"Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be like-minded, having the same love,
being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done
through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each
esteem other better than themselves. Look not every
man on his own things, but every man also on the things
of others. Let this mind be in you, which was
also in Christ Jesus."Philippians 2:2-5 .
THE CHURCH at Philippi, as is well known, was the first Ecclesia established in Europe. It had a very small and humble beginning. Philippi was one of the principal cities of Macedonia. (Acts 16:9-14,20,21.) In seeking an opportunity for service for the Lord in this place, the Apostle went on the Sabbath day down to a river bank, where a few women habitually resorted for prayer; and he spoke to them the Word of God. Dr. McLaren, commenting upon the small beginning of the Church at Philippi, says: "Not blowing of trumpets, not beating of drums of any sort; a few women and some worn-out travelers talking together by the banks of the rushing river. How scornfully the great folk of Philippi would have smiled, if they had been told that the chief title of their city to be remembered at all would be the presence in it of that one insignificant Jew, and his letter to the Church founded on that morning!"
The general character of the Philippian Church is revealed in St. Paul's Epistle, written to them at a later period. We find in it nothing like correction or reproof, as we note in most of the Epistles written by the Apostle to other Churches. His Philippian letter is a particularly beautiful and loving one, and indicates a very close bond of sympathy between him and this Church. On four different occasions that are recorded, this Church rendered practical sympathy and service to St. Paul, by financial assistance, as well as by words of comfort and cheer. Twice he received gifts from them for his support while he was at Thessalonica. Again, while he was at Corinth, they ministered to him. When he was a prisoner at Rome this loving Church did not forget the Apostle. It was their messenger, Epaphroditus, who brought to him the last touching memorial of their love.
Epaphroditus, it will be remembered, was the brother who was brought "nigh unto death," for the Gospel's sakebecause of his faithful service in the assistance of the Apostle in the work of the Lord when there seemed little help coming from other sources. Upon his recovery from this severe illness, the Apostle Paul sent by him to the Church at Philippi this beautiful letter known to us as the Epistle to the Philippians. See Philippians 2:25-28; 4:14-19; 2 Corinthians 11:9.
The other Churches may possibly have ministered to the Apostle also; and we know that this was true in the case of certain individuals, among whom were Aquila and Priscilla. But we have no record of any Church that ministered to St. Paul as did the Church at Philippi. Apparently other Churches missed a great opportunity. We may be sure that while the Apostle urged the Churches to contribute to the relief of the poor saints at Jerusalem, etc., he made no request for personal assistance, however much he may have been in need, or however much he might have appreciated any small manifestation of their love for him and the cause of the Lord whom he served.
The lesson respecting love and humility which we find in the passage of Scripture under consideration does not intimate that these graces were lacking among the Philippians; [R5810 : page 363] but it indicates that the Apostle recognized the great importance of these fruits of the Spirit, and the need for their continual cultivation, in order to a continued growth in the likeness of Christ. The opening words of the chapter are an exhortation to brotherly love and affection among themselves. He says, "If there be any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any bowels and mercies." The bowels were formerly considered the seat of the tender emotions, pity, compassion of heart. It would seem that the Apostle would put the Church at Philippi to the test, would let them answer as to whether these graces appertain to all who are New Creatures in Christas if he would say, "If you have found these blessed fruits to be a part of the character-likeness of Christ, let these be more and more developed in you all."
Then, as though they had assented to this proposition, had conceded that there is comfort, love, fellowship, sympathy, consolation, in Christ toward one another, he adds: You can fill my joy to the full by being thus minded toward each other, by having love one toward another, by having one mind, or purpose, or will, as a Churchthe Lord's will. How grand an expression this is! His joy would be full; not by knowing of their mere professions, but by knowing that they loved, sympathized with, and consoled one another, that they had the proper fellowship as members of the Body of Christ. These things filled his joy more full than anything else that he could know concerning them. And he knew that these conditions would be most pleasing in the sight of their Lord and Master. The Apostle John emphasizes the same thought saying, "He that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?"1 John 4:20.
To this endthat such a spirit of perfect unity and fellowship might obtain amongst the disciples at Philippithe Apostle exhorts that each one cultivate the grace of humility; that in every matter each shall take heed that "nothing be done through strife or vainglory," that self-laudation and strivings for preeminence be thoroughly put away as the greatest enemies to the Spirit of the Lord and to the attainment of His blessing. He urged that each should have that lowliness of mind which could see the good qualities and talents of the fellow members of the Body; and that they should appreciate these qualities as, in some respects at least, superior to their own.
Lowliness of mind does not necessarily signify an ignorance of any talents or graces which we may ourselves possess; but so long as the Church is in the present imperfect, or tabernacle, condition, we may never expect to find all the abilities, all the talents, all the graces of the Holy Spirit in their highest development, in any one person. So, then, each may, if he be lowly of mind, see in others of the brethren certain desirable qualities or graces superior to his own; and these he should delight to recognize and to esteem their possessors accordingly.
For each to look merely on his own things, his own interest or welfare or comfort, or his own talents, and to ignore or forget the interests and comfort or talents of others, would be a manifestation of selfishness and a dearth of the Spirit of Christ, which is a spirit of love, consideration and generosity. In proportion as we are filled with the Holy Spirit of love, we shall find ourselves interested in the welfare and happiness of others. This was the mind, the disposition, which was in our dear Redeemer when He walked the earth, a disposition which He so wonderfully manifested; and we are sure that He has not since changed. And if we would be like Him we must develop in our characters these traits. If we are to be ultimately of the Bride class in glory, we must become copies of "God's dear Son."
The Apostle Paul not only holds up the Lord Jesus before us as the great Example of proper humility, self-abnegation and love, of a forgetfulness of self in the interests of others, but he also holds up before our vision the result, the reward, of our Lord. He reminds us of the high exaltation of the Master by the Father, that we also may be encouraged, and may realize that, if we are faithful in following the footsteps of our Redeemer, in sacrificing the advantages of the present, in crucifying self, in laboring as far as we are able in the advancement of the Cause of God and His Truth, in developing the fruits of the Holy Spirit, we may expect also to be glorified with Him, to share His name and His Throne of glory and His great work throughout the eternal future, as His Body, His Bride, His joint-heir.
In verses 12-17, following our text, the Apostle pays a beautiful tribute to the Church at Philippi, and expresses his great love for them. How he reveals his confidence in their loyalty! And how glad he was to pour out his [R5811 : page 363] own life on their behalf (see margin v. 17) that they might attain unto the fulness of the likeness of Christ! He lovingly exhorts, "Do all things without murmurings and disputings." In following the Master in the narrow way, we are not to murmur as we go, finding fault with its difficulties and its narrowness; nor are we to dispute respecting it, nor to seek to have any other way than that which Divine providence marks out before us. On the contrary, we are to realize and believe that the Lord knows exactly what experiences are necessary to our development in the School of Christ; that He is supervising our experiences for our highest good and His glory; that He is not forgetful of His promises to those who are His, but will, as He has promised, cause "all things [that come to us in the line of faithfulness] to work together for good" to us. And even our blunders or stumblings, if properly received, will be overruled for our blessing.
We are glad to see this disposition of trust and loyalty in so many of the Lord's dear saints. Thus following the Master, dearly beloved, we shall "be sons of God without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom we shine as lights in the world, holding forth the Word of life." Thus shall those who are over you in the Lord "rejoice in the Day of Christ [when our 'change' shall come] that we have not run in vain, neither labored in vain."
"In the secret of His presence
How my soul delights to hide;
Oh, how precious are the lessons
Which I learn at Jesus' side.
Earthly cares can only vex me,
Trials never lay me low,
And when Satan comes to tempt me,
To the secret place I go.
"Would you like to know the sweetness
Of this secret of the Lord?
Go and hide beneath His shadow,
This shall then be your reward.
And whene'er you leave the silence
Of that happy meeting place,
You must mind and bear the image
Of the Master in your face."