christ. And, he was talking about Scripture verses. When he was asked which church he attended, he said, "I don't go to church. I haven't been led to go to church." And, it struck me how easily we begin to think that Christianity is all about "me" and "my personal relationship with Jesus" and how utterly alien that way of thinking is from the thought patterns of the apostle Paul in our passage here today.

You know what they say about mysticism? The old joke about mysticism? Begins in mist. Ends in schism. And centers on I. That's what individualistic Christianity really is and that is not at all what Paul wants for us. Not me, Jesus and my Bible off in a corner on my own. But, me Jesus, the Scriptures and the community of faith living together here and hereafter and forever in ever-increasing unity as we enjoy fellowship and one another with our God.


Then, we need to ask the how question, don't we? How are we going to do all this? How do you get a mind like this? Paul tells us two things very quickly and then we'll close. Look at verse 5: "Have this mind among yourselves which is yours in Christ."

Union with Christ

He says, first, you get this mind in union with Jesus Christ. This is not something you can manufacture. This is not something you can work yourself from a carnal mind to a Christian mind, that you can fix. This something that you receive in union with Christ. It is something that he creates in you, begins to work in you. We are transformed by the renewing of our mind as God, by his Spirit, takes his Word and begins to shape and change the very patterns of our thinking in the context of our fellowship with Jesus. There's no point trying to live the Christian life if you're not united to Christ. Do you see? There's no point trying to live the Christian life if you're not united to Christ. It can't be done! To have a Christian mind, you must have Christ. Christ must have you. You must be in him. Are you in Christ? That's the first thing.

Following the Example of Christ

And, then, as verses 5-11 go on to show us, we receive a Christian mind, not just in our union with Christ, but also by following the example of Christ. And, so, Paul sets out this extraordinary Christ hymn which we'll come back to in a couple of weeks, this remarkable pattern expounding the very mind of Christ. He's saying if you're in him, this is who he's making you to be like. He's the template and the pattern. If you want a Christian mind, believer in Jesus, make his life your study. Make his pattern your constant focus as you seek to conform your life to the standards of a holy God. Imitate Christ. Aim to be like Christ. You know there was a trend some time ago for those dreadful WWJD bracelets. Not a fan! "What would Jesus do?" It's actually what Paul is asking us to think about here. What would Jesus do? Only he doesn't leave us to guess and dream and fantasize. He tells us what Jesus would do. He gives himself. He lays his life down. He takes the slaves stance and pours himself out for the people of God. That's what Jesus did do and it's that to which we are all of us called if we are in Christ and have a Christian mind. May the Lord be gracious to us to work a Christian mind in all of us. To his praise and glory. Let us pray.

Our Father, we bless you for the Lord Jesus who is our great pattern as well as our great Redeemer. We're thankful that we have the Christian mind in union with him. Help us to be what we really are; to live out our union with Christ day by day. And, give us grace to follow his example. And, for any who do not yet know Christ, save them from any attempt at trying to be what they are not. Instead, help them to come bear and simply to Christ himself and ask for mercy and cleansing and grace. For we ask it in Jesus' name, Amen.

©2013 First Presbyterian Church.

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