Exemplifying the Gospel, Part 1

Exemplifying the Gospel, Part 1
“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.” – Philippians 2:1–3

Living a gospel-centered life by walking accordingly is a daily struggle for every Christian. To do it with others, always keeping them in the forefront of your mind, can make it more difficult, but we are called as individuals to exemplify the gospel not only as individuals but as a church body in unity. As Paul moves into the second chapter of Philippians, he expands on this idea, giving the Philippian church grounds for their actions (Philippians 2:1) and the ways they should be united (Philippians 2:2). These same points should be presented to every congregation that may have strife creeping in through the front door, because our unity to a singular message of Jesus Christ and care for others is what baffles the world.

In the first verse, Paul begins with four conditional sentences that imply an answer of "yes" due to the structure in the Greek. First, he says that in Christ we find comforting encouragement, knowing that in Him we find our salvation. We are saved from wrath, justified by the one sacrifice of Christ, being sanctified, and will one day be with Him forever. What can be more encouraging than this knowledge?

The second ground is closely linked with the first. From it we are reminded that at all times, in every situation, we find comfort in knowing that Christ loves us (1 John 3:16). With that knowledge, we can endure and love others. Having been loved by God, He sent the Holy Spirit to regenerate our hearts as individuals and we have a personal relationship with Him, but the Holy Spirit also unites us to Christ as a single body, so we have fellowship.

The third ground, therefore, is twofold. We are in a personal relationship with God, fellowshipping with Him, but we are united into a single body meant to participate together in the spreading of the gospel (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). The final ground points to the merciful salvation received by believers. God had compassion on sinners, showing mercy to the undeserving. When we did not deserve it, He loved us so that we could love Him and one another (1 John 4:10-11).

Paul uses these four grounds as the basis for the Philippians' unity, which will bring him great joy in the Lord (Philippians 2:2). They were to be "of the same mind." This is an intellectual agreement among the body, but it is more than that. It also indicates a harmony of disposition or temperament among the believers. They should have the same intent of becoming Christlike and acting in a godly manner by applying God's word to their lives.

Secondly, just as Christ showed love and provided comfort to the believers, the Philippians were to have love for one another, to comfort one another. With this love being shown, the congregation should be able to perform the third point of being in one accord. There should be attempts to resolve any growing strife in the congregation. The church body should not have internal conflict for it prevents its mission of spreading the gospel, which is Paul's final point here. Being of singular purpose, of one mind, the Philippians were to focus on living out and spreading the gospel message, to continue in the fellowship previously mentioned (Philippians 1:5).

Too many churches divide over the smallest of differences typically derived from a few people's selfish actions. Division of the body because of internal strife displays our failure to live by the gospel. When division creeps in, we need to be reminded of our grounds for unity. There is encouragement in Christ who has saved us, comfort in knowing God loves us, a fellowship through the Spirit that knits us together, and a recognition of God's mercy in all of our lives. If we keep these things in mind, we can continue in unity and exemplify the gospel to the world. So be united, fellowshipping in and spreading the gospel. You never know who might be watching.