Bound Together (Philippians 2:1-4)
Ties of fellowship—of love—bind us together. There are so many times we need one another; there are times we don’t know how we’re going to make it through the day. If we are fighting and bickering rather than bound together, we will not be able to seek help from our brethren when we hurt and when we need each other. We need to be bound together so that we can rely on one another when the going gets tough.
We need one another in this congregation. God intends for us to be bound tightly, tightly together. I fear that sometimes we aren’t bound together nearly as tightly as we ought to be. This morning, we want to open Scripture to see what God inspired Paul to write about being bound together. We want to explore why we need to be bound and how we can be bound.
Why Bound, v 1
“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affect and sympathy.”
The “so” verses back to verse Philippians 1:27: “Whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.”
Paul wrote this passage by borrowing language similar to Greek orators who called for unity among their hearers. In this verse Paul gives for reasons why these brethren should be bound together. He uses four clauses that begin with “if.” But the “if” really carries the force of “since.” We could translate this passage: “Since there is encouragement in Christ, incentive of love, participation in the Spirit, and affection and sympathy.”
We need to be bound together because:
There is encouragement in Christ.
Exactly what Paul means by “encouragement in Christ” is quite difficult to ascertain. There are two main ideas:
- Paul is appealing to his apostolic authority, and Paul is encouraging them to be united with the authority of Christ, or
- Paul could have one of Jesus’ specific exhortations to unity in mind. Perhaps, Paul was thinking of Jesus’ prayer which we have recorded in John 17.
There is incentive of love.
The term for “incentive” really refers to the means of consolation or alleviation; what Paul means here is that love is the means by which we are consoled, the means by which our troubles are alleviated.
Paul’s point is the love we have for one another, that love by which we find solace, ought to bind us together.
There is participation in the Spirit.
It is generally accepted that the meaning must be “fellowship with, participation in the Spirit.”
Thus, as the Spirit dwells within us, we are able to have unity among believers. “By one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit” (1 Cor 12:13). We are to be “eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3).
There is affection and sympathy.
The tenderness and compassion among Christian would make the unity Paul calls for here quite natural. As a family—where there is tenderness and compassion—we are gong to stick together.
How Bound, vv 2-4
Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
Paul wanted the Philippians to complete his joy. Paul already had joy because of his association with the Philippian congregation. “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy” (Phil 1:3-4). “I rejoice in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me; you were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity” (Phil 4:10). The Philippians could make Paul’s joy complete by being bound together.
The Philippians needed to have the same mind, the same love, and to be in full accord of one mind.
We need to have the same mind. We remember what Paul wrote to the deeply-divided Corinthians church: “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” (1 Cor 1:10).
There is no room for dissensions among us. I’m not saying that we must agree on every single issue—that would take a miracle of biblical proportions. But we have no dissension through what Paul is going to say in just a moment—we need to take our selfish interest out of the way and act in the utmost humility.
We need to have the same love. We need to have the same love for one another—I need to love you with the love of Jesus, and you need to love me with the love of Jesus. John 13:34-35.
We need to be in full accord and of one mind—again Paul emphasizes the need for unity over division.
Paul cautions the Philippians: “Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves.”
Christians can be neither selfish nor conceited. Such is the attitude of the world today. We’re told to look out for number one. So many in this world do that very thing. How many times have you been waiting for a parking spot at Walmart and someone zips into it before you have the chance? How many marriages are broken because one spouse refuses to give in to the other? How many of you have been stabbed in the back by “friends” at work so that they could get the promotion before you?
We Christians cannot live in such a manner. “It shall not be so among you; but whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all” (Mk 10:43-44). “All of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble’” (1 Pet 5:5).
We Christians are to take that humility and consider others better than ourselves. “Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another” (Rom 12:10). I’m to give you preference—to put your interests, your needs in front of my own.
Paul makes that point in verse 4: “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” We ourselves are not the only important people in this world, and we cannot act as though we are. Let us look out for the interest of others as well as our own interests.
Let us be bound together to each other and to our Savior!
Are you bound to your fellow Christians and to your Savior?
This sermon was originally preached by Dr. Justin Imel, Sr., at the Alum Creek church of Christ in Alum Creek, West Virginia.