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Section 1: 2:1-4: True Humility

Christ encourages you, and his love comforts you. God's Spirit unites you, and you are concerned for others. Now make me completely happy! Live in harmony by showing love for each other. Be united in what you think, as if you were only one person. Don't be jealous or proud, but be humble and consider others more important than yourselves. Care about them as much as you care about yourselves... (CEV Translation)

Before we plunge into study, simply note the warm tone of affection of these verses. That tone is, in fact, the first thing to study. Paul seeks to describe something to the Philippians, and he does that by example, as much as by teaching about it.

If, since, because. In some translations, these verses begin, "If there is any....". That is being faithful to the original language, but it can confuse people. Paul isn't trying to say, "I'm not sure if you have affection...". Instead, he is using a way of talking that we still use. We say e: "If you really are my spouse, than make a commitment to me," or "If you’re serious, then…". We are talking in the form of a condition (if), but we really mean: "Since," or "because there is." Paul isn't questioning the existence of love or affection among the Philippians, he is saying that since you have these things, certain behavior should follow. "Since you have this, make me happy by ....".

Same mind. This expression in verse 2 isn't about thoughts or doctrine. It isn't an appeal to all believe the same set of theology. Rather, it is an appeal to be "like-minded" or "united with one another." We can see this by looking at what follows this appeal. verses 3 and 4 are about togetherness and mutual support, not doctrine. Then, in verses 5-11 we'll have an example of how Jesus fulfilled this, followed by two human examples (verses 19-30).

How do you achieve this unity? Three ideas are suggested in verse 3 and 4:

  • Share a soul. The word that gets translated in various versions of the Bible as "single mind, "Like minded, "one in spirit," or "one person." It literally means "one soul" or "souls together." Of course, what was meant by "soul" then, isn't exactly what we mean by it now. However, it is safe to say that something more than "sharing the same opinion on all subjects" is meant.
  • Consider the interests of others. This appeal is one Paul also made at 1 Corinthians 10:24 and 10:31 as well as later on in this chapter (verse 21). Part of having the same soul is that you would have the same concerns and values as your neighbor.
  • Humility. This is just as difficult in ancient times as it is now. Humility isn't always considered a virtue. We think that we should believe in ourselves and not cover up our gifts. We worry about self-esteem. However, rather than defend humility, we will suggest that you just examine the rest of this chapter where Paul defines what he means by humility.

The benefits of being humble in Christ. Paul began this section with a recitation of what the benefits were of being in Christ. Perhaps now it is worth revisiting them, after considering his exhortation to be unified. In verses 1 and 2, Paul suggests that you are getting benefits from God. And in being loved, it should be easier to give love.

The word for "community" in verse 1 is koinonia, a word sometimes used by Christians today to describe a type of community.

Last updated 12/16/00; © 2000 John P. Nordin